Editor’s note: This article was first published Feb. 17 by Bill Elliff on his website’s blog. Elliff is the founding and national engage pastor of The Summit Church in North Little Rock, Arkansas. He also serves on the Prayer Task Force at the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.
What if God intends to save the next generation? To redeem them from the clutches of our culture and set them ablaze for His missionary purposes? And what if Asbury is the beginning in our day?
Ten years ago, a group of 50 Christian leaders met in Atlanta for a day to ask a question:
What can we do to cooperate with God to help foster revival and awakening?
The leaders of the OneCry initiative had convened this meeting, and the men in the room were well-known leaders who all shared a burning passion for the movement of God. We longed to see the next Great Awakening.
As we began that day, we went around the room, introducing ourselves by sharing when it was that each of us developed a passion for revival. As each man spoke, the vast majority traced the birth of this passion from one source: The Jesus Movement in the early 1970s. It had changed their lives and forever put a taste under their tongue for God’s presence. In the spiritual fires of that visitation from God, we had all realized that more could be accomplished in five minutes of God’s presence than 50 years of our best human effort.
Last night I was invited back to my alma mater, Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas, to speak about what I had observed at Asbury during my recent visit. I was a freshman at OBU in 1970. On one day in the spring of 1970, God came in unusual power at a student-led noon service. The 15-minute service continued through the afternoon. All classes were canceled. Hundreds of students were overwhelmed by the manifest presence of God. God moved through that crowd that grew throughout the day, changing lives. Testimonies erupted of repentance, people clearing their consciences with those they’d wronged, salvation, humility, and brokenness.
I stood and spoke to students last night in the small chapel where that occurred and suddenly realized that day had completely changed the trajectory of my life. As a student, the next 50+ years of life and ministry were dramatically shaped by an encounter with the manifest presence of God during a season of revival and awakening.
OUR NEXT GENERATION
Our culture is overwhelmed with godlessness. We have reached a level of sexual perversion and confusion that is mind-boggling. There is a spirit of entitlement and anarchy prevailing. Almost any small piece of news can break into a riot (just like the ’60s). We want OUR rights, OUR way. It is a dangerous time for our children.
We can put acronyms and new psychological terms to it, but the best way to describe the current culture is to simply read God’s description. It is found in Romans 1:18-32 where God tells us what always happens when we ignore Him, and He lifts His hand and gives us over to our own humanism. We develop “depraved minds,” which means we completely lose the ability to make moral judgments. It has become, now in great measure, our collective consciousness.
The next generation is filled with the consequences of living in this environment. Depression, anger, bitterness, confusion, and sexual aberrations all stem from a Romans 1 culture. The term “mental health” is being used because there is no word to describe our students’ level of loss, fear, anxiety, and confusion. They are resorting to every kind of aberrant behavior—even seeking to change their gender—trying to make sense of it all and find peace.
The tragedy is, within the next ten years, every needed pastor, missionary, godly church leader and elder will come from this hurting generation. These will be the people in charge.
WHAT IS ASBURY ABOUT?
It seems to be no coincidence that this extraordinary movement of God (that began at Asbury University but is now spreading like a rising tide to many campuses) is erupting among our next generation. What could happen if God spread this movement like a prairie fire to thousands of campuses and churches?
- What if multiplied thousands of 17-20-year-old students are genuinely saved in the next two years (just as they were in the Jesus Movement)?
- What if this is birthed, not in a nice church program, but in a moment of a radical visitation from God?
- What if it’s marked (as is Asbury) by radical humility, deep repentance, aggressive obedience, and unashamed testimony?
- What if the next generation is healed from the deep dysfunctions of broken homes and commits to building godly homes that live to raise their children for Christ?
- What if this generation sees and understands the glory of God far more than their parents?
- What if a whole generation’s hearts are set ablaze (just as Christ’s is) for every tongue, tribe, nation, and people, and the next missionary force arises?
- What if God is interrupting our subnormal Christianity, marked by mere intellectual knowledge of Christ and little experiential relationship with the living God?
- What if our Biblical orthodoxy is ignited and informed by experiencing the manifest presence of God? If we move from knowing about God to KNOWING God, just as Paul did?
- What if the remedy for our tragic reality of plateaued and dying churches (85%) in America was raising church men and women full of God, just like the book of Acts?
Samuel Davies was shaped by the first great awakening and later became the President of Princeton and was known as the Apostle of Virginia. He said that he saw humble pastors preach for years with little results. “Then the revival came,” he said. The same pastors, Davies noted, preached the same sermons, and 200 people were saved. “The gospel became almighty,” he wrote, “and carried everything before it.” He also said the following about the movements of God and their place in culture:
“There are eras when only a large outpouring of the Spirit can produce a public general reformation.” (Samuel Davies)
GOD’S MERCIFUL INTERVENTIONS
God has given America a nationwide awakening every 30-60 years. A course correction that has radically brought us back to Him. In these times, churches have become vibrant lights for the gospel. The salt of New Testament Christianity and its morally preserving effects has returned. We must remember that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” (Proverbs 14:34)
If this is true, we should not discourage but deeply encourage the next generation’s involvement in these days. We should pray that we will all not only understand God’s ways in such a movement but that we will join them. That we would become participants and illustrations of what happens when a people are fully surrendered to God. Most historians believe that the Jesus Movement was far more short-lived than possible because many churches resisted the work among the next generation and the new wineskins it required. God helps us.
These students will make some mistakes in their zeal, but God forbid that we should seize upon a few things we don’t agree with and discount the great movement of the Father redeeming a generation! The Pharisees did that and ended up crucifying the One who’d come to save them.
It is absolutely no coincidence that for over a year, the nationwide broadcast for the Collegiate Day of Prayer has been scheduled to be livestreamed from Hughes Auditorium on the campus of Asbury University this Thursday, Feb. 23.
Next Thursday, what is happening in the sacred spot of God’s visitation will be opened to everyone. Believers and churches will adopt the 4,196 American colleges and universities nationwide for laser-focused prayer. You and your church or campus can adopt a campus and join this 2-hour livestream from the auditorium in Asbury here: https://collegiatedayofprayer.org/. Gather your church or campus to watch and pray. (Please take time to read of the amazing history of God’s revivals on campuses here: https://collegiatedayofprayer.org/about/history/. It will give great perspective to you regarding what is happening right now.)
What if millions of believers united on this one day to pray for God to visit every campus with an extraordinary movement of God’s Spirit that produced extraordinary results?
The providence of God has provided this. And, adding further fuel to God’s fire, the “Jesus Revolution” movie (produced by Jon Erwin, whose father was radically changed by the Jesus Movement) premiers across America the very next day (Feb. 24). It will be seen by millions.
God is out to save a generation. Will we cooperate? Will we pray?