What does it feel like to preach a sermon that sparks a weeks-long spiritual awakening filled with prayer, singing, and repentance, and which garners national attention and sparks hope in the hearts of Christians around the country?
For Zach Meerkreebs, it actually didn’t feel that great. In fact, he thought the sermon had bombed.
“Latest stinker. I’ll be home soon,” Meerkreebs reportedly texted his wife after delivering a chapel sermon on the morning of Wednesday, Feb. 8, in the Hughes Auditorium of Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Meerkreebs later told The Free Press he was certain that he had “totally whiffed” the sermon.
A graduate of Asbury Theological Seminary, Meerkbreebs is a former pastor who currently works for Envision, a Christian and Missionary Alliance ministry aimed at developing missional leaders. He also serves as assistant coach for the Asbury men’s soccer team.
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In many ways, the chapel service was quite ordinary. Following announcements, among which was an upcoming Mario Kart esports tournament, students led a Scripture reading and a set of worship songs, after which university pastor Greg Haseloff offered a prayer for those affected by the devastating earthquake in Türkiye and Syria, which had occurred two days earlier.
Meerkreebs then took the stage to continue a teaching series titled “Love in Action.”
To start the sermon, Meerkreebs joked that he was thankful to the tech team for not unmuting his microphone during the worship music, lest students be treated to the sound of “someone stepping on a dog.”
Explaining that his sermon would center on a text in Romans 12, Meerkreebs said, “That’s the star: God’s word, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit moving in our midst. That’s what we’re hoping…I hope you guys forget me, but [that] anything from the Holy Spirit and God’s word would find fertile ground in your hearts and produce fruit.”
During the sermon, Meerkreebs spoke about the call of Christians to “love without hypocrisy,” pointing out the ways in which he and others have experienced a kind of “love” that has fallen short, sometimes even resulting in abuse.
“If you have experienced that kind of ‘love,’ there [are] leaders on campus that will stay in these seats and pray with you,” Meerkreebs encouraged. “If you need to hear the voice of God, the Father in heaven who will never love you that way, who is perfect in love, gentle and kind, you come up here and experience his love.”
“Don’t waste this opportunity,” Meerkreebs continued, pausing his sermon to offer a prayer for the people in the room who “feel the weight of that perverted thing that one person called ‘love,’” asking that God would “alleviate that weight right now.”
Going on to urge students to cultivate a non-hypocritical love toward others, Meerkreebs conceded, “It’s humbling. It’s inconvenient. It’s sacrificial love.”
“But by being transformed by Jesus, getting his affections, we would see ourselves as servants—it’s a call on our lives,” Meerkreebs said. “You cannot love until you are loved by Jesus.”
“Stop striving. Stop wearing this heavy burden of ‘I gotta love, because I’m a Christian,’” Meerkreebs went on to say. “No, you gotta love because you’ve tasted and seen the goodness of God…You have been loved. You have to continue to put yourself before Jesus so you can be loved by him so you can love others.”
“[Is] your source of love…white-knuckling it, trying really hard, or is it the love of God for you? What is the purpose of your love? Is it to look good at chapel, to look good to your family? Is it to get love in return from the person that you’re giving love to?” Meerkreebs asked. “That’s not this love we’re talking about…Some of us need to sit in the love of God. Some of us need to taste and experience the power of the Holy Spirit.”
“If you really want to become love in action, you start by prostrating yourself before the love of God. If you want to become love in action, you have to experience the love of God,” Meerkreebs said.
“I pray that this sits on you guys like an itchy sweater, and you gotta itch; you gotta take care of it,” Meerkreebs said. “Become the love of God by experiencing the love of God.”
To close his sermon, Meerkreebs prayed, “Holy Spirit, if you spoke to anyone…would you produce fruit in this room, in these souls, in these minds and these hearts?”
“Do a new thing in our midst,” Meerkreebs prayed. “Revive us by your love.”
As he departed the stage and students led a closing song, Meerkreebs could not have predicted the measure to which the hope he expressed during his sermon would become a reality—a seed from the Holy Spirit had apparently found fertile soil in the hearts of roughly 18 students who remained in the chapel building to pray.
The longer the students stayed, the more other students began to join them. Soon, worship music broke out.
Later that night, Meerkreebs shared a video on Facebook of the chapel auditorium filled with students praying for one another. Some were kneeling at the front of the stage, others sitting with open Bibles, and still more singing worship songs led by students.
“Praise God! Would you pray with us as they continue? Or if you are near by, come join! So eager to be back after a nap at home,” Meerkreebs wrote.
Two weeks later, the worship service would still be going, and tens of thousands of Christians would flock to the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky, to see what God was doing on the campus of Asbury University.
While the lasting effects of what has taken place in Wilmore remain to be seen, many are expressing hope that the events of this month are the beginnings of a Christian revival, the likes of which this nation has not seen in five decades.
This article originally appeared at ChurchLeaders.com.
Dale Chamberlain (M.Div) is the Content Manager for ChurchLeaders.com. He is also a blogger and podcaster who is passionate about helping people tackle ancient truths in everyday settings. He lives in Southern California with his wife Tamara and their two sons.