The Asbury Revival

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A revival broke out last week at a chapel service at Asbury University, Kentucky. The Asbury Revival is now spreading to other American universities.

A few dozen students lingered in worship after the end of chapel last Wednesday at Asbury University in Wilmore, central Kentucky.

Over a week later, that same chapel service continues unbroken. Thousands of visitors have since streamed in from across the United States to what has come to be known as the ‘Asbury Revival’.

“Peers, professors, local church leaders and seminary students surround me— all of them praying, worshipping, and praising God together,” is how Lexie Presta described the scene on the first night.

“Voices are ringing out. People are bowing at the altar, arms stretched wide. A pair of friends cling to each other in a hug, one with tears in her eyes. A diverse group of individuals crowd the piano and flawlessly switch from song to song. Some even sit like me, with laptops open. No one wants to leave.”

Lexie is a senior at Asbury and the editor of the student-run website The Asbury Collegian. She has temporarily repurposed the site as a forum for daily updates about the ongoing revival.

“No one expected it to happen,” Lexie said during an interview with CBN News. She insists that there’s “nothing overly special” about Asbury or the students who attend the Christian liberal arts college. Rather it was “just the Holy Spirit choosing that day and this group of people.”

According to Lexie, many people have asked whether what has taken place at Asbury was planned. Her answer? “No, this was purely God moving and keeping people here and bringing more.”

Asbury’s Auditoriums Overflow

During the first few days, administrators were running in water and food to help sustain those gathered for worship. Now they can barely manage the crowds.

While numbers have ebbed and flowed since the awakening began, Asbury’s Hughes Auditorium has on several occasions reached its capacity at 1,500 seats, with fire marshals urging attendees not to crowd the venue’s balconies. By late Tuesday 14th February, three nearby auditoriums were being used for overflow and a long queue of people were waiting in the cold to get in.

This is not the first time Asbury University has tasted revival. The school is affiliated with the Wesleyan-Holiness movement and is named for Francis Asbury, a circuit-riding preacher who was influential in the growth of early Methodism on the American frontier. More recently, Asbury University experienced a six-day revival in February of 1970.

Coincidentally, less than two weeks ago, Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater who was present at the 1970 revival made a Facebook post about it. He explained that at the time, his family ran a diner that was always full of students after chapel. But one Tuesday morning no one came in after chapel. “The amazing life changing 1970 Revival had started,” Rainwater recalled.

This week, Mayor Rainwater was interviewed by Fox 56 News about what is unfolding in Asbury. He believes this move of God is the biggest the town has seen in recent times: “These things happen about every 20 years but nothing quite of this size and scope and impact.”

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‘Our Prayer is that Lives Would be Changed’

Leaders at Asbury University are fully supportive of what is taking place.

“Our prayer is that God would be honoured and the students’ lives would be changed [and] all of our lives would be changed,” Mark Whitworth, Asbury’s Vice President, told LEX18, an affiliate of NBC News.

University President Dr Kevin Brown is also welcoming of the present move of God: “There has just been an incredible spirit among our students, our staff, our faculty, those who have visited here. There has been sharing, there has been radical humility, generosity, honesty, confessing, and just a spirit of humility and gratitude,” he told reporters.

Students have reported a shift in the university’s culture over the last week. “There’s more of a gentle care among the student body than there was before. We’re genuinely taking care of each other and checking in,” according to Lexie Presta. “We’re praying with each other, we’re worshipping, we’re crying with each other. It really brings this sense of unity.”

“We know that our culture is going to be changed by this,” she declares.

The Spread of the Asbury Revival

One of the remarkable features of the Asbury Revival is its gentleness. Unlike some revivals in recent history that have been marked by excess, services at Asbury have been a simple combination of joyful worship, quiet prayer, Scripture reading, confession of sin and public testimony. Healings, salvations and rededications have been commonplace.

“When you have this many people, it can be kind of chaotic at times but it’s been really good to see this sense of order because our God is a God of order,” Lexie Presta explains. In one of her daily updates, Presta gave the following account:

During a call of confession, at least a hundred people fell to their knees and bowed at the altar. Hands rested on shoulders, linking individual people together to represent the Body of Christ truly. Cries of addiction, pride, fear, anger and bitterness sounded, each followed by a life-changing proclamation: “Christ forgives you.”

The Asbury Revival is now spreading to other American college campuses. There are multiple reports of an outbreak at Ohio Christian University and a move of God at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee.

Rob Fultz, Lee University’s campus pastor, has described events at his university during a CBN News interview. He recounts that eight theology students remained after class to quiz their professor about what was taking place in Asbury. One student asked, “Why not here and why not now?” The group proceeded to the chapel and what followed was a time of worship, salvation, deliverance and healing that is still ongoing.

“It’s just been a phenomenal, humbling, incredibly delicate move of God,” says Fultz.

America: a Land of Revival

Though it is a fact forgotten by most people today, the United States has been profoundly shaped by revivals. The Pilgrims who settled America were English Puritans who had tasted revival firsthand and were seeking a new land where they could live out their faith in freedom.

Several generations later, the Great Awakening completely transformed the North American continent. Around 80 per cent of America’s 900,000 colonists heard George Whitefield preach. New England saw 10 per cent of its population converted and added to the church.

In summing up the Great Awakening, my co-author Warwick and I wrote in our latest book, Great Southland Revival:

While the Great Awakening was a religious movement, not a political one, it had a lasting effect on American culture, society and politics. Tens of thousands of colonists experienced genuine conversion to Christianity, and hundreds of new churches were built to accommodate the growth…

The revival emphasised Christ’s love and redemption for all, and the individual’s responsibility to respond in faith and take an active role in religious life rather than relying on the clergy. These themes would ultimately influence the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which advanced ideas like human dignity, equality, individual rights, democratic participation and religious freedom.

The Great Awakening provided a common set of moral and civic values to all the colonies—a unifying force that fostered a sense of national identity. Having been freed from the internal tyrant of sin, the colonists began yearning for freedom from external tyrants, paving the way for American independence later that century. In the words of President Calvin Coolidge, “America was born in a Revival of Religion.”

The American frontier — which included the states of Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, where the Asbury Revival is now taking place — was forged in the furnace of the Second and Third Great Awakenings. Millions of Americans came to faith at Camp Meetings which collectively helped tame the lawless ‘Wild West’ into a God-fearing region better known today as America’s Bible Belt.

And the United States, of course, produced the most famous of modern revivalists, Billy Graham.

Another Great Awakening?

Revival has played an unparalleled role in civilising nations and shaping history for the better. This fact, along with the increasing darkness of secular culture, has prompted believers all around the world to seek God for another ‘Great Awakening’.

Could Asbury be God’s answer to this prayer? Only time will tell.

But what has begun in one small Kentucky town has all the hallmarks of the world-changing revivals that preceded it. As Lexie Presta writes:

Everything occurring here — the healing, the weeping, the rejoicing — is not because of the building. Has revival occurred on these floors and across the seats before? Yes, and what a glorious experience it was for all those involved. But it didn’t happen because the sun lit the room in a specific way. It didn’t happen because of the particular people leading or the songs sung.

It happened because of Jesus. Everything happening here right now is because of Jesus.

Cross and Culture: Can Jesus Save the West? is now just $4.95 in ebook format. Shop here.

Photo via Greg Gordon. Originally published at the Daily Declaration.

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