We continue the exploration of church history revivals. Centering around chapter 3, verses 7 and 14, we look at how the missional movement of the church connects to the message of Revelation and the calling to be a faithful witness. We join Tim as he begins to take a look at the Second Great Awakening.
The Second Great Awakening
You had the first Great Awakening in America 1730-1750s. The Second Great Awakening was a revivalist movement. A fellow named Charles Finney. And out of that came the abolition of slavery because people actually took things to heart and put it into practice. So first is the preservation of self governance, and then comes the abolition of slavery.
The Third Great Awakening
And then, in the late 1800s, there was a third Great Awakening. You may not know much about this one. I have a personal connection with this one, which is very interesting.
However, before I go into that, let me tell you about a real great cab ride I had last week.
I learn a lot of geography and sociology from cab drivers. Much more reliable than anything you find in the library. And this particular cab driver is from southern Mexico, just on the Guatemalan border. His first language is something I can’t pronounce. It’s an Aztec language,an Indian language. Second language, Spanish. Third language, English.
He’s about my age. He grew up in the foothills down there, as he explained it to me, and his farm was a couple of miles away. They didn’t have electricity. In the morning, they’d ride their mules over to the farm and farm, and then load up the mules with firewood and walk back.
And I asked him along the way, “Are you Catholic?” And he said, “No. I can’t do that Catholic thing because my ancestors were really bad. They were human-sacrifice people. I don’t want anything to do with that. But when the Catholic missionaries came over, their missionary approach was that you can convert, you can believe, or we’ll burn you at the stake. I don’t want anything to do with that. I like Jesus because he loves me.”
I said, “So you’re a Christian?”
“Oh, yeah, a Christian, but I don’t want anything to do with the Catholic or the pagan that forces people to do things.”
Well, that’s pretty cool, isn’t it? Isn’t that a pretty nice little summary of a lot of what’s going on in these churches? Are we going to be about power? Are we going to be about truth? Or are we going to be about truth and love? And that seems to be the challenge. We either sacrifice truth or we sacrifice love. And this little Indian fellow had it right.
I felt privileged to be in his presence.
Well, this mission movement that we have here wasn’t a convert-or-die. It was a we-will-give-you-the-truth-in-love movement. We have a little power. We have a powerful message. Nobody’s forcing anybody to do anything.
This third Great Awakening happened in New York City in 1857. A young businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier started a prayer meeting on Fulton Street. A week later, the stock market crashed. There was financial panic. And within six months, ten thousand people were gathering daily for prayer at noon.
Before this, Charles Finney, the revivalist from the Second Great Awakening said, “The wave of prosperity in New York seems to be the death of the revival movement.”
But in this revival movement, whereas the previous great awakening had been highly emotional and involved sensational preaching, this was just very well ordered prayer. No speaking. Basically just prayer. People would pray short prayers. It had a punctual beginning, a punctual ending, no hysteria.
In 1858, the New York Tribune devoted an entire issue to the revival happening in New York City.
The reason I have a personal connection with this is because the legacy of Jeremiah Lanphier is being deliberately carried out by the King’s College.
There’s a statue of Jeremiah Lanphier that was at the American Bible Society. When they moved from New York, they donated that statue to the King’s College. It’s in the foyer of the university.
I also have a connection because I have a friend who was the president of the Ocean Grove Methodist Camp Association. Ocean Grove was founded in 1869. It was at the end of the rail line in New Jersey on the Jersey shore. That’s where people would come for vacations .
Well, the Methodists owned a square mile. They called it “God’s Square Mile.” They still own it today. The Methodist Encampment Association owns this square mile, and in the summers, they would have a church camp. They still do today. Back then it was all tents. Now it’s only partially tents.
And you may have heard of somebody by the name of Fanny Crosby, hymn writer, one of the most prolific hymn writers in American history. Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine. She would go to this encampment, 1877-1897.
There was a pathway that went from the main sanctuary down to the ocean shore called the Pilgrim Pathway. You may have heard the song, As We Walk the Pilgrim Pathway. So a lot of the references in her songs—she was blind. She wrote so many songs that she would use pseudonyms to publish the songs so the hymn books wouldn’t edit her out because they didn’t like to have too many hymns from one person.
This all came from this one prayer revival. This one guy just started a prayer meeting. That’s all he did. And then God blessed it.
If you go there today, the auditorium is still there in Ocean Grove. It went through a time period where it was coming to the point where it had lost its witness, and it’s gone through a revival now, and the witness is back.
And they’ve retained this giant electric light-bulb sign that’s behind the stage that’s from this early twentieth-century era. It says “Holiness to the Lord”, that was their focus. How can we live a life that would be separate and apart from the world and live a holy life?
Out of this holiness movement came Prohibition. And Prohibition, as we know, did not work politically; but it actually did work socially.
