Editor’s note: This article was first published Feb. 27 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.
Revival is the necessary, extraordinary movement of the Holy Spirit that produces extraordinary results. God is always moving. We could not rise out of bed without His grace. In Him, we live, move, and have our being.
But there are moments when God deems it necessary to open the windows of Heaven and manifest Himself in extraordinary ways. He does this because of His merciful love for His Bride who often goes astray. But he also revives His church to move us to the task the world needs. His Body, which He created and leads, gets distracted by the bangles of the world and the busyness of life.
We often lose sight of our great task to be the conduit for Christ to lost people. In revival, God makes Himself known, we see Him and are changed, and He ignites a fresh passion for His agenda: to seek and save those who are lost.
When He manifests Himself in unusual measure, hungry, hurting people are drawn to Christ like moths to a flame. It has always been this way.
Jesus withdrew to the sea with His disciples, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; and also from Judea, and from Jerusalem, and from Idumea, and beyond the Jordan, and the vicinity of Tyre and Sidon, a great number of people heard of all that He was doing and came to Him. (Mark 3:7-8).
We have just witnessed this at Asbury and elsewhere as it spreads. Christ has shown up in power, doing the miraculous things He does, and people are drawn to Him. They find a way—often at great cost and inconvenience—to get to Jesus.
It is our great prayer that this extraordinary movement will spread like a raging fire across our nation and world. So how do we aggressively cooperate with God to see that happen in our church, campus, and city?
PURSUE CHRIST, NOT A CROWD
We cannot use the same humanistic methods we have used in the past to try to build attendance and gather a crowd. In fact, we don’t need to.
Hughes chapel and the overflow venues were packed with thousands of people in a few days. People came from around the world. And the social media posts are (some reports say) in the billions. But the genesis of this extraordinary attention has been humble, broken people pursuing Christ and Christ alone. They weren’t planning to “have a meeting” designed to attract a crowd or create a social media buzz through deliberate strategy.
They waited before the Lord. They tarried, longing for Him. They humbled themselves, Christ came in power … and the crowd came in thousands. Look through the history of the five Great Awakenings in American history. They all began with a few people who prayed, fasted, repented and looked to Jesus because they knew only Christ could bring what was needed.
Remember Pentecost? A small band of men and women waited with one mind in prayer, and the Spirit came in power. There just “happened to be” people from “every nation under heaven” who were present as the outpouring occurred and the gospel was shared in power. God knows how to draw the crowd to get His message out.
OPERATE WITH RADICAL HUMILITY, NOT PRIDE
Pride is unbelievably subtle and the foundational weapon in Satan’s arsenal. I regularly ask those I serve with to point pride out when they see its ugly head rising in my life. I often can’t see it. You can live in pride in such ways that it drives everything you do. It seems natural and right because very few contrasting examples exist in those around you. When you encounter a deeply humble person, the contrast is stark, unsettling, and convicting.
You must learn to discern the enemy’s voice. For me, it’s a constant whisper that I must quickly resist. “Read that social media post you wrote and see how many people are responding.” “Steer the conversation to what you have done.” “Make sure they know that you were responsible for that.” “Don’t obey the prompting the Spirit just gave you … what will people think?”
It is nauseous how incessantly Satan whispers. But, if we are a child of God, we can resist this deadly voice in our ears. But we must keep resisting every thought that stems from pride. Satan pestered Christ in the wilderness three times until He realized He would not entertain proud suggestions. He left Him, deciding to wait for a “more opportune time” to return.
When you hear his whispers, instantly rebuke Him in Christ’s name. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” God promises (James 4:7).
CHANGE YOUR WINESKINS TO MAKE ROOM FOR CHRIST
And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him, for He had healed many, with the result that all those who had afflictions pressed around Him in order to touch Him. (Mark 3:9-10)
Under Divine instructions, the disciples pivoted to make room for more people to see and hear Christ. (Please read that sentence again, humbly, prayerfully).
Few people realize what was happening behind the scenes to accommodate the activity of God at Asbury. In an insightful article entitled “No Celebrities But Jesus: How Asbury Protected Revival,” the writer tells us of the humble service and leadership provided by the Asbury leaders and volunteers to make room for the 16 days of non-stop worship.
An ad hoc revival committee of about seven people gathered in the one quiet space in Hughes—a storage closet. According to several people who were there, they pushed aside a drum kit and keyboard and sat knee to knee. Someone found a dry erase board, and they asked each other, “What are we going to do in the next two hours?”
Then they started thinking slightly longer term: “Will students stay all night? What does that look like? Should we leave the sound system on? Should we let students keep bringing guitars into chapel?”
… Other decisions they made in the next few days seem, as the ad hoc committee reflects on them now, almost like they happened by instinct. There was no time for drawn-out discussions. They would meet in the storage closet and make decisions minute by minute. Did they want to put up screens for the lyrics of the worship songs? No. Should ministers who spoke on stage stop to introduce themselves? No. Should they put up signs asking people not to livestream? Yes.
“We were just trying to keep up,” student life vice president Sarah Thomas Baldwin told CT. “There are people and they’re showing up, and they’re desperate for God. We’re just trying to stay alive and trying to honor what is happening.”
The group decided to have ministers stay in Hughes and have security watch the building but keep it open. They would let the students stay and pray and sing as long as they wanted. The group quickly came to a consensus that they hadn’t started the outpouring, hadn’t planned any of this, but they were nonetheless called in that moment to be hospitable. They would work to host it and hold it, all the while keeping in mind that they were not in control.
“There was a tension,” Brown told CT, “between ‘How do we maintain orderliness?’ and ‘How do we create space for this spiritual unfolding that we haven’t planned, we don’t know where it’s heading, but we know it’s good and bigger than us?’”
I have talked with many pastors in the last few days who long to see God manifest Himself in their church. My counsel to them is not to try to manipulate or create anything but to aggressively seek Him and make room for Him.
Have special prayer meetings as God directs. Follow the Biblical model that led to Pentecost in Acts 1:14.
Open the worship center all day for those who want to pray. Remind your people at the first of Sunday services that our only agenda is to pursue Christ and that the altar is open every moment for them to come, even during your sermon. Be willing to adjust your schedule during a service as He leads.
Gather a group early on Sunday morning and soak the building in fervent prayer and worship. Worship longer. Pray longer. And most of all, forget about the silly convention we call a “clock” and operate on God’s timetable alone. It seems that one of the things that God is calling us to do is to tarry. To wait on Him. Be willing to change any wineskins to accommodate the extraordinary Wine of His presence. Move by God-initiation alone.
And you must pursue Him personally. I find myself lately singing the simple song penned by Fanny Crosby over and over again. “Pass me not, oh gentle Savior. Hear my humble cry. While on others thou art calling, do not pass me by.”
Preach the gospel fervently, for it will be attended with unusual power in these days of God’s awakenings. One young girl at Baylor stood on a chair in the cafeteria last week to proclaim the gospel. We are hearing stories of people coming off the street to find Christ. Be ready and seize Divine opportunities and remember that the unashamed, bold proclamation of the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe.
Cry out to God and wait on Him. And then stand still and see the salvation of the Lord.
 “No Celebrities But Jesus: How Asbury Protected Revival,” Daniel Steelman, Christianity Today, Feb. 23.2023