I Want Jesus, Not Religion

Reprint of article from Medium on February 14, 2023

This week YouTube has been full of videos from my alma mater, Asbury. Long lines of cars could be seen entering the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky, for the Asbury revival at Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University. I wasn’t a student at the University, but I was a student across the street at Asbury Theological Seminary 30 years ago. Yesterday the long line of cars heading into Wilmore drove on the street where I lived for four years, N. Lexington Ave.

Last Wednesday a chapel service started at Asbury University at 10:00 a.m. and it’s still going. Twenty-four hours each day and now we are on day six. A revival or a move of God, they are calling it. Revival is where God heals the broken hearted and sets the captives free. He revives us. And we are particularly weary in 2023, very much needing to be revived.

The Revival is growing beyond the capacity of Hughes Auditorium which holds about 1500 people. My former Old Testament professor, Lawson Stone, posted on Facebook:

Friends, since now the season of renewal has spread beyond Asbury University and now Asbury Theological Seminary (ATS) has opened up Estes Chapel, which has had a healthy inflow of people as well. So, I’m just calling it “Asbury” and letting you fill in the blanks. What’s cool is that Estes is NOT live streaming what’s happening in Hughes. It’s just more of the same sort of worship and praise as is happening in Hughes. I just find that absolutely delightful. Not an “extension site” but a genuine overflow to the ATS community.

There are no parking spaces in the little town of Wilmore, Kentucky, population 6,000. YouTube has videos of the revival which is largely student-led. The focus is more on worship and just being in the Holy Presence than on teaching or preaching. The activities, besides singing, are testimonies of repentance and people praying for one another, both young and old. Interviews with students show a group of humble young people.

I’m a pastor turned writer and a recovering fundamentalist. This means I take scripture very seriously but hold loosely to my own assumptions and interpretations. Not everything I’ve been taught is from God; some comes from the mind of men. The way I recognize a teaching is from God is the impact it has on my pride. In my personal growth as a Christian, it’s been a steady growth in losing pride and being humble before God. And revelations to me about how much I do is motivated by pride. Good intentions and all.

This is my litmus test for followers and leaders of Jesus Christ.

· Humility and continued growth in humility

· Christ like servanthood

· Peace and joy

· A rich inner life

· Reverence for scripture

· A thirst for God’s presence

· Awe at the movements and miracles at the hand of God

· Stories and experiences with the Divine

But mostly humility. Humility at each step of the way. So my litmus tests would look more like

· Humble servanthood

· Humble peace and joy

· Humble inner life

· Humble reverence for scriptures

· Humble thirst for God’s presence

· Humble awe at the movements and miracles of God

· Humble stories about experiences with the Divine

Searching YouTube yesterday I came across an old video from Dutch Sheets. He was talking about 9/11. Dutch Sheets said he had an open vision and simply reported what he saw. He predicted there would be a move of God among the youth and it would spread from campus to campus all over the United States. For those of us who believe, we anxiously await such a time. He concluded with this, the youth want Jesus, they don’t want your religion.

I don’t blame youth for saying, “I want Jesus, not your religion.”

My religion is supposed to be comprised of people who follow Jesus and complete his work to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free. But our own interpretations of Scripture have interfered with this work of Jesus to heal and set free. In recent years, it seems the Christian church is known for how they hurt people and how they can be oppressive and abusive. Just look up #deconstruction on Twitter. There are lots of people who love Jesus that have been hurt by the church. They are in the delicate process of separating their religious teachings from the ways of Jesus.

I’m embarrassed by my religion because it’s not a place of healing or humility. I don’t know if you have a litmus test to determine what is genuine and what is not concerning faith. Mine can be summed up in one word, humility. I’m thrilled to watch videos of young people going after Jesus and not religion. And I’m delighted to hear them speak with humility.

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