Category Archives: Church History

How Your Diet Affects Your Appetite: Two Things Necessary for Revival

Why is it that revival only seems to happen in the history books, or in the stories of our parents or grandparents?

As I have been reading Worship Through the Ages by Vernon M. Whaley, I have noticed a pattern common to the revivals he reports about. God’s people, especially those leading the revivals, have made prayer and purity a priority.

First prayer:

If you haven’t watched Edwin Orr’s video explaining the importance of prayer for revival, this is a must watch, even though it is a little long!

In many revivals of the last two centuries, the phrase “praying through” meant spending extended time with God until you met him. In fact, many revival meetings had a pen built for this purpose! In light of this, consider this quote from a revivalist named William Chambers Burns in Scotland:

Many who do come into the secret place, and who are God’s children, enter it and leave it just as they entered, without ever so much as realizing the presence of God. And there are some believers who, even when they do obtain a blessing, and get a little quickening of soul, leave the secret place without seeking more. They go to their chamber, and there get into the secret place, but then, as soon as they have got near to him, they think they have been peculiarly blessed, and leave their chamber, and go back into the world. Oh, how is it that the Lord’s own people have so little perseverance? How is it that when they do enter into their place of prayer to be alone, they are so easily persuaded to be turned away empty? “Instead of wrestling with God to pour out his Spirit,” Burns concluded, “they retire from the secret place without the answer, and submit to it as being God’s will.

Second, purity:

Right now my wife and I have been doing a spending fast. This means that we are abstaining from spending money on things that aren’t necessary. One of the things we cut out of our life was Netflix; consequently, after three months or so, I no longer crave TV in the evenings. Instead, I now want to do more constructive things in the hours after my children have gone to bed. I believe this is a good example of the way your diet affects your appetite. When you give up junk food and begin to eat better food, your cravings eventually change as well.

I noticed this same principle in the leaders behind the revivals. For example, J. Wilbur Chapman, an American revivalist wrote this:

Anything that dims my vision for Christ, or takes away my taste for Bible study, or cramps me in my prayer life, or makes Christian work difficult, is wrong for me; and I must, as a Christian, turn away from it.

It seems obvious today that most Christians don’t have this kind of attitude about their leisure time. However, if we want to see a great move of God in our day, we should start with our diets. As they used to say at the revival meetings in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan: “What is God pointing his finger at in your life?”

Is there one thing, that if you gave it up, you know would affect your appetite for Christ?


How Finney Changed Church Buildings

Sometimes it only takes a very small measure of church history to cast a large light on modern evangelicalism practice. In Worship Through the Ages by Vernon M. Whaley, I discovered why modern church buildings are pulpit-centered and are often shaped like a theater. Whaley explains that Finney emphasized preaching above all else, and made every other element of the service subordinate to the sermon:

Finney almost single-handedly inverted worship and evangelism. Heretofore, pastors believed that worship was primary and evangelism was a by-product. Finney believed the exact reverse—everything is done for the singular purpose of evangelism.

For this reason, Finney requested that before he held meetings anywhere, the hosting church must remodel its church building.

When confirming his availability for a series of meetings, Finney would often inform the trustees of the host church that they needed to remodel the pulpit area of their building. Telling them that “the present location of seats and pulpit does not fit our new and necessary mode of worship,” he would instruct them to dispense with the church balconies and split chancel. Then, he would construct a platform across the front and place a pulpit in the middle to make certain the preaching remained the central focus of the services. Box pews were replaced by “simple pews” to allow room for people to respond to the invitation.

Where did Finney get the idea for such a radical reorientation of the sanctuary? Jeanne Kilde, architectural historian and religious studies scholar, explains in When Church Became Theatre that on one occasion Finney preached in a theater that could hold 2000 in Manhattan in 1832. This “unwittingly launched an experiment that would transform Protestant architecture.” Until this point, most churches looked like this:

After Finney experienced great results in the theater, his benefactor, Lewis Tappan told Finney, “I would preserve the form of a theater as much as possible.” Consequently, they built the Broadway Tabernacle a few years later, based on the template of a theater.

Notice in the picture above how there is no pulpit to elevate the preacher. This forces the modern preacher to hold his audience with “performance and authoritarian strategies.”  For anyone trained to preach in revival meetings in the open field this made sense, but when preachers lost that experience, many had trouble holding an audience. Our modern buildings are more like a theater than a church, and therefore require a performed sermon if they are to hold attention, not just a lecture or homily.


Live-Tweeting Church History

So instead of making my students answer questions about church history I have set up an assignment option that allows them to live-tweet their church history reading. I got the idea from here. I love it because it provides a back channel to enhance the students reading and ups their engagement. I can also answer questions in real-time, or post links related to the chapter they are currently reading.

You can follow my students by searching Twitter for #GNS211!

Here’s a sample of how its going so far:


This is what I put in my syllabus:

Twitter interaction: The social media site Twitter has been gaining tremendous currency in the academic world as an instrument for sharing information, addressing issues in one’s particular field, and networking.  As such, it has achieved acclaim for its use as a pedagogical tool to extend the work of the classroom. We are going to use Twitter in this course as a complement to the analytical work of the class.

Your Twitter activity will take place outside of class.  You will be required to tweet a minimum of four times per week.  The only guidelines for tweets are:  1) they must have something to do with the textbook (i.e. a response to the reading, a link to a related article, a useful principle or a great quote from Church history, a question, etc.); 2) they must be substantive; and 3) they must be diverse (i.e., you can’t tweet 40 quotes, or ask 40 questions); and 4) they must be respectful.  In addition to reading your tweets on a regular basis, I will be using an online archiving tool to keep track of Twitter activity.

You must use the hashtag  #GNS211 in your tweets so that they register as part of our class discussion.  Any tweets that do not incorporate this hashtag will not be counted, because the website will not record their activity.

You can find a shared space for all of our tweets here: Here are some other possible hashtags to include: #quote (include person’s name from church history as well as a hashtag); #question; #DoomedToRepeat; #ChurchHistory; #ParadeOfFaithfulness.

This Twitter activity will be graded on a pass/fail basis.  If you tweet the requisite number of times (4 tweets per week X 10 weeks = 40 total tweets), then you will receive an A for this assignment.  If not, you will receive an F.

Follow me (@Joshua_Chalmers) and the other members of the class, and be sure to interact with your fellow student’s tweets.

I will hold a Twitter tutorial on the first day of class to answer any questions you might have.

Are you or is someone you know using Twitter as a teaching tool? Let us know in the comments!

Audio on Thomas Cranmer

I spent much of my weekend getting to know Thomas Cranmer. What impressed me most was his patience perseverance. Someone described him as a man who “moved slowly with haste!”

In my opinion he is the unsung hero of the reformation. If you want to listen to some terrific audio that details his life story, as well as some discipleship lessons for us as Christians today, check out the links below:

  1. Thomas Cranmer: reforming archbishop and martyr by Rudi Heinze. Rudi’s main focus in this lecture is to answer the question: “Given that Cranmer faced incredible opposition, how did he do it? How did he persevere”
  2. Contending for the faith III: Thomas Cranmer by Revd Gordon Murray. Gordon’s lecture does some history, but is mostly focused on Cranmer’s theology. He  addresses Cranmer’s concern to instill in the church of England a deep understanding of the proclamation of justification by faith alone.
  3. Thomas Cranmer and the Heart of Anglicanism by Lionel Windsor. This is a biographical sermon, which is a helpful but a little short. Unless you are really strapped for time, choose either of the two lectures above.

If you happen to know of any other good audio on Cranmer, be sure to let us know in the comments!

Related Articles: