I’m not quite ready to label what’s happening in Wilmore, Kentucky a revival. As the late Leonard Ravenhill used to say, paraphrasing: “it’s not revival unless it changes the moral atmosphere of the region.” I don’t believe this move of God has done this but it’s still early. What’s happened is a week-long, continuous worship and prayer service at Asbury University’s packed chapel. Not each day during business hours. Through the night, 24/7, constant prayer and worship, for about a week now at the time of writing this. I’m no theological expert but I have studied America’s revival history and out of that research project I wrote ‘The Summer of Saints,’ an e-Book that captures influential Christian profiles, many of whom were American revivalists. With this intermediate knowledge of revivals past, a couple of things about the Asbury move strike me as very interesting on the surface.
1. Asbury University was named for one of the greatest revivalists the world has ever seen: Francis Asbury. The methodist circuit rider on direct assignment from John Wesley travelled 300,000 miles of the then American western frontier and preached 17,000 sermons. A statue of Asbury atop his horse stands near the chapel that has been brimming with students and visitors alike at the college. 2. Kentucky proper was by many accounts the epicenter of America’s 2nd Great Awakening. The most famous and powerful gathering of this era occurred at Cane Ridge, about a one-hour drive from Asbury University. Cane Ridge was an extraordinary moment in American church history, sparking a flood of camp meeting style revivals in the Appalachia’s. Cane Ridge and the tremors that followed fit Ravenhill’s bill for revival: it changed the region’s moral atmosphere. 3. This gathering has unified people of many Christian denominations and has transcended demographic and age differences. This characteristic is critical. Division never breeds revival. Unity tends to attract the presence of the Lord. The best example of this that I can think of, other than the day of Pentecost in the Book of Acts, is the Azusa Street revival in early 1900’s Los Angeles. The world perhaps has never seen a more eclectic group gather for one purpose, especially in a time when racial diversity was taboo, than at the Apostolic Faith Mission at Azusa St. 4. This move of God appears to be led by and situated amidst young people. Yes, the same young people who draw the ire of each previous generation and who are statistically “less Christian” than any other generation. Early Accounts Point to Authenticity One thing that I believe I have picked up over the years, both as a church leader and student of American church history is the ability to spot a counterfeit. There are certain red flags that I’ve come to be able to sniff out when a fake or phony event springs up that claims to be Holy Spirit-driven. One piece of amazing theological scholarship that’s been a guide is Jonathan Edwards’ ‘Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.’ No such flags, however, are evident with the Asbury event as I gather more and more info about what’s going on. Here’s why.
As I’ve asked witnesses and even church leaders in Kentucky to describe what they’re experiencing I’m hearing words like ‘sweet,’ ‘reverent,’ ‘peaceful,’ ‘orderly,’ and ‘worshipful.’ And as I’m prodding for potential fruit that has been born out of this event I’m hearing terms like ‘repentance,’ ‘conviction,’ ‘God’s sovereignty,’ and ‘testimony.’ Notice that chaos, floundering, excess, and disruption don’t appear in these short lists. What also doesn’t appear, which is of important distinction, is any one individual. No famous worship leaders or special orators to speak of. This one fact matters the most to me. No great move of God that I can think of praised man’s profile or talents over the person of Jesus.
This might just be the stuff of revival.