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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

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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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.

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“Here I stand … I can do no other!”

With these immortal words, an unknown German monk sparked a spiritual revolution that changed the world.

The dramatic classic film of Martin Luther’s life was released in theaters worldwide in the 1950s and was nominated for two Oscars. A magnificent depiction of Luther and the forces at work in the surrounding society that resulted in his historic reform efforts, this film traces Luther’s life from a guilt-burdened monk to his eventual break with the Roman Catholic Church.

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Massacre of Innocence (DVD)

Exposing The Occult Roots of Abortion

This presentation looks at the spiritual roots of abortion and exposes the myths surrounding child killing. Little known historical facts about abortion and how they relate to modern feminism are presented logically and accurately. Has been effective in converting many to a pro-life position.

Massacre of Innocence goes where no pro-life presentation has gone before in “tearing the lid off abortion” to reveal the spiritual realities we must battle if we will bring an end to this crime. The presentation is absorbing, fast-paced, informative and incredibly devastating to any attempt to justify abortion.

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Running time: 85 minutes

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The Four Keys to the Millennium (Book)

Foundations in Biblical Eschatology

By Jay Rogers, Larry Waugh, Rodney Stortz, Joseph Meiring. High quality paperback, 167 pages.

All Christians believe that their great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will one day return. Although we cannot know the exact time of His return, what exactly did Jesus mean when he spoke of the signs of His coming (Mat. 24)? How are we to interpret the prophecies in Isaiah regarding the time when “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Isa. 11:19)? Should we expect a time of great tribulation and apostasy or revival and reformation before the Lord returns? Is the devil bound now, and are the saints reigning with Christ? Did you know that there are four hermeneutical approaches to the book of Daniel and Revelation?

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(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

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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

$19.95 — ORDER NOW!

(We accept all major credit cards and PayPal.)

Click here for more information

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