Asbury Revival 2023: When Once Again God Uses Students to Wake the Church
Monday, February 20, marked the 13th consecutive day, and the concluding public service, of a new, fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Asbury University.
This ongoing gathering started at the Christian school in Wilmore, Kentucky, but it has spread far beyond Wilmore to many other schools, such as Cedarville University and Lee University, even as it continued in what was seemingly every available space in that little town. On Sunday, local law enforcement had to finally restrict entrance to Wilmore and a sign was posted that may not just be descriptive, but prophetic: REVIVAL OVER CAPACITY.
As much as I would have loved to be there, this is not a first-hand account. And I don’t just want to report. I want to celebrate what took place and what God is still doing. I want to bless the precious students who have been so hungry for more of God, and who are so — as Jesus declared Nathanael to be — without guile. And I want to mark this movement’s significance.
Thousands Adoring God
Unless you’ve been living in a cave without social media and without Tucker Carlson, you are probably aware that the revival began on Wednesday, Feb. 8, with an ordinary chapel service in Hughes Auditorium. The chapel speaker, Reverend Zach Meerkreebs, finished speaking, but the worship continued and a couple of dozen students remained. Students began to confess their sins and fall on their knees at the altar. The glory of God filled the auditorium and word spread around campus. Asbury University President Kevin Brown and a faculty member both remarked on how students who heard that “chapel never ended — something is happening at Hughes” ran as fast as they could back to the auditorium and were even joined by students from nearby Asbury Theological Seminary.
They are the revival generation that God will use to change the world.
This wasn’t a scheduled revival. Frankly, it’s presumptuous to think revival can be scheduled. Except, of course, by the Lord. One sweet young man who drove 6 ½ hours to experience revival testified, “My friend Jadon said, ‘Dude, if Jesus just localized Himself and just sat His throne in a room, how could we not just drive 6 ½ hours to go see Him?” He exclaimed, “Revival isn’t hype. It’s ordinary people who are hungry … It’s ordinary people crying out for a move of God in our generation.” God is answering those cries, and particularly seems to be using Generation Z in that move.
Those at Asbury sought the Lord with no flash or fanfare — just seemingly inexhaustible rotating worship teams. The young man playing the piano for the initial chapel service went on for ten hours straight that first day! (And the staff, faculty, and volunteers, such as The Salvation Army from Wilmore, taking care of all the logistics — both physical and spiritual — were extraordinary and selfless. A great debt is owed to them, and to the little town of Wilmore itself.)
At Asbury, the Word of God has been proclaimed every day. Thousands bowed in awe and holy adoration before the throne of the Father. Hundreds lined the altar for confession, repentance, and forgiveness, or prayed together sitting on the hard, wooden chairs. The days were marked by great humility, generosity, and kindness by everyone. And when the attributes and character of Jesus were mentioned in song or scripture, the crowd in Hughes Auditorium and beyond resembled Revelation 19:6’s “great multitude,” “roar of many waters,” and “sound of mighty peals of thunder,” giving God the praise He deserves.
This outpouring is significant in that it’s happening once again in this place, the little town of Wilmore. And also significant at this time for many reasons, not least this week’s opening of Jesus Revolution.
Since 1905 there have been at least seven revivals at Asbury University (previously College). Last summer I read Wayne Atcheson’s The Asbury Revival: When God Used Students to Wake a Nation, the account of the school’s most remarkable revival to date, that took place in 1970.
Featured prominently in Atcheson’s book was Jeannine Brabon. Jeannine was a missionary kid from Medellin, Colombia, who returned to Colombia as a missionary herself after graduation, ministering in Medellin’s maximum-security prisons. In an interview about the 1970 Asbury Revival some years ago, Jeannine says, “I was very, very shy at Asbury. You would never know this today when I work with hired terrorists and killers.”
