If you haven’t been following the events at Asbury University over the past two weeks, just know—God is working.
What started out as an ordinary chapel service organically led into a 12-day outpouring of the Spirit that has taken multiple college campuses (and the internet) by storm. Students are drawing close to God in prayer, worship, and Bible study. Testimonies abound of lives being changed. Stories of repentance, confession, and healing are overwhelming.
It is easy to hear the word “revival” and be cynical. Trust me, I know. Personally, I am skeptical of many expressions of American Christianity for its emotionalism, spiritual abuse, and poor theology. America has a long and murky history with revivalism. But in the case of Asbury, I am one-hundred percent convinced it is real.
After hours of conversation and reading about the recent events of the past week, I have started to feel a deep conviction for our school. As a senior, I have witnessed some of Gordon’s best and worst moments. Recently, I have been encouraged by many of President Hammond’s efforts to cultivate a deeper spiritual life on campus. The work of the people in his administration and those in the Chapel Office need to be appreciated—they deeply care for our community.
However, three and a half years of experience, observation, and dialogue have convinced me: Gordon needs revival.
There exists a spiritual apathy on this campus that has expressed itself in various forms. One of my deepest frustrations over the years has been the lack of Christ-centered reverence amongst the student body in terms of our theology and practice. For many people, God is nothing but a therapeutic agent who wants us to be happy and get along. Without a robust view of who God is and what He has done, I have seen how easy it can be for our conception of Christian living to go beyond nothing but simple moralism.
As a result of this low view of God, I have witnessed a complacency that dilutes our affection and passion for Christ. It is a complacency that has led to an uncritical acceptance/toleration of cultural ideologies. Furthermore, it has negatively affected how we discuss and approach important topics—our conversations on social issues have, at many times, become plagued with cynicism, distrust, and despair. Below the surface, there are also many thriving subcultures on campus that participate in partying, gossip, slander, drinking, and promiscuity. Inevitably, a shallow Christianity will produce a shallow practice, and in many ways, this has been evident at Gordon.
What I mention here obviously does not apply to everyone, so I apologize for my lack of specificity. The point is not to stir controversy, but if I am telling the truth, I hope some people will be stirred. There are real problems at Gordon, and many students and people in positions of leadership know it too.
The need for revival, however, is not just a call to repentance.
Many of us are tired, lonely, broken, anxious, depressed, and at a breaking point. Mental health is a real problem. Burnout and fatigue, especially coming out of COVID-19, is very present. Many students are in such a fragile place.
So, why do we need revival?
Because in times of complacency and weariness, God can breathe new life into our bones. Isaiah 57:15 speaks of One who is not only “in the high and holy place,” but also “with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit.” He sees us in our sin, our weakness, and our pain. He comes “to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Revival is for the entire body of Christ, no matter the circumstance. It is for the Christian who feels like they are far from God, burnt out from the demands of academics, or hurt by the pain caused by family, friends, or even the church. Regardless of where you are, or how low you feel, Jesus sympathizes with you (Hebrews 4:15). And He beckons you to find new life in Him.
When I say that Gordon needs an “Asbury revival,” I do not mean we need to manufacture some hyper-spiritual experience. Nor am I saying we need to mimic what is happening at Asbury. Like Quentin Cole and Olivia Elder noted in their articles this week, we cannot orchestrate a work of God.
But we can be open to one.
May we be a campus community that cries out to Jesus, “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Psalms 85:6)
Revival takes place amongst the people of God when they pursue him with open hands and humble hearts. Do we think so little of God to believe He cannot draw us into a Greater Love or renew our affections? Do we scoff at the idea of rest; at the reality of hope in the midst of so much weariness? Are we afraid of confronting our besetting sins; afraid of laying our insecurities, our desires, and our dreams at the feet of Christ?
Isaiah 55:6 calls us to “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”
So, let us pray for revival. Not for something that looks exactly like what is happening at Asbury. Revival is not formulaic. But it is intentional—He will renew the spirits of those who earnestly pursue Him.
May we be a campus community that echoes the heart of the Apostle Paul. With confidence, let us pray to be “strengthened with power through his Spirit” in our inner being. Let us pray for the “strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge,” so that as a result, we can be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3: 16-19).
Let us run to Him.
He is closer than you think.