Revive Us Again
Part 2 of 2
Everyone has “that person” on their team. You know them. When everybody else gets excited about an idea, they are the ones who say “are we really sure that will work?”
For me, that person is Meredith. She is my assistant and serves on our college staff in a myriad of ways. I trust her wisdom implicitly, and I know she is never going to jump on the bandwagon of any idea without having thoroughly thought it through. Which is why I was so surprised when at a time when our team was absolutely exhausted, she was the one pushing for us to do extended revival nights at our church!
Let me give you some background: my wife and I both grew up in wonderful Baptist churches famous for having “revival weeks.” During this five-night stand, a speaker would come in to speak, and people would be given a chance to respond to a salvation call or come to the front to pledge their life to ministry.
While these nights were always powerful, they are not what I am praying for when I ask God to bring another great awakening to our campus and the campuses of this nation. I think more along the lines of something that spontaneously combusts, and the transformation of a community is obvious and contagious to all!
Which is why I was surprised when I felt like the Holy Spirit recently prompted me to host five nights of revival at our church. I felt like He had been speaking to me that it was time to return to our first love again.
There was just one problem: we were wiped out. It was near the end of the semester and we had left it all on the field. I went to my staff and said, “I know we need to host some of these nights. But maybe we could just do two or three. I just don’t know that everyone can take five nights in a row.” And by everyone, I meant me.
That’s when, to my surprise, Meredith spoke up. “Are you kidding me? There’s too much sin, pain, addiction, and hunger for God in our midst to shorten this week. We need every bit of those five days – maybe more!”
So let it be written. So let it be done.
I pulled a small band of college students together and we begin to fast and pray that God would move in power. We invited several speakers and our church worship team to lead us and, just like the students at Asbury College in 1970, we asked several students to share their testimonies each night.
While I am the producer of our services and conferences at church, this would not have any of the makings of a well-oiled machine. We would simply welcome everyone, let the worship team take off, have someone share their personal testimony of breakthrough, have our speaker preach boldly, and then give time for the Holy Spirit to move on students’ hearts.
The first night, we shared about revivals of old – and it felt dead in the room. As the night concluded we took communion together, but it felt less like the joys of Easter Sunday and more like the death of Good Friday. I was sure our numbers would plummet the following night.
But the students on our team had more faith than I did: “Carl, the seed was planted tonight. Hunger is going to swell, and the people will come.” And they were right. Every night our numbers grew like crazy.
But it wasn’t about the numbers of students (and others) who joined our services, it was about the expectation that was happening in all of our students that God was on the move. People who had never stepped foot into our church started showing up. Faith began to rise, and it was not uncommon for students to leave those meetings and go to the streets and share the gospel. Like Peter and John on the way to the temple, they prayed for the sick and saw God do some supernatural things.
In the weeks that followed the “Nights of Revival,” students shared every week in our small groups, our college service, and in discipleship sessions about the ways they had encountered the power of God. For many of our students, it was a place where they put a stake in the ground and boldly said: I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back!
At the end of that week, I was overflowing with satisfied exhaustion.
I was more tired than I had been in a long time, but we had seen God move in a way that was truly supernatural. Did we reach the level of the Welsh Revival? You would’ve heard by now if we had. But the beginnings of something special had started to rumble.
While I am not convinced that this is an event we need to do every year, I am convinced of this:
- Revival services like this give our students much-needed, uninterrupted, undistracted time to meet with Jesus in a way that gets to the deepest parts of their souls.
- Revival services like this send our students into the next season or semester full of faith for what God can do.
- Revival services like this give our students a chance to experience the fear of God and thus deal ruthlessly with their sin.
- As other revivals (like the one at Asbury in the 70’s) taught us, revival services like this allow our students to experience the filling, gifts, and power of the Holy Spirit.
- Revival services like this plant seeds of hope and expectation in our students that another Great Awakening is possible!
Can all of these things happen in church on Sunday morning or at a weekly meeting? Absolutely. But I believe having these consecutive meetings helped build momentum as word spread on campus that God was on the move – and many showed up and encountered Jesus in a fresh new way and were marked, empowered, envisioned, saved…changed!
I consistently re-read the stories of the Welsh Revival of 1905. It stuns me that 100,000 people were touched! At times hundreds of people (specifically those normally untouched by the ministry of the church) would stand to declare their surrender to Christ as Lord.
Translated in our day, that would be like saying:
“Fraternities and sororities began having wild prayer meetings instead of drunken weekend parties. Reconciliation between African-American and white students was a normal occurrence. Students repented to professors for cheating and apologized to their parents for the disrespect they had shown for so long. Many were liberated from pornography and sexual sin. Counseling centers were hardly needed. The churches were filled to capacity. Many graduates laid aside their degrees and jobs to head to the nations, so that every tribe and tongue could hear the gospel of Jesus in our lifetime!”
College minister, it’s time for you to tell the revival stories of old. You may not agree with all of my points, and that’s ok. But what would happen if college students across this nation caught a vision for a God-visitation? What if they began to fast and pray until they saw a breakthrough? What would it look like for the students on your campus to start believing for an unprecedented move of God?
Habakkuk 3:2 says, “O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”
Even so, come Lord Jesus!