revival, religious

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

revival, religious

religious revival, renewal of attention to religious faith and service in a church or community, usually following a period of comparative inactivity and frequently marked by intense fervor. As applied to the Christian religion, the phrase belongs to modern times, dating from the 18th cent.; but such experience is described in scriptural accounts. The development of the Protestant movements in the 14th, 15th, and 16th cent. was in the nature of a series of revivals under the leadership of John Wyclif, Jan Huss, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldreich Zwingli, and others. But revivals, so called, began (c.1737) in Europe with the evangelical awakening in England under John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield. Under their direction an army of itinerant and local workers and of missionaries spread the spirit of Methodist evangelism with amazing rapidity over Great Britain, into Ireland, and across the seas. Almost simultaneously with the Methodist movement, the Great Awakening began in America; given stimulus by Whitefield, revivals were started in 1720 by Theodore Frelinghuysen of New Jersey and in 1734 by Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts. The newer settlements in the South and West experienced a wave of religious animation characterized by emotional excitement and physical manifestations. The movement was developed c.1797 in Kentucky under the preaching of James McGready. From these meetings held in the open developed the camp meeting. Professional revivalists were Timothy Dwight, grandson of Jonathan Edwards, Lyman Beecher, Asahel Nettleton, and Charles Grandison Finney. The preeminent figure in 19th cent. revivalistic history in the United States and Great Britain was Dwight L. Moody, who, with the singing evangelist Ira D. Sankey, moved vast audiences for more than 25 years. Revival campaigns in the postwar period, which should be distinguished from those of practitioners of faith healing, have been conducted by B. Fay Mills, Sam Jones, J. Wilbur Chapman, R. A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, Gipsy Smith, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Billy Graham. Pentecostalism in its older and newer forms is sometimes interpreteted as a continuous revival in the Church. Modern revivalism has made use of television to greatly expand its audience. Missionary efforts have sparked revivals in countries such as Korea, Indonesia, and more recently, throughout South America.

See B. A. Weisberger, They Gathered at the River (1958, repr. 1966); W. G. McLoughlin, Revivals, Awakenings, and Reform (1978); S. S. Sizer, Gospel Hymns and Social Religion (1978); E. E. Cairns, An Endless Line of Splendor (1986).

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