America’s Third Great Awakening

The following is an excerpt from Chapter 5 of my recent book, The Relay.

“If history repeats itself, and clearly it does, the same nation that birthed a first Great Awakening and a second Great Awakening is overdue for its third.” 

“The Church is asleep. Only a loud voice will awaken it from its slumber.” Such was the somber state of Christianity in the 1730s, according to George Whitefield. Little did he know then that his would be that voice that God would use to awaken the 13 Colonies from their deep sleep. The dawn of the First Great Awakening had risen.

As a direct result of the faithful preaching of God’s Word by men such as George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and others, untold scores of men, women and children were, in the language of the time, “quickened unto salvation” in Christ. The pews in New England’s churches started filling to capacity, many overflowing into nearby fields. This religious fervor spilled over into the academic realm as well; the vast majority of universities established during that period were unabashedly founded on Biblical principles espoused by the Great Awakening. One college in Boston was particularly unapologetic about its primary goal: “The main end of a student’s life is to know God and Jesus Christ.” 

Regrettably, over less time than one might imagine, that vibrant church once awakened from her slumber soon returned to sleep. Today, if you were to visit any of the Boston churches where George Whitefield preached, you might find a restaurant or department store or vacancy sign now occupies that space. But perhaps most telling of all, some are museums where you have to pay to hear what once happened there. And what about that college and its primary goal for students “to know God and Jesus Christ?” You now know it as Harvard, hardly a present-day bastion of Biblical Christianity. 

All of which begs the question: What went so terribly wrong? Only one plausible explanation can be found: One generation failed to pass the baton on to the next. 

Martin Luther noted: “When everything is quiet, it could be a sign that the devil is the door-keeper of the Church and that the pure doctrine of God’s Word has been lost.” It’s safe to say, as first dawn appeared in 2020 “the people of God were quietly asleep.” I get the strong sense however, the final dusk of 2020 and the first dawn of 2021 will be much different. Christ-followers are beginning to wake up. “Knowing the time . . . now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (Romans 13:11) 

I believe the loud voices the Lord will use to awaken our great nation from its slumber will come from the rank and file members of our faith. That means yours can become that voice, but only if you are willing to speak it and let it be heard. I could not agree more with Thomas Oden who observed “The pastor had best not do anything that the body itself could do. The pastor’s primary task is to equip the body, not try to do everything for the laity. It is pride and an overwhelming need to control that causes the pastor to attempt to do the work of the entire congregation.” Believers in Jesus have been quite equipped, it’s time you speak. 

It only takes one person to reverse even the most severe of generational slides away from the Gospel – you be that one person! You be that loud voice to upend the entirety of a nation from their slumber so they, too, can begin crying out to the Living God. As stated at the outset, if history repeats itself, and clearly it does, the same nation that birthed a first Great Awakening and a second Great Awakening is overdue for its third.

1st Great Awakening (1730-1750)

2nd Great Awakening (1801-1835)

3rd Great Awakening (2021- ?)