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Renewal, revival or spiritual awakening? SBTS course to give distinctives

A man worships during a revival meeting at Asbury University and Theological Seminary. (Baptist Press photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (BP) – When a student chapel service extended into days and weeks this past winter at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky., observers far and wide questioned whether the stage was set for the next Great Awakening?

Months later, theologian Tim Beougher will equip students to see distinctives of spiritual awakenings, revivals and personal renewals in an online summer course at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (SBTS).

“We just felt like in light of what happened at Asbury back in February, many students on our campus asking questions, that it would be a good time to offer it again,” Beougher told Baptist Press of the course he has previously taught as an elective. “We’ve all heard the adage that those who fail to learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them. I think we can also state that in a positive way, that if we will learn from the successes of history, we might have a chance to repeat them.”

Beougher, the Billy Graham professor of evangelism and church growth, and the associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Ministry, will launch Principles of Spiritual Awakening May 29, harnessing history and Scripture.

“We realize that revival is ultimately in the hands of a sovereign God. We can’t manufacture it. We can’t work it up,” Beougher said. “But as you study history, you see there were certain preconditions, if you will, that seem to be common in great movements of revival.”

The course, as SBTS promotes it, “is a study of the history and theological and biblical principals involved in awakenings and the sociological milieu in which they emerged. Some attention will be given to analyzing current awakenings and revival methods in the light of historical, biblical and theological principals of awakenings.”

Asbury, the birthplace of several revivals historically, held a scheduled Feb. 8 chapel service in Hughes Auditorium that morphed into a continued worship and prayer meeting. The university ended the service Feb. 24 as it continued to attract widespread commentary and draw many guests.

“I continue to hear reports from different individuals about continued spiritual emphasis on that campus, on other places,” Beougher said May 22. “I think the winds of the Spirit are still blowing.”

Students are signing up for the class that Beougher believes will encourage participants to pray for revival today.

“We think we’ve never faced challenges like we have in the world today. The world’s in worse condition than it ever has been,” Beougher said. “God is always at work in the world, but during times of revival and awakening, it seems that He dramatically accelerates His work. For example in the First Great Awakening (18th century) Jonathan Edwards noted that when God took the work into His own hands, there was as much done in a day or two than we commonly see done in an entire year.”

One pastor noted, Beougher said, that in the First Great Awakening more people in his parish came to him in one week “with deep concern for their souls,” than in the preceding 24 years of his ministry.

Beougher and Bill Elliff, directional pastor of The Summit Church in Little Rock, Ark., will continue to explore the Asbury event in a panel discussion at the 2023 Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. “The Role of Prayer in the Asbury Awakening,” is set for June 14 from 11-11:40 a.m. on the Cooperative Program stage in the exhibit hall.