On September 2, 2020, I sat down with Dave Clayton, the founder and leader of Awaken Nashville, to hear the Awaken Nashville story—how the movement of prayer and fasting in Nashville began. As a HIM Publications publisher, I’ve been wanting to capture this story for a while now because I had the opportunity to work with Dave on the books Revival Starts Here and Jesus Next Door. These HIM Publications books have equipped tens of thousands of people to pray and fast for revival in Nashville and beyond.
I wanted to share the Awaken Nashville story because I think it will help others catch a vision for what God might do in their city.
In this podcast episode, Dave and I reflect on the past few years of Awaken Nashville, which has impacted nearly 100,000 people. Today, we get to hear Dave tell the story from the beginning of how everything happened. Over the last two years, God has done some amazing things as over 400 churches in Nashville joined together in 2019 to pray and fast for our city for thirty days. Then in 2020, over 700 churches did it again.
In this interview, you’ll learn Dave’s single greatest challenge as a leader, how God has changed churches in Nashville, and what God did in one man’s life that changed the trajectory of his family.
Dave Clayton’s Background
Dave Clayton and his wife, Sydney live in Nashville, Tennessee, with their three boys—Micah, Jack, and Judah—where they give leadership to three different organizations: Ethos Church, Awaken Nashville—which is a citywide movement of churches that are committed to praying and fasting together—and Onward Church Planting, which is their global family of leaders committed to disciple-making and church-planting.
Why Share the Awaken Nashville Story?
Chad Harrington: What motivates you to share this story?
Dave Clayton: I get excited because I think sometimes when you share a story of what God’s done, I think there are probably some people sitting out there that have actually had this same burden from the Lord. Maybe they feel crazy because they feel like they’re the only one. I think sometimes sharing a story like this makes you go, Oh, maybe God is saying something; maybe I can step into it.
I think sometimes when you hear somebody else’s story, it maybe gives us perspective on what something like that would look like in your context. For some people, it may just be a practical unlocking that happens by hearing this story.
Then, of course, the main thing is just I think when God does something great, you testify about it—you testify to who he is and what he’s done. So the thing that I’m most excited about is just to testify to what God’s doing. Even if nobody listening to this tries to do this, tries to lead it, I think taking a moment to just kind of brag on what God is doing—that’s significant enough reason to tell the story.
The Awaken Nashville Story
Chad: So let’s go back to the beginning. What was the moment that you knew you had to start Awaken Nashville?
Dave: Yeah, a little bit of back story: Our family had spent some time in Kenya, and you and I have talked about this moment a lot, in fact, we talk about it in the book that we did together. We spent some time in Kenya, and when we were in Kenya, we were blown away by just the spiritual vitality of the leaders that we were with, in those churches that we were spending time with. My wife, Sidney, and I are pragmatists. We were like, What is going on here? How did this group of people become so passionate and hungry about God?
I remember one day in particular, we were riding in the car with one of the people that had invited us to come over for some time with them, and we were just grilling her with questions.
She said, “Hey, so much of what you see happening here was birthed in the place of prayer and fasting. This is a huge part of who we are, and it’s become a real key in helping people walk in the ways of Jesus, to hear his voice, and walk in obedience to who he is.”
We didn’t realize but when we had arrived in Kenya and landed there on the last day of a thirty-day season of prayer and fasting. We were just so inspired by that. And, you know, the next year God was stirring us in regards to the role that prayer and fasting plays in revival and in disciple-making. So we started inviting our church into that.
For the last several years, kind of leading up to Awaken, our church started tithing our year in prayer and fasting. So, you know, we’d take the month of February for thirty days, we’d pray and fast. For 21 days in September, we’d take the first Wednesday of every month to pray and fast together as a church and really believe that God would move in that.
So, about two or three years into that journey, a couple of years since we’d been back from Kenya, a couple of years praying and fasting as a church, while we were praying and fasting as a church, one morning, right in the middle of one of our month-long seasons of prayer and fasting, I was praying for one of my boys.
