One winter evening a few years ago, I was staying at my buddy Ed’s mountain cabin just north of Rutland, Vermont and was having trouble starting his gas fireplace. I called him and he explained to me, over the phone, exactly how to do it, pointing out precise locations and details as if he were standing in the room next to the fireplace. I followed his instructions easily and fired it up. Ed, who is by calling a pastor, is astoundingly adept at explaining things that are in other places and which he cannot see, but still understands intimately.
On Sunday he preached about heaven.
One day recently I was trying to photograph my granddaughter while she was making cookies. Each time I told her to look at me and smile, she just kept on doing what she wanted to do and muttering the word ‘cheese.’
At that moment I wondered if this was how God sees us. He is trying to get us to focus on Him, but we just keep doing what we feel like and muttering some magic word.
We can never say a magic word that will make revival happen again in New England. We need to be looking at the Lord– studying His word, studying His nature, and leaving behind the former passions that once ensnared us.
Or think of the hope for revival this way: When we boast that we have sailed a boat across the open sea, we ought to be humbly declaring that the wind blew it across for us. Still, it is important to point out that had we not set the sails and directed the boat, it would not have crossed the sea.
So it is with revival—we cannot move the boat ourselves, but God insists that we set the sail and steer the rudder. Today we must be about the business of setting sails.
With the coming of the New Year, the Lord gives us a new yearning for His kingdom. As we clean out our homes from the revelries of Christmas, we sweep pine needles over the thresholds and greet a new beginning.
We pray that this year, O Lord, the long-awaited revival that our region needs so desperately will begin in earnest. We have learned about the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries, and we remember how evangelists like Billy Graham stirred hearts in the 20th. But now our corner of the country, once the cradle of American Christianity, has grown cold to the gospel, ignorant of its heritage, deaf to truth, and blind to the emptiness of life in a postmodern, post-Christian society.
We yearn for revival, Lord. Let it be this year.
Sunrise at Nubble LIght in York, Maine
in Townsend, Vermont
West of Bennington, Vermont
I recently collaborated with more than 50 other ministry leaders in New England to put together a book of devotionals published by Phil Waldrep ministries. Our book, entitled Awakening Hearts, is now available on their website. The book editor, Dr. Timothy Christian, and I recently atteded its unveiling at the Celebrators Conference in Pigeon Forge, Tenn.
The book contains 260 devotionals about how the Lord is at work in New England today in its many and varied churches. My 52 essays tied events from the Great Awakenings in New England (in the 1740s and from 1797 to 1825) to key concepts about the nature of revival and how we should be praying nowadays. Order book
As a region, New England boasts both natural beauty and classic architecture. The six states are dotted with many small towns that feature beautiful homes, libraries, churches, and town halls built between 1790 and 1940. Because these marvelous examples of Colonial, Victorian, and Arts and Crafts architectural styles conform to the ideals of aesthetic beauty, they please the eye and delight the soul. Here are some favorites from small towns in Vermont that do just that.Looking beneath the surface, one finds a great need in these charming small towns.
In the podcast, Left Behind – Rural America, Collin Hansen and Stephen Witmer discuss Robert Wuthnow’s book on rural America, and the need for ministry in small towns. In the case of states like Maine and Vermont, the demographic need is great, because in these two states the percentage of residents living in rural settings (as of 2010) is the greatest in the nation, making Maine and Vermont: the two most rural states.
At the inn in Wallingford, Vermont
A Victorian home in Wallingford, Vermont
A church in Middletown Springs, Vermont
A tavern in Poultney, Vermont
A church in Castleton, Vermont
A Victorian home in Chester, Vermont
…on the nature of true revival
- True revival is initiated by God, not contrived by man.
- The prompting of the Holy Spirit appeals to both heart and mind.
- True revival comes by grace, not wild emotion.
…on the role of prayer
- The concerted, fervent prayer of the church is the essential catalyst of revival.
- When honest seekers pursue the Lord and His truth, He will call them to himself.
…on the role of preaching God’s Word
- The power to convict people of sin lies in the reading or hearing of the Word of God.
- Believers develop a longing to spend time in God’s word.
- The Holy Spirit anoints preaching to revive His church.
- True revival preaching has a sense of urgency.
- People respond to the call regardless of age, creed, social status, wealth, or race.
…on the role of the Church
- The Church must operate within sound, biblical doctrine.
- Laypeople brought lovingly and thoughtfully to the throne of grace will bring others there as well.
- Great numbers of new believers must be discipled and nurtured in stable, biblically based churches.
- Believers and their churches must be ready to relinquish entertainments and pleasures for the sake of evangelism and discipleship.
- Churches must be ready to discontinue fruitless programs in the wake of ministering to large numbers of new members.
- True revival brings unexplainable unity of mind among disparate believers.
- The Church needs to train men for lifelong ministry.
…on conviction and regeneration
- The Holy Spirit convicts self-righteous people of their sin and need for a savior.
- True revival is a humility born of brokenness.
- True revival gives sinners a life-changing understanding of the depravity of the human heart.
- The Holy Spirt prompts sinners of the ongoing need for regeneration.
- The pierced souls of redeemed sinners know the deepest joy.
- Christians can expect some resistance from family, friends, the media, and the culture.
- The dark, hopeless worldly culture notices the sterling character of those genuinely transformed by the Spirit in revival.
