‘We need authentic leadership that shows Jesus’

The pastor who preached at Asbury before the worship service ran for sixteen days in a row, talks about his heart “for leaders and young people who need encouragement”.

Daniel Hofkamp , Evangelical Focus

Protestante Digital · 26 APRIL 2024 · 13:00 CET

Zach Meerkreebs, pastor and preacher. / Website Zach Meerkreebs.,
Zach Meerkreebs, pastor and preacher. / Website Zach Meerkreebs.

One morning in February, no different from others, Zachary Meerkreebs preached at Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky (USA) at its weekly meeting for students.

After a slightly longer sermon than usual - “not my most brilliant sermon”, Zach now says - based on Romans 12, talking about the need to live in love, he challenged the students to stay and pray.

Only 19 students stayed, but they began to pray and to experience a strong sense of God's presence among them.

What happened next is already known. For just over two weeks, Asbury College became a meeting place for thousands upon thousands of people, gathered to worship, pray and share the Word.

Zach Meerkreebs is still moved by what happened. One year later, the young preacher will be visiting Spain to participate in the Fire in Your Bones conference in Madrid, which invites pastors and leaders from all over the country to participate in an event that “promises inspiration, wisdom and renewal”.

A few days before travelling to Spain, he talked to Spanish news website Protestante Digital to describe the experience of those special days and why he believes that the Church is at the gates of a new time, in which God can do great things.

Question. How do you remember those days in Asbury?

Answer. I was a guest preacher at the University. I had the privilege of preaching on Romans 12, we were talking about authentic love. I think that is what Christians all over the world want. We need a move of authentic love, love without hypocrisy.

So I preached about that and at the end of the sermon - I don't think I did it very well - I ran out of time. But I prayed, and asked the students if they wanted to stay and experience God and his love, being filled with the Spirit.

Most of the students left, but about 19 students stayed and took up the challenge. In the first hour we only experienced a moment of worship, but you could tell that they were really crying out to God and we quickly realised that God was meeting us in a unique way.

Over the next couple of hours, we went from 20 people to about 1,500. That night, the university presidents got together and felt that God might be doing something special, so they decided to keep it going through the night.

That continued to grow, to the point that for 16 days, there was an all day long worship service, and we saw 60,000 to 70,000 people come from all over the world, and it multiplied to nine other locations.

The funny thing is that we were not in a big city, but in a very small rural town, known for its horse farms, called Wilmore, Kentucky. It is a place that only has one sandwich restaurant and one coffee shop, so they ran out of food every day... But it was a unique move of God, for a generation that needed to experience God's humility and gentleness, His great kindness.

We saw the Holy Spirit moving in powerful ways but we also saw many people unimpressed when they entered the room, but then overwhelmed by God's love and kindness.

We saw thousands of people coming to Christ, we saw about 400 students feel the call to mission around the world and it was one hundred percent spontaneous.

After 16 days we felt led to commission them all over the world, so now I travel around the world, I tell what happened and I encourage leaders.

My heart is to encourage the leaders, to pray with them. We learned a lot about humility, and how God will move when a people humble themselves.


Q. What is impressive is that there were no big preachers, or big churches behind it, but something very simple.

A. I thank God that in the United States there are big, beautiful churches that are vibrant, and faithful and gifted preachers and pastors, and as everyone knows, fantastic music and worship groups, but there was something unique about what was going on in Asbury.

I'm a pretty ordinary person, people in Spain will soon find out that I am not particularly bright or impressive, but I think what we need is for God to move among us, among ordinary people, ordinary people who just love Jesus.

I think I love Jesus very much and if we are going to see God move among the nations, we cannot rely on celebrities or rock stars.

I don't know how you feel about young people, but I think they are looking for something different than celebrities and rock stars. They want to see something simple and authentic, something real. I think that might be what God is doing now.


Q. On your website you describe what happened in Asbury, not as a “revival, but more as an “outpouring of God. What is your view on this?

A. I think everyone wants to name it, and that's fine, but from my perspective as a leader present at Asbury, it is a little intimidating to say it was a revival. Even given the history, I think there are people much smarter than me who will put the right name to what happened. Personally, I like to rely on the text of John 9.

There is a blind man who was healed and the Pharisees are trying to get him to say something that will get Jesus in trouble, they are looking for something to cling on to in order to take advantage of the situation, and over and over again they ask him if he knows that Jesus is the Messiah. The blind man says: “All I know is that I was blind and now I see”.

