At the end of my summer Bible college internship at my church, I had the privilege of giving a sermon at our evening Sunday service. Back then, most folks showed up, so it was a nice sized crowd who’d come to hear this rookie preacher-in-training. My text was 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, when the fire came down and filled the temple after King Solomon’s prayer.
“As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD'S house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, ‘For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.’”
Now I certainly would preach this a little different now. Then I took a look at all the places God filled his temple. I think I did alright. But what happened at the end surprised me and I’ll remember it until heaven.
I had asked for no closing hymn after sermon and my closing prayer, just a thank you and good night . . . I remember Olive simply played a song as I moved from the pulpit to the steps down from the platform . . . when I had gotten down the steps, I saw a long line of people streaming up front to the altar. More than half the congregation (about 100 folks) was down on their knees at or near the altar, with the rest simply not moving from where they sat. No one left the sanctuary. I had gathered with the elders in the back and we all were kind of stunned.
My preaching was good, but not that good!
Now if only all my church work and special guest preaching times throughout my years had similar effect. Hasn’t happened since.
I have been in a number of church service settings with similar reactions to the sermon and/or simply the whole service. There were a few times at chapel or a “deeper life” with varying lengths of duration when I was a professor at Prairie Bible College in Three Hills, Alberta.
I do believe in moments like these, when it seems God is doing something far beyond the normal come and go of a church (or a chapel) service. I have read and studied the big, historical movements and moments in our American church history. From Jonathan Edwards to Charlies Finney to Timothy Dwight, as well as such moments on Christian college and seminary campuses.
So, I know that God is able to do beyond the normal at or after a service—sometimes we can explain why, most of the time it just happens and we can’t explain it. It just happens with varying after effects. So, I do not want to play down or diminish what God could be doing at Asbury right now; but, I do want to give some perspective that I am not hearing from our various Christians folks in-the-know about “revivals.”
These are what I am thinking right now.
I do hope new commitments are being made by these students and faculty. I do pray new missionary movements will be born. I do pray they will never ever be the same. And, I do hope many unsaved will be saved as a result.
Yet in the age of the internet, I am also concerned that we’re making more of this “Asbury revival” than ought to be made of it, that somehow God is not at work where we are at, moving in mysterious ways, unnoticed by social media . . . yet He is still working.
Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.