The church is alive and well

From America’s First Great Awakening


by Dr. John Hoole




George Whitefield makes 7 different trips to this country, starting in 1739.  The conviction of the Holy Spirit was so strong that people would fall on their faces and repent of their sins.


Benjamin Franklin, a skeptic - a deist.  He was not a Christian - he believed Jesus was a teacher, but not in the deity of Jesus Christ.  He stated in one of his writings how he did not believe the reports concerning the overwhelming impact of the revivals.  He thought they must be exaggerating the number of people actually coming out to hear Whitefield.


So he steps off the area he knew the crowd would be occupying, to see how many people could actually occupy that area.  He said, “I don’t believe a mans voice can carry over this large of a crowd.”  He wrote in his journal, “I perched myself in a tree ¼ mile from the speaker’s stand, knowing that I would scarcely hear the voice of Whitefield.  But when he began to preach, the force of his voice almost knocked me out of the tree.”


Franklin goes on to write in his journal:


“I had left my - (they called them purses back then, not billfolds) - I left my purse at home because I understood that Whitefield’s offering appeals were so moving for his orphanages in England, that people would give everything they had.  (He says) When Whitefield gave the appeal, it was so moving, I ran home, got my purse, came back and put it in the offering.”


Now that’s revival. 


The revival spreads northward to what is later to be called the First Great Awakening in America.


Northampton, Massachusetts  --  Jonathan Edwards        -- the 1740s.  (Edwards graduated from Yale at age 17 --- year 1720)  Jonathon Edwards preached that powerful sermon: “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (July 8, 1741).  But Jonathon Edwards was not the typical revivalist - one that paces and sweats and yells.


Edwards was a brilliant philosopher, who was very near-sighted.  He was a script preacher, and he preached like this, with his head buried down, not even looking at the people.  And he was stunned when he would look up and see manifestations of the presence of God all around him.  He didn’t know how to explain what was happening.  And because of his being a very humble man, and being amazed at what was happening around him as he preached, he wrote that outstanding work, titled:  “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work Of God.”


The population in the colonies at this time was only 300,000.  And during this awakening, between 30 - 40,000 people come to know Jesus Christ as their Savior.  In addition to filling the churches that existed at the time, 115 new churches were formed -- an amazing revival


We jump now to the “Second Great Awakening."  -  The year is 1801  It’s Yale University -- Timothy Dwight is the president.  By then, Yale was celebrating its 100th anniversary as a university.  The school had gone fully secular -- but still held chapel services.


Timothy Dwight stands to preach the gospel in a chapel service and to his amazement, 1/3 of the entire student body come to know Jesus Christ personally.  Something is stirring.


Meanwhile, in the hills of Kentucky -- 1800 -- the Gasper River Presbyterian Church has something that had never been done before.  They called it a “Camp Meeting.”  The next year – 1801 – in Bourbon County, the Cane Ridge Camp Meetings begins in Kentucky  And within one year, 10,000 were coming and attending camp meetings.  Something was stirring.


Not only in the hills of Kentucky -- not only in a prestigious university in Connecticut. but one by the name of Charles Finney essentially becomes the epicenter of the Second Great Awakening.  Primarily across New York, all the way to Ohio, his influence will spread. He was an attorney.  And he had observed in his law studies that there was a law beneath the law - that was the Judea - Christian value system. and realizing he didn’t know much about that, he goes to a church on one occasion to find out more about this.  One young girl in the youth group gets all the other youth to pray for him.  He gets saved, and the young girl marries Charles Finney. He gives up his law practice and is encouraged to go back to Princeton Seminary in New Jersey.  He refuses to do so.  Rather, he becomes a leader in that local Presbyterian church.


But some challenge him saying, “Finney, are you sure - are you absolutely, positively sure you are genuinely saved?”  So in that year - 1821, on Oct. 10th - he went away for the entire day in the woods to pray.  He writes in his journal that night: “I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit that was like waves of electricity that went through me, and through me, and through me...”  And Finney becomes the explosive force of the Second Great Awakening.  Finney will introduce certain things that seem old to us now, but they were very new and very radical, even controversial back then. He introduced what was called “Protracted Meetings.” - meaning revival services, that would go on and on for days, maybe weeks.  People would come under the power of a God who was calling them.  So much so, that in a crusade in Rochester, New York, in 1830, it is reported that 100,000 came to know Jesus.


