Brokenness and Repentance: American Revival Out of Asbury University

By Lyndsey Koh

Photo courtesy of Jon Tyson via Unsplash

This article first appeared on Mission Network News, February 15, 2023. Republished with permission.

USA (MNN) — Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, former President of Asbury University, notably said of the famed 1970 spiritual revival: “Give me one divine moment when God acts and I say that moment is far superior to all the human efforts of man through the centuries.”

Spiritual revival can be hard to define. But it’s impossible to manufacture, and there’s no question: A true revival of the Holy Spirit is happening again out of Asbury University in Kentucky.

Asbury’s chapel service concluded last Wednesday like most chapels do. However, something was notably different. The students didn’t leave. Many stayed and continued in worship, prayer, repentance, and sharing testimonies.

Revival at Asbury University (Photo courtesy of OneWay Ministries)

This revival is going on a week now, and the chapel with 1,200 seats is overflowing. Believers are driving, bussing, and flying in from around the country and even other campuses to join. Singer and songwriter Andrew Peterson has even postponed his upcoming performance slated for later this week at Asbury so as not to interrupt the revival unfolding.

Stan Key, Minister at Large with OneWay Ministries, says it is similar to Asbury’s 1970 revival. His father-in-law, Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, was the president of Asbury College at the time (now Asbury University).

“A chapel service on a Tuesday morning in February of 1970 just didn’t end. It just kept going for eight days. These were the days of Vietnam, Woodstock, LSD, these were troubled days and that movement impacted really the nation. Students would go to other campuses, they would go to their local churches and simply share the story of how God had visited the campus. Similar movements of the Spirit — brokenness, repentance, transparency, humility, kneeling in prayer — would happen in other places as well.”

What Is Revival?

Asbury Hall – Photo courtesy of Gerry Dincher via Flickr under Creative Commons

The current movement has many Americans asking: What is revival?

“Jonathan Edwards defined revival as ‘the acceleration and intensification of the normal work of the Holy Spirit,’” Key explains.

Another quote he references is from missionary Norman Grubb: “‘Revival is when the roof comes off and the walls go down.’ In other words, the roof comes off our lives and there’s this awareness of God and His Holiness, particularly, and this sort of vertical dimension that is just palpable.

“But the second thing that happens in, I believe, authentic revival is the walls come down suddenly with our brothers and sisters. We become transparent and very humble. We ask forgiveness [and] reconciliation…. Both of those dimensions are very strong.”

So What About This Revival?

First, it’s important to understand what this revival coming out of Asbury is not.

Key has been in touch with other staff members of OneWay Ministries who have witnessed the revival on Asbury’s campus.

He reports, “The revival at Asbury at least is marked not so much by signs and wonders, or the weirdness that sometimes is attracted — laughing revivals, ‘slain in the Spirit,’ gold dust, and some of these things that we’ve all read about and heard about that claim the name ‘revival.’ I don’t want to sit in judgment on those, but that’s not what’s going on.

“It’s not even associated…with preaching. The chapel sermon last Wednesday was rather nondescript. As I understand it, it was a good message, but people weren’t leaving, saying, ‘Oh my goodness, what a great preacher. What a great sermon.’”

This is also not a political movement. Although there have reportedly been figures appearing on Asbury campus already trying to politicize this revival.

“There are people who want to control revival and use revival,” says Key. “This is not about politics. This is much more radical, much more revolutionary than politics. This is about the human heart.”

This all begs the next question: What defines this revival?

“There are certain themes that are there: The humility, the testimonies…. It’s about brokenness and repentance.”

Photo courtesy of OneWay Ministries

It’s also a movement that could be spiritually defining to this current generation of young people.

“For the 20-something generation [with] much brokenness and pain, I’ve been hearing some of the testimonies of students, and just what they’ve lived through and the issues they face,” Key says. “They’re discovering the presence and power of God’s sanctifying spirit in their lives, and it’s changing.”

The work of sanctification — being made holy in Christ — is described well in the plea of an old 80s hymn by Steve Camp: Revive us O Lord, revive us O Lord, and cleanse us from our impurity and make us holy. Hear our cry and revive us O Lord.

Pray, not just for young people, but for the United States to seek the face of the Lord in obedience and reverence to His will. Pray for this movement of the Holy Spirit to spread out from Asbury University and ignite a new generation passionate for the Gospel.

“That’s what many of us are praying and longing for: That this is not a campus event. That God would move across our nation.”

In conclusion, Key references Isaiah 57:15, which reads:

For this is what the high and exalted One says—
    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.”

This article is reposted with permission of Mission Network News, a ministry of OneWay. OneWay Ministries is a Missio Nexus member.  Member organizations can provide content to the Missio Nexus website. See how by clicking here.

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