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CHURCH HISTORY

Spiritual Revivals

By Scott Ross and Jim Croft
Guest Writer

CBN.com -- Many American Christians are persuaded that increased spiritual fervency is a deterrent against national woes. The present economic condition of Switzerland as compared to the USA belies that concept. It is also not supported by the histories of China and the USA. History indicates that revivals of repentance, intercession and evangelization are more so preparations for rather than preventatives of hard times.

The mistake comes from expectations that Old Covenant admonitions are in play in the New Covenant era. Israel was God’s holy nation. When she complied with God’s precepts, she was blessed. When Israel failed to do so, its population paid penalties.

America is not God’s holy nation. His holy nation is the Church of the Redeemed that is scattered throughout the nations. Jesus called events such as natural disasters, wars, famines and plagues signs of His Coming. He did not label them as retribution for wickedness. That type of judgment will come as depicted in the Book of Revelations. When those judgments hit, they will have a supernatural dynamic that is absent from all present day woes.

Let us first examine Switzerland. God is not a respecter of persons. If America is subject to judgment, Switzerland should get the same.
Swiss Enigma

Few nations can equal Switzerland’s history as a birthplace for God-centered thought and Christian values. Interestingly, at this juncture it has few semblances that are reminiscent of its roots. It does not have the church attendance of the USA and a robust prayer and repentance movement like America’s.

In the 16th century, Switzerland was a center for the Protestant Reformation.

It was also the birthplace of Calvinism, which greatly influenced many American denominations. The flag that flies over the country features a white cross on a red background, symbolizing the cross and blood of Jesus. It would seem that if America has come under judgment for abandoning its Christian values, then Switzerland should incur similar reprisals. (Acts 10:34)

However, the Swiss express little concern about issues such as abortion, drug abuse, and pornography. Extra-marital affairs and premarital sex are commonplace. Homosexuality is a non-issue item. It is rare to encounter a Swiss clergyman who will testify to a born-again experience. Church attendance is an equal rarity—less than 20% of the population attends religious services at any time for any reason

The Swiss have not had a famine since 1845, and with the exception of an occasional avalanche, natural disasters are rare. Every man under the age of 50 is a militiaman who must have a gun and ammo in his home at all times, yet there are very few homicides. Incidences of terrorism are uncommon. When it does occur, it is normally foreign nationals harassing other foreign nationals living in Switzerland, as opposed to foreign nationals attacking Swiss citizens and Government facilities.

The Swiss have been spared from combat in any war over the past 100 years. Their current inflation rate is -0.5%; their unemployment rate is 3.1%; and they have a trade surplus. The lifespan of the Swiss is longer than that of Americans and their infant mortality rates are lower. At many points of comparison, with the exception of fervent Christianity per capita, Switzerland is faring better than the USA.

Now let us look at the Christian histories of China and the USA.

Persevering Chinese

China has had a Christian presence since 450AD and active Evangelicals since 1850. Its Church had high visibility and there were some remarkable revivals until the Communists takeover in 1949.

Subsequently, its believers went underground and the Chinese Church under persecution has grown at an impressive rate to this very day. Most everyone would admit that Chinese Christians are intense in fervor and exemplary in evangelization and prayer.

However, here are just a few of the things that happened to that nation during the past 150 years of active Evangelistic Christian presence.

  • 1850-61 – 30 million deaths in Taiping rebellion.
  • 1876-97 - 50 million perish in famine and 5 million in plagues.
  • 1928-37 – 4 million die in civil war, a flood kills 3.5 million and a drought takes 3 million more.
  • 1946-50 – Communist takeover kills 2.5 million through civil war and Moa slaughters 50 million in political purging and countless millions were believers.
  • 1950-2011 – Famine 1959-1961 kills 20 million; and 1976 earthquake takes 655,000. Subsequently, into 2011 other disasters have hit killing hundreds of thousands, but exact figures are not yet available. China blooms into a super-power militarily and economically and its Church continues to grow at an astronomical rate in the midst of ongoing persecution.

The USA

Some might be familiar with Eddie Hyatt’s book, 2,000Years of Charismatic Christianity. With it in hand, I encourage you to read the Outline of American History. http://usinfo.state.gov/products/pubs/history/toc.htm

As you do so, compare the dates of national/regional revivals and renewed spiritual fervency against the backdrop of national woes. Again, you will find that increased intensities of revival, repentance, prayer etc are preparations for rather than preventatives against national tragedies. Without fail heartrending wars and tribulations have followed close on the heels of every revival that America has experienced. Through various phases of the signs of the times courageous saints have always exemplified faith’s endurance to their fainthearted neighbors.

1) 1560 – Godly French Huguenots seeking religious freedom established a colony in Northern Florida. The Spanish annihilated it and them in 1565 and established their own colony in St. Augustine.

2) 1607 – British who were zealous for God settled Jamestown, VA. Their charter mandated attendance at morning and evening public devotions, no work on Sundays and respect for clergymen. Violators were flogged. By 1610, Indian wars and disease had taken all but 60 of the original 300; that’s an 80% loss. Between 1607 and 1624 approximately 14,000 people migrated to the colony, yet only 1,132 were living there in 1624. The 92% reduction came via battles; exposure to the elements; sicknesses; and some just gave up and moved elsewhere.

