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Fifty years ago, during Spiritual Emphasis Week in 1971, a movement of the Holy Spirit swept through the North Central campus and brought revival. Fifty years later, the memories of that week and how the Spirit moved in the hearts of North Central students remain vividly in the minds of several alumni.
North Central University Chancellor Rich Wilkerson ’72 explained that God was preparing for the revival well in advance. As a freshman in spring 1971, he had been drifting away from God when a woman attending a prayer meeting at the church his dad pastored prophesied over him. “She prophesied over me, and said, ‘God wants you to get right with Him because God’s going to send a revival to North Central Bible College in the fall of your sophomore year.’
“I had not even been planning to go back,” Wilkerson said, “But she said, ‘You’re going to stay at North Central and God’s going to send a revival.’ That day I got back to the Lord.”
‘That’s what our students need’
Dick Eastman explained how he was invited to be the speaker for Spiritual Emphasis Week. “I got a call from E.M. Clark, the president [of NCBC]. When I answered the phone, he said, ‘This is Brother Clark at North Central Bible College. And your name has come up. would you consider coming to do a spiritual emphasis week at the college in October?’
“I remember pausing for a moment and, and saying, ‘I don’t really think I can do that. It’s spiritual emphasis week—I’ve been through those, and you have the best preachers of the denomination. I don’t know that I even have any really good sermons!’ I was a youth leader and explained, ‘I just go into these prayer retreats, and we pray, and God just moves.’
“And there was a pause on the line. Such a long pause I thought that I lost [the call]. But then he spoke again, and he was weeping. He said, ‘That’s what our students need.’
“I asked him, ‘Would you let me just pray about it for a couple of days?’
“I remember going into the bathroom and standing in front of the mirror. I looked at myself and I started to cry, and I said, ‘Lord, I have nothing I could possibly give the students!’
“And it was like the Lord spoke to me right then: ‘Now you’re ready to go.’ He said, ‘Go back and call them right now.’
“It was probably about seven minutes later when I called him back. And then—this is crazy, because what, I was only 27 years old—I said to Brother Clark, ‘I can come under one condition: If you can find a retreat place somewhere near Minneapolis … and if you would allow or promote it to the students … then I believe that God could do something.’
“We had about 160, maybe even more, come to that all-night, all-through-Saturday prayer retreat. It was just incredible worship, and the power of God came.”
‘It made no sense to me’
In October, following the two-day prayer meeting Clark arranged at the Minneapolis Gospel Tabernacle, Eastman came to North Central and preached day and night for five days, and Holy Spirit revival broke out.
Philip McLeod ’74 remembered the prayer retreat and the Spiritual Emphasis Week meetings, and shared them in “A Faithful Past, A Shining Future” (NCU Press 2005). “Dick Eastman spoke at a youth retreat presented by the Minneapolis Gospel Tabernacle,” McLeod said. “I attended that retreat and was challenged to pray and seek God at a depth that I had not yet encountered in my life to that point. Following the retreat, my heart was prepared for God’s work through the Spiritual Emphasis Week.”
The energy from the prayer meetings carried into the chapel services led on campus (in what is now Miller Hall). Eastman said that the Lord spoke very specifically to him, telling him exactly what He would do during each day of the meetings. Eastman was compelled to write each item down on a piece of paper, which he tucked into his Bible.
When Monday morning came to start the spiritual emphasis week, Eastman spoke to God and asked, “Lord, what, what do you want to do this week?”
The Lord was quick to answer. “I just started hearing Him,” Eastman explained. “It was like [he said], ‘Well, tonight I’m going to do this and tomorrow night I’m going to do this.’ And I remember that the thing about ‘tomorrow’ night—Tuesday night—was ‘I’m going to send a wave … there’s going to be a demonstration of discipleship in a wave of sacrifice.’”
Eastman confessed he had no idea what that meant. He recounted, “Another thing I heard was, ‘Tonight, the song of the Lord is going to break out.’ And I remember Him saying, ‘There will be more people in the auditorium at midnight than when the meeting started.’ And it made no sense to me.”
Despite not understanding what the Lord was telling him, Eastman wrote it down on a piece of paper and put it in his Bible.
Wilkerson was giving Eastman a ride to the school that first morning and while they were talking, Eastman heard the Lord speak to him again. “I don’t know what else Rich said,” Eastman recalled, “but I remember the Lord spoke to me and said, ‘Do you really believe I’ll do the things that you heard this morning?’
“I said, ‘Well, sure, I believe that. Why wouldn’t I believe it?’
“And then He said, ‘Are you willing to read the list to the student body before I do any of it?’”
‘Nobody knows all the things God wants to do this week’
It took some prompting, but Eastman eventually shared the list. “I was holding my Bible [during the service] with the slip of paper in it and I started to say, ‘God is doing great things.’ All of a sudden, I had that slip of paper, and I lifted up my hand and I said something like, ‘Nobody knows all the things God wants to do this week.’
“And the Lord said, ‘Yes, yes you do.’ I remember reading the list [out loud] but it still made no sense.”
The messages Eastman had received started to make sense on Monday night. “The song of the Lord is going to break out” happened when the students who had attended the prayer retreat on the weekend began spontaneously singing a song of worship they had sung at the retreat.
“More people will be in the auditorium at midnight” happened when students started calling friends and family to tell them what was happening at NCBC. People who were not students but had attended the prayer meeting came to North Central, and the crowd in the chapel in Miller Hall overflowed into the hallways.
