It was the morning of February 14, 1970. Fort Wayne students trudged through heavy snow on their way to Founders Hall for chapel and plopped unenthusiastically into their seats. As the clock ticked, news spread that the morning’s guest speaker would not make an appearance due to bad weather. Chapel was not cancelled; rather, the platform was opened for the next half hour for an impromptu time of sharing.
FWBC Chapel, 1970
Photo via Bill Gerig
At first nobody stirred. Then, slowly, one young woman rose from her seat, walked along the north wall of the auditorium to the podium, and shared a few words God had placed on her heart. She then returned to her seat. Gradually, another student made the long walk through the silent auditorium to the platform, and then another. Soon a long line formed and replenished by the hour. The quiet became a buzz, and the room filled with energy as voice after voice honestly expressed their spiritual struggles, needs, or praises.
And still the line stretched on. At noon, no one left for lunch. Staff members joined the “parade of praise.” The president took the platform and encouraged students not to miss their classes in the hype. By 5 p.m. the line finally dwindled, and the last person finally left the podium. It had been a day of confession, surrender, and praise. (Paraphrased from The Vine of God’s Own Planting)
Founder J.E. Ramseyer was a strong proponent of what he called the “Spirit-filled life.” His chief desire for students was that they pursue a deep relationship with God. Spiritual maturity, stability of faith, and future success in ministry depended on the quality of one’s inner life. His words from the last century hold the same urgency today: “Never has it been more necessary than in these days that we know that we are filled with the Holy Ghost, that He has clothed Himself with us, and that the love of God has been shed abroad in our hearts.”
Photo via Bill Gerig
I’ve spent the last few days pondering the connection between spiritual renewal and scripture. Spiritual Renewal week just finished at Taylor, where I still attend, during which Pastor Chris Williamson presented scripture as our way to “speak life” into a death-possessed world. This particular Spiritual Renewal week did not produce the same visual affirmation of the Holy Spirit as occurred in Fort Wayne in 1970. But I know many hearts were stirred as Pastor Williamson redirected our focus toward God’s word. Because often the Spirit manifests itself during the private, quiet times we meet with God through His word.
Taylor University Chapel
Photo via Flickr
One of the marks shared by authentic Christian colleges is prioritizing the Bible. They recognize that it is the grand narrative of humanity’s relationship with God. For the Fort Wayne campus and other colleges like it, spiritual experience is often prompted by biblical truth—and by the Holy Spirit guiding our interpretation of it. The Bible is narrative, yes. It is also prophecy, poetry, proverbs. But it is so much more. It is God’s inspired word, and through it he reveals Himself.
The original Fort Wayne Bible Training Institute did not use textbooks. They drew their knowledge from scripture alone. And while this stance changed through the years as the college expanded its general education program and its variety of majors, I still find the intention behind “sola scriptura” compelling. We can have expertise in our chosen field—history, biology, communications, social work—but we are powerless to use it as God intended without the “lens” of scripture. Spiritual experience refreshes our hearts. But scripture refreshes our minds. More than that, it shows us the world from God’s point of view, as incomprehensible as his perspective may be. And as we come to know His word, we come to know its author.
Photo via Bill Gerig
Were you part of a spiritual renewal on campus? How did this experience have a long-term effect on your relationship with God?
One thought on “The Spirit-Filled Life”
“I still find the intention behind “sola scriptura” compelling. We can have expertise in our chosen field—history, biology, communications, social work—but we are powerless to use it as God intended without the “lens” of scripture.” This is very well said. Side Note-I learned of Sola Scriptura in college. I find it interesting that those most passionate about Sola Scriptura are usually most passionate about their using interpretations. 🙂 Crazy how the cause of using only the Bible can be so divisive at times.