May it be in us, may it be in me
A brief word on the Asbury Revival from a prayerful bystander.
If your newsfeed is anything like mine, then you’ve undoubtedly been inundated with posts and comments concerning the #AsburyRevival — no, not the one from the 1970s which culminated in over 140 hours of unbroken revival services, but the one that’s going on right now as we speak. As of this post’s publication, college students, faculty, and families from far and wide are still gathering at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky to share in the groundbreaking truths of Jesus Christ and his grace, just as they’ve done for the past several days. According to reports, what began as a normal chapel service on Wednesday, February 8, has blossomed into a veritable “foretaste of glory divine,” as students stayed behind after the close of the service to pray and confess and fellowship with one another. Soon after, more students joined them. Then, more came. Eventually, it wasn’t just students but it was “parent of students” getting involved, too, “driving from all over Kentucky to be part of the chapel experience,” cites Mark Maynard in Kentucky Today.
Since then, morning and night, folks have gathered to pray, repent, and confess. “Something special was happening,” Maynard continues, “and it was more than an emotional stirring of college students.” “People seem to be moved by Christ deeply, not merely by emotion,” concurs Bill Elliff, pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas, who, along with his wife, decided to make the nine-hour trek from Little Rock to Wilmore to see for themselves what God was doing. “Emotions are present,” he continues. “How could we not be emotional if God is in the room in power and lives are being transformed?” In reading several other accounts from those “on the ground,” so to speak, the Word of God has been the true mover-and-shaker here, as students and faculty and parents pray, sing, and recite Scripture with one another. I can’t help but think of the revival recounted by Nehemiah: “And Ezra blessed the Lord, the great God, and all the people answered, ‘Amen, Amen,’ lifting up their hands. And they bowed their heads and worshiped the Lord with their faces to the ground” (Neh. 8:6).
These sorts of spiritual phenomena can, of course, be polarizing among some Christian circles, with some being more inclined to downplay such reporting as nothing but mere emotionalism and sentimental revivalism. I’ve read some of those critiques already. Luke Stamps, chair of the School of Theology and Ministry at Oklahoma Baptist University, wrote an admirable article yesterday attempting to dispel the needless cynicism that’s developed in the wake of all this. “Some initial questions are legitimate,” he admits, “but what does it say about us that we are so quick to be skeptical? We would rather remain cynical than risk looking naive. What does that choice say about us? Isn’t it better to believe and hope all things and risk the possibility of a later retraction or correction than to remain judgmentally aloof?” Nearly every Christian I know has, at some point, prayed for revival in earnest. And yet, when it comes, we content ourselves to sit in the balcony like judgmental Statlers and Waldorfs scoffing and spitting.
To be sure, not every wind of revival is a true one. After all, as the apostle John reminds us, “Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). And what’s the prevailing marker for these supposed “false spirits”? John tells us: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God” (1 John 4:2–3). By every recognizable measure, Christ has been confessed at Asbury, and we should rejoice in that. Genuine revival, like the one in Nehemiah 8 (and others from Scripture), always follows on the heels of an unsuspecting group of believers rediscovering, almost like new, the prevalence, power, and preeminence of God’s Word. “For those of us who critique revivalism,” writes Luke Stamps elsewhere, “we must be careful not to foreclose the possibility of true revival.”
As I wrote last April, “We don’t need ‘something extra’ from God to bring about revival in our churches, in our communities, in our country, in our world. We have all we need already. The Word has done it all before. And it can do it again.” Lord, may it be in us. I’m not here to “contextualize” or criticize or anything of the sort. I’m here just to say, God, may it be so in me. I’ll echo the prayer of Denny Burk, Boyce College professor and president of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, who pleads, “Let it not end in Wilmore.” As Peter confesses, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” (John 13:9). Jesus, from head to toe, baptize your church in your Word and Spirit which brings about true revival of hearts and minds and souls. Lord, let our church services not end on time. May the truth of your Word occupy our hearts and minds once again, as it has in ages past. May a true spirit of revival, that’s born of your Spirit, capture us afresh. Lord, may it be.
Grace and peace to you, friends.