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The Asbury Revival
by Cadet Grant Hall

 

What is revival, and how does it occur? In the twentieth century there have been a few revivals that have occurred in society. One of note is the Asbury College Revival in Kentucky. This short paper will focus on this revival, and compare some common characteristics with some other revivals that occurred in the twentieth century.

 

So what happened in 1970 at this small college campus Asbury? What made this such a tremendously important part of our church history? Preparation. According to Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, it began with one of the young female students wanting a deeper blessing of God on this campus (Parisis). In October 1969, she started a group of six similar minded students which they called a ‘Great Experiment’. This is similar to the Wesley brothers ‘Holy club’, stressing study, and rules of life that included prayer (Shelley). The ‘Holy Club’ was setup by Charles and John Wesley to be a group that were motivated by prayer and accountability, in contrast to the impact of Deism in the school, and society (Sheppard). The ‘Great Experiment’ is also similar to John Avant’s accountability group, preceding the Howard Payne College’s revival in 1995 (McDow).

 

The ‘Great Experiment’ was a small group accountability covenant. For 30 days, they focused on: Thirty minutes of daily prayer, Reading God’s word, writing down truth from His word, Obeying that truth daily, Sharing their faith with others, Meeting once a week, and Checking up with each other. From October the ‘Great Experiment’ grew to six groups of six in January 1970. On Saturday January 31st, the thirty-six students led a chapel service, sharing what they were doing, and what God was doing in their life. There were individual commitment slips on the pews encouraging others to do the same. In addition to this, there were prayer meetings held. On the night of February 2nd, they repeated the question as they would do at the end of all their prayer meetings “Do you think He’ll come today?” The response was heard strongly by those present, “It’s gonna happen tomorrow” (Parisis). And indeed God kept his word.

 

“I have a problem…and I don’t quite know how to handle it.” The Dean said.

 

“What is it?” Asked Kinlaw on the other end of the telephone conversation from Texas.

“It’s chapel. It’s not over yet.”

 

 “It isn’t over yet? The morning chapel isn’t over yet? What do you mean it isn’t over yet? It is 7:00 at night. [Chapel started at 10 am] What happened?”

 

“God is here!”

 

What started in October, brought an eight-day chapel service to the Asbury College. This was not an individually led rally, or a meeting like Aimee McPherson’s or Billy Sunday’s that would entertain us, but it was simply God’s presence among the students (Cooper). It was a meeting led by the student body, blessed by God, involving testimonies, weeping, singing, and prayer. But it did not stop there. At night those students were on the telephone “when the rates were cheaper”, talking with parents, friends, and telling others of what happened (Parisis). And so it spread, like wild fire. A student would share what happened at the Asbury Chapel in a local church, and the experience would be duplicated right there in that church, like a spark on dry brush. God’s spirit was moving, not just in Asbury, but spreading to nearby towns, cities, and states. There was television coverage, local newspaper stories, and students were sharing stories of this event. It had coverage on a national scale.

 

When Dr. Dennis Kinlaw arrived into Asbury from Canada, there was a noticeable difference in the aura of God as he drove closer. It was obvious that there was something going on there, and now he was amongst it. Not wanting to deflate what was going on, or defile the holy presence with his uncleanliness, he entered the chapel, and sat down at the back. He heard the confession of the students, and the repenting of sin. Then one student came up to him. “Dr. Kinlaw. I am a liar. What do I do?” Kinlaw suggested that this student start with the last person they lied to, and ask them to forgive her (Parisis).

 

What was taking place in this college chapel was, “an honest, candid dealing with personal sin, and with personal disobediences, and personal problems.” The student told Dr. Kinlaw, three days later, she had just repented to her 34th person, and she was free. This was different to the ‘revivals’ that were managed by people like Billy Sunday, and Aimee McPherson. There was no entertainment factor, there was no preaching, just sharing, prayer and repentance. In Asbury College, Howard Payne College, and the Welsh revival, people confessed their sins to a public audience (“Welsh Revival”). Their attitude is similar to what God desired in 1 Chronicles 7 “If my people… will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (v14). On that day in Texas, at Howard Payne University, McDow tells of an avalanche of 300-400 young students that came to the platform to share their sin. One began simply by saying “You think that I have been such a good Christian, but I’ve been wearing a mask. Tonight I am taking off the mask” (McDow 325). In Asbury College a professor did the same. He shared a candid confession of his hypocrisy, living with guilt for not teaching effectively, but then “God came down” (Parisis). The Professor humbled himself, and acknowledged his sin. God replaced it with peace, and joy. He was noticeably different in the following days, weeks, and months.

 

There was a similar experience in Wales. Evan Roberts was part of a 1904 revival that spread quickly to the surrounding town. Like this lone student at the Asbury campus, Roberts prayed for revival in Wales. It began on Valentine’s Day night with one woman confessing “I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart” (“Welsh Revival”). It continued within a small group of people, who had agreed to seek a deeper spiritual life, staying behind to hear from Roberts. They agreed to confess all known sin, remove anything from their life that they were in doubt, yielding to the Holy Spirit, and publicly confessing the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior. Like Asbury, a revival had started from this small group, which encompassed the local area.

 

There was change in the darkest, uncanny people in the Welsh town of Loughor. And the effects of this were felt by people in the 100,000’s. There were miners, young men, and women who were now speaking openly, testifying of the saving grace of Jesus.

It is the Holy Spirit, student led, confession, testimony, and prayer that brought about these revivals. There are records of those who have endeavored to do such things by their own strength, people like Sunday, and McPherson to name a couple. But the revivals in Asbury College, Howard Payne College and Loughor, Wales, were started by an individual. One person who was not content to let God be absent from their community. Not content to keep the fire within themselves, but to share it. And have a strategy. The ‘Great Experiment’, the ‘holy club’, and talking to people who desired change in their community. It certainly makes me wonder… Are we doing all we can to encourage revival here?

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Cooper, William H. The Great Revivalists in American Religion, 1740-1944: The Careers and Theology of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Dwight Moody, Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson. Jefferson: McFarland, 2010. Print.

Holy Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print. New Intl. Vers.

McDow, Malcolm, and Alvin L. Reid. Firefall: How God Has Shaped History through Revivals. Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 1997. Print.

Parisis, Peter John. A Revival Account: Asbury 1970. Archive.org. Internet

     Archive, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. 4th. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013. Print.

Sheppard, Trent, and America Campus. God On Campus: Sacred Causes & Global Effects. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books, 2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

"The Welsh Revival of 1904-1905." Kingdom Treasure Ministries. Truth in History,

     2005. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.

 

  

 

 

   

 

 

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