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An Observation Today's Pastors Would Do Well To Hear

“A final general observation arising out of this period (The Second Great Awakening) has to do with the manner in which the unusual sense of the presence of God was recognized in the churches which experienced these revivals. It was not because men saw weeping multitudes, unrestrained noise and high excitement that they believed a revival had begun. On the contrary, such things — which are sometimes supposed to be of the essence of revival — were almost entirely absent in the Northeast during the greater part of the Second Great Awakening. . . . The presence of God and the measure of his working was not judged by such things but rather by the deep impression made on people by ‘the power of divine truth.’ Far from aiming at stirring excitement, the preachers sought to avoid it. ‘It was their object, indeed, to make deep impressions on the hearts of sinners,” observed Porter, “but to do this only be means of truth. Accordingly, the whole tendency of things was to produce exercises of the calm, solemn, pungent kind rather than passionate and clamorous excitement.'”

– Ian Murray, Revival and Revivalism, 137-138

There are many good pastors today, I have observed, who, while certainly aiming to “make deep impressions on the hearts of sinners” “by means of truth,” also find it necessary to “motivate” or “encourage” their people to have a “zeal” or “passion” for the truth.1

And then they wish their people would have a visible “excitement” for God, just like one might have at a sporting event.

Perhaps instead we should take note of the past, lest we fall into the grave errors that folllowed the era of the Second Great Awakening.

Scott Aniol

About Scott Aniol

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 Culture, 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 four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.

  1. See, for instance, Bob Kauflin’s understanding of what a worship leader should be doing. []

2 Responses to An Observation Today's Pastors Would Do Well To Hear

  1. Well stated. We have inherited too much from Finney that needs to be scrutinized and replaced. After nearly two hundred years, "excitement" and other physical evidences thought to manifest the Spirit's work have become deeply ingrained in Evangliecal culture.

  2. I'm right with you. I'm working my way (again) through Revival and Revivalism in preparation for a writing project, and I'm struck again with how much, not just Finney, but a Pelagian view of evangelism, has influenced modern fundamentalism and evangelicalism.

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