The Aftermath of the Revival at Asbury University: A Response

On Wednesday, February 8, students at the Asbury University gathered for a chapel service, a service which is a regular part of Christian institutions such as this (formerly known as Asbury Theological Seminary). But this service became different from the routine. What we in the Pentecostal movement would call a “movement of the Holy Spirit” happened among these students most of who are from various Methodist church-related backgrounds. Asbury University’s background was in what was called at the turn of the 20th century the Holiness Movement. Several modern-day Pentecostal denominations trace their lineage to that Movement, most notably the Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee (and the other Church of God movements which split from there) and the Church of God in Christ (the African American Pentecostal Church movement). That said, this movement has not seen anything even remotely close to what happened on February 8 and onwards for about 100 years.

Several students felt the movement of the Holy Spirit so strongly in their hearts and minds that they chose not to leave chapel but rather to stay on their knees in prayer. Some wept. Others began to pray out loudly: “Lord we will not leave unless You touch us!” The number of students swelled, and they were joined by many of the professors and administration as well. No one wanted to call a halt to the service, even for the sake of academics. Not even for lunch and dinner.

For the next two weeks, inside that chapel there was a constant prayer and worship service. As the news began to spread, the little town of Wilmore, Kentucky (where Asbury is located) began to see a traffic of people unlike ever seen in its history. This little of town of about 6000 people was flooded with people with increasing numbers as each day passed from the 8th. Students from 21 college campus in Kentucky, such as the University of Kentucky and Louisville University, began to come to the chapel service at Asbury U-many of them connected with various Christian Bible study groups in clubs. And then as national press began to cover the revival, the numbers swelled to over 50,000.

Obviously, Asbury University, a school with a total population of about 2000 of students and staff, let alone the town of Wilmore could cope with that kind of press of people. But this was not a ball game or some kind of entertainment-oriented event. The chapel which could possibly accommodate a few hundred was packed with people who were praying, crying out to God, confessing sins, interceding and thousands of people were standing in a line, miles long, to share the experience in that chapel, if for only a few moments. (Praise God!)

On Monday, February 20th, the university announced that it was closing the public 24/7 chapel service because of public safety concerns. The town officials were having trouble with traffic as well as public sanitation concerns. “We had authorities who had to redirect traffic away from Wilmore. Our town’s institutions and our town’s infrastructure is just not in a place to absorb the influx of the blessed guests that we have had,” said Asbury University President Kevin Brown.

I believe they are making a mistake. One cannot be unaware of the context of time and circumstances in regard to this revival.

Prior to this revival, there was an incident which underscores the situation in the Methodist churches, as well as in other mainline denominations. Within the last few years, the United Methodists were suffering internal wars over Biblical foundations, theology, doctrine and practices-all revolving around the LGBT/woke agenda which found its way into the denomination. The squabbles became so putrid that the UMC is suffering through a terrible split as hundreds of churches are having to choose between standing with the Bible or going against it under the justification of being relevant under the flag of the woke rainbow. That split is especially pronounced in that churches in Africa and Asia will not accept any compromise with the LGBT/wokeness ideology of prevalent in western Europe and North America.

In Colorado, at the beginning of February, a TikTok video from a woke Methodist church went viral. The “church” is pastored by two white ladies who would be considered the foremost demonstration of the kind of clergy who the woke/LGBT would find most acceptable. The Methodists have a practice of reading their liturgy in their Sunday services and these two women decided to write one to “honor” Black History Month.

“Jesus was not white. He did not speak English. Jesus was not a Christian. He lived as citizen of an occupied nation, and He was part of an oppressed people. Jesus was a refugee who found protection on the continent of Africa, and he experienced mob violence and police brutality.”

Now one who reads that statement may say that it is factual (possibly so) but it is not truthful in the least. On the so-called church website, they stated that they were committed to “exploring progressive Christianity with rich traditions that express the diversity of the Christian Church. Our definition of progressive Christianity is exploring faith by questioning tradition, accepting human diversity, emphasizing social justice and maintain healthy relationships. When you come to (said church), our intellect is not left outside. We create a life-giving theology that includes our experience, reason, biblical values, and traditions of the church.” Furthermore, the church believes in thought outside of the Bible to better understand the message of Jesus Christ. (In other words Jesus Christ would be one among a pantheon of gods; not the one and true God.) Despite their best efforts, there is very little diversity, despite their talk. And intellect is far from there, as is the Bible.

The tens of thousands of people who came to pray at Asbury University cannot be said to have been “using their intellect”. Why would people drive hundreds of miles for a prayer service? And what is it that would prompt the attendees to confess their sins and cry out to God for a special touch? They were not focusing on woke agendas, or psychological homilies. The presence of God was evident, and those people felt it. And like Ewan Roberts in the great revival that took places in Wales over a hundred years ago, they were praying similarly, “Lord bend me!”

It is the only way to save not just denominations which have been taken over by infidels, but also a nation where the fear of God is no longer present to the point that from local legislatures to the federal government, policies that are decidedly anti-Christian are being peddled with no compunction. There are several reasons why I think that the administration of Asbury University are making a mistake (much of which I’ll cover in the next article), but the most important reason is that a revival like this does not come often nor does it come easily.

