I am in Wilmore, Kentucky the week of the first anniversary of the Asbury Revival that started February 8, 2023. The locals normally don’t use the word “revival” or “awakening.” They call it an outpouring. The message at chapel the morning of the anniversary was entitled, “Reflections on One Year of Outpouring.” Dr. Tom McCall gave the message at the Estes Chapel, Asbury Seminary.
In the evening another commemoration service about the outpouring took place at the Hughes Auditorium at the university. That event started at 7:00 and went to about 9:00 pm, ending with communion. It was perhaps the largest partaking of the Lord’s Supper I’ve ever seen! The worship team continued to worship after the service, and many people remained, too, worshipping and praying for one another. When I left, it was about 10:00 pm; the service leaders wanted to end the evening with intercessory prayer.
Last year the outpouring started at Asbury University when 19 students lingered in prayer and worship after the Wednesday chapel meeting. This continued on and on, and they were soon joined by other students, staff, and faculty so that other chapels in both the university and the seminary were being filled to capacity. For 16 days praise, worship, and speaking were non-stop.
Through social and news media outlets others heard about this awakening for young people, and thousands began to pour into the little town of Wilmore where it was all happening. See further Asbury’s website. I also wrote about the outpouring as it was taking place: “The Current Revival at Asbury University.”
After 16 days, town officials requested the university close down the gatherings due to the town being unable to accommodate the thousands of people who were coming in from all over the globe to witness the outpouring.
Other universities also experienced smaller outpourings shortly thereafter. For example, at Azusa Pacific University, where I teach, an invited speaker from the Asbury outpouring spoke to our students at their chapel service. After the service, a number of students went up to the front of the stage to pray and receive prayer. After the service, a small number went to their dorms and continued to pray. This went on for a couple of days.
When I was at the APU event, I got the strong impression that this movement was not really for me; it was for the Z Generation. They are the ones who need to experience God and be called into service and ministry for the Lord’s honor and glory. It is comforting to know that, given our crazy and distracting world, the Christian faith will not be dying out any time soon!
Reflections on the Asbury Outpouring
At the seminary chapel event (Feb. 8, 2024), there was still talk about processing through what happened last year. Dr. McCall recalled students letting him know when the outpouring first broke out that something unusual was going on across the street at the university. He was hesitant to come and see what was going on, being sensitive to manipulation and hype. But when he entered the chapel he was speechless. The outpouring was real.
He also recalled a student testimony in which the student prayed for his three friends at the event. Together they were praying in four different languages (Asbury seminary is very international!). The student wondered whether this is what heaven would be like.
In this message, and further comments before and after it, it was stressed that we should not try to reproduce or idolize such moments. Authentic outpourings are unscheduled and extraordinary. We cannot produce them ourselves—God is in control of such things. Outpourings are like a honeymoon where all time stops to adore the beloved. The honeymoon, however, does not last forever—it is meant to build a home.
My Current Reflection Here at Asbury
As an outsider here on sabbatical, what are my thoughts on all this? I think I understand now why the locals called the outpouring a “sweet presence.” That’s exactly how it feels like for me, especially the first time I attended the chapel. But unlike the Toronto Blessing and Pentecostal-Charismatic services I witnessed decades ago, there is no convulsing, no barking, no loud shouting, no being “slain in the Spirit,” no speaking in tongues (though nothing wrong with this). In fact, the majority of people do not even lift up their hands in worship. And yet the Presence is here, though far less theatrical. I could only imagine what it must have felt like last year in the midst of the outpouring!
Why has God shined his face on this isolated little community 17 miles away from the “big city” of Lexington? The reasons for me are not hard to figure out. These people are serious about wanting to worship the Lord. They are humble, devout, loving, respectful, and relationship-oriented. This is so unlike others I know who can’t strip their faces away from their smart phones.
And from what I can determine, they are also serious about personal holiness, not outwardly but inwardly. In other words, they really practice what they preach. Holiness is a hallmark in Wesleyanism and Francis Asbury, the Methodist Episcopal minister known for his part in the Second Great Awakening. The university and seminary live up to that name.
Almost every building here at the seminary has its own little chapel or prayer room. The large seminary library closes down, literally, in the late morning for chapel each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. On the university side, I hear that students are serious about attending chapel, and not looking for excuses not to be there.
The place to be on Sunday is in church—a number of denominations are present in the area. Though I must admit—this winter anyway—there is not much to do in a little town like this except to have fellowship with other people, or bury yourself in your studies, or pray and have some personal devotion time…unless you are going to be on your smart phone all day.
Except for the latter, I would consider such things to be good habits.