Reflections on the Asbury Revival
28 February 2023
I’ve been following the proceedings at Asbury University over the past week or so. First, there was the excellent coverage by a few other writers here at the Daily Declaration. Then I discovered a number of videos posted by certain people who attended, as well as some critics, most of those being people who weren’t there, and from opponents of anything with even a whiff of the Charismatic.
So a few days ago, I felt the Lord was impressing on me the importance of discovering what it was that acted as the catalyst for this.
For those unaware of what’s happened, a small number of students felt compelled to stay behind after their regular midweek chapel service, and ended up on their knees at the front of the chapel, praying and sensing the presence of the Holy Spirit in an unusually powerful way.
Then others who had left got wind of what was happening and hurried back to the chapel and joined the prayer and worship that had eventuated, and continued unabated 24/7 until the university leadership felt it necessary to step in and organise meetings at particular times of the day so that students who were involved in activities like leading worship could get back to their regular round of lectures.
To find out, I realised that I needed to watch the sermon which preceded this, because God was telling me that in that sermon were the seeds that were now sprouting.
But before we start, most people use the term “revival” to describe what’s happening. In my opinion, it has become a term that is so lacking in definition, as it’s applied to anything out of the ordinary. Instead, I propose the term used by Dr Barry Chant in this Canberra Declaration interview: “divine visitation”.
The first thing I noticed was that the preacher’s tone was devoid of histrionics of any kind, or anything that could be accused of being emotional manipulation. It is a truly ordinary sermon in the sense that it’s no different in tone or style to that in your average mainstream denominational service on any given Sunday.
In fact, the preacher himself thought so little of it that he texted his wife after to say that he’d preached a “stinker”!
So here are the excerpts from his sermon that I felt were significant in light of what happened after the meeting officially ended, and is still ongoing.
The sermon was a commentary on Romans 12:9-21:
“Love must be free of hypocrisy. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honour, not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practising hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never repay evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all people.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (NASB)
The first point he drew was that this is “about love and becoming love”. He then asked the question, “Do you love me?” He explained it this way: “The problem with the word ‘love’ is that everyone says it or does it, but without Christ abiding in your spirit, receiving and giving, it’s actually not love. It’s wrong.”
He then noted the fact that there are 30 commands in those 13 verses. He challenged his hearers to weigh up how well they are loving those around them based on those commands. He also expanded that challenge to even consider how they love those who persecute them.
He said, “This is ‘agape’ love”.
He then contrasted that with love that is not genuine, which he described as “radically poor love… it should not even be called love”. He was referring here to any form of abuse carried out by people we may know, or particularly by loved ones.
In the light of what we’ve witnessed following this sermon, and the outpouring of love, with people prostrated before the altar, praying for others, and such fulsome glorifying of God through worship and witness, I see the rest of the sermon reflected in what continued after the meeting ended, and what I believe is at the heart of what God is doing there:
“I am happy to sit here and pray with people. If you have experienced that kind of love, there are leaders on campus who will stay in these seats and pray for you. If you need to hear the voice of God, the Father in Heaven, Who will never love you that way, Who is perfect in love, gentle and kind — you come up here and you experience His love. Don’t waste this opportunity.”
Then he broke off his sermon and prayed into that:
“Jesus, if there are people in this room that feel the weight of that perverted thing that one person called love, would you just alleviate that weight right now. Holy Spirit, would you just move through these rows and love on these people. Jesus, there are people who have experienced hypocritical love in the Church. Holy Spirit, move through these rows and alleviate that. Heal them, Jesus. Show them Your true self. Would they be bold and courageous to ask for further healing and further prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.”
He then referred to the verse, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”, and in relation to this, he said,
“Christian communities aren’t great at this. Rejoicing with those who rejoice feels like, ‘you can’t be prideful’. But what about celebrating one another… celebrating each other’s gifts? What about weeping with those who weep? Do you journey with them? Do you tarry with them?”
