The Francis effect: Is this the next 'Great Awakening'?

Pope Francis waving at crowds from the Popemobile
Crowds cheer for Pope Francis, whose visits abroad typically include interacting with people from his custom "popemobile." Photo from
Might Pope Francis be the defining witness for the next “Great Awakening”?

I started asking that question as I watched and listened to Pope Francis as he made his way from Havana to Washington, New York and Philadelphia.

We were on a “Fall Foliage Cruise” where I was speaking on the way religion in Colonial New England contributed to the formation of our nation. As is usually the case, it’s the story of particular individuals who at a particular moment in history acted in particular ways that influenced the events that followed.

One talk focused on “The Great Awakening,” the spiritual revival that spread across New England in the middle of the 18th century. It’s key witnesses were Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, followed by Francis Asbury.

As I watched and listened, I began to wonder if God has called this particular Pope to this particular moment in time to bear witness to the gospel in a particular way that will awaken us to a way of witness that transcends the often mean-spirited, contentious, politically-polluted ways of some of the supposedly “evangelical” figures who have dominated the news in our time.

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