It has been an amazing phenomenon these past few weeks. I’m talking about the “Asbury Revival 2023”. Until now, I have been reluctant to say much about it for fear of somehow stopping it, although at the final chapel service Asbury President Kevin Brown commented that, “You really cannot stop something that you didn’t start.”
In this wonderful, almost three-week-long chapel service, which saw the tiny town of Wilmore, Kentucky swell with over 50,000 visitors to the services in and around Hughes Hall on campus, including students from over 200 schools from around the world, this God-ordained event saw much in terms of what true “revival” is all about. I write the term “revival” in quotation marks because many refuse to refer to this event that way. In the words of one of my seminary friends who was there, this event was a powerful demonstration of “radical humility, raw confession and repentance that led to strongholds being broken, salvation for some and lives of love and worship for all who encountered God’s manifest presence” there. Call it what you will, but God was there, and hopefully will continue to be.
I have not heard too many people who have been following this event who have not prayed that the same Spirit that engulfed that place in an overwhelming fashion would do the same in other places as well and that the movement would continue.
Any student of church history will see that what happened at Asbury has great similarity to what has been referred to as the Third Great Awakening, the Fulton Street Revival or the Laymen’s Prayer Revival. In 1857, during the years when political tensions were at an all-time high, and the prospect of a war within this nation seemed to be very likely, a man named Jeremiah Lamphier just wanted to see what could be done to change the hearts of people in New York City. He spent most of his days knocking on doors, putting up posters, encouraging people to pray for God to work, all to no visible result. After weeks of seeing no progress toward encouraging people to come to trusting God in the hard times, Lamphier considered holding a lunch meeting for businessmen at the Old Dutch Church on Fulton Street. He made the arrangements and publicized the meeting. On the designated day, he arrived at the church with a spirit of great anticipation. He waited… and waited. One person appeared, and then a few stragglers arrived. Those few enjoyed the meal and the fellowship.
Lamphier decided to try it again the next week. That time 20 men came. The third week there were 40. One of the men suggested they get together for lunch and prayer every day, so they started meeting daily.
It was not long before they outgrew the facility and had to move. More and more were coming. At the height of this awakening, it is estimated that over 10,000 men in New York City were meeting together during their lunch hour for a meal and prayer — all because one man had a vision to pray for a spirit of repentance and renewal to invade people’s lives.
That same Spirit has been present in the lives of the students, faculty, family and friends of Asbury University these past few weeks. It has not been due to well-known preachers coming and delivering well-polished messages. Rather, much like that occurrence in New York City so long ago, Asbury’s movement has centered on prayer – prayers of conviction, prayers of confession and prayers of repentance. Following it on social media has, for me, been a blessing in hearing students of all shapes and sizes and from various schools around the country, sharing testimonies and the things of God with all who would hear.
Since the happening at Asbury began three weeks ago, one of my prayers has been that the Lord will bring awakening and revival not only to Gen-Z students in colleges across the country, but to the untold millions of individuals in the Church, who seem so apathetic and presumptuous about God, Christ and what He wants to do in us, for us, and through us in the days ahead. The psalmist prayed that same sort of prayer when he said, “Revive us, and we will call upon Your name.” (Psalm 80:18).
There is a by-product of that sort of revival as well. Again in the psalms we read, “Will you not Yourself revive us again, That your people may rejoice in You?” (Psalm 85:6) The benefit of living and seeing God at work indeed brings joy to the heart and the soul of us all.
May I encourage each one of us to examine our own lives very closely? Ask God to reveal to you the hypocrisy in your day-to-day living. Then, confess that as sin and ask Him to give you the strength, the power and the want-to to change your mind and your behavior to conform to His image. Then trust Him to do it.
Revival may have started at Asbury, but Lord, let it not stop there. Let it continue in me and you.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette and a former Hillsboro area pastor who now resides in Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.