Fox news, the Washington Post, Christianity Today, People.com, and a host of other news outlets, print, internet, and television, have reported on it.
It has been the topic of discussion in churches, in chat rooms, and in a host of other gatherings.
The “it” that has garnered so much attention is an event that has occurred within the past three weeks in a small town, Wilmore, KY (population 6,000 give or take a few) and on the campus of a private Christian college with a total enrollment of about 2,000.
The college is Asbury University, and her sister graduate school is Asbury Theological Seminary. The event is being called the Asbury Revival.
On Thursday, February 8, at the end of a normal chapel service, a few students stuck around. According to an internet article, “student body president Alison Perfater was one of them, and told (Fox News Network’s) Tucker Carlson that after a fellow student decided to openly confess some of his sins to the small group, ‘the atmosphere changed.’ According to Perfater:
“’For seemingly no reason at first on Wednesday, February 8, it didn’t end. That’s kind of the logistical side of what’s been going on. On the deeper side of things, what’s been happening here since Wednesday is there’s a young army of believers who are rising to claim Christianity, the faith, as their own, as a young generation and as a free generation, and that’s why people cannot get enough.’”
Evidently, a 24/7 prayer and worship time broke our and continued for three weeks. News spread. First through the Methodist Church, and soon through other media, including CNN. So far over 50,000 people, coming from as far as thousands of miles away, flocked into the tiny community to see and participate in the event.
According to the Washington Post, “The revival has been compared to similar revivals at Asbury, (at least eight since 1905) notably one that occurred in 1970, which had far-reaching consequences in Methodism, US culture, and in the growth of the Jesus movement. The revival is noted for its use of social media, as the participants are mainly members of Generation Z.”
There has been a negative reaction to the Asbury Revival from unexpected quarters … ordained clergy. Social media has been filled with praise for the students from many religious leaders, but others are not so affirming.
A number of priests and other clergy from liturgical churches have blasted the phenomena, chalking it up to immaturity or emotionalism or some aberrant form of Christianity.
It has been derided from some evangelical pastors because of the reported gifts of the Holy Spirit being manifested, including instances of healing.
Charismatics and Pentecostals seem to be the most affirming although some have expressed doubt since the school is in the Wesleyan tradition.
To these deacons, priests, pastors, and bishops I have to ask, Can’t you be happy and rejoice that in the most irreligious generation in American history (Generation Z), a school with the population smaller than the high schools in the area where I live, is seeing students spend three weeks, night and day, in a chapel crying out to God and opening their lives to Him? What’s wrong with you?
It’s not like these kids aren’t mentored. The Asbury faculty is highly respected and has protected these students from outside ministers and musicians, many with a possibly personal agenda, who want to come in and “help” them. Or, perhaps, exploit them.
The man who was my first pastor from the time I was 15 until I got married, was an Asbury Seminary grad. If he is an example of leaders produced at Asbury, then I totally trust them with the spiritual lives of these students.
The simple fact is that God doesn’t need us, our churches, or our denominations to pour out His Spirit wherever He wills to do so. He doesn’t need our traditions, our pet doctrines, or our style of the way we do church to change lives forever. He doesn’t need our degrees, our titles, or our accomplishments to get His work done. He doesn’t care if we are the so-called “one true church” or we are part the newest and hippest church plant on the block. God is God and He can do whatever He wants.
To the critics of what is happening at Asbury, and simultaneously on other campuses in America, I will post this cautionary word from the Acts of the Apostles, chapter 5, when the Pharisees were plotting to persecute the new Christian sect:
“But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the law, who was honored by all the people, stood up in the Sanhedrin… Then he addressed the Sanhedrin: ‘Men of Israel, consider carefully what you intend to do… Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.’”
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). Worship services are on Sundays at 10:00 a.m. and on livestream at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at email@example.com.]