characteristics of revival

A bit more from my Church History notes. We were nearing the end of the semester when we discussed revival and revivalists. The heading of this lecture is the subject line of this post, “Characteristics of Revival”. Here they are:

  • Interdenominational (but not undistinguished cooperation between infidelity and fidelity)
  • Prominence of prayer

  • Usually preachers were involved
  • Prominent lay activity
    • Praying
    • Propagating
    • Bringing [visitors, presumably]
    • Counselling
    • Follow-up
  • Doctrine was usually important

Evangelists were often identified with particular doctrines:

  • Jonathan Edwards – necessity of the new birth
  • D. L. Moody – doctrine of love
  • Billy Sunday – separation from worldliness
  • Charles Finney – the role of the Spirit
  • Confession of sins common (sins publicly known were publicly confessed)
  • Singing of sacred songs an integral part of conveying the message
  • Prominence of personal individual counsellors for inquirers

Note “anxious bench” — presupposes trained laypeople who know how to deal with people and the Bible

  • Produced opposition
  • Affected the moral tone of the community temporarily
  • Produced an impetus toward three necessary activities in the Christian church
    • Evangelism by laypeople
    • Missions
    • Christian Education
      • Bible schools
      • Bible training institutes
      • Missionary training institutes

Some of my notes are a bit vague, basically writing a little ‘short-hand’ to myself so that I could jog my memory for writing the tests. The lectures are now long ago [28 yrs], and they still jog the memory, but… some bits seem to be unjoggable!

On the first point of this lecture, the term ‘interdenominational’ is significant. The term is decidedly not ‘ecumenical’. Differences were maintained, but not emphasized for the purpose of revival and evangelism. In ecumenicalism, differences are minimized rather than not emphasized.

Some argue that the whole revivalist movement resulted in the evangelical morass we have today. I think this is a bit unfair. While it is true that evangelicalism grew out of the heritage of revivalism, so too did fundamentalism. The root problem behind today’s weak church isn’t revivalism, nor do I think the evangelical compromise was the inevitable result of revivalism. Rather, changes came about as a result of other forces and philosophies, notably the new evangelical compromise.

Much good for the glory of God was accomplished through revivalism. As in all movements, frauds, incompetents, errors etc were made. But God uses men, and in revivalism God did a work that remains to this day. Let’s thank God for that work and build it up. What is the profit in tearing down?

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