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Looking for Revival? Check College Campuses

By Editorial Staff
Published March 1, 1989

By David L. McKenna

Are we looking for revival in all the wrong places? With high anticipation, we look to world conferences, city-wide crusades, local church meetings and small prayer groups as starting points for the revival of the church. Certainly, they are often the instruments through which the Spirit of God moves to call for revival and change lives in local settings. But when the Spirit of God has swept our nation with the signs of a great awakening, where has revival begun?

Our history shows that the starting point is a small group of students who meet together on a college campus to give themselves to the discipline of prayer and holy living for the sake of revival. Through them, the Spirit of God moves across the campus with convicting power and redeeming grace until the prevailing tone of the campus is literally transformed spiritually and morally. From there, the witness is taken from campus to campus by the contagious witness of Spirit-filled student messengers. In turn, other students carry the flame from campus to church, from church to church and from community to community.

The pattern goes back to the beginning of American history. In the 1740s, a group of students at Williams College in Massachusetts formed the “Haystack Group,” similar in purpose to the “Holy Club” at Oxford, which had been the catalyst for the Wesleyan Revival in England. Like John and Charles Wesley, the students at Williams bonded themselves together in the discipline of Bible study, prayer, holy living and help for the needy. Their target for transformation was none other than Williams College, a campus community whose moral and physical quality had been likened to the “bottom of a bird cage.”

As God moved upon the “Haystack Group,” the students moved upon the campus. The spirit of revival spread through the dormitories, into the chapel and out into the classroom. Then, as the students carried their witness to the church and community, they met a synergism of the Spirit. The conviction for sin prompted by the preaching of such a prophet as Jonathan Edwards and the thirst for righteousness among the congregations came together with the dynamic witness of the students to spread from congregation to congregation, community to community and from colony to colony.

By the turn of the century, the social and moral transformation of the new nation stood as an evidence of spiritual revival. Not only had our forefathers broken the tyranny of political bondage in the American Revolution, but Alexis de Tocqueville, who chronicled our early history, concluded that America was a nation with the “soul of a church.”

In the middle 1800s, a similar pattern of revival sprang from the campus of Oberlin College, converged with the preaching of Charles Spurgeon and provided the impetus, not only for the abolition movement, but also for the volunteer movement in such community agencies as United Way, YMCA, Red Cross and others, which arose out of compassion to serve in the Spirit of Christ. Later, in the same century, the campus again became the catalyst for the spiritual revival that led to the modern missionary movement.

Then, in the middle of the 20th century, J. Edwin Orr noted the beginnings of revival on Christian college campuses such as Asbury and Wheaton, which synergetically connected with Billy Graham, led to such parachurch ministries as Youth for Christ and Campus Crusade for Christ and peaked in the “born-again movement” of the 1970s.

No one can stereotype the stirring of the Holy Spirit. To assume that the college campus is the place where the revival of the church must begin is to deny the truth of Christ. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).

At the same time, there are reasons why the wind of the Spirit has blown on the college campuses. As a person who has been a part of the Christian college, university and seminary scene as a student, professor and president for the past 40 years, I think that I know why the Holy Spirit chooses to work among the young. First and foremost, college students are idealists. Hope for a bright future still sparkles in their eyes. College students, since they haven’t yet encountered the bumps and bruises of reality that may later lead to disillusionment, stagnation and burnout, are the chosen vessels of the Holy Spirit for seeing the visions which are promised by the prophet Joel and fulfilled whenever God’s Spirit is poured out on all flesh.

Coupled with the idealism of the young is their discontent. For some reason, young people of college age are the special victims of the sins and ills of society at any given time. They are also blamed for behavior which is undermining the moral foundations of the past. In my view, they are more victim than culprit. At a recent conference on drug abuse among teenagers, adults identified crack and cocaine as the problems.

Students at the conference listened for awhile and then spoke. The real problem, they said, was the “entry drug” of alcohol. In one of the most telling indictments that I have ever heard on the problem of drug abuse, they laid the blame on the media, which sends the message, “You can’t have fun without alcohol,” and upon their parents who model the message with their own drinking. No rancor poisoned their words.

Despite the existence of many ways to detoxify the body from drugs and alcohol, alcohol abuse remains a problem.

