Awakening or Revival?
The news from Asbury University in Wilmore, KY, has taken the evangelical world by storm. Non-stop prayer, worship, confession, etc., is not the norm today. And it should be noted that young people are leading the way! Could this be the answer to the prayers of so many, "Wilt thou not revive us again: that thy people may rejoice in thee? (Ps 85:6).
In a blog post, Asbury Seminary President Timothy Tennent offered his analysis of the events at Wilmore. "Despite the endless coverage in social media and the regular media, which is calling this a revival, I think it is wise to see this, at the current phase, as an awakening. Only if we see lasting transformation which shakes the comfortable foundations of the Church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight, and say, “yes, this has been a revival.” *
So what might such a "lasting transformation" look like? What changes does revival bring? To answer that question, one might take a look at the history of revival, or specifically, the history of the Wesley revival. But the most significant revival of history is recorded in the book of Acts. If the current awakening truly becomes a revival, what would change in our lives, churches, and world if that revival follows the pattern of the book of Acts?
The Acts revival led to a new awareness and submission to the direction of the Holy Spirit. Repeatedly, Peter, John, Philip, Paul, and the other disciples sensed God's specific direction and followed it, even when the result meant jail, pain, or death. Revival transforms casual thinking into Holy Spirit-focused living!
In Acts, revival resulted in a focus on others rather than on self. The early Church was not focused on how they felt but on how they could build the kingdom! That is why Philip left Samaria at the height of the Spirit's moving to go to the desert to minister to the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip understood that revival is not about us but "them!"
The early church revival led to a new emphasis on prayer. It was the praying Church that facilitated the release of Peter from prison in Acts 12. While Paul and Silas were praying and singing (another form of talking to God), an earthquake opened the doors of their Philippian jail. Revival puts God's people on their knees!
Revival also restores the centrality of the Word of God into our worship. The Bereans in Acts 17 are a case in point. Paul could preach for hours, and people still listened because they were hungry for the Word! Music, fellowship, and counseling are all fine in their place, but their place is not the central place in the life of the Christian. Revival will restore in God's people a hunger for His Word.
While these changes are all positive, I feel compelled to mention what seems to be a negative result of revival – persecution. Submission to the Spirit, evangelism, prayer and the centrality of the Word are part of the transformation revival brings. But so is persecution! When the Church is revived, so is the devil! Revival will solve some problems, but it will create new ones! That is what happens when the devil fights!
So yes, I agree with President Tennent. What is happening at Asbury is best described as an awakening from sleep. But we have all rolled over, turned off the alarm clock, and gone back to sleep. I pray that this does not happen in this situation. Instead, I pray that the changes that occurred in the early Church will take place in our modern world. Then we will know we have had revival.
For a full reading of Dr. Tennent's comments on the events at Asbury see: