"Let the Little Children Come To Me"
A friend of mine who speaks regularly to teenagers likes to tell them, "You are not the church of tomorrow. You are the church of today." Evangelicalism has always been a dynamic movement—with all the energy, restlessness, and idealism this word suggests—in large part because it has been a movement of and for the rising generation.
Many Christians in the English-speaking world believe that evangelical revival first began in 1734 among the young people in Jonathan Edwards' church at Northampton, Massachusetts, and then spread up and down the Connecticut River Valley in New England. But there was an earlier revival in a different river valley in central Europe: the Oder River Valley. The region is known as Silesia and runs along the Czech-Polish border. The "Uprising of the Children" here in 1708 reminds us of the important place of young people in the church, both in the past and in the present.
Out of the mouths of babes
The story of this revival is told in a 41-page tract published in London in 1708 with the long title (typical of the period) Praise out of the Mouth of Babes, or, a Particular Account ofSome Extraordinary Pious Motions and Devout Exercises, Observ'd of Late in Many Children in Silesia. The phrase "Particular Account of Some Extraordinary Pious Motions" recalls the style of Jonathan Edwards' report on the revival he witnessed in New England: A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God. Both of these accounts are of the strange-but-true genre.
The revival in central Europe began when school-age children of Protestant parents were not willing, like their elders, to be silenced and marginalized by their Catholic rulers. The children at Sprottau (near Glogau) began to meet in the open fields outside ...