Jonathan Edwards and Great Awakenings

I recently did a workshop in Albuquerque, NM, (my 43rd state in which I've performed and/or taught). Afterward people told me how encouraged they were by things I said in the Q/A following the workshop about how the Lord is moving in NYC. I mentioned that Tony Cairnes of the Values Research Institute told a gathering that in the wake of 9/11 there was so much church growth that there have been more churches per capita than since the 1940s. I told them about the the work of Christian Union on the campuses of all eight Ivy League universities. They were curious why more people don't know about it, so I thought I'd post the following draft I started in March...

Every year since 2007 I've had the opportunity and privilege of teaching a workshop at Princeton University. This year I was told by a friend in my discipleship group that the cemetery was not to be missed. So I trudged through the snow to President's Row, where I found, among many luminaries, the tombstone that drew me most: Jonathan Edwards. He was the third president of Princeton, though he was only in office a few months before a smallpox epidemic swept the town. Being a man of science as well as what some consider to be the greatest theologian in American history, he was inoculated against the disease. Unfortunately, in 1758 the inoculation went awry, and his body was ravaged by the disease, killing him in his prime.

I knew of Jonathan Edwards not because he presided over Princeton (a surprise to me), but because he was at the heart of the Great Awakening of the 1740s. There have been a number of Great Awakenings in the US. These were periods in which there were extensive revivals pulling our nation back to the God in Whom we trust.

It was interesting to me to stand at Edwards' tomb on what feels like the eve of our next Great Awakening. The largest student body group on the Princeton campus is the Christian Union. The last I knew they had over 400 students there and a presence on all eight Ivy League campuses. When I spoke on a panel at their Congress on Faith and Action, hosted by Harvard, it blew me away to see about five hundred students from all eight campuses worshiping the Lord with all of their might, not only in their vibrant praise songs, but also in their life commitments to use their prestigious degrees to serve the Kingdom of God around the world.

Now Christian Union is moving beyond the ivy covered walls into the nation at large, challenging all to join the Great Experiment. Joyce and I were a part of it in the fall and it brought our spiritual lives new vitality. [Note from the present: We've been a part of all three Great Experiments they've hosted, and there are more to come:]

There are five commitments in the Great Experiment:
1. Spending 30 minutes every morning reading the Bible and praying, and also spending time in the evening doing the same (Luke 18:1-8).

2. Consciously repenting every day of all known sin and putting away everything that may hinder our devotion to Christ (Hebrews 12:1, 2).

3. Seeking God in the morning for the thing the Holy Spirit most desires for us to do that day, writing it down and following up that day (Psalm 143:10).

4. Looking to share Christ every day and speaking about Christ publicly (Acts 1:8).

5. (For those participating in groups) Meeting once a week for encouragement and accountability (in-person, skype, or conference call), and staying in touch during the week through whatever works best, e.g. group text, email, etc. (Hebrews 10:24-27).
We experienced such amazing stories of the Lord's guidance through this process, and through the group gatherings heard that the Lord was at work in mighty ways in other lives as well. Sign up for the next Great Experiment at

These commitments were employed by Jeannine Brabon, a student at Asbury College, in 1969 with a handful of friends. Then each of those students invited a handful of friends to participate in a new group, and then the whole campus was invited to sign up, and about 200 did. Then one day those students shared in chapel what the Lord was doing in their lives, and it went for eight days straight, 24 hours a day. The presence of the Lord was so thick that no one wanted to leave!

With the brightest students in the land leading the way at Princeton and all of the Ivy League colleges and beyond taking part in these commitments, who knows how soon it will be before the next Great Awakening will sweep our land. We certainly need it. Let's pray for it day and night!

You can see footage from the chapel during the second day of revival as well as a talk from the Asbury president at the time, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw here (if you're receiving this in an email visit

Here's Jeannine Brabon's account of what happened at the Asbury Revival of 1970, speaking on Asbury's campus shortly after they had a fresh revival in 2006 (if you're receiving this in in an email visit

Sign up for the announcement that registration is open for next summer's Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

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