Something is happening in tiny Wilmore, KY. Some are calling it the Asbury Revival. Others are referring to it as a ‘non-stop church service’. Still others are simply calling it an amazing experience. Whatever it is, there is a lesson to be learned here. It is a lesson for an American Church that departed from genuine Biblical worship a long time ago.
Asbury University, a small Christian college located in Wilmore, requires a certain level of church attendance among its student body. The school conducted what it thought would be a normal service on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Things turned out to be anything but normal.
Reports say that many of the students were so overwhelmed by what they perceived as the presence of the Lord that they did not want to leave Absury’s chapel when the service concluded. So they stayed. And then they stayed longer. They ended up staying until the school finally decided to close services to all but students beginning Feb. 22.
Overwhelming a Little Town
University officials had little choice but to make the decision they made. The entire town of Wilmore has a population of just 6,000. With thousands more coming from all over the country – and in some cases, other parts of the world – the town was unable to accommodate so many people. The university campus was equally overwhelmed.
The good news is that university officials aren’t asking people to stop. Rather, they are encouraging those who are serious about continuing to take their prayers and worship to their own churches and schools. In essence, they don’t want to stop the Asbury Revival. They want it to spread.
So, what does all of this mean? It’s hard to say. We’ve seen revivals come and go so many times in the past. Who is to say whether or not the Asbury Revival is a genuine act of God or just an emotional response from people who desperately want something to hold on to. As a Christian myself, I choose to believe that God is working. With that said, I believe there is an important lesson for the American church in all of this.
Desperate for the Truth
I’ve seen pictures and videos from the Asbury Revival. Some of them have struck me as pretty ordinary. But others, like one showing what appeared to be hundreds of people praying on their knees in front of the chapel, have moved me to the core. Again, I’m assuming that all of this is a genuine work of the Lord. And if that’s truly the case, I’ve never seen so many people assembled in the same place, genuinely seeking God without all the trappings of modern Christianity.
What strikes me most was something that a young lady named Haley Anderson said in a recent interview. Anderson is an Asbury University student and president of the local Turning Point USA hub. When asked why so many young people were keeping a 24-hour prayer and worship vigil at the church, she responded, “we’re desperate for the truth.”
Go back and read that quote again. It’s just five simple words, but five words with an incredible amount of impact – at least if your heart is soft enough to be affected by the Holy Spirit. Seriously. Think about it. Here is a typical Gen Zer, a college student who is supposed to be more concerned about enjoying the independence and freedom of college life than anything else. But at this point in time, she is more concerned about knowing the truth.
Anderson went on to say that she and her fellow Gen Zers are “desperate to find meaning and find purpose.” The lesson for the American Church is encapsulated in a single word: why. Why is it that these young people, most of whom claim to have grown up in Christian homes, find they lack meaning and purpose? Why are they just now seeking the truth?
The Ball Has Been Dropped
The answers to my questions are plain to see if you’re willing to face the uncomfortable truth. Simply put, the ball has been dropped. It has been dropped by parents, grandparents, pastors, Sunday school teachers, christian schools, et al. Asbury’s student body, and the thousands of others who joined them over the last 14 days, are seeking the truth, meaning, and purpose they did not find at home and in their churches.
If nothing else, the Asbury Revival reveals the proverbial elephant in the American Church’s great room. That elephant is the fact that modern Christianity does not normally preach and teach the truth. Genuine worship rarely occurs within our Christian circles. And at home, where faith is supposed to be as real as it gets, kids are being raised by Christian parents who are Biblically illiterate and unable to stand for a truth they don’t know.
An Immature Faith
America’s pulpits are filled by pastors and teachers who barely know the basic stories we used to take for granted in Sunday school 50 years ago. Instead of teaching and preaching the truth, they are discussing pop culture, politics, and the latest TV shows that everyone else seems to be talking about.
America’s worship leaders aren’t leading their congregations in worship. They are leading them in musical psychotherapy. They are teaching their congregations to sing songs that have little to do with the God of the Bible and everything to do with narcissism and all its nasty implications.
As for serious prayer, forget about it. We rarely witness it anymore. Most modern prayers fall under one of three categories: meaningless rote words memorized long ago, name-it-and-claim-it gibberish, and vacuous prayer list utterings with very little thought or feeling behind them. When was the last time you witnessed a Christian falling on his face in genuine humility, reverence, and repentance?
Still Sucking the Paps
As a former pastor and someone who has had a passion for genuine revival for the better part of 30 years, I am both tickled pink and distressed by what’s happening in Wilmore, KY. On the one hand, I have great hope that the revival is real and it will spread across the U.S. like wildfire. On the other hand, past experience has made me skeptical. Call me jaded. It’s just that I’ve seen these things before.
Don’t forget that I choose to believe the Asbury Revival is a genuine work of God. But I also believe in the concept of free will. God will move in the midst of his people only as long as they allow him to do so, which brings me to my final point.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer laments the fact and he cannot discuss Jesus as a priest after the order of Melchizedek because his readers are too spiritually immature to have such a discussion. Here’s how he puts it in Heb. 5:11-14:
11 Of whom we have many things to say, and hard to be uttered, seeing you are dull of hearing.
12 For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.
13 For every one that uses milk is unskillfull in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe.
14 But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
Why do you suppose so many young people are desperate for the truth, as Haley Anderson so eloquently put it? Why are they equally desperate for meaning and purpose? Because spiritually speaking, they are still babes sucking the paps of a Church that refuses to give them meat.
As the prophets Amos and Hosea both explained in time past, we are in the midst of a spiritual famine caused by abandoning the Scriptures in favor of worldly thinking. A famine brought on by trading genuine worship for psychotherapy and leaving off prayer in favor of meaningless babble.
There Is Still Hope, For Now
The most important lesson from the Asbury Revival is two-fold. What you’ve read thus far explains the first part. Here’s the second part: there is still hope for the Church, at least for now. Until God determines we have passed the point of no return – and I believe that could happen any time now – the Church still has the ability to repent and return.
The solution to our spiritual malaise is not complicated. It doesn’t require a college degree to understand. It starts with accepting the fact that we are all starving for the truth. What Asbury reveals is that some people are more desperate than others. But if we were all as desperate as those students, the Asbury Revival would have no choice but to spread across the country.
As an ordained minister and former pastor, I challenge my colleagues around the country to start studying the Bible like you’ve never studied before. Study long and hard. Then teach it to your congregations. Teach every last bit of it from Genesis to Revelation. And while you’re at it, I challenge you to teach line-by-line. Abandon your series mentality and start teaching the Bible the same way you would teach any other book.
As a worship leader, I challenge my colleagues around the country to turn off Christian radio, get into the psalms, and discover what genuine worship looks and sounds like. I challenge you to set aside the modern psychotherapy that constitutes worship and replace it with the real thing.
Finally, as a man who is extremely passionate about prayer, I challenge Christians everywhere to humble themselves before the God of all Creation, submitting to his authority and sovereignty. I challenge Christians to stop treating God like a religious Santa Claus. Real, serious prayer requires genuine humility. It requires sorrow for sins and a willingness to repent.
Something is happening in Kentucky. I choose to believe it’s real. I hope and pray that it is. If it is the start of a genuine revival I have been praying about for over three decades, I very much want to be a part of it. I hope you do too, and not just for the emotional experience. I sincerely hope you want to see God’s people return to him with hearts of genuine humility and submission.