America was a place where families were in tatters in this era. In many instances, the husband would not make it home with his paycheck because he would drink it all. It was a rampant problem, and they were addressing that problem with Prohibition. Basically, the focus was on take care of your wife and children instead of just drinking up your paycheck. That part of it was immensely successful.
So, this Philadelphia church with worldwide missions movement, which ripples of are still going on today. Jesus said, “hey, you took what you had and you did what you could with what you had”. And that’s what God blessed.
That ought to speak very loudly to us. That’s all God wants us to do is take what we have, and do what we can with what we have.
Church planting model
I feel like I’m still participating in this Philadelphia church, and I think our church as a whole is. And the specific thing I can point to, that is really a continuation of this revival, is the Steven Loots Harvesters Project which our church helped start. And Steven has come and spoken here. Many of you support the effort.
I’ll give you his latest model. He says he can start one stream with one person. That sounds like this, right? Do what you can with whatever you have. Like Hudson Taylor starts with one person and,it goes to a hundred million people.
Just start with one person. You pick a person who can find a hundred church leaders that will plant churches. A hundred hub churches. This is not that hard if you find someone who has some denominational or some leadership capabilities. So you find a hundred churches.
Those hundred churches each plant 40 churches. He says if you can start 250 of those streams, we can plant a million churches in ten years. In his model, they take someone right where they are, and train them in place, a thousand hours of training to be a pastor.
This is like the Methodist and Baptist movement on steroids, because you’re not just leaving it to themselves and saying you have the Bible in your hand. You’re actually giving them some training. A thousand hours of training. In their model right now, they can do that for $100. Three years of training for $100. The $100 is just for the printing, because basically all the training is volunteer.
So he’s up to 40 streams that together has 40,000 churches. If those streams fill out, that will be 200,000 churches. So, he’s in the process now of building streams, guess where? India and China. He’s building on what Hudson Taylor and William Carey started in this Philadelphia era.
So, these things continue on. And so it is in each of these eras, we should expect to find examples of all seven churches, why? Because when John wrote this, all seven churches were literal, physical churches right there on the western coast of Turkey. They all existed simultaneously. In the one sense, I think they do represent these eras of history. But in another sense, they’re always here. There’s always going to be examples of these churches.
What we want to do is be like this Philadelphia church, or like the early Ephesians church, where we stand for truth, we don’t have lies that we go along with, we don’t syncretize. But we stand for love. We’re not just separate, we’re also engaging with the culture.
So that’s the Philadelphian church, an inspirational church.
The Laodicean church
And the last church is the Laodicean church. Now I picked 1919 as the start of the Laodicean church.
Review of the Eras
Let me just go through these eras again.
So Ephesus, the church of the truth but losing love, 33-100, roughly Pentecost to the Apostle John.
Then 100-330 is this Smyrna church, this church that has the persecution, the bitter church, and in that the seeds of success for Christianity is sowed, and Rome falls. 330-800 is when the syncretism starts to come in as Rome makes the church official, and it starts getting polluted with the world. You have the Balaam problem.
And then 800-1517 you have official Christendom, and that is Thyatira. And you have official Christendom. “We are a Christian kingdom on earth.” God is speaking. So now we have corruption that takes place.
Then 1517 to 1727, you have Sardis, the dead church, has a reputation for being alive, but really it’s dead. And this is the Reformation era.
And many of these churches, you have really good things going on. There’s a faithful remnant in each one. Like in this era of corruption, the seeds are sown for Philadelphia to happen because of John Huss, John Wycliffe, William Tyndale. The faithful seeds of this generation are sewn for the success of the gospel in future generations.
And then you have Philadelphia in 1727 to 1919 where world missions just explode, starting just in my model, starting with the Moravians. Probably there’s got to be for every one thing we know about, there have to be a million things we don’t know about.
The Treaty of Versailles
And then the last segment is this Laodicean segment, which I pick 1919, the Treaty of Versailles. The Treaty of Versailles is a really good little episode that shows the hubris of the Laodicean church, because in the Treaty of Versailles after World War 1, a group of men sat in a room, pulled out a map and a set of pencils, and drew the world we know today on a map. Arbitrarily. Just totally arbitrarily. They said, “This will be Iraq, and this will be Iran.”
They took the Kurds, who had their own tribal identity, and just split them into three parts. They actually, literally started all the revolutions and the schisms that are going on today. They memorialized those things.
The one good thing they did is they drew Palestine from Dan to Beersheba. That was a good thing.
But it was just arbitrary. This is this hubris of just saying, we can make the world in our own image. And the lukewarm church is kind of that way, that mentality.
Revelation 3:14. “And to the angel of the church of the Laodiceans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.”