I just really felt this impression from the Holy Spirit, where this question kept running through my heart as I was praying, where the Spirit was just prompting me to think about what would happen if one of my kids went missing. I was praying for my youngest son, Judah, at that moment, and he was three years old at the time.
I said, “Lord, you know, I would spend the rest of my life looking for him,” and I just felt Lord say, “Well, Dave, your city’s filled with my missing kids and for the most part, the church has quit looking. I want you to wake up the search and rescue teams.”
I was like, “Whoa.”
That was a moment in February 2018, and something just went off in my heart that day that was kind of indescribable.
Over the next couple of weeks, as we kept praying into that, we felt like the Lord said to raise up an intercessor, somebody who will commit to praying, for every single person in the city of Nashville by name.
Chad: Small task!
Dave: Small task, you know, 1.8 million people in the surrounding area.
But it was just clear as day, and it is pretty overwhelming. But we felt God had asked us to do it, and that our job wasn’t to manage the outcomes. It was just to walk in obedience.
So, in September of 2018, we came to our team and said, “Hey, here’s what we feel called to do. We think we’re supposed to invite the city into this season of prayer and fasting.” And we said, “Hey, let’s say yes to it before we have it figured out,” because we knew if we tried to stop and figure it out, we’d talk ourselves out of it. So we just kind of said, “Hey, yes, we’ll do this even if we’re the only church that’s a part of it.”
I remember at one point sitting down to do the math and in minutes I realized it would take like ten years if just our church does this. But, thank God moved in it. So that was that was the birth of it.
That led us into what so many people have been a part of over the last two years.
Chad: Then January, we had 20,000 books, and over 400 churches.
Dave: That first year was so crazy because, you know, starting in September, we just started holding a lunch a couple of days a week. And I just invited people over and I shared the vision: “Hey, we’re gonna pray and fast for thirty days. We’re gonna pray over every person in the city. Do you want in?”
At first, churches were like, “Wow, that’s inspiring.”
Then, it was like, “Good luck, buddy. That’s not gonna work.”
So, I think we got to the end of October, and we had eight churches that agreed to do it. So two months of effort yielded eight or nine churches.
Then, in November, a few more. Then, it started just snowballing.
We got to the second week of January, and well over 400 churches had joined.
It was like, Wow, what has happened?
We realized in that moment, God had gone before us in every way, and he was bringing together pieces that were just so beyond our our capabilities.
So, we felt God had called us to rally the churches in the city, to pray and fast for every person in the city by name. That was the core of the calling. That simple: Can we pray and fast on behalf of every person in the city? And everything we did was built off of that simple reality—how do we pray for these 1.8 million people in the area, which is a lot of people, you know?
The first year, that took shape by us calling churches together, and from the last week of January to the last week of February—for thirty straight days—we had this season where we invited people to fast for thirty days. Some people did a sunup to sundown fast. Some people fasted from lunch every day; some people did a full fast, some people did a soul fast, you know?
Specifically, that first year we gave every person a list of fifteen households to pray for. We essentially broke up the phone book, and we prayed for every person by name across those thirty days.
At the end of it, we sent out a handwritten note to every person in the city.
So, Chad, you were part of that first year. You got your prayer packet, you opened it up. It had a prayer and fasting booklet. It had a thirty day prayer guide, it had fifteen blank postcards, and it had a list of names.
We just invited people to join us on that journey, and we kicked that season off with a with a night of prayer and worship, where we called the leaders together at the historic Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville. Then, we wrapped that celebration up with a leader celebration, where we just testified to what God did.
That happened in 2019—400 something churches came together—and honestly, we really thought that was it. We thought, Okay, I don’t know if we’ll do that again. We felt we had done what God had asked us to do.
But once again, we came through the summer and early fall, and we just really sensed God saying, “Hey, you know, I want you to rally the troops to get to pray and fast, but this time not for strangers—this time for their neighbors.” We really sensed God was inviting us to move from our knees in prayer to our feet in action.
Awaken Nashville 2020
We started rallying the churches again, and this time they responded even more significantly than we could have imagined. Over 700 churches that second year, not just in the city of Nashville, either. We had eleven different cities across the state of Tennessee join us—pockets of people all across the country who said, “We’re doing this, as well.” Once again, we kicked off with a celebration of praying for our city, then we released people for thirty straight days.