I feel that is my position, I don't know if it is a revival, an awakening... All I know is that for sixteen days, we experienced God in a profound way.

It seems that God is doing similar things around the world among young people, on different university campuses in the United States and also in other places.

I hope that in Spain, if there is an opportunity, I can go to one of the universities to pray. I would love to go and just pray because I believe God is doing something.

People smarter than me have said that sometimes there are unique outpourings of God's Spirit and multiple outpourings like that produce a revival, and a revival that is sustained will bring a great awakening.

I am not against that, I'd love to be, but I just want to stay in the position of giving thanks for what I have experienced. I don't know if I need to call it anything concrete, but just enjoy and give thanks for being part of it.


Q. What else would you like to tell us about you, what is your ministry, your family, your hobbies...?

A. I live in Lexington, Kentucky (USA) which is about 20 minutes from Asbury University. I have been a missionary, a church planter. I'm a pastor, and my passion is spiritual training, especially of the younger generation, but I enjoy preaching. So I am excited to be able to come to Spain and share my heart.

I am married to Kristen, who is a doctor. I have three girls: Eden, who is 7 ; Esther, who is now in heaven but would have been 4, we lost her about three years ago, which is an important part of our story. Finally Mercy, my little girl, who is a year and a half. Right now I work part-time at Asbury University to help students, and I preach there.

I am a big football fan, I coached and played when I was in college. Real football, not American football. I was a goalkeeper. And that is what brought me to Asbury, because I came in as a volunteer goalkeeper coach. So I love to talk football with anybody. I am a Liverpool fan, sorry! But I can pick a Spanish team if I have to.


Q. You can choose Real Madrid, it is a good time to do it.

A. Yes, I saw the game they beat Manchester City, I was happy about that. If you beat ManCity, you are good with me (laughs).

My heart is to be with leaders and young people who need encouragement. The friendship with Jesus has been heavy on my heart. I want to share how to be more like Jesus and how, every time we are with Jesus, we become more like his friends.

That is my heart for Fire in your bones. I pray that we will have a unique encounter with God, experience an outpouring of his Spirit, we will all be better leaders and more effective if we are convinced of our friendship and love with Jesus.

That is my heart, and that is what I share with young university students.

I love being a father, I love being married to Kristen. I am thankful for this season of travel. This will be my first time visiting Spain, the last couple of years I have been able to travel a lot, but this will be my first time in Spain, so I am excited.


Q. You said earlier that young people look for something real. Do you think our churches in the West are succeeding in sharing their faith with young people?

A. There are a couple of words that can be linked together that help me.

Authenticity requires a level of humility from Christians. I think of Philippians 2, where we are told that Jesus left heaven and emptied himself, to take the form of a man, and not just a man, but a servant, and not just a servant, but one who would die, and not just die, but die a gruesome death on the cross. All of that is like going down stairs of humility and authenticity in order to engage with those whom He came to serve.

I think the church in the West has not been a good friend of humility, because we feel we have to stand firm, fight for what is ours.

Philippians 2 tells us that Jesus gives up, he abandons what he had, he lets go. As leaders and pastors, thinking of the younger generation, we have to be honest with who we are. You are not perfect, which makes Jesus so much more beautiful and I think humility is about being honest, and giving ourselves up.

Another word that comes to mind is hospitality, or welcoming, because people cannot see if you are authentic on a stage or by what you post on your social media.

They may see that you are authentic by the way you live your life, but until they sit at the table with you, or can have a relationship with you, they cannot see the authenticity of Jesus applied to your life.

For example, when you are putting your children to bed and they do not want to go to bed; when you are disappointed about not getting a job; when you are not feeling well; when something great happens, like getting a raise, or when your team wins. They are all opportunities for authentic Christianity to come out.

The Western Church has not been the right incarnation of the faith, we have not authentically engaged, so people are not even interested in the faith.

I think there is a hunger and curiosity right now, creating spaces for authentic disciples, for authentic leadership that shows Jesus.

The beauty of it all is that when people encounter Jesus they seem to want him. When they encounter Christians or great preaching or a great answer to a question, they don't always stay interested, but when they encounter Jesus, they tend to want him. So we can create spaces where people find Jesus.

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