Shy or not, for her whole time at Asbury, Jeannine prayed for revival. And when that revival came, on Feb. 3, 1970, it lasted 185 hours, non-stop. For months after the initial gathering, the 1970 revival was spread by 2,000 teams of students to 130 other college campuses, and its effects are still felt today. Jeannine and others who knew the sweetness of the 1970 outpouring have been praying, along with current students and faculty members, for God to do it again.
Why this particular time in history for the chapel service that never ended? In the strategy of Heaven, it would seem to me to be a one-two punch at a time when the world really needs it: Generation Z leading a movement of worship, confession, repentance, praise, adoration and surrender to the holiness of God, followed by the story of another generation of young people, the 70’s Jesus Movement, coming to theater screens and praying to be an instrument of revival.
Another possible reason why now? Some theologians — legitimate and less so — are, to put it with the most grace, reluctant to name what is happening at Asbury. Some want to “wait and see.” Others are more like the dwarves in Lewis’ The Last Battle who insisted that the Pevensie children were putting dirt in their mouths while they were being fed fresh, delicious food.
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What took place at Asbury was college students and people of all ages, from far and wide, humbly and reverently worshiping Jesus. They were even out on the campus lawn several days when there was no more room in Hughes Auditorium or the overflow chapels because they wanted nothing but Jesus! I was reminded of one of the only lines I could remember from an old worship song, “I Hear the Sound of Rustling,” (Ronnie Wilson, 1979 Thankyou Music) It asks: “Where is the wise man and the scoffer? Before the face of Jesus, they are dumb.”
I found the song on several YouTube videos and discovered that the entire song describes what is happening today. The particular video I watched was even more confirming because the English woman who created the video just six months ago herself understood the significance of the words. “I feel it’s a now word for the Church,” this sweet, elderly lady says, urging her audience to read Psalms 44-46.
The song speaks of the Spirit of the Lord coming down on earth, the dry bones rising, the role of the Church in healing the nations, and in the last verse declares:
A Body all prepared by God and ready for war
The prompting of the Spirit is our word of command.
We rise, a mighty Army, at the bidding of the Lord
The devils see and fear, for the time is at hand!
Just moments after I found that song, I tuned into a livestream of worship at Asbury. They were singing a far more recent worship song, declaring: “There’s an army rising up … to break every chain.” The place erupted at those words. And I knew — they totally get it! This generation from Asbury University and from all of the other schools and seminaries that are being touched by the Holy Spirit — they know that they have a commission. They know that they are the army that Jesus is raising for the last great awakening of souls into the Kingdom of God.
Could This be the Beginning of a Massive Revival Across America?
A few weeks ago I wrote an article for The Stream about the East African Revival, and how that overlooked revival fits into what Pastor Dutch Sheets has taught about “the synergy of the ages.” Synergy stretches back to all great revivals of the past. But it reaches the future, as well.
On the Flashpoint television program on Jan. 24, just 15 days before the Asbury Revival, Sheets described a vision that God had given to him in September 2001. While guest preaching at a church in Idaho just after the horror of 9/11, Sheets had a vision of millions of young people coming to Jesus, with massive revivals on college campuses across America, and spreading across the globe. Could that be happening right now before our eyes?
In Philippians, St. Paul, knowing that he would soon be poured out as a drink offering, exhorted the Church at Philippi to be, “blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then, he promised, “you will shine among them like stars in the sky.”
As the world becomes darker and darker, the Body of Christ will shine brighter and brighter. As the world becomes more ensnared by “the flesh and the devil,” transformed college students are rising in full surrender to the One who has ensnared their hearts. And as a woke and fear-filled world becomes more captive to warped and crooked leaders, a generation is being awakened and transformed by their hunger for God. They are the revival generation that God will use to change the world.
Faith J.H. McDonnell is the Director of Advocacy at Katartismos Global (KGI), a non-profit ministry started by Rt. Rev. Julian Dobbs and his wife for the equipping of the saints for ministry. Faith is the author of Girl Soldier: A Story of Hope for Northern Uganda’s Children (Chosen Books, 2007).