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  1. Plural of revival

Extensive Definition

portal Christianity Revival in a Christian context generally refers to a specific period of spiritual renewal in the life of the Church. While elements such as mass conversions and perceived beneficial effects on the moral climate of a given culture may be involved, the key factor in revival is the restoration of the Church to a vital and fervent relationship with God after a period of decline. The word "Church" here refers to the body of believers in Christ as a whole and not to any particular group or denomination among them.
Since the 16th Century Reformation, some writers identify six waves of special revival or "Awakenings" in the church worldwide — from 1727, 1792, 1830, 1857, 1882 and 1904. Recent revivals of 1906 Azusa Street Revival, 1930s Balokole, and 1970s Jesus people spread in the Americas, Africa, and Asia among Protestants and Catholics.
The Calvinist and Wesleyan revival, called the Great Awakening, established the Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Baptist, and new Methodist churches on competitive footing for social influence in North America. However, as that great "revival of religion" began to wane, a new era of secularism began to overwhelm the social gains that had been experienced by Evangelical churches. Furthermore, that revival had popularized the strong opinion that Evangelical religions were weakened and divided, primarily due to unreasonable loyalty to creeds and doctrines which made salvation, and Christian unity, seem unattainable. This sentiment gave rise to Restorationism.

First Great Awakening

The First Great Awakening was a wave of religious enthusiasm among Protestants that swept the American colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, leaving a permanent impact on American religion. It resulted from powerful preaching that deeply affected listeners (already church members) with a deep sense of personal guilt and salvation by Christ. Pulling away from ritual and ceremony, the Great Awakening made religion intensely personal to the average person by creating a deep sense of spiritual guilt and redemption. Historian Sydney E. Ahlstrom sees it as part of a "great international Protestant upheaval" that also created Pietism in Germany, the Evangelical Revival and Methodism in England. It brought Christianity to the slaves and was an apocalyptic event in New England that challenged established authority. It incited rancor and division between the old traditionalists who insisted on ritual and doctrine and the new revivalists. It had a major impact in reshaping the Congregational, Presbyterian, Dutch Reformed, and German Reformed denominations, and strengthened the small Baptist and Methodist denominations. It had little impact on Anglicans and Quakers. Unlike the Second Great Awakening that began about 1800 and which reached out to the unchurched, the First Great Awakening focused on people who were already church members. It changed their rituals, their piety, and their self awareness.
The new style of sermons and the way people practiced their faith breathed new life into religion in America. People became passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, rather than passively listening to intellectual discourse in a detached manner. Ministers who used this new style of preaching were generally called "new lights", while the preachers of old were called "old lights". People began to study the Bible at home, which effectively decentralized the means of informing the public on religious manners and was akin to the individualistic trends present in Europe during the Protestant Reformation.

Second Great Awakening

The Second Great Awakening (180030s) was the second great religious revival in United States history and consisted of renewed personal salvation experienced in revival meetings. Major leaders included Charles Grandison Finney, Lyman Beecher, Barton Stone, Alexander Campbell, Peter Cartwright and James B. Finley.
In New England, the renewed interest in religion inspired a wave of social activism. In western New York, the spirit of revival encouraged the emergence of new Restorationist and other Christian denominations and movements such as the Holiness Movement. Renewed interest in religion even led to new sects and beliefs such as the Mormons. In the west especially—at Cane Ridge, Kentucky and in Tennessee—the revival strengthened the Methodists and the Baptists and saw the birth of the Church of Christ. It also introduced into America a new form of religious expression—the Scottish camp meeting.


The third Awakening or maybe "resurgence", from 1830, was largely influential in America and many countries worldwide including India and Ceylon. The Plymouth Brethren started with John Nelson Darby at this time, a result of disillusionment with denominationalism and clerical hierarchy.