3) 1620 – The Puritans fled England’s & Holland’s religious persecutions and established the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Nearly half of the Mayflower’s 101 passengers perished in the first year and more would have done so were it not for the kindness of the Wampanoag Indian Tribe.

4) 1730-50 - The blessed phenomena of the Great Awakening propelled churchgoers to repentance. There were thousands of new converts and 80% of New England’s population began to attend church. In 1754 the French and Indian War started and twenty-one years later the nation was embroiled in the Revolutionary War. Some authorities estimate that church attendance subsequently fell to as low as 5% prior to the Second Great Awakening of the early 1800s.

5) 1799-1806 - The Cane Ridge revival hit the mountain communities of Tennessee and Kentucky. Crowds of 25,000 traveled by foot and wagon from the Southern and Mid-Atlantic States to attend brush arbor camp meetings. These gatherings were noted for awesome atmospheres that evoked spontaneous outbursts of repentance. While heaven’s dew still rested on the thousands that had been transformed during the revival, the English attacked America and the War of 1812 began. Washington D.C. was put to flames and was almost completely destroyed.

6) 1857-1860 - Businessman Jeremiah Lanphier was anointed to lead his contemporaries in regular times of prayer. He began a businessmen's prayer meeting in an upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church in Manhattan, NY. At the first meeting, only six people showed up out of a population of one million. However, by March of 1858, every church and public hall in downtown New York was filled with people meeting for prayer. People began to be converted—10,000 per week in New York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England with the church bells ringing people to prayer at eight in the morning, noon, and at six in the evening. The end result was that in 1860, out of the nation’s 30 million people, more than one million were converted to Christ. In 1861, while millions of Americans basked in the joys of salvation’s refreshing, the Confederates bombarded Ft. Sumter and the War Between the States began. Scores of cities were burned and countless homes were pillaged. 620,000 soldiers lost their lives and over 400,000 troops of both sides suffered under the cruelest of conditions in Union and Confederate concentration camps. The abuses on fellow countrymen were so severe that war crime trials were held after the war.

7) 1901-1909 – First inklings of Pentecostalism and California’s 1906 Azusa Street Revival inflamed countless hundreds of thousands of Americans to seek deeper experiences with the Holy Spirit. That same year the San Francisco Earthquake killed 3,000. It was the most severe in our nation’s history. WWI came along in 1917 and in 1918 the Bird/Spanish Flue Pandemic visited the USA. 28% of the population was stricken and 675,000 died within hours of getting the first symptoms.

8) 1920 – Children were led in prayer at the onset of each school day and Bibles were commonplace in classrooms. The Temperance Movement primarily steered by zealous Protestant denominations, gained momentum and persuaded secularists that alcoholic beverages were detrimental. Congress passed the Prohibition Act that was not repealed until 1933. Bootleggers and organized crime families slipped in and replaced the law-abiding merchants that were shutdown. The stock market crashed in 1929 and the Great Depression continued until 1939. The Dust Bowl exodus fueled by droughts, dust storms, and hailstorms drove 2.5 million Americans from the agricultural Plains States and 500,000 wandered the land homeless.

9) 1946 – The Healing Revival and the Latter Rain Movement catapulted millions of Americans into miraculous healings and divine encounters on into the late ‘50s. The US entered the Korean War in 1950 and the anxieties inherent with the Cold War with the Soviet Block intensified.

10) 1962-1975 – There was an unanticipated outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Ecclesiastical Churches. Within five years scores of thousands of Episcopalians and Catholics and the like were baptized in the Holy Spirit, spoke in tongues and became Bible enthusiasts. The Jesus and Charismatic Movements followed and hundreds of thousands witnessed attestations of the Holy Spirit and were converted to Christ. Those movements were the foundation of the Full-Gospel ministries of today. US forces entered the Vietnam War in 1965 and a decade of unprecedented civil unrest mesmerized our country.

11) 1995–2,000 - Brownsville Assembly of God of Pensacola, Florida was doused with the tangibility of the Lord’s presence. That birthed the largest single church revival in American History. Five million visitors attended during the visitation’s first 5 years. Only Heaven knows how many of our fellow countrymen were inspired to carry the joyous torches of repentance, salvation and physical and emotional healing back to their hometown fellowships. Islamic Terrorists attacked America in 2001, provoking the Iraq, Afghanistan Wars and the Global War on Terrorism. Three devastating hurricanes and an oil spill have subsequently pounded Pensacola and the Gulf Coast Region.

I strongly believe in and have a history of encouraging prayer and fasting for revival. Christians should unite in intercession for the lost and for greater miracles to give attestation that we are God’s people who have answers for the infirm and the demonized. However, I don’t like the idea of programming believers to anticipate that the treasures of prayer and repentance will prevent sign events of the End-time that Jesus prophesied would happen from happening. Enough said. You get the point.

© Jim Croft. Used with permission.

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