Application of the Limited Enthusiasm Model

Edwin Orr (2000) describes a revival in Nagaland India where the Baptist church rose from 130,000 members in 1976 to about 200,000 in 1982. The converts were largely drawn from the nominal Christian community of Nagaland. At the time of the revival the state was largely closed to outsiders due to tensions with the Indian government, thus the revival was a purely internal affair.

The Baptist church membership data, obtained by Edwin Orr, was as follows:

YearMembership
1975132,495
1976134,682
1977162,000
1978179,047
1979188,779
1980209,382
1982220,617
Baptist Church Nagaland

The simulation is started in 1976 as there is only a small amount of growth from 1975. The 1979 data is excluded as it is lower than expected.

A simulation of the model, figure 1, gives a reproduction potential of around 1.46 with an enthusiastic period of around 6 months. This is a much longer enthusiastic period than the 1904/5 Welsh revival, which explains why the Nagaland revival lasted so much longer. The reasons are probably geographical affecting the people’s speed of travel and communication.

Figure 1

The revival made a considerable impact on the growth of the church, shown by the reduction in the number of unbelievers (figure 2). The simulation suggests that in 1976 the church had a large number of enthusiasts, which peaked in 1977 (figure 2). Nevertheless, most of the growth occurred after that date. Thus, this revival appears to be different from the usual pattern, which only starts with a few enthusiasts and takes time to build. “Enthusiasm” was skewed towards the revival’s beginning, with most of the converts due to that initial enthusiastic momentum.

Figure 2

The skewed nature of the revival is also seen in figure 3, which shows the reproduction potential above the threshold for only one year after the revival’s start (indicated by the arrow). Once a sufficient number of unbelievers were converted, the threshold rose above the reproduction potential, and the revival growth slowed.

Figure 3

An attempt was made to fit the Limited Enthusiasm model to the data from 1975, but no satisfactory fit could be found. That leaves the question: What is the origin of a large number of enthusiasts in 1976, given there had been little church growth before that year. There are at least three possibilities:

  1. Between 1975 and 1976 a small number of enthusiasts made many enthusiasts from the inactive believers – the renewal process;
  2. Between those dates the spiritual life of the enthusiasts was building, raising the reproduction potential until it tipped the church into revival and produced a large number of enthusiasts;
  3. There was a sudden mass outpouring of the Holy Spirit of many inactive believers between 1975 and 1976 – a Nagaland Pentecost.

Further details on the blog post Nagaland Revival.