Demonstration of discipleship in a wave of sacrifice
On the second night of preaching, Eastman was not sensing any response from the students. He said, “That night there was no facial, physical, visible response from people. And I said [in my spirit], ‘Oh Lord, this is terrible. Nothing’s happened.’ I was thinking that I needed to tell the students that I made a mistake in coming because I said God was going to do all these things and … now nothing’s happening.’
But when he got to the end of the message on Tuesday, a girl jumped up and left hastily. “I thought, ‘Oh boy, now they’re going to be leaving,’” Eastman said. When she came back in, she continued right on up onto the platform, and said, through tears, “Excuse me, Brother Dick. I don’t mean to interrupt.”
Eastman asked her, “What’s on your heart?”
And she said “I am so sorry I didn’t hear a word of your message. All I kept hearing was, ‘How much do you love me? How much do you love me?’ I said, ‘I love you with all my heart.’ God said, ‘Are you willing to go into your dorm, into that drawer in your closet and get all the money that you have had in the way down there, and give it because of your love?’”
The girl handed Eastman her wallet and said, “Here, Brother Dick. This is all I have in the world.”
Mike Shields ’73 was there and said he had never seen anything like what happened next.
“After she laid down this wallet,” he recounted, “it launched the wildest, craziest time of giving I’ve ever seen in my life. I mean, students took off and went back to the rooms. [A student] who had been a beauty queen showed up with her trophy and laid it on the platform. Suddenly, there were football trophies there … everything that you can imagine—[one guy came with] his keys for his new car and dropped them off on the platform.”
“A strong sense of conviction came upon the service as Dick Eastman spoke about the things that were hindering us from a deeper walk with God,” McLeod said. “I do not recall exactly how it began, but students were leaving the chapel, returning with the objects and things that were keeping them from intimacy with God. As the students returned, they were placing them on the altar. This lasted for an extended period of time—as I was able to drive to my home about ten minutes from campus and return with the items that I felt the Lord was asking me to lay down. A collection of things, from stereos to sporting goods to you name it was at the altar.”
In addition to preaching, Eastman prayed over the students throughout the week. Gary Grogan ’73 said, “On one of those mornings, Dick Eastman lined us all up [in the hallways] and then he went around and prayed and prophesied over all of us. I was leaning against the wall and Dick had this incredible, simple little prophetic prayer for me, and it just pierced my heart.
“And I realized I was prideful, and I said, ‘Lord, I’m sorry. Do whatever you want. I’ll go where you want me to go. I’ll do what you want me to do. I’ll be what you want me to be. I’ll say what you want me to say. Lord, my life belongs to you.’ There just became a new passion in my life for God’s presence, for prayer, for intercession, for waiting on the Lord, for hearing from God’s voice. And that’s been a hallmark of my life ever since.”
A work of God
The outpouring of the Spirit caused North Central students to seek the Lord as never before. Many experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in incredible, even physical ways. The possessions and money students donated that week totaled nearly $30,000 and enabled the construction of what today is known as the Lindquist Sanctuary.
McLeod said, “As the years have unfolded, I have often returned in my mind to that night, and I realize the specific item that I surrendered was not what mattered, but the act of surrender lives on and will continue to impact my future. That night could never be duplicated because it was a one-time work of God in hearts that were tender and prepared for the Spirit’s gentle touch to shape our lives.”
Wilkerson, whose own faith was strengthened during that great revival, believes that the faith of the institution was revived, as well. “You could in some way say that North Central was given a second chance and when that chance came, the school took it. And the school’s never been the same.”
Portions of this story appear in the fall 2021 NCU Magazine.
Where are they now?
The alumni who shared their recollections of the 1971 revival at North Central went on to careers in ministry, missions, and education.
Dick Eastman ’67, D.D., has served as the international president of Every Home for Christ since 1988, a ministry that has planted over 4.7 billion gospel messages, home to home, worldwide. He is also the originator of the Change the World School of Prayer, a prolific author, and president of America’s National Prayer Committee. He is married to Dee (Krans ’64), who he met at North Central, and they live in Colorado. Learn more: everyhome.org
Gary Grogan ’73, M.A. is Legacy Pastor Stone Creek Church in Urbana, Illinois, where he served as Lead Pastor from June 1988 until 2016. His emphasis was to create a healthy, growing place for people of diverse ages, ethnicity, and background to find and follow God. Gary serves as the U40 Director, Illinois District (AG) Network and offers formal and informal mentorship to young leaders and ministers. He also organized and led the Pastors Prayer Network (PPN) for ten years. Gary stays connected to youth and young adults and serves on the Board of Regents at North Central University. He and his wife, Bonnie, live in Urbana, Illinois. Learn more: papagrogan.wordpress.com.
Philip McLeod, Ph.D., was a pastor for 18 years, then spent nearly 20 years at Valley Forge Christian College, where he served as Provost/Vice President of Academic Affairs. He is currently serving as Campus Minister with Chi Alpha at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife, Valerie, live in the Greater Philadelphia area. Learn more: linkedin.com/in/phmcleod.
Mike Shields ’73, M.A. serves as International Directors of the Latin America Advanced School of Theology (ISUM) that provides advanced training to hundreds of pastors and ministry leaders throughout Spanish Speaking Latin America and Caribbean. He and his wife, MonaRe (Grams ‘71) Shields, are also missionary evangelists. They live in Florida. Learn more: mikeshields.org.
Rich Wilkerson Sr., D.Min., is the founder of Peacemakers, the Senior Pastor of Trinity Church in Miami, Florida, a prominent evangelist, and an author. He is a member of the NCU Board of Regents, and he and his wife, Robyn Wilkerson, D.Min., serve as Co-Chancellors for North Central University. The Wilkersons live in Miami, Florida. Learn more: richwilkerson.com