First there was the 50th anniversary of the Jesus Movement (celebrated on 17 Sep 2021), a revival that began around 1970 and spread mainly in USA, Western Europe, and Central America, before it cooled in the late 1980s. I recall that in the late 1970’s I read an exciting book about this revival titled Jesus Movement(1974) by Edward Plowman. A few decades later I heard a bearded man with long hair in our church pulpit share about how he was one of those “hippies” in the Jesus revolution. His name is Dr Edward Pousson. When you meet him in person you have to salute the Holy Spirit’s life transforming work in this humble man of God. That revival had to be real!
Next, Salt & Light, Thirst and Hope Church collaborated and released their video documentary on 23 July 2022, about the local Revival of 1972. To date 38,000 have watched this locally produced video. I made a short appearance in the video and enjoyed the interview process because the questions forced me to reflect on what happened in 1972 and its ramifications.
Then a Christian film titled the Jesus Revolution, a drama based on the story of evangelist, pastor and author Greg Laurie, and set in the Jesus movement revival was released on 27 February 2023. I would like to catch this film if it comes to our shores. This film made an impact and I wonder if it may have stirred the hunger and imagination of young people to seek the Lord for revival.
Is Asbury University one of those places where young people were hungry for the Spirit’s move? Something of the Spirit did happen in Asbury, where thousands of people, young and old, but mostly young, experienced a loving and powerful presence of God leading to repentance, confession and transformation. It is now popularly (perhaps prematurely) called Asbury Revival. It began on 8 February 23 and ended on 24 February 23. (When you have such an exact date to mark the end of a revival, can it be a real revival?) More believers have heard about this “revival” because of the prevalence of social media. I received many videos from pastor friends and church members.
There seems to be quite a buzz about revival these days. God seems to be inviting his Bride, the Church, to repentance and to adorn herself with the white garments of first love. Revival is nothing less than a love transfusion to the half dead. Looks like I cannot run from the captivating voice of revival.
Finally, it was my friend Zach Wong who informed me that there had been an article written in Thirst about the Revival of 1972 with more information (from the interview held in the church I served) than what made the final cut in the video. I thought the additional information would be of interest to World Revival Prayer Fellowship members and to the larger public. The writer Gracia Chiang did a great job of picking up significant parts of the interview and those from other interviewees as well. So for those who prefer scanning and reading to watching lengthy documentaries you will want to read this thoroughly researched and balanced article titled “It Changed the Face of Christianity in Singapore” HERE.
The Asbury revival has sizzled the internet with exciting sounds and images, and claims and counter-claims of an authentic spiritual outpouring from heaven. The debates generated seems to me to stem partly from semantics. When I am asked, “What do you think of the Asbury revival?”, I find myself at “PAUSE”. I pause because of there are a few definitions of revival.
The word “revival” carries a range of different meanings. In the United States, it can mean an organised series of meetings with the goal of awakening God’s people to the gospel and outreach to the unsaved in the community. To others, it refers to the awakening and quickening of believers who have grown cold, apathetic, and indifferent in their love for God and people. This can happen in private prayer, in a worship service, retreat or prayer meeting. For others, it has to be a prolonged, wide-scale outpouring of the Spirit that is unplanned, with definitive signs of the Spirit’s power and transforming activity, resulting in lasting spiritual fruit and social transformation.
The Asbury revival is unplanned, so the first definition is out. The second definition may be the closest to what has been happening at Asbury. For the Asbury revival to pass muster with the third definition, what is required is observation over a longer period, and this uncertainty is multiplied because the Asbury University announced a decision to end the revival gatherings on the 24th of February 2022. While looking at the Asbury University website, I chanced upon the term they officially used to describe the services: “spiritual renewal”. Interestingly prudent!
The Asbury revival began suddenly when students in the chapel service continued to pray on after the service ended. Repentance and tears flowed and the presence of God was unusually palpable. That service would continue for about 16 straight days of non-stop worship, prayer, confession of sins, repentance, testimony and social media uploads. It would draw an estimated total attendance of 50,000 to 70,000 participants, drawn from the university and all over the United States.
Videos & Articles
Type in “Asbury revival” on YouTube and a list of videos and commentaries on the revival would appear. There are gainsayers and doubters giving their opinions with video titles like, “The Asbury Revival is not of God”, “Asbury revival is very dangerous” and “Fake Asbury revival worship is being led by Homosexuals and Queers”. There are other videos that feature warm hearted testimonies of believers who experienced a healing encounter with God in prayer. Then there are simple quick videos of scenes of the revival services. Lastly, there are those news reports by TV networks both Christian and secular. Two good YouTube videos I have watched are “Seven Days Straight at Asbury Revival” and a lengthier, heavier discussion “Is Revival Happening?”.
