Historic Student Awakenings
By Ira Cole in Student
Awakening is not a new and novel idea. Throughout history there have been Spirit-led seasons of prodigious kingdom expansion that can only be explained in retrospect by sovereign moves of God. These movements were not orchestrated by feeble attempts of men to stir up religious fervor or grow any single organization; these movements superseded the scope of any one group in influence and expansion to fulfill an urgent need in the heart of God for rapid kingdom growth.
From the days of Jonah hesitantly ushering in a city-wide awakening in Nineveh to the birth of the first century church in Acts, there are distinct historical moments in which heaven and earth collide for a cataclysmic coming of the kingdom of God to fulfill heaven’s agenda for a generation.
Salvation is personal.
Revival is family.
Awaking is generational.
From the eighteenth century onward, students have often been at the center of historic awakenings. In the early 1700s twenty-something Ludwig Von Zinzendorf started a twenty-four hour prayer vigil that spanned an entire century and led to the pioneering of an unprecedented missions movement.
Toward the end of the nineteenth century, C.T. Studd and six other Cambridge students gave up their prominence and position to thrust their lives into foreign missionary service and mobilization of their peers. By the turn of the 20th century, their recruitment efforts and inspiring sacrifices for China had multiplied into an unthinkable eight hundred missionaries, which represented one third of the protestant missionary force at that time!
History shows this was only the beginning of another student awakening that culminated in over 100,000 students committing themselves to the evangelization of the world through what became known as the Student Volunteer Movement. Over the course of four decades 20,000 of these students actually went overseas with the remaining 80,000 staying behind to generously support this student awakening.
Below you will find excerpts from a speech originally delivered in 1898 by the Chairman of the Student Volunteer Movement, John R. Mott. Take notice of these timeless truths that are just as relevant today as we contend for another student awakening in our generation.
A Spiritual Awakening in a University
Excerpts from Dr. John Mott’s Address Delivered at the World’s Student Christian Federation Conference in Eisenach, Germany, 1898.
What are we to understand by a “Spiritual Awakening” in a university?
It means such a work of the spirit of God as shall not only promote a more abundant spiritual life among students who are true disciples of Christ, but especially such a work as shall result in leading other students to accept and confess Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and Lord.
There is an urgent need of a spiritual awakening in the universities of every land.
Think of the large number of students in [your] own country who do not know Christ as their personal Savior. Let us remember how many Christian students there are who, by inconsistent and sinful lives and practices, are trailing the banner of Christ in the dust. Let us reflect on the intense spirit of worldliness which is in so many places is invading the Church. Think also of the ingenuity, activity, and aggressiveness of the forces of evil which are seeking to ruin students, especially impurity, intemperance, materialism, and Christless science and philosophy which are on all sides doing infinite harm. Then see how comparatively few students there are who are really concerned about the spiritual welfare of their fellow students. Let us not forget the terrible consequences which will follow if these students are not reached for Christ—the consequences not only to themselves, but also to the cause of Christ, and event to ourselves if we do not seek to win them.
A closing word. Every person who is in touch with the living Christ in under obligation to promote a spiritual awakening. How much greater is the responsibility which rests upon all of us who, in the providence of God, occupy positions of leadership in the work among students? If the Christian Associations and movements which we represent are to be deeply spiritual. The stream will not and cannot rise above the fountain. If we fail to do our duty, I tremble to think of the consequences. On the other hand, if each man here is true to his opportunities, the results will be of far-reaching significance and of incalculable importance.
As we think of the awful need of spiritual awakening among the students of the lands we represent; as we feel the incentives moving us to desire such an awakening; as we recall the mighty means which God has so greatly used in promoting awakenings and which He has placed at our disposal, let each of us ask himself and honestly answer these three questions:
Is it the will of God that there be a deeper and more widespread spiritual work among the students of the country which I represent?
If so, where shall it begin?
A Spiritual Awakening in a University. Edited and made available by Asia Pacific Campus Challenge 1997, 3-7. Excerpts from Dr. John Mott’s address delivered at the World’s Student Christian Federation Conference, Eisenach, Germany, 1898. Address and papers of John R. Mott, Vol. 2, The World’s Student Christian Federation, The International Committee of the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA), 1947, 524-532.
All views expressed on this blog are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries, U.S.A., U.S. Missions, and The General Council of the Assemblies of God.