Earlier, in 1780, Robert Raikes had introduced a new phenomena in England called the Sunday School.  5 years later, in 1785, it comes for the first time to the United States.  By 1816, a Sunday School movement is underway, and it spreads through the whole country.  This was a most unusual thing, because it placed a greater portion of the Bible teaching to lay-people.  It was an amazing thing that was going on.  Lay people were changing their societies.


We move to the year 1867, - its Vineland, New Jersey.  We have what later will be called the Holiness Movement.  And using this new phenomenon, called the Camp Meeting, it begins to spread across the south - camp meetings that numbered up to 50,000 people.


But some things were also going wrong at this time.  A false euphoric optimism, not biblically based, began to sweep parts of the country.  And some very tragic cults began to arise, especially in Upstate New York. Charles Russell  -- The Jehovah’s Witnesses  Joseph Smith, and later, Brigham Young -- the Mormons - who begin in New York, then moved to Illinois, and on to Utah.  Further up north and east - Mary Baker Eddy -- Christian Science


But God was not through with America.


1900 -- Topeka Kansas -- New Years Eve. -- Charles Parham.


In a small, not well-known Bible College -- a Holy Ghost explosion.  And the Pentecost movement is born.


W. J. Seymore - a black preacher out of Texas, catches the spirit of it.  He comes from Houston to Los Angeles.  After his third or fourth night of preaching in Los Angeles, he was locked out of the church.  He goes to Bray Street, and begins preaching in front of a house with a very large porch.


People gather - larger crowds - and finally the porch cannot support the weight, and literally breaks under the weight of the people, and they all fall to the ground.  No one was injured, but they realized they needed a new place to meet.  They go down the street and find what was once a Methodist church and a livery stable -- on a street called Azusa, and in 1906, a revival begins -- and goes for 3½ explosive and glorious years a revival that takes the Pentecostal message, over the next 100 years, totally global.


And its sister (or step-sister)  - the Charismatic Movement - starting approx. 1959, starting in unusual places -- Not occurring in the socio-economic places you would expect these kind of revivals to be in.  Names like Dennis Bennett, a Seattle Episcopalian. - and Notre Dame University.  And we have another awakening of the Spirit of God.


And to the south of us, in California, was the beachhead of what would be called the “Jesus Movement.”  We called them “Hippies,” and yet, God looked at them in a different way.  And among them and others, in the early 1970s, something hit America, and we were never quite the same.  Starting here on the west coast, it moved across America.


February, 1970 -- Willmore, Kentucky -- a little college, not all that well-known -- It’s Asbury College - a liberal arts college.  One-hour, regularly scheduled chapel services - they had them every day.  But this one didn’t end at the end of one hour.  They decided to extend it another hour -- and then another hour -- and then another hour.  And the administrators and faculty decided to get together, and saw that God was doing something special, and canceled classes for the rest of the day.  The chapel service continued - it went on - into the night.


The president of the college flew back from another engagement, and decided to shut down all classes until God gave them sign to start it back up. and the revival went all night long.  The next day, students wouldn’t leave the chapel.  They didn’t want to leave, because God was doing something in their midst and some would try to stretch out on the floor and sleep a few minutes at a time to keep going, hour after hour.


Night number two - the 6 p.m. newscast in Lexington, Kentucky - an anchorman on a major broadcast station, Billy Thompson, said these words:


“Ladies and Gentlemen - I know that when you watch the news each night, you have one eye on the newspaper, and one eye on the television.  But what I am about to tell you tonight is so unbelievable, I am asking you to lay down your newspaper, and give me your undivided attention.  It all started in a little  chapel services, down in a town called Willmore, Kentucky, 17 miles south of Lexington.  It was suppose to end after one hour, but it continued all day - it continued all night – it continues all day today, and we now take you to the campus of Asbury College to see what is           happening.”


