Revival movement

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As revivals flows are in Christianity denotes that owe their existence mostly a wave of "revival" (below the term), and the content of the conversion of the individual, (individual and collective) experience of faith and practical Christian life ( "life in communion with God ”and“ following Jesus ”). Common Christian or denominational dogmas take a back seat to an “original” understanding of a gospel taken directly from the Bible. Revival movements assume that living Christianity begins with man's response to the "call of the gospel " for conversion and spiritual renewal.

Awakening in the sense of the awakening movement means a drastic subjective experience of being suddenly touched by God, which can lead to a radical turnaround in life and complete surrender to God. Awakening is particularly important when the phenomenon of this experience does not only occur singularly, but also encompasses a group of people or an entire region. Today comparable collective events are mostly called “spiritual awakening”.

The concept is based on Eph 5,14  LUT : "Wake up, who sleep, and rise from the dead, and Christ will enlighten you." Since only faith leads to eternal life, the existence of the unbeliever is dedicated to death . Thus, turning to faith appears as turning to life or, by analogy with the resurrection of Christ, as awakening from death.


Collectively, awakening movements mostly go back to waves of awakening, individually to subjective awakening experiences of individual people. Awakenings are experienced by the people who are captured by them as being moved by God (of a person, a group, a region), which has a life-changing effect. Characteristic of revival movements are therefore personal conversions (turnaround), consciously experienced faith and consciously lived relationship with God. Conversion results in following Christ, which often results in an ethically changed way of life according to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Most of the revival movements arose within Protestantism or its environment. Some emerged on the fringes of established churches, others as spiritual renewal within existing church structures, and still others outside of established church structures. Usually they emerged as a reaction to a Christianity that was perceived as dogmatic, liturgically rigid, or purely traditionalist. A Catholic revival movement appeared at the end of the 18th century in the form of the Allgäu revival movement . The protagonists were Martin Boos and Johann Michael Feneberg .

Awakening movements are not marginal phenomena, but mass movements: The awakening movements of the 18th to 20th centuries each led to a strong increase in committed Christians in the population. In some cases, church members were addressed, in other cases church members without internal involvement. For example, in England there were 75,000 Methodists in 50 years and in the United States the number grew from 500 in 1771 to 15,000 in 1784. The 19th century began in the United States with 7 percent of the population as members of one church - one hundred Years later it was over 40 percent. The Pentecostal movement in Brazil was practically insignificant in 1960; today it comprises 15 percent of the population.

A major factor in many revival movements is the sermon , which in the 18th and 19th centuries often took place in the open field and attracted crowds from those far from the church. Some American television preachers see themselves in the tradition of the old revival preachers.

In addition to evangelism , revival movements often have a strong community-building and diaconal component. This includes the Methodist classes and pharmacies for the poor as well as the journeyman's associations and deaconess houses of the Awakening in Germany or the house groups and the social commitment of the Pentecostal congregations in Brazil.

In practically all revival movements there were sometimes strong emotions: During the sermon, people burst into tears, are exuberantly happy about their conversion or have ecstatic experiences. While these side effects were affirmed in many cases by the preachers involved, they met with massive criticism, especially from the theologians of the established churches, and often served as an opportunity to condemn a movement that was perceived as competition as a whole.

Since revival movements are usually not planned organizations, they have a more dynamic structure than established churches. Some of them lacked an elaborate theology as well as a theologically educated and personally matured leadership. Therefore there have been unhealthy developments that have led to totalitarian sects ( Jim Jones ).

Overview of the various awakening movements

Reformation time: the radical Reformation

While the Lutheran and Zwingl Reformation generally comprised the population of an entire national territory and therefore placed less emphasis on the individual's personal beliefs, the Anabaptists (which today include the Mennonites and Hutterites ) and the Reformed minorities in France ( Huguenots ) have the Netherlands and Scotland similarities with revival movements. In the Anabaptist congregations, the expectation of a person's conversion is integrated into congregational life insofar as baptism is not granted to infants, but is reserved for people who voluntarily confess that they want to follow Jesus Christ. Age plays a subordinate role. In traditional free churches, however, this practice has not been able to prevent baptism and church admissions from being subjected to formalisms again in the area of ​​family members. That is why revival was a topic again and again in the free churches.

