The Revival We Need

Asbury College alums have been seeing reports of another “spontaneous revival”–continuing praise and worship going on in Hughes Auditorium since last week. I experienced a similar event in 1970 which resulted in Judy and me going to Colombia on a mission team, our first trip outside the USA during our first year of marriage.

E. Stanley Jones was part of another Asbury revival in 1905. He ended up traveling the globe as a missionary/evangelist, saying “I want to put my arms around the world and share this with everybody.” He was also an ardent advocate for racial justice and world peace. His book on Gandhi influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. He met with FDR to try to avoid war with Japan and spoke out against the internment of Japanese Americans. He argued for the full acceptance of women–all of this in the 1940-50’s!

In 1958 he preached at another Asbury chapel service which shook the campus as described by Asbury professor David Swartz:

“Tension suffused Hughes Chapel in 1958 as alumnus and missionary E. Stanley Jones addressed a thousand students and faculty members. His indelicate sermon on racial integration shocked many on Asbury College’s lily white campus. He pronounced civil rights a “God-touched moment.” He thundered against segregationists, arguing that their resistance was hurting the cause of Christ and democracy.

Segregationist made sure there were no African Americans at Asbury. Jones saw the college’s heritage which emphasized the revivalism of Frances Asbury and John and Charles Wesley as bending toward racial egalitarianism. His tempest was a direct challenge to Asbury’s establishment and everyone in the chapel knew it.” (David Swartz, “Facing West”, page 65).

Jones’ entire life modeled his commitment to both personal holiness and social holiness, the inner experience of conversion and overt action the world. He once said, “I am not interested in a personal gospel or a social gospel. I want one gospel which lays its hand on all of life, personal and social, and controls and redeems it.”

We all need times of spiritual renewal and revival. It can come through the sacraments or silence, like the rush of a mighty wind or the still, small voice of God. I am a product of camp meetings, MYF rallies, and the 1970 Asbury revival. There is a time for such experiences. However, without a companion commitment to social justice they can become little more than emotional highs which feel good, but produce little.

This is Transfiguration Sunday. On the mountaintop, the disciples were so fired up spiritually, Peter said, “Let’s pitch a tent for Jesus, Elijah and Moses and just stay right here.” Instead, Jesus led them back into the world where they immediately encountered the need for healing and the demands of the society around them. (Matthew 17). Similarly, I think Jesus would be sending us from the exuberance of revival on the Asbury campus to the agony on the MSU campus and the work to end gun violence in our nation.

A revival of personal faith and a revival of social witness–that’s the kind of revival we need. As the motto for Asbury Seminary says, “The whole Gospel for the whole world.”


PS: If you would like to know more about E. Stanley Jones’ experience at Asbury College check out his biography In Our Times by Robert Tuttle, or my book Thirty Days with E. Stanley Jones. Both are available from or Amazon.

11 thoughts on “The Revival We Need

  1. Royce Hardaway

    My aunt, Jean Wolfe is a 1960 Asbury graduate as was her husband Nelson. My 28 year old granddaughter Kristin was at Asbury this week. We will hear her speak this Sunday morning here in the Dallas area. I myself am a graduate of Perkins.

  2. Betsy Jarvis Stevens

    Thank you, Jack! This was insightful, as I don’t recall hearing about the segregation issues that E. Stanley Jones addressed! What a difference Asbury is because of that! Preparation for continuing movements of the Holy Spirit, even now!

  3. edpurkeycanyonpastor

    I was there, of course, in 1970 at the ATS Revival, which was an amazing “season of the Spirit of Jesus.” It happened during a time of great unrest in the lives of our nation’s “Boomer generation.”
    I appreciate your hope that the Spirit of God will indeed move from the hearts of Wilmore KY to the broken hearts of East Lansing MI and into the multitude of crushed hearts in God’s world today. “Jesus is Lord!”

  4. Chris Momany

    Thank you, Jack. The Wesleyan Theological Society will be meeting in Wilmore, at the Seminary, March 2-4. Our Dialogue on Race and Faith group will present to the Society. While sympathetic to revival and to this one in particular, quite honestly, I have mixed feelings about being in town and all of the drama there.

  5. Gary S

    There will always be an (older?) generation crowding around wanting to direct another generation into the right channels. I don’t think that’s our mission. The Spirit’s move is not ours to command or co-opt or encompass. Pause. Ponder. Prepare the room.

  6. Tony Hawkins

    Thank you. Having been reminded of Asbury abolition urgency and the 2nd great awakening social issues of abolition, temperance, education and suffrage for women, I only pray the Asbury moment will bear such fruit. In my limited view, unless the gmc applies the gospel to racism, far right/left agendas, misogyny, gender issues as well as helping people better understand what the word of God is and how to apply it. Helping people answer the question: am I an American Christian or a Christian American?
    Understand, such themes should not consume the agenda but somehow, these must be part of the teaching ministry. I fear that if not, the gmc will be irrelevant.

  7. Pingback: Mighty wind and quiet stream - Bishop's Blog

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