In researching the 1970 and 2006 revivals at Asbury College, one may wonder, “Why Asbury?” God is not a respecter of persons, but the Word of God does make clear that those who seek the Lord will find Him (2 Chron. 15:2; James 4:8). Seeking God is faith, yet faith is not a work; it is dependence upon the Worker in response to His stirrings. The Asbury accounts reveal several factors as to “Why Asbury?”
First, there was an awareness of need. In fact, Dennis Kinlaw, Asbury’s president in 1970, addresses this in a video produced years later. Regarding why the college experienced revival, he humbly stated, “We needed it!” Several student accounts reveal a consciousness of their need for revival, and becoming aware of one’s need is the beginning of a revival journey. It is the realization that there must be more! Rather than a collegiate mindset that sometimes borders on “We are the best!” we need a realization of how far from the potential of New Testament Christianity a college scene may be. When this is the case there will be a proper awareness of need.
Second, there were some who were aware that God could meet the need. A few students (it only takes a few) who were sensitive to the Holy Spirit knew that God Himself was the great answer to their great need. They knew that God is the great “Reviver.” When students are aware of what God has done in the past, it cultivates faith in what God can do in the present. Such knowledge would be invaluable as part of one’s Christian college training.
Third, there was willingness to ask God to do it. In both accounts, some students with a burden and passion for revival began to pray. They became the intercessors and sought the blessing of God’s reviving presence for others. Notably, in these accounts, the faith to intercede for revival was student led. They cast themselves on God to meet their student body in their need. When faith for revival is expressed in definite heart cry, it reveals that there is not only an awareness that God can revive but an actual trusting Him to do it.
Finally, there was a favorable theological atmosphere. Several reasons reveal the theological soil was fertile for revival blessing. First, on the campus, Jesus was believed to really in fact be Lord. If He desired to rearrange the schedule, there was willingness by the administration to recognize and follow His leadership. Second, revival was not despised but prized. This treasuring of God’s reviving presence stands in contrast to the anti-revival attitude found in some sections of academia. Third, praying for revival was not an abnormal concept. The theological atmosphere was neither fatalistic nor formula-oriented. There was basic understanding that faith is a response to the Spirit’s stirrings and that faith is not a work but dependence on the worker—God. So, if some felt stirred by the Spirit to pray, this was not only accepted, but encouraged. Finally, the focus was not on a system or a “box” of lifestyle ideals. The focus was on a person. Jesus.
Many Bible colleges may think of themselves as a place where Jesus is Lord. But if the Spirit of Jesus moved in, how many administrations and faculties would yield to the Lord by changing the schedule really? Why do so many young preachers fresh out of college, purporting themselves to be intellectuals, blog against revival? Why are there so few on college campuses that meet for the express purpose of seeking God’s reviving presence? Why is God-dependence accused of being man-centered though such is a total impossibility? Why do so many emphasize their “box” of Christianity, instead of stressing the genuine life of Jesus Christ? Apparently, Asbury, regardless of anything else, was a place where the theological atmosphere was favorable to revival and not a barrier against it.
Revivals on college campuses are not new to history. In the early 1800s during the Second Great Awakening, many colleges were transformed by the Spirit of revival, and some schools experienced repeated moves of God. In fact, some administrators sought the Lord for a campus revival at least once every four years to affect each generation of students—and saw God do it. God has not changed, but have we?
The answer to the question, “Why Asbury?” ought to stir God-passionate administrators, faculty members and students on any Christian campus to simply apply the faith-step of heart cry for God’s reviving presence. Why not?
John Van Gelderen
John, your comments about intellectualism and how the upcoming generation about revivalism seems to be accurate, and distressful for sure. There is such an aversion to anything resembling Keswick or revival theology, and that surely has something to do with the influence of New Calvinism on these younger preachers of whose generation would include me. But, even within that overall system, it can’t be a positive to neglect what you describe as seeking His “reviving presence.” I use these terms just to describe the “boxes” you speak of, without necessarily I’m a novice, and have so much still to embrace… Read more »
Thanks for your thoughts. God always blesses the seeking heart.