J. Edwin Orr, Notes on the Beginnings of the Mid-Twentieth Century Awakening

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(London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1952), pp. 160-211

Reviewed by: Kerry L. Skinner

The Movement Among Ministers

  • Two hundred years ago, the labors of the Irish evangelists William and Gilbert Tennent gave rise to a great revival in American Presbyterianism, out of which issued Princeton.
  • Gesswein brought in Dr. J. Edwin Orr as the principal speaker, though Dr. Harold Ockenga of Boston played an important part in the ministry too.
  • Matthew Henry once said: “When God intends great mercy for His people, He first of all sets them a-praying.”

The Movement Among Students

  • At the March 1949 Pacific Palisades Conference, the Editor’s two friends, Bill Dunlap and Jack Franck, received a rather vague invitation to come to Minneapolis to witness a predicted revival of religion on a college campus.
  • …the Lord answered prayer for the meetings at Bethel College.
  • Dr. Orr set aside the whole spring for a campaign in the colleges of Minneapolis and St. Paul. The meetings began in quiet, unemotional ‘evidential evangelism’ on atheism, agnosticism, and the Christian faith.
  • Dr. Henry C. Wingblade reported: Dr. Orr made it clear that private sin should be privately confessed and public sin publicly confessed.
  • The most unusual feature of this campaign has been the minimum planning and advertising.
  • Asbury College: On Sunday, eight persons, representing the United Press, Associated Press, and Television came upon the campus and remained for eight hours. They informed us that, in news circles, the revival at Asbury College was second only to the national coal strike. On Sunday night, two young men came from the Baptist College at Campbellsville. They were so blessed that they drove home seventy miles and brought back between twenty and thirty of their fellow students…

The Movement in Hollywood

  • A nationally-known singer had such an experience with Christ, “she convened a meeting of about fifteen famous people…She asked the Forest Home speaker who had helped her, Dr. Edwin Orr, to speak to her friends, and so the first topic discussed was the world of Christ ‘No man can serve two masters’”.
  • None of these entertainers, even the most spiritual, believes that the entertainment profession is a dishonourable one.
  • Stuart Hamblen, best-known convert of the Graham Campaign in Los Angeles, amicably terminated twenty-one years of radio entertainment and is waiting upon the Lord for guidance as to whether he should combine his work with his witness, or concentrate upon spiritual ministry alone.

The Movement in Evangelism

  • The power of God fell upon the College Briefing Conference in a peculiar way in September 1949 as Billy Graham, Edwin Orr, Louis Evans, Henrietta Mears, Dave Cowie, Bob Munger, Dad Elliot, Dick Halverson and others ministered to some 500 students from colleges and universities all over the West.
  • It was during this time that Stuart Hamblen, “under great conviction awakened Billy [Graham] from sleep to ask him to pray with him. The conversion of Hamblen and other outstanding personalities together with the over-all demonstration of a mighty work of grace led to national and international attention.”
  • A report was given of Billy Graham’s preaching in Boston:
    • Dr. Harold J. Ockenga wrote, “The daily papers are giving headline, front page attention to the Revival. The churches of all backgrounds and branches of Christian faith are keenly interested in it. The ministers by the hundred are attending it. The radio is reporting it. The columnists and editors are referring to it. The loud-speakers are constantly announcing it throughout the streets of the city.
    • Dr. Ockenga also said, “We call the entire Christian public of the nation to prayer, for if Boston and New England can receive such a shaking of God under this stripling who like David of old went forth to meet the giant of the enemy, then we believe that God is ready to shake America to its foundations in revival.”
    • Kansas City experienced a great moving of the Spirit upon the masses during the Greater Kansas City Crusade, led by Dr. Mervin Rosell, the Minnesota evangelist with two decades of evangelistic experience, still a young man.
    • Dr. Rosell saw, “the 12,000 seat Arena filled, with thousands standing in roped-off streets shepherded by traffic squads appointed for that purpose.”

World Survey of Spiritual Awakening

The last world-wide awakening began in the middle of the nineteenth century, spreading across Canada and United States to the British Isles and Scandinavia and then around the mission fields of the world. The first seven years of the movement were humanly leaderless…but the products of this outpouring, such as Moody and Booth and Hudson Taylor, extended the work unabated until the turn of the century, when there occurred a terminal outpouring in the fifty years of Spiritual Awakening, stirring Wales, Scandinavia, California, Korea and other separated spots.