By Richard Gammill | PREVIEW Columnist
Something powerful just happened in the small town of Wilmore, Ky. Something which for thousands of people proved to be more transformative than anything that happens in Washington, D.C. It was something that will leave its mark on our country for years to come.
It began on Feb. 8 following a required Wednesday morning chapel service at Asbury University that ended with the speaker texting his wife that he had totally “whiffed” his message. Only it hadn’t ended; after a concluding song by a gospel trio, several students stayed to pray. They gathered in small clusters around the auditorium and kept praying. Other students looked in and with a sense of what was happening, raced around the campus, bursting into classrooms shouting, “Revival is happening!” The auditorium began filling with students.
The spontaneous prayer service continued through the afternoon and into the late evening. Remembering the revival that came to Asbury in February 1970, the administrators had to make some decisions. They decided to have ministers stay in Hughes Auditorium and have security watch the building but keep it open and the sound system on. They would let the students stay and pray, testify, bring their guitars and sing as long as they wanted. That turned out to be the first of many such decisions they had to make over the next two weeks.
What happened next was reported online by the student newspaper: “During a call of confession, at least a hundred people fell to their knees and bowed at the altar. Hands rested on shoulders, linking individual people together to represent the Body of Christ truly. Cries of addiction, pride, fear, anger and bitterness sounded, each followed by a life-changing proclamation: ‘Christ forgives you.’” Friends from other states started texting the editor, asking her what was happening and why. She told them she didn’t know, but God still moves.
A crowd of 3,000 gathered on the Asbury campus by Friday evening while word of the revival spread via social media brought thousands more. Fox News and other outlets carried the story. Wilmore (population 6,000) was overwhelmed as an estimated 20,000 people came from across the country and other parts of the world to experience what God was doing. Two large screens were set up on the campus to show what was happening in the chapel, where young adults were given priority of admission. The revival spread to other college campuses. Livestreaming took the sessions across the country. Finally, on Thursday, Feb. 23, after 400 hours of nonstop worship and praise, the administration announced the services would continue off campus across the country.
A similar movement came to Asbury in February 1970. As it did this time, it came quietly, focusing on spiritual awakening, prayer, praise to Jesus, confession, repentance and changed lives. Instead of Internet and social media, teams of Asbury students went to campus communities across the country, bringing reports of changed lives and spiritual renewal. One of those communities was Palo Alto, Calif., home of Stanford University, where the response gave birth to the Jesus Movement. The radical nature of the “Jesus freaks” shook up the believers in the local Christian community.
This writer moved to Palo Alto in 1992 to pastor a small church a mile up the road from Peninsula Bible Church which, with its Pastor Ray Stedman, was closely identified with the Jesus Movement. During my time in this highly educated city, I met many Christians who made their commitment to Jesus Christ during the afterglow of the Asbury revival of 1970.
Followers of Jesus in Wilmore and nearby Lexington, Ky., have prayed for years: “Do it again, Lord; do it again.” The next weeks and months will reveal the extent to which God is answering those prayers.
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