Maybe you heard about the man who got carried away during a Lutheran worship service and yelled out, “Praise the Lord!” Someone nearby said, “We don’t do that in the Lutheran Church.” Someone else said, “Oh yes we do. It’s on page 158.” The ongoing chapel service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky is not something to which we Lutherans are accustomed. But perhaps we can be spurred by this event to think about our own daily personal revival. The revival there is coming to an end. Since February 8 thousands of people have visited the Wilmore, Ky., campus chapel to join the nearly round-the-clock gathering. The final scheduled public evening service took place at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, February 19. The last afternoon public service on campus will be held at 2 p.m. on Ash Wednesday, February 22.
With hands raised many students and others have praised the Lord there over these past weeks. It is difficult to dismiss their sincerity or earnestness of their devotion. I certainly hope that this event will bring people closer to God and more committed to a life of faithful discipleship.
The entire Old Testament history is one of revival. Israel would be blessed. They would become complacent, turn away from God, and follow other gods. God would bring them calamity and difficulty. Israel would call out to God for relief. They would repent of their sins and seek God. He would forgive them and another round of blessing-complacency-sadness and repentance-blessing would ensue.
Three New Testament examples of revival come to my mind. That would include John the Baptizer’s cry in the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” That cry was met by an incredible response of people being baptized and confessing their sins (cf. Luke 3:1-22).
The events of Pentecost is the second example. The Holy Spirit was poured out on the people and 3000 were added to the church that one day. Luke tells us that following the day of Pentecost the new converts “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” Acts 2:42-47
The third example to which I would point signaled the Mission of God moving from Judea and Samaria toward the ends of the earth. Again, Luke tells us, “Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Simeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen a lifelong friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”
Why there? Why then? Why Asbury? Why not here? Jesus tells us that “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8 Martin Luther said, “For you should know that God’s word and grace is like a passing shower of rain” (WA:15:32,7). We don’t control it. We cannot engineer it. And it doesn’t depend on us or our church’s confession, faithfulness, or shortcomings. The Holy Spirit is a gift of God’s grace. By His power, we are brought to saving faith. By His power, we are emboldened to join Jesus’ mission to seek and save the lost. All this without any merit or worthiness in us.
All this leads me back to the event in Wilmore, Kentucky. I’ve not been there to speak about the specifics. But I contend that it’s not so important that you get slain in the spirit, or participate in a revival, it’s important how you live it out afterward.
Years ago I attended a conference on small group ministry. One speaker’s opening comment still echoes in my mind. “Renewal,” she said, “begins with repentance.” It was a quiet but powerful assertion. That makes our daily revival so very important as we, through daily contrition and repentance, drown the devil and all his evil desires so that a new nature can manifest itself in us, and live before God, holy and blameless. We need revival every day!
By Rev. David Bahn, D. Min.
Texas District Congregation Support Specialist