Google “Asbury revival” and you will see a list of interesting articles about it. The one article I would highlight now would be “The Aftershocks of the Asbury Revival” where the spiritual-socio-political factors that made young people ripe for such a move of the Spirit were described: a longing for deeper sense of connection with God and each other; political polarisation and social fragmentation including racial injustice; global pandemic, economic uncertainty and wars; the acute hunger among young people for hope, for the real, the authentic.
Preach and Teach About Revival
If you are a pastor or preacher and you want to talk about revival to your church or audience to help them make sense of what has been happening in Asbury revival and in the Revival of 1972’s in Singapore, what would be a good text to use? There are quite a number of them that can be used for preaching or meditations:
Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Ps 85:6
The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. Ps 19:7
I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. Isa 57:15
The valley of dry bones passage. Eze 37:1-14
The river flowing from the temple passage. Eze 17:1-12
O Lord, I have heard of the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy. Hab 3:2
For anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Eph 5:14
(If there are other passages you have used in preaching about revival do add a comment. Share the blessing with other readers).
Acts 2 : Distinct Features of A Revival?
The one passage that has the most insights and inspiration would be St Luke’s description of the outpouring of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2. Here is a possible outline you can use. It is from two chapters of Arthur Wallis’ book titled “In The Day of Thy Power” (subtitle “The scriptural principles of revival”). I read this book and this in his Acts 2 outline listing and explaining the distinctive features of a revival. I hope this will be helpful to preachers and pastors. They can do it in a two-part or three-part series with invitations to the front to pray for revival in their souls, churches and nation.
The Sovereignty of God: “When the day of Pentecost arrived…” (verse 1)
Spiritual Preparation: “they were all together in one place” (verse 1b, 1:14)
Spontaneous Working: “…there came from heaven..” (verse 2)
God-consciousness: “…a sound like a mighty rushing wind…divided tongues as of fire appeared to them …” (verse 2,3)
Anointed Vessels: “…they were all filled with the Holy Spirit…” (verse 4a)
Supernatural Manifestation: “..began to speak in other tongues ..” (verse 4b)
Divine Magnetism: “…the multitude came together…”(verse 6)
Apostolic Preaching: “But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted his voice” (verse 14)
Supernatural Blessing: “…there were added that day about three thousand souls” (verse 41)
Divine Simplicity: “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” (verse 41-45).
To read the full script of Wallis’ exposition of this text go HERE and HERE. I trust this has been helpful and if you have anything you would like to express about the Asbury revival feel free to comment. The comment box you need to click on is below the title of this post.
If you are curious about a definitive Singapore revival go HERE to watch a video done by Salt & Light about the Revival of 1972.
This documentary done by Salt & Light is surely a landmark in Singapore’s Christian media history. We have had books about the history of the Singapore church (“In His Good Time” by Bobby Sng), and about the charismatic revival of the 1970’s (“Unfolding His Story” by Galven and Georgie Lee ), but this is the first time a significant full-length documentary has been launched by Salt & Light a Christian media company. It comprised mainly current interviews, old photos and film footage of witnesses and participants of the revival of 1972.
I can imagine the challenge it presented to the media team, sourcing and collating all the old photos and rounding up revival witnesses and filming all the interviews. The amount of man hours and talent involved is huge. I first received a WhatsApp message from Thomas Franks introducing himself on 6 February 2022, and he probably had started the ball rolling even earlier.
If the revival took place in 2022, there will be no lack of videos, social media traces, lots of Instagram pictures and Tik Tok and YouTube videos of the revival. In fact, it will be in excess – a huge video editing migraine! But it happened 50 years ago, when most of us do not own a camera. So lots of archaeological digs! Besides the initial meeting, when Thomas Franks the video producer, noted down facts and opinions, there were many occasions of clarifications about events, facts and photo sourcing. Then there is the script to write and the interviews to do. Monumental task.
The video team came to World Revival Prayer Fellowship (WRPF) an hour earlier than the appointed time to set up their equipment, and they did about two hours of filming on a few cameras, for the two interviews about the revival in Dunearn Secondary Technical School, which then grew into WRPF. By the time they finished work, it was close to 4.30pm. It took a whole day for the media team, and these were only the raw files, which then had to be sifted and edited, to fit with the storyline and script. And ours was only one side story among many side stories.
I was glad to be part of the project, and to see myself talking in the video and contributing to the story of the revival of 1972, gave me a sense of satisfaction. The revival story was richly multi-faceted and yet there is a unity about it and this is clearly reflected in the video. You can see and hear me at the 8.15/8.30 minutes time stamp.
May this video stir a hunger among generation next to seek a new move of God for their time. It won’t be the same kind because God is not stuck in the past and his wisdom and creativity is greater than our forecasting capacity. Eyes have not seen and ears have not heard what God has prepared for those who love him.
If you were a participant of the revival of 1972 that went on for close to a decade, please feel free to tell us your story in the comment box. Thank you.