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Students worship during the 16-day revival at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky.
Photo by Robin Cornetet, Kentucky Today

Editorial: What do young people think about revivals?

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Younger Americans are far less interested in traditional religion than their forebears. Survey after survey confirms what we’ve all suspected.

Generation Z possesses more skepticism and is less trusting than past generations. Pummeled by conflicting perspectives on social media and a vocal society, young adults encounter plenty of voices willing to lead them like a shepherd guiding sheep. Some of these voices are helpful.

Related: ‘The hour has come’ for revival

Many are not.

Arguably, the younger generation senses the need for another Great Awakening similar to the one that occurred in the 18th century.

The recent 16-day revival at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., garnered national media attention as thousands flocked to the small campus to worship and pray.

Students worship during the 16-day revival at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky.

Students worship during the 16-day revival at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky.

The event raises the question: How do young Americans view these revivals?

For the youngest members of The Christian Chronicle’s Editorial Board, the answer is not shocking: Wait and see.

Skepticism is not a bad thing. In fact, skepticism is often needed.

Related: Asbury revival sparks prayer, reflection at Christian universities

How does that skepticism shade young adults’ opinions regarding revivals?

We need to differentiate between small and large revivals — small meaning one to a few people. Small-scale revivals happen often. Stories of people renouncing a sinful past and grasping faith are regularly recounted on social media among family members and friends. Not every story is successful — many people struggle to change and yet still fail — but people young and old are receptive to the idea of revival.

Large-scale revivals appear less commonly and face more scrutiny from younger Americans. Large revivals are associated with a unique movement of God among a group of people, resulting in changed hearts. The latter hinges on the former.

A change of heart is not easily seen or proven. Concrete evidence is found only in subsequent actions. Even such actions aren’t without question. Thus, a more skeptical generation may be less inclined to jump on the “revival wagon.”

As with recent events at Asbury, skepticism is heightened when given the university’s roots in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition. This tradition places an emphasis on pursuing God through repentance and sanctification, seeking transformative movements of the Holy Spirit, as the Chronicle reports.

Students sing during a chapel assembly at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City.

Students sing during a chapel assembly at Oklahoma Christian University in Oklahoma City.

Any claim of revival should be weighed in light of Scripture. Sometimes our reading of Scripture will be challenged by claims of revival. Sometimes our reading may be confirmed. But in every circumstance, God’s movement in the world will be consistent with his revelation to the world.

The Asbury revival led leaders and students at universities associated with Churches of Christ — Harding University, Abilene Christian University and Lubbock Christian University among them — into prayer and reflection. One president sees a spiritual awakening emerging as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Other leaders see similar possibilities on our Christian campuses just as students pray to have eyes to see where God may be spurring their community toward revival.

Writing off revivals should not be our first response. We should eagerly long for a powerful movement that turns hearts back to God. True revival will lead to lives being more in tune with Jesus and more committed to living out the truth of Scripture. As Paul reminded the church in Rome:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?’” (Romans 11:33-34).

Scripture reveals that the righteous will produce good fruits. What a great reminder to look for fruits of revival. And just as the springtime budding of trees reminds us, fruit takes time.

Sometimes the only proper response is to wait and watch. — Gabriel Grant Huff, for the Editorial Board


Gabriel Grant Huff

MEET GABRIEL GRANT HUFF: A multimedia journalism major at Harding University in Searcy, Ark., Huff served as The Christian Chronicle’s intern last summer.

As he returned to Harding for his senior year, he accepted Editor-in-Chief Bobby Ross Jr.’s invitation to serve as a student representative on the Chronicle’s Editorial Board.

The Religion News Association recently honored Huff’s outstanding journalism with a national award. He won second place for the RNA’s 2023 Chandler Award for Excellence in Student Religion Reporting. The prize recognizes stories that Huff wrote for the Chronicle.

“Gabriel came highly recommended by all his professors at Harding and still exceeded our expectations,” Ross said. “We wish him all the best as he pursues a full-time career in journalism.”

Filed under: Asbury University Church decline Editorial Generation Z Millenials Opinion Religious nones revival Top Stories Young Christians

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