February 13, 2023
The quiet, precious movement of God continues into its sixth day in Wilmore, Kentucky, on the campus of Asbury University. This is not the first time an extended movement has occurred here. Similar movements happened in the 1905 when a prayer meeting led by E. Stanly Jones lasted for many days. In the ’50s, two other activities occurred, and in 1970, a chapel service extended for seven days and nights. God used it as a catalyst to the nationwide revival called the Jesus Movement.
I’ve had the privilege of sitting in Hughes Auditorium, where this is happening, for the last two days, watching and experiencing this extraordinary movement. Only for the purposes of explanation (and no other reason), I would mention that I have been a pastor for 54 years serving in the Baptist stream. Revival touched down on our small Arkansas school in 1970 (Ouachita Baptist University). My wife and I witnessed firsthand the manifest presence of God as a noonday chapel went throughout the day, canceling classes and changing lives. We’ve never been the same.
I’ve been a student of God’s revival movements across history for fifty years. I traveled for several years to churches, helping them pursue God in revival. I was a founding member of the OneCry initiative that seeks to help pastors and churches pursue God for revival and spiritual awakening. I have spoken and written a great deal about this theme, for it is the desperate need of our day. Our deteriorating culture illustrates that it is time for a needed movement from Heaven. Samuel Davies of the First Great Awakening said, “There are eras when only a large outpouring of the Spirit can produce a public general reformation.”
We have seen seasons of His movement in the church I helped plant 25 years ago. One particular season happened in 2011 after six months of fasting and praying by the congregation. One Sunday morning, the Lord interrupted our normal schedule with an unusual outpouring of His Spirit which lasted through the afternoon. That continued—every night except Saturdays—for three to four hours each evening for the next five weeks. It was not weird, nor wildly uncomfortable, but the quiet movement of the Spirit, filled with prayer, repentance, salvation, and spontaneous baptisms by new believers. Many came to faith in Christ.
I mention these things for one reason alone (please understand). It is certainly not to boast but to explain who is writing this article to help those who would criticize this movement from a distance.
THE QUIET ORDER OF ASBURY
Last night, I saw some self-appointed critics of the Asbury movement on social media. Of course, they had not been to Hughes Auditorium they just “heard” that this and that was happening. When I read their second and third-hand reports, I was shocked, but not surprised. God always has his critics.
What is happening at Asbury (as I witnessed first-hand) has some beautiful, biblical components. This is what I’ve observed.
VIBRANT, POWERFUL WORSHIP.
Worship is being led by various student teams. Some are more proficient than others, but all are humble. We do not know their names. There are no fog machines nor lights—just piano and guitar by unnamed students worshiping God. We are singing songs that would be familiar to most of us, often just acapella, with no instruments. Contemporary songs are sung, often interspersed by the hymns of the church. There are no words on the screen, and they do not seem to be needed.
INTENSE AND INTENTIONAL HUMILITY
The wise pastors on Asbury’s staff who are gently shepherding this movement keep reminding us that there are no superstars and that no one is to be exalted except Jesus. They have encouraged us to get lower and lower and lower under Him, exalting Him higher and higher. I have personally watched them stop a person or two who may have tried to hijack the meeting. They realize that God’s manifest presence is precious and desperately needed. They want no one or no thing to quench or grieve His Spirit.
The leaders, at times, will open the microphones for a season of testimonies of what God has done. They instruct the crowd to observe these ABC’s:
They stand with microphone in hand and wisely shepherd these moments. They will close the lines when they sense it’s time to move forward.
Often during these testimonies, when they sense God repeating a theme, they have paused and called for those with the same issues to stand, and for people to gather around them and pray.
At various times, they have led us into corporate prayer. Instructions are given, and then we’ve turned in small groups and cried out to God.
At the altar, they have a continuous team of prayer counselors, identified by lanyards around their necks, who are helping those in need and praying with them. They have gently invited the people to come to these trained counselors for prayer.
Everywhere, people are sharing with others in need outside the auditorium. God is opening people’s lips and giving them the Acts 4 courage to “speak the word of God with boldness.” The result is what you would expect—the gospel is spreading rapidly, and many are coming to faith in Christ.
SPIRITUAL, EMOTIONAL, AND EVEN PHYSICAL HEALING
Many are giving testimony of how God is instantly releasing them from years of bondage to addictions. Release from past hurts, bitterness, fear, is happening quickly for the humble ones who admit their need and cry to the Savior. Some are testifying of physical healings, just as occurred in the Book of Acts, but this is not at all the dominant theme of the meetings. The theme is Jesus—exalting Him, surrendering to Him, and testifying of Him to others.
One prognosticator on social media proclaimed that this was not of God because there was no preaching. I smiled, because there have been moments of preaching throughout and a “regular” sermon every single night, delivered humbly by godly pastors.
