When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.Acts 4:13
I was walking on the campus of Davidson College as my twitter feed began to fill with stories of the #AsburyRevival. As I went past Lingle Chapel, I was reminded of my experiences over twenty years ago. Back then about two dozen students began to gather on Thursday nights to pray and sing together. These unstructured, leaderless worship services by a bunch of untrained students grew from a motley crew. Eventually, our little gathering outgrew the chapel space and we had to begin gathering in the main sanctuary of DCPC.
Those weekly worship gatherings were a hallmark of my experience at Davidson. They shaped my marriage, my ministry and my life. So I look fondly at what the Spirit is doing at Asbury right now. The freedom for students to find their spiritual voices is tremendously exciting. For them to find the freedom of repentance, the power of reconciliation, the love of Christ, and the Joy of the Spirit apart from the trappings of a big steeple church may awaken a new generation of faithful leaders.
The Asbury President has a wonderful blog post here, where he writes, “I think it is wise to see this, at the current phase, as an awakening…Only if we see lasting transformation which shakes the comfortable foundations of the church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back, in hindsight and say ‘yes, this has been a revival.’” He speaks tentatively because he wants to stand in awe of this awakening rather than talk about it. But he also demonstrates a humbleness as he hints for a longing that this would shake the comfortable foundations of the church.
This too reminds me of the best thing that our college chaplain and the large steeple church did for us back at Davidson. They handed us a key and then got out of the way. They did not try to contain it, explain it, direct it, lead it, control it, expand it or even claim it as their own.
There are two things you can do with power, either hoard it or give it way.
Alan Hirsch shares about one of the major factors that stymied and eventually stopped the powerful, Spirit filled ministry of Methodist itinerate preachers during the Second Great Awakening. While Presbyterians and Episcopalians had been building large steeple churches in the center of growing cities, the Methodists took to circuit riding where a preacher would go from frontier village to village preaching the gospel in a tent and then leaving the discipleship to emerge from the local community. The Spirit used these men, but eventually human ego and institutionalism got in the way to deflate this movement.
Eventually the Presbyterians and the Episcopalians began to complain about “those uneducated and uncouth” Methodists. As the institutionalists’ rebukes became louder and louder, eventually the Methodists tried to educate, validate and license these preachers. These hurdles began to block the Spirit’s movement and He decided to take His efforts elsewhere.
This is why I have always been drawn to an Acts 4:13 style of ministry that elevates the ordinary and untrained people. What was noteworthy about John and Peter was simply that these men had been with Jesus. This is what I would love for people to say about me and the people of Waypoint: these are people who spend time with Jesus.
Looking back at my experience at Davidson, I realize it was not my religious courses that prepared me for twenty years of pastoral ministry but the nights I spent in praise and prayer with Lindsay, Kate, Georgia, Laura, Mark, David, Kyle, Tim, Evan, Carrie, Blake, Brent, Benjamin, Jaclyn, Becca, Ashley, Dan, Annie, Justin, Berge…and it is driving me crazy because I know I am forgetting your name in this moment…because these were ordinary people wanting to spend time with Jesus.