“What might God want to do here?” is being asked by Oklahoma Wesleyan University (OKWU) students, staff and faculty in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Throughout the 2022-2023 school year, the university’s spiritual life theme of “Good News” has paved the way. This gospel-centered topic is informing student-led initiatives and positively impacting hearts for the kingdom.
“There has been an evangelistic readiness,” particularly in this current academic year, according to University Pastor Rev. Torrey Martin. In October of 2022, OKWU held a baptism service on campus where eight students were baptized! A healing service occurred around the same time. Rev. Martin watched, “Floods of students come forward to be anointed by student leaders.”
Rev. Martin shared her desire to “empower students to lead students.” Inspired this spring by recent reports of spiritual outpouring among their Asbury University peers in Wilmore, Kentucky, a few students approached her about starting a prayer movement at OKWU. Those students began leading prayer groups with other students. Rev. Martin said, “My prayer is that we can keep up with what God wants to do and steward it well. Each day, so much eternal work is happening.”
One student said, “From the student speakers in chapel, the leaders of campus Bible studies and even peers coming together to encourage one another, I have seen God moving in the lives of students. I believe that he is truly making his presence known to all that come and experience God’s goodness at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.”
While spiritual formation patterns have always been embedded inside the OKWU classroom learning environment, President Jim Dunn approached Rev. Martin in the fall of 2021 about becoming the university pastor, asking her to help implement a more intentional and strategic spiritual formation focus at Oklahoma Wesleyan. The initiation of this plan paralleled a spiritual hunger among the students. The timing of the campus’ recent spiritual awakening has been preceded by these seeds of faith, coupled with an overall fresh move of God that is actively stirring amid Generation Z.
In “True Depth: Moving Beyond Cultural Christianity,” Rev. Dr. Lenny Luchetti states: “Revelatory reception does not come naturally or happen accidentally. The people who see and hear God when he shows up to speak up adopt practices that help them to stop, look, and listen.” This adjusting of focus on spiritual matters seems to be a key factor for God’s work in students’ lives at OKWU.
Student Vincent Scott shared, “This year, namely second semester, I’ve seen a growing hunger for God among students. People have been wanting to pray more, read more scripture and worship — and that’s really exciting!”
On Ash Wednesday, March 22, 2023, during one of their weekly chapel services, Rev. Martin describes a “lingering event” that occurred. Unprompted, several students lingered after receiving an imposition of ashes. The sweet spirit and time of quiet prayer, she depicts, tarried on until about 5 p.m. Some left for classes and returned to the chapel afterwards to continue leaning in. Hearing word of what was happening throughout that afternoon, staff and faculty joined students as they soaked in the presence of God together.
Recognizing that a spiritual awakening of souls causes people to wrestle with how their experience brings wholistic renewal, Rev. Martin states, “My goal is to help students understand that worship goes beyond a chapel service and filters through every part of our lives.” She further explained this diligent leaning in of OKWU’s students by saying, “We don’t want to miss out on the growth that can happen when faithfully practicing spiritual disciplines in our daily lives here by trying to chase after what God is doing elsewhere.”
OKWU students display a ready eagerness to pick up the spiritual brush fire that has been kindled and run with it.
Student Ronald Adkins III stated, “As a spiritual life leader this year, I have been able to witness and take part in exciting spiritual growth. We have had students humbling themselves before their colleagues and before God asking for accountability and seeking to live holy lives. We have also had students leading in Bible studies and other spiritual life areas that have borne spiritual fruit. I am grateful to be a part of and help lead a community that not only encourages each one’s spiritual growth but also finds a need to support each other in prayer, in word, and in love, growing together in Christian community.”
Encapsulating the sentiment of many hearts around the country, Oklahoma Wesleyan’s current spiritual life theme statement this year sums it up well: “In a world filled with bad news at seemingly every turn, we’re choosing to fix our eyes on and live out Good News!”
Join the spiritual life and formation journey through OKWU’s chapel services, https://www.okwu.edu/campus-life/spiritual-life/chapel
Rev. Sarah Cochran is a Wesleyan pastor serving in Interchurch Service for Destiny Rescue, an agency rescuing kids from sex trafficking worldwide, and a graduate of Wesley Seminary, Marion, Indiana.