Church history tells us that evangelism and revivals have come about in the past in almost every case based on some knowledge (even limited) of the Word of God in the society and culture. This is certainly true in American revivals. So if the Scriptures are removed from the culture and the social fabric, then more than likely fewer and fewer will be coming to Christ. Many argue, "But God can do anything!" And this I agree with whole heartedly but the issue is, how has He worked in the past? It is through the work of the Holy Spirit with the Bible. This does not mean that we stop sharing the gospel. We do not! We need to go down proclaiming the grace of God to the very end.
It is interesting to study the great revivals of the past in America. The one that lasted for the shortest period was the one especially based on emotion and expression—yelling, screaming, hands in the air, etc. Sound familiar?
Here is a short review of such revivals in American history:
2. THE EMOTIONAL REVIVAL or THE GREAT REVIVAL. This began around 1799 to 1801. It began among the Methodists and spread throughout the southern states. The revivals that took place were generally held in the rural areas. There was a lot of emotionalism with jerking, falling on the ground, and screaming. This is reminiscent of the shallow emotionalism that we see today in some circles. "Such emotional surgings, however, could not last. They quickly subsided." A lot of extremes took place. Camp meetings with prayer would often last all day. The GREAT REVIVAL brought on the Shaker Movement in which the extreme of emotionalism was exhibited. This movement, often called the SECOND AWAKENING, divided many churches. The climax came about in Kentucky near Cane Ridge where twenty-five thousand gathered in 1801.
3. THE PRAYER-MEETING REVIVAL of 1857-1858. Started in the North Dutch Church of New York, businessmen began to meeting daily at noon for prayer meetings. This was spurred on by the financial panic that fell upon the business community of the city and the country at that time. This was a lay movement with thousands coming to Christ and sharing their faith among their contemporaries. The result was that it promoted the growth of church attendance and brought about a lot of interdenominational fellowship. It was described as "a providential preparation for the Civil War," which was soon to make tremendous demands upon the spiritual resources of the nation.
4. THE CIVIL WAR REVIVALS of 1861-1865. There is no telling how many soldiers, in the north and in the south, came to Christ during that war. The soldiers had left home and were facing death on the battle field or in a hospital from the diseases that killed so many of them. As youngsters, they had learned the Bible on the knees of their parents back home. And now, it was time to reach up to the Lord and accept Him as their personal Savior! Pastors and evangelists went from camp to camp bringing the gospel to those who were so spiritually hungry.
5. THE CHILDRENS' SUNDAY SCHOOL MOVEMENT of 1868-1874. Especially in the eastern cities, thousands of Sunday schools were organized in the churches with the result that thousands of youngsters were taught the Scriptures on Sunday mornings. This also brought on church revivals with thousands filling such churches as the Brooklyn Tabernacle. While this may not be classified as a revival movement, Sunday schools became the center piece of conversion and revival for decades to come. While it is certainly better for children to learn the Word of God from their parents in the home setting, there is no doubt as to the great blessing Sunday schools have been in the past. Many Sunday schools today are poorly organized and teach ineffective scriptural lessons, and this is unfortunate for the body of Christ!
As with most of America, early in our history, there were no public schools organized for children. The colony of Massachusetts set forth laws in 1642 and 1647 to establish village schools. This was repeated in Connecticut in 1650. The purpose was stated: "That the children were to be taught, especially to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of this country." And also the people were reminded: "It being one chief project of the old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures."
It was written in 1645 that the schoolmaster was "to commend his scholars and his labors among them unto God by prayer morning and evening, taking care that his scholars do reverently attend during the same." As well, each Monday he was to examine them as to what they had learned from the Sabbath sermon "in the principles of the Christian religion." The students were to learn to read "in order to be able to duly read the Scriptures."
Everyone agreed on the basics of what could be taught from the Bible in the village school. The teachers could teach anything scriptural but they could not teach sectarianism, that is, particular doctrines that would be denominational in nature. But it was after the Civil War that the nation became more secular. Many school systems cut out any teaching of the Word of God in the classrooms. No matter what was being taught, most towns required that the new teacher be a Christian and that she or he attend church each week.
However I can remember being in school in the 1950s when the Bible was read each morning over the PA system along with a closing prayer. Gideon Bibles were passed out to all in my grade school class. We always had assembles in school for Thanksgiving, Christian, and Easter. These were spiritual in nature. I am convinced that many of my classmates were touched spiritually and even came to Christ because of that. In my high school graduating class, over 75 percent of my classmates took Bible courses for credit. Can you imagine that happening today!
To show how bad it has become we have school teacher friends who say that kids will come up to them and ask, "Now just what is this Christmas thing all about?" The biblical and spiritual ignorance is part of the growing apostasy destroying America and the west! In fact, I would say that it is all over. And, we are coming up to one of the most drastic change in American history. The churches will be both blessed and tried! – Dr. Mal Couch