It has been almost 40 years since the landmark 1970 Asbury College revival, an unplanned, student-led display of fervor that has been compared to the Great Awakenings. The Asbury Revival of 1970 had a dramatic impact throughout the United States, spreading to other places when Asbury students returned home and shared their testimonies. In the mid-1990s, a similar wave of revivals hit Christian colleges. The hallmark was not sensationalism, but public confession of sin, repentance and a heartfelt desire for intimacy with God and holiness. Although the revivals were reported as being spontaneous in nature, the fervent prayers of a handful of students preceded the revivals for several months. Many are now praying for an even greater visitation of God’s Spirit in campuses throughout America, beginning with college students in the Northeast.
Asbury College, Wilmore Kentucky
One morning in 1970, without warning, what has been described as a “divine visitation” broke loose during Asbury College’s 10 am chapel service. “When you walked into the back of Hughes Auditorium there was a kind of a glow about the chapel,” said Dr. David Hunt, a Louisville physician who was then a student. “You just walked in and sensed that God had indeed sent His Spirit.” The service, a routine meeting, was scheduled for 50 minutes. Instead, it lasted 185 hours non-stop, 24 hours a day. Intermittently, it continued for weeks. Ultimately, it spread across the United States and into foreign countries. Some say it is being felt even today.
Coggin Avenue Baptist Church
On January 22, 1995, in Brownwood, Texas two students from Howard Payne University, a Christian institution, stood up and confessed their sins. As a result of this incident, many others started to confess their own sins before the congregation. The events at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church were preceded by about seven weeks of widespread prayer. According to Pastor John Avant, “God began by doing some things in isolated ways. He transformed the life of a prominent man in the community who was considering suicide, and couples who were within days of divorce.” After the events, the motto among several local high school students had become, “God’s going to rock the world, and it’s starting in Brownwood.”
Howard Payne University
On January 26, 1995, a similar event took place on a nearby campus. At Howard Payne, revival broke out during a “Celebration” service, as students praised God in song and shared their testimonies. Students then began to schedule all-night prayer meetings in dormitories. Word quickly spread to other colleges, and Howard Payne students were soon being invited to other college campuses, which experienced similar revivals.
Olivet Nazarene University
On February 23, at Olivet Nazarene, Kankakee, Illinois, Chaplain Bill Bray played an eight-minute video clip of the 1970 Asbury College revival at a chapel service. Students and faculty then began seven hours of sharing, praying, singing and exhortation among one another. As it continued, word spread off campus and members of the community came in order to experience the move of God. Other colleges affected by the video of the 1970 revival included Moorehead State and Murray State.
Southwestern Baptist Seminary
On February 28, three Howard Payne students spoke at an evangelism class taught by Roy Fish at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas to report on “the activity of God” in Brownwood. Students said that there was “an outpouring of healing, purging and cleansing among students, faculty, staff and administrators.” The meetings at Southwestern continued for several weeks with extended chapel services lasting all day long, with students and faculty confessing their sins publicly and praying for forgiveness and cleansing from the Lord. According to Bob Murdaugh, various ministers of churches in Fort Worth reported that their congregations were experiencing great moves of God.
Beeson School of Divinity
On March 7, Pastor John Avant spoke at Beeson Baptist Theological Seminary in Birmingham, Alabama at a three-hour service during which dozens of people went forward to pray, confess and seek reconciliation in personal relationships. Beeson’s dean, Timothy George, said that this was something that they had been “praying and yearning for.”
At Wheaton College, Illinois, some students from Howard Payne University gave their testimonies at a weekly meeting of the World Christian Fellowship at Pierce Chapel on March 19, that lasted from 7:30 pm to 6 am the following day, when the custodial staff asked the remaining 400 people to leave so that the building could be cleaned. During that meeting, friends gathered around to embrace and pray for each other after each student spoke. Subsequent meetings were moved to College Church at Wheaton to facilitate the larger crowds.
Mike Shelton, a student at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, wrote on April 10, “Some students from Wheaton came to Gordon College this past Friday to speak at an annual conference. Several student leaders came forward to confess their own pride and recounted how they had been humbled to see the need for revival in their own lives. After they finished, a steady stream of students came forward to confess sins or share what had been touching their hearts. Classes have been canceled this Tuesday at Gordon so that the entire campus can meet together. I’m seeing a widespread hunger for God and willingness to take up the cross that I’ve never seen before.”
The revival at Taylor in Fort Wayne, Indiana was prompted by some students from Wheaton and Asbury who came to Indiana to share testimonies about revivals on their campuses. According to one Taylor student, “Word spread like wildfire throughout the campus. I went there expecting little and wanting nothing. I stayed until 1 am. I have never felt so filled with the Holy Spirit. I have been able to see my fellow students through the eyes of God. I absorbed this love and radiance of God for five hours yet it felt like 15 minutes. God initiated the giving up of addictions, attitudes, and practices. It was real. It was not forced. Never will I forget this weekend and how God has broken me and the people around me.”
At Criswell College in Dallas, Texas, over 150 prayed and repented for four hours after hearing testimonies from some Howard Payne students. Doug Minton, pastor of First Baptist Church of Corinth, Texas, reported that his church experienced revival for weeks after a visit from the Howard Payne students.
In the first week of February 2006, during a worship service, students gathered around the altar in Hughes Auditorium where they had been for over three days. “God continues to move across the campus,” said Dr. Paul A. Rader.
“We have had students in Hughes Auditorium continuously since Monday at 10 am when God came in such power and blessing during our Student Chapel. Last night at midnight there were several hundred in Hughes. Some stayed until 4 am. We met for a Prayer and Praise Chapel this morning with an awesome sense of expectation. God did not disappoint us. From the first praise chorus students began coming to the long altar at the front of the auditorium. Soon the altar was crowded with students again. There was incredible freedom in the Spirit as we sang and prayed and shared testimonies of God’s gracious work in the hearts of students.”
The year 2006 is also the 56th anniversary of a similar revival at Asbury College in 1950. “A bigger outbreak a global revival will begin soon,” says David McKenna, former president of Asbury Theological Seminary. “The revival might not start at Asbury, but it probably will begin on campuses,” says McKenna, a noted author. He travels to many colleges and says, “I see the signs wherever I go.”
Those signs include a generation of students wounded by family breakdowns and searching for spiritual fulfillment. Much of the coming revival will be a delayed reaction, McKenna thinks, to what happened at Asbury College over 36 years ago.
Source: Richard M. Riss, Associate Professor of Church History, Somerset Christian College, Zarephath, NJ