Is the revival that seems once again to have started on Christian university campuses real, genuine, God-ordained, and will it ultimately make a spiritual impact?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #71 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
Revival on college and university campuses are not new to American history. But in the current post-Christian culture one no longer expects it.
That said, revival services started this month at Asbury University, Wilmore, Kentucky. “Impromptu nonstop prayer meeting over the past week, drawing visitors from across the country, attracting millions of views on social media and fueling talk of a nationwide religious revival.”
Scripture reading, public prayers, confessions, arms raised, worship singing, some students being saved by making professions of faith in Christ.
“Personal testimonies have gone viral on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, racking up millions of views and inspiring carloads of visitors to descend on Wilmore, population 6,000, to share in what some are calling a movement.”
The movement has spread to other Christian institutions of higher learning: “Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee; Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio; Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky.” Also, revival has now been reported at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama and Campbellsville University in Campbellsville, Kentucky.
“What is happening resembles the famous Asbury Revival of 1970…That revival shut down classes for a week, then went on for two more weeks with nightly services. Hundreds of students went out to share what happened with other schools. But what many don’t realize is that Asbury has an even more extensive history with revivals—including one that took place as early as 1905 and another as recent as 2006, when a student chapel led to four days of continuous worship, prayer and praise.”
The fact of these revivals seems to fly in the face of recent predictions suggesting Christian colleges and universities may soon be a thing of the past.
John Hawthorne, a retired Christian college sociology professor and administrator, said, “Denominations won’t budge, so colleges will need to lead the way. “Otherwise, they might not survive, because students are used to values far different from churches’ teachings.”
’Today’s college freshman was born in 2004, the year Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage,’ Hawthorne said, suggesting there might not be enough conservative students in the future for some of the universities to survive.
“The majority of Christian colleges and universities list “sexual orientation” in their nondiscrimination statements, and half also include “gender identity” – far more than did so in 2013,” according to Jonathan Coley, a sociologist at Oklahoma State University who maintains a Christian higher education database of policies toward LGBTQ students.
“At some evangelical schools, the argument has now moved from fighting over student's sexual and gender equality to fighting for LGBTQ diversity in faculty and staff hiring.”
“This year, Eastern University, located in St. Davids, Pennsylvania, and affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA, amended its policies to allow for the hiring of faculty in same-sex marriages.”
So, in this view, Christian colleges and universities who don’t “get on the right side of history” and alter or jettison their biblical beliefs about human sexuality are likely to fade into the sunset very soon. Meanwhile, God may have other things in mind.
“People and media have been converging on the (Asbury) campus to try and understand what is happening; what is God doing?...Among those who have attended, who are believers, there seems to be little doubt the hand of the Holy Spirit is at work. The revival began without any famous Christian leader or band being involved. It was not pre-promoted.”
William M. Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University, said, “The revival is helping fill a spiritual void among members of Generation Z.” In his view, “these young people are feeling in their life this spiritual vacuum, somewhat of an emptiness in the society they’re in and a real need for hope.”
“The mental health crisis in this generation is significant. The uncertainty of the times, the feeling of lostness, in a world of 8 billion people, who are they, in the midst of it, the desire for purpose. I think,” the ORU president said, “all of these are driving a generation to look beyond themselves for the answer.”
In 1 John 4, the Scripture says, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God.”
So, we need to ask questions even as we pray in hope regarding these revivals:
- Is this revival consistent with the Word of God?
- Will students’ humility be sustained?
- Is Jesus Christ exalted?
- Does this revival involve confession and repentance, obedience, salvation by faith in Christ, open confession of love for Christ?
- Will God move this revival to public universities?
At Asbury, students are arriving from other universities: the University of Kentucky, Purdue University, Indiana Wesleyan University, Ohio Christian University, Transylvania University, Midway University, Georgetown College, Mt. Vernon Nazarene University, and many others.
After witnessing the revival for himself, an Asbury Theological Seminary theology professor said, “There is no pressure or hype. There is no manipulation. There is no high-pitched emotional fervor.
To the contrary, it has so far been mostly calm and serene. The mix of hope and joy and peace is indescribably strong and indeed almost palpable—a vivid and incredibly powerful sense of shalom. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is undeniably powerful but also so gentle.”
I do not know what God is doing at Asbury or these other universities, but I do believe God is working, that he is doing something powerful and far-reaching.
I pray that the Lord will send his Spirit upon the land beginning perhaps with the most spiritually bereft of places in America—not Hollywood or Broadway, not Bourbon Street—but the college and university campus.
Students coming of age in America have been sold a bill of goods. Our culture has taught youth to reject God, absolute truth, morality, even biological science. Instead, they’ve been taught skepticism and cynicism, that nothing deserves their faith, that nothing and no one is worthy of their trust, certainly not patriotism and not the USA. And sadly, a lot of adults have given youth good cause for their cynicism.
Youth are taught in school, in their music, in their celebrity worship, in their sexual confusion that nothing matters, that there is no purpose, just uncertainty, angst, disquietude.
And nothing has been put in place of this deconstruction of timeless verities. All young people have is nihilism – the idea life is absurd and meaningless.
Is it any wonder that there is an epidemic of mental health issues among America’s young people?
Nihilism—a philosophy that is irrational, false, wicked, and the face of death, destroys everything it touches, and now it is destroying the nation’s next generation, making them believe life—their lives—are meaningless.
Then the Spirit of God moves among some of his children, speaking in a whisper (I Kings 19:11-12). Perhaps God is whispering at Asbury University and other Christian colleges and universities eager to hear.
If the Lord sends revival across the youth generation, he will change the future of not only their lives but their families, the culture, and the country.
I encourage you to follow these revivals. Pray the Spirit of God will move. Pray God bless America.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
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