Yes, we were once a small and tiny band.  There were only the original 12.  Then we had a great explosion on Pentecost day.  We began the day with 120 - by its end, 3,120


By the year 38, probably 20,000 - when Stephen was stoned. which caused church members to scatter over 200 different cities.  And this becomes one of the greatest church plantings that ever took place.


And our numbers began to increase substantially.  Towns like Thessaloniki – Ephesus – very likely had several thousand believers.  A small band of people - a half dozen, maybe a dozen - made it north from Jerusalem to Antioch.  Antioch was the third largest city in the world at the time - probably ½ million.  A dozen believers - what difference can they make?  By 100 AD, it is estimated that approx. 20% of that city knew Christ - 100,000 people.


In the year 100, there were only one of us for every 360 unbelievers.  By the year 1000, there was one of us for every 220 unbelievers.  By the year 1995, there is one of us for every 7 unbelievers.  Today, it is one believer for every four unbelievers.


Every 24-hour period, 85,000 people come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.  Every week, 1,600 new churches are formed on planet earth.


In China, 30,000 a day coming to know Him.  The  government of China, for years, kept saying that there were very few Christians in China.  In January, 1993, the Chinese government finally came out with their own official numbers.  Their own conservative estimate at that time was 63 million Christians.  Today (2016), we know it is well over 120 million.  And at that time, the Communist Party in China had only 87 million members.


There was a report just three months ago (Jan. 2016) predicting the Church in China is on course to surpass that in the United States by   It is projected in that year the church in China will exceed 160 million evangelicals (plus 97 million Catholics.)  The protestant church in America is currently at 159 million.


The current revival in China is occurring in unexpected places.  What is unique about this revival is how God is moving among Communist-controlled government churches.  These are churches that are register with the government, and usually have many restrictions place on them.  These officially sanctioned churches are known as the Three-Self Church.


Duan Huilai says that it is remarkable what God is doing in the government controlled churches.  He says, “God is moving in a powerful way inside these Three-Self Churches.  He and his wife have witnessed this move first-hand.  Both are evangelists and have for several years crisscrossed the Chinese countryside, documenting the Holy Spirit’s move among Three-Self Churches.


In the past, the government did not allow sermons on healings, miracles, signs and wonders.  Today, these topics are allowed openly.


The continent is Africa. 25,000 new believers every day coming to know Jesus Christ.  16,000 of those are Muslim converts.


In Korea, in 1900 - not one Christian Church in Korea.  And now, in Seoul, Korea alone, over 4,000 churches -- 30% of Korea has come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior.


In Iran, of all places, more Muslims have come to Christ since 1980, than the previous 1,000 years.  Today it is the fastest growing Evangelical church in the world – increasing at the rate of 19% per year.


In Iraq - Baghdad - little Arab Evangelical Church started in 1989.  Already running over 800. - in their 3rd building -- and planting a brand new church.


This is the Church of Jesus Christ.  And around the world, it keeps happening – because Jesus is alive.


In the length of time it has taken me to tell you this story, 2,000 people have come to profess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, somewhere on planet earth.  Since the time we closed our class here last Sunday, 1,600 new churches have been formed on planet earth.


What am I saying to you?  I say to you, “Arise, Oh Christian, the Church of Jesus Christ - it is alive and it is well!!!!”


Bill Gaither - The Church Triumphant (Is Alive and Well)


Let the Church be the Church, Let the People rejoice.
Oh, we’ve settled the question, We’ve made Jesus our choice.
Let the anthems ring out, Songs of victory swell
For the Church triumphant is alive and well.

Oh, this ship’s been thru many battles before
Storms and tempest and rocks on the shore.
Tho’ the hull it may be battered,
Down inside it’s safe & dry
It will carry its cargo to the port in the sky.
Let the Church be the Church, Let the People rejoice.
Oh, we’ve settled the question, We’ve made our choice.
Let the anthems ring out, Songs of victory swell
For the Church triumphant is alive and well.
Is alive, is alive, is alive.
The Church is alive, alive, is alive.
The Church is alive and well, and well, and we