Editor’s note: This article was first published Feb. 24 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.
So, what will we do?
Sixteen days ago, a Divine voice called the students and faculty at Asbury college and seminary to Himself. It was not merely the winsome, godly preacher in their normal chapel service, Zach MeerGreebs, who called them. It was God.
At Asbury’s normal chapels three days a week, they have been walking through the book of Romans. Zach was preaching through the thirty commands in Romans, Chapter 12, on how we must love each other. But he reminded them that they could do nothing without Christ. They couldn’t even love right if they didn’t encounter God and taste and see that He is good. They must see His love and be filled with it by the Spirit’s power. They must “come to know and believe the love God has for us” (1 John 4:16).
The faithful preacher (and the God speaking through Him) called the students to tarry—to wait on God and linger at the altar. This is an unknown practice in our current Christianity and explains why we rarely see God. We will not tarry.
At first, there were 20 students, then 200, then 2000, then 20,000 and now tens of thousands, and, we pray in the coming days, millions. (An estimated 100,000 seekers came through Wilmore, Kentucky, in the last two weeks from around the nation and world, seeking God. Potentially millions listened to the Collegiate Day of Prayer broadcast from Hughes auditorium last night).
Someone might think this phenomenon was of the student’s own doing. But it was not. The Lord has drawn people from across that campus and the world to Himself. And as He drew them to Himself, the Spirit convicted them of their sin and need. And in brokenness and desperation, they tarried before the God who made them and cried out.
A Biblical note to remember: A humble, repentant cry is irresistible to God.
What has happened? Here is how the Psalmist said it in a day of the sustained presence of God in David’s day …
“God has made Himself known.” (Psalm 48:3)
He has opened heaven and come down just like He’s done over and over again in human history, each time His Bride has wandered from Him. (We have experienced a nationwide spiritual awakening in America every 30-60 years). He is present everywhere, all the time, but there are moments and seasons when we experience the “manifest presence” of God. Clear, unmistakable, visible, overwhelming … so real you cannot ignore Him.
That is why the students have been overwhelmed with the lovingkindness of God.
We have thought on Your lovingkindness, O God, in the midst of Your temple. (Psalm 48:9)
Their view of the King in these last weeks has been radically and eternally transformed. They trust Him now in ways they never have. They are now following Him with abandonment and joy as they’ve encountered the One who loves them with an everlasting love. This next generation will follow those they trust.
They have seen God’s enemy flee.
For, lo, the kings assembled themselves. They passed by together. They saw it, then they were amazed. They were terrified, they fled in alarm (Psalm 48:4-5).
Hundreds have testified of being released from the enemy’s captivity in an instant, not through years of counseling but through a real encounter with the One who came to set the captives free. The wonderful president of Asbury Seminary, Timothy Tennent, told me that in one of their chapel buildings which filled daily as an overflow, the vast majority of testimonies were of addictions that were broken. It makes sense when God comes to an addicted generation.
The students and faculty have realized in 16 days that the Great Physician can heal people of every spiritual illness instantly. They have faith now to believe in His power. And they believe that He can do this for everyone because He has done it for them. This knowledge has filled them with boldness, like the disciples in Acts 4.
They have repented, gladly and fully.
Your right hand is full of righteousness. (Psalm 48:10)
Why have the students at Asbury let go of the silly, worthless things they thought would give them life? Why have they turned from sin, anger, unforgiveness, and immorality? Their love of comfort and reputation and popularity? Their pride? Their addictions? All the things that—perhaps for years—they couldn’t seem to release? Why have they had such a profound, Spirit-wrought change of mind that they have dropped those things gladly?
It’s because God has given them a priceless gift: He has made himself known.
They have seen His righteousness and how far short they have come of the glory of God and heard His offer of deliverance. In His light, they have seen light and have run to Christ. And like the blind man whose eyes were opened and his first look was right into the eyes of Jesus, they realize they can never again go anywhere else, for He alone has the words of life.
And now, they have erupted in unceasing worship!
As is Your name, O God, so is Your praise to the ends of the earth (Psalm 48:10).
There is no description for the singing in Hughes auditorium. One of the repeating songs of these last weeks has been “You are worthy of it all.” Instead of singing the sad songs of their culture, their broken past, their hurt, their confusion and depression, they are now singing the songs of the throne room of heaven!
They have worshiped the Lord and His Son continuously for 384 hours! Has anyone in their generation done that? Could they have done that? Would they have done that on their own? If someone had said, “We have a new program for you: we want you to pray without ceasing, to worship without intermission for 16 days,” would they have begun and continued?
No. They have been given a priceless gift. God has made Himself known to them. He has put a new song in their mouths, and they cannot be silent. It needs no programming, no fog machines or lights. It is the simple, pure, unceasing praise of those who have seen the Lord, for He has made Himself known.
I can bear witness, for I experienced this same manifest presence in 1970 on my campus when a 15-minute student-led chapel extended for hours, canceled classes, and changed our lives in an instant. I can tell these precious students what is about to happen to them, for I’ve been overwhelmed by it for the last 53 years.
