*This interview was originally from March 2012. Since then, Tom has released a new book on revival, ‘Scotland: Land of Many Revivals’:
Tom Lennie was born and raised in the beautiful parish of Orphir, in Orkney. Earning a degree at Aberdeen University, he worked in accountancy for some years. Though debilitated by chronic fatigue syndrome, Tom has served as a music and book reviewer for many years. With a particular passion for spiritual revivals worldwide, he owns a sizeable library of revival literature of books and journals from all over the world. He presently resides in Edinburgh, where he is working on the next volume of his trilogy on Scottish revival movements. His first book, Glory In The Glen, was released in 2009 through Christian Focus Publishing. To contact Tom or find out more information, please visit http://www.scottishrevivals.co.uk/.
1) Can you name some occasions where music has played a prominent role in a revival?
Music has played a prominent part in virtually every revival I’ve read about. Following the conviction of sin – a true hallmark of all evangelical revivals – followed by repentance, invariably comes a deep, sometimes overwhelming joy among new Christians and those refreshed by the Spirit’s presence. An obvious and natural means of expressing that newfound joy is the singing of praises to God. And this is exactly what you find in revivals through the ages. In addition, believers are often inspired to write new songs of worship during times of spiritual quickening. Let me give a few prominent examples from experiences of revival in Britain…..
a) During what is known as the Evangelical Revival of the 1700s in which John Wesley and George Whitefield played a significant part, a whole host of new hymns came into being, some of them set to popular folk tunes of the era. Among the most famous hymn-writers of the day were Philip Doddridge, Isaac Watts, John Newton, and Prince of them all, Charles Wesley. Wesley’s output was simply staggering – he is estimated to have composed around 6,000 hymns in his lifetime! The high lyrical standard of many of these 18th century hymns, and their tuneful melodies, is seen in the fact that many of them are still considered classics today.
b) The stirring new hymns of Ira D Sankey, singing companion of American evangelist Dwight L. Moody, became instantly popular in churches across Scotland when these two Americans held massive campaigns here in 1873-4. While these missions were highly organised evangelistic campaigns, their labours in Scotland have been generally accepted as being accompanied by genuine revival, not least in the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow. One of Sankey’s first and most famous compositions was the tune of ‘The Ninety and Nine’, written en route from Glasgow to Edinburgh in May 1874.
c) Many of the great Welsh hymns were written during some of the notable revivals that have dotted the history of that Celtic nation. The gorgeous “Here Is Love, Vast As The Ocean” became one of the hallmark songs of the Welsh revival of 1904-5, and was sung in chapel meetings all over the land – in turn becoming famed throughout the world.
2) Do you think past (and present) revivals affect Contemporary Worship music as we know it today?
Well, the fact that hymns from the three revival scenarios mentioned in Question 1 are still being used in contemporary worship services throughout the western world today is evidence of the ongoing influence of these past revivals. But there’s got to be one revival in particular that has affected contemporary worship music more than any other. And that is what became known as the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s, confined largely to the United States of America. That cultural movement among America’s ‘hippy’ youth, was in effect a widespread evangelical revival that created a tremendous stir across that vast nation, and brought many thousands to the foot of the Cross. I have a whole heap of books relating the progress of that exciting movement.
One influence of it was the emergence of a more contemporary style of worship music – highly radical in its day – in the form of pop and even rock music. Christian rock music would previously have been seen as utterly anathema – but in the 70s it became increasingly popular, thanks to musicians like Larry Norma, Barry McGuire, Second Chapter of Acts and Lovesong. And of course, though styles have changed somewhat over subsequent years, that same genre of pop/rock worship is still very much at the core of contemporary worship music in a great many churches across the globe today.
3) In your research of revivals, has there been a particular style of Worship that’s followed with it, or was it the same style as before the revival took place?
This is an interesting question. As we’ve just noted with the Jesus Movement, a totally new style of worship music did emerge. It’s got to be said, though, that this is the exception rather than the rule. In most revivals, while there’s nearly always a revived interest in singing praises to the Lord, the actual worship format will generally not change from what existed previously. To give an example, no one doubts (actually I know someone who does!) that a very powerful revival occurred on the island of Lewis & Harris in 1949-53, largely through the ministry of Duncan Campbell, an evangelist with the Faith mission. Worship was a prominent feature of that revival. A wonderful sense of new life was injected into the singing of praises to God, and even non-believers felt its power. Additionally, it has been said that something like eighty new songs were written during the time of the revival, some of these being sung by Christians in their own homes, etc.
People would gather on the roadside or by the sea-shore and sing praises to God and share together what Christ had done for them. One night in Ness the crowd was so great that they spilled out of the house into a field and sang ‘until it seemed the angels were joining with them’. But what’s is interesting is that none of the ‘new songs’ were ever sung in church services. In times of formal worship the people people continued to sing their metrical psalms slowly and without accompaniment. In other words, the format didn’t really change; the old wineskins weren’t burst open. Rather, the old format remained, albeit now injected with new life and vitality, the revival singing noted as being loud, potent and utterly heartfelt.