A History of US Revivals
The history of America has been marked by multiple great movements of God’s Spirit. These intense periods of the Spirit’s activity begin with a deep work in the hearts of believers and then moves outward into the hearts and lives of those that don’t know Christ. Christians are “revived” in their walk with God as they confess sin and their renewed heart gives boldness in their witness to the unsaved.
Most church historians would agree that there have been six periods of revival in America. Let’s examine these revivals and draw some parallels for today.
1730-40 Revival The Great Awakening
The first movement of the Spirit of God in America occurred before American independence. The Great Awakening saw many of the colonists touched in a profound way. There were few colleges in the colonies during this time, but those that did exist were profoundly visited.
1805-06 Revival The 2nd Great Awakening
The 2nd Great Awakening began around 1805 and lasted for more than two decades. Though historians differ as to the exact dates, none doubt the profound work of God in the lives of many, especially the college students of the day.
At small Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, three students met in dorm room for prayer and Scripture reading. A student mob gathered outside the door swearing and shouting threats to stop the meeting or suffer the consequences. College president John Blair came to investigate the uproar and after discovering the cause, was vexed in his spirit at the moral state of his student body. The next week the meeting met in the president’s parlor with one-half the student body present. Revival swept the college and the country.
At Yale College “a spiritual revival took place that shook the institution to its center” In a letter from a student to his mother he wrote, “Yale college is a little temple: prayer and praise seem to be the delight of the greater part of the students while those who are still unfeeling are awed into respectful silence.”
1857-58 Revival The Prayer Revival
The third movement of God’s Spirit began with a noon prayer meeting in New York City on Sept. 23, 1857. Six people gathered to pray for the city and their neighborhoods. Within 6 months 10,000 gathered daily for noonday prayer in New York and the revival moved to campuses across America. The YMCA came to America from England, expanded into collegiate ministry in 1858, and was on 180 campuses by 1884.
The fourth visitation of God occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century. “Never in the history of universities have there been so many genuine spiritual awakenings among students.” The seeds in this revival were found in the 1886 Mt. Hermon student conference with D.L. Moody for 250 students. The Princeton Covenant was created by a small group of students at the conference and later signed by thousands, pledging themselves to foreign missions.
Two students from Los Angeles drove 2,300 miles to Minneapolis to pray with Dr. J. Edwin Orr and Dr. Billy Graham for campus revival. Orr preached at Bethel Chapel soon thereafter and, “there was much prayer in the dormitories, followed by intense conviction of sin among the students in chapel and in classroom…Conviction was relieved only by outright confession, restitution, restoration or conversion to God.” In October 1955, the NY Times stated, “more than 1,200 of the nation’s 1,900 colleges and universities now have a ‘religious emphasis week’ of some sort.”
1970’s Jesus Movement
Revival broke out at Asbury College in Kentucky in 1970 and moved to secular campuses. Campus ministers in California who were witnessing to the radical students began to see many converted! Hundreds were converted and baptized in the Pacific Ocean! It is estimated that 250,000 students came to Christ during the next few years.
Are we on the verge of another great movement of the Spirit of God in America? Let’s pray and ask God for it to begin with us!