Characteristics of meetings during the Great Awakening
I have a feeling many contemporary evangelicals, could they time travel back to the Great Awakening, might scold churches during that time for not being “passionate about God” or “engaged”:
Edward Griffin, reviewing the whole period in 1832, wrote: ‘The means employed in these revivals have been but two, — the clear presentation of divine truth and prayer: nothing to work upon the passions but sober, solemn truth, presented, as far as possible, in its mot interesting attitudes, and closely applied to the conscience. The meetings have been still and orderly, with no other sign of emotion in the hearers than the solemn look and the silent tear.’
As we have seen, it was when these pastors were continuing in their normal preaching ministries that revivals began and the first appearance of change was commonly the mysterious influence, ‘like the silent dew of heaven’, which took from men’s minds all save the truth they were hearing.
Congregations were then awed and subdued and it was often the degree of silence and stillness, more than anything else, which showed that a new day had come. There are unanimous testimonies to this from the many eyewitnesses who have left records. The Rev. Jeremiah Hallock reported what happened in his congregation of West Simsbury, Connecticut in 1797–9:
‘The solemnity of this season cannot be communicated. It can only be known by experience . . . The work was by no means noisy, but rational, deep, and still. Poor sinners began to see that every thing in the Bible was true, that they were wholly sinful and in the hand of a sovereign God. The first you would know of persons under awakening was, that they would be at all the religious meetings, and manifest a silent and eager attention.’
(from Ian Murray, Revival and Revivalism, 138)
Compare that to a statement from contemporary worship leader Matt Redman:
In a “reasons to be passionate” competition, the church of God should come an easy first; yet too often we find ourselves lagging way behind in this area. Isn’t it time we saw a bit more holy mayhem in our worship?
(from Matt Redman, Unquenchable Worship, 43)
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is Chair of the Worship Ministry Department at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Cutlure, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and three children.