The Great Awakening and the Second Awakening were less of a rebellion and more of a mind shift for Christians. These two events caused people to rely on their faith. In previous centuries people relied on their religion. The two Awakenings were similar in their goals but very different in the way they came about and the individual tasks that were accomplished. The first movement, the Great Awakening, was focused on people. In the past preachers would read a sermon to the crowd of believers which often took hours.
In the Great Awakening a preacher named George Whitefield got down from his pulpit and into the crowd. He preached from court steps, street corners and tree stumps. He brought the message down to the people. It was often said that he could be heard from a great distance due to his incredible blast of a voice. Benjamin Franklin even tested this. (Franklin) He talked to the people rather than at the people, an act unheard of and not always well accepted. George was determined to help bring God down out of the rafters and into the hands of the believers.
Another change in the way we worship came about with Jonathan Edwards. He changed the way the Lord’s Supper was taken. Rather than waiting an entire year to partake of the Lord’s blood and body, he offered it on a regulatory basis. He also offered it to non church members. This was a great coop in a time when religion and regimen were synonymous. The Second Awakening was most responsible for the idea of personal salvation rather than public proclamation.
The Second Awakening was most concerned about revival for America and the world. The movement encouraged individuals to learn from each other and share their triumphs and sorrows. The second movement was also more organized. Most likely this was because many had watched and learn from the trials and triumphs of the first movement. There was a rise in organizations and literature. The number of missions established and missionaries increased rapidly. In this movement Francis Asbury was a major figure.
He was the first traveling minister and traveled some 300,000 miles. He was the key figure that encouraged the Methodists to establish missionary outposts throughout the American frontier. As intimidating as he was, Charles Finney was successful in reaching many. He created the infamous “anxious bench,” which he used to call parishioners up to the front of the church where he would chastise them for the condition of their soul. Through this method he was successful in convincing many to repent and ask for salvation.
Embarrassing as this most likely was, Finney was ready to prove to anyone that salvation was available to all who truly sought it The second Great Awakening also gave rise to more social movements such as abolition groups, temperance and suffrage societies. This movement had a more lasting effect on society that the any previous movement. (Travel and History) The first movement started in the North and spread to the south. The most influential religious parties for this time were the Anglicans, Presbyterians and Congregationalists.
The second movement spread from the East to the West and was led by the Methodists, Baptists and Disciples. Regardless of the difference in their personal religious beliefs of worship and preaching, these movers and shakers reached hundreds of thousands of people. People came to worship God as never before because these two men, Whitefield and Edwards, as well as multiple groups, helped them to realize that they did not have to do something major in order to sit at God’s table. The table was set, and the chairs were empty. All they had to do was knock.