By: Ian DeJong | March 13, 2023
If you briefly glance over the history of revivalism in America, you will notice that most revivals were well-planned, organized, and led by a prominent religious leader. That is not the case with the 2023 Asbury Revival, a month-long spontaneous gathering of Christians that involved calm worship, prayer, meditation, testimonies, repentance, and outpouring at the chapel of Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. “It appears to be led by the Spirit,” wrote author and historian Ryan Danker while commenting on the revival’s spontaneity.
That same sudden impulse to see the Lord was also felt by Redeemer student Laurel Andrews, a third-year applied social sciences major and activities coordinator for Student Senate. Despite being eight hours away, Andrews had the privilege to see the Lord at work when she attended the Asbury Revival.
To catch the reader up to speed, a revival in Christianity is known as a series of religious services that galvanizes believers to renew their faith while attracting non-believers to surrender their life to Christ. This revival began on February 8 of this past year when about a dozen students decided to stay in Asbury’s auditorium after a scheduled chapel service because they were really touched by the message and had a strong impulse to keep praying and worshipping. This attracted more and more students, as they knew this impulse was something out of the ordinary.
The news of the event quickly spread to social media, and over the course of a month, it gained roughly 50,000 to 75,000 visitors. The audience mostly consisted of those in Generation Z, many of whom took part in the revival as a way to heal from their mental health struggles. The images of this revival are quite astonishing. As one can find online, the chapel was packed with individuals raising their hands, engaging in passionate worship, feeling emotionally overwhelmed, crying out to God, and feeling immersed in his presence.
Andrews first heard about the revival when a man stopped by the senate office and asked about Redeemer’s worship services. “It was very random,” said Andrews. “He told me about his passion for seeing youth and young adults coming to Christ, and then he started telling me about Asbury.”
Prior to this conversation, Andrews and her mom had planned a road trip to Nashville, which would have taken place during this past Reading Week. Andrews said, “As soon as I heard about what was going on in Kentucky [on the way to Nashville], I thought it would be cool to experience it first-hand instead of just seeing news articles about it.” Andrews suggested the idea of stopping by Asbury to her mom, and she agreed. “We were ready to see what the Lord was going to do.”
“It was a very quick decision,” said Andrews. “We left on Saturday, and we arrived in Wilmore by Sunday night. I was excited to see how the Lord is moving and changing hearts. When we showed up, there was this huge lineup to get into the auditorium.” They waited for about four hours before getting in.
“Being in the lineup was just as cool as being in the chapel because we got to see the community it gathered.” Andrews and her mom had a long conversation with a pastor from Louisiana who showed up because he loved hearing people coming to the Lord. “My mom and I both shared our testimonies with him, and then he prayed over both of us. He was so passionate about what the Lord was doing there.”
“There was even a lot of outpouring on the lawns outside the building,” said Andrews. “It was cool to see that those people didn’t care about getting in the building; they were just longing for a relationship with God.”
Andrews and her mom finally got into the auditorium, where they worshipped and heard occasional chapel messages. “My mom and I saw things from the balcony. We saw a lot of hand-raising, and people jumping up and down. There would be a line from a song, and someone would cry out, ‘Hallelujah’ or ‘Amen.’ Only four or five people were leading the main worship, and it was very calm in the way that it was led.” Whereas previous revivals could be considered more zealous, Asbury was characteristically peaceful and gentle.
As Andrews got to know some of the local people at the revival, she was able to see God answering prayers in a timely manner. “I talked to a woman who said that as soon as COVID-19 started, she and her church had been praying for a revival, so it was really cool to see those prayers answered. I’m not from the United States, so I am not aware of their politics, but there were a lot of people who felt like the revival was needed because of their local crises.”
When looking back at her experience at Asbury, she was grateful to see God working through an event like this: “I saw a lot of answered prayers. God was moving hearts to come toward him. There were constantly people available for prayer and constantly people who were prayed for.”
Andrews provided one final remark in hopes that Redeemer may be able to learn from it: “Wherever you are, there’s always going to be a need to come to Christ. Be diligent in listening to what the Lord says, and act on that. Listen to his call, and be obedient to it.”