Since the news of the Asbury revival broke, people have been wanting to know what I thought about it. The typical questions are: “Is this a real revival?” “How did the revival start?” “Can we do this here?” And of course, “Are you going to preach about it?”
My answer is simple. I don’t know. I haven’t been to Asbury. I haven’t been part of the services. I’ve talked to some friends in the area and listened to their opinions. I’ve read a few articles about the revival. Some say the revival is God’s new work in our nation and others say this is Satan’s greatest deception. Go figure. Like we say in my denomination, “Get two Baptists together and you’ll have three opinions.”
As I’ve thought more about it, my standard answer is, “We’ll see.” Let me explain my answer.
I’m 66 years old. This isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve seen hundreds of revivals, renewals, and fresh winds of the Spirit. There’s a pattern. First, there is an intense emotional response marked by extended worship services — mostly singing and prayer. There will be a time of confession and forgiveness that will be extended between members of the church. This could go on for hours or days.
This will be followed by several weeks of goodwill in the local church. Then, people will gradually slide back into the status quo. Nothing of note will have changed. I’m wanting the Asbury revival to be real — and for some, it will be the moment God changed their lives — but I’m waiting for the seeds that were planted in the revival to come to harvest. Only then will we know if this revival was an authentic work of the Spirit.
For instance, does loving a neighbor lead to any action? Remember, in history, some of our country’s greatest social movements such as changing child labor laws came after revival movements. What will change in the fabric of our nation, or even Asbury, because of this revival?
Will people seek a deeper encounter with God’s Word? Or is “worship” the only criterion of this revival? What happens when the last band member unplugs?
Do husbands love their wives at deeper levels? Are fathers more committed to their children? Are wives more in love with their husbands? Are children more content and safe? Are the hungry being fed? Are the lost being found? Are those who are sick and imprisoned being cared for?
In short, are God’s children living more like they belong to their Heavenly Father? The true test of a revival isn’t, “Do we feel closer to Jesus?”, but rather, “Are we more closely aligned in our obedience to the Father’s will?” The best evidence of God’s work is a transformed life.
In his letters, Paul reminds the early church:
Therefore, putting away lying, speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another. Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity. Let the thief no longer steal. Instead, he is to do honest work with his own hands, so that he has something to share with anyone in need. No foul language should come from your mouth, but only what is good for building up someone in need, so that it gives grace to those who hear. (Ephesians 4:25–29).
I tell people all the time: The world isn’t mad at the church because we’re different. They’re mad because we aren’t different enough. When you’ve been touched by God, not only do you stop doing wrong, you start doing right. That’s the test of true revival.
We are a nation that treasures shortcuts. Can I lose weight by taking a pill? Can I get stronger without having to lift weights? Can I play an instrument without having to practice? And finally, can I be a disciple of Jesus with the discipline of Jesus? Can I become more like Jesus without spending my life in Bible study and prayer?
Too many of us settle for a shallow emotional experience and call it revival. Not many of us want the all-consuming conversion an encounter with Jesus brings. We’d rather just sing songs.
Don’t get me wrong. I want the Asbury moment to be real. I pray it is so and for some it will be. For some, it will mark the beginning of their journey with Christ from this moment at Asbury.
But for the rest of us, it’s too early to tell. Seeds have been planted. Now, we wait to see what kind of harvest they will bring.