What we challenged people to do the second year was identify eight to ten people who live next door to you, who you work with, who are around you, and we want you specifically pray for them and bless them in the name of Jesus. Man, it was just incredible to see what God did. So that’s happened, that was the 2019 to 2020 story.
Awaken Has Impacted Groups Around the World
You know, it was pretty interesting because two weeks after the fast ended, COVID-19 hit Nashville, and all of a sudden people were kind of locked down in their neighborhoods with these people that had been praying for. So in Nashville, we’ve watched it kind of spill out that way.
But this reality of Awaken has started taking root all over the world. We’ve seen churches and communities and college campuses, and people say, “Hey, we want to do that, too.” So we’ve been helping people do it, as well.
Chad: Was it like—because this has happened to me in certain seasons of my life more than others—where it’s like the things you need, you just turn the corner, and it’s like “There it is!” Was it like that during that season for you?
Dave: Yeah, absolutely. But what I would say is that you would turn the corner and you weren’t sure it was gonna be there, even though it was there. You felt this crazy weight of, “How is this gonna work out? How are we gonna pull this thing off? Are we just setting ourselves up for just a colossal embarrassment?”
I mean, that’s what we felt. I mean, because I think sometimes when people hear about what had happened in the city, they went, “Okay, so I guess you had a network already, and you just tapped into that network. And you guys have done things like this before.”
The reality was no. I mean, most people had no clue who we were (not that that matters), but what I’m trying to say is we weren’t the kind of people that when we would call you, you would answer the phone. So, it was just a lot of cold calling and showing up at people’s churches. It was just kind of crazy, and that was every step of the way going, “Is anybody going to do this? How is this going to go? Is it gonna work?” And we’ve just been blown away.
At the end of the day, we’d go, “Hey, we’re doing this for the Lord, so if nobody else comes and nobody else joins,” it’s like, “We’re doing it for you, God.” That really takes a lot of pressure off.
Why People Joined Awaken Nashville
Chad: What caused people to say yes?
Dave: I don’t know.
Chad: You know, it’s like, “Hey, Americans, come on, let’s not eat for a month!”
1. God had been working.
Dave: You know, I think it’s clear that God was just at work there, so that’s the spiritual side of it. I think God has been tilling that soil.
2. People were ready.
I think there were other things had been going on in the city that we were totally unaware of, you know, where people were hungry to see God move. They were hungry to work together. That wasn’t strategic on our part; God was ahead of us.
3. There was a clear plan.
Then, I think another piece of it is when we came to people, we didn’t just come to them with a vision. We came to them with a plan, and I think that’s really important.
I think vision inspires, but plans produce confidence, and I think that’s sometimes a missing component.
When people go, “Man, God’s called me to do something,” and I go, “Man, that’s awesome.”
Now, if you have a vision, it means you’re seeing something that other people aren’t seeing, and I think in order to help them see it you have to give them a plan.
I just think about that moment… Nehemiah is one of my favorite books in the Bible, where it was clear that the dude didn’t just have a vision from God about the restoration of the walls of Jerusalem. But he had a plan, you know, and he invited people into that plan. So, I think that was part of the reason.
You know, God was stirring things, people were already hungry for it because some things had already been going on in the city, then, when we shared the vision, we shared it hand-in-hand with a plan and said, “Hey, here’s how we’re gonna do this.”
I think that gave people the ability to then go back and actually mobilize their folks with a bit of confidence.
Spirit and Structure Work Together
Chad: I think one of the things that really helped people say yes is how simple it was. You weren’t saying, “Hey, we’re gonna commit to the next ten years of fasting together every year.” It’s like, “Hey, we’re doing this this year. Do you want to join us?”
And back to that point that you made, which I think is really helpful about making plans—combining plans with vision to instill confidence—I think it has to do with our view of God in some ways.
