America needs a ‘Lewis Awakening’

What must be done when a nation, like the United States, turns its back against God and falls into apostasy?

Is there hope for a great re-awakening?

The answer seems to be yes if you study the Lewis Awakening (1949-1953) on the Island of Lewis. This was chronicled by the Rev. Duncan Campbell in The Lewis Awakening 1949-1953. This has been called the Hebrides Revival. Lewis Island is part of the Outer Hebrides in the Atlantic Ocean west of Scotland in the United Kingdom.

With Christian roots, that island had drifted from its Christian heritage and was more influenced by the chaos of international politics and immorality. There was no sense of spiritual power that comes from knowledge of the Bible and of God’s principles.

Traditional Celtic “Christianity” was a blend of paganism, witchcraft, superstition and false teachers. “Christian” graveyards in the islands had demonic symbols on the headstones. Genuine Christianity got a foothold in Scotland with John Knox, the founder of Presbyterianism, began the sixteenth century Scottish Reformation.

The local Free Church Presbytery of Lewis in the years after World War II saw awareness of God as “the crying need of the Church.”

This was demonstrated through carelessness toward the Sabbath observance, including public worship, and a disregard for vows and obligations toward the two sacraments of Christianity – baptism and communion.

Young people had abandoned God and the church to pursue pleasure above all else.

Doesn’t this sound like a description of modern America?

The leadership (Presbytery) called for repentance, especially among young people – with a special warning against the negative impact secular movies. Dance halls, movie theaters and bars had replaced the church.

The families in Lewis still believed in rock-solid Biblical doctrine but their faith had little or no life. Knowledge doesn’t always translate into righteousness.

Lewis was not devoid of Christian witness. The Gospel was still preached in most churches and people went to weekly prayer services, although those numbers dwindled.

In his book, The Second Evangelical Awakening, Dr. Edwin Orr, referring to the American Awakening of 1858, wrote, “A divine influence seemed to pervade the land and men’s hearts were strangely warmed by a power that was outpoured in unusual ways.”

It seems every genuine revival shows the power of God and it draws lost souls to Him. This is not a show of religious entertainment with exciting Gospel singing with crowds drawn by aggressive marketing. This is not pressuring people to make decisions to pray a prayer of salvation or repentance.

Revival is a genuine movement of God among His people.

In Lewis, it started with prayer. Then there is an examination of the covenants that God has promised to those follow Him. They acknowledged that God is able and willing to enact His perfect will.

Then people need to see that God is indeed at work in their midst.

The Rev. James Murray MacKay had prayed for months for an outpouring of the Spirit of God. He went to a convention and when he returned, a member of his congregation had a vision in his sleep that a revival was coming. And the catalyst in that revival was a man that MacKay had heard in the convention.

In the first days of the movement, when the service ended, the congregation who had packed into the building was reluctant to leave. Outside, a young man began to pray out loud in intercession while prostrate on the ground. The congregation packed back into the church and there was a wave of conviction of sin and cries to God for mercy.

According to reports, in a few days the entire congregation was experiencing a spiritual awakening. Other churches joined in and the services were extended. No one left even though services continued for hours. Other churches were having the same experiences.

Services were held every day at 7 p.m., 10 p.m., midnight and 3 a.m. The services were packed, sometimes with people outside praying for what was going on inside.

A minister went to a notorious dance hall at 3:30 a.m. and when he entered, the dancing ceased. Instead, the people at the club joined him in singing hymns, including one based on Psalm 139:7 – “From Thy Spirit whither shall I go? Or from Thy Presence fly? Ascend I Heaven, lo, Thou art there; There, if in Hell I lie.”

The churches became so crowded that people were meeting in halls, private houses, furniture stores and restaurants. A popular drinking house closed for good and the men who drank there regularly instead went to prayer meetings. The jails became empty. People came in boatloads from nearby islands to see what was going on.

One young man said he did not know what church meant until the revival hit.

The outstanding features of this awakening were:

  1. An awareness of God

A rector in the Church of England, referring to his visit to Lewis, said, “What I felt, apart from what I saw, convinced me at once that this was no ordinary movement.”

  1. A deep conviction of sin

This sometimes almost led to despair because the sin was so deep rooted.

America in 2017 is battling:

  • Racial division
  • Drug addiction
  • Rampant immorality
  • Decline of church attendance
  • Epidemic of venereal disease
  • Corrupt media
  • Disrespect for authority
  • Violence and rioting
  • Growing criminal activity
  • Dishonesty in academia
  • Attacks on Christianity and the Bible.

The bad news is that the United States is having similar problems as Lewis Island 70 years ago. The good news is that a turning back to God and Jesus Christ could recreate the spiritual awakening that turned that island upside down.