Sunday, August 15, 2010

STUDENT-LED REVIVAL: Asking God to Work In & Through the Next Generation

I need to tell you about one of my heroes. His name is Art Bowser and he taught church history courses during the years I was in Bible college. Probably because I needed another history course to graduate, I decided to take his The History of the Great Revivals my senior year. Most of the dates and historical names are long gone from my memory, but I’ll never forget Mr. Bower’s desire to learn all he could about great movements of God in the lives of human culture. He loving and longingly taught us about Martin Luther and The Great Reformation, the Wesley Brothers and George Whitfield, and the amazing work of D.L. Moody.


It certainly wasn’t the facts of history that endeared Mr. Bowser to me; it was his enthusiasm for true God-centered, heart-changing revival. He had a great knowledge about the chronological dates and he had learned much about history’s human influencers, but what impacted me most was his great love of genuine revival. His passion was contagious.

Here’s what I remember most from Mr. Bower’s Great Revivals course: most of the great revivals in history began (humanly speaking, of course) with students.

I’m sure there’s a level of human logic here that makes sense. Students often possess an idealistic outlook that propels them to seek change. They see things as they are currently and they idealistically want things to be different in the future. Students realistically have their entire futures ahead of them and they have the energy and enthusiasm that drives them toward accomplishment and achievement.

However, Mr. Bowser taught me that there maybe another factor involved in student-led revivals. It just may be that God uses students to change things.

Readers, I honestly believe that this may be the most compelling reason why I love youth ministry. God has given me multiple opportunities over the last 35 years (since I started working with youth in college) to see great works of God in and through the lives of young people. A major part of my ministry career has been a personal involvement in some significant and large-scale youth and youth ministry events. I had the opportunity to have a small role in the beginning of a state-wide youth Bible conference that attracted over a thousand teenagers each year for several years in a row. I led a national youth conference for a fellowship of churches where hundreds of teens participated in worship, ministry, and preaching. I also served on the leadership team at 2 different Bible colleges that gave me the occasion to direct their annual youth conferences. Without any exaggeration these events often resulted in God doing momentous things in and through the lives of students!

Not only did I have the great privilege to see God at work in the lives of teenagers (and, let me tell you, it never ceases to amaze me to see our Lord do incredible things in the lives of students), I also had the unique advantage to hear reports from numerous churches about how God used kids, over and over again, to be a genuine catalyst for revival in their home churches after the event was over.

Art Bowser was right. God does use students to launch great revivals.

At this point it’s important to note that genuine God-centered revivals are never produced via a formula or recipe. If that was the case, man would have undoubtedly put “one-and-one-together” in an all too human attempt to manufacture what only God can truly generate. Authentic revivals are exclusively and entirely of God. However, even a cursory study of the history of revivals reveals that God also used fervent and intentional prayer as an essential ingredient of a true spiritual resurgence.

One of my favorite stories from the annals of historical revivals is that of the Haystack Prayer Meeting in northwestern Massachusetts in 1806. God supernaturally used the passionate prayers of 6 students in an amazing way that led to what is often referred to as the “Student Volunteer Movement”. Up until that time, the United States was usually not considered a sending nation for global missionaries. Yet, historians now credit this “Second Great Awakening” for propelling over 10,000 foreign missionaries into the world’s harvest fields. Some have had lasting influence for Christ generation-after-generation in countries that are now closed to Christian missionaries. God used a simple, but fervent prayer meeting to make a lasting difference for eternity.

There’s another, more familiar, illustration of how God is currently using students to make a significant impact for Him. Most readers probably have some level of awareness about the student-led prayer movement “See You At The Pole”. In the early 1990’s a “small group of teenagers in Burleson, Texas came together” asking the Lord to use them to impact their high schools for Christ. Here’s how the SYATP web site recalls the beginning of this campaign. “Compelled to pray, they drove to three different schools that night. Not knowing exactly what to do, they went to the school flagpoles and prayed for their friends, schools, and leaders.” Another incredible prayer movement was born. Last year over 3 million American high school students met at their school flagpoles in a remarkable demonstration of student-fueled prayer.

I believe with all my heart that students can make history when they band together to cry out to God!

Friends, it’s time for another prayer meeting!

The Lord Himself gave us this strategy in Luke 10:2 for launching a new generation of workers. “The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth laborers into His harvest.

We must be obedient to our Lord’s command. It’s time to call a new generation to pray intentionally and fervently for our Lord to send out workers into His harvest! The need for new “harvest workers” has never been greater. The population of the world is growing by a billion people in less than 12 years – and will reach 7 billion people sometime in the year 2012. At this moment, 1/3 of the world’s population is under the age of 21; and the most telling statistic of all – close to 90% of people accept Christ before they leave their teenage years.

We are asking pastors, missionaries, church leaders, Sunday School teachers, and youth leaders everywhere to schedule and organize an intentional prayer emphasis for Harvest Sunday on October 10, 2010. (Yes, that day is: 10/10/10!) Perhaps through our collective prayers, God may choose to launch another great movement of students heading into the global harvest.

Place this date on your church calendars (10/10/10) and schedule some time that day for fervent prayer for harvest workers. Pray in Sunday School and in church services, schedule an early morning prayer breakfast, organize your church people to pray around the clock, organize small prayer groups, etc. Be creative and intentional. The important thing is to pray for and with students.

Please join together with other churches and youth workers all around the world to pray specifically on October 10, 2010 for God to once again use students in a mighty and world-changing way for His glory! Who knows what He may choose to do.

For more information on Harvest Sunday – or to post ideas of what your church or youth group is planning to do – take a look at: http://www.harvestsunday.org/.

2 comments:

Pastordan said...

Could you document the Idea that "most of the great revivals in history began with students"?
I understand there were a few but I beleive you will find it hard to support the idea that most were. This is distorting the facts. I am open to being corrected but it would be nice to see that documented from a reliable source (not just your professors opinion). This flows out of my struggle with youth ministry as we do it today. I am finding it hard to see the biblical basis for how we do youth minsitry today. Interested in your thoughts. Feel free to email me at pastordanlwc@stny.rr.com

Mel Walker said...

Dan, one great source is "God on Campus" - see the link on my blog article. Another source would be "Campus Aflame" by J. Edwin Orr. However, in my post I was just quoting that prof's opinion that challenged my thinking about it.