Why do we need another Great awakening? When I think of an Awakening, even after our class, my mind immediately goes to images of eighteenth century revivalists like Jonathan Edwards, George Whitfield, Jereena Lee and a large constellation of other preaching giants of yesteryear. These men and women created a legacy of spiritual fervor which has earned them a place in the annals of American religious history. Their effectiveness as preachers of the word and proclaimers of truth permeated a nation’s consciousness and snatched the nation from spiritual decline.
Several questions arise as I think of the Awakenings of years past. My first question is whether our nation is as spiritually receptive of an Awakening as it was two hundred years ago. My second question arises out of pure intimidation at the prospect of preaching a great awakening. I ponder inwardly; can the power of the Great Awakening be duplicated ever again? Are the conditions of the nation such that there needs to be spiritual renewal? There is a variety of potential issues which a Great Awakening can speak too.
William McLaughlin notes in his book Revivals, Awakenings and Reform that there have been several “Awakenings” in American religious history ,and that not all of these moments of renewal resembled the fiery preaching frenzies of the famed eighteenth century. Each “Awakening” had at its core a specific issue it was addressing. The issues in question could be spiritual declension (first Great Awakening), national back-sliding (second Great Awakening), biblical interpretation and liberalism (third Great Awakening), or American identity and progressivism (fourth Great Awakening). Thus, it is perhaps my own limitations that bristle at the idea of preaching the next Great Awakening.
The notion of another Great Awakening is intimidating, and still I find myself very intrigued. Perhaps there is room for a new generation to prick to soul of the nation. Perhaps it is time to birth new dreams and new visions form an old medium of revival. McLaughlin says in the beginning portions of his book that the purposes of awakenings were to, “alter the worldview of a whole people and culture”. Perhaps that is what we need a contemporary awakening to do. In the face of drone strikes, unending poverty, mass-incarceration, and myriad social issues with spiritual ramifications, an Awakening is what is needed to turn this nation, its culture and its people around. I think there needs to be a turning to a moral center; be it God (thinking out of my Christian context), or to a common place of civility and mutual understanding.
The church has a unique role to play in bringing renewal and restoration to the brokenness of the world. I think that the mission the broken, crucified, despised Jesus was and is healing brokenness. Jesus Christ was “anointed” to do the work of restoring a sick and sad nation. I, therefore, hold as my point of departure that in Jesus Christ we are anointed to preach in a...