Picture the hustle and bustle of New York City in the middle of the workday. It’s noon. Thousands of people are walking from their places of work to a church or to a coffee house, storefront, or bar. There, they gather for prayer. All across the city, tens of thousands of people are praying, crying out to the Lord for healing, for cleansing…for revival. Can you imagine this scene taking place in New York City today?
It happened in the past. From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, a huge awakening swept the country. Millions heard the gospel. Evangelists proclaimed truth to vast crowds. America flourished into a missionary-sending nation. God’s Spirit was at work.
Is that kind of awakening going to happen again? Ever? When is the next great awakening going to explode?
Another Great Awakening?
For generations, Christians have been praying for revival and awakening. Gratefully, God is at work. All across the world, there are victories being won and souls being saved. Huge church growth has taken place in many African and Asian nations. However, many have lamented that God has neglected America and other western nations. They fear that our sin and rejection has signaled the end of Christianity in this region of the world. Others, however, pray fervently for an awakening — for the next great awakening.
When will these prayers be answered? When will a fresh flood of souls come into the kingdom? Will there be another missions movement?
Evangelism: Past and Present
In past generations, evangelism took place on a massive scale. In the early American revivals, people would construct large pole barns and tents for throngs of people to hear the revivalist preachers. Evangelists such as Whitefield and later D.L. Moody would speak to crowds of thousands of people, hosting multi-day revival services. God used these evangelistic movements to bring many to himself.
No one can argue that we live in a world vastly different from Whitefield and Moody. Advances in technology have shaped our culture. Information transfer occurs within different thought paradigms, and often through different means. Mass meetings, while not entirely to be disregarded, are probably not the ideal form of evangelism. Also disadvantageous is the time-honored tradition of door-to-door evangelism, by which Christians would systematically enter neighborhoods to go directly to people’s homes with the gospel. Though not entirely without merit, such practices are probably less than an ideal use of resources in most American subcultures and settings.
One strategic location of evangelism is the workplace. Evangelism is conducted best in areas where Christians live and have personal interaction with nonbelievers. Evangelism through technology and broadcasting has its place, but will probably never totally replace in-person conversations. Relationships formed in the workplace and communities provide the best and most helpful place for gospel encounters to take place.
Obviously, Christians should never be guilty of stealing from their employers by neglecting their work in order to give the gospel from cubicle to cubicle. Decorum and honesty are important in evangelism, just as in any other sphere of life. Christians should live their faith out loud, never neglecting opportunities to speak of their faith, to prove their committment to God, and to point to Jesus Christ.
The Recipe for Revival: Prayer and Evangelism
Every Christian has a responsibility to pray and evangelize. No, we cannot fabricate revival on our own. That is why we pray. That is why we obey Jesus’ command to spread his teachings to others. If another great awakening is to take place, it is going to happen in the context of personal relationships. Are there unsaved and unreached people near you? Wherever you are today, you can begin to light a small fire to launch a great awakening.
Dr. J. D. Greear, pastor and church planter said,
If you study what’s going on around the world, it seems that the next wave of missions is not gonna happen through a lot of professional church planters. It’s going to happen by people who use their business and leverage their business to get in to places where they can just share Christ with people – through the normal business relationships.
A cursory reading of the book of Acts demonstrates that the Holy Spirit grew the early church by means of fervent prayer and passionate abandon. Church history displays this same pattern. We cannot manipulate the Spirit into creating a revival, nor can we manufacture revival on our own. What we can and should do is obey.
Christ promised, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). Then, he later commanded us, his followers, “Go therefore and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19). Let us live out the gospel in our cities, suburbs, workplaces, shopping centers, and schools. Let us not shrink from declaring the life-giving gospel of Jesus. Let us be obedient, prayerful, and hopeful. God can launch the next great awakening.