Witnessing revival: The Rev. Lee Thomas attends Asbury event

Published 8:14 am Sunday, March 19, 2023

The Rev. Lee Thomas has been behind the pulpit for 50 years. As an evangelist, he has preached revivals. He has pastored churches in revival, and he said he has been a serious student of revival for more than 20 years. Last month, at Asbury, he was revived.

The Asbury Revival broke out at the Christian non-denominational university in Wilmore, Ky. on Wednesday, Feb. 8. Students at a chapel service lingered to pray and worship. Some never left. Others joined in. After 11 days of 24-hour worship, the school president called an end to the movement as a way to keep students on track academically, but not before Thomas had a chance to drive up and see for himself what it was all about.

“There were people there from other countries, from other states,” he said. “Busloads of students came every day. The line to the chapel was halfway out to the road. Some watched a live stream outside in the cold and wind.”

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Five days into the revival, Thomas called a friend who lives in Wilmore. He had seen what was going on and only whetted Thomas’ spiritual appetite even more.

“I told my wife, I’m going to Asbury, and I don’t know when I’ll be back.”

Built 100 years ago, the chapel holds 2,000 worshippers and it was packed out. No one was leaving, thus, more could not go in. Thomas and his son, who accompanied him for a day before returning home by air, found out the service was being live streamed to the seminary chapel across the street. The maximum capacity was 600 and they were fortunate to gain access.

This isn’t the first Asbury revival, according to Thomas. In 1905, it started with prayer in the men’s dormitory. A chapel prayer ignited the 1908 two weeks of prayer and intercession. A planned revival service lasted until 6 a.m. in 1921. Student testimonies were the catalyst in 1958. A fasting prayer meeting lasted 63 hours in 1958. In 1970, when a dean was scheduled to speak, it turned into a testimony service, revival and evangelism to other college campuses.

Robert Coleman wrote a book about it, titled “One Divine Moment.
It’s just one of the many books Thomas has studied regarding revival. Before the 2023 February revival there was a February 2006 revival.

“I don’t know what I was expecting,” Thomas said. What he found was a people “saturated with God. It felt like walking into an atmosphere of love, an atmosphere of God’s love. I could feel the presence of God.”

“God broke me,”  Thomas said.

The chapel is inside a building of classrooms. On the walls of the hallway are quotes from men and women such as C.S. Lewis, John Wesley and Amy Carmichael.

“Amy Carmichael was a missionary in India for 55 years, and she never went home,” Thomas said. “For the last 20 years of her life she was almost an invalid and did a lot of writing. The quote was, ‘God, hold us to that which drew us first, when the Cross was the attraction and we wanted nothing else.”

Thomas realized the cross was not his attraction, not as it had been. The main thing had ceased to be the main thing, and his revival began with repentance. He couldn’t stop praising the Lord and telling Him how much he loved Him,” he said.

“Through His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus conquered sin and death,” Thomas said. “He defeated the devil and made the resources of heaven and earth available to us.”

Back to the place he knew he needed to be, Thomas’ drive home was a time of contemplation.

“The purpose of revival is to yield to God to get to the place where he can use us, to get back to the cross as the main attraction,” Thomas said.

He’s been sharing what Jesus did for him at churches in Texas and Louisiana.

He talked about the seemingly harsh words in Luke 14:26, “If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.” Using his understanding of Greek, he explained that it is only at the cross, only with the power of God, that a person can die to himself.

“When self is in charge, greed, lust or pride has power. You are attached to things, to people. When self dies, you become zero,” Thomas said. “I’m sure it looked to Amy Carmichael’s family that she hated her family. She never went home. It’s not that she hated them. She just loved God more.”