By Dennis Kinlaw
Good News, April-June 1970 —
When the students and faculty of Asbury College met on Tuesday, February 3, 1970, for chapel, they did not know what was in store. The program was to be one of sharing by students and faculty, of their faith in Christ. As witness to Christ was being given, a spontaneous movement of the Spirit began. It grew to disrupt class schedules, bring the great majority of the students to a new relationship with the Lord, set up a chain of witness for Christ that was to extend to numerous campuses and churches and to thousands of individuals.
For eight days an unbroken service of praise and adoration to God continued. Men and women sought and found forgiveness of sins and new life in Christ, the inner cleansing and filling of his Spirit, a new love for God and others, and an authentic sense of Christ’s mission.
At the time of the writing of this article, the Spirit is continuing his reviving work in numerous places where the revival fires have been kindled.
This movement began in evangelical schools but has not been confined to their walls. The Spirit has likewise worked in a significant manner on secular campuses and in numerous churches and communities around the country.
What is the significance of this awesome movement of God’s Spirit? Is God saying something to us that needs to be heard? This could be the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand that is the harbinger of significant revival [1 Kings 18:44-46].
Perhaps God is ready, now, to take a new initiative. Popular theologians have told us that God is dead, silent, indifferent, or impotent. The Church, the state, the educational institutions and various organizations for reform have done their best but have left us in despair. Now God has decided to show his hand. The current movement of God was longed for by many – but it came clearly as a surprise. It was spontaneous and unplanned – at least by men or women.
We have seen afresh the power of an authentic witness for Christ. A characteristic of this movement has been the absence of preaching. It was personal testimony to the transforming power of Christ that seemed to trigger and to extend this movement. There was no preaching but eight days of unbroken witness, praise, adoration, invitation, and intercession. Out went teams to tell of the glory of God – and the fire spread. In a day that accents the sensual and the empirical we have seen afresh the power of witness to Christian experience.
The power of students committed to Christ has been made evident. The world has watched while other students have brought down administrations and shaken national governments. We have come to regard students as political and social revolutionaries. Now God has let us see their potential as Christians.
The young people in this movement have been the key. Faculty and administrators have been chauffeurs and guides while the Spirit has used the young to open closed doors and storm the enemy’s bastions.
This should really be no surprise. History reminds us that in 1806 it was two college sophomores and three freshmen at Williams College who triggered the movement of Christian missions in American life – a movement of God hardly surpassed elsewhere in Christian history. The major Christian movements of the 20th century – from independent faith missions to modern ecumenical movement – began in student groups in the late 19th century.
Luther Wishard persuaded D. L. Moody to give four weeks in July of 1886 to college students. Few realized that history was being made. But from that group of 251 collegians who met with Moody came a movement of the Spirit that produced John R. Mott, Robert Speer, Samuel Zwemer, E. Stanley Jones, Wascom Pickett, the Student Volunteer Movement, the 20th century missionary thrust around the world, and laid the foundations of the ecumenical movement.
Twentieth century humanity has been characterized by a supreme confidence in itself and its institutions. Political personalities have felt that the state could bring in “The Great Society.” Religious figures have looked to the church and its institutions to produce “The Christian Century.” By now, those illusions are pretty well shattered. Perhaps the ground is now clear so God can plant that vine of his choosing.
God is ready to bless again when men and women turn their attention to the central verities. A characteristic of the current movement of the Spirit is the absence of the marginal and the trivial. The attention has been on getting right with God in terms of sin, self, and one’s neighbor. The cry of the sinner has been for pardon and new life. Multitudes have found this. The plea of the backslider has been for restoration. Carnal believers have yearned for clean hearts. Many have sought and found through the filling of the Spirit.
Jeff Black, a student, noted these observations firsthand: “Basketball players with their coach are at the altar … my roommate has not moved for five hours from his seat … 14 hours have passed since the revival began. There are 300 to 400 people present at this midnight hour ….”
The prayer of all has been, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” To all he has said: “Ye shall be witnesses.” Many now are, and the end is not yet.
Dennis Kinlaw (1922-2017) was the president of then-Asbury College in 1970. Dr. Kinlaw was a noted Old Testament scholar and a leader in the Wesleyan-Holiness movement. This article appeared in the April-June 1970 issue of Good News.