There’s a lot of buzz about the revival that’s been going on at Asbury University in Kentucky. It began in a regularly scheduled morning chapel for the students on Wednesday, February 8, and it’s been continuing non-stop ever since. Excited believers from all over the U.S. and even from abroad have been flocking to the tiny (6,000 population) town of Wilmore, Kentucky, and the line of people waiting to get into the auditorium has been as much as a half mile long. School authorities have indicated they’ll be closing the chapel service today, February 22, two weeks later, though the worship, prayer and singing may still continue in area churches.1

Watching YouTube videos of the ongoing worship at Asbury, I haven’t seen an emphasis on dramatic evidences of Holy Spirit outpourings, so-called “signs and wonders,” such as loud prophecies, speaking in tongues, trances and ecstasies, healings, miracles, being “slain in the Spirit,” etc.2 I’ve just observed simple personal worship with upraised hands, singing of praise songs, many of which are familiar to me from our worship at ABC, and sometimes groups of people praying together. What’s unique is that the worshippers just don’t seem to want to stop.

I’ve seen some interviews of people who have been part of the revival experience, and they’ve said things like this:

“There is something happening.”
“Holy Spirit is here!”
“The Holy Spirit is tangible in the room.”
“God is here, and he’s working right now. Come and get you some!”

My personal belief is that the Holy Spirit is everywhere at all times, and so the difference is not in the unique availability of the Spirit, but in the unique availability of the people worshiping. One observer described the mood of the worshiping congregation as “an orderly openness.” I think a group of people’s “openness,” readiness, sense of need is what triggers a revival.

Let’s step back and look at this revival in its context. Asbury University is a revivalist school. The pastor who founded it in 1898 was from a Wesleyan Holiness tradition, and he expected regular revivals to perpetually renew the spiritual ideal of the school. They have had documented revivals in 1908, 1921, 1950, 1958, 1970, 1992 and 2006.3 Though this 2023 version is one of the largest and longest, it’s not unique in the school’s history.

Dr. Timothy Beougher, a Southern Baptist Seminary professor who has studied historic revivals for over forty years, made this observation: “How can you tell if it’s really a work of God? I like the old dictum, ‘It’s not how high you jump; it’s how straight you walk when you land.'”4 The reality of the revival will be demonstrated not in the hours and days of intense experience, but in the years of effective Christian life and ministry that will result from it.

Dr. Timothy Tennant, who is President of the Seminary connected with Asbury, believes that it’s more meaningful to call what’s happening at the college an awakening rather than a revival.5 This would connect it with periodic moments in American church history when popular movements have dramatically affected the Nation’s culture and society.

The First Great Awakening: 1730 to 1755. Prominent leaders: John Wesley, George Whitefield, Jonathan Edwards. Emphasis on personal conversion, new birth and assurance of salvation. Denominations in which the movement was born: Congregational, Presbyterian. Denominations that emerged stronger, more dynamic: Methodists, Baptists. American history context: Preparation for the Revolutionary War, American Independence.

The Second Great Awakening: 1790 to 1840. Prominent leaders: Charles Finney, Alexander Campbell, William Miller, Joseph Smith. Emphasis on salvation, second work of grace, holiness, end times prophecy. Denominations in which the movement was born: Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian. Denominations that emerged and grew: Disciples of Christ, Adventists, Millerites, Holiness, Mormons, Quakers, Shakers. American history context: Preparation for the Civil War.

The Third Great Awakening:1855 to 1930. Prominent leaders: Dwight Moody, William Booth, Charles Spurgeon, Hudson Taylor. Emphasis on personal morality, social action (abolition of slavery, prohibition), missions. Denominations in which movement was born: Baptists, Methodist, Holiness. Denominations that emerged: Watchtower, Pentecostal, Nazarene, Spiritualist, Christian Science. American history context: Preparation for two World Wars.6

If this review of American history gives us any insight, it shows that awakenings (or revivals) may be sent by God at strategic moments. They don’t follow the whims of individual Christians or the schedules of charismatic leaders.I wonder what he’s preparing us for this time.

— Pastor George Van Alstine


2 By contrast, those who participated in the so-called “Toronto Blessing,” which began in 1994 and reemerged in other locations during the next few years, emphasized “signs and wonders,” such as “Holy Laughter,” barking and miraculous healings as evidence of its authenticity.



 5 Timothy Tennant, Pres Sem –

 6 Some modern church historians have discussed a Fourth, during the 1960s and 1970s, featuring leaders such as Billy Graham and Martin Luther King, the Jesus People movement, the weakening of mainline denominations and the growth of parachurch organizations.