Last week, students at Asbury University, a private Christian school in Kentucky, assembled for their biweekly chapel service in the school’s auditorium. But when the chapel service was scheduled to end, the worship kept going.
And going. And going. And going.
It’s still going more than a week later.
Reports indicate that the assembly continues well past midnight each day. Surely people are taking breaks to eat and sleep. However, people keep coming at all hours of the day, even traveling from other states, some of whom I know personally.
Could this be the revival that many of us have been praying for?
I don’t know yet. But while I’m ultimately reserving judgment, I’m optimistic.
Hopefully every American who is a true believer in Jesus Christ can agree on the following things. First, the spiritual state of our country is bad and getting worse.
Second, the ultimate hope for fixing our country is not better politics. While we should certainly hope (and even fight) for better politics, our country’s ultimate hope must come from a place that the sword of government is powerless to touch.
Finally, we should agree that the Gospel is the ultimate hope for humanity. God has commissioned the Church to be the herald of that message. In order to fulfill that Great Commission, the Church must do its job well.
If all of that is true, then we should be fervently praying that God would empower the Church to do its job, bringing the lost to Christ, not only converting them but “teaching them to observe all that I [Jesus] have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20).
Thus, serious revival must be more than just an emotional surge. I think that is the primary concern of those who are skeptical that this is real revival.
It’s a legitimate objection. Many of us have seen people experience powerful emotional surges making them feel closer to God, but not producing lasting change. It’s true that if God is working in someone’s life, they may experience powerful emotions. But it does not necessarily follow that it’s God just because people felt those emotions.
I’m tired of so-called revival that is little more than emotion. Jesus warned that this can happen. When the seed falls on the rocks instead of good soil, the crop springs up quickly, but withers when the sun scorches it because it has no root. (Matthew 13:3-23.) We don’t need more of that.
But the reports I’m hearing about Asbury are different.
I’m hearing that there is a ton of confession and repentance. If we had to assess what’s wrong with the American Church as a whole (and this can be a dangerous exercise, as there’s a lot of variety from church to church), I would say that what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace” is one of our three biggest problems. It’s forgiveness without repentance, grace without change, and church without discipleship.
To be abundantly clear: you don’t have to work for your salvation. It’s a free gift; otherwise grace is no longer grace. But just as a bird cannot keep from singing because that is its nature, neither can someone who has truly experienced the grace of God keep from repenting, changing, and following Jesus wherever He leads. That starts with confession and repentance, which are loathsome to cheap grace, but the natural product of real grace.
The second biggest problem with the American Church’s is biblical illiteracy. But from the reports I’m hearing at Asbury, the Word is being preached. I’m also hearing that the shepherds are doing their job and stopping heretics who try to take over the meeting. A mark of biblical literacy is defending the faith from those who would try to undermine it from the inside (Jude 1:3-4).
Finally, witnesses say that many conversions are happening, while those who are already saved are growing bolder in taking God’s Word to the lost. Our third biggest problem in my mind is the death of evangelism. So if we’re finally waking up and telling people about Jesus, then we’re getting back on track.
Is this the real deal? Time will tell, but for now, it’s looking good.
Regardless, let’s use this as a catalyst to pray for real revival to come everywhere in America. We don’t necessarily need to go to Asbury to find God, but we do need to ask God to come to us, move us, and empower us to boldly carry out the Great Commission.