Tuesday, February 14, 2023

When God Does it Again


"Holiness Unto the Lord." Those words are engraved behind the platform at Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. Since my own college days, I've heard of the outpouring of the Lord that occurred on Asbury's campus in 1970. My pastor showed a video one Sunday evening, a documentary about that 1970 divine moment. Like many others, since hearing about what God did then, I've asked Him many times to do it again.

One of my colleagues at BGEA, Wayne Atcheson, wrote a book two years ago about that divine moment: The Asbury Revival: When God Used Students to Wake a Nation.

For years, I've shown people the video "When God Comes," a documentary on the revival.

How awesome to hear this past week of a similar outpouring currently going on at Asbury. 

A professor of theology at Asbury, Tom McCall, writes in his article, We’re Witnessing a ‘Surprising Work of God,’ that every time he leaves the chapel auditorium, "I feel I have tasted and seen that the Lord is good."

One of my former seminary professors, Tim Beougher, sat in Hughes Auditorium on Monday of this week. He wrote the following thoughts about this campus revival:

"I have had several people ask my thoughts about what is taking place at Asbury University right now. For those who don’t know me, I have a bit of background with college revivals. I wrote my Th.M. Thesis on the 1970 Asbury Revival and how it impacted Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. I was one of two faculty members present for all the revival services at Wheaton College in 1995. I have written book chapters on what took place in 1970 and 1995 and another book chapter on Student Revivals throughout history. I have taught courses on Revival and Spiritual Awakening at Wheaton College, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. I have studied this subject for over four decades. Now none of that means my viewpoint is automatically correct, but I’m not a newcomer to discussions about revival.

For some background and interpretation of what is happening at Asbury, I direct you to Facebook posts from four men whom I respect: Lawson Stone, Denny Burk, Bill Elliff, and Kenny Rager (you can find all these men on Facebook – those who are more tech savvy can perhaps give links to their postings in the comment section below).

I spent the afternoon today (Monday, Feb. 13) in Hughes Auditorium, followed by a delightful dinner and conversation with Dr. Robert Coleman. Dr. Coleman was a student at Asbury during the 1950 revival and was a professor there during the 1970 revival.

I’m not going to repeat all the helpful observations/insights posted by Stone, Burk, Elliff, and Rager – you can read those for yourself. Here are a few random thoughts from my time there today.

1. The manifest presence of God filled Hughes Auditorium. I experienced that same overwhelming sense of God’s presence each day/night during the 1995 Wheaton Revival. Joseph Tson came one night during the Wheaton Revival and told me the manifest presence of God there was exactly what he had experienced in Romania.

2. The leadership there did a magnificent job of balancing 'freedom' and 'order.' As one of four faculty/staff at Wheaton College who bore that responsibility for 5 days in 1995, I know the incredible challenges of trying to maintain that balance. Pray for those in leadership that they will continue to steward well this divine moment.

3. How do we know if what we think might be a revival is a genuine work of God? One unmistakable sign will be repentance. J. Edwin Orr, the great historian of revival, once remarked that we really don’t understand what we are praying for when we pray for revival – we think we are praying for ecstasy, and yes, joy is a by-product of revival. But true revival doesn’t begin in ecstasy, it begins with agony. It doesn’t begin with laughter but with tears. The Bible teaching this afternoon and several of the testimonies focused on repentance – not just feeling sorry for our sin but with the Lord’s help seeking to remove it as far as we can from our lives.

4. Related to a deeper work of the Spirit, I mentioned to my church recently that I haven’t heard much talk among evangelicals in recent years about 'dying to self.' As a new believer in the 1970s, that spiritual discipline was thrust before me on a regular basis, but I don’t hear much about it anymore. This afternoon there was teaching on dying to self that was followed by a directed prayer time asking God to help us do just that. The focus was clear: die to self and live for Christ and others. I do think that is biblical.

5. The worship leaders did what worship leaders should do – they were not performers but led us to the throne of grace in worship. Within the crowd there was a mixture of times of quiet deep reverence and loud vocal celebration. I’m not a shouter – either by temperament or by tribe – but some of our brothers and sisters are – and they worshipped Christ with exuberance.

6. A word of exhortation to all who journey to Wilmore. In Luke 7 we read the account of a woman washing Jesus’ feet with her tears and anointing them with perfume. The Pharisee who was there was indignant at what he saw as a waste of valuable perfume – in his eyes, Jesus wasn’t worth such extravagant worship. This passage reminds us that in every worship setting there will be three groups: the one being worshipped (the Lord); the worshippers; and spectators. How can you tell if you are a spectator and not a worshipper? Because you will be critical of how other people are worshipping, without realizing you aren’t worshipping at all! For years my prayer when I enter a sanctuary has been, “Lord, help me today to be a worshipper and not a spectator.” I whispered that prayer as I entered Hughes Auditorium this afternoon, and God graciously answered. I had sweet fellowship with my Savior, surrounded by hundreds of others doing the same.

I could share other observations, but the four men mentioned above have captured many more elements in their posts, and I encourage you to read what they have written.

One final caution – throughout the history of revivals, critics have pointed to some type of 'excess' accompanying a revival and tried to argue that 'excess' discredited the entire revival moment and meant it wasn’t truly a work of God. Jonathan Edwards answered that criticism during the First Great Awakening by using a helpful phrase: 'in the main.' What is at the heart of the movement? What is happening 'in the main?' There will always be “excess” on the fringe, due to overly excited and not yet completely sanctified human beings and/or to Satanic opposition, but what is taking place 'in the main?' That is a helpful grid as we evaluate movements like that taking place now at Asbury.

What every believer should be doing right now, regardless of what you think about the early reports out of Asbury, is praying. Who would deny that we need revival in our churches and spiritual awakening in our land? God has visited this nation with powerful awakenings before – we study those great movements of revival in church history classes. Is Asbury the spark of another awakening? I don’t know – but I’m praying – and you should be too!"

It's estimated that more than a million Christians in America have been praying - with many fasting and praying - for genuine, Holy Spirit sent revival and awakening - for more than two decades. I've told my congregations for years now that only such a move of God will save this nation. 

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy (Habakkuk 3:2 NIV).

Check out the article, Revival Breaks Out at Asbury University, by my friend and former BGEA colleague, Lee Weeks.

And Bill Elliff writes from a first-hand account about the quiet order of the work of God at Asbury.

Read other reports about the current Asbury Revival from Dr. Timothy Tennent, Bill Elliff, and Lee Grady.

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