Revival at Asbury

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The fresh wind of revival seems to be blowing at Asbury University. Word started spreading on social media Wednesday that students simply didn’t want to leave the chapel service after it ended. I’m not on social media anymore, but I had several friends send me links to what was happening. Hundreds of students stayed or came back throughout the day to pray and sing and recite Scripture. And it kept going. Tom McCall, chair of theology at Asbury Seminary, gives an account:

Winfield Bevins, director of church planting at the seminary, shares a taste:

Testimonies continue to pour in on Twitter and Facebook. For the latest, just search for #asburyrevival.

Tom’s thread above captures my own sentiments well. I am the inheritor of a strongly revivalist tradition of Alabama Baptist piety, and I appreciate so much of the spirituality that gave birth to my own faith. But I see the weaknesses in it as well: the dangers of manipulation, an overemphasis on experience, and sometimes a neglect of more regular patterns of spirituality–gospel-patterned liturgies, regular observance of the ordinances, and worship and preaching that is oriented toward the edification of the body, not just the conversion of the lost. But for those of us who critique revivalism, we must be careful not to foreclose the possibility of true revival. The Spirit appears to be blowing where it listeth at Asbury, an institution rooted in Wesleyan spirituality. And we all need to be paying attention. And praying.

The reason why these early reports of revival are so moving, I think, is that we all have grown so cold and cynical toward the possibility of an authentic experience of the Spirit, and we don’t even realize it. Or else we don’t fully appreciate it. The Christian West is dying, withering, fracturing. Out of an apparent sense of desperation, many professing Christians are becoming more radical and divisive, drawing tighter and tighter circles of theological (and, more often, political) narrowness. Others are grasping for something, anything, to recover an authentic faith. Often we are searching for something historical, something back behind our current malaise: medieval scholasticism, Reformation- and post-Reformation-era political theology, Calvinism, etc. There is, no doubt, some utility in these arenas of retrieval. I’m interested in them as well. But for those of us whose spiritual patrimony lies, at least in part, in the Anglo-American revivals of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, perhaps we have neglected something important. Maybe there is still some fire left in the embers of evangelical piety. God grant it.

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