For many students, the revival at Asbury University, which has since spread to schools such as Calvin University, Lee University and Cedarville University, has led to a renewed interest in the history of religious awakenings at Wheaton and to a desire to see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit again.
Since its founding in 1860, Wheaton has been the site of several events that scholars often refer to as revivals, the most recent occurring in 1995. Many alumni and Wheaton faculty who were students at the time remember that year as a point of change.
Among them is Adam Baron ‘97, who credits the revival with leading him to the mission field. Baron, who now works as chief operating officer for SEND International, an interdenominational missions organization, said, “I went from Wheaton to the world as a result.”
In their 1995 book “Accounts of a Campus Revival,” authors Timothy Beogher, professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Lyle W. Dorsett, former director of the Wheaton Wade Center, chronicled the revival earlier that year. According to their book, the revival began at a normal gathering of the World Christian Fellowship (WCF) on the night of March 19, 1995. WCF’s stated mission is to “influence a deeper understanding of God’s global mission of reconciliation.” Now under the Office of Ministry and Evangelism, WCF meets regularly to pray and coordinates trips to the Urbana Missions Conference every three years.
Baron said WCF used to fill up Pierce Chapel. Hundreds of students would meet every Sunday night to worship and pray, a tradition now practiced, on a smaller scale, at All School Communion.
At the March event, Brandi Maguire and James Hahn, students from Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, shared about the revival that had broken out on their own campus.
“Students everywhere are realizing that the judgment of God is more important than the judgment of their friends,” Maguire later wrote in her journal.“Sins of lust, pornography, pride, disobedience, hate, unforgiveness, homosexuality and stealing were all confessed.”
In their account, Beogher and Dorsett describe how, after the students from Howard Payne finished their testimonies, Wheaton students were largely silent. A WCF student then took the stage and announced that no one was trying to orchestrate a replica of the Howard Payne experience, but students could approach the mic and share how they were impacted by the testimonies if they wanted.
Students began to share testimonies, confessing pride, sexual sin, and animosity toward their neighbors. They brought symbols of sins that they wanted to leave behind to the stage. From CDs and DVDs to flowers from past relationships, students filled up the stage with their old possessions.
Professor of Christian formation and ministry Dan Haase came to Wheaton shortly after the revival of 1995 and remembered hearing students talking about the event.
Discussing spiritual revival in general, Haase said that nothing new really happens, but Christians become aware of something that was already there. “You don’t need to go to Asbury to experience the Lord, and yet, you can,” he said. “Somehow both these things are true.”
He encouraged students mulling the spread of revival to focus on the presence of the Holy Spirit.
“What does it look like to make Jesus primary, and not the event itself?” Hasse encouraged students to ask.
Baron said the 1995 revival was “something one cannot unsee.” He believes revival happens when “you’re crying out to God and you’re saying, ‘God, I’m not going anywhere until you show up.”’
He added that revival can take place anywhere on campus, in a thousand different ways.
“It doesn’t have to come merely at All School, though that may be the place because that’s naturally where you guys are gathering and playing and worshiping and being together as a community,” Baron said. “But it may come in Edman Chapel, it may come in your classroom, or it may come in your dorm.”
Students who attended the Asbury revival say they returned to Wheaton changed and are now praying for change at Wheaton as well. The Record asked students affected by the revival to write and share their experiences with the rest of the college. Their commentaries can be read here.
Student opinions published in the Record do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Wheaton College or the Wheaton Record.