Some call it revival, some call it renewal. Whatever you label it, what happened at Asbury University was something special.
Perhaps you’ve not yet heard about this, or don’t even know about Asbury, a relatively small Christian University in the States. I first heard about it when Mark, a friend from Kentucky, shared about his visit on day four into the revival. News spread rapidly, and after a week I was hearing my local friends talking about it too.
It started with a regular chapel service on 8 February that just kept going. Students returned to the chapel to pray as the band continued to play, and people began flocking to join in seeking God together.
After 13 days of 24-hour prayer and worship, the revival is considered ‘ended’ as of Sunday. Did it peter out? No - it was because the campus and surrounding city of Wilmore was overwhelmed by thousands of visitors, travelling to get a taste of what was stirring.
When I first asked Mark if he wanted to chat about it, he called me immediately. He turned his video on to show him standing outside the Asbury chapel, surrounded by a crowd of people with arms raised. "I’m no longer a slave to fear," they sang out in chorus, "I am a child of God."
Mark is a pastor and teacher who has been praying for revival for 30 years. He started to get emotional when he described his experience of walking onto campus.
Churches surrounding Wilmore were asked to open up their buildings for prayer. The movement spread as other churches and universities across the country began seeing nonstop prayer and worship on their own grounds. In a world of division and disunity - most noticeably over the pandemic years - something is stirring that is so opposite.
"The very things that we’ve been the most divided on have been the things that God has brought together," Mark said. "Different races, nationalities, generations and social classes. It’s so beautiful to see that the only thing people care about is Jesus."
Even the Church’s tendency to make celebrities out of preachers has been flipped upside down as Absury lecturers with PhDs escort worshipers through the rain, and college staff gently turn down big names from "helping out."
But Mark’s not content for it to be just that. "Revival is only as good as its impact on our life," he said. "If we just have a lot of exciting services and nothing changes in society, then it was just that - exciting services."
Some historians have said that it was a revival that saved England from suffering the same bloody massacre that their neighbours endured in the French Revolution. After the ministry and work of John Wesley and his companions, they say that "the same blood-letting that occurred in France against the monarchy, the church, and nobility would very likely have occurred in England had it not been for the Evangelical Awakening in England."
Wesley’s ministry wasn’t just preaching and awakening the Church, it was helping the poor find jobs and giving people hope. The result of that was societal transformation, and it changed history. Mark wants to see the same happen in the United States and across the world. True revival gets out on the street and makes a difference.
"I’m just looking to see what God does," he said. Then he laughed. "I’m almost scared."
America isn’t the only place experiencing a movement of God. Stories of revival breaking out are coming from the Philippines, Uganda, and all over the world.
So, I’ve been sensing God asking deep questions about being ready and hungry for an outpouring. What form might revival take place in our churches in Aotearoa, New Zealand? Would I be ready to welcome it even if it came to another church down the road rather than to the one where I worship? In what way might God's tangible presence catalyse a social transformation in our society?
We have invited these writers to share their experiences, ideas and opinions in the hope that these will provoke thought, challenge you to go deeper and inspire you to put your faith into action. These articles should not be taken as the official view of the Nelson Diocese on any particular matter.