As many now know, there is word of a “revival” taking place at Asbury University in the tiny town of Wilmore, Kentucky. When word got out about this outpouring, people from all over the country have been flocking to Asbury with the hopes of being able to witness and participate. Currently, the word “revival” is being thrown around quite frequently amongst Christians, particularly those of Gen Z age. There is a lot of conversation claiming that we need revival. But what exactly does “revival” entail, and how should Christians respond to this term and its influence?
I was raised in a more traditional Evangelical Presbyterian Church (EPC), where raising your hands above the waist meant that the Spirit was alive within you. That to say, it was much less charismatic in its style, which often was reflected by our early 2010’s K-Love style worship. That said, I never felt that my closeness to God was centered on the worship style or the charisma brought to a place of worship. Growing up, I was always more hesitant when certain things came up in Christian conversation, such as: speaking in tongues, prophetic dreams and visions, or in more recent cases, “revival.” Being constantly reminded of the works that were performed in the Bible and the miracles that I know have been performed, I would often guilt myself into believing that these hesitations were my way of doubting God and that therefore, I was a lesser Christian. I fully believe in God’s limitless power and might, but where I struggle is understanding a broken human’s interpretation of that power.
I do not doubt the fulfillment that the Spirit can bring within a place of worship, and I can recall places where I felt so overcome with the Spirit that all I could do was fall to my knees and weep. What I often find hard to accept is that there are people capable of this experience every time they are in a spiritual setting. Oswald Chambers describes this as making a fetish of the good moments. In his book My Utmost for His Highest, he says:
“When the Spirit of God gives you a time of inspiration and insight, you say– ‘Now I will always be like this for God.’ No, you will not, God will take care you are not. Those times are the gift of God entirely. You cannot give them to yourself when you choose… If you make a god of your best moments, you will find that God will fade out of your life and never come back until you do the duty that lies nearest.” (Oswald Chambers)
As the word spreads from Asbury, Christians everywhere are sharing about God’s goodness. While I do not doubt God’s power to overwhelm a place, what I question is the response of some Christians. It is the idea that Chambers specifically targets: you cannot give these moments to yourself whenever you choose. They cannot be manufactured.
As I watch people go to this center of spiritual formation, I observe people going to God because that is where He is. But we know—God is everywhere. His Spirit is among us at all times. So, why is Asbury being elevated as this Mecca of “revival?” Because Christians are using it as a place to go to “get” or “receive” God. In this, there is a neglect for the work that God can do right where we are. We can pray that the Lord continues to work in Asbury, but we do not need to invade that space in order to feel the Spirit.
We don’t need to be in a specific place for God to meet us. “Revival” in this sense can take place anywhere. But I do not believe that it is something we can force. It is not a certain series of events or specific words and songs that are prayed over a body of believers. It is something that the Spirit will place on the hearts of that body of believers and work within them to do His will.
As I heard about the Carry the Love group that came to Gordon following Spiritual Emphasis Week, I was similarly conflicted, especially knowing that this was not a Chapel Office sponsored event, but an off-campus group, being brought in by others. After a brief glance at their Instagram @carrythelove, and their partner group @circuitriders, I felt an even greater sense of hesitancy. At first, I thought it was simply my traditional upbringing causing me to pause as it has in the past, but I quickly realized through some further digging and conversations that this group had the intention of “revival,” the very word that I had been wrestling with for the past week. As previously stated, I do not doubt God’s power, but I question bringing these intense moments about for ourselves, rather than as a gift from God, calling us to a deeper desire for Himself.
Upon hearing about the baptisms that took place that evening in Gull Pond, I was not just reminded of the Christian Theology assignment about the Great Gordon Baptism, but concerned for what might follow. I knew that at that moment, baptism would have seemed like a strong, proud declaration of your faith. I do not fault anyone who was baptized, nor do I fault anyone for going to the Carry the Love event in the first place. My deepest concerns lies with the fact that Carry the Love came with the intention of manufacturing this “revival,” commanding the Spirit to move, forming a space of healing, and then proceeding to leave immediately after, with no signs showing any follow-up. As a result, this creates a lack of relational development so necessary for newly baptized Christians as they continue their walk with God.
The limitations that come with this process is precisely what I fear could come from a manufactured or forced “revival,” an atmosphere that is being distorted and elevated beyond the goodness God is truly working in a space. This fear stems from events like Carry the Love and many responses to the “revival” at Asbury, which have been potentially magnifying this movement beyond God’s intent.
Let the Lord work at Asbury, but do not be afraid to seek Him right where you are. Let the Lord work at Asbury, but do not elevate that space as a spiritual fountain better than anything that can be done at home. Let the Lord work at Asbury, but do not attempt to manufacture and fabricate His presence. Let Him work, love like Him, and listen.
Categories: Student Life