Rev. Daniel Holstege, pastor of the Wingham PRC in Wingham, Ontario, Canada

The Asbury University revival

What happened at Asbury University this past February? Asbury is a university that was founded in 1890 in the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky by men of the Wesleyan and Methodist movement with its “tradition of revivals and a theology that teaches people to wait for a divine wind to blow.”1 On February 8, a regular morning chapel service at the Hughes Auditorium on campus unexpectedly did not end. After the choir sang a final chorus, according to one Asbury professor, “… something began to happen that defies easy description. Students did not leave. They were struck by what seemed to be a quiet but powerful sense of transcendence, and they did not want to go. They stayed and continued to worship. They are still there.”2

Over the next several days, thousands of people flocked to Wilmore by car, bus, and plane from around the country and the world as news of the event spread rapidly through social media. Despite the growing numbers, some estimating 20,000 over one of the weekends, the event was described as peaceful and joyful with hours and hours of singing, praying, confessing sin, and listening to speakers. The overflowing crowds waited to enter the auditorium or watched the service on screens set up outdoors, in other buildings, and at the nearby seminary. Similar events began to pop up at other private Christian universities around the country.

Finally, on February 24, Asbury announced the end of what has been called a revival, an awakening, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Responses to the event have been many and diverse, favorable and critical, from those convinced a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit has taken place, and others who sought sociological or psychological explanations.

No true believer today questions the fact that Christianity in the West has been in serious decline for a long time, that churches have been falling away left and right, and that a generation of young people now exists that does not know the Lord. So when thousands of young people seem to wake up all at once and pour out a tremendous stream of worship to God, we can hardly help but marvel and scratch our heads a bit, wondering what just happened. Perhaps some observers even felt an aching desire to feel the same kind of spiritual excitement that was on display.

In Reformed circles, we tend to be critical of revivalism, and rightly so.3 That does not mean we see no need for spiritual awakening among the members of Christ’s church. There is a constant need to hear the call, “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Eph. 5:14). Sometimes there is widespread spiritual apathy and ungodly behavior in the church. Is that true today? Do you see that in your circles? If so, rather than pray for the kind of sudden and fleeting revival that was reported to have happened at Asbury; rather than being critical or discontent with the ordinary means of grace and the ordinary Christian life with its joys and sorrows…let us pray without ceasing that the Lord will fill our own local pastors with His Holy Spirit to preach the gospel purely and passionately to our hearts from Sunday to Sunday, so that we may testify, “How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Rom. 10:15). Let us pray that he will raise up men for the ministry who believe deep in their hearts, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!” (I Cor. 9:16) and “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8), so that they long to “speak comfortably to Jerusalem” and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplished and her iniquity is pardoned (Is. 40:2).

Let us walk in the spheres where the Spirit ordinarily operates so that we do not fulfill the lusts of the flesh (Gal. 5:16) but sing to each other “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). Let us seek to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, length, depth, and height of the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge (Eph. 3:18-19).

The Lord will wake up His spiritually slumbering people in His time and according to His will by the ordinary but beautiful means of grace when they faithfully set forth Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen from the dead as our hope in life and death.

Saddleback Church removed from the SBC

On February 21, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) removed Saddleback Church from the denomination because they ordained a female teaching pastor, the wife of Andy Wood, who is the new senior pastor of the church.4 Saddleback Church is a megachurch in Orange County, California that was founded and pastored for more than forty years by Rick Warren, author of the popular books The Purpose Driven Life and The Purpose Driven Church. This was not the first time Saddleback ordained women into ministry positions. But it was the first time they ordained a woman as a “teaching pastor.” Four other churches were also ousted from the SBC for similar reasons.

One Southern Baptist pastor was hotly opposed to the decision to remove Saddleback, tweeting that the decision was “driven by power, male supremacy; and it stinks in the nostrils of God.”5 A former Southern Baptist pastor, who doubts the SBC will allow women pastors any time soon, made these interesting remarks from the same Los Angeles Times’ article:

Our seminary enrollment is down. All trends in theological education indicate that fewer and fewer men are going to seminary and seeking the degrees that have historically been conferred upon pastors in Southern Baptist life. If there are 47,000 Southern Baptist churches and 20 years from now you only have 20,000 men who want to be pastors, there are going to be some tough decisions to be made.

In other words, he thinks the SBC might just cave in and allow women pastors for the practical reason that there are not enough men.

The apostle Paul wrote to Timothy in no uncertain terms by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, “Let the women learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve” (I Tim. 2:11-13). The Word of God does not allow women to hold office in the church. But, as in the case of Deborah, a godly mother in Israel who supported fearful Barak and urged him to take the lead, let the godly women in the church today encourage the godly men, with a meek and quiet spirit (I Pet. 3:4), and help them to be good leaders.

As we stand against the liberal trend of women’s ordination, may God forbid that we men be “driven by power” or the notion of “male supremacy,” and grant us a spirit of humble obedience to God’s Word and a servant’s heart. May God prevent manipulative and arrogant men from becoming leaders, and give us pastors and elders who are truly blameless, chaste, sober, meek, patient, and wise leaders (I Tim. 3:1-7).

Photos from the James Webb space telescope

The James Webb Space Telescope is the most advanced telescope launched into space in human history, superior to the famous Hubble Space Telescope. Launched into space in December 2021, the highly sophisticated telescope sent back its first photographs of deep space in July of 2022 and has been stunning the scientific community ever since. Just last January, scientists thought they discovered six new galaxies that supposedly took form less than 600 million years after the Big Bang. The massive size of these purported galaxies stunned scientists so much that some are questioning their whole beloved theory about the origin of the universe. In an Associated Press article entitled “Space telescope uncovers massive galaxies near cosmic dawn,” Australian scientist Ivo Labbe is reported to have said that

he and his team didn’t think the results were real at first—that there couldn’t be galaxies as mature as the Milky Way so early in time—and they still need to be confirmed. The objects appeared so big and bright that some members of the team thought they had made a mistake. “We were mind-blown, kind of incredulous.”6

In the same article, another scientist is reported to have said, “It turns out we found something so unexpected it actually creates problems for science. It calls the whole picture of early galaxy formation into question.”

Are these photographs leading any scientists who are committed to a materialistic worldview and the Big Bang theory to reconsider the truth that God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning? Only God can open the closed heart of a man to understand the mysteries of the origin of the universe as He has revealed them in His Word. When you begin with a childlike faith that holds for truth all that God reveals in His Word, so that you confess that God created the whole universe in six days at the dawn of time, new discoveries like this do not create the kind of problems for your science that call into question your belief about galaxy formation. You know that God made those galaxies just as they are in the beginning, as He tells you, “I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded” (Is. 45:12). So when you see these new discoveries, you fall down and worship and sing, “O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! Who hast set thy glory above the heavens” (Ps. 8:1).

1 Daniel Sillman, Christianity Today, “‘No Celebrities Except Jesus:’ How Asbury Protected the Revival,” February 23, 2023 ( revival-outpouring-protect-work-admin-volunteers.html).

2 Tom McCall, Christianity Today, “Asbury Professor: We’re Witnessing a ‘Surprising Work of God,’” February 13, 2023 ( asbury-revival-1970-2023-methodist-christian-holy-spirit.html).

3 See Herman Hanko’s series of articles on “Charles Grandison Finney: Revivalist” in the Standard Bearer from November 1, 2005 to April 1, 2006. He calls Charles Finney (1792-1875) the “father of American revivalism.” Finney was an outright Pelagian who preached a false gospel but sparked revivals everywhere by manipulative preaching that appealed to emotions.

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