From what I’ve seen, this is one of the most significant markers of this visitation, where random groups of people have gathered around others to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep”, whatever the need may be.
In finishing, he said,
“You cannot love until you are loved by Jesus. The only way we can love is as in 1 John 4:7-21. So I want to say, ‘Stop striving… You’ve got to love because you’ve tasted and seen the goodness of God. You have been loved. You have to continually put yourself before Jesus and be loved by Him so you can love others… we must become love in action.
What is the purpose of your love? Who or what are you becoming through this expression of love? Some of us need to sit in the love of God. Some of us need to taste and see and experience the power of the Holy Spirit. Because if you want to become love, if you really want to become love in action, you start by prostrating yourself before the love of God. If you want to become love in action, you have to experience the love of God.
Asbury, the world needs this kind of love. They need a bunch of Christians experiencing the love of God so they can pour out the love of God. Not through their own efforts, and not through their own knowledge, but because they are filled with His love… Become the love of God by experiencing the love of God.”
Again, the one distinctive above all in what has occurred after this sermon is the testimony of the Holy Spirit shedding abroad the Father’s love in such a gentle manner through the ministry of others, through those involved being “love in action”, becoming the love of God. But it appears that the first action was that they “prostrated themselves” before God at the front in prayer, worship and repentance. It was from this being a priority that the prayer groups then started, which had the effect of expanding this outpouring of love and intimacy.
Seeking God’s Face
And from my own perspective, as one who has experienced first-hand the power of the Holy Spirit in previous revivals, such as the overflow from Toronto in the ’90s, with the attendant power manifestations, there is something refreshing and fulfilling in what’s happening here.
And it’s because so many of us became enamoured by the manifestations of power in those revivals, which were in many quarters treated almost like a Charismatic parlour game, that I believe this is the reason why God withdrew His hand then. In that visitation, the power that was unleashed in the Body of Christ was meant to be used to draw those outside the church. Its purpose was to release things like prophetic ministry to the lost, healing and other signs and wonders, for revival to break out in the wider culture. This is, after all, the ultimate purpose of revival. It’s not for our benefit.
In fact, I recall a prophecy by the Canadian prophet Stacey Campbell at the time, where she spoke of the Father who would come home from trips away with gifts for His children, and after a while the children, when they would greet His homecoming, would rush to see what was in His hands instead of embracing Him. So the Father stopped bringing them gifts when He came home. She said the Father was saying, “Seek my face, not My hands”.
So in that respect, I believe that what is happening now is the Father responding to a group of believers who “seek His face”. And this is now spreading to other campuses in an ever-widening arc, with Asbury at the centre, and in the same spirit. If I knew nothing else about this 24/7 meeting, this alone would be enough for me to believe that God is moving to bring about a revival that impacts the broader culture through this kind of devotional intimacy.
In this respect, I’m reminded of the passage in the Song of Solomon 5, where the Beloved Bride is awakened from sleep by the King, and goes out in the streets to search for Him. When she’s accosted by the nightwatchmen who ask her, “What kind of beloved is your beloved, O most beautiful among women?”, she gives witness to His excellence and His beauty: “My beloved is dazzling and reddish, outstanding among ten thousand… He is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend”. (Song 5:10, 16 NASB)
This finds a parallel in 1 Peter 2:9:
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light.”
Here is the purpose of the kind of deep intimacy being preached in this sermon and subsequently manifested in the meetings. It’s that we tell the world about the excellencies of our Beloved, and our own journey from the darkness in which those in the world are still enmeshed, where they work so hard to find fulfilment that’s not possible to find in the fleeting pleasures of this life.
In his closing prayer, he prayed, “Do a new thing in our midst. Revive us by Your love.” I’m sure that anyone with an impartial mind who watched any of the worship videos from the past week or so would agree that the Holy Spirit has honoured that prayer request.
