Why returning to the Basics of Christianity Could Save America

The story is told of the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, Vince Lombardi, standing before his team with a football in his hand after a very disappointing loss. Lombardi began his remarks by saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football,” that then proceeded to exhort them to dispense with the “cute” and complex plays and return to the basics of hard-nosed football--intense running, blocking and tackling. With his “back to basics” approach, Lombardi went on to win five league championships and the first two super bowls. The super bowl trophy is named in his honor.

This same “return to the basics” approach is sorely needed in the church today. It seems that the basics of Christianity—the message of the cross, prayer, holy living, etc.—have been buried beneath an avalanche of exotic “prophetic” teachings, entertainment masquerading as worship, and a business/marketing approach that would make the money-changers in the Jerusalem temple blush.

Spiritual awakenings that have changed culture have always been characterized by a return to the basics of Christianity. Consider, for example, the church and pastor God used to give birth to the Great Awakening in New England-- a revival that transformed the entire region and helped give birth to the United States of America. This church had no praise band or worship team. There were no altar calls and people were never invited forward for prayer. They knew nothing of spiritual mapping and did not practice spiritual warfare. They had no self-proclaimed apostles or prophets and there was no great preaching. The pastor wrote out his sermons and read them from behind the pulpit in a monotone voice.

What they did exhibit, however, was a committed return to the basics of Christianity. This included the passionate proclamation of Christ and the wonders of His salvation, the duty of every person to give his/her self completely to God, intense private and public prayer that would last for hours, the priority of Scripture, and the reality of eternal rewards and punishment. The results were astounding.

Jonathan Edwards, pastor of the Congregational Church in Northampton, MA, wrote that there came a point when the entire town of Northampton “seemed to be full of the presence of God” (Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards on Revival, 14). In every part of town, the Spirit of God was powerfully at work until “there was scarcely a single person in the town, old or young, left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world.” Without any sort of planned evangelistic outreach “souls did as it were come by flocks to Jesus Christ.” Instead of resorting to the tavern, people now crowded Edwards’ home clamoring to hear the message of Christ and His salvation (Edwards, 24).

His home, Edwards said, “was thronged far more than ever the tavern had been wont to be.” In fact, the Spirit of God worked so powerfully that “the tavern was soon left empty” (Edwards, 24) “A loose, careless person could scarcely be found,” said Edwards, “And if there was anyone that seemed to remain senseless or unconcerned it would be spoken of as a strange thing” (Edwards, 19).

Edwards was astounded at what was happening. The revival seemed to take on a life of its own apart from his efforts. He wrote,

"When God in so remarkable a manner took the work into His own hands, there was as much done in a day or two, as at ordinary times, with all endeavors men can use, and with such a blessing as we commonly have, is done in a year" (Edwards, 21).

Although he did not preach divine healing and never prayed for the sick, Edwards reported that it was the healthiest time their city had ever known. Whereas there was, normally, always several homes with quarantines on the door indicating a contagious disease within, Edwards said that many weeks had passed without a single quarantine posted on any home. It was a time, he said, when Satan seemed “unusually restrained” (Edwards, 69).

The Great Awakening brought positive, cultural change to Colonial America. Profanity, vulgar living, and drunkenness almost completely disappeared, and entire communities were transformed. New England saw 30,000 to 40,000 converts and 150 new congregations. Missionary work and other humanitarian enterprises were spawned. Colleges such as Princeton, Columbia, and Hampden-Sydney were established to equip ministers for the new congregations. Kings College, now known as Columbia University, opened in 1754 with an advertisement in New York papers declaring,

"The chief thing in this college is to teach and engage children to know God in Jesus Christ and to love Him and serve Him in all sobriety, godliness, and richness of life with a perfect heart and willing mind.”

The key to the Great Awakening was a return to the basics of Christianity. There was no human glitz and glitter or sensational doctrines. There was no attempt to entertain, or appeal on a mere emotional level. There was just basic preaching and praying that touched heaven, pushed back hell and led to the formation of the United States of America. A similar “back to basics” approach by the church in America could once again touch heaven, push back hell and lead to another national awakening that would save this Republic from certain ruin.

This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, America's Revival Heritage, available from Amazon and from his website bookstore at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html