Beneath a white tent in the heart of campus, students, faculty and others from the Belton/ Temple area, gathered last month for a time of prayer, worship and reading from the Word and sharing testimonies — a time of revival.
Co-Director Christian studies major Sarah Stadler said that this uniting of both the community and university is what makes the annual spring Revival such an important time.
“It’s a good representation of the body of Christ coming together for this event to worship and to learn as a community,” she said.
While the format of the event was much the same as years past, members of the steering committee, who planned Revival, wanted to place an emphasis on the idea of community. They decided to add a new element to help encourage attendees not just to focus on what they were experiencing, but to share it with others.
Each night after speaker John Durham gave a message, small groups spread out across the quad to answer questions about what they had heard and discuss the material together in more depth.
“Our heart behind that was that people would meet new people, interact and kind of be vulnerable with one another, and our main goal was that community would be formed on campus,” Stadler said.
Junior social work major Kristen Kimmell was on the discipleship steering committee and said that the idea of true biblical community is especially important for college students.
“We get so caught up in organizations and busy life with school and work, so we need to be able to have that core group that we can come and reflect with and kind of rejuvenate for the rest of the week, and just be able to hold each other accountable,” she said.
Though much prayer went into implementing the idea of community groups, there was still some fear that people would not be receptive to the change.
Kimmell said she was not sure before Revival how the new aspect of the event would be received.
“Being on the committee, I was nervous about it, thinking people wouldn’t like it, or it wouldn’t have a good turnout,” she said. “That was me doubting and not putting enough faith in God.”
Kimmell said that following the event, everything she heard about the community groups was positive.
“I never heard a negative thing about the groups, but I heard that they were great and that there were groups that met that week and continue to meet,” she said.
Stadler said that a big part of the success of the community groups was due to the support of the idea from Durham, who created the questions and led groups in discussion.
“I think it’s scary sometimes at an event like this to implement something like small groups. I think a lot of speakers would have been a little bit afraid of doing that and of what the response would be, but he totally jumped on board,” Stadler said.
On the third and final night of the event, Durham talked about the secret sin in many Christians’ lives. The community groups became especially important as people were asked to be vulnerable in sharing those things with each other.
Senior nursing major Cristen Nelson said this evening was her favorite part of the Revival event.
“I really enjoyed the last night, not because it made you feel good, but because you had to be upfront with your sins, and it made you think about what you’ve done,” she said. “I think churches try to push sin under the rug. It’s stuff Jesus talks about. We need to confront our sins and confess them, and I think that’s what’s missing in a lot of our relationships with Christ.”
She said that if Christians were to meet together and share openly more often, it would unify the church.
“When you’re real with each other, it’s just easier to get to know people better, and you realize you aren’t the only one struggling with stuff. Other people are. You can turn all of that to God and work together for that greater purpose without having your sin be in the way,” she said.
The committee’s hope for Revival is this sense of community would not be something that fades away once the event is over, but it would become a part of the lives of those who attended.
“Revival is not just an event. It’s a lifestyle,” Kimmell said. “I know it’s hard over the summer, but maybe get a group together while you’re back home. You don’t have to be at a revival to have a relationship with God.”
Stadler said the committee’s job was to create the opportunity, but she hopes those who attended Revival would carry out what they experienced during the three nights.
“Our thing was tilling the soil so that the Holy Spirit could come and work. We’re providing the opportunity for community to be formed, but at this point, our hope is that students would continue meeting in those groups and continue doing life together because that’s what were created for,” she said. “We weren’t created to do that on our own.”