Tag Archives: 1950s

Evangelicalism’s decades of fire: the pivotal ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s


Few younger evangelicals today have much of a sense of the recent history of the movement. They know who Billy Graham is. They have a sense that there were big evangelical revivals in America and abroad in the 1700s and 1800s. They may even know a bit about Jonathan Edwards or John Wesley (probably the two best candidates for “founder” status). But the fact that the 50s, 60s, and 70s were decades of crucial growth and wide-ranging change in the movement has escaped them. After all, most were born after those decades, or as they were winding down. Well, back in ’02, a book came out that highlighted these “decades of fire” in evangelicalism, and I contributed a brief survey and review to www.christianhistory.net. Here it is:

Given the chance to survey evangelicalism’s growth and development through the twentieth century, Steve Rabey and Monte Unger did what any of us might have done. In preparing their new book, Milestones: 50 Events of the 20th Century that Shaped Evangelicals in America (Broadman and Holman), Rabey and Unger spent over 50 percent of their time looking at the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s—over 40 percent in the latter two decades alone.

It seems clear from this book that the middle decades were, indeed, where the action was really at in 20th-century evangelicalism. From Billy Graham and the rise of mass evangelism in the 1950s to the ascension of evangelicals like Colson and Carter to political power in the 1970s, the movement again and again asserted itself—and reinvented itself—across many cultural arenas. Continue reading