Making Sense of the '2023 Asbury Revival'

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Asbury University is a small college of about 1,600 students in Wilmore, Ky. Since it’s a Christian school, students must attend chapel on a regular basis, and those chapel services probably have a pretty standard order and feel. But on Feb. 8, something different happened.


At the end of that Wednesday’s chapel, students didn’t leave. When the regular service ended, students stayed, worshiping spontaneously, praying, and kneeling at the altar to confess their sins. The activity in the chapel has continued 24/7 and is still going on as of this writing.

Stories of what’s being dubbed the “2023 Asbury Revival” are popping up all over social media, and it’s clear that something really unique is happening.

Tom McCall, a professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, which is located across the street from the university, reported for Christianity Today about what’s happening in the university chapel.

“I immediately decided to go to the chapel to see for myself. When I arrived, I saw hundreds of students singing quietly,” McCall wrote. “They were praising and praying earnestly for themselves and their neighbors and our world—expressing repentance and contrition for sin and interceding for healing, wholeness, peace, and justice.”

“Some were reading and reciting Scripture,” he continued. “Others were standing with arms raised. Several were clustered in small groups praying together. A few were kneeling at the altar rail in the front of the auditorium. Some were lying prostrate, while others were talking to one another, their faces bright with joy.”


(It’s worth noting that McCall also wrote, “Some are calling this a revival, and I know that in recent years that term has become associated with political activism and Christian nationalism. But let me be clear: no one at Asbury has that agenda.” This was probably a relief to the increasingly anti-conservative Christianity Today, but no serious person conflates revival with politics or “Christian nationalism.”)

Related: Should We Be Concerned About ‘Christian Nationalism’?

So what’s happening at Asbury? Some videos are circulating showing what’s going on in the chapel.

@cwc_youth A timeline of the Asbury Revival 2023! This was the insight of a few students on campus. Was your experience any different? Share it with us! #asburyrevival #asburyrevival2023 #asburyuniversity #revival #comelordjesus ♬ original sound – CWC Youth

Some students are reportedly taking the spirit of this movement to their home churches, and it’s also reportedly spreading to other Christian colleges not far from Asbury, including Ohio Christian University, Lee University in Tennessee, and Campbellsville University in Kentucky.

Is this a genuine move of God, or is it mere emotionalism? There are reasons to take encouragement from Asbury.


“We were impressed with the sight of hundreds of people worshiping God and an altar loaded with people repenting of sin and celebrating scripture being read,” the Kentucky Baptist Convention’s Michael Cabell told Kentucky Today. “It is very authentic and not programmed or manufactured. Anytime that we see hundreds of people worship the Lord, that’s a good thing.”

Author, podcaster, and Christian apologist Alisa Childers attended the service over the weekend, and she said it was a sweet and sincere movement. “I have no reason to think that God isn’t working something really beautiful in the hearts of the students at Asbury,” she said.

However, she admitted that she has concerns about the movement, and they mirror the exact concerns that I’ve had. First, she said that we’re not sure we can properly call this a revival yet, but I’ll get to that in a minute.

Childers’ second concern is the social media component that has allowed news of the movement to spread like wildfire — in fact, she called it “hype” and admits that it puts psychological pressure on the students and could spawn less sincere copycat movements.

The last, and possibly most crucial, concern that Childers expresses is the idea that people with bad theology could co-opt or involve themselves in this movement. She pointed out that some figures involved with the dangerous and unbiblical New Apostolic Reformation have reportedly already descended on Asbury.


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I certainly don’t want to dismiss or second-guess what’s happening at Asbury. I believe that it’s a genuine move of the Holy Spirit, and I pray that it spreads to churches and Christian colleges nationwide.

Tim Beougher, pastor of West Broadway Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky., and evangelism professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, wrote something really powerful in response to what he saw at Asbury.

“What every believer should be doing right now, regardless of what you think about the early reports out of Asbury, is praying,” he wrote. “Who would deny that we need revival in our churches and spiritual awakening in our land? God has visited this nation with powerful awakenings before — we study those great movements of revival in church history classes. Is Asbury the spark of another awakening? I don’t know — but I’m praying — and you should be, too!”

Christian believers throughout the country and all over the world have been praying for revival for generations. And we’ve seen revivals over the years, including one at Asbury in 1970.


So can we call what’s happening at Asbury University a genuine revival? I truly believe that the only answer is that time will tell, and I’m not alone in that sentiment.

“Let’s wait and see the lasting fruit before we jump on bandwagons,” Childers said.

God is always moving, and His Spirit is at work in churches, schools, and homes all over the world. My prayer is that Asbury will spark a larger movement and that, as a result, we’ll see more people come to faith in Jesus.


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