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The Origins and Impacts of The Great Awakening

Account for the origins and impact of the Great Awakening
The Origins and Impacts of The Great Awakening

The Great Awakening is one of the most lasting, influential movements in Christian history. Although this movement died out shortly after its’ beginning, the affects of the Great Awakening can still be seen today. Its’ lasting influence affected far beyond the location of its’ birth. Pietism is the same root of Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, and George Whitefield’s revolutionary thoughts, which contributed to the Great Awakening with lasting effects.
Roots of Pietism

Setting the stage for the Great Awakening, one would have to start with it’sPietistic roots from Lutheranism. The Lutheran movement was taking a drastic turn from the God-inspired faith of Luther, to a“Reformation, [which] had started, [and] crystallized into a formalistic and dogmatic movement,” which inspired Pietism. Due to this, many of the Lutheran leaders were in distress. A Lutheran, Johann Arndt, “reminded his contemporaries that in order to be a good Lutheran it was necessary first to begin being a good Christian,” which is key to a Christ-like life. In 1621, Arndt wrote an important work entitled,True Christianity. The book stressed the importance of a deep Christian experience, and personal piety. This writing revolutionized the minds of Europe, which led to the birth of Pietism.
As a result from the turmoil against the dogmatic theology, “there arose a movement—unorganized but effective—known as Pietism, whose chief purpose was to revive personal [and] experimental religion,” for the individual.The chief leader of this revolutionary thought process,Philipp Spener,met with Jean de Labadie in 1660, where Labadie “urged the organizing, wherever possible, of conventicles, or small study groups,” to Spener. These groups paved the way for pietism to spread throughout both leadership and members of the colonial churches.

Jonathan Edwards

“Methodism and German Pietism became catalysts for the First Great Awakening in colonial America,” where Jonathan Edwards was a pastor in Massachusetts during the 1730s. He was a man of devote study of the word of God. He himself said, “Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can,” and this is the way he lived his life. His devotion to the word of God, lead him to one of the largest religious movements in the Americas, known as the Great Awakening. The Great Awakening was a result of the hearts of people wanting a deeper religious experience. The focus of “this movement stressed human sinfulness and the gift of God’s grace, Jesus Christ as Savior, the Bible as the ultimate source of religious authority, and the need to be born again,” as the word of God intended. Edwards himself “was convinced of the need for a personal experience of conversion,” in his own Christian life. In 1734, Edwards’s preaching on justification by faith sparked a different sort of devotion: a spiritual revival broke out in his parish. In December there were six sudden conversions and by spring there were about thirty a week. Edwards’ own conviction of a need for a personal, Christian revival, along with the burden of sharing this same message with others, led to a major change in the Christian’s daily during the time of the Great Awakening. It was not only Edwards who led the change in this cross-continent revolution, but John Wesley in England.
John Wesley

By the 1700s Pietism spread within Europe, producing several new sects; one of which was the Moravians. The Moravian’s main focus was all about mission work. They sent missionaries to Britain’s American colonies, and also to England.Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was influenced by the Moravians” in England. After this influence of the Moravian’s, Wesley’s new focus was a spiritual renewal, which was the thundering call of Wesley’s message, “demanding that followers be born again… renounce their sinful ways and choose Jesus Christ as their personal savior;” this is still the central theme to the evangelical movement. Wesley had more drawing power for the poor and urban workers, and thus his movement grew rapidly in England and America, because these people comprised the majority of class. As a result of Wesley’s approach to spreading the gospel, he “gradually acknowledged the irreconcilable difference between his teachings and those of the Church of England, ending with a formal break in 1784, the founding date of the Methodist Church.” Wesley was not alone in this groundbreaking movement; George Whitefield also played an important role in the Great Awakening.
George Whitefield

George Whitefield’s interaction with Methodists led to his conversion of personal relationships with God. While attending Pembroke College, Whitefield, “fell in with a group of pious “methodists”—who called themselves “the Holy Club”—led by the Wesley brothers.”With the encouragement and inspiration of this group, Whitefield went through a conversion. Because of this “new birth”, he decided to become a missionary to the British colony of Georgia. Due to the delay of his trip, Whitefield became an ordained deacon of the Anglican Church, and stayed in England. He started preaching throughout London. One famous actor of Britain said of Whitefield, “I would give a hundred guineas…if I could say ‘Oh’ like Mr. Whitefield,” indicating Whitefield had an extreme gift in his sermon delivery.
In 1739, Whitefield went to Philadelphia on a preaching tour of the colonies. Whitefield found that “even the largest churches could not hold the 8,000 who came to see him, so he took them outdoors,” to hear his messages from God. His last stop on the tour was in Boston where he preached before “23,000 people, likely the largest gathering in American history to that point.”

Results of the Great Awakening

The First Great Awakening shortly died out after its’ birth in America. Although this revolution died prematurely, the amazing and powerful conversions of this movements’ impact “showed [a]great staying power…laying the foundation for what would become the Bible Belt,”of the eastern United States. With the missionary mindset of reaching out to the poor and in-need person, “this movement tended to democratize religion in colonial life,” which was a lost Christian practice. The movement led to moral and cultural changes of standards. Since there was a strong change of mindsets, a number of colleges were established for “educating young men and training ministers [to] ensured that the religious moral and cultural values,” continued in the religious frame of mind. This teaching “rival[ed] the Church of England…and weaken[ed] the ties of the established churches with local British officials.” The expansion of this movement,
“Had social and political implications, which surfaced on the eve of the American Revolution. The First Great Awakening peaked in the 1760s but its influence remained strong, and it became the prototype of religious revivals in America’s later history.”
Because of the lasting impacts of The Great Awakening, Christendom was forever changed.


In conclusion, Pietism helped pave the way for the minds of Wesley, Edwards, and Whitefield to be spiritually revived. The Great Awakening was a product of Pietism, which is the result of personal and experimental religion. This movement sparked a revival and revolution that has impacted Christianity throughout the ages. Although, the Great Awakening had a short life, the power and influences of this movement changed the world forever.

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