DOWN MEMORY LANE | Brief History of Evangelical Christianity

May 23, 2023 | English

This week’s Church History course has focused partly on Revivalism – the very root of evangelical doctrine.

Course Question: Describe revivalism. How did revivalism influence the teachings and practices of today’s evangelical churches?

Whereas the Cane Ridge Revival in 1801 marked one of the landmark events of the Second Great Awakening, there were many other revivals going on outside of the Restoration Movement in other parts of the United States. This was especially the case in the North Western parts of the United States, spreading even to the Eastern parts.

Charles Grandison Finney became the key figure of the Revivalist Movement and has been dubbed “the Father of Modern Revivalism”. He was born in Warren, Connecticut and raised in a Congregationalist family. [1]

His conversion experience led to his resignation from his law career a few years later in order to focus on preaching. He refused theological training just like he did with his law career (self-taught) and simply went out to preach and conduct campaigns.

Finney was a master preacher who revolutionized the art of preaching by leveraging his skills as a lawyer, not just in the United States but across the evangelical world [2]

He was the first to introduce the practice of praying or accepting Jesus into your heart in the United States. He simply replaced baptism with this new practice despite acknowledging that baptism is what the apostles taught as a requirement for salvation.

This practice has persisted to date in the evangelical world. He also developed the concept of the anxious bench which had been introduced during the First Great Awakening [3)

Finney believed and taught others his techniques on how to conduct a revival – he specialized in methods of creating or manufacturing a successful campaign.
Women warriors would pray before the campaign and at the end he would call for an immediate response. He prayed for people name by name during his campaigns and sometimes stayed late into the night to weaken people’s defenses in order to elicit a positive response from them. [4]

All these practices are still present in the evangelical world but most people don’t realize that was a really recent development in Church history. In Biblical Religious History, even 500-1000 A.D. sounds recent.

The following words from Dr John Oakes’ book say it all: Finney democratized Christianity. It is hard to overstate the long-term effect of the ministry of Charles Finney, as he worked, not from the fringe, as did Campbell or a Stone, but from the Mainstream of denominational Christianity in the United States.[5]

This course is truly equipping me to be able to help open the eyes of people who blindly adhere to such popularly accepted evangelical beliefs without the back story.

[1] The Christian Story Volume IV, Dr John Oakes
[2] Church History video, Dr Steve K
[3] Church History video, Dr Steve K
[4] Church History video, Dr Steve K
[5] The Christian Story Volume IV, Dr John Oakes


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