Global Awakening: How 20th-Century Revivals Triggered a Christian Revolution

by Mark Shaw

IVP Academic, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, 221 pages, 2010, $20.00.

Reviewed by Eddie Gibbs, senior professor of church growth, Fuller Theological Seminary.

There have been a stream of popular accounts of revivals in different parts of the world that have brought encouragement, stimulated prayer for revival, and triggered prophecies predicting future extraordinary movements of God. Alas, most of these expectations have not been realized, especially in Western contexts. On the other hand, many religious sociologists have been dismissive of revivals, viewing them as the expansion of North American fundamentalism and the exploitation of impoverished people with promises of health and wealth. The scholarly research represented by Mark Shaw provides an in-depth appreciation of the topic, and offers a paradigm by which individual revivals might be assessed.

Global revivals are defined in the following terms: “…charismatic people movements that seek to transform their world by translating Christian truth and transferring power” (p. 28). This paradigm identifies the dynamics at work in such revivals. First, they include spiritual dynamics. This includes positive outcomes such as personal liberation, eschatological vision, radical community, and life in the Spirit. It also includes negative dynamics evidenced in extremism, conservative reactions, spiritual warfare, and generational conflict. Second, they include cultural dynamics. These represent the local contextual factors expressed in the transfer of power to local leaders and their worldview, and the extent to which they transform status, structures, or systems.

Third, they include historical dynamics; namely, how the revivals develop over time and their lasting impact. Fourth, they include global dynamics. How does each revival compare with others around the globe, and what contribution does each make to global understanding? Do the revivals trigger other revivals in different regions of the world? Fifth, they include group dynamics. Here, Shaw explores why revivals are so different in content and character.

Chapters 2 to 9 consist of eight case studies that examine revivals in Korea, East and West Africa, North America, Brazil, and China through the lenses of the five revival dynamics identified by the author. Shaw’s selection reveals both the similarities and differences according to context and the perceptions of the leaders. Any student of revival, as well as those pondering the future of Christianity, will find Global Awakening to be a valuable resource.

Check these titles:
Noll, Mark. 2009. The New Shape of World Christianity. Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

Walls, Andrew F. 1996. The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis Books.

EMQ, Vol. 47, No. 1, pp. 122-123. Copyright  © 2011 Evangelism and Missions Information Service (EMIS).  All rights reserved. Not to be reproduced or copied in any form without written permission from EMIS.


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