Awakenings are Exhausting

Chapter 20

 A question I ask myself now that I am seventy-plus years old is: Could I survive an awakening like that of the Jesus People Movement now? My answer is, I am not sure.

In the research I conducted in preparation for the writing of my recent book, Awakenings in American and the Jesus People Movement,1 I found that most of those who carried leadership roles were young men and women. None of them lived through two awakenings, and if this is a pattern, then I am safe. In answer to a consistent question I receive on this particular issue—Do I expect another American awak- ening soon?—I can only reply that I do not know. I would love to see one, love once again to see an outpouring of God’s Spirit bringing vast numbers into His kingdom, but it is an unknown.

As I study histories and news of awakenings throughout the world, it seems to me that there are awakenings (or revivals, which is a synonym) going on all the time somewhere on the planet. Some are quite small, others larger, and some even national in scope. Appar- ently, there are no two alike.

The three major American awakenings agreed to be such by the majority of historians are so designated because they were national in scope. The first, 1735 to 1742, when the population was in the neighborhood of one million, was national. The second, 1798 to 1825, was also national and the population had grown significantly. The third, 1857 to 1859, again was national and the population was tens of millions. The JPM, a national event when the population of Amer- ica was far greater than all the other awakenings combined, prompts

1 Some may be interested in this book, so please excuse what might appear to be a sales pitch, but at you will find the book available in print and ebook formats.

the question, was its impact on a par with the others? In my estima- tion, this is a significant question, but one that is likely impossible to answer at this period in history.

In an email I received from Charles Simpson, which quote is contained in his bio at the end of this section, he sug- gests that one million were converted. Then comes the question, which awakening saw the most conversions? My thinking is the JPM would be the answer. And this con- clusion is based on the fact that the focus of the JPM was personal evangelism. My observation is that in Marin County, with a population then of about 170,000, there were probably 500 conversions just in the central area. Extrapolating that yields some large numbers.

Awakenings are exhausting for those involved in Gospel ministry. There was never a day off for me, not that I didn’t want one. I needed to rest and refresh, but those times were few and far between. Those who know me well say I am a “Type A” personality. How valid this might be I am uncertain, and I am not sure whether there is any real science behind such a label, but I have always enjoyed, really love, working hard. There was just so much opportunity, so many open doors, and this was the JPM, with the constant need and constant press of people, which was very difficult to ignore.

I worried about my family, my wife Bobbie and my children, Dory, Grace, and Vernon. From time to time I realized that I was not being the husband and father they needed me to be and that I wanted to be. The years passed speedily, and the pressure to do and go and worry was consistently upon me. I had little ability to examine myself and reflect on what I was doing, especially after the “dark sides” of the awakening began making their appearances. (Stories about these dark sides are coming up.) Once the trouble started, once the camel’s nose was inside the tent, and the wolf emerged from the sheep cover- ing, my life became one of continual strife and anxiety.

One comfort I receive is knowing that what I experienced in the JPM and its aftermath is not atypical; in fact it is usual. That knowledge does not, however, compensate for the losses sustained.

Could I go through an awakening again? Maybe. Would I make the same mistakes? Hopefully not. And one of the reasons I wrote the book on America’s awakenings, and a reason I am writing these memoirs, is to perhaps hold up a warning sign, a cautionary flag, that some of what happened to me could be avoided by others.

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