Giving an invitation, several individuals indicated
decisions to believe in Christ, and they received a massive celebration from
the crowd – and follow-up discipleship materials from Asbury after the public
altar call. Another speaker talked to students about the need to submit to the
lordship of Jesus Christ, die to self, and live a surrendered life, followed by
another altar call. In between “movements,” a student or faculty member would
get up, welcome people, and give basic “house rules.” We laughed when the student said, “The balcony
is old, so if you are going to jump up and down or dance, please come down to
I think I went with the expectation that it would be an
emotional experience for me. I did shed a few tears, like when 1500+ people
clapped and shouted exuberantly when five to seven people gave their lives to
Christ. But overall it was not a strong emotional experience for me. I spent a good
bit of time observing, wanting to see what happens in a time like this, praying
quietly, and thanking God for what He is doing. And when we walked out of the doors at 9:45pm, the line was longer than it had been three hours earlier.
8 Observations from the Asbury Revival
Studying revivals and awakenings for three decades, what was
happening at Asbury “checked the boxes” for what I know to be true about
historical moves of God. Here are just a few of my observations about the
The manifest presence of God, coupled with a strong spirit of worship.
God was in the house. And people were worshiping Him. This is
not about a speaker, music group, or showman. Jesus is center stage.
I’ve read in testimonies from previous moves of God, and I’ve
heard multiple people say about Asbury in the past week, it is as if time
stands still in the auditorium. We were tired after driving all day, but we
were not bored. We were focused. Three hours seemed like just a little bit of
McDow and Reid write, “The normal response in the midst of a
spiritual awakening is an awesome awareness of the presence of the Holy God. A
holy hush literally permeates the atmosphere.”
Timothy Beougher observed this week, "Within the crowd there was a mixture of times of quiet deep reverence and loud vocal celebration."
2. A stirring spirit of expectancy.
Miriam Cisneros of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, told me she drove
and slept in her car for two nights. When I asked her why she came, she
enthusiastically replied, “I am hungry. I want revival. I want to be a part of
what is happening here.”
Ivan Litvac and his wife, originally from Moldavia, drove
from Connecticut. When they left home, their six children gathered around them
and prayed for them. Ivan shared, “I want more power and more fire. We want to take it with us. We want to be a
part of what God is doing. There’s a new song here, and we want to flow in his
Bill Elliff, who has written a series
of excellent articles, day by day on his blog, on the Asbury Revival. He
explained to Baptist Press how the Asbury community has an expectation of God
“It seems to me – I’m not an authority on this – it seems to
me that that particular school has an openness to this, a bent towards this.
They want to see God come.”
“They believe in experiential spirituality, and I do too. And
I’m not talking about charismatic theology, as much as just heart theology …
and heart experience. And there’s a deep emphasis on prayer, and on surrender.”
Elliff also sees a faith component in the mix at Asbury.
“They are looking for and expecting God to move because of
their past,” Elliff said. “I think across the board in America, because we
haven’t seen a nationwide movement since 1970, and prior to that 1904 in the
Welsh revival that dramatically affected America, because we haven’t seen that
personally, most of us, then we don’t pray big."
“We can’t fathom that 15 percent of the population could come
to faith in two years like it did in the first great awakening. So, we don’t
even ask for it.”
As with any move of God, some religious people – and some
Christians – will critique it and oppose it. Sometimes, God moves in ways that
we don’t expect. It doesn’t fit our carefully constructed theological system.
And if not careful, we can be like the people in Jesus’ home – filled with
unbelief in the very presence of the Lord.
3. An emphasis on the gospel,
conversion, and repentance.
During my three hours, I
heard a clear gospel presentation. It was not a feel-good, self-fulfillment,
God is here to make you happy and give you a great life. This was a “you are separated
from your Creator because of your sin, Jesus paid the penalty for that sin, and
you need to repent of your sins and turn your life over to Him.”