Last year I wrote three articles on revival (1) (2) (3), where I noted:
“God never uses the same kind of circumstances, and no two revival outpourings are similar. The one common denominator in all of them is a burning desire among God’s people to see God bring transformation to the whole culture.”
“This “burning desire” is actually the consequence of an alignment of our heart’s desire with God’s. So we need to understand that this involves two seemingly opposite manifestations. First, God’s grief, longing and mourning for those who don’t know Christ. Second, God’s passion and joy showered down on His beloved as a means of facilitating the first. We need to experience both.”
I believe it is the second that we are seeing in action at Asbury now. We wait to see when and how the first is addressed, so that it can move from divine visitation to a full-blown revival of the culture.
But beyond that, I feel it’s necessary to return briefly to the issue of those critical of this move of God, as there appears to be no shortage of those who, for whatever reason, believe all kinds of weird and wonderful things about this, but especially for those whose narrow theology simply doesn’t allow God to work in this way.
Whether it’s an opposition to women leading (for which I found the best refutation I’ve ever seen was in an article here by Trinity Westlake) or the source of the worship music, because it was from churches like Bethel, Elevation and Hillsong, or even Christians spreading vicious rumours that the leadership had been infiltrated by LGBTQI+ advocates, is irrelevant.
This kind of divisive, and even malicious and dishonest, commentary from people who at best visited to “rubber neck” or to confirm their own theological biases, or at worst hadn’t been there and were just repeating things others had said, should be roundly condemned.
There is no theological viewpoint that can instruct the Holy Spirit on how He can or cannot move within His Body. And there is definitely no theological viewpoint that allows for the spreading of slanderous rumours. Even going to the extreme that if it were true that there were people leading this with unresolved sin of any kind in their lives, it is wrong to call it out from a distance, as is being done by these rumour-mongers. In fact, they’re displaying the same form of abusive “radically poor love” that was referred to in the sermon.
Again, we can only hope that in time this visitation continues to produce the fruit that comes from the kind of gentle intimacy and passion that’s been the hallmark so far, and in this way, the critics are silenced.
Two things we should all be doing in the meantime. First, watch and pray. And second, be jealous for the same experience of deep love and intimacy that’s on display at Asbury.
That’s how visitation grows and becomes revival.
Photo: Relevant Magazine
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Dear Kim, thank you so much for this reflective, sincere appraisal of the events that started in Asbury. I particularly appreciated your taking us back to the ‘mundane’ preach that preceded the events and then to the ‘scriptures’ that the preacher used.
You are so right, if we focus on the ‘presents’ from the father, that will not change us and empower us to change the world, only spending time with Jesus will do that.
Thanks, Jim. Yes, it’s the sheer ordinariness of the worship, typical of just about any denominational Sunday night youth service, which I find most powerful. My take on this is that the kinds of attitudes to things like the Gifts of the Spirit and those attendant manifestations, once the domain of the Pentecostal/Charismatic/Third Wave churches (as was the case with Toronto and Brownsville a bit later), have now, actually in part due to those revivals in the ’90’s, trickled into the mainstream denominations.
So when you speak to people in those denominations today about things like speaking in tongues, prophecy or healing, they’ve lost that fleshly thrill of the unknown and are maturing at such a rate that they are now accepted as either a part of everyday Christian life, or at least given a nod of “I believe they’re possible, just not for me”.
So I think that, as we’re seeing, for example, the manifestation of healing due to prayer (as reported in the video of the interview with Christian movie producer Alex Kendrick – thoughtfully inserted by Warwick Marsh after I sent this through), that this no longer causes a heightened emotional reaction. This, I believe, could ultimately lead to some of the displays of Holy Spirit power similar to the ’90’s, but with a new purity and maturity which can have the kind of culturally transformative effect I mentioned.
Watch and pray!
Letting the Lord love us and receiving that love is then the place where we can then moved by that agape love is way to go as ministers of Christ ..a good reflection of Asbury revival ..visitation..remember the record of Florrie Evