Revival at Asbury: Is the Spirit blowing in a fresh way?

By: Paul Basden

By now you probably know the story …

On Wednesday, February 8, students at Asbury University gathered for their regular chapel service at 10 AM. They do so three times a week (MWF), so nobody expected anything unusual to happen that day. But when the service ended at its normal time, many students remained to pray and sing.

For the next twelve days, students kept coming to the chapel. They came to meet God. They came to worship. They came for community. They came day and night. Some wept, some fasted, some hugged. All felt incredibly close to God. All knew that God had sent revival.

To many who are old enough to remember, it sounded just like the revival that came to Asbury in 1970. It lasted seven days and was instrumental in spreading the Jesus Movement that swept across America from West Coast to the East Coast. When that Spirit-movement arrived in Richmond, Virginia in January 1972, I was 16 years old and a sophomore in high school. It found me. Maybe I should say God found me. I experienced a divine touch that can only be described as revival. Spirit-led, Christ-centered, God-glorifying revival.

So how should we think about what’s happening in Wilmore, KY, today? Has God sent a revival to students at Asbury? Or is just an emotional high that’s here today and gone tomorrow? Here are some thoughts that I hope will guide your thinking and inform your praying.

First, God loves to revive his people. When you revive something, you make it live again. As in, “I revived my career last year …” When God revives us, he makes us live again. We may not have been dead, but we were not fully alive. We had drifted slowly, over time, from Jesus as Lord of our lives. We had fallen for idols that promised salvation and meaning faster than Jesus could give it, and with less effort. In time, our spiritual fires were floundering. Jesus diagnosed us correctly: “I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” (Revelation 2:4) In his mercy, God sent his Spirit to blow a fresh wind on our flickering flame. He revived us.

Second, the purpose of revival is to set us back on the “paths of righteousness” (Psalm 23:3), not to keep us on those paths. God knows we need something dramatic to get our attention. That was true for me as a high school student. But revival doesn’t keep you on the Jesus-way. It can’t. Its purpose is to get you back on track. To stay there, we need the daily practice of praying to our Father, abiding in Christ, and keeping in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). So, beware of expecting the Spirit’s fire 24/7. That’s not how God works. God spoke to Elijah not through the earthquake, fire, or wind. He spoke through his still, small voice (1 Kings 19).

Finally, God cares deeply about the next generation. That’s why revivals historically have involved young people. Madison Pierce, a seminary student at Asbury, posted this last week. His wisdom is beyond his years:

In each move of the spirit, God clearly manifests in a specific way for that generation. I find it interesting that God would mark this outpouring with:

  • A tangible sense of peace for a generation with unprecedented anxiety
  • A restorative sense of belonging for a generation amidst an epidemic of loneliness
  • An authentic hope for a generation marked by depression
  • A leadership emphasizing protective humility in relationship with power for a generation deeply hurt by the abuse of religious power
  • A focus on participatory adoration for an age of digital distraction

The new outpouring is marked by a tangible feeling of holistic peace, a restorative sense of belonging, a non-anxious presence through felt safety, repentance driven by experienced kindness, humble stewardship of power, and holiness through treasuring adoration.

According to a friend of mine who has deep Kentucky ties, “The student revival is being relocated from the chapel of Asbury to other nearby sanctuaries. Claiming that 20,000 curious people from all over the world have disrupted both the university and the small town, the school president announced that they could not continue to welcome and host so many people. Security, parking, and food services had been stretched to the breaking point. Going forward, attendance at the student-led prayer services would be limited to people 25 years old and younger.”

In other words, older people who want to see a miracle or feel the fire need to pack their bags and go home. God is doing something in the midst of students, and he will keep it up as long as he chooses.

In the meantime, expect emotional excess and suspicious stories to follow. The Devil is opposed to God’s visitations upon his people. The Devil will twist grace and truth (and emotions) whenever possible. But the one thing the Evil One can’t manipulate is the fruit of the Spirit. When the Spirit comes upon us, the result is always “love, joy, peace” and the rest of the list in Galatians 5:22-23. When you see that, you know God is present.

“Hallelujah, thine the glory, revive us again!”
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