There were many reasons for the revival movement known as the Great Awakening in the mid-18th century. Two of the most influential were the spread of religious indifference in the colonies, and backsliding among previously faithful churchgoers. However, once started, the Great Awakening had a great impact on colonial life and changed the way many people thought about religion. As time passed in the colonies and the once strong-felt religious feelings of the populace faded, many people stopped valuing religious as the most important standard of measuring a person’s character. Instead, a person’s wealth and status began to weigh heaviest.
Most 18th century colonists did not go to church often, and as one Charleston minister said, “the Taverns have more Visitors than the Churches.” Even the descendants of some of the most fervent supporters of their religions began to slack off. As their wealth grew larger, the zeal of their faith dried up. Many of the people who went to church loitered outside gossiping for longer than they actually attended sermons. Increasingly did so-called “Christians” begin to succumb to various vices. One man was actually fined for paying a girl 50 to strip in front of him. This is in direct contrast with the late 1600’s, when people were looked down upon in their communities for showing less than godly behavior. Upon seeing the way people were beginning to be led astray, many ministers looked for a way to bring people back into the fold of the Church. Revivals were designed to help combat the growing religious apathy by appealing “more to the heart than to the head.” Many ministers changed their style of delivering the word of god by incorporating theatrics and allowing congregations to express their feelings of religious ecstasy. However, revivals did not significantly boost church membership although it did “awaken and refresh” many colonists’ spiritual energies.
After the revivals were over, the colonists went back to the daily grind and did what needed to be done to survive. Revivals did serve an important cause; they communicated to the colonists that every soul mattered, young or old, rich or poor. Revivals were just one more thing that brought the colonists together.