- They will never be the same.
- They will never think the same.
- They will never be satisfied again with the things of this world.
- They will not be able to settle for merely formal religion, for that which has the form of godliness but not the power.
- They will never again be able to live a merely selfish life.
- When they are momentarily pulled back into the world—thinking that something there can give them what they need—they will remember His presence and will not be content until they return.
- They will find themselves reading His Word, fasting, and praying so that they may know Him more.
I was given that gift 53 years ago, and I have never been able to settle for anything less. I’ve pursued His presence for myself, my family, the churches I’ve pastored, and the people I’ve ministered to, for I have been taught something from the Great Teacher:
Everything flows from the presence of the Lord … everything.
If you have Him, you have all that matters and lasts. But without the conscious awareness of His presence, you have nothing of value. No power, no fruit, no usefulness. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, the powerful pastor and Welshman who loved revival, said, “There is nothing so utterly useless as a merely formal Christian.”
And that’s why each time I’ve walked away and momentarily thought I could go somewhere else to find life, I find myself running back to Jesus.
God has given these precious students and faculty at Asbury, and us all, a gift in extraordinary measure. And with no promotion or advertising, He is now giving that gift to multitudes.
Staggering reports are coming in of the broad reach of this news of this Divine Invasion. That’s why thousands flocked to Wilmore, Kentucky. That’s why Hughes auditorium has been marked not only by glorious singing but also by quietness. The Bible calls this “awe.” It is always present when God comes. “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silent.” The King has come.
2 Kings, Chapter 7 records the story of God’s people who were surrounded by an overwhelming army. Their food was cut off, and they were dying. The prophet, Elijah, proclaimed, “Tomorrow, you will have all the food you need.” An unbelieving skeptic said, “Behold, if the Lord should make windows in heaven, could this thing be?” Then he said, “Behold, you will see it with your own eyes, but you will not eat of it” (2 Kings 7:2). This is always true of the proud: they may see the activity of God around them, but they will never experience it.
Four lepers were sitting at the gate and said, “Why should we sit here until we die?” If we go into the city, we’re going to die, and if we sit here, we’re going to die. Let’s go to the camp of our enemy.”
When they did, they found that God had routed the enemy. Everything was left. They began to devour the food and take the spoils of God’s victory. Then one said, “We are not doing right. This day is a day of good news, but we are keeping silent. Let us get up and go to our city and tell.”
My brother, Tom, once called this the story of the sitters, the getters, and the goers and tellers. All of us are in one of these categories.
The calling to all these in Asbury and elsewhere is to turn our eyes now from Wilmore, Kentucky. We are to look back to our cities and see those who are starving. To realize our children and grandchildren, and friends are dying a slow, painful death without the Bread of the Presence. How can they know unless someone tells them there is a bountiful, never-ending feast that is a repentant prayer away? That God has everything before them because everything flows from His presence?
The students of Asbury and all to whom God is making Himself known are being called by God not to just stay at the table but to go home and tell. We don’t have to be elaborate or gifted, or gloriously articulate. We don’t have to be greatly educated. Like the New Testament disciples, who the religious snobbery labeled as “uneducated and untrained men,” we must simply tell of the God we’ve seen—the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
As a pastor, a mom or dad, or a member of His body of which He is the head: He is laying His hand on us to go and tell … and something more. He is calling us to embrace this gift coming through His Divine visitation on the next generation. It will call for new wineskins. It will call us to let some things go. They will make some mistakes (that’s why we are there to graciously disciple them, and also learn from them). We must live for those behind us. To pass the baton. This outpouring is spreading to multiple college campuses and churches. God is healing this generation so He can use them in the next decades.
And here’s a sobering Biblical warning: Don’t quench the Spirit. Many churches did not receive what God was doing in 1970. They rejected the work of God because it was uncomfortable to release some things into the hands of those younger, those who were seeing God and overwhelmed with joy.
Our leaders and churches could do the same. We could miss the work of God, not only for ourselves and our churches but perhaps for our own children and grandchildren. There could be nothing more grievous.
God is calling us to embrace His fresh wind. Examine everything carefully, just as 1 Thessalonians 5 says, but not with preconceived opinions, hearsay information, and the arrogant desire to make your point. Tarry before God (not social media) and pray that God will make Himself known to you—and your children and your church—because everything flows from the presence of the Lord. Everything.
And for all in the next generation … not only a human hand, but GOD’S hand is now on your shoulders, commissioning you. And know this, the hands of millions of adults are on you and beneath you; millions who believe in God and believe in you. He is now commissioning you. He’s telling you to take your eyes off Asbury and look at the people around you who are dying without Christ. With a broken heart and wet eyes you must not be a a sitter or a self-absorbed getter but a goer and a teller. It’s time!
You have received the greatest gift of all: His presence. And the rest of your life must be spent enjoying Him and telling others that there is MORE.