From 1987–93, I was co-pastor and then solo pastor of a small congregation in Kansas City, MO. We were surrounded by Baptist, Pentecostal, and Roman Catholic congregations. I was there during the so-called Kansas City Prophets movement. The excitement of revival and a “fresh work” of the Spirit was in the air. I met regularly for prayer at what was then known as “Full Faith Church of Love—North” with those who were active in the prophets movement in those heady days of continuing revelation, allegations, and counter allegations between Ernie Gruen (the senior pastor of the FFCL franchise) and Mike Bickle et al., of the International House of Prayer (IHOP).1
In that period, I was reading Wayne Grudem’s apologia for an ostensibly moderate form of Pentecostalism, which seemed to want to respect the uniqueness of the canonical Scriptures, Gordon Fee’s commentary on 1 Corinthians, and most especially D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ last three books advocating a synthesis of his revival piety with a kind of predestinarian pentecostalism. One of the most striking things I read was Jones’ remark that if the the Holy Spirit was intent upon giving one the gifts of the Spirit, there was not much one could do about it. That struck me as true at the time and it continues to seem true today.
What was in question, however, was whether the Holy Spirit really was giving prophecies to the Kansas City Prophets and whether the claims made by the Pentecostals were true. As impressed as I was with the intensity of the piety of my Pentecostal friends, I was equally impressed with the exegetical weakness of the Pentecostal arguments. I had genuinely hoped that they could persuade me. After all, as a believer in divine sovereignty I was sure that, were God willing to give the apostolic-era gifts again, he could do so.
The last time I attended the prayer group at FFCL—North, we laid hands on one of our number. He had a knee injury and he hoped to avoid surgery. We prayed (they in tongues and I in English) but he concluded that he had not been healed. That was interesting. After all, if those fellows really had Pentecostal power, how could a simple healing not happen? After our prayer session broke up, the host pastor called me into his office and offered to give me the Holy Spirit. I thanked him for his kindness and declined politely. After all, if the Holy Spirit is the “Lord and giver of life,” as we confess in the Nicene Creed, then who has authority to dispense the Spirit?
The Doctor Was Right
The Doctor (Lloyd-Jones) was right. If a revival is sovereign work of the Holy Spirit, there is not much that one can do to resist. Pentecost was a sovereign outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The Apostles could no more end Pentecost than they could begin it, nor was anyone able to schedule the Holy Spirit. He moves on his own timetable. Our Lord said, “The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8; NASB).
Thus, it is very instructive to observe the Asbury revival of 2023 coming to a close. According to a local news report, the university concluded its “two weeks of nonstop worship” yesterday. The university’s chapel had become a site for pilgrims and the whole thing had become overwhelming for Wilmore, KY, a town of about 6,300 souls. The school’s president told the press, “Our town’s institutions here and our town’s infrastructure, I just want to be clear, is just not in a place to absorb at this moment, the influx of the blessed guests that we have had come to Wilmore.”
The revival began on February 8, 2023 and formally ended February 20, 2023 at 2:00 p.m. by order of the president of the University, but on the 19th, Asbury professor Craig Keener began arguing publicly that that “the public phase needs to wind down.” He wrote, “[m]any of us were praying for revival for our university and seminary” but they did not “realize how many others were thirsty…”.
From an Augustinian perspective, i.e., from the perspective of the Apostles’ Creed, in which all Christians confess, “I believe in God the Father almighty” (omnipotens; emphasis added), it is appropriate to seek all that we need from God’s sovereign hand. Surely, the church does need to be renewed and Reformed according to the Word of God by the sovereign work of the Spirit and yet, from that same perspective, some questions persist.
How can anyone call for a winding down of a free, sovereign work of the Holy Spirit? Does not the decision to bring the revival to a conclusion tell us a great deal about what has transpired at Asbury? Were the Lord actually present in a new and powerful way, would not the very fact of such a thing require the school and indeed all of us to put our schedules on hold?
