Revivalism

A spontaneous spiritual awakening by the Holy Spirit among professing Christians in the churches, which results in deepened religious experience, holy living, evangelism and missions, the founding of educational and philanthropic institutions, and social reform. Revival should not be confused with evangelism, which is a result of revival. Revival has been linked with the Anabaptists,* Puritans,* and Pietists* and has occurred mainly in Protestantism since the Reformation.

As a determinative influence in America, revivalism may be dated from the Great Awakening* which began after 1720 when T.J. Frelinghuysen* came from European centers of Pietism to pastor four New Jersey Dutch Reformed churches. Under his influence, Presbyterian Gilbert Tennent* began to hold revivals and founded a school, dubbed the “Log College,” which produced many revivalists. In 1734, revivals broke out in New England under the preaching of Jonathan Edwards,* and by 1740 when George Whitefield* arrived bearing the spirit of the Wesleyan revival in England, the Awakening was widespread in America. Many were swept into the churches, controversy raged, denominations were split, and humanitarian efforts and the spirit of democracy were strengthened.

The Second Awakening occurred mainly among middle- and upper- class Anglicans in England after 1790 and in America in college awakenings, such as that in Yale under Timothy Dwight* in 1802 and with great emotional and physical manifestations in the Western America frontier camp meetings.* This latter technique, first used by Presbyterians in Kentucky, was developed by Baptists and especially the Methodists. Charles G. Finney's* urban revival meetings of the 1830s has been considered a later flowering of the Second Great Awakening.*

A lay interdenominational revival which developed through noonday prayer meetings in New York in 1857 led to more than half a million coming into the churches. A revival in 1863-64 in the Confederate Army brought 150,000 soldiers a vital Christian experience. Similar awakenings occurred in Britain and on the Continent.

After the Civil War, professional, planned, urban mass evangelistic meetings held in public auditoriums by men such as D.L. Moody* and R.A. Torrey* and in the twentieth century by Billy Sunday* and Billy Graham* replaced the earlier spontaneous, rural, pastoral congregational awakenings with the exception of the 1904 Welsh revival, which stimulated world-wide revival. Since 1904 there has been no general revival in Western industrial societies, but there have been regional revivals in less advanced societies in Korea, East Africa, and Ethiopia.

W.W. Sweet, Revivalism in America (1944); T.L. Smith, Revivalism and Social Reform (1957); B. Weisberger, They Gathered at the River (1958); W.G. McLoughlin, Modern Revivalism: Charles Grandison Finney to Billy Graham (1959). The many books by J. Edwin Orr, such as The Eager Feet, Fervent Prayer, and The Flaming Tongue, present details from sources on revivals.