I think when we talk about prayer, fasting, and revival, we get into the realm of the Holy Spirit, and our view of the Holy Spirit, which may be underdeveloped or may be overdeveloped. And maybe there’s not much of one, or we’ve mixed some things in there because there’s just so many different thoughts about how the Spirit works.
One of the greatest misconceptions that I’ve seen in the churches is that people don’t believe that the Holy Spirit orders things. But what I’ve witnessed in my own experience, but also in our prayers for revival in Nashville over the last two years…
Again, when I say “revival,” I feel like we’re just in the early days of what could be revival.
Dave: I was going to say.
Chad: Yeah, we’re praying for revival. The unity of bringing people together, the plan element of that, I think, comes from the Holy Spirit, too. It’s not just the prayers we’ve prayed or the spontaneous moments.
When you look at Genesis 1, it says, the Spirit hovered over the waters of the deep, and God created the world in an orderly way on Day One. This on that day and that on this day.
Then we get to 1 Corinthians, and Paul says, “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” And he says that in a conversation about the spiritual gifts, right? So I think that’s such a huge element is really even our view of the Holy Spirit.
Dave: Yeah, and just to tag on what you’re just saying, you see this reality all throughout Scripture that Spirit and structure work together.
Back to the creation story, you know, God forms Adam and Eve. That’s a moment of structure. Then, he fills them with the spirit.
Think about what happens in the vision of the valley of dry bones. He forms the body, puts the pieces together, and then the Spirit comes.
Chad: And breathes life back into them.
Dave: You think about what happens, you know, in the Book of Acts, on the day of Pentecost. The people have come together in this structured moment on the day of Pentecost, and then the Spirit of God descends.
So, I think there’s something to this. I think we can out-structure our way out of obedience to the Holy Spirit.
But I think we can also go to the other extreme, where we think, Well, the work of the Spirit is the absence of structure or the absence of plans.
We found those two things to be very helpful in aiding people to not just say yes with their hearts…
Because we knew for us, we could get leaders in a room, and a leader could agree with everything we’re saying, affirm everything we’re talking about, and still not go back and mobilize their people. So we said, “How do we make sure that doesn’t happen? How do we make sure the person who feels hungry, that affirms what we’re talking about—this need for revival, this need for God to move—how do we make sure they don’t just affirm it or agree with it but they go home and take action?”
So, for us, that’s where the plan and vision had to go hand-in-hand.
The Importance of Physical Resources
Chad: I think it’s so important when we’re talking about organizing a massive amount of people, or even just your church for crying out loud. It’s like, how do you get any number of people besides one to do something together?
And that sort of play into the discussion about resources. You know, why do we have books that equip and even fuel churches?
We’ve got Revival Starts Here, which is about prayer and fasting. Jesus Next Door, which is a thirty-day prayer guide for the actual days of prayer and fasting. And the Love Your Neighbor Journal helps you think about action to take. The reason that we’ve created these resources is because we know ourselves, and we need help. Really, I bet you probably wrote that book in part to remind yourself of, “Oh, these are the kinds of fasts, and it helps guide yourself in a sense.” But primarily, you wrote these things for your church, not Awaken Nashville. You were thinking primarily about Ethos Church.
Dave: Yeah, well, you know, we learned this the hard way.
The first year, we came back from Kenya and said, “Hey, we’re gonna become a church that prays and fasts.” And people were hungry for that. They were excited, you know?
We came back, we casted vision, we shared stories. And then, we jumped into it.
Man, it was brutally hard on our church, because, honestly, we inspired them, but we didn’t resource them. So what happened is people wanted to take a step, but they took the step and felt really ill-equipped. That was just a poor leadership move on our part, on my part. We just learned that the hard way.
So, we realized the desire to meet God in this way is probably not sufficient enough for actually meeting God this way. You need some level of discipleship, you know.
We started thinking, How do we disciple people in this way? In our context, we said, “How do we create something so simple that no matter where a person is on their spiritual journey, they can take their next step and join us in this prayer and fasting thing that brings them into the larger thing of what’s happening in our church?”
