Christian Campuses Long for Revival, Students Flock to Asbury

Revival in Wilmore exceeds nine days while millions look on.

More university chapel doors are being propped open for extended worship in the wake of the Asbury University revival happening in central Kentucky. At the time of print, Asbury had entered its 9th consecutive day of worship in the packed Hughes Auditorium. The world’s eyes have turned to the tiny town of Wilmore, southwest of Lexington. Travellers - perhaps pilgrims - are flocking from around the United States, and even Canada to “dip their torch” into what many consider an historic spiritual revival. Asbury’s experience may be a forerunner for young people across America, as others take notice. 

Students huddle at the alter in Hughes Auditorium

Students on nearby Christian campuses have begun huddling in prayer services, and lingering beyond scheduled chapel for song, repentance, and prayer. A regular morning chapel service at Cedarville University in Ohio on Monday February 13th became a crowded sea of tearful students praying for, and embracing one another. That evening, school President Thomas White reopened the chapel doors, expecting a few hundred students; more than one thousand packed into the hall to hear Scripture, exhortations, prayers, and rejoicing. Students filled the chapel’s alter again the next morning, then evening. At least four students proclaimed faith in Christ for the first time over the course of the week. In an email to university parents this week, Thomas wrote, “We must keep the marks of genuine revival before us. We should see confession of sin, repentance, salvations, Jesus being exalted, and the Word of God being held high. We must maintain a humble posture…” After chapel’s 10pm end on Tuesday, President White told the students they would not be back Wednesday, and exhorted them to get to other university campuses to share the gospel. Numbers went out, driving more than 4 hours to Michigan University to share the gospel and lead songs in open air. 

Mark Walker, President of Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee, addressed Thursday morning’s chapel regarding a similar pattern unfolding in a small campus chapel. On Monday the 13th, a prayer vigil began with a small group of students and faculty, swelled in numbers throughout the day, and extended into early morning hours. The vigil has continued through the week at Lee. Walker said Thursday morning, “Some have called this a revival. I don’t know if that’s what this is, it may be. But what this is at its core is a group of students organically seeking the heart of God.”  

VerBrugge, third from left with her Wheaton College classmates.

Never shy to take action, some Christian university students have travelled hundreds of miles to Hughes Chapel at Asbury. About 40 faculty, staff, and students drove down from Northern Illinois’ Wheaton College in a “desire to participate in the work the Lord is doing here.” Wheaton College Junior Kaylin VerBrugge stood on the broad chapel steps with her classmates and told us “this has provided the hope to pray, to share testimonies of what the Lord has done, and that God may do the same if we ask in faith.” In their desire to return to Wheaton in the spirit of renewal, Kaylin noted that “repentance is declaring the Lordship of Jesus, and any opportunity for revival affirms Christ and His Lordship, and thus provides space for confession." We asked her what the tone and atmosphere was like inside and around the chapel: “We thought there would be a lot of heavy emotions, but this has felt gentle. No crazy lights or music, just people with a guitar and a piano worshipping the Lord.”

Hughes Auditorium sees lineups for entry

As millions look on, follow the hashtags, and stand in line to enter Hughes Auditorium, there are many questions and critiques regarding the authenticity and longevity of this move of God. So, I offer these reflections. We should never be surprised to see God excite, convict, and otherwise move young people in worship and obedience to Him. Daniel and his three friends were college age, so was Jesus’ mother, Mary, the Apostle John was chosen in his late teens. There is perhaps a more unvarnished, and unpretentious abandon towards conviction - both for good and ill - among our youth. For that reason, we should rejoice when those convictions are harnessed towards holiness. Second, those who may sit on the more conservative side of the viewing bench will hesitate to bless or affirm this movement, pointing to a lack of doctrinal clarity and Scriptural framing. I would agree and urge that there be more biblical teaching and exhortation throughout, rather than anchoring the event purely in song. However, it would be a radical overstatement and unjustified assumption to say that there is no genuine love of God being renewed, or long-term spiritual value in which we should rejoice. While there are many important metrics by which to judge spiritual growth and revival, we ought not impose them within our timeframes in order to validate such events. May God speed obedience to the truth, and opposition against evil among this generation. Finally, in the words of Wheaton Jr. Kaylin VerBrugge , “I’ve been surprised by how simple this revival has been… It isn’t because of any programing or manipulation, but because the Spirit of the Lord is there. And where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” That to say, there is no way to force the hand of God, or command the wind of the Spirit of God, for it blows where it will. Yet, there is the eternal and unchanging path to revival embedded in the Bible’s infallible narrative given in Acts chapter two, when after men cry out “what must we do?” Peter replies with a command that echoes today, “repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Indeed, may the Lord revive us by means of forsaking sin, and an embrace of private and public service to Jesus Christ and His commands. 

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About the author

Tim is a local pastor, carpenter, and podcaster. Attended University of Toronto to study history and rhetoric.