The leaders at Asbury are
clearly wanting to lead people to faith in Christ. When we attended, those who
responded to the gospel invitation included students and adults.
4. A spirit of prayer and humility.
Roy Hession wrote, “Prayer
is the foundation for revival, and testimony the spark that ignites it.”
Prayer permeated the
atmosphere, modeled by the facilitators on stage, continued by worshipers
all over Hughes, and maintained by people in groups outside of the auditorium. People gathered in the aisles for prayer. Prayer counselors
prayed with people at the altar through the night. People spontaneously came to
the altar for prayer. People all over the room prayed quietly.
Many people shed tears. Occassionally you would hear someone crying or groaning loudly. Beougher reminds us that "true revival doesn't begin in ecstasy, it begins with agony. It doesn't begin with laughter but with tears."
The book Firefall explains,
“While the length may vary according to the nature of the awakening, the
participants will remember the experience for their lifetimes and will not be
satisfied with anything less.”
My wife told me Thursday
night, “This is what church should look like.”
Pride will destroy revival. A very real understanding exists at Asbury that this is an act of God, He has gifted them with a divine moment in time, and they are trying to be wise stewards of His blessing.
5. Order, decency, and hospitality.
We were overwhelmed with
how well the entire event is administrated.
Inside of Hughes there
was order, but such that allowed expression. Volunteers were at every door.
There were clear boundaries. There were plenty of people around to answer
Outside of Hughes was
amazing. A police presence existed. Nice, portable bathrooms, free coffee and
hot chocolate, a food truck, and other details showed that they clearly wanted
6. Freedom and a spirit of celebration.
A wonderful spirit of worship filled the place. There was such
freedom of expression – people standing or sitting as they wished, lifting their
hands or sitting quietly, shedding tears, moments of a quiet, holy hush, mixed
with moments of loud celebration with clapping and shouting. Occasionally a few
people would dance in the aisles or jump up and down exuberantly.
But as mentioned before, never did anything seem
inappropriate nor out of order. And it never distracted from the central theme
of worshiping the Lord.
Outside on Friday morning, hundreds gathered, waiting. People
enjoyed walking around and talking with each other. Some huddled in groups
praying and worshiping as the live stream from inside was broadcast. There was
never a sense of being unsafe or unwelcome.
I encourage you to read Tim Beoughter’s comments, which are
linked in this article, about the excesses of revival vs. staying “in the main.”
7. An emphasis on the lordship of
We live in a day with a huge emphasis on self-fulfillment.
While not all of that is bad, a biblical worldview reveals that God’s biggest
purpose is to glorify Himself – not just helps us live our best life now.
At Asbury, they are not just inviting people to find
forgiveness of sins. There is a clear emphasis on submitting to the lordship of
Jesus Christ. In the time we were in Hughes, we heard a clear exhortation on “dying
to self” and living the Spirit-filled life.
McDow and Reid write, “The ultimate result of awakening in
the life of the beliver is submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ. When
Christ becomes enthroned, He impacts the total person, including emotions.”
8. Spanning generations and races.
Hughes auditorium Thursday night was filled with white,
black, Asian, Indian, and Hispanic people. I enjoyed watching an Indian middle-aged
man near me singing, standing, crying, and raising his hands. We noticed people
of all ages – couples bringing babies, children, teenagers, young adults,
middle aged persons, and seniors. Families came together. Old men and women
came on canes and walkers. Occasionally small children would cry o make noise.
I noticed one older lady with a cast on her foot wheeling in on a foot
stroller. This is not a “youth revival.” This is touching all ages and many
For me, a real gem of this movement was not that I received something dramatic individually. It was watching so many people drawn together in the name of the Lord - the sense of "this is a taste of what heaven will be like."
The Implications of Revival
For years, I’ve told my churches that America has not
experienced a nationwide movement since the 1904 Welsh Revival spilled over
into the United States. That means there is no one alive who has lived through one.
