During my years in seminary, I wrote a research paper on revivals in America.
Now, I don’t mention that to pretend that I am somehow a world expert on revivals. Simply put, the subject intrigued me. I bring up that paper because of an observation that came out of it while doing the research: it appears that most—if not all—major revivals in America came out of the Christ-following youth.
Many attributed the First Great Awakening to Jonathan Edwards, but Edwards attributed the start of the Awakening to the youth himself by observing the happenings at Yale University in 1741:
“This awakening was at the beginning of that extraordinary religious commotion through the land, which is fresh in everyone’s memory. It was for a time very great and general at New-Haven; and the college had no small share in it…The students in general became serious, many of them remarkably so, and much engaged in the concerns of their eternal salvation.”
Later, following the American Revolution, college campuses fell into great moral decline. Lyman Beecher described what he saw:
“College was in a most ungodly state. The college church was almost extinct. Most of the students were skeptical, and rowdies were plenty. Wine and liquors were kept in many rooms; intemperance, profanity, gambling and licentiousness were common.”
Doesn’t that sound a little familiar today?
Four students at Hampton-Sydney College in Virginia came together to pray. An outrage ensued and the student body went nuts. However, the college’s president, John Blair Smith, invited those students and anyone else to pray with him.
More than half the student body showed up in the President’s parlor to pray with him. Timothy Beougher states that this revival in Virginia “marked the beginning of the Second Great Awakening.”
Then there was the Haystack Prayer meeting at Williams College in Massachusetts in 1806. Five college kids met in a field to discuss and pray for the spiritual needs in Asia. A thunderstorm moved over, and they took shelter behind a haystack. Out of this impromptu prayer meeting came what most believed to be the start of American missions.
In 1970, a revival broke out at Asbury College that lasted eight days. It had such an impact across the nation that even Billy Graham made it the basis for a thirty minute radio program.
This brings me to what is currently happening today in Wilmore, Kentucky. A similar revival appears to be breaking out during a chapel service at Asbury University which, as of this writing, has been going on for roughly two weeks—several days longer than the 1970 event.
Following the chapel service on February 8, a handful of students remained behind. During that time, one student confessed some of his sins to the others after which, one witness stated, the atmosphere changed.
The event has been going on non-stop, 24 hours a day, filled with confession, prayer, worship, and the word of God. What has been going on at Asbury has attracted national attention and thousands of Christ-followers have swarmed the area to witness and participate in the events.
As well as the critics.
Shortly after Asbury started attracting national attention, critics began questioning Asbury’s legitimacy. Criticism ranges from it being too emotionally-based, to quibbling over definitions of revival, to been-there-done-that-got-the-T-shirt and nothing has changed. Of course, we can’t forget the cries of this revival being based on bad theology or even heresy.
Because, after all, what would a potential movement of God be if it were not attacked and brought down by the people of God? That has been going on since the time of Jesus’ ministry.
What is going on at Asbury? Clearly something. Through confession, prayer, and worship, the name of Jesus is being lifted up (John 12:32).
However, before attacking or questioning the events, perhaps everyone should take a breath and wait before claiming to speak for God.
Is there a campus revival—or at least something of God—going on? Yes.
Is Jesus being lifted up, drawing all to himself? Absolutely.
Are lives being changed? Very likely.
Will some of those lives drift off once the intensity or emotion wears off? Probably.
Is Asbury the beginning of a third Great Awakening? Too early to tell.
Because it is too early to tell, the rest of America should be praying for Asbury, not analyzing it.
Asbury 2023 is happening within Gen Z, a generation criticized for its googling knowledge, not thinking for themselves. Gen Z is depicted as detached, screen-addicted, and non-committal. They don’t believe in absolute truth, and they are walking away from the church faster than any generation before it. They drift from place to idea, locking on with whatever best tickles their ears.
But Gen Z is also deeply depressed and hopeless. The level of mental illness is epidemic. Teenage suicide in 2023 has risen at an alarming trajectory.
Criticism is not going to help them.
Only Jesus can.
At Asbury, a group of Gen Z came together completely on their own and experienced God in ways few will understand. Members of a lost generation found something to latch onto—Jesus.
Could God be reaching out to this generation? I think so. It’s happened before.
And this is a generation that desperately needs to meet him.
The body of Christ needs to step back and ask ourselves why we pray for God to send revival only to hyper-analyze it when it comes.
Let’s wait and see what happens at Asbury.
And pray that the flames of that university spreads to all of Kentucky, to the United States, and to the ends of the earth.
 Jonathan Edwards, “Some Thoughts Concerning the Present Revival of Religion in New England,” The Works Of Jonathan Edwards (London: Banner of Truth Trust, 1987), Volume 1, 423..
 Timothy Beougher & Lyle Dorsett, ed., Accounts of a Campus Revival: Wheaton College 1995, (Wheaton, Illinois: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1995)
 Beougher & Miller, p. 34.
 “The Haystack Prayer Meeting, https://www.globalministries.org/resource/what_is_haystack/. Accessed 2/19/2023.
 “Asbury Revival Blazes Cross-Country Trail”, Christianity Today, March 13, 1970.
 DeSoto, Randy. “Carlson: Asbury Revival ‘Amazing,’ People Turning to Spiritual Life to Counter Evil in the World”. Independent Journal Review. Western Journal. Retrieved February 19, 2023.