The tiny town of Asbury Kentucky continues to see revival, on the campus of Asbury University a smallish methodist institution that has seen revivals in in 1905, 1908, 1921, 1950, 1958, 1970, 1992 and 2006.
People are reportedly flocking in from across the United States with tie Tok and YouTube coverage. But the best reports are from the students and staff of the college, rather than visitors it seems. Here are two key reports one by a student, Anna Lowe, and the other by the president of Asbury SeminaryTimothy Tennent who has a following as a balanced evangelical opinion writer.
From the Ashbury Collegian, the student newspaper at Asbury University
I sit in the back row of the Hughes [chapel] balcony. My legs are starting to ache from stiffly sitting in the same position for so long. Voices echo throughout the high ceilings as the pounding beat of a drum rattles my bones. The light shifts with the sun through the yellow, artfully crafted, stained-glass windows facing me.
“Our affection, our devotion, poured out on the feet of Jesus.”
Over and over again, this refrain repeats.
I sat here on Wednesday, I sat here on Thursday and I sat here on Friday. Hopeful to connect with Jesus in the earth-shattering way it seems everyone else has. Or at least in the way their Instagram stories make it seem.
After my 1 p.m. class on Wednesday, I felt called to go to Hughes. Lately, my heart has been incredibly hardened. It was full of frustration due to so many situations in my life that I felt unheard and unvalued. For the sake of complete transparency, it had even been impacting me physically with a tightening in my chest, a bodily response from being unable to access my emotions. When I arrived at Hughes, my immediate inclination was to take photos and record what was happening through interviews, as my job typically requires. In my heart, I felt an outer nudge to be still. And so that’s what I did.
Nothing immediately happened to me or changed in my heart. A beam of light did not cast itself upon me, and thank goodness, the Lord did not immediately smite me out of existence even though I deserved it. I did not let the lack of immediacy deter me, even though I thought about leaving. All that mattered at that moment was our Creator. The transfer of my focus nudged me to ponder how infinitesimally small we are. The situations that enraptured my mind were mere specks on the horizon compared to eternity.
My heart shifted, and a resentment that had followed me for months was lifted by the grace of God alone. Walls of bitterness and agitation released themselves from my mind. I felt them cast out of my mind and heart to the point where I have almost completely forgotten the prior feeling. Knowing myself, I am confident this shift is not of my own volition. I was set and satisfied in my resentment, but God had different plans for me.
This moment of absolute peace shifted my reality. My conversations with friends are deeper. Reconciliation is genuine and pure in heart with no intent to harm. God-prompted, open discussions are strengthening beliefs in ways I never could achieve on my own.
But I am still apprehensive and cautious regarding some aspects of this revival.
Revival is a gift from God. He takes the initiative, which means we must be careful when assigning credit for what is taking place. Across campus, there is already a toxic stigma of “revival shaming.” I’ve heard things such as, “How many hours have you been here? I’ve been here all day. I am sooo exhausted. I even skipped class.” What do you notice in these comments? Jesus is usually not mentioned. We must be careful with self-centered responses based on who is “showing up for Jesus” and who is not.
My goal is always to report the truth, not making assumptions about anything, much less someone’s profession of faith.
But I have been to many a summer camp in my life, some fully present, others not as much. One concept constantly discussed before, during and after each camp is the idea of a “Jesus high”: an adrenaline rush from lack of sleep, excitement from newfound knowledge and the fulfilling promise of the Holy Spirit.
The most dangerous aspect of this Jesus high is that it wears off.
Once the dust settles, there is exhaustion from lack of adrenaline, agitation from disagreements and overall burnout from the lack of community encouragement. And eventually, I forget everything I learned until I am reminded again in this toxic and tiring cycle.
We must ensure that our community does not drift in a similar direction.
When the dust settles, and Hughes is empty, what will remain?
We must answer honestly, are we pouring out our affection and devotion on the feet of Jesus or onto ourselves?
