Revival Comes to Town

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There is a revival, no less real and even more definitive, taking place in every church, every weekend, where God’s people gather around his gifts.

They say a revival has taken place in a small Kentucky town.

On February 8th, students at Asbury University–a private Christian school in Wilmore, Kentucky, just outside Lexington–gathered for their weekly chapel service. The preacher for the day, Rev. Zach Meerkreebs, offered a message in which he prayed, “Lord, revive us with your love.” Immediately afterward, Meerkreebs texted his wife, saying that he didn’t think the sermon was very good. “Whiffed again,” he told her. As he took his seat, a song began to play. The students in the room sang and offered praise in response.

But they didn’t stop. It just kept going.

For 14 days, around the clock, students have continued in song and prayer, sharing testimonies, studying the Scriptures, and hearing from God’s Word. The love of God was palpably, powerfully present, they said. The love of God was said to be calling on students to stay and drawing in crowds from around the world. Soon, hours-long lines formed, stretching around campus. The national media appeared, reporting that something strange was going on at Asbury.

What exactly has happened at Hughes Auditorium on the campus of Asbury? Was it a revival, a fresh and profound experience of heaven coming to earth? Has the manifest presence of God “shown up” in an unprecedented way? And if so, should we all be boarding buses to Kentucky to see if we can get a taste of it ourselves?

I can’t say, and it’s not my place to say what’s happened in Kentucky. God is free to stir and to show himself however he pleases. And if he has, then what an incredible gift for those students who experienced it. What a privilege for those who were encouraged in their faith as a result of it.

I can’t say for sure what’s happened in Kentucky. But here’s what I do know: whatever has taken place is no more wonderful, meaningful, or powerful than what happens each week in your church.

Sure, it’s possible that God has appeared in some great way on that college campus. But he’s promised to do so each and every time we gather as his people.

Yes, the crowd is likely much smaller and perhaps a great deal older. The service is short and to the point, and the national media is nowhere to be found. The only line of people is a small queue of kids eager to grab a bite of a donut that’s been dutifully cut into quarters by the Ladies Guild. But this is where God has promised to be present.

When your pastor stands up and announces your sins to be forgiven, it is the voice of God himself calling you clean.

When that squirming, squealing infant is baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” it is the person of God reaching down from heaven and claiming that child as his own, raising her from death to life, and marking her as one who is beloved because of Jesus.

As you shift in your pew, seeking to keep your attention on the sermon, it’s not the pastor you’re leaning in to hear, but Christ, who is convicting you with words of truth and bringing you to life with the declaration of his work on the cross.

As you mingle with friends and acquaintances, awkwardly straggling out of the narthex and toward your cars, you’re not just making small talk with other parishioners. You’re mixing and mingling with the very Body of Christ, present in and with his people wherever they gather.

Sure, it may never draw a massive crowd, and this gathering will likely not make the news, but God is no less present in your church. Why? Because that’s where he’s promised to show up. And God keeps his promises.

The purpose of pointing this out is not to take anything away from what’s gone on at Asbury or at any other so-called revival. I’m not attempting to undermine that experience but rather to make you more confident in and content with your own.

It may never draw a massive crowd, and this gathering will likely not make the news, but God is no less present in your church.

The downside of events like Asbury, where God seems to show up in extraordinary or spectacular ways, is that it can plant seeds of doubt in the hearts and minds of those who don’t share a similar experience.

We begin to think, “Why isn’t MY church packed to the brim?” Or, “Why don’t I feel an overwhelming rush of emotion as I sing or pray that drives me to my knees?” It leads us to ponder, “Is my faith not strong enough? Is my desire for God to be active in my life not pure enough?” 

By comparing divine encounters, we can grow bitter about our own circumstances and rob ourselves of hope. We can subtly but dangerously shift our assurance in the faith off of Christ and onto our emotions and experiences. And before you know it, we shrug our shoulders at and disdain the small, simple, and mundane realities of church life where God has told us to find him.

Has a revival taken place in Kentucky? I don’t know.

But this much is certain: there is a revival, no less real and even more definitive, taking place in every church, every weekend, where God’s people gather around his gifts. In those churches—big or small, urban or rural, packed to the gills or with just a few in the pews—the fullness of God is found. There, the heavens are opened, an unseen army of angels is rejoicing, and the Maker of the Universe is personally bringing people—average and otherwise uninteresting people, like me and you—from death to life.

He’s there in the midst of middle-aged moms, deadbeat dads, cranky infants, rebellious and attitude-ridden teens, hopeless addicts, overly political uncles, and grandmothers living in denial of their dementia. He is there, in the thick of our mundane messiness, in his fullness, doing his work.

What I’m saying is this: don’t buy a train ticket to Lexington. I mean, you can. But it’s not necessary. You don’t need to chase after someone else’s encounter with God. You’ve already got one on the calendar. Revival is coming to town next Sunday at the 8:30 AM service.

It will not look the same as whatever’s happened in Wilmore. But trust me, the same God will be there, gifts in hand. I’ll save you a seat, just in case there’s a line.