Asbury Awakening Continues

The spiritual awakening that started at Asbury University on February 8 continues to the present and is having a significant impact on many people around the country and even in distant parts of the world. Thousands of people from all over the nation and the world have descended upon this little town of Wilmore, Kentucky. As I am writing this, I am looking out my window at long lines of thousands of people waiting patiently to get into various places of worship at Asbury University and Asbury Seminary. I have witnessed God’s work at altars firsthand day after day and night after night. If you could be at the altar as people come forward, you would know without a doubt that God is meeting people in powerful ways. We are in awe. As I said in my last blog, it is better to stand in awe of something than to try to talk about it. The most common descriptor of this awakening has been “radical humility.”

For the last two nights, Hughes Auditorium at the University and Estes Chapel, McKenna Chapel, the gym and the cafeteria at the Seminary have been filled to capacity. Asbury University even set up a large outdoor screen for people to participate in worship and prayer right on their front lawn. Local churches have also opened their doors and received guests for prayer. Many lives have been touched and changed. This is much bigger than any one institution or any one town. As with any move of God, there are people who don’t understand what is happening or are quick to be critical and dismissive. Others see this as the beginning of a new spiritual awakening, especially among our Generation Z youth (born 1997-2012). That will ultimately be determined by the fruit of transformed lives. It has certainly been disruptive to our normal routines. But the Resurrection and Pentecost were also disruptive. Whenever God moves in our lives, it breaks us from our comfortable routines because the gospel always challenges our overly domesticated experience of the gospel.

It is a miracle whenever God meets someone at the altar. Our institution was built on connecting the altar with what should happen afterwards. Our founder, H. C. Morrison, was a lifetime revival preacher. He preached over 15,000 sermons in his lifetime. Few people appreciated the power of an awakening from God like he did. Yet, he rightly discerned that the only hope for the country was to translate the power of the gospel manifested at the altar to men and women fully equipped to be His ambassadors to the ends of the earth. Thus, he founded a seminary to take God’s work and to build deep wells in peoples’ lives to serve in every corner of the globe. Our motto is, “The Whole Bible for the Whole World.” He chose Wilmore as the place to start Asbury College, and later Asbury Theological Seminary, because of an awakening that took place in Wilmore in 1885 when he was 28 years old. H. C. Morrison was invited to come to this little town called Wilmore and preach a revival service here. It was Morrison’s first visit to Wilmore, and he held what in those days were called “protracted meetings,” a succession of revival meetings that would go on as long as people were coming and responding. It was here in Wilmore that Morrison had his first big breakthrough as an evangelist. 104 people came to Christ during those meetings, and the city of Wilmore was changed by it. It was also at those meetings that Morrison first met John Wesley Hughes, who told him of his vision to start a holiness college somewhere in Kentucky. Morrison encouraged him to start what became known as Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, which happened in 1890. Later, in 1923, H. C. Morrison founded Asbury Seminary. It is remarkable that at the heart of the Asbury Seminary campus is a statue of John Wesley preaching an open-air revival. The interweaving of theological education and revival is deeply rooted in our identity. Our founder, H. C. Morrison, died in 1942 after preaching a revival service in Tennessee.

It is a miracle when God visits any place with an awakening. It is also a miracle when a student sits in a class and learns theology or church history. The latter is just a miracle in slow motion. Our whole institution is a testimony to a 100-year miracle. Every awakening has to transition at some point from the “come and see” phase to the “go and tell” phase. The reason for this is that the gospel is inherently missional, and the incarnation of Christ dramatically influenced Christian views about particular places and spaces. Students are already traveling back to their communities to bear witness to what God is doing. People are responding to the grace and work of God that is present wherever people confess their sins and are desperate to move beyond domesticated Christianity to the actual power of the gospel. But, for now, we are seeking to steward thousands of people who are asking God to touch their lives. The greater story will be if they can return to their homes and see awakening and transformation happen across this nation and to the ends of the earth.


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