Some people are drawing comparisons with the revival that took place in the late 1990s at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida-both positive and negative comparisons. Christianity Today praised the fact that the revival in Asbury was not “highjacked by personalities.” I do not understand what they are talking about, and it seems that their major concern is the proverbial elephant in the room for the mainline churches-something akin to “we do not want to be too Pentecostal!” In other words, they do not want the type of revival that happened at Brownsville.

The reactions and responses from the Church world have revealed how far removed the concept of Revival has become from most Christian groups in this country. And when I speak of revival, I am talking about the strong movement of the Holy Spirit among the people of God. The Hebrew word “kabed”-the “heavy” move of the Holy Spirit-captures what happens in revival.

It is hard for people to accept it. To a certain extent, it can be frightening. The Holy Spirit taking control of a service by moving upon the hearts of people so strongly that they desire His presence so fervently to the point that they are experiencing Pentecost (according to Acts 2:4) is something that is not easy to get used to, especially in a generation which according to many in church ministry, can barely sit through an 1 ½ hour service, with barely an attention span for a 25 minute sermon! We are seldom ready for such a move of the Holy Spirit, and quite often, the people who should be in the forefront (namely the pastors) are unprepared when it comes.

The situation of the Assemblies of God when that powerful move of God happened was a painful one. In 1990, the AG declared their “Decade of Harvest”, but that period began in the aftermath of scandals that destroyed two of the most renowned preachers associated in the denomination (and the Pentecostal movement) and left a scar on the wider church world as well. Friends of mine within the Assemblies of God as well as other Pentecostal movements told me of the difficulties that their denominations faced.

People tend to forget that Pentecost is an experience for us first and only association/denomination second. The AG as well as other denominations were not just hemorrhaging in the numbers of people, but more importantly in the numbers of people who had the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. And yet God always has a remnant of people who discern the times and enter into intercessory prayer. Pastor John Kilpatrick of Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, Florida was one of those people.

Five years later, beginning on Father’s Day Sunday at Brownsville First Assembly of God, as Evangelist Steve Hill (who passed away in 2014) began to preach and the Spirit of God fell on the service, and therein began the revival where in the next five year over 2 million people came through that church. Just like at Asbury, there was worship and weeping at the altar. Six days a week, there were services which stretched from the afternoon into the evening. Steve Hill preached in most of those services. Powerful conviction led to powerful conversions and repentance with hundreds taking water baptism. Multitudes received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in other Tongues.

With all that happened, it is a miracle that that revival lasted five years. Church leaders had difficulty with it. This revival was happening in a local church, not at the national headquarters in Springfield, Missouri and the criticisms were enormous. Some people complained about the hundreds of thousands of people making the long journey to Pensacola for the Revival. Some mocked the preaching style of Steve Hill as being “old-fashioned”, “ignorant” and/or “too sharp”. Others decried the “excesses” of the signs and wonders, as well as any kind of demonstration of them. In time, Pastor John Kilpatrick, Evangelist Steve Hill, Dr. Michael L. Brown, and worship leader Lindell Cooley would leave Brownsville AG as the revival waned and the practical concerns of running a church became the major focus of much of the board. I cannot say that there were not legitimate concerns, but the fact is that in five years over 2 million people of every stripe and age came in through the doors of that church in Pensacola, Florida and were touched in a special way by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Institutionalizing Revival is for the next article!)

When the revival passed and the preachers who were associated with it were gone from the church, what was the result? What is the situation of Brownsville AG now?

According to one recent account, there is barely a small contingent for a Wednesday night prayer service. No longer is the parking lot full to overflowing. There is no press of people with a desire to enter into intercessory prayer. No more are there prying journalists or religious “secret service people” looking to run exposes of services. No more controversial personalities. And no more testimonies of supernatural conviction leading to repentance of some of the worst kind of sinners. No more “crazy” demonstrations in the baptistery, or anywhere else. Just an average church where folks go out of their way not to “cause ripples” rather than having “hell’s foundations quiver.”

This is not to say that there is not a significant group of people there at Brownsville Assembly today, or to imply that they are bad people or devoid of the Holy Spirit. The services still have a touch of God, and they have outreach ministries to the local community. People may still come to the altar after a service. But… they have become “average”.

I wonder if we are paying attention to the signs of the times all around us. Satanism being celebrated in public. Cancel Culture becoming a norm in the arts and sciences. Mainline denominations sacrificing cardinal Christian doctrine for the sake of being relevant to the woke world. Mutilation of children peddled in the name of gender dysphoria/affirmation and being sold to children in elementary school. And for a segment of this nation, all this seems completely normal. The leaders of the land of lost all perspective and will do just about anything to acquire power and popularity. And the entertainers of our time are proving true the old-time preachers’ assertion that people in that industry have sold their souls (and their brains) to the devil. An “average” church, an “average oriented” denomination cannot face the demon powers behind these problems today.

Are we willing to accept all of this and not understand that this is a spiritual war in which much of the church world has little or no power to face the powers of darkness which are running rampant across the land?

