In their book Firefall: How God Has Shaped History through Revivals, Malcolm McDow and Alvin L. Reid chronicle the results of this Second Great Awakening from 1787 to 1843:
Great revival always leads to significant evangelism and church growth. From 1800 to 1830 Presbyterians grew fourfold, from about 40,000 to 173,329. Baptists grew from 872 churches and 64,975 members in 1790 to 7,299 churches and 517,523 members in 1836. The Methodist Church, after rapid gains in the latter eighteenth century, actually lost some 11,000 members from 1793–95. But phenomenal growth in the Second great Awakening resulted in 1,323,361 members by 1850.
The most significant impact of the awakening was the rise of societies and agencies, many of which still minister. The New York Missionary Society was founded in 1796 by Presbyterians, Baptists, and Dutch Reformed to reach the Indians. The Congregationalists formed the Missionary Society of Connecticut in 1798 to establish new churches in frontier areas. The Massachusetts Society, founded in 1799, supported 224 missionaries by 1824.
By the turn of the century, such enterprises literally exploded. The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions began in 1810. Two of the first missionaries, Adoniram Judson and Luther Rice, became Baptists while enroute to Burma. Rice formed the General Missionary Convention of the Baptist Denomination in the United States for Foreign Missions in 1814.
Samuel Mills itinerated three thousand miles through the western frontier on mission work. His work was influential in the beginning of the American Bible Society. In 1817 Mills helped form the American Colonization Society. He died at sea while returning from Africa, where he discovered a location for returning freed American slaves. Magazines began which promoted missions endeavors: Connecticut Missionary Magazine, Missionary Herald, Evangelical Intelligence, and The Analytical Repository.
The American Bible Society and the American Education Society came along in 1816; the American Colonization Society in 1817; the American Tract Society in 1825; and the American Home Missions Society in 1826. In 1791 the first Sunday school union was formed in Philadelphia. The New York Sunday School Union was established in 1816. The American Sunday School Union was organized in 1824 to establish a unified effort for the growing Sunday school movement.
Social effects were felt as well. One cannot underestimate the impact of the great awakenings on the cultural fiber of America, particularly in the nation’s formative years.… Some of the new societies were directly aimed at social reform: the American Temperance Society in 1826; the American Peace Society in 1828; and the American Antislavery Society in 1833. The Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) began as an evangelistic outreach. It also became known for its positive influence on society as a whole.…
Education was renewed as well. By the end of the awakening, the colleges in that nation were operated, ‘from boards of trustees down to senior tutors, by ministers and devout laymen. ‘The beginning of the modern seminary movement is traced to Andover Theological Seminary in 1808, although earlier prototypes like the Log College had existed. One reason for the need of such schools was the rise of ministers out of the college revivals.
Princeton Seminary began in 1812; Yale Divinity School in 1822; and Hampden-Sydney established a theological library for ministry students. The first Baptist seminary was Newton Theological Seminary, begun in 1824. Oberlin Seminary, later led by Finney, opened in 1835. In 1780 there were nine schools of higher education in America. By 1861 there were 182. Only 27 of these were founded by states or municipalities. The Presbyterians had 49; Methodists, 34; Baptists, 25; Episcopal, 11; and Congregationalists, 21.
Michael F. Ross, Preaching for Revitalization: How to Revitalize Your Church through Your Pulpit (Geanies House, Scotland: Mentor, 2006), 13–14.
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