The era that we live in
This final era, this Laodicean era, is an era where people think they have all they need. It’s an era of self-sufficiency. It is an era where people think they’re rich. It’s an era of material prosperity. Sound familiar?
This is the era that we live in. The fundamental problem in our era that we are affected with, that we need to fight, is blindness, poverty, nakedness, wretchedness, and misery. That’s the station of our world. It thinks it’s rich, and it thinks it self sufficient.
The church in the twentieth century has fallen on hard times. This Barna survey says over half of pastors in the United States don’t have a biblical worldview. And by biblical worldview, they mean things like, “Is there truth?” “Are there morals?” That’s a biblical worldview. Over half do not have a biblical worldview.
The single most telling statistic that would tell you whether a pastor has a biblical worldview or not was whether or not they had a seminary degree. The more seminary degrees, the less biblical worldview. Because we don’t need morals. We’re self sufficient. Who needs the Bible? Who needs anything from God when we’re self sufficient?
Our churches are, however, incredibly rich. They’re major enterprises now with massive amounts of money rolling in. I think it’s pretty common for churches to focus more on the cash rolling in than on the impact and influence that they have on society.
think probably the overriding characteristic of the twentieth century church from World War 1 on is retreat. The church founded the hospital movement. It was a movement. There is Presbyterian Hospital here and Methodist Hospital there, and Baylor Hospital someplace else. That was our idea. That was the Christians’ idea. It’s largely been taken over by secular government.
Schools. That was our idea! Universities. Harvard was founded by the Puritans in 1635 to train gospel ministers so that their children wouldn’t have to grow up without gospel ministers. By the way, in violation of the English king because you couldn’t form a charter for a school without English permission. They did it anyway, because they felt so strongly about it. And Harvard today is not sending out all that many Christian missionaries. That’s not what they’re known for.
We have the opportunity to be a faithful remnant.
So these are my eras.
To finish the eras, I just want to look at verse 21 in chapter 3, and I’ll repeat this again next week when we go back through the churches and look at the spiritual aspect. What are these rewards and what is the problem, and how can we apply that?
I want to just focus in on this idea of an overcomer. And if you’re reading this, it’s worth grappling with.
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame.” (Revelation 3:21)
Now overcome is the Greek word nikao. It means to be victorious, to conquest. Please consider as you go through and look at these things that if Jesus could overcome—and it says he did overcome—this can’t be talking about new birth. Jesus was not born again.
We have to be born again because we’re born spiritually dead in this world, and so we have to be born again spiritually to become alive. Jesus didn’t have to be born spiritually to become alive. He already was. He came down from heaven.
So, what this has to be talking about is the life we live. The deeds we do. The faith walk we have. That has to be what this is talking about.
Which makes explaining a lot of the things we’re going to deal with hard. Because some of the stuff that Jesus is going to tell us are things we don’t want to apply to us. One of the approaches that we have as people, when we have something that brings accountability to us, is to deflect it onto someone else. I think that’s what we do often with these things, we say, “Well, that sounds really bad, so it must not be me. It’s somebody else.”
What we have to grapple with is, either Jesus used this term this way in this seventh church and a totally different way the other six churches and didn’t tell us, or the pattern is, I’m giving this message to my servants, because I want them to be witnesses, and I’m telling you to listen, understand, and do. I’m coming, my reward is in my hand. And I want you to overcome, and I’m going to tell you what happens that’s really wonderful if you do, and what happens if you don’t that’s not so wonderful.
It’s either that, or it is pick and choose. “This time overcomers applies to me because I like what it’s saying, and next time it applies to somebody else because I don’t like what it’s saying.”
The approach I’m going to take is I’m going to assume all these overcomers—it’s an opportunity to gain or lose rewards based on the life that we live because this whole message is given to “my servants,” the churches, the people who are already believers.
That’s going to create some difficulty. I’m not going to have a full explanation for what all these things are, but we’ll grapple with it together, because if we hear, understand, and do, we get a tremendous blessing. And if we don’t, we miss out.
So, I think we want to do what we can to actually understand and incorporate these things, because God has our best interest at heart. He wouldn’t be telling us this if it weren’t for our good, for our benefit, for our building up. But, sometimes you have to realize you’re miserable, wretched, poor, blind, and naked before you can see. You have to realize I’m impoverished before you can gain riches.
That’s where our opportunity is going to be as Laodiceans, we’re going to have an opportunity as we now go back and now look at the spiritual aspect of each of these churches and say, “God what do you have for me? How can you equip me to be an overcomer?”
I think we can derive tremendous inspiration from these Philadelphians who had a little. They just had a little. Those Moravians, they just had a little. And they did what they could with what they had. Changed the world. And they didn’t necessarily get to see it changed. They planted seeds. And we can be inspired by that. We have that opportunity ourselves.