Jesus is working, and the Holy Spirit is moving in Hughes. But He is always moving everywhere. God is using this revival in incredible ways. There is reconciliation, confession and soulful worship. But I pray we do not turn this revival into a prolonged event for its own sake and forget that genuine revival is initiated and sustained by the living God.
The Asbury Theological Seminary President Timothy C. Tennent has been cautious in writing about the revival which he prefers to call an awakening.
Something special happened last Wednesday in the chapel of Asbury University chapel. The Lord began to move in the lives of a group of students. These embers have now been fanned into flame and there is clearly a definite move of God in our midst. We should not spend too much time looking for human causality, though there have been many praying earnestly for years for this. It is first, last and foremost a tribute to the grace of God to reveal himself and to call a new generation to faithfulness at a time when we most needed it. There comes a point when the people of God become tired of causal prayers and move to that point of desperation which opens us up in fresh ways to God’s surprising work. That is what I have experienced most over the past week in my own life.
I have been reticent to write blogs, or make a lot of public statements about this outpouring at Asbury because it is always better to stand in awe of something than to talk about something. I have been in Hughes auditorium or Estes, or both, every day and night, and it is like stepping into a flowing spiritual river. You sense the presence and power of God working in people’s lives. Since last Wednesday when the outpouring began, I have reflected many times on Jesus’ statement about the Spirit when he said, “the wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” This is not a time to “manage” this or to try to “shape” it. This is the time to simply receive from God’s hand.
Several people have commented on some of the differences between these sacred days and the more well-known outpouring which took place in February of 1970. A lot has been said about the impact of social media in telling the story, or about the focus on worship. However, a deeper look at this outpouring reveals that it has the same elements which are found in any authentic revival: people repenting of their sins; people being filled with the Holy Spirit; men and women finding reconciliation with God and their neighbor; people capturing a renewed love for Jesus, the gospel and the Holy Scriptures. All of the above has been happening here day after day.
Dr. Craig S. Keener, Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary has written an account on the Julie Roys website. Here he reflects on what is happening before his eyes.
“I thought you were praying for revival. What are you doing downstairs?”
With those words, my wife summoned me from my basement last Wednesday evening, where I was working on a very long book and neglecting what was happening on the campus of Asbury University. I teach at neighboring Asbury Seminary. And if you’ve following the news, you know that people have been streaming to the university—and now the seminary—to witness and experience what some are calling revival.
After my wife’s prompting, she and I quickly headed to the back of Asbury’s Hughes Auditorium to pray. We found the worship service that started that morning had neither stopped nor declined. On Saturday, we found seats in the balcony. The university’s 1,489-seat auditorium was packed.
On Sunday, the spirit of worship felt deeper, and I felt more aware of God’s awesome holiness.
By Tuesday, Feb. 14, long lines waited outside the auditorium, where amplifiers allowed the music to be heard. When I finished my evening class at the seminary, the overflow crowds had filled the seminary’s Estes Chapel, which seats 660, its McKenna Chapel, which seats 375, and spilled over into the building shared by the local United Methodist and Vineyard churches. (I was informed that had already begun the preceding night.)
Some voices in social media are hotly debating whether this should be called a revival or not. Since the term is an extrabiblical one, my thinking is, “Who cares what we call it? Let’s celebrate what God is doing!”
Connection with prayer is a common (though not universal) characteristic of both corporate and individual experiences of the Spirit in Acts (see Acts 1:14; 4:31; 8:15; 9:17). When I teach on this theme in Acts, I first highlight Jesus’s promise in Luke’s first volume that God will answer prayers for the work of his Spirit (Luke 11:13).
A number of new seminarians over the years shared that the Lord showed them revival coming. Zach Meerkreebs, who preached in the original chapel service that hasn’t stopped, mentioned that he felt something like this coming a year ago.
I meant to be supportive of these expectations. But as years passed, I wondered if an outpouring of the Spirit would happen on any significant scale while I was still here.
Others, however, such as visiting scholar Hong Leow, remained vocal and insistent. Hong prayed and fasted for such prolonged periods that I grew concerned for his health. Last week, he flew back to witness the fruit of his prayers.