Revival: It Is Characterized by Repentance
by Marilynn Chadwick The First Great Awakening in America was ignited around 1730 by a scholarly New England minister named Jonathan Edwards. From there, a series of revivals rapidly spread, bringing about the most significant social upheaval to occur prior to the Revolutionary War. The dramatic, impassioned preaching of England’s George Whitfield fueled these revival fires as he passed through the colonies. The strategic discipleship methods of John Wesley, also from England, extended the revival’s power and impact in early America. The widespread salvation of unbelievers (that extended beyond the church) marked these Great Awakenings, along with renewed emphasis on holiness by believers. The “pattern” of revival often points to a period of spiritual decline and darkness in the culture. Collin Hansen and John D. Woodbridge speak to these patterns in their book A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir. In the midst of despair and hopelessness, someone steps forward to confess their sins and others follow their example. God often answers these humble, heartfelt, corporate cries with a sweeping move of revival. Confession of sin was also the very backbone of John Wesley’s small discipleship groups and initially the vehicle for the spread of the English Evangelical Revival. This same “method” was the foundation for early Methodism in America - contributing to the spread of revival fires throughout the colonies. Wesley’s foundational verse was James 5:16a emphasizing the healing that comes through confession: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed.” The Second Great Awakening in America occurred in the mid 1800s following a great spiritual decline after the Revolutionary War. Results were staggering. Revival historian Edwin Orr states that in the U.S., “a million nominal church members were reinvigorated, and more than a million converts were added to the membership of major Protestant denominations - out of a population of less than 30 million.” Again, time will tell what might have been sparked from the events at Asbury University, but if we want to partner with the heart of God to move in our midst, repentance is key. Take simple steps to introduce rhythms of repentance in your life. You never know. It might create revival in your personal life.