Het Réveil

Dutch historians of Christianity identify a period in Dutch, eastern French, Swiss, British and south German Protestant history known as "Het Réveil" occurring from 1815 to 1865. In the Netherlands this was begun by Willem Bilderdijk, with Isaäc da Costa, Abraham Capadose, Samuel Iperusz Wiselius, Willem de Clercq and Groen van Prinsterer as his pupils, and in Britain the Wesleys, Wilberforce and Thomas Chalmers. The movement was politically influential and actively involved in improving society, and — at the end of the 19th century — brought about anti-revolutionary and Christian historical parties.

Third Great Awakening

The next Great Awakening (sometimes called the Third Great Awakening) began from 1857 onwards in Canada and spread throughout the world including America and Australia. Significant names include Dwight L. Moody, Ira D. Sankey, William Booth and Catherine Booth (founders of the Salvation Army), Charles Spurgeon and James Caughey. Hudson Taylor began the China Inland Mission and Thomas John Barnardo founded his famous orphanages. The Keswick Convention movement began out of the British Holiness movement, encouraging a lifestyle of holiness, unity and prayer.

Further resurgence

The next Awakening (1880–1903) has been described as "a period of unusual evangelistic effort and success", and again sometimes more of a "resurgence" of the previous wave. Moody, Sankey and Spurgeon are again notable names. Others included Sam Jones, J. Wilber Chapman and Billy Sunday in North America, Andrew Murray in South Africa, and John McNeil in Australia. The Faith Mission began in 1886.

Welsh and Pentecostal revivals

The final Great Awakening (1904 onwards) had its roots in the Holiness movement which had developed in the late 19C. The Pentecostal revival movement began, out of a passion for more power and a greater outpouring of the Spirit. In 1902, the American evangelists Reuben Archer Torrey and Charles M. Alexander conducted meetings in Melbourne, Australia, resulting in over 8,000 converts. News of this revival travelled fast, igniting a passion for prayer and an expectation that God would work in similar ways elsewhere.
Torrey and Alexander were involved in the beginnings of the great Welsh revival (1904) which led Jessie Penn-Lewis to witness the working of Satan during times of revival, and write her book "War on the Saints". In 1906 the modern Pentecostal Movement was born in Azusa Street, in Los Angeles.


Restorationism refers to unaffiliated religious movements that attempted to transcend Protestant denominationalism and orthodox Christian creeds to restore Christianity to its original form. The term applies particularly to movements that arose in the eastern United States and Canada in the early and mid 19th century in the wake of the Second Great Awakening. The Second Great Awakening made its way across the frontier territories, fed by intense longing for a prominent place for God in the life of the new nation, a new liberal attitude toward fresh interpretations of the Bible, and a contagious experience of zeal for authentic spirituality. As these revivals spread, they gathered converts to Protestant sects of the time. However, the revivals eventually moved freely across denominational lines, with practically identical results, and went farther than ever toward breaking down the allegiances which kept adherents to these denominations loyal to their own. Consequently, the revivals were accompanied by a growing dissatisfaction with Evangelical churches and especially with the doctrine of Calvinism, which was nominally accepted or at least tolerated in most Evangelical churches at the time.
Restorationism is historically connected to the Protestant Reformation.
Although Restorationists have some basic similarities, their doctrine and practices vary significantly. Restorationists do not usually describe themselves as "reforming" a Christian Church continuously existing from the time of Jesus, but as restoring the Church that they believe was lost at some point. Restorationists include Churches of Christ with 2.6 million members, Disciples of Christ with 800,000 members, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 13 million members, and Jehovah’s Witnesses with 6.6 million members. Restorationist beliefs are sometimes referred to as Christian primitivism (cf. "originalism") which describes a number of movements attempting to return to Early Christianity, including the Baptists, Quakers and before them, the Anabaptists. The newer term has special application to the Restoration Movement, and by comparison it is applied to other contemporary groups that are similarly motivated but founded separately. The name Restoration is also used to describe the Latter Day Saint movement. These two movements have a briefly overlapping history. Other groups are also called restorationists because of their comparable goal to re-establish Christianity in its original form, such as some anti-denominational "Restorationists" who arose in the 1970s, in Britain, and others. See Charismatic Restorationism.

