By Keith Manuel, Evangelism strategist for the LBC
I read recently this from a small town pastor:
The people of our area are good people, clear-headed and orderly. They are as industrious and as kind as any people who live in our area. We are fortunate to be free from the crime the bigger cities seem to have. It is a good place to live and raise a family.
Don’t let me mislead you, we aren’t without our problems.
Our town consists of about 200 families with everyone living closely together. Because of this closeness, when we do have problems, the problems spread rapidly.
Our church has seen peaks and valleys since its beginning. I followed the church’s second pastor, Reverend Stoddard, who served here for 60 years. He said that during his ministry there were five periods of extraordinary harvests.
He often spoke of the mighty movements of God, particularly among the young people.
Reverend Stoddard told me the last time of harvest was 18 years before the end of his ministry. Since then, the young people of our community seem to run toward sin and rebellion, not caring for the things of God. Our community suffers greatly because of it. The way they are living is probably worse than any previous generation.
I had the privilege of ministering alongside Reverend Stoddard for two years before his death.
By the way, he was my grandfather. During this time, he prayed specifically for the salvation of the souls of several particular people. I bless God that during those two years, he was able to see 20 people saved. However, it was hardly an awakening.
About the time of my grandfather’s death, the majority of our people, both young and old, grew even more unconcerned about spiritual matters. I describe it as an extraordinary time of dullness to the things of God.
The decay affected many areas of life. The young people were morally unrestrained. Sexual immorality was prevalent. They would roam the streets at night with evil purposes. They hung around the bars drinking to excess.
Under the influence of alcohol, every kind of lewd behavior became acceptable and practiced. They frolicked all night with utter disregard to how their parents raised them.
The boys and girls even had the audacity to behave indecently in their vehicles at our worship meetings. There was a complete lack of concern for God.
This went on for a couple of years until suddenly God began to move among our young people. They started attending worship services more regularly. The bars and taverns grew empty.
They left their lifestyles of revelry and frolicking. There became a real concern for the things of God. The parents were amazed that these teens started obeying the family rules on their own. They were paying attention to the sermons and started living for the Lord.
It has been some nine years now since God awakened our people. The youth have not returned to their sexual promiscuity, profane language, lewd songs and revelry. There is a marked decrease in the tavern-going of both young and old. Our town has not seen such little vice in more than 60 years.
The awakening affected not only our negative actions but moved us to acting more like God’s people in a positive sense. There is great concern for the poor in our community and God’s people have found many ways to minister there.
Although the effects of the great revival are diminishing, many gatherings for prayer and social worship have survived for almost a decade.
The aforementioned loose paraphrase of the words of Jonathan Edwards provides a glimpse into the early stages of a mighty work of God in the Northhampton Church during the First Great Awakening. From the fall of 1734 until May of 1735, God added 300 new converts.
While reading Edwards’ description of his small town – A Narrative of Surprising Conversions and An Account of the Revival of Religion in Northhampton 1740-1742 – it is easy to draw parallels to our communities and churches today.
For pastors, we never know if we are the grandfathers plowing the hard fields for the great revival our grandchildren will experience. Nor do we know if God will quickly send a great awakening into the hearts of the people we pastor now.
For parents, the tears we weep over the rebellion of our children may turn to tears of joy as the Holy Spirit moves the hearts of our children to God.
We would be wise, at the very least, to be like Reverend Stoddard and choose a few particular people to pray for their soul’s salvation.
Lord, may we see a Great Revival again?