Rather, we heard a cry for help from those who suffered from the message and the model of alcohol abuse. My experience with college students is that they are equally sensitive and discontented with the sins of the culture and the sin in their own lives.

The idealism and discontent of the young are followed by a refreshing openness to the winds of the Spirit. Theological and denominational litmus tests are still ahead of them. Rather, like the members of the “Holy Club” and the “Haystack Group,” they have a drive for quintessential spirituality based upon the disciplines of Bible study, prayer, holy living and sacrificial service. Of course they are always accused of “enthusiasm” by those of us who require that the Holy Spirit comes on our own terms. The sad note is to hear adults call for toleration because “they will grow out of it.” I hope not. Until the openness to the Holy Spirit which characterizes the young moves through all age groups, there will be no revival.

All of these qualities are put into action by the energy of the young. Let’s face it. Most of us are too tired to be on the front edge of spiritual revival. Not only are we “running down” physically, but we show the symptoms of spiritual fatigue. According to the prophet Isaiah, our contribution to spiritual revival will be a prophetic word from the middle-aged and past dream for the old-aged.

Not that we have no role in revival. If the church is to be revived, Joel assures us that it will be a multigenerational experience which brings together the visions of the young, the prophecies of the adult and the dreams of the elderly. So, rather than stifling the energies of the young, we should set them free with the balance of the prophetic Word and a sense of history. They are the fuel for the engine of revival.

With these thoughts in mind, I have been on a “campus watch” this year. Whether speaking on a Christian college campus or listening to reports of presidents, faculty and students, my ears are tuned for the stirring sounds of spiritual revival. They can be heard. Like the rustling in the mulberry trees, the Spirit is moving among small groups of students on campus after campus across the nation.

Therefore, when we come together in world congresses, national conferences, city-wide crusades and local church meetings with revival in mind, perhaps the priority of our agenda should be to hear reports from the campus. If history holds, this is where revival begins.

David McKenna is president of Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. This article was first printed in Action magazine, published by the National Association of Evangelicals, March 1989.


A Revival Account: Asbury 1970 (DVD)

What is true Revival and Spiritual Awakening?

Discover the answer in this eyewitness account by Dennis Kinlaw, President of Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky, who recounts the story of a visitation of the Holy Spirit in 1970. This is the presentation that has continued to spark the flames of Revival in the hearts of people around the world. Contains eyewitness footage from the Revival at Asbury College in 1970 in Wilmore, Kentucky.

Certain to challenge you to greater holiness and a deeper commitment to full-scale revival. Original news and private footage has been included. If you are a student who longs to see a spiritual awakening at your school, you must see this video!

“This simple video does a wonderful job of conveying something of God’s heart and power, Everyone we have ever shown this to has received an immediate impartation of faith for revival and the power of prayer.”
— Bob and Rose Weiner, Weiner Ministries Int’l

Running Time: 40 minutes

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The Silent Scream (DVD) Eight Languages

“When the lives of the unborn are snuffed out, they often feel pain, pain that is long and agonizing.” – President Ronald Reagan to National Religious Broadcasters Convention, January 1981

Ronald Reagan became convinced of this as a result of watching The Silent Scream – a movie he considered so powerful and convicting that he screened it at the White House.

The modern technology of real-time ultrasound now reveals the actual responses of a 12-week old fetus to being aborted. As the unborn child attempts to escape the abortionist’s suction curette, her motions can be seen to become desperately agitated and her heart rate doubles. Her mouth opens – as if to scream – but no sound can come out. Her scream doesn’t have to remain silent, however … not if you will become her voice. This newly re-mastered version features eight language tracks and two bonus videos.

“… a high technology “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” arousing public opinion just as Harriet Beecher Stowe’s 1852 antislavery novel ignited the abolitionist movement.” – Sen. Gordon Humphrey, Time Magazine

Languages: English, Spanish, French, South Korean, Chinese, Russian, Portuguese, Japanese

Running Time: 28 minutes

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The United States of America 2.0: The Great Reset (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 40 pages of dynamite!

Revival, Resistance, Reformation, Revolution
An Introduction to the Doctrines of Interposition and Nullification

In 1776, a short time after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin were assigned to design an official seal for the United States of America. Their proposed motto was Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God. America owes its existence to centuries of Christian political philosophy. Our nation provided a model for liberty copied by nations the world over.

