Spiritual Awakenings in North America: Did You Know?

MOST OF OUR great popular denominations in America grew to strength because of the 19th-century awakenings.

Of the nine colonial colleges in America, six were born as the result of awakenings.

American and British awakenings led to the worldwide Evangelical Awakening, which spread the gospel around the world throughout the 19th century. In 1800, Christians were concentrated in Europe and North America; by 1900 many Christians were in China, India, and Africa.

George Whitefield, the great evangelist of the Great Awakening who preached all through the colonies, was an Anglican priest, and gladly worked with Christians from different backgrounds. His voice was so loud and clear that he could be heard by 30,000 people!

Awakenings started the foreign missions movement in America, and American missionary work started in a haystack, during a thunderstorm! In 1806, during an awakening at Williams College in Western Massachusetts, Samuel Mills and four other students hid themselves in a haystack to avoid a summer thunderstorm. While there they united in prayer, and pledged themselves to go as missionaries wherever God might lead them. Out of this group went the first American missionaries.

Some of the best impulses for social reform in America’s history have come from awakenings. The anti-slavery movement in America was mainly a part of the reform movement generated by the Second Great Awakening, as were movements for prison reform, child labor laws, women’s rights, inner-city missions, and many more.

The Third Great Awakening of 1857–1859 was brought about by prayer meetings in cities in Canada and America, and was led not by clergy, but by devoted laypersons.


By the Editors

[Christian History originally published this article in Christian History Issue #23 in 1989]

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