People have always needed guidance and spiritual support. This is especially true during the periods of significant changes in the society. It is also important to note that different societies may respond differently to different types of preaching. Revival preaching best addresses Americans’ needs. This type or preaching appeared within the Protestant doctrine in the middle of the 18th century (Dixon 224).
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Prior to this period, preaching was quite different from the one used in the contemporary USA. Preachers tried to emphasize the hierarchy that existed in the society and among the clergy. Clearly, people responded in a specific way to such preaching. Revivalists changed the paradigm, which also affected the way the nation developed (Carrigan 590). Before looking into the way revival preaching influences the society, it is necessary to identify its major peculiarities.
Revival preaching is characterized by the promotion of such values as equality, empathy, and commitment. One of the major peculiarities of the revivalist approach was the focus on equality. The preacher was speaking the language of his people and tried to remove any barriers that could appear between them (Stout 93). The preacher managed to make all those who listen to hear and understand the message. Preachers were not seen as intellectuals who focused on particular groups of people when preaching. They were regarded as equals who inspired. Revivalists tried to appeal to the masses, not individuals or groups.
Another peculiarity is the creation of the sense of unity. The roots of revival preaching can be found in Peter’s sermon in the New Testament “as portrayed in 1 Corinthians 14” people’s assemblies “also display a sense of the immediacy of the Spirit’s speech” (Wright 22). Thus, the preacher and the congregation were united by the Spirit that spoke to and from each participants’ heart. Revivalists tried to make each listener involved.
Martin Luther King can be regarded as one of the brightest examples of a revivalist preacher. He used the language Americans, irrespective of the color of their skin, understood. It is noteworthy that he used his heritage to make his sermons stronger (Spillers 468). Martin Luther King used the language rich in metaphors and allegories that were clear to his listener (Watson 5). He encouraged them to think, feel and empathize. He inspired the masses.
It is necessary to note that revival type of preaching became popular in the USA due to the values promulgated. Revival preaching promoted democratic values. Revivalists made people feel that they were all equal in all respects. They felt they were free and capable of many beautiful and important things. Revivalist preachers managed to develop the “spirit of liberty” that could be regarded as the backbone of democracy (qtd. in Stout 102). As has been mentioned above, preachers created the sense of unity and people felt they pertained to the community of empowered individuals.
These characteristic features enabled the revival types of preaching to have a considerable effect on the development of the USA. It is noteworthy that the new preaching type appeared when the nation was about to change immensely. The revolutionary ideas were in the air and Americans needed the change. However, the people were not united due to their different cultural, ethnic and political backgrounds. The people living in the 18th century America were very different from the nation famous for its significant integrity and unity. Revival preachers managed to unite Americans and help them create a strong nation of empowered individuals.
The revival preaching was the force that helped people understand what they really needed. As has been mentioned above, the second part of the 18th century was filled with revolutionary ideas, but many failed to articulate them (Dixon 224).
Revivalist preachers explained major concerns that became tangible. In other words, people clearly acknowledged what had to be changed. Besides, revivalists managed to bring people together and show that they were united through the Spirit. Preachers managed to make people feel the need for change and the capacity to change. The clarity brought in preaching contributed to the development of the necessary ideas that resulted in the American Revolution and the creation of the nation. The democratic society was based on the revival principles.
The revival type of preaching also partially accounted for the slavery abolishment. Revivalists drew people’s attention to the central Christian values. More importantly, they addressed to the masses and developed the sense of unity and integrity. Slaves, former slaves, and free Americans felt a part of the community where people were equal. More and more Americans saw the hypocrisy of their democracy.
Revivalist preachers managed to articulate the need for true equality in the society that promulgated democratic values. They found words and symbols that were clear to all the Americans. Again, people started feeling empowered to change the norms accepted in the society. Thus, it is possible to note that revival preaching prepared the necessary ground for the development and promulgation of abolitionist ideas.
Another milestone in the history of the United States is also associated with the revival type of preaching. The Civil Rights Movement was inspired by revivalist principles articulated by preachers. Martin Luther King was one of the leading preachers who showed the way and millions of people followed. The preacher, as well as other leaders, called for true equality once again. They addressed the masses and found the right words to make people see the things to change and the paths to choose (Watson 5). Americans acknowledged that segregation was not in line with the democratic values established by their forefathers.
Again, one of the major aspects of influence was the development of the sense of integrity and empowerment. Americans (once again) felt they were capable of changing the society for better, and, eventually, the changes took place, and the nation continued its development.
In conclusion, it is possible to note that revival type of preaching is characterized by the focus on equality, integrity, and commitment. Revivalists address to masses using the language everyone will understand. Revival preaching has contributed greatly to the development of the American society. This type of preaching accounted for such major shifts in the history of the USA as the American Revolution, the slavery abolishment, and the Civil Rights movement.
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It is necessary to add that it did not lose its weight in the contemporary society. Americans are facing various challenges that may even jeopardize the development of the country. However, revivalists are still able to bring Americans together even if people may have different views and backgrounds. The appeal to basic revival principles can help the USA continue its evolvement.
Carrigan, William. “Religion.” Reader’s Guide to American History. Ed. Peter J. Parish. Chicago: Routledge, 2013. 589-591. Print.
Dixon, C. Scott. Protestants: A History from Wittenberg to Pennsylvania 1517-1740. Malden: John Wiley & Sons, 2010. Print.
Spillers, Hortense J. “Martin Luther King and the Secular Power of Religious Rhetoric.” Religion in American History: A Reader. Ed. Jon Butler. New York: OUP USA, 1997. 468-486. Print.
Stout, Harry S. “Religion, Communications, and the Ideological Origins of the American Revolution.” Religion in American History: A Reader. Ed. Jon Butler. New York: OUP USA, 1997. 88-103. Print.
Watson, Maurice. “The Preaching of Martin Luther King.” Encounter: Journal for Pentecostal Ministry. 1.1 (2006):1-6. Web.
Wright, Stephen. “Preaching in Worship Today.” Preaching with Humanity: A Practical Guide for Today’s Church. Ed. Geoffrey Stevenson and Stephen Wright. London: Church House Publishing, 2008. 12-29. Print.