The Asbury Revival

Ryan Danker on February 28, 2023

On February 8, after what had been a regularly scheduled chapel service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, something unexpected took place: the students didn’t want to leave the chapel. They wanted to stay and to pray. What ensued in the aftermath have been continuous — and overwhelmingly spontaneous — prayer, repentance, worship, testimony, reconciliation, and other classic signs of what has been historically called revival or awakening. The spontaneity of the Asbury Revival is noteworthy, even if it is a historic sign of revival. So too is the lack of revivalist leadership. Often revivals have leaders, but not in this case. The university continues to hold its scheduled chapel services during the week, but otherwise there is no organized leadership. It appears to be led by the Spirit.

Revival or awakening has been a historic pattern within the life of the Church for centuries. Some have called it an American phenomenon, but that’s simply not true. It comes in various places and in various forms throughout the history of the Church. Sometimes it’s a splashy event, and sometimes a quiet awakening that can only be seen properly with distance. Within Anglicanism, John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, John Newton, William Cowper, and others come to mind as leaders of the 18th-century transatlantic sweep called the Evangelical Revival.

On this side of the pond, Devereux Jarratt was a notable figure in the Great Awakening as an Episcopal priest in Virginia. But Episcopalians haven’t always been open to the revivalism that swept across the country in later Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal settings. Leery of revivalism, Anglican clergy hounded George Whitefield out of Charleston in the middle of the 18th century. John Wesley noted anti-revivalism a few decades later when he encouraged American Methodist leaders not to place themselves under Episcopal bishops, fearful that these bishops would stifle revival, but his brother Charles worked to encourage a number of early American Methodist leaders to seek ordination within the Episcopal Church. The most notable of these men was Joseph Pilmore, an early leader of Methodist work in the colonial period who would eventually be ordained by Samuel Seabury and serve evangelical parishes in and around Philadelphia.

Continue reading at The Living Church here.

  1. Comment by David on March 1, 2023 at 7:33 am

    People can do strange things in religious settings. I recall a video of a church where the congregation would line up in the aisle and come forward to be touched by the pastor. They all would immediately collapse and thrash about on the floor in a ritual called “slaying the spirit.” Ushers would catch the stricken persons and lower them to gym mats thoughtfully provided.

    In some settings, people do what is expected of them whether or not they are spiritually compelled. As has been noted, Asbury has had several incidents such as this in the past. Apparently, the dean instigated a similar event in 1970. Months in advance, a Collegiate Day of Prayer was across the country for 23 February and some see a connection. Of course, internet communication can easily change the social dynamic of events. “Revivals” enhance the status of a school in some circles.

  2. Comment by Gary Bebop on March 1, 2023 at 12:10 pm

    Critics of the Asbury outpouring are of dubious credential. Ryan Danker notes of them: “In every case, I failed to see even one substantive critique of the Asbury Revival. Revivals can only truly be critiqued by their fruit.”

  3. Comment by brother Jim on March 1, 2023 at 2:30 pm

    Why no mentioning of Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival? Was it too short-lived or confined to too small a geographic area in comparison to those revivals cited? I’m not playing dumb/ignorant, being Socratic or even merely curious. It seemed to me, though, since the article references Asbury U., that Roberts’ revival is analogous based on my ‘lay’ understanding of his services. Were there not those times of his when he would not even speak from the pulpit, rather remaining silent and allowing the Holy Spirit full control and direction, as is said of Asbury last month? Speaking of which (A.U.):

    A week or so after monitoring the events of Wilmore, Ky. and the logistical problems created, I said facetiously to myself, “Did God not know what He was doing, allowing an “Angel of His Presence” to descend and remain upon such an inadequate landscape?” Then I was reminded of a similar ‘faux pas’:

    “…And behold, the whole city came out to meet Jesus. And when they saw Him, they begged him to depart from their region.” (Matt. 8:34, and synoptic.)

    As with the history of revivals, I never studied about the land opposite seawise (wd?) from Galilee where the above event manifested. I don’t know the relationship between that region and the “city,” or its people and the 2,000 swine that perished. I do know that a herd/drove/drift/passel/team that size is huge, and perhaps even more so for that time period. It had to of had a devasting effect on whatever the economy and its people.

    But then, Jesus assured us He didn’t come bringing peace but a sword (taken out of context, by permission).

    So as the A.U. event was drawing towards its conclusion, I further pondered how equally huge to the destruction of 2K swine was the challenge to the comfort [and security] of six-figure incomes, endowments and their endowers, the priorities of those students and their parents not involved in the revival, the fears of impending lawsuits fantasized, locals—and those beloved [for me, too] Amazon deliveries—whose ingress and egress was hampered, etc., etc., etc. Again, I wanted to respectfully but humorously ask to myself, “Is God bonkers? What in the world was He thinking, choosing Wilmore?”

    But just as those probably affected by the 2K swine ordained and sent Jesus to a different location….”

    Isn’t this all just like God’s modus operandi, making things impossible apart from Grace and miraculous intervention—and the deaths of the C(c)ross?

    The, too, we as God’s children may have trouble wrapping our mind around the possibility that we are more than able to take the holy manifestations of God and convert them into unholy idols of the heart, so [, maybe,]….” Selah.

    [Yeah, there’s no way J.E. is going to post THIS one. Correct?]

  4. Comment by brother Jim on March 2, 2023 at 11:32 am

    Dang. Okay. [Wow, I guess this blog really is juicy.]

    Does anyone read these comments? What must a guy do to get banned from posting them (satirical)? Has anyone yet bought and burned my book? Must I be more caustic?Okay, let’s try that. Allow me to rewrite through amplification a line from my above post:

    “But just as those probably affected by the 2K swine ordained and sent Jesus to a [still-undisclosed-2,000-years-later] different location….”

    Is anyone else also beginning to smell revival?

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