By now, many within Christian circles have heard about or seen the services at Asbury University. Following a February 8th chapel service on the private, Christian liberal arts university, students responded to the morning’s sermon with public confession, prayer, praise, and worship.

Since that time there have been ongoing services at the university’s auditorium characterized by singing, praying, confession, and sharing the Scriptures. There has been a marked openness among the student body to discuss spiritual matters. Visitors have poured in from around the country, and even the world, to witness what has been happening. Many have called it “revival.” One representative from Answers in Genesis considered it more of a “student worship movement.”

The testimonies from these gatherings have been varied. Some have described an overwhelming sense of God’s presence. Some have admitted to being pulled out of their hardened condition by the atmosphere of worship and praise. Some have spoken of conversions and restored relationships occurring.

While this short post cannot possibly tackle the definition of true revival, we should pause to consider what has been happening and what the responses to it have been.

What Is This?

I do not know what this is. That should be a fair and honest admission from anyone who has not been there to see it firsthand. Having read and listened to the testimonies of those who have been there (some I know and some I do not), my opinion is that what people are seeing depends largely on what they are looking for. Therefore, I hesitate to call this “revival.”

However, it is quite possible that what we are seeing is an “awakening,” an attitude of seeking among those without Christ. Dr. Rick Flanders has distinguished between “revival” (for Christians) and “awakenings” (for the unsaved). The student body president who appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” described a “seeker” attitude of the young people at the college, those participating in this movement.

This is not to suggest that the students at Asbury are all unsaved. However, conversions have been reported and there appears to be a pursuit for meaning in a world of purposelessness. Awakenings have preceded revivals in the past, and this may portend great things for the days ahead.


There has been a tendency by some to embrace this movement unequivocally, heralding the dawn of a new revival on American soil. As I stated above, I do not fall into this camp. I am cautiously optimistic that the Lord is working in hearts and using this in ways we cannot know now. However, certain aspects surrounding the university’s beliefs (doctrine is important to revival) give me pause as they should any disciple of Christ.

On the other end of the spectrum have appeared unforgiving critics of the movement. One social media post I saw claimed that this couldn’t possible be revival since it has caused division among independent Baptists. (Personally, I believe the “division” was brought on by those independent enough to disagree with the brother’s opinions on the issue. Just sayin’.) Some criticisms have been based on half-truths about what has been happening in the services.

I am reminded of the First Great Awakening and the “Old Lights” vs. “New Lights” controversy. The “Old Lights” criticized what they considered the “excesses” of the new movement. The “New Lights,” of course, were those supportive of the revival efforts and, in hindsight, maintained a more balanced perspective on what was happening.

Are the Asbury supporters equivalent to the “New Lights”? Are the critics tantamount to the “Old Lights”? It would be foolish to speculate at this point. It is also (probably) foolish to pass judgment so quickly against what is happening as well.

What Should We Do?

All told, Asbury has nothing to do with my everyday life. I direct a small Bible college and serve as its primary teacher. I am an independent Baptist, though after some spectacles about this issue of late, I’m reconsidering. Just kidding. Sort of. However, I do believe this event is public enough to warrant our considering

  1. We should pray that God uses this movement to save sinners and revive His people. How many of us have been praying for revival for some time? How many of us long to see our nation returned from the brink? Does the “Asbury Revival” look like what we expected? For many of us, probably not. There are all kinds of “issues” we could nitpick about. But, what if? What if God is doing something beyond what we understand to begin something beyond our wildest imaginations? The least we can do is to continue to pray for God’s reviving and add to that prayer our desire for God to awaken sinners and revive saints (somehow) through this situation.
  2. We should also pray that if this is not a Holy Spirit-led movement, that it will at least spark a flame in Bible-believing churches for genuine Spirit-empowered revival. We need something. Our churches have been under a malaise for ministry and outreach for far too long. Our worship is stale and heartless, a far cry from the joy and emotion being expressed at Asbury. Even if you are a critic, you have to admire the emotion and joy evident in their singing. I pray that my own students will demonstrate a genuine fervency and love for the Lord Jesus that at least matches what Asbury students are showing!
  3. We should work toward revival-like effects in our own communities. No doubt, many unsaved people in our own areas have heard about what is happening in Wilmore, KY. The seeking atmosphere there will undoubtedly spread. Many will want to know more about this “Jesus” who is being talked about and worshiped at Asbury. We should be aiding the efforts of the Holy Spirit by carrying the Gospel into our communities more than ever before. Even if you believe what is happening at Asbury is not “of God,” you must at least be prepared to capitalize on the attention spiritual matters will receive as a result of it.

Bottom line: we should be cautiously optimistic that God is beginning a work that we cannot even begin to understand.

Could it be coincidence that just three days after the most egregious display of blatant Satanism and immorality at the Grammy Awards show a movement of prayer, confession, and worship began at Asbury? It could be. But I wonder if history will look back on these two events as a turning point. The real question is whether we will make the most of an opportunity no matter on which side of the Asbury fence you find yourself standing.

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