Earlier this month, students at Asbury College in Kentucky arrived for their morning chapel servicebut they didn't leave. In fact, it was days before everyone left the building. In the meantime, the chapel was filled with singing, prayer, and worship. One participant said, "Those days and nights in Hughes [Memorial Auditorium] provided a catalyst for renewal, for freedom, for seeking the heart of God."
Christian colleges provide the tight-knit community that many revivals require, says Timothy Larsen, associate professor of theology at Wheaton College. Larsen is most recently the co-editor ofReading Romans Through the Centuries: From the Early Church to Karl Barthand author ofContested Christianity: The Political and Social Contexts of Victorian Theology. CT online associate editor Rob Moll spoke with Larsen aboutrevival and what brings it about.
How do revivals get started?
First, I believe in the work of the Holy Spirit and that revival is the work of the Holy Spirit. So nothing I say is in opposition to that. I am a charismatic myself, and I allow a large space for God intervening in dramatic ways. But, thinking about it as a historian, a hidden determinant is that for revival to happen, you have to have a sufficient cross-pollination within the community. It has to be a community where people are in one another's lives very thoroughly. If you look at the history of revival, they happen in pretty homogeneous communities. And if you look at the history of revival in Britain, which I know best, they tend to push out to the periphery. You have the great Welsh revival, around 1906, because Wales is still the kind of place where neighbors know one another.
For revival to have that kind of dynamic, it has involve people talking ...