My blog posts revolve around my interests and vocation as a historian: the intersection of history and contemporary church life, the intersection of history and contemporary politics, serendipitous discoveries in archives or on research trips, publications and research projects, upcoming conferences, and speaking engagements.
I sometimes blog for two other organizations, the Canadian Baptist Historical Society and the Centre for Post-Christendom Studies.
The views expressed in these blogs represent the views of the authors, and not necessarily those of any organizations with which they are associated.
Not every day events answer the questions of students before professors can develop a satisfactory answer. But that just happened to me.
A few weeks ago, I was lecturing on evangelicals and revivalism, with a specific focus on nineteenth-century revivalism in the American frontier (associated with places such as Cane Ridge, Kentucky).
I made it clear that Methodism (evangelicalism) from its origins under John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield had revivalism woven into its DNA – and that focus on renewing the church and seeing souls saved continue to mark the movement to this day.
Those familiar with the movement would know that Methodist revivalism ranged from quiet and “proper” all the way to loud and “wild”. And the wild aspects often led to critics attacking the movement as a bunch of dangerous enthusiasts.
After the class a student asked me what that type of revival would look like today. I gave a brief answer, but it was not one that I was really was satisfied with.
And then last week my answer to the question came with reports coming out of Asbury University. The school was named after Francis Asbury, one of the first Methodist bishops in America. And Asbury is also only an hour or so drive from Cane Ridge.
For seven days now, and counting, the chapel has been filled with people praying, singing, preaching, sharing, crying, or simply sitting in silence. It is quite staid compared to some of the dynamics of Cane Ridge of over two centuries ago, but nonetheless what is taking place seems to fit within the rubric of Methodist revivalism.
So, my answer to my student is to watch events at Asbury to get a glimpse of Methodist (evangelical) revivalism and what it can look like today. Unlike in previous revivals in the nineteenth century you would have to wait for newspaper reports to find out what was going on, you can now watch in real-time through YouTube: click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xaZVVGTOURQ
In conclusion, what is one to think about revivalism that does not fit within what we may think it should look like? Well, we can start to answer that question by looking to John Wesley. He did not seek out the spectacular or more dynamic aspects of revivalism, but he did recognize that God often worked in such ways. That being the case, a few key convictions guided his discernment process in times of uncertainty, frustration, amazement, or perplexity:
 This is not the first time at Asbury. See https://www.asbury.edu/academics/resources/library/archives/history/revivals/
 You could also look to Jonathan Edwards for how he sought to defend revivalism from ardent critics: Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirt of God; A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Works of God https://www.amazon.ca/Jonathan-Edwards-Revival/dp/0851514316
 For more details, see David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit (Yale University Press, 2005), 37-41.
Here are a few helpful links to the events at Asbury: