The Coming Teen Decade (2013-2019)

In our Spiritual Life Week here at North Central University (NCU) this week, our guest speaker, Sean Smith, stirred our campus toward revival and awakening. Preaching on the 4th chapter of Malachi and the last few verses of the Old Testament, Sean urged us as a fatherless generation to seek the spirit of God for the characteristics of Elijah and what God called the prophet to effect upon Israel.

Additionally, in recent chapel address from Glen Menzies, one of our theology guys at NCU, we were given a historical look at the First Great Awakening in America. Watching what is going on here at NCU and our student body, and from what I have witnessed the past 6 months in my travels in the American youth culture, I want to pose a question. Maybe a challenge. What must be done to enter into the next Great Awakening?

Today when historians talk about the First Great Awakening, they mean a religious renewal that took place between 1720 and 1760, climaxing in 1741. Some limit it to New England, where there was the greatest initial impact; others include development up and down the eastern seaboard.  But, the movement actually spread much further than that and can be seen in history all across the midwest and the south. The entire nation experienced some form of impact from the spiritual movement. 

Let me say something from the outset of this blog. There is a difference between a "revival" and an "awakening". A revival has a significant impact on the Church, but not necessarily the larger society or culture. An awakening impacts both the Church and the larger society or culture. Although the first American settlers were highly religious people who came to America in pursuit of religious freedom, most of the people who followed came in pursuit of opportunity and economic prosperity. A shift had already begun in the hearts of Americans from a religious hunger to a more humanistic and selfish one. 

Menzies supports this thought by saying, "From its beginning America has been a prosperous land, and the average American colonist had a much better life than the average Englishman who remained in the homeland.   In 1720 most Americans were vaguely religious, but they didn't take their religion too seriously because they were seeking something different by coming to America. And the result was that the pews of American churches were full of people who gave intellectual assent to one form of Christianity or another, but whose lives had not been transformed."

And into this setting came the First Great Awakening. It was marked by many things, but, let me bullet 4 of the characteristic traits of that revival:

  • An elevation of the person of Christ
  • Assault upon the works of Satan
  • Accepting the authority of Scripture
  • Active pursuit of a love for God and mankind

Wow. Do we need another move upon America today. These are the exact kind of things we must see the Holy Spirit stirring in the church and ultimately in culture today. Our post-modern society has struggled with the authority of scripture or any other kind of religious authority. And that kind of polytheism has resulted in the aimless society we live in today in the West. American teenagers in the 21st century, more than any other time, are growing up without a respect for the words of God found in the Bible.We hear a lot of debate about whether or not America was built on a Christian foundation. Menzies stated, "that while the United States Constitution provides for a strictly non-sectarian federal government, American society was imbued with a profoundly Christian character."

We live in a completely un-recognizable America in comparison to 50 years ago. Not because of the industrial revolution or the information age, or the social media revolution, but, because of the religious and moral failure of government, society, and even the church. This decline must be stopped. At the risk of losing one of the unique traits of our country's inception, President Obama stated in 2010, "America is no longer a Christian nation..." I get the context from this quote. That we are now Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and pagan (or unbelieving). But, just because we have become diverse doesn't mean that our roots need to be negated. This teenage generation has a chance to bring in the next Great Awakening. 

The effects of the First Great Awakening no doubt shaped our nation in the 17th and the 18th century. But, it is time for another spiritual movement in America. If we continue at the pace we are entrenched at this time, we will look more similar to Europe and its religious climate; full of Church buildings but almost devoid of true believers. How do we return? I believe it begins with the four traits that we spoke of earlier in this post. Let me challenge you as a young person in America to begin asking the Holy Spirit to guide you through each of these. And ultimately into revival.