As a result, we started creating these prayer packets. When we started a fast, we literally set a prayer packet on their seat, you know? So, they’d come in, and they couldn’t miss it. They opened up the prayer packet. There it would be on their seat with a foldout that says, “Start here.”
We tried to write the instructions for a fourth-grader. It answered questions like, “When is this happening? What are we going to do? What does it mean?”
Then, we started creating resources to go in that packet that helped people. You know, what is prayer and fasting? Theologically? Practically? You know, how do we do this?
Then, the prayer book, Jesus Next Door, we created that so that each morning, our church could wake up wherever they were in their homes all across the city, and we could read the same Scripture and read the same devotional. We could pray into the same points together, and it was just a really simple way of keeping us aligned.
I think you and I even had this conversation when we were first creating these resources… in the current moment we’re living in, everyone’s first question is, “Why are you printing up stuff?” Like, “Why don’t you just do digital?” You know, which is way cheaper.
What we found is in a world where people are so distracted and so bogged down, we actually wanted to go the opposite direction and said, “Hey, let’s get off your phone for a minute. Let’s get away from your screens for just a minute. Let’s get our heads in a different space.” So we said, “Let’s go old school; let’s do books and prayer journals.”
We’re two years in and helping almost 100,000 people go down this journey in some capacity, and everyone we’ve talked to said the physicality of it has played a really important part.
The Fruit of Awaken Nashville
Chad: So I’m really curious about this—I haven’t asked you this because I’ve heard a ton of stories from other people—but if we were to talk about the fruit of what you’ve seen God do in the last couple of years, from your perspective, what story would you tell?
Dave: There’s so many stories that we could talk about. I’ll give you two.
Story #1: The Churches Unifying Together
One would just be on a kind of a large, citywide level. It has been amazing to see the way that God has used this to really bring churches together in, I would say, is a genuine place of love and unity.
So, churches have come together, not programmatically, but leaders have begun building really genuine friendships with each other that’s been marked by the love of Jesus.
That’s been crazy, especially palpable in a year like this, where our city got hit by tornadoes, and all of a sudden—and that happened just a month after we had finished up the season of prayer and fasting—the tornadoes hit. And all of a sudden, all of these churches are jumping in together. They just got done praying together for a month, and now they’re serving together and they’re working together. They’re meeting needs together. Leaders are caring for each other. I think the unity, the humility, that I’ve seen just permeating the larger body of Christ in the city—that’s been one of the most palpable things for me.
Jesus says, in our unity Jesus’ identity has validity. In John, 17, he said, “The world will know that that I was sent because the way you love each other.” There’s something about our togetherness that points to the validity of his identity in the eyes of the world, which is just really amazing to me. It has been amazing to see that on the kind of citywide level.
Story #2: A Man’s Life Changed, His Family Changed
Then, I think on the personal level, the number of stories that we’ve heard and that we even experienced, where God connected all of the dots in a person’s life so that they could come to trust and follow Jesus for the first time…
I think about this one guy in particular who showed up at a church one afternoon, about halfway through the fast. He knocks on the door and basically says, “I need somebody to help me get my life right with God.”
The guy who answers the door just works at the church office… their church was a part of this season in prayer and fasting, but it still totally caught him off guard—this knock on the door from a stranger.
So, he sits down and just opens up the Book of Mark, and they start reading through the Gospel of Mark together.
I think they get one or two chapters in, and the guy says, “Man, I’ve got to get right with Jesus. I need to get baptized and be forgiven my sins.” So they go in and baptize him right there. I mean, just this crazy story.
Well, that was a Wednesday afternoon. A few days later—that following Sunday—this family shows up at the same church, just a random family that shows up. They said, “Hey, we need to find the person who baptized so and so.” So, they’re trying to find this out.
That was this guy here, and so they connected the dots.
They said, “Hey, we want to tell you that you baptized our dad on Wednesday, and on Friday this week, he died.” The guy was stunned, and they were stunned. He wasn’t sick that they knew of. They weren’t expecting this.
My friend, who was the guy that had baptized, said that all of a sudden, he was just scared, like, “Oh, no. Are they gonna be mad or are they gonna blame me?” He was just so caught off guard.
