FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — The president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary had just been dismissed. The seminary found itself embroiled in a bitter dispute. Harsh words were spoken. Relationships were broken.
The year was 1995.
The parallels to 2018 are striking. The larger controversy now is not the issue of biblical inerrancy, but the #MeToo movement. However, the recent dismissal of a president, the rancorous disputes and the painful divisions sound a familiar tone to those who lived through 1995 at Southwestern.
But something else was happening in 1995. Revival had come to churches in Brownwood, Texas, and to the campus of Howard Payne University. It would eventually lead to historic revival movements on more than 100 college campuses across America in what is now sometimes called the “Brownwood Revival.”
On March 1, 1995, a young pastor from Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood named John Avant, a Southwestern graduate, was invited to come to chapel at Southwestern and share about what was happening in his city.
“I was scared to death,” Avant says. “I had never dreamed of preaching at my own seminary. So I didn’t really preach. I just told a story.”
At the conclusion of the service, students began to cry out to God; they filled the front of the auditorium, falling to their knees and on their faces. Six hours later, they were still there. Classes were cancelled and the chapel service became a day of revival.
Many still remember that day and the rejuvenation that changed so many lives and churches.
And now, the students, faculty and administration of Southwestern Seminary once again will cry out to God for revival, unity and healing. And they have asked the same man who told that story 23 years ago, now the president of Life Action Ministries, to lead them.
On Oct. 23-25, a Life Action team will lead the Southwestern family in six sessions of seeking God — Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. Central time and each evening at 6:30 p.m. Each service will be streamed live at LifeAction.org/swbtslive.
“Every seminary’s most fundamental needs are spiritual in nature,” D. Jeffrey Bingham, Southwestern’s interim president, says. “We need the Spirit of God to touch us, to empower us, to refresh us and to sanctify us for global Gospel service out of love for God and neighbors. We need the Spirit to bear His fruit in our lives. I can’t wait for Life Action’s ministry at Southwestern.”
Kyle Walker, Southwestern’s vice president for student services, voices similar excitement: “At Southwestern Seminary, we are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Life Action. This is a crucial moment in the life of Southwestern, and there is nothing we want more than the Lord to move and work among us in a way that can only be credited to Him.
“Our students, faculty and staff are praying, seeking God’s face and asking Him to start a revival among us that will spread to the churches and across our country. May God do it for His glory.”
Life Action Ministries is a 47-year-old ministry that serves churches and now universities and seminaries seeking a fresh work of God. “We have teams, made up of leaders and their families and many young millennial missionaries, who travel across the country and are serving Southern Baptist churches even now as I speak,” Avant noted. “When I became president of Life Action only a year ago, a part of my vision was to take our ministry not only into churches but also into Christian schools and seminaries.
“If our pastors and leaders of the future can live revived lives and lead revived churches, that will change everything,” Avant said.
Southern Baptist leaders are joining Life Action and Southwestern in asking Southern Baptists to pray and fast for those three days — for revival at Southwestern and in Southern Baptist churches and for awakening in our nation.
“There is power in prayer and fasting,” said Southwestern alum Ronnie Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas. “I pray many will join in some phase of this fast for revival at our seminary and through our churches.” Floyd, a former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, is now president of the National Day of Prayer Task Force.
J.D. Greear, president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of The Summit Church in North Carolina, said, “On Oct. 23-25, Life Action Ministries will be leading Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary through three days of seeking God for unity, healing and revival. Would you join me in praying for them during this pivotal time?
“Thousands of revived students preparing for ministry can change the world,” Greear said.
“Our mission at Life Action is simply ‘to inspire your next yes to God,'” Avant said. “When God speaks, the most important thing in our lives is to hear Him and say yes. If we will do that at Southwestern and across this country, I believe God in His grace and mercy will revive us again.
“Jesus meant something when He prayed for our unity in John 17. So many things divide Southern Baptists, and it seems these days we look for new things to fight about. But revival will unite us around the Gospel. And that is what we are after.”