Revival awakening flowed through several college campuses in 1970, beginning at Asbury College, a Christian liberal arts college of Methodist roots, and its graduate school, Asbury Theological Seminary, both in Wilmore, Kentucky (near Lexington). A small group of students began getting up thirty minutes earlier each day to gather for Scripture reading and prayer in search of a new touch from God. God granted meaningful experiences to those involved in this new discipline, and word of it spread through the student body. Group meetings to pray for spiritual awakening became common for both faculty and students.
On February 3, about one thousand students made their way to the 10:00 a.m. chapel service. As the students entered, an unusual air of expectancy accompanied the casual chatter. The dean of the college, scheduled to be the chapel speaker, laid aside his planned message and began to share with the students some of his personal experiences with God.
A holy hush settled upon the audience. When the dean invited the students to tell what God was doing in their hearts, they responded quickly. Many of them were immediately on their feet, giving fervent testimonies that reflected God’s inner-heart searchings. Tears of concern and repentance began to flow.
The typical clichés common to many testimony services were absent. Instead, intense, contagious sincerity characterized humility and brokenness before the Lord. Robert Coleman reported, “Everyone sensed that something unusual was happening. God seemed very near” (18).
As the allotted time for chapel ended, one of the professors made his way to the platform. He invited any student who desired to pray to come to the altar. The student body began to sing “Just as I Am,” and the response was instant and massive. The presence of God was strong, and all other interests seemed suddenly unimportant. The bell sounded for classes to begin, but no one left the chapel. Faculty and students alike realized God was at work. Students lined up to share testimonies. Confessions were made. Old hostilities between individuals melted away. God’s presence and love immersed them all.
At lunchtime the dining hall remained empty. Spiritual hunger supplanted physical hunger.
Classes were suspended indefinitely. Prayer, testimonies, music, and Bible readings became a continuing part of the spontaneous participation. Some left the auditorium service at the dinner hour, but shortly the auditorium began to fill again. At times its 1,550 seating capacity was not sufficient. Word spread to the nearby seminary and to the townspeople concerning what was happening. People stood along the walls and crowded into the aisles and doorways. Everyone wanted to be a part of what God was doing.
The 450 seminary students were so challenged by God’s visitation at the college that they entered into an all-night campus prayer meeting. The next morning the planned service of seminary chapel hymn singing was changed. One student stood to relate how the college revival had affected him, and spontaneously others began to move to the front and kneel at the altar in prayer. Students and faculty members formed a line at the pulpit, awaiting their turn to give testimony or to relate spiritual needs.
The seminary and college merged into united meetings, and smaller group prayer meetings spilled over everywhere. Classrooms were often filled with intercessors and seekers. Local churches and townspeople were drawn in and began to participate. The chapel meeting was continuous. Even at 3:00 a.m., more than two hundred people would still be meeting for testimony, prayer, Scripture reading, and singing. For an entire week, 185 continuous hours, the auditorium was wholly or partially filled with worshippers.
Numerous other colleges were touched as well. At least 130 colleges, seminaries, and Bible schools across the world were affected by what happened at Asbury, estimated Henry C. James, a spokesman at Asbury Theological Seminary. From Asbury in the east to Greenville College in the Midwest (Illinois) to Azusa Pacific College on the West Coast (California), awakenings were underway. Those who participated in the overflow of the Asbury revival will never forget that unusual visit of God’s grace.
Accounts of recent revival awakenings are encouraging. The college revivals of spring 1995 affected more than a dozen schools nationwide. Some have hesitated to call the times of confession and prayer “revival,” preferring to speak of personal “renewal” among students. But Tim Beougher, professor of evangelism at Wheaton College and an expert on revivals and awakenings, said, “This [movement] bears all the marks of being a deep and genuine work of God” (Lee, 50).
These awakenings at Christian colleges provided a taste that motivates God’s people to desire more. Yet so much more is needed. Hunger for God’s intervention must come to the Christian people of every community, town, and city. When that happens, a continentwide revival will be possible. But where do we start?
Bubeck, Mark I., and Craig Bubeck. 2010. Fire from Heaven: God’s Provision for Personal Spiritual Victory. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.