They said, “You know, we’ve all just been living outside of God’s favor, and we’ve got to get right with God.” And the whole family comes to Jesus.
The minister calls me and tells me this story about the crazy reality that had been going on. He said, “Can we find the person in the city that’s been praying for this guy?”
When we created the prayer packets, we had numbered them, so we knew which churches had which prayer packets. That is another detail for another day.
But we go and look up which church had that prayer packet, so I had the joy of getting to speak with that church and tell that story. And the woman who had his name came and found me after the service.
She was weeping, and she just begins to tell me the story about how their family had been in disarray in that season. They were remodeling a house, and they were in between all these things—they didn’t have a kitchen, didn’t have a working bathroom—but every morning, she would commit to wake up before her kids got up and she’d pray over her list of names.
It was just one of those moments where God was connecting these dots, and God was honoring that woman’s faithfulness in the quiet places, God was working in this guy’s life—who was at the end of his journey and he didn’t yet know it—God was working in his family, God was working through this minister who had called his church to pray and fast, and… all of these things came together.
I know that’s kind of like a crazy over-the-top story, but we have so many stories like that, where God connected dots in a person’s life, and it was just kind of his way of saying, I see you.
Chad: That’s incredible, man. It’s not like anyone orchestrated that. We’re just watching it, you know?
Dave Clayton’s Greatest Personal Challenge
As you think about what has happened, what God’s done over the last few years, as you’ve moved from making it just an Ethos Church thing in Nashville to just inviting other people along, and now that we’ve had hundreds of churches join, I want to ask this: What’s been the greatest challenge that stood in your way personally in your own walk through this?
Dave: Yeah, you know, I think just the challenge of unbelief.
What I mean by that is, I think there’s moments where we look back on our lives, we go, Man, God was inviting us to something. And there’s times that I’ve said yes to that, and there’s times I’ve said no to that.
Almost every time I’ve said no, it was rooted in a place of unbelief. It was like, Could God really do that? Will God really do that? Is God really inviting me into that?
So, I think for me, one of the biggest challenges has just been in that place of unbelief, when we first felt that invitation from God. It was like, God, would you really invite someone like us to do this? Like, Why didn’t you ask somebody better? Someone older, smarter, more networked, more influential, more resourced, more anything? It’s like, Why us?
And just that place of unbelief sometimes around, Are the waters really gonna part? Because when you’re trying to pull a city together—a group of churches across the city, and now you know it’s gonna be in Nashville and multiple cities in multiple states and now in multiple nations—when all of that happens, you know, there’s always that part of you that thinks, Is this really going to happen? Will the waters part? metaphorically speaking, Will the resourcing come in? Will the people say yes?
So, I think just that constant challenge of Okay, God, are you good to your word on this? Did I really hear from you?
I think for me, you know, there’s always that crossing over moment, where we went, “Okay, we’ve really heard. Now, what do we do with what we’ve heard?”
That’s where all the real challenge came for me.
Chad: How did you overcome that? What did that look like for you?
Dave: Yeah, you know, just several practical examples.
I think obedience is the the gateway for breaking through unbelief.
Chad: I’m gonna think about that for a while.
Dave: Obedience is the thing that begins to part the sea through unbelief.
Chad: It’s that first step into the Jordan River
Dave: It’s that first step. What we found in the last two years, there’s been thousands of those steps, and a lot of times the next one feels greater than the last one. But that’s been the key for us.
As an example, we started calling churches together: “Hey, will you do this?” That was a step of obedience. Even in my unbelief, going, I don’t know if anybody’s going to come. We sent out this email to 100 churches. Will anybody come? is a step of unbelief, you know?
Then, people started saying yes. And, you know, I said, “Hey, we’re gonna help you do this, alright?” Wait, how are we gonna do this? And we thought, Oh, we’ve got to write some resources, we’ve got to put some things together.
I remember calling you, about when we needed to have this done, and you were like, “Six months ago!”
Even that whole process of… I remember sitting down and just looking at my blank computer screen to write—and that blinking cursor. It was like, “Okay, God, you’ve asked me to do this, and I’m gonna start doing this.”