I cannot say enough about this. I have been in many moments of intense revival. I have led in a number of these moments. I stood at a microphone for five weeks, shepherding a movement of God for 3-4 hours a night.
I’m overwhelmed by the wise, quiet, strong, loving leadership of those in charge. It is not dominating and not restrictive. They are discerning God’s movement and cooperating. They are giving instruction and direction when needed.
CONSISTENCY WITH THE WAYS OF GOD
The Jesus movement was characterized by vibrant, simple worship and constant witness to the gospel. I was there. The church, by and large, reacted to the “hippies” who were being saved and the more current expressions of worship. Many churches ridiculed this and quenched the Spirit, unwilling to accept new wineskins. Most of these churches have plateaued and died. The churches that humbly opened the door to lost people and wisely shepherded God’s activity, exploded. Calvary Chapel, a small California church, kept responding to God and, in the Jesus movements wake, have started 1400 churches.
Two things characterized the 1857 revival: First, fervent noon-day prayer meetings that grew from six people (with Jeremiah Lanphier) to 50,000 people every day in New York City alone and, secondly, unashamed testimony and witnessing. There were simple “rules” that they used to guide the prayer meetings. They lasted from 12-1 each day. It spread across the country. Prayer requests came from around the world. I’ve read many of those actual requests—most are for the salvation of someone somebody loved. In revival, our hearts return to beat with the heart of God whose great desire is for people of every tongue, tribe, and nation to come to Him.
When the church begins to pray, that IS revival, for we are usually prayerless. When that reviving turns to fervent, unashamed witnessing and the rapid acceleration of the gospel, we term that “spiritual awakening,” for that is exactly what God is doing among the lost.
GIVING GOD TIME AND WAITING
The revival here is not hurried or rushed. There are long periods of stillness and waiting. If you want to rush in, get a big dose of God and rush out, don’t come. God works on His timetable. We give God little time and almost no silence. What is happening here is occurring because thirsty people are waiting before God. In time, He speaks to one, then another, bringing them back to intimacy with Him. I’ve always thought that we don’t experience God because we put Him on our timetable. Waiting is a lost art, and it is turning our full attention to Him until He makes Himself known that we need.
As of the fifth day of the movement, 22 colleges have sent groups of students here, hoping to see the same outbreak on their campuses. It would not surprise me if that was how this exploded nationwide, for students are most tender and willing. It is also no coincidence that a very carefully-made movie about the Jesus Revolution is coming out by our friend, Jon Erwin, February 22nd and that the Collegiate National Day of Prayer broadcast has been scheduled for over a year to be broadcast from Asbury on February 23rd. We should pray that these will further accelerate God’s work.
One of the leaders spoke to us last night about the beginning of the revival when a pastor spoke of hypocritical, self-seeking love. He remarked that what these days have done has reversed that. Asbury has become a sanctuary of the love of God. That is the essence of God (He IS love) and has been the hallmark of every moment when He is placed again on His rightful throne in our hearts, homes, and churches. “Heaven a World of Love” was preached by Jonathan Edwards. And revival is heaven coming down.
SO WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE?
I talked with a friend who reminded me of this beautiful truth from a missionary involved in the great revival in Shantung, China, in the late 20s.
"We heard of the revival in Korea, which began in 1907. It was a mighty movement and had been born through a prayer-revival among missionaries. Oh, to be able to go there and bring back some glowing coals to our own field! But the journey was long and expensive and I had not the money. As I prayed for money and looked for an answer, a definite word was sent instead: “What you want through that journey you may be given here, where you are, in answer to prayer.” The words were a tremendous challenge. I gave my solemn promise: ‘Then I will pray until I receive. Having pledged myself ... the first conscious thought was: Then prayer means as much as that, and that my promise should be kept means as much as that.’ That experience helped me to endure through the almost twenty years which were to pass before the first small beginnings of revival were visible. Truly, God works unhurriedly." (Marie Monsen, missionary nurse to north China, describing how she came to pray for the revival that burned there from 1927-1932)
You don’t have to come to Kentucky to experience revival and awakening. “The kingdom of God is here,” Jesus said, and He has gladly chosen to give us the Kingdom.
AND FINALLY …
Coming out of Hughes auditorium, with its love and grace and humility, and reading the words of some critics on social media was revealing. The pride of their words was apparent when seen against the backdrop of the presence of God. The spirit of such judgments came through the page and was glaring in its self-righteousness. It's wise to examine things carefully, but foolish to make swift judgments without close examination and real knowledge.
If you are tempted to criticize this movement flippantly, it might be wise to heed the counsel of Gamaliel when his religious colleagues criticized the early disciples.
“So in the present case, I say to you, stay away from these men and let them alone, for if this plan or action is of men, it will be overthrown; but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them; or else you may even be found fighting against God.” (Acts 5:38-39)
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