“It’s hard to be hungry when you’re full.” I read that statement today, and it resonated with me. I am writing this essay from New York City, where our ministry is participating with Movement Day, a five-year-old catalytic strategy to bring Christians and ministries together for collaborative work on specific social issues. The goal is to demonstrate the relevance of our faith, thus earning the right to preach the gospel as a catalyst for spiritual awakening.
We are where the Third Great Awakening began in 1857, the result of a prayer meeting initiated by a Presbyterian layman named Jeremiah Lamphier. Six people came the first week, 14 the second, 23 the third, and then the participants began meeting daily. Others joined their “businessman’s prayer meeting movement,” and it swept the coast and into the frontier. The next year, out of a population of 30 million Americans, one million came to faith in Christ.
What made the Third Great Awakening possible? Desperation. The Civil War was imminent. The “gold boom” had become a “gold bust.” 1857 would be considered the Great Depression if it weren’t for 1929. Banks were robbed daily; society was discouraged; the American experiment seemed to be on life support. So Christians began to pray–passionately, daily, collaboratively. And God moved.
Now God is moving again. Many are calling these days the Fifth Great Awakening. South Korea is now one-third to one-half evangelical Christian; Brazil will be 50% born-again Christian by 2025; a million Cubans have come to Christ in the last 10 years; 100,000 come to Christ every day in the People’s Republic of China; more Muslims have come to Christ in the last 15 years than the previous 15 centuries. What do these parts of the world have in common? Spiritual desperation.
Mother Teresa was right: you’ll never know Jesus is all you need until Jesus is all you have. A wise layman once said of our church in Dallas: We have all of Jesus we want. Not all of Jesus we need, but all we want. I would add: Until we want all of Jesus there is, we won’t have all of Jesus we need.
How desperate is your church for spiritual awakening? How desperate are you?