History of Christian revival

Many Christian revivals drew inspiration from the missionary work of early monks, from the Protestant Reformation (and Catholic Reformation) and from the uncompromising stance of the Covenanters in 17th century Scotland and Ulster, that came to Virginia and Pennsylvania with Presbyterians and other Non-conformists. Its character formed part of the mental framework that led to the American War of Independence and the Civil War.
The 18th century Age of Enlightenment had a chilling effect on spiritual movements, but this was countered by the Methodist revival of John Wesley and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield in Britain and the Great Awakening in America prior to the Revolution. A similar (but smaller scale) revival in Scotland took place at Cambuslang, then a village and is known as the Cambuslang Work.
A new fervor spread within the Anglican Church at the end of the century, when the Evangelical party of John Newton, William Wilberforce and his Clapham sect were inspired to combat social ills at home and slavery abroad, and founded Bible and missionary societies.
Early in the 19th century, the Scottish minister Thomas Chalmers had an important influence on the evangelical revival movement. Chalmers began life as a moderate in the Church of Scotland and an opponent of evangelicalism. During the winter of 1803–04, he presented a series of lectures that outlined a reconciliation of the apparent incompatibility between the Genesis account of creation and the findings of the developing science of geology. However, by 1810 he had become an evangelical and would eventually lead the Disruption of 1843 that resulted in the formation of the Free Church of Scotland.
Rev. Charles Finney, 1792–875 was a key leader of the evangelical revival movement in America. From 1821 onwards he conducted revival meetings across many north-eastern states and won many converts. For him, a revival was not a miracle but a change of mindset that was ultimately a matter for the individual's free will. His revival meetings created anxiety in a penitent's mind that they could only save their souls by unrestricted submission to the will of God, as illustrated by his quotations from the Bible. Finney also conducted revival meetings in England, first in 1849 and later to England and Scotland in 1858–59.
The established churches too, were influenced by the evangelical revival. In 1833, a goup of Anglican clergymen led by John Henry Newman and John Keble began the Oxford Movement. However its objective was to renew the Church of England by reviving certain Roman Catholic doctrines and rituals, thus distancing themselves as far as possible from evangelical enthusiasm. In Germany on the other hand, a new wave of evangelicalism, the Erweckung, spread across the land, which cross fertilized with British movements, while a parallel development occurred in France and the Netherlands, the Reveil.
Revival movements continue down to the present day. Rev. Ian Paisley's Free Presbyterian church was established in 1951. He is a revivalist and preaches evangelistically across Ireland. More recently, in 1977 the Alpha Course movement was started by the Anglican clergyman Charles Marnham. It is a 10 week practical introduction to the Christian faith, designed primarily for non-churchgoers and those who have recently become Christians. A recent manifestation of revivalism, the Toronto Blessing, started at the Toronto Airport Vineyard Church on January 20, 1994.

