A Few Less-Cynical Thoughts about the #AsburyRevival from a Progressive Christian Pastor

This is a post about what has been branded “The Asbury Revival.” If you haven’t heard about it or don’t know what’s going on, this link is as good a summary as any. I didn’t think I had any opinions about it, but then I started thinking about it and apparently do I ever.

1. Something is clearly happening. That’s obvious.

2. That’s not the same thing as “God started a revival there.”

3. But a good number of people there are clearly having experiences that they are identifying as being from God. I have no snarky opinions about that.

4. That’s not the same thing as not having snarky opinions about when people try to manufacture “revival.” I have lots of snarky opinions about that.

But by the accounts I’ve read, this isn’t that. People are having genuine experiences that do not appear to have been manufactured by people with fancy lighting equipment or fancy emotional manipulation about hellfire and damnation. I don’t know for sure if that’s true, but that’s what I’ve heard.

Questions literally nobody asked

Q. But what about a moral transformation? Is this a real revival if there’s no moral transformation?

A. As someone who’s

  • fairly cynical about even the whole IDEA of “revival,” and
  • has some very strong, cynical opinions about previous events that were branded as revivals, and
  • has exactly no stock in the whether previous revivals were of any value whatever,

I’m not the least bit interested in doing any gatekeeping of whether what’s going on at Asbury “counts as a revival” or not based on the social justice outcome or lack thereof, or any other criteria.

I don’t know if it is a revival, and I don’t have an opinion about that. Because I don’t care.

Q. So you don’t think this is from God?

A. I didn’t say that. I think these people at Asbury, or at least many of them, are having a genuine experience of the presence of God.

From personal experience, I suspect there are some there not having any experience of the presence of God whatsoever who wish they were, and maybe a few others aren’t having any experience of the presence of God and are perhaps faking it for clout, but I have no way of proving whether that’s true, and those experiences aren’t the experience I’m particularly interested in for the purposes of this blog anyway.

But in my experience, God is incredibly, even frustratingly generous when people are looking to experience God’s presence.

People who have absolutely no business experiencing the love of God experience the love of God.

People with terrible theology feel validated by these experiences, and people, (uh, me), who had these experiences when they had more deficient and exclusionary theology end up very confused because it seems like that experience of something good from God while believing something harmful somehow either

(a) validates those harmful beliefs, or
(b) means the experience of something good from God wasn’t real.

I don’t think either of those is the case.

I think of it like this: I have two kids. I love my kids a lot. They also frustrate me a lot, and do things to each other that hurts each other.

But if they are up for snuggles, I am up for snuggles. And while I do hope their security in my love will help teach them to be more loving and kind to one another, my snuggles are not contingent on that.

In the same way, I hope that this experience people are having at Asbury will lead them to be kinder, more just people who love God and others more and take action to live out God’s kin-dom on earth as in heaven, but if it doesn’t lead to those things, I don’t think that means their experience of the presence of God wasn’t real.

If we had to be right about everything and doing everything right for God to connect with us, nobody would have ever experienced the presence of God at all, least of all me.

About David M. Schell






2 responses to “A Few Less-Cynical Thoughts about the #AsburyRevival from a Progressive Christian Pastor”

  1. Steven Andrews Avatar

    As someone who has had more evangelical seasons and experienced significant spiritual visions around that time, I resonate with you apprehension about experience validating what we consider to be bad theology. Here, I take comfort from C.S. Lewis. He believed God gives people miracles when they need them, often because their faith is weak or new and needs support. But, like a father who lets his children do more on their own as they grow older and stronger, God does not give these experiences to more mature Christians who do not need them.

    Great post.

    I hope this comment is helpful.

    You can find me at http://Www.stevenandrews.blog

    1. Gary Avatar

      Thanks Steven – I pray us older evangelicals can remember to keep seeking, keep knocking, and diving for those deeper miracles…I think we all need more Father 🙂

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