…on pondering the spiritual realm
- The reality of death awakens seekers to know about Heaven and Hell.
- Thoughts of awakenings, preaching, and revival absorbs people’s minds
- Conversations among believers turn from the frivolous to the eternal.
- Churches touched by revival start new ministries to children and youth.
- College students eagerly embrace theology and find truth.
…on changed lives
- Men need to assume the role of leadership in their homes and churches.
- New believers need to obey their individual callings.
- Since the world will scrutinize new believers, we must be above reproach.
…on the effects on culture and the nation
- The ideas of the First Great Awakening sparked the American Revolution.
- The ideas of the Second one sparked abolition of slavery and eventually the Civil War.
- Unwise excesses, abuses, and outlandish behavior mar evangelicalism.
- Change is permanent, but the cycles of apostasy-revival-renewal-summit-decline are inevitable.
- Individuals are awakened by the Holy Spirit, which changes families, and then entire communities.
- True revival dramatically alters cultures, and entire countries.
- True revival sounds a trumpet call of foreign missions to reach the lost.
- Each generation must pass the torch on to the next through biblical training.
As a region, New England provides a wide array of beautiful scenery– from the natural beauty of the craggy Maine coast to the hills of Vermont in their autumn splendor. Against this backdrop the people of New England built beautiful churches and town meeting halls and white clapboard homes. This precious gem of a region is a tourist’s delight. Join me in prayer that the Lord would work a great revival for the people of this beautiful land.
Sunrise, Perkins Cove, Maine, Aug. 2016
Jeffersonville, VT, Oct. 2016
Armstrong’s pumpkin patch in Bennington, VT, Oct. 2016
New England map in the sand at Ogunquit, Maine, Aug. 2016
Church in Woodstock, VT, Sept. 2016
At the Connecticut River near Hanover, NH, Oct. 2016
I recently purchased and read, with great delight, Nate Pickowicz’s brand new book Reviving New England. He and I share the same passion– that New England’s people repent and trust Christ as savior, and grow into mature Christians. Pickowciz does an excellent job of laying this out in three time periods– the glorious past in which much of New England’s population was composed of committed Christians devoted to evangelizing America, the current state of spiritual darkness, and what Christians need to do bring about a future in which New England has a large, mature Christian population that is eager to lead America back to Christ.
Here are some places to read more about the book:
A podcast interview with the author, Pastor Pickowicz.
An article in EntreatingFavor, along with a link to buy the book on Amazon.
This well-researched and accurately documented and referenced book is a masterful manifesto for why it is imperative that we reach New England with the gospel soon, how strategically important it is to America’s future that New England lead the way, what must be done by believing Christians in the region, and how we should do it.
It is written in terms simple enough to be understood by laypersons in the church, yet is deep enough to hold the interest of pastors and Christian educators and spur them to action.
The author shows what roles passion, purity, prayer, and excellent preaching play in motivating the Christians of New England to action. For those of us actively engaged in working for revival in New England, this is a must-read.
Many people associate New England with beautiful old white churches with tall steeples. Students of theological history soon learn that much of America’s bedrock of faith—especially faith expressed in the American concepts of liberty and religious freedom—was birthed in the cradle of New England. Surely nearly every educated American has learned of the role of states like Massachusetts in the founding of America and the establishment of Christendom in our country.
New England was also home to great revivals led by famous preachers and evangelists such as Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and Dwight L. Moody.
But what is the current spiritual state of this beautiful region? Sadly, it is no longer a land where a large portion of the population is made up of evangelical, Bible-believing Christians. How great is the darkness here? How extensive is the lostness? In 2005, Barna research found that 1 out of 6 residents of Massachusetts and Connecticut is either atheist or agnostic—that’s twice the national average. Hartford, CT, Providence RI, and nearby Albany, NY rank as the most post-Christian, least Bible-oriented metropolitan areas in the country. In many parts of New England, only 1% of the population attends any church at all. Many liberal mainline denomination churches have replaced the gospel with heresy and New Age philosophy.
At this point in time, the current residents of the six states rarely ever hear a clear presentation of the gospel—the simple good news that salvation is offered freely to anyone who repents of sin and takes God’s only son, Jesus Christ, as savior and Lord.
The entire American foreign missions movement owes its humble beginnings to a small group of determined men from Massachusetts. From their efforts sprang missions agencies that have sent missionaries around the world to bring the good news of the gospel to untold millions. Yet today, of the 27 most populous states, Massachusetts has by far the lowest percentage of evangelical Christians.
The need for reaching the population of New England with the gospel is great. This region has historically been the cradle of American Christian culture, the launching ground of great revivals. More than ever, New England needs light to dispel its spiritual darkness. This region is poised for yet another great awakening.
I am beginning this blog as a way to capture my observations and thoughts about New England, to explain my passion to see spiritual awakening here, and to provide my readers with photographs and travel accounts of this tremendously scenic and historic land known as New England. Since I work in Bennington, Vermont, many photographs will be from my immediate environs in Southern Vermont and Western Massachusetts. Warm summer days often find me at the seashore in Maine, as the photos will show.
I invite you to ramble through New England with me. I’ll post about how the Lord has moved here in its rich theological history, and I’ll take you on some driving tours to just enjoy the scenery. It’s my sincere prayer that this area come alive in Christ once again.
The photo above shows the Old First Church here in Old Bennington, Vermont– a classic, well-preserved example of the fine architecture of this region.