Many people in our churches have not been taught about
historical revivals and have no orientation to them. That’s one reason
when an outpouring actually does occur, some Christians oppose it because they
have no expectation toward it. They think revival is a series of
meeting churches plan in the spring or fall. (View J. Edwin Orr’s The Role of Prayer in
Spiritual Awakening and his History
of Revival series.)
In some past revivals, it appears that people who experience
it firsthand then go other places where a similar manifestation occurs. This happened
in the 1970 Asbury Revival, when student teams went to churches and schools all
over the country and similar outpourings of the Spirit occurred. That’s why, in
this current movement, Christians from all over the country want to travel and
get close to the fire.
Timothy Tennant wisely shares, "An awakening is where God begins to stir and awaken people
up from their spiritual slumber. This is definitely happening not only in
Wilmore, but as this move of God spreads to other schools and communities
across the nation and even the world. There are many reports that this is
what is happening. [W]e must keep our hearts and eyes fixed on Jesus and ask him to complete the work he has begun so that, over time, there is a lasting transformation in the lives of those who are being touched by God. . . .
will look back on these days and thank God that he visited us in ways we will
talk about for years to come. But, what we are doggedly seeking is not
lasting memories, but transformed lives long after the lights go out in Hughes
auditorium or Estes Chapel or all other places which are experiencing this work
Last Wednesday night, I told our church that for years I’ve
believed America will not last apart from a genuine, God-sent revival and
spiritual awakening. We live in dark, desperate times. The good news is that
historical moves of God often come during dark, desperate times, when God’s
people have been crying out to Him for a fresh touch.
Tim Beougher, former professor of mine at SBTS, wisely writes, “every
believer ought to be on their knees in prayer, praying for God to do something.
Our churches desperately need revival. Our nation desperately needs awakening.
We ought to all be crying out to God, asking Him to do something new.
“If this movement becomes a spiritual awakening, it won’t
just be Christians talking about it,” Beougher said. “Everyone in America will
know what’s going on, because it will be transforming our culture.”
Beougher wrote his master’s thesis on the 1970 Asbury Revival
and its impact on Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and coauthored
with Lyle W. Dorsett, “Accounts of a Campus Revival: Wheaton College 1995.”
“Ultimately, I think we have to fall back on the sovereignty
of God,” Beougher told Baptist Press. “I think G. Campbell Morgan said it well.
He said, ‘We cannot cause the wind of the Spirit to blow, but we can set our
sails to catch the wind when it does blow.’”
The Streams of God
Kentucky experienced a huge amount of rain this past week. During the last hour of our drive to Wilmore, we saw creeks and streams overflowing their banks. The psalmist wrote, "The streams
of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have
ordained it. You drench its furrows and level its ridges; you soften it with
showers and bless its crops. You crown the year with your bounty, and your
carts overflow with abundance" (Psalm 65:9-11 NIV).
I thought as we approached Wilmore, "The spiritual streams are full, and God is pouring Himself out."
May the Lord continue pouring Himself out - and not just at Asbury - but all over the nation and world. "LORD, I have
heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, LORD. Repeat them in our day,
in our time make them known" (Habakkuk 3:2 NIV).
Click here to sign up for my e-newsletter, Faith, Family, and Freedom. I also plan on starting a podcast later this year.
See my friend Wayne Atcheson’s book, The
Asbury Revival: When God Used Students to Wake a Nation.
See also some excellent commentary on the Asbury Revival from
Sims, and Lee
is Moving: 10 Observations from Asbury Revival by Rob Jackson
See 40 Days of
Seeking God: For Revival, Elections, and Key Leaders by Greg Frizzell
View J. Edwin Orr’s The Role of Prayer in
Spiritual Awakening and his History
of Revival series.
Resources on historical revivals and spiritual awakenings: Firefall:
How God Shaped History through Revivals by Malcolm McDow and Alvin Reid;
Fresh Encounter: God's
Pattern for Spiritual Awakening by Henry and Richard Blackaby; Revival
Now by James Burns with Tom Phillips