17th century: Puritans, Pietism and Quakers

The first revivals are reported as early as the 16th century in England and Scotland, where Puritan preachers under the influence of Calvin endeavored to renew the state church. The first preachers held free meetings before 1550 and called on people to convert, some of which turned out to be quite spectacular. In England in the 17th century the University of Cambridge was temporarily firmly in the hands of the Puritans, who trained a school of preachers who triggered numerous regional revivals in England, Scotland and Ireland in the decades to come. The most important authors who treated this topic in detail in the 16th and 17th centuries were Robert Fleming (1630-1694) with his work The Fulfilling of the Scripture, Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) with several works and John Gillies (1712-1796 ) with his treatise "Historical Collections Relating to Remarcable Periods of Success of the Gospel".

In German-speaking developed after the trauma of the Thirty Years' War of pietism , who was distinguished among other things by turning to personal faith and a new orientation to the Bible. Smaller conventicles (today: house groups ) played a major role . The Moravian Brethren and the Francke Foundations in Halle later developed from Pietism . From the church-critical radical pietism , the Tunker ( Schwarzenau Brethren ) and the Inspired emerged at the turn of the 17th to the 18th century .

18th Century: Methodists and Great Awakening

After the Puritan era, the revival movement was shaped by Wesleyan Methodism , initiated by John and Charles Wesley in the Anglican context in Great Britain, and the Great Awakening in the American colonies under the theological leadership of Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield in the Reformed Congregational environment. Despite the different starting situations, both movements had a lot in common: public sermons, often in the open air, personal conversion of individuals, integration of converts into clear groups, reform of personal and social life.

19th century: Baptists, Methodists, sanctification movement, neo-pietism

In the United States, the 19th century was a series of revival movements. Initially, the Methodists dominated in the north with their circuit riders system, with one preacher looking after the congregations of an entire district, and in the south the Baptists with independent congregational congregations.

Around the middle of the century, numerous new denominations emerged: in the United States the Restoration Movement with the Disciples of Christ and the Congregations of Christ , in England the Brothers' Movement , the Salvation Army and the initially non-denominational community of the Catholic Apostolic Congregations , as well as the Seventh Day -Adventists and on the theological fringes of Christianity, the Bible Students Movement, as well as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Mormons ) and Christian Science , both of which are considered non-Christian by the ACK .

There was also a revival movement in German-speaking countries in the 19th century. In Germany and Switzerland, revivals took place for the most part within the regional churches : in Germany in particular in the Siegerland and southern Oberberg ( Homburger Land), in the Hessian hinterland , on the Lower Rhine (Pastors Krummacher ), in the Wuppertal area, in the Lüneburg Heath ( Ludwig Harms ), in Ravensberger Land ( Johann Heinrich Volkening ), in Baden ( Aloys Henhöfer ) and in Württemberg ( Ludwig Hofacker ). In the Kingdom of Saxony , Hermsdorf Castle developed from 1800 under Heinrich Ludwig Burggraf zu Dohna , a grandson of Nikolaus Ludwig von Zinzendorf , into a center of Herrnhut-Pietist piety and the Saxon revival movement, which was continued from 1824 by the new owner Ernst Gottlob von Heynitz .

In Switzerland, the movement started from Basel, Geneva and Bern. Even within traditional free churches such as the Anabaptist Mennonites, the emergence of the Mennonite Brethren congregations led to a community-building revival movement.

In Bern, the sanctification movement brought about a second awakening in the environment of the Evangelical Society around Elias Schrenk and Franz Eugen Schlachter . In addition, free churches also emerged ; some were founded by returnees from the United States (Methodists, Baptists ), others came from missionary movements ( Chrischona ).

The Réveil took place in Lyon, France .

The Finnish revival movement was called Herännäisyys (awakening) and was led by the farmer Paavo Ruotsalainen .

Three phases can be identified for the awakening movement:

  1. Early period (1800–1815): Romantic, national, supra-church experience-based Christianity.
  2. Main time (1815-1830): widespread effect, u. a. through revival sermons and treatise literature.
  3. Late period (1830–1848): Greater emphasis on teaching, creed and denominations.

20th Century: Evangelicals, Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements

At the beginning of the 20th century there was a nondenominational flow of conservative Christians in the United States, who particularly emphasized their view of biblical teaching. This movement was divided into the fundamentalists and evangelicals in the 1930s , which grew rapidly around the middle of the century with preachers like Billy Graham .

In the Pentecostal revivals , the Holy Spirit , the fulfillment of the believer with the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were rediscovered. This movement began in California around the turn of the century and spread to every continent in the second half of the twentieth century, particularly Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, Korea, and the United States. While it is rather a marginal phenomenon in Europe, in the Third World it comprises a large part of the Christian growth of the last fifty years.

