Spontaneous Spiritual Revival: Hearts Strangely Warmed at Asbury

On Wednesday, February 8, 2023, some students at Asbury University lingered after the usual morning chapel service to pray a little longer, worship together, and bask in the felt presence of God’s peace and love. More students joined in. Hundreds of hours later they were still meeting, and thousands of pilgrims were on their way to Wilmore, Kentucky, to experience a remarkable, ongoing season of spiritual renewal. The university has called it an “outpouring”; the seminary across the street has referred to it as an “awakening”; the internet has picked it up and called it a “revival.”

We both teach on the other side of the country, in California, but Asbury is a special place for us. Joe grew up in Wilmore and graduated from Asbury College (now University); he and Fred met while earning master’s degrees at Asbury Theological Seminary. So we’ve been monitoring the encouraging reports from our friends and connections in that little town.

Everybody seems to have an opinion about the Asbury revival by now, but a lot of those opinions are simply thoughts on revival in general. Those are important conversations to have. But as Asburians out West, we want to help explain this Wilmore moment with specific attention to its history and context. By connecting a few dots, we hope to make the significance of this revival understandable to outsiders.

Historical Context

Asbury University stands in the Wesleyan tradition, which began as a revival of spiritual life within an established church. The 18th-century movement Americans call the First Great Awakening is known in the U.K. as the Evangelical Revivals. It started as a renewal in the Church of England, driven largely by the preaching of John and Charles Wesley. The transformative preaching of the Wesley brothers and their colleagues started when they went to what looked like ordinary chapel services and found their hearts “strangely warmed,” as John put it. “An assurance was given me that [God] had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.”

John Wesley had an experience of the love of God in Christ, which launched him on a historically powerful ministry, a life of service and proclamation. The students in Wilmore, nearly three centuries later, testify to a similar breakthrough experience of God’s love. As the Methodist movement spread, John Wesley commissioned Francis Asbury to take the work to the American colonies, which he did. As you drive into Wilmore, you pass a statue of Francis Asbury on horseback: the intercontinental link back to the great 18th-century revival is visible.

Excerpt above from FRED SANDERS • JOE HENDERSON article on TGC. Read in fill HERE