By the 21st century, we need a “Puritan Storm” to sweep away the Hegelian notion that the state is “God walking on earth.” We need revival and reformation in full force to vanquish the problems that plague us as a nation — from government controlled healthcare — to abortion on demand — to same sex “marriage.” This booklet gives a primer on our founders’ Christian idea of government and examines how the doctrine of nullification was woven into the Constitution as a safeguard against federal tyranny. It concludes with the history and theology of civil resistance. A Second American Revolution is coming with the Word of God growing mightily and prevailing! (Acts 19:20).

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Abortion Clinic 911 Calls (DVD)

Exposes the Dangers of Abortion to Women!

These shocking eyewitness accounts expose the dangers of abortion not only to unborn children, but to the health and lives women as well. An antidote to the smokescreens of the liberal media, these short clips show what really happens in and around abortion clinics.

Although the content is emotionally gut-wrenching, these videos have been used in church seminars and small groups to educate Christians on the abortion issue and to lead people toward a pro-life position. Contains 2 hours and 40 minutes of materials that can be shown separately.

Watch these pro-life videos on-line.

“These videos helped change my mind from pro-choice to pro-life. Your videos are what did it for me. I will be walking in next year’s March For Life in San Francisco.” — A. Jackson, California

“I was going to have an abortion until I saw your video. Praise Jesus!”
— M. Drew, YouTube Commenter

$4.95 — ORDER NOW!

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Frank Schaeffer Will You Please Shut Up! (Book)

High Quality Paperback — 200 pages

A Reasonable Response to Christian Postmodernism

Includes a response to the book Christian Jihad by Colonel V. Doner

The title of this book is a misnomer. In reality, I am not trying to get anyone to shut up, but rather to provoke a discussion. This book is a warning about the philosophy of “Christian postmodernism” and the threat that it poses not only to Christian orthodoxy, but to the peace and prosperity our culture as well. The purpose is to equip the reader with some basic principles that can be used to refute their arguments.

Part 1 is a response to some of the recent writings by Frank Schaeffer, the son of the late Francis Schaeffer. This was originally written as a defense against Frank’s attacks on pro-life street activism – a movement that his father helped bring into being through his books, A Christian Manifesto, How Should We Then Live? and Whatever Happened to the Human Race? These works have impacted literally hundreds of thousands of Christian activists.

Part 2 is a response to Colonel Doner and his book, Christian Jihad: Neo-Fundamentalists and the Polarization of America. Doner was one of the key architects of the Christian Right that emerged in the 1980s, who now represents the disillusionment and defection many Christian activists experienced in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still great hope for America to be reformed according to biblical principles. As a new generation is emerging, it is important to recognize the mistakes that Christian activists have made in the past even while holding to a vision for the future.

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Freedom: The Model of Christian Liberty (DVD)

“Give me liberty or give me death!”

Patrick Henry’s famous declaration not only helped launch the War for Independence, it also perfectly summarized the mindset that gave birth to, and sustained, the unprecedented experiment in Christian liberty that was America.

The freedom our Founders envisioned was not freedom from suffering, want, or hard work. Nor was it freedom to indulge every appetite or whim without restraint—that would merely be servitude to a different master. No, the Founders’ passion was to live free before God, unfettered by the chains of autocracy, shackles that slowly but inexorably bind men when the governments they fashion fail to recognize and uphold freedom’s singular, foundational truth: that all men are created in the image of God, and are thereby co-equally endowed with the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

This presentation is a similar call, not to one but many. By reintroducing the principles of freedom that gave birth to America, it is our prayer that Jesus, the true and only ruler over the nations, will once again be our acknowledged Sovereign, that we may again know and exult in the great truth that “where the Spirit of the LORD is, there is liberty” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Welcome to the Second American Revolution!

This DVD features “Liberty: The Model of Christian Liberty” along with “Dawn’s Early Light: A Brief History of America’s Christian Foundations.” Bonus features include a humorous but instructive collection of campaign ads and Eric Holmberg’s controversial YouTube challenge concerning Mitt Romney’s campaign for president.

$14.95 — ORDER NOW!

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