Or with resources, or whatever. I could tell you literally hundreds of stories about a moment where we just we took a step because we knew God asked us to do it. But even as we were taking that step, there is that thing in me that was going? Is this gonna work? Is this really gonna happen?
Awaken Nashville’s Greatest Challenge
Chad: For Awaken Nashville as a team, you know, it was a small team, what has been the greatest challenge I guess you could even say organizationally? Because I think that’s really helpful to even know as one of the major point leaders for this—I guess, in one sense, you were the main point leader—your challenge was unbelief, and overcoming that through obedience was such a good word, man, because Christ didn’t call us to figure it all out in our heads and then obey. It just says, “Come, follow me.”
But as an organization, what challenge did you run up against that was just so massive that it’s like, I don’t know how we’re gonna do this.
Dave: You know, the first one was that we didn’t have an organization. We didn’t have it, which sounds a little bit funny, but it’s true.
When we felt God inviting us into this, it was my wife and I. We knew that we could not put this burden on our church staff because it would have killed our staff, it would have killed our team. They already had lots of ministry areas going on. We would have to have shut everything else down just to do this.
So we didn’t know, How are we gonna pull this thing off?
What most people don’t realize that first year when we mobilized 400 churches to do this—tens of thousands of people—we had one person that was paid part time, and we had three volunteers. That was our team. So our organizational challenge was, we don’t have an organization. But what we did have is we had a band of brothers and sisters that believed God had called us to something.
So the next year, as Awaken grew even larger, and everybody… I remember running into a lady at our church and she said, “This year, I hear you have more of a team and that’s awesome.” I kind of laughed because we did have more of a team the second year. The second year, we had one paid person, we had a part-time person, and we had three volunteers.
So I think as one of the biggest challenges was going, We don’t have the manpower, we don’t have the hours, we don’t have the money, and we don’t have the… So we had a whole lot of excuses to either try to make God’s vision fit our capabilities, or we ask God, Would you allow your vision to expand our capabilities? And those are two totally different realities. I think we fought that at every turn.
We’d show up on a Monday during that whole season, and write out our to do list… I remember one week in particular, we were getting close to the launch of the fast, and our to do list was seven pages long, single spaced. And that’s when we had a part time person and a couple volunteers. We’re going, How are we doing this, guys? And just trusting God in the midst of that insanity.
Chad: That is insane.
What’s Next for Awaken Nashville?
Chad: You know, when we came to the end of Awaken Nashville 2020, you got the people who were volunteer leaders—I think the one or two staff people—and we all got together for a meal and just celebrated. I remember at the end of it, you said, “You know, we did it this year—praise God—and we don’t know if we’ll do it again. We just don’t know. We might, we might not. We don’t know what it will look like in the future.”
I love that kind of humility that says, “We’re just going to take it one day at a time, one year at a time, with this kind of thing.” Then, the pandemic hits, and no one knows what anything is gonna be like.
So I’m really curious, Dave, where you at now? What are you thinking about revival in the months and years to come? Because if we were to look a 2020 in the history books and say, “What was this year?” I think we would all say, “We have no idea… it was the weirdest year that we can remember.”
There’s so much cultural shifting going on right now. There’s so much at stake, it feels like, and there’s so many vulnerabilities—health-wise, economically, spiritually, people aren’t going to church buildings—there’s just so much at stake right now. What are you thinking is happening next?
Dave: You know, the most honest answer is I have no idea. I have no idea. But I am more confident than ever that God’s in all of this. He’s at work.
I have several really deep-seated beliefs that I have felt coming out in fresh ways in this season.
1. God works in the unexpected places.
One of those beliefs is that God has a knack for working in the unexpected places that he does. His best work is in the realm of uncertainty. It may be his best work in us, when we’re in a place of uncertainty. He does his best work when we find ourselves in a place of uncertainty. So that’s been coming up in this season.
