Last week we highlighted the Asbury Revival of 1970. Before we move on to other accounts from that decade, we will consider another Asbury season of refreshing from 2006. Special thanks goes to Steven Smallwood for his research on this particular revival.
Asbury: Where Jesus Is Welcome
(The 2006 Week-long Chapel Service)
by Steven G. Smallwood
Asbury College (now Asbury University) was founded in 1890 as the fulfillment of a pledge the Reverend John Wesley Hughes, a Methodist evangelist, had made as a student at Vanderbilt University a decade earlier. He chose Wilmore, Kentucky, as the site for the school’s location because it was situated within his evangelistic preaching circuit and because the townspeople had shown a willingness to support the financing of the initial physical plant. Originally named Kentucky Holiness College, the school was later renamed to honor the founder of American Methodism. Asbury is an independent college founded in the Wesleyan Holiness tradition. Their motto from the beginning has been, “Free salvation for all men and full salvation from all sin.” The founder started the school because he noted in the 1880’s that, “few, if any, of the church colleges put the Bible in the curriculum and emphasized the fundamental doctrines and experiences of Christianity.”
The college has experienced several revivals since its inception. The 1970 “Spontaneous Revival” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=7qOqitIKUNs) lasted for an entire week and was the last recorded revival to occur prior to 2006 (oddly enough, the 1970 revival also occurred during the first week of February). The Campus Pastor during the 2005-2006 school year, Stu Smith, told me that the students who began the prayer movement which formed that year are ordinary students that would not have stood out initially as any different from others on campus. Here, now, is their story.
Ernie Wagoner was a Junior Bible Theology major from the Atlanta area. Prior to returning to school in August of 2005, Ernie was given an ever-increasing burden from the Lord to begin some type of prayer meeting on campus. He continually felt led to speak to another student about his burden upon returning to school. This student was merely an acquaintance of his and not a close personal friend. He saw this student, Travis, at the post office one day and mentioned his desire to begin a prayer meeting. Amazingly, Travis related to him that the Lord had also given him this same burden prior to returning to school. They consulted with the administration and began a voluntary prayer meeting in the student center once per week on Thursdays from 8 – 11 p.m. On any given Thursday night during the first semester, there would have between five and thirty-five students praying in the student center.
Over Christmas break, Ernie began seeking the Lord about how they could pray more during the second semester. When he returned to school in January, he approached the administration to see if there could be a place on campus designated for prayer at all times in order for them to begin a prayer chain that would go on all week long whenever students committed to pray during designated time slots. [While Ernie did not know it at the time, the Moravians had the same idea in Herrnhut in 1727. The Moravian prayer meeting ended up lasting 100 years.] The students were given the old chapel in the original Asbury building. Ernie described it as an “old, musty room.” The students put scripture verses up on the walls along with large maps of the world. On January 30th, the prayer time slots began. They had 15 hours of time slots per week covered when they began.
One week later, on February 6, 2006, the Spirit of God moved during a student-led chapel service. It was, in fact, one of Ernie’s friends that led chapel that day. The young man simply gave his personal testimony, and then no one seemed to want to leave the building. Prayer, testimonies, and worship continued. The Lord, Whom they sought, had suddenly come into His temple. The service continued into the night and for the next five days.
Revival praying followed up with sheer honesty in a public meeting of God’s people by one of those who are seeking God is a most dynamic combination.
Stu Smith said that there is nothing unusual about Asbury that he is aware of to deem them different and deserving of so many revivals on their campus. He simply said that the main emphasis on their campus is the spiritual condition of the students. They are greatly concerned to teach their students that Jesus is Lord. What he said next struck me as something that may be normal for him, but is probably abnormal on most Christian college campuses today. Stu said, “Jesus is welcome at Asbury.” The implication is that they regularly and willingly invite Christ to not only be a part of what they do, but they actually give Him full control when He chooses to do something that they had not put on the college calendar. Think about it. How many Christian colleges would be willing to cancel classes for an entire week if the Holy Spirit decided that He needed to take control of campus for a while?
Ernie is now pastoring a church plant in the metro Atlanta area. His definition of revival is “lives transformed and people growing in love with Christ.” Without a doubt, that is exactly what the church of Jesus Christ needs most today. Perhaps you will read this and realize that you too could be the instrument that God wants to use in your corner of the kingdom.
Pray. Pray more. Be honest with God and your brothers in Christ. Then dare to do this: tell Jesus that He is welcome to come in and take control of His temple.
John Van Gelderen