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About the Asbury Revival
Will it spread from a small town in Kentucky to the rest of the United States?
I’ve seen a lot of comment-thread discussion here at Tipping Point about the Asbury Revival, with some of you asking if I would address it here. To be honest, I’ve been waiting—and praying—because I’m not there personally. I don’t ever want to make assumptions about what the Holy Spirit is doing. Sometimes, I think patience is important.
But what began at Asbury University, a small, private Christian university in Wilmore, Kentucky, seems to be a legitimate move of the Spirit.
There are around 1,800 students who attend this college, which is named for Francis Asbury, an early American Methodist bishop who encouraged and celebrated revivals across the southeast United States.
The students at Asbury are required to attend three chapel services per week. In the middle of the first week of February, at a routine chapel service before the Super Bowl, a man named Zach Meerkreebs was preaching from Romans 12 about love in action. Meerkreebs is Asbury’s assistant soccer coach. He is also the leadership development coordinator for a missions organization called Envision.
Christianity Today says Meerkreebs told students he wasn’t interested in entertaining them:
“I hope you guys forget me but anything from the Holy Spirit and God’s Word would find fertile ground in your hearts and produce fruit,” he said. “Romans 12. That’s the star, okay? God’s Word and Jesus and the Holy Spirit moving in our midst, that’s what we’re hoping for.”
Meerkreebs also talked to them about the experience of God’s love, in contrast to the “radically poor love” that’s narcissistic, abusive, manipulative, and selfish.
“Some of you guys have experienced that love in the church,” he said. “Maybe it’s not violent, maybe it’s not molestation, it’s not taken advantage of—but it feels like someone has pulled a fast one on you.”
No one came forward at the end of the service, though, and Meerkreeb was convinced he “totally whiffed.” He texted his wife: “Latest stinker. I’ll be home soon.”
That service closed with a Black gospel trio singing one more song. Around 18 or 19 students stayed when it was over, though, with several clusters praying in their seats and at the foot of the stage.
That’s when something started to change:
Zeke Atha, a junior, told a documentarian a few days later that he was one of the ones who remained in the chapel. He left after an hour to go to a class, but then when he got out, he heard singing.
“I said, ‘Okay, that’s weird,’” Atha said. “I went back up, and it was surreal. The peace that was in the room was unexplainable.”
He and a few friends immediately left, sprinting around campus, bursting into classrooms with an announcement: “Revival is happening.”
The Revival Spreads
Word spread. Students stayed in the chapel, worshiping and praying. Some stayed all night. People started coming to the chapel from Asbury Seminary across the street. Then people from outside the school—from Wilmore and the greater Lexington area—started coming. Then groups of students were showing up from nearby states like Tennessee and Indiana.
By Friday night, there were 3,000 people at the chapel and the university had set up overflow rooms. Leaders at the school quickly gathered to figure out how to respond:
“We began getting reports from people seeing stuff on social media about people who were coming, not just from our region, but pretty significant distances,” said Mark Whitworth, vice president of communications. “I don’t remember who it was, but somebody said, ‘Going viral is not necessarily an awakening,’ and we all agreed with that. But the focus was on practical things. Like, does the worship team need to rest, and do we have enough prayer support at the altar?”
The school president, Kevin Brown, told the group, “Something really historic and really unique is happening here. This is going to outlive us. Well after we’re dead, people are going to be talking about this. Are we going to accommodate it?”
Before long, Tucker Carlson was talking about Asbury on Fox News, celebrity pastors were announcing on social media that they would be traveling to Asbury to participate, outsiders were beginning to argue about it on TikTok and Instagram, and the town police were having to redirect traffic because it was damaging the small city’s infrastructure. Students who wanted to attend were finding it hard to get into the crowded chapel. School officials were trying to figure out a balance between allowing the Spirit to move while also suggesting students get some sleep and go to their classes.
Sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit takes place outside human logistics, rules and practices. We all understand that. But volunteers were becoming exhausted and the pace wasn’t sustainable.
At the same time, the school was hearing reports of prayer services at other Christian colleges and universities. At Samford University, in Alabama, one student began singing in the chapel in the evening and was soon joined by hundreds. It kept going overnight and continued the next day. At Lee University, in Tennessee, students were seen running to chapel. One freshman told a local reporter she thought it was just a copycat event until she went herself.
“The Spirit was 100 percent moving in that place,” she said.
After 13 days and more than 50,000 people arriving at the rolling revival meeting on their campus, the leaders of Asbury finally felt free to let things wind down on their campus. They’ve since begun limiting the service on their campus to people under the age of 25 but are live-streaming every night for the rest of the world. Meanwhile, reports of revivals are also coming from other Christian colleges, including Cedarville University, Baylor, Belmont, and other schools.
Hunger, Repentance and Love
Those are the facts. Now, what’s my perspective? I am encouraged. I love that this movement started among students. I love that it has spread to other campuses. I love that it seems to be prompting repentance and action. I love that the people close to it—not the incoming celebrities or social influencers but the actual campus administration—have recognized God’s hand on the student population.
I believe this is true revival and my prayer is that it spreads across America and around the world. What makes me think this is real is that it is so humble and nameless—it started at a small, relatively unknown school. Yes, there are some people trying to get social media attention by showing up there. But no one is taking credit. The vast majority of participants are not interested in trying to steal the limelight. There seems to be a genuine hunger for God, a spirit of repentance and deep love for one another.
Contrast what is happening at Asbury with the anger and rebellion others may be experiencing at our nation’s colleges and universities. That contrast is another reason I believe this is of the Lord. I have been praying every day for years that we would experience revival and awakening in America. Could this be it? I am hopeful.
A few of you have wondered if this revival could have an end-times component. Some have speculated that a revival might happen right before the Rapture. To be clear, the Bible doesn’t teach this. It doesn’t say explicitly that there will be revival before the Rapture.
Remember, Jesus compared the world of the last days with the days of Noah and Lot. That was not a time of revival. That was a period of one last righteous remnant living in a decadent, violent society.
In Matthew 25, in the parable of the virgins, Jesus says that half of the church will be apostate when the Rapture occurs.
None of this means there can’t or won’t be an end-times revival before the Rapture. But it’s clearly not a requirement in the timeline.
Revival does take place during the Tribulation, however. Revelation 7 describes a mass revival—after the Rapture. That’s the good news. The bad news is that there will also be mass martyrdom in those days of darkness. Thankfully, we are not there yet, and believers in Christ will not be present for that revival.
Descending from the Mountaintop
But as for this revival, it is now ongoing and taking different shapes in different places, and I thank God for it. Remember, revival is for the Church. Awakening, however, is for the world that doesn't know Christ.
Awakening often follows revival. We talk about revivals as “mountaintop experiences,” but no one lives on top of a mountain. It is always necessary, at some point, to go back down the mountain. Moses experienced divine revelation and the presence of God on Mount Sinai, but then he descended to deliver the Ten Commandments to the people of Israel.
The fruit of a revival is always most clear when the intense mountaintop experience comes to an end. If these young people, empowered by the Spirit, eventually leave their college chapels and go out into their communities, sharing the transformative love of God and the message of Jesus—that’s when mass awakening can happen. Remember the topic of Zach Meerkreeb’s original message from Romans 12: Love in action.
I pray that’s the result.
I wouldn’t call myself a cynic related to politics, but I do admit that I don’t have much faith in our nation’s politicians, Republican or Democrat. I don’t think they can lead our nation to where it needs to be. We are too far gone for that.
But the Holy Spirit can definitely lead us where He wants us to be. The answer to the darkness of our society is the light of God. Right now, the revival that began at Asbury and is now spreading appears to be God’s bright, shining answer to our prayers. It will take multiple forms in the future, but I hope it continues.