Revival at Asbury University

The Standard March 4, 2023

“Revive us, and we will call on your name. Restore us, Lord God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved.” (Psalm 80:18b-19) “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.” (Psalm 85:6-7)

Many Christians around the globe pray for revival in their congregations, communities and countries. They pray for God’s Holy Spirit to be poured out into the hearts of individuals and to overwhelm them with the love, grace and forgiveness of God. True revivals can’t be manufactured by people or whipped up with emotional pleas or touching testimonies. They are solely the work of God, who moves us to deeper connection with Him, personal holiness and greater love towards our neighbor.

The First Great Awakening took place in colonial America in the 1730s through the early 1740s, with preachers such as Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley, Charles Wesley and George Whitefield proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Approximately 50 years later, during the Second Great Awakening, Charles Finney preached fiery sermons on repentance. A number of social reforms were sparked, such as prison reform, temperance, abolition and women’s rights. The Third Great Awakening from 1875-1885 began with the preaching of D.L. Moody at a church and Bible Institute which grew out of his ministry to street children in Chicago. The Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles from 1906-1915 marked the beginning of the Pentecostal movement. The Twentieth Century Revival from 1910 to the 1970s stemmed from the Holy Spirit working through preachers Billy Sunday and Billy Graham.

In theaters now is the movie “Jesus Revolution” which depicts the movement which started with young hippies in California and swept across the United States in 1970s. Revivals in the U.S. often have occurred on college campuses. In 1802 there was a revival at Yale where one-third of the student body professed new faith in Christ. At Wheaton College in 1950 there was a revival in chapel which was reported in Time magazine. Asbury College, which later became Asbury University, has witnessed several such revivals, including one which started last month.

Thomas Lyons in The Atlantic writes, “On February 8, after a regularly scheduled chapel service on Asbury University’s campus, in Wilmore, Kentucky, a group of about 20 students lingered and began to worship and pray for one another. The chapel speaker that day, Zak Meerkreebs, had exhorted the students to ‘become the love of God by experiencing the love of God,’ and closed with a prayer asking God to ‘revive us by your love.’ According to the students, as they stayed and prayed, an unexplainable, surreal peace descended upon the room. As minutes stretched into hours, many students who had gone to class returned to the auditorium when they heard what was going on. They would eventually be joined by faculty, staff, and community members who trickled in to participate in worship and prayer. In the days since, a stream of pilgrims has made its way to Wilmore.”

Lyons describes the full auditorium leading to overflow areas for the singing of worship songs, Bible reading, praying and confessing. “People I have spoken with who entered these spaces describe encountering a ‘sweet presence,’ ‘deep peace,’ or ‘the quiet, heavy presence of God.’ A sense of awe prevails. It is, one participant told me, as if ‘heaven opened up.’”

The revival went viral, but Asbury leaders prayerfully decided to keep the chapel free from reporters, celebrity personalities and politics so as to maintain a more gentle, humble atmosphere. They did allow livestreaming. Reports are that several other college campuses are currently experiencing revivals. Lyons concludes, “its appeal is actually its physicality and simplicity. In a time of factionalism, celebrity culture, and performance, what’s happening at Asbury is radically humble. And it gives me great hope for the future of American Christianity.”

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