You’ve probably heard of the chapel service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky that has continued on basically non-stop for a week. You’ve probably also read some commentary on social media about the event, which is being given the label revival. A lot of people have a lot of thoughts, both of praise and of critique. And since this is the internet and there always needs to be one more voice or thought, here’s mine.
Supporters rave about the constant flow of song, Scripture reading, and prayers of repentance. And they should. These are beautiful things. Based on the few glimpses of Heaven we get in Scripture, those in the presence of God are continually singing to and about God. Nobody should roll their eyes at college students joining in.
Critics wonder if the hours those students spend in song and prayer are just the result of emotionalism rather than an authentic move of the Holy Spirit. And they should wonder that. Historically, the American expression of Christianity has tended toward emotional appeals in order to engage people. This isn’t necessarily wrong because our emotions are God-given, but it can be manipulative and it can produce a crowd mentality in which those around the genuinely affected participate just to fit in.
A step beyond the critics (I don’t know exactly what to call them) demand declarations from these students. Are they denouncing Christian nationalism? Pledging to practice better environmental stewardship habits? Decrying systemic justice? They reach back to prophetic decrees that tell us God is concerned with us loving others as God loves, and any authentic revival will result in the kind of love that dismantles unjust interpersonal barriers. True revival is more than singing and Scripture reading; it’s a changed life. And they are correct.
Basically, everyone wants to know if this is a God-thing or a human-thing.
I confess to my own internal hesitation when I first heard of this event last week, but that hesitation arises from different questions. I experienced a real move of God my freshman year of high school…which the private school I attended promptly squashed. Needless to say, this had a profound and negative impact on me and others. I found myself wondering how quick the leaders at Asbury were going to be to insist that life return to normal. After all, Christian schools might be Christian, but they’re also schools. All that Jesus stuff can come after papers are turned in. I know that Asbury officials are probably walking a tightrope here because education does matter (a lot), but I’m glad they’ve chosen to be flexible thus far.
In their flexibility is a lesson for us.
We’re all too impatient.
Look back on your own life. Do you hold the same positions you held five years ago? Are you the same person you were pre-worldwide pandemic? Have you stopped learning? Have you outgrown the need to say, “I was wrong about that?”
Do you have eyes to see the ways in which God has been so tenderly patient with you?
Who are you, or me, or any of us, to demand something, anything, from these college students?
God’s ways are not our ways. God’s timing is not our timing. It’s okay for these young adults to have what will be in the end just a brief moment of respite from the chaos of the world. They don’t have to go out and right all the wrongs tomorrow, because if we’re honest most of us aren’t on that kind of crusade and it’s unfair for us to place that burden on them. Let them have their days of singing, reading, and prayer. Even if some are caught up in the emotions of it, they’re participating in worship and that’s not a bad thing.
I hope that lives are genuinely and forever changed because of what’s happening at Asbury. I hope that the love of God is made manifest in the ongoing words and actions of these young people as the mountaintop fades from view and they return to the valley of the everyday. But if they stumble, and make mistakes, or don’t always say or do the right thing – well, have we used up all the grace? Is there none left for them?
Pray for the students of Asbury. Choose along with me to be optimistic. And choose to remember that God has yet to give up on all that God has made.
GRACE AND PEACE ALONG THE WAY,
Image Courtesy of Luis Alberto Sánchez Terrones
2 thoughts on “The Forty-Sixth Day of 2023”
My God’s always been the Lord
of Psalm number one-four-four,
because from birth He aimed me toward
a harsh proficiency in war.
I don’t think about environment,
justice is not my concern;
I have to limit my intent
to training, and to learn
how now I might here well apply
all of which that I became
to another place in which to die,
a place that has no face nor name
but tonight’s made manifest
by cancer’s final fatal test.
Amen and amen. May it be real and true and life changing and a marathon rather than a sprint. God loves us all so much, especially the lost wanderers, the rejected and abused and confused like I was in college. Come Lord Jesus, Good Shepherd, and save Your lambs.