When, in the history of redemption, the glory of the Lord appears, it is a signal experience that begins and ends on the Lord’s timetable:
Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. And to the eyes of the sons of Israel the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a consuming fire on the mountain top. Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights (Ex 24:15–18; NASB).
The glory Spirit of Yahweh is sovereign. He descends upon the mountain, he summons Moses up the mountain, and his manifestation is plain to all of Israel. The Spirit manifested himself for 40 days and then departed. There was no question about what was happening. Even the skeptics at Pentecost could see that something unusual was happening. They misinterpreted it and Peter cleared up the significance of Pentecost by preaching the law and the gospel. Is that what has happened at Asbury? Has the law and gospel been preached unequivocally? Have sinners been called to repent and to trust in Christ alone for their righteousness with God? There are have been conflicting reports about what has been preached and who has been preaching it. The reports from Facebook alone have been bewildering.
Of course, time will tell. Perhaps the whole thing will bear great fruit in the Lord’s vineyard? The history of revivals and revivalism is not promising, however.
What we know with certainty is that, in this in-between time, as we make our pilgrimage toward the heavenly city (Heb 11:10), the Lord has instituted the preaching of the law and the gospel (Rom 10), the use of the two holy sacraments (Baptism and the Lord’s Supper), and prayer. Fulfilling our vocation to love God and neighbor, gathering week by week to make use of his means of grace, is not a mountain-top experience but it is sufficient for pilgrims.
1. According to Christianity Today, in 1993, “A three-year feud between two large Kansas City-area charismatic ministries is over—just as the instigator has resigned because of divorce. Ernie Gruen resigned May 21 as apostle of Full Faith Church of Love, which he founded 26 years ago. Gruen said he was ‘committing divorce.'” Thanks to Julie LaPierre for her help with this history.
©R. Scott Clark. All Rights Reserved.
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Thank again Dr! Super encouraging post. Coming from this charismatic background I would say for anybody who is in it. Anybody who is in Asbury to find a reformed church that fulfills the requirements of article 31 of the Belgic confession. I was once like the people in Asbury and am super grateful that God has removed me from such a tiring and to say in harsh words, a fake environment, and has put me in one in which I’m growing, a reformed church. Again I want to say that I know many people in these movements and some of them are super kind and generous but it’s clear to see that there isn’t a lot of growth going on or any at all to say the least. I hope that God will show them what he showed me. The mighty truths of the gospel proclaimed in the reformed confessions. If anybody is reading this please I beg you find a reformed church! Thanks again Dr! The Heidelblog has been a source of huge growth in my life. Thanks again Dr. Keep up the amazing work!
There is no need of “Revival” if Christians habitually attend to the means of grace God has already given & make a practice of daily seeking to confess & repent of sin. That doesn’t mean we do so perfectly, nor never wander and deceive ourselves, but God uses these means to bring us back. There is great blessing (And dare I say, emotional responses as well) in the ordinary.
I attended a revival this last Sunday. The saints of the Lord sang unto Christ and praised Him, we confessed and turned from our sin, heard the word preached, went away with a good word from the Lord, all because of the moving of the Holy Spirit among His people, because of Christ’s great work as ordained by the Father! Oh how I love St. John’s Reformed Church!
Grudem has given the charismatic/Montanist believers the theological backing they need, along with Piper and Carson. Grudem was an elder at the cult which launched the NAR, when C. Peter Wagner took donations from those who sought to be “Apostles”. Grudem rejects Sola Scriptura through his blasphemous doctrine of Fallible Prophecy and has helped promote the gross error of the Eternal Subordination of the Son through his Systematic, his work as ESV editor and his time at the group Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.
There does seem to be mounting evidence that Asbury may have been planned all along.
Where Homosexuality is in leadership, there are false prophets, and fake revivals. God doesn’t need help stirring the masses. He can do it Himself through the anointing of His Holy Spirit.
I’ve seen this alleged re: Asbury but I’ve not seen solid evidence?
Do you have such evidence?