IN THE 1970s we almost saw a sweeping revival in our land. The revival at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, impacted not only that school but also hundreds of churches across the country. We stood on the precipice of what could have been another awakening. Bible conferences and revival meetings were extended, sometimes lasting three or four weeks. Prayer meetings lingered long into the night.
Much has been written regarding the movement of God on the Asbury campus. There was no announcement. Nothing extraordinary was planned that morning when God broke loose during a normal chapel service. The scheduled, routine, fifty-minute meeting on February 3, 1970, ended up lasting 185 hours non-stop. It continued for weeks to come.
There was no preaching that morning. Custer Reynolds, Asbury’s academic dean and a layman, was in charge. He shared a brief testimony and then asked students if they wanted to talk about their experiences with Christ. Students began to respond. Soon the room was filled with confession, prayer, and weeping. Students got right with one another. People lingered because they were afraid to leave. The atmosphere was thick with the presence of God.
Nothing was orchestrated or organized. There was no order of service, yet the service was ordered by the Holy Spirit. The president of the school, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, was out of town when the meeting started. He returned to Asbury two days later and went to the chapel in the wee hours of the morning. When a reporter later asked him to explain what was happening, the president replied, “Well, you may not understand this at all, but the only way I know how to account for this is that last Tuesday morning, the Lord Jesus walked into Hughes Auditorium and has been there ever since.”
An article describing the meeting said, “The marathon service was uncannily orderly. Worshipers did not become loud, did not speak out of turn, did not fall down on the floor in religious ecstasy. The feelings were subtle, yet, in their own way, overwhelming.” Dr. Kinlaw continued, “There was this sense of the divine presence that one doesn’t have often in his life. And when you do have it, you never quite get over it. You know. You know. You know it in your bone marrow.”1
From this point the revival spread. People came from all around to be part of what was happening. The media picked up on it, and reporters and television crews showed up. Students from the school even began to travel across the country and show up unannounced at churches to see if they might be given a few moments to share a word of testimony. By summer the impact of this revival had been felt in hundreds of churches and more than 130 college and seminary campuses.
Two students from Asbury came one night to First Baptist Church in Moss Point, Mississippi, where my wife, Terri, grew up. They asked if they could speak and were given permission. God showed up that night. Terri was a teenager then during the early days of the Jesus Movement. She said, “It was the first time I had ever seen anyone on their knees in First Baptist Church.”
Two men showed up that same year at First Baptist in Ada, Oklahoma—the first church where I would later pastor—and a very similar thing happened. No one remembers their names. They simply shared and God came down. People went to their knees in prayer and confession. The two left before the service was over on their way to another church.
I’ve often wondered, What stopped those meetings? How can one see something so real and so powerful and ever want to go back to the way things were? All I know for sure is that we should be pleading with God for another movement of His Spirit in our midst.
Perhaps the bigger question is this: Do we want it?
Catt, Michael. 2010. The Power of Surrender. Nashville, TN: B&H Books.