Background to the 1857–1860 Revival in America, Ireland and Great Britain

Dean William Buckland published Reliquae Diluvianae in 1823, describing accumulations of bones found in caves, which were interpreted as relics of the Noachian Deluge. This started a great debate that set scientists of a religious disposition at loggerheads with pragmatic scientists who were concerned only with evidence that was visible to their own eyes. In the former category Buckland was followed by Hugh Miller (Foot-Prints of the Creator (1849) and "Testimony of the Rocks" (1857)) and Edward Hitchcock The Religion of Geology and its Connected Sciences which attempted to unify and reconcile geology and religion. A rising tide of scientific opinion sided with the pragmatists, culminating with the publication in 1859 of Charles Darwin's "Origin of Species". Unfortunately Hugh Miller was already dead. Unable to reconcile his religious beliefs with the mounting flood of geological evidence that contradicted the creation stories in the Judeo-Christian Bible, he committed suicide in 1856.
On 21st September, 1857 Jeremiah Lanphier began a series of prayer meetings in New York, seeking divine guidance. By the beginning of 1858 his congregation was crowded and prayer became the order of the day. In March, a noon prayer meeting commenced in a large theatre. It was packed out, the great majority being businessmen. The newspapers began to sit up and take notice and to report on the happenings. It became front-page news that over 6,000 were attending various prayer meetings in New York, and 6,000 in Pittsburgh. Daily prayer meetings were held in Washington DC at 5 different times to accommodate the crowds. Other cities followed the pattern. Soon, a common mid-day sign on business premises read, "We will re-open at the close of the prayer meeting". By May, 50,000 of New York's 800,000 people were new converts.
Finney wrote of this revival, "This winter of 1857–58 will be remembered as the time when a great revival prevailed. It swept across the land with such power that at the time it was estimated that not less than 50,000 conversions occurred weekly."
Coincidentally, the very month that Jeremiah Lanphier began his prayer meeting in New York, four young Irishmen began a weekly prayer meeting in a village near Ballymena. This meeting is generally regarded as the origin of the 1859 revival that swept through most of the towns and villages in the north of Ireland and in due course brought 100,000 converts into the churches. It was also ignited by a young preacher, Henry Grattan Guinness, who drew thousands at a time to hear his preaching. So great was the interest in the American movement that in 1858 the Presbyterian General Assembly meeting in Londonderry appointed two of their ministers, Dr. William Gibson and Rev. William McClure to visit North America. Upon their return the two deputies had many public opportunities to bear testimony to what they had witnessed of the remarkable outpouring of the Spirit across the Atlantic, and to fan the flames in their homeland yet further. Such was the strength of emotion generated by the preachers' oratory that many made spontaneous confessions seeking to be relieved of their burdens of sin. Others suffered complete nervous breakdown.
The movement spread to Wales, Scotland and England, with estimates that a million people were converted in the United Kingdom. Missionaries carried the movement abroad and the consequences of the revival are still being felt right down to the present day. They contribute significantly to various recognizable national characteristics.

Revival hymns

Following the Protestant Reformation, from about 1700 to 1850, many non-conformist churches produced lively popular hymns that expressed one's personal relationship with God, like Cecil Frances Alexander's "All things bright and beautiful" that contains the lines:
The rich man in his castle, The poor man at his gate, God made them, high or lowly, And ordered their estate.
Later hymns were written in a movement called "revivalist" (1850–1920). Songs such as "Washed in the blood of the Lamb" came from Moody and Sankey's Hymn Book. "The Land where you Never Grow Old" dates from 1914 and "Gospel songs" have been recorded by the Carter Family, Johnny Cash. The churches which promoted these songs were generally followers of literal interpretations of the bible, temperance-inclined and often Baptist.

Further Reading and Recent Revivals

The books Revival Fires and Awakenings - 30 Moves of the Holy Spirit (2006) Revival and the Great Commission - 36 Revivals from the Mission Field (2007)- both by Mathew Backholer together document a combined total of 66 revivals spanning 400 years on 6 contients from more than 30 countries.
The book 150 Years of Revival documents 12 revivals from 1857-2007
  • Prayer Meeting Revival (1857-1859),
  • Gold Coast Revival (1875-1877),
  • Azusa Street Revival (1906-1909),
  • Pyongyang Great Revival (1907-1910),
  • Rusitu Revival (1915-1920),
  • Budapest, Hungary (1937-1938),
  • Congo Revival (1953-1957),
  • North Uist Revival (1957-1958) - see Duncan Campbell (revivalist),
  • Indonesian Revival (1964-1974),
  • Argentinean Revival (1982-1997),
  • Brownsville Revival (1995-2000) and the
  • Shillong Revival (2006-2007).
Other significant moves of the Holy Spirit in relatively recent times include:
  • Revival in Nagaland. Nagaland is a region of northeast India, which is now about 90 percent Christian.
  • The evangelistic work of Reinhard Bonnke, who regularly preaches to large meetings of tens to hundreds of thousands of people in Africa and claims his crusades have resulted in the conversion of over 48 million people since 1995.
  • North Battleford Revival (1948- )

See also

revivals in Danish: Gudelige vækkelser
revivals in German: Erweckungsbewegung
revivals in Dutch: Het Réveil
revivals in Finnish: Herätysliike
revivals in Swedish: Väckelse
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