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Asbury Revival: Or Is It An “Awakening”

Asbury Revival: Or Is It An “Awakening”

Joshua Swanson
Asbury Revival 2023 Blog Header

Revival! It’s a big word, so we had to go witness what was happening at Asbury for ourselves and thank God we did.

On Saturday, February 11, 2023, we drove up from Nashville (thank you to Rachael for pushing us all to go) to Wilmore, Kentucky. There is nothing more exciting than being in a room full of people all seeking the presence of God.

– – – > > In this article we’re tracking the spread of the revival.


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Asbury University is no stranger to revival. Perhaps their most famous revival was in 1970.

On February 3, 1970, Dean Custer B. Reynolds, scheduled to speak in chapel, felt led to invite persons to give personal testimony instead. Many on campus had been praying for spiritual renewal and were now in an expectant mood. Soon there was a large group waiting in line to speak. A spirit of powerful revival came upon the congregation. The chapel was filled with rejoicing people. Classes were canceled for a week during the 144 hours of unbroken revival, but even after classes resumed on February 10, Hughes Auditorium was left open for prayer and testimony. Some 2,000 witness teams went out from Wilmore to churches and at least 130 college campuses around the nation.

But other events of a similar fashion were recorded in 1905, 1908, 1921, 1950, 1958, 1992, and 2006. It seems the soil on that campus springs forth revival – – there might be something to that…notice I bolded the word “expectant” above? We must approach revival with a heart that is expecting God to move.

Facts and Figures – The Youth Exodus From The Church

We at Worship Leader have a huge burden for the youth given the data we’re seeing and hearing. Here are a few figures that point to why we’re so focused on the younger generations.

“Teenagers are some of the most religiously active Americans. American twentysomethings are the least religiously active.” David Kinnaman

Barna Research says:

  • 1.2 million will leave their faith in 2023.
  • 70% of kids will lose their faith in their freshman year of college.

The data isn’t pretty. Radical secularism is winning the souls of our youth.

“To move from religion to secularism is not so much a loss of faith as a shift into a new set of beliefs and into a new community of faith, one that draws the lines between orthodoxy and heresy in different places.” Timothy Keller

Revival Was Thick In The Auditorium

The room was full of humble hearts. People from all walks of life were represented. It was multi-racial and multi-generational. It was the “Body of Christ” fully on display.

The great moderators were also aware that people had come from all over and brought their own Christian denominations with them. They continually made it clear that all were welcome. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Christian culture, we’ve done a great job of creating division by quarreling over different theological understandings and totally missing the point that over everything, Jesus was love and he would never have disregarded someone because of their denominational affinity.

I couldn’t have been more proud of the moderators for their direct acknowledgment and their assurance that, just because we don’t agree on everything, doesn’t mean that this revival moment isn’t for everyone. Isn’t that just the way Jesus was? The great unifier! In his revival, all Christian faith expressions are welcome. My favorite quote of the day was this:

No glitz. Just God.

I’m trying to find the name of yesterday’s moderator so I can properly cite him, but until then, we’ll just label this quote as “amazing unidentified Asbury University leader who really gets it.”

Why Asbury And Why Now

Perhaps the most important and least tangible aspect of this article is answering the question of “why Asbury and why now?”

I have a theory on that. This to me seemed like a great awakening and not a revival. I came to understand the difference after hearing a recent sermon from Jon Tyson in his new series called, God Comes Where He’s Wanted.

He says in reference to a recent sermon to college students on revival,

I’m preaching on revival, but there was nothing to revive…There has been a failure of transfer of discipleship to the next generation and there’s nothing to revive.”

This is really at the center of my theory for why Asbury is the start of what will hopefully be a nationwide revival that spills across campuses and then communities. This group of leaders and students have a history of seeking God and asking him to show up in new ways and when a people pray fervently for something in a space where hundreds of years of prayers have been said for the same thing, you have a higher probability of God showing up. Now, he’s always there, but sometimes he pours out more and manifests in ways we didn’t know possible because he knows his presence is needed to wake up a group of people and that point goes to the reason I titled this article the way I did.

This generation hasn’t actually met Jesus in any real way so “revival” is the wrong word. We’re in the “awakening” stage! Gen Z, we want you to meet Jesus. He’s real. He’s alive. He’s the risen savior and all we’re asking is that you tell your friends at other colleges about what you’re experiencing.

Benjamin Franklin said,

“The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason.”

Now What

Go! Get in your car or on an airplane and go! Show the world how important Jesus is to you. Show the students that what they’re experiencing is real and will truly change their lives forever.

Also, Pray for these kids and that this movement spreads and spreads a lot! Remember, this generation has no room for God. They’re too busy scrolling through TikTok to stop and meet the living God. Maybe we all need to get on TikTok right now and call for all students to rush to their campus chapels and auditoriums and start praying and crying out to Jesus!?

Here’s a great place to start praying aloud over this revival moment – Psalms 63:

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4 So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.

While there, we were delighted to find students and faculty from other colleges coming to Asbury to catch the fire. Lee (Chattanooga), University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, Indiana Wesleyan, University of Kentucky, Taylor University, Ball State, and Ohio State are just some that come to mind.

Our friends over at Awakening Project lead a great discussion during one of the breaks. Their mission is gathering students from all over and building a community around revival. It’s encouraging to see so many other campuses ready to launch a similar experience. We all need to pray for their success.

So, the experience was wonderful, but more than anything, we left full of hope that the data is just a snapshot in time and not a trend that will continue. Our young people are catching Holy Spirit’s fire and we’re praying for more to come and awaken this generation to how real Jesus is. Amen.

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