In the left leaning states of this country, there is a seemingly a visceral hatred of the true Church, to the point that politicians in the local, state, and national level are peddling policies of sheer insanity and with the intention of driving out, or silencing behind closed doors, anyone who has any kind of Biblical Christian testimony or background, all the while Christian television has have nothing but people with sugar-coated smiles and soft, self-help homilies and go out of their to “not rock the boat.”

Revivals and Revivalists always “rock the boat”. In fact, at times they seem to shake heaven and earth!

Leonard Ravenhill-the famous revivalist of the last generation wrote the book Why Revival Tarries. It was not a question but rather a declaration on why the modern Church world so often misses the moment of revival, or mistakes that moment for something other than what the Holy Spirit would have it be, at that moment. I could understand why some people (myself included) who read the book and heard Ravenhill preach would come to the conclusion that he and other likes him such as David Wilkerson and Oswald J. Smith were men who were purposely contradictory, ornery, and difficult when it came to the topic of revival, as well as to the Church as whole.

The late great evangelist to Africa, Dr. Reinhard Bonke, once said that “revivalist” is not one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and he was right. But time and time again God would raise up such individuals for the home front-like those ‘revivalists’. Men with such a powerful, cacophonic message, to shake the Church from its lethargy and complacency. Ironically, one of the people who Leonard Ravenhill made a profound impact on was young music prodigy from the hippie generation in California named Keith Green. (Ravenhill later conducted his funeral.)

Keith Green, the late Christian singer/evangelist of the late1970s and the early 1980s was the product of another major revival-The “Jesus Movement”-a revival which ended up sharply dividing the church, but some of the notable individuals associated with it were saved and salvaged because some mature, anointed servants of God took a chance with these children-like Ravenhill did with Green.

In the latter years of his life, Green moved with his family and his ministry from California to Lindale, Texas where a few of the Revivalists had also settled-like Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson. (I remember reading accounts of how Keith and his wife Melody-along with their small children-would attend Bible studies at the Ravenhill and Wilkerson homes! It almost seemed bizarre to think about it!) The impact that Ravenhill had on Green changed his life and ministry in a multitude of ways. A passion for Holiness, experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit, a heart for unreached souls in this nation and around the world, worship-the last four years of Keith Green’s life and ministry exemplified all of this.

Green had publicly announced to the Contemporary Christian music world that he would no longer be charging money for his records or entrance into his concerts. Everything was for ministry and every “concert” would instead be a crusade type service. The concerts were no longer for entertainment. If someone snapped a picture of him on the stage, Green would often go off on the person shouting that it was a sin of idolatry. Two of Keith’s friends and fellow Christian artists, Randy Stonehill and Phil Keagy, released a song called ‘We are His hands, We are His voice’. Keith retorted, “I am God’s elbow!” To those who knew this young man and his testimony of coming to Christ, that was an understatement. He was serious enough about this stage of his life to start Last Days Ministry and teaming up with Youth With a Mission and use his ranch home in Lindale as a place to bring youth (like a commune-another trait of some lives who got saved in the Jesus Movement) and mentor them to a passionate faith in Jesus Christ.

In 1978 he released an album called No Compromise in which was a song called Asleep In the Light. The Song, like many of his other singles was written during a time of personal devotion and it captured a prophetic call from the Holy Spirit to the Church. I put the lyrics of that song at the end of this article in the hopes that those who read will surrender themselves to the Lord and pray fervently for revival to break out everywhere-especially in the aftermath of the revival in Asbury University:

Do you see? Do you see?
All the people sinking down?
Don’t you care? Don’t you care?
Are you gonna let the drown?
How can you be so numb?
Not to care if they come.
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done

“Oh, bless me Lord, bless me, Lord”
You know, it’s all I ever hear
No one aches, no one hurts
No one even sheds one tear
But, He cries, He weeps, He bleeds
And He cares for your needs
And you just lay back and keep soaking it in

Oh, can’t you see it’s such sin?
Cause He brings people to your door
And you turn them away
As you smile and say
“God bless you, be at peace”
Ad all Heaven just weeps
Cause Jesus came to your door
You’ve left Him out on the streets

Open up, open up
And give yourself away
You see the need, you hear the cries
So how can you delay?
God’s calling and you’re the one
But like Jonah, you run
He’s told you to speak but you keep holding it in

Oh, can you see it’s such sin?
The world is sleeping in the dark
That the Church just can’t fight
Cause it’s asleep in the light
How can you be so dead
When you’ve been so well fed?
Jesus rose from the grave
And you, you can’t even get out of bed

How can you be so numb
Not to care if they come?
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
Don’t close your eyes, don’t pretend the job’s done

Come away, come away
Come away with me, my love
Come away from this mess
Come away with me, my love
Come away from this mess
Come away with me my love
Come away, come away, oh
Come away with me my love.

I could not put it better.

On a closing note, I took a walk around our church building here in Dallas. If there ever was a building that was strategically built for a Revival, this would be the place…and we would never shut down, as long as the Holy Spirit would be present! O God, please do it!