Asbury and why we don’t have to label everything immediately

I studied law at university, followed by manufacturing management and a gear shift career change into manufacturing engineering.  AS both cause and consequence of those decisions, I tend to be keen to label, define, organise. It’s how my mind is wired and so I was one of those people during COVID who got through it by analysing.  You probably saw the spreadsheets and graphs.

However, there is a risk then that people wired like me can attempt to analyse everything and there are dangers with that. One danger is that we can miss the opportunity to enjoy something.  I was thinking a bit more about this when it comes to what has been happening at Asbury University in Kentucky.  Now, I’ve written this a few days in advance, so by the time you read this anything could have happened.

  •  Whatever is happening could have spread like wildfire across America and perhaps beyond.
  • Things could have died down and the people involved headed back to normal life
  • It could still be going on as now, gaining momentum but essentially as a localised happening.
  • It could have got taken over, distorted and manipulated by people with selfish interests.

Incidentally, whilst any of those outcomes might give us a bit more of an insight into exactly what is happening, I don’t think that in and of themselves, they will change the reality of what is happening now and whether or not it is genuine and whether it is good or bad.  We may have a bit more of an idea about whether it can be called revival, though I think that kind of analysis is best done much later.  However, even if it becomes clear that this was a temporary, localised experienced without much wider impact won’t alter the reality of whether this is something that the Holy Spirit is doing.

This brings me back to the point. We don’t need to label what is happening.  We don’t need to decide whether or not it is a revival.  It is possible for those of us at a distance simply to be thankful for positive reports of prayer  and repentance. It is possible for those who are there to enjoy an experience of intimacy with God and to allow him to work in their lives in the moment.

You see, there’s a whole load of ground between “this is a revival” and “this is counterfeit/human/Satanic”.  It is possible that any of us might have a close encounter with God at any time and any place and for any amount of time.  It might be that you have a momentary experience of the Holy Spirit’s intimate closeness on your own for just a few minutes or hours.  Similarly, there may be a time when that sense of God’s tangible presence touches a family gathered to say goodbye to a loved one in the hospital, a home group meeting for prayer and Bible study, a congregation meeting to worship on a Sunday.  I’ve personally experienced all of these on more than one occasion.  The result may be that you finish your time together at the usual point, or that you extend it because people cannot tear themselves away.  That extension may be for another half hour or so or it may extend longer.  I’ve experienced the former, never the latter. 

It may be that the consequence of that encounter ripples out and spreads to other churches, cities, countries or the ripples may be small, though I tend to believe that if you have experienced something of God in this way that it is going to rub off on those you come into contact with. 

The point is that we don’t need to worry about those things.  Let’s leave that with God and allow him to do what he wills. Indeed, it is when we are over concerned with getting the labels right that we risk exposing the situation either to those who will crush it with cynicism or those who will seek to manipulate and control it to ensure that it doers what a revival is meant to do.

So, let’s allow those at Asbury University to engage with and enjoy what God is doing in their lives right now.  Let’s pray for wise leadership and shepherding there.  And let’s simply keep praying for more of God’s work in our own lives, churches, neighbourhoods, whatever he chooses to make that look like.

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