2. God lets his people in on what he’s doing.
I think another one is that, as God’s people, we should live with an expectation that when the time is right, he will let us in on what he’s doing, and I don’t say that with any posture of arrogance. I mean, you see that over and over in the Scriptures. You know, I think about the passage in Amos 3, where God says, the Lord does not do anything without letting his servants, the prophets, know what he’s doing. When the timing’s right, God lets his people in on it.
Even the words of Jesus, you know, in John 16, where he looks at his disciples and says, “I have so much more to tell you, but we don’t have time for that. But when the Spirit comes, he’s going to continue to reveal things to you; he’s going to take from the Father and make them clear to you.”
In this season I have lived—I think it feels like tension at times—but I live in this place of, Hey, God’s in this; I’m uncertain about what what he’s doing and where he’s at, but I expect that when the time’s right, he’s gonna let us in on it. Until then, we’re gonna keep walking faithfully.
So in regards to prayer and fasting, it’s like, Are we gonna call the whole city together and do a huge thing like we did in 2020? I don’t know. You know, I sense that something different is coming, but I don’t know.
But what I do know is we’re gonna continue to call people into a place of humble prayer and fasting on behalf of the city in different ways, and starting with my own family, starting with our church.
That’s kind of long answer to a short reality is we don’t know. But God’s in it. We expect he’ll show us, and there’s a lot of comfort in that.
Chad: Thanks for sharing that.
Advice for Those Seeking Revival
Chad: I wanted to ask one last question: What advice would you give to people who want to catalyze these kinds of things—prayer, fasting, and asking God for revival? Maybe it’s just in their church or perhaps in their city or on their campus. What advice would you give them? If you could say, “Hey, here’s one thing that, looking at my experience and what I’ve been able to observe, this is what I would say to you.
Dave: You know, I would say this. All this is all built off the fact that you feel called to do this. So, if you feel called by God to do this, one piece of advice would be to take the next right action. Take the next right action, and just keep taking the next right action. And maybe that sounds vague, but I have found sometimes—as I think about the next action, two or three steps down the pike—it can actually distract me from the very next thing that God is inviting me to do.
For some of you that next right action is just declaring out loud before the Lord, “I will mobilize the people around me to pray and fast on behalf of our people, our city, our church.” Maybe your next right action is just a moment of declaration before the Lord, and then he’ll give you the next right action.
For some of you, maybe you’ve already taken that, and it’s, “I need to call the leaders in the church together.” Or maybe, “I need to call Chad and find out what are some resources we could use now that people have come together?” Or maybe maybe it’s just calling other leaders in the city.
Whatever it is, just take that next right step.
Any way we can help serve you, we’d love to do that.
Chad: One thing I would add is it starts with you. I think any time we try and lead beyond our own relationship with the Lord, then we’re just out on the edge of a branch, and it’s dangerous. So, I think that’s one thing that I would just advise people, as I’ve watched leaders. Go there with the Lord.
A worship leader I know said that they’ve started worshiping—like they lead the worship for the whole church—and they said, “I’ve started to worship alone every week, and the things that I want to be true of me publicly I’m letting be true of me privately first.”
How much more important is it with things like prayer and fasting?
I mean, those were two of the three things in Matthew 6 that Jesus says do in secret. And that’s sort of the elephant in the room, I think for a lot of us is, Wait, we can talk about this? Isn’t that wrong? You know, Jesus was saying your hearts need to be there. It doesn’t mean you, in every circumstance, have to be silent about when you go without food for spiritual reasons. How else do we know other people do it? It’s about the heart.
But we do need to remember that what we do in secret is the most important thing. Anything public is just to build up the body.
Man, I appreciate you spending time with me to share in this story. It’s fun to remember some of these details, and hear some new things.
Dave: Man, it’s such an honor. Thanks for the part you played in this story. You’ve been such a key component helping let’s take this dream into reality. So thanks, man.
Chad: Yeah, it’s fun to be part of it.
Accessing the Awaken Nashville Resources
If you want to learn more about how you can resource your church or group with the resources Awaken Nashville used, visit the Awaken Nashville Resources page here to find more information about the books Revival Starts Here, Jesus Next Door, and the Love Your Neighbor Journal. By the way, you can order books in bulk with our membership discounts here.
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