As the conversation continues to percolate around the incredible spiritual events that began unfolding last month at Asbury University, a professor and Christian theology expert said the occurrences could perhaps, at this juncture, best be described as an “outpouring” rather than a “revival.”
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“I think it’s better to just call it an outpouring right now,” Dr. Steve Seamands, professor of Christian doctrine at Asbury Theological Seminary, said. “And that’s what they are calling it, the Asbury Outpouring.”
Seamands made these comments during an event Feb. 24 at Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas, according to Christian Headlines.
The educator’s statements are especially intriguing in light of ongoing discussions about the massive spiritual events at Asbury — a viral sensation set off by a non-stop church service that lasted more than two weeks and drove tens of thousands worldwide to the Kentucky campus.
Watch Seamands discuss revival:
Other schools also started experiencing subsequent events widely labeled as “revivals,” with students, faculty, and locals flocking to campuses to sing praises and worship the Lord.
Exploring Revival vs. Outpouring
But as historians and Christian onlookers continue exploring what unfolded and the uplifting fallout, these conversations about terms and descriptions are worth having.
Seamands said the word “outpouring” is appropriate until church historians have more time to assess these happenings, particularly the longitudinal impact of the gatherings.
“You want to see the long-term effect it has on people’s lives, on the church and, ultimately, revival leads to a kind of a penetration phase, where people are evangelized, and … social evils are confronted,” he said, noting the term “revival” might, indeed, eventually be used.
Seamands continued, “The Second Great Awakening in the 1800s produced the abolition movement, which led to a civil war, but [also] social change. And so historians, in looking at all this, want to wait to kind of see.”
The terminology, though, does nothing to diminish the powerful faith displays seen at Asbury, Lee University, and other campuses across the U.S., as Seamands said the “manifest presence of God” has been observed in a “powerful way.”
The professor knows a thing or two about revival, as he was at Asbury in 1970 when the last big spiritual resurgence unfolded there, an event many have juxtaposed against recent happenings.
Seamands believes young people — Millennials and Gen Z — are being chased by God, with this latest event perhaps part of that pursuit.
The Real Meaning
Naturally, some might want a clearer understanding of what “revival” actually means.
Seamands said the term “conjures up a lot of things” but that he has been helped by reading Jonathan Edwards’ take on the First Great Awakening in the 1700s.
“[Edwards] says that God the Father has this desire to exalt and glorify His only begotten and beloved Son, and there are certain times and occasions when He finds it necessary and desires to do that in an extraordinary, powerful kind of way,” Seamands explained. “And the Spirit is poured out as God seeks to lift up and exalt his son.”
Thus, revival offers a “fresh encounter with Jesus” and, in turn, transforms individual hearts and the church. Pastor Shane Idleman of Westside Christian Fellowship in Leona Valley, California, has shared similar sentiments.
“[Revival] is when God supernaturally does amazing things, spiritually,” he recently told CBN’s Faithwire.
The preacher said the heart of revival is to “awaken the sleeping dead” and explained the impact he believes these events can have on the communities experiencing them.
“God, during seasons of revival, will come in and just completely overtake the event or the church service,” he said. “Genuine revival is when God is leading, and you feel the power and presence of God.”
More on the ‘Outpouring’
Asbury’s use of the word “outpouring” is evident throughout the college’s website, with announcements recently proclaiming the university “will not be hosting or sponsoring further outpouring events at this time.” And a web page published to explain what unfolded officially refers to it as an “outpouring.”
The term was used along with language describing the events as an “outpouring of God’s Spirit and the stirring of human hearts,” with the university noting the terms aren’t as important as what’s actually been unfolding.
“Regardless of how we choose to describe what we have seen and experienced over the last several weeks (revival, renewal, awakening, outpouring) — this movement is not finished,” a statement reads. “Other colleges and churches are experiencing similar services. Rather, we are encouraging the continued movement of God through other people, places, and ministries.”
Inside the Last Big Asbury Revival
As noted, this isn’t the first time Asbury experienced a revival (or outpouring). A separate event in February 1970 saw more than 144 hours of praise and worship and made a massive splash in headlines, with other events following.
“On Feb. 3, 1970, Dean Custer B. Reynolds, scheduled to speak in chapel, felt led to invite persons to give personal testimony instead,” a description reads. “Many on campus had been praying for spiritual renewal and were now in an expectant mood. Soon there was a large group waiting in line to speak.”
Some of the same people attended the most recent outpouring.
Be sure to pray for the students and faculty experiencing this outpouring — and for the people worldwide who are positively impacted and, as a result, exploring their own spiritual resurgence.
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