In the last hundred years, we have had significant national spiritual moments, short of a Great Awakening. In the 1940’s and ‘50’s we experienced the signs and wonders revival. In that same era, Billy Graham became a national phenomenon.
After two years of traveling as a speaker for the Youth for Christ organization, Billy Graham held his first official evangelistic Crusade in 1947; but it was his 1949 Los Angeles Crusade that captured the nation’s attention. Originally scheduled to run for three weeks, the “tent meetings” were extended for a total of eight weeks as hundreds of thousands of men, women and children gathered to hear Graham’s messages.
Billy Graham may be best known, however, for his evangelistic missions or “Crusades.” He believed God knew no borders or nationalities. Throughout his career, Graham preached to millions in locations from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to Zagorsk, Russia; and from Wellington, New Zealand to the National Cathedral in Washington. In 1973, Graham addressed more than one million people crowded into Yoido Plaza in Seoul, South Korea—the largest live audience of his Crusades.1
The Pentecostal World Conference was also born at the turn of the half century. Shortly after that, staid denominations began to feel the impact of Pentecost. By the 1960s and ‘70s, every Christian denomination had been visited by the Charismatic renewal. During the same era, “the Jesus movement” captured the hearts of dissident youth and exploded onto the national scene. It has been almost thirty years since the fires of that renewal began to fade.
Revival is the work of God in the Church among His people. Awakening is the work of God in a culture that has forgotten Him, His Word or His Love. The typical revival has a three-to-five year life-cycle, and is often confined to the church, according to some renewal experts. A Great Awakening is a macro-revival, culture-wide and nation impacting. It begins in the church, sometimes with one man and woman, and breaks out into the community, impacting the region, at times a nation. Awakenings adjust the national moral and spiritual bearings, not for a few years, but for a generation. Their indirect impact is twice as long. Our nation is in trouble again. Nothing short of a Great Awakening can save the nation now.
In 1787, Alexander Tyler, a Scottish historian wrote,
A democracy is always temporary in nature; it simply cannot exist as a permanent form of government…the average age of the world’s greatest civilizations – from the beginning of history – has been about 200 years. During those 200 years, these nations always progressed…From bondage to spiritual faith; from spiritual faith to great courage; from courage to liberty; from liberty to abundance; from abundance to complacency; from complacency to apathy; from apathy to dependence; and from dependence back to bondage.2
Let’s pray for the next Great Awakening!
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P. Douglas Small is founder and president of Alive Ministries: PROJECT PRAY and he serves in conjunction with a number of other organizations. He is also the creator of the Praying Church Movement and the Prayer Trainer’s Network. However, all views expressed are his own and not the official position of any organization.
1 Excerpt from the <memorial.billygraham.org/official-obituary>.
2 Bob Griffin, Firestorms of Revival (Lake Mary, FL: Strang Publications, 2006), 29.