Christian churches have always undergone periods of revival, so there is nothing new about the presence in America of revival as such. What was new after about the mid-eighteenth century was the way in which revival loomed as the dominant theme defining the nature and purposes of the church for Americans. … This revival was important for many reasons, but for long-standing impact on Christian thinking, two matters were most significant. The first was the way the revival promoted a new style of leadership—direct, personal, popular, and dependent much more on a speaker’s ability to draw a crowd than upon the speaker’s place in an established hierarchy. The second was the way the revival undercut the traditional authority of the churches. Ecclesiastical life remained important, but not nearly as significant as the decision of the individual close to Christ.
– Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), 60-61