Young, Restless, and Ready for Revival
While preaching at Rockharbor, my home church in Costa Mesa, California, where thousands of students and young adults attend, I quoted the old Puritan John Owen on the need for personal holinessnot exactly the hottest topic today: "There is not a duty we perform for God that sin does not oppose. And the more spirituality or holiness there is in what we do, the greater enmity to it. Sin never wavers, yields, or gives up no area of one's life indeed is secured without a struggle."
Then I issued a call to confession. Suddenly the biggest guy in the auditorium charged the platform and dropped to his knees before me. He was sobbing so hard that people in the front row began to cry along with him.
Over the last three years, I have witnessed thousands of such confessions at churches and at more than 30 campuses, both secular and Christian. I've discovered that this generation of young men and women is crying out for revival.
I acknowledge that the statistics related to, for example, the sexual practices of today's generation are extremely alarming to their baby boomer elders, who thought they had broken all the taboos. According to Mark D. Regnerus's book Forbidden Fruit: Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers (Oxford, 2007), "[E]vangelical teenagers don't display just average sexual activity patterns, but rather above-average ones." But I've been learning that this depiction is far from the whole story.
When the Bottom Falls Out
My education in revival began in fall 2004. I had just delivered a speech to thousands of students at Azusa Pacific University. As someone who had struggled with sexual impurity and alcoholism before my conversion over three decades ago, I felt compelled to ask them to confess personal sin, to turn from it immediately and to turn to God passionatelywith all of their hearts. This was not my usual speech to Christian students. I had spent 20 years in youth ministry, working for two parachurch organizations as a high school campus leader and speaker, then traveling on the college chapel circuit for another five yearseither sharing my testimony or calling students to prayer.
But at that service, I stumbled over the power of confession. I called out the specific sins and then invited students to stop living dual lives. Hundreds of students began sobbing and falling to their knees. Before the meeting, I was warned they would run out for class promptly at 10:10. But now they seemed rooted to the spot. As at a Billy Graham crusade, they streamed forward. Stunned, I simply sat on the edge of the stage and took confessions of sin from dozens of students for over an hour. Most, if not all, of the students called themselves Christians. Joe Church, a missionary revivalist in Africa in the 1940s, had it right when he observed, "Revival is not when the roof blows off, but when the bottom falls out."
The bottom has been falling out all over the place. Last July, during an event named The Call, more than 70,000 students, young adults, parents, and ministers from all over the country met in Nashville to pray for 12 hours in a solemn assembly of confession and prayer for our nation. There have been seven previous gatherings of The Call since 2000, with a total attendance over the years of some 250,000. Another one is planned for next October on the Washington Mall. The young adult ministry of the International House of Prayer hosts regional prayer-and-revival meetings yearly. For over seven years, IHOP in Kansas City has maintained a prayer room that is open all day, every day, with worship and continuous prayer. Another ministry, Campus America, has begun a project to establish "unbroken prayer" on all 2,600 accredited colleges and universities in the country by 2010. In addition, there will be a national prayer gathering of students and young adults called Paradise '08 that will take place in the middle of a Kansas field on May 25no merchandise, speakers, or artists, just prayer, Scripture, and song.