Pronunciation:ˈmüv-mənt 1. a. The act or an instance of moving; a change in place or position. b. A particular manner of moving. 2. A change in the location of troops, ships, or aircraft for tactical or strategic purposes. 3. a. A series of actions and events taking place over a period of time and working to foster a principle or policy: b. An organized effort by supporters of a common goal.
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” – Jesus in Matthew 4:19
On a recent excursion on the technological fantasyland called Google I typed in the year 1738. What I found was hardly interesting and certainly not profound. In that year France, still firmly entrenched in the New World (particularly in Canada), built a fort on the Assinibione River in Western Canada. One important birth was recorded – a baby boy who would one day be known as George – King George III. This future king’s armies would one day be thwarted by another, for a few years earlier in 1732 another baby named George — Washington — was born.
Although it took a little work, the search engine eventually recognized an extent of seismic magnitude spiritually. At the end of the year 1738, on December 31, threescore individuals gathered on a cold, damp night for a watch-night service at Fetter Lane in London. Leaders of this group had begun to sense a change, a movement, led they believed by the Lord. They met for a season of prayer, singing, worship, and to observe the Lord’s Supper as the New Year began. John Wesley, the senior leader (now age 36), recorded the presence of the Spirit: “About three in the morning, as we continued instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, in so much that many cried out for exceeding joy.”
But to truly understand what was about to occur in the time of these pilgrims one has to go back a few years prior to 1729, when a handful of college lads found a bond formed for reasons greater than the disciplines of study or even the call to ministry. Young John Wesley had enrolled at Oxford University to study for the ministry. John actually became a true follower of Christ when in his own words he “felt his heart strangely warmed” in May of 1738. But during his twenties at Oxford he gathered with a group that included his brother Charles, and a younger man named George Whitefield (more about him later). These young men became serious about the things of God. They went beyond the minimum expectations of a Christian in their days:
- They ministered weekly to inmates at a local prison
- They fasted two days a week
- They spent extra time in prayer and study of Scripture
Other students began to criticize the group, calling them “Bible Bigots” because they studied the Bible so much, and the “Holy Club” due to their longing to live holy lives.
God took this small group and raised up leaders that influenced two continents in what historians call the Evangelical Awakening, or simply, the Methodist Revival. Thousands came to Christ in salvation through the preaching of these and others. Innovative ministry approaches were born, the Methodist denomination was birthed, and dramatic social changes came. Why such an impact from a handful of young men? Because they learned Christianity in its essence is a movement – a movement to be advanced! But too many see Christianity as an institution to be maintained.
In the Bible and in past history, the Spirit of God moved Christians to radical obedience. Radical Christianity – not the ho-hum, show-up-at-church-and-leave-unchanged kind, but the kind where you live consumed by the thought of honoring God and changing your world – that seems to be what young adults seek today. Did you know that most movements of God that historians call “great awakening” have started with students? [i]
Movements change things. In the 1960’s the Civil Rights Movement helped push back the tide of prejudice plaguing America. But many changes for better in modern history from new colleges, to ministries to the needy (such as Salvation Army, the YMCA, and others), and such social changes as the abolition of slavery came because God moved in the lives of people to bring about advancements and changes. Time and time again a group of people, often young adults, grew sick and tired of a lifeless, formal faith. In search of a real encounter with Christ, such believers were used by God to lead movements that influenced as small a group as a local church to entire nations. The First Great Awakening in the American colonies began in no small part because of the response of Christian young people. Students on college campuses also played a pivotal role in the Second Great Awakening about two hundred years ago in the United States. There is something about the passion of youth that is contagious, and God can use that passion to touch a nation.
Do you sense something inside you calling you to be part of something bigger than yourself? Do you feel a yearning for your life to matter? You can join the movement of God and be a part of something eternal!
[i] See Malcolm McDow and Alvin L. Reid, Firefall: How God Has Shaped History Through Revivals (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1997); J. Edwin Orr, Campus Aflame (Wheaton: International Awakening Press).