In addition to the numerous independent or loosely connected Pentecostal churches, the Pentecostal movement also has its parallel within the major churches, the Charismatic Renewal , which, in contrast to most of the earlier revival movements, is also popular in the Catholic Church.

The revival movements in the popular churches are partly in tension with church tradition, while in another part they re-emphasize the faith traditions of the church. As a result of revival movements, both intra-church communities and independent communities emerge.

See also


  • Between enlightenment and modernity. Awakening movements as a historiographical challenge (= religion - culture - society. Studies on the cultural and social history of Christianity in modern times and modern times, 5), ed. v. Thomas K. Kuhn and Veronika Albrecht-Birkner . Münster: LIT-Verlag, 2017; ISBN 978-3-643-13156-0 .
  • Gustav Adolf Benrath, Reinhard Deichgräber, Walter J. Hollenweger : Art. Awakening / Awakening Movement I. Historical II. Dogmatic III. Practical-theological ; in: Theologische Realenzyklopädie 10 (1982), 205-227.
  • Erich Beyreuther: Awakening Movement . In: RGG 3 2, Sp. 631ff.
  • Friedrich Wilhelm Kantzenbach : The awakening movement. Studies on the history of their formation and first spread in Germany ; Neuendettelsau: Freimund, 1957
  • Erich Beyreuther : The awakening movement ; The Church in Her History, Volume 4, Delivery R, ​​Part 1; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1963 (1977 2 )
  • Stephan Holthaus: "Healing - Healing - Sanctification". The history of the German sanctification and evangelization movement (1874–1909) ; Giessen: TVG Brunnen, 2005; ISBN 3-7655-9485-7
  • William Reginald Ward: The Protestant Evangelical Awakening . Cambridge: Repr. University Press, 1994
  • Thomas K. Kuhn : Religion and modern society. Studies on social and diaconal action in pietism, the Enlightenment and the revival movement ; Contributions to historical theology 122; Tübingen: Mohr (Siebeck), 2003; ISBN 3-16-148169-0
  • various articles in the yearbook Pietismus und Neuzeit 1 (1974) ff. (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht) ISSN  0172-6943 , historically oriented
  • Iain H. Murray The Hope of the Puritans. Revival, Mission, and Understanding of Prophecy . Hamburg: Reformatorischer Verlag Beese, 1999; ISBN 3-928936-14-X

Single examples

  • Hildebrand Dussler, Johann Michael Feneberg and the Allgäu revival movement. A contribution to church history from the sources for local history of the Allgäu, Kempten (Allgäu): Verlag für Heimatpflege Kempten (Allgäu) 1959 (Allgäuer Heimatbücher 62nd volume)
  • Gerlinde Viertel: the beginning of the rescue house movement under Adelberdt Graf von der Recke-Volmerstein (1791–1878). An Inquiry into Revival Movement and Diakonia ; Writings of the Association for Rhenish Church History 110; Cologne: Rheinland-Verlag, 1993
  • Gerhard Schwinge: Jung-Stilling as a writer of edification for the awakening. An examination of the history of literature and piety of his periodical writings 1795–1816 and their environment ; Works on the history of Pietism 32; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1994
  • Karsten Ernst: Resurrection morning. Heinrich A. Chr. Hävernick . Awakening between reformation, reaction and revolution ; Giessen: Brunnen, 1997; ISBN 3-7655-9420-2
  • Siegfried Hermle (Ed.): Church history of Württemberg in portraits. Pietism and Awakening Movement ; Holzgerlingen: Hänssler, 2001; ISBN 3-7751-3704-1
  • Christine Stuber: "A happy time of awakening for many". Source studies on the revival movement in Bern 1818–1831 ; Basel and Bern studies in historical and systematic theology 69; Bern: Lang, 2002 2 ; ISBN 3-906768-56-2
  • Nicholas M. Railton: Transnational Evangelicalism. The case of Friedrich Bialloblotzky (1799-1869) ; Works on the history of Pietism 41; Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2002
  • Iain H. Murray: Revival and Revivalism. The Making and Marring of American Evangelicalism. 1750-1858 ; Edinburgh: Banner of Truth Trust, 1994
  • John B. Boles: The Great Revival. Beginnings of the Bible Belt ; Lexington, Ky., 1996; ISBN 0-8131-0862-4

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Saxon biography
  2. Armin Sierszyn : The modern times . In: 2000 years of church history . 4th edition. tape 4 . SCM Hänssler , Holzgerlingen 2005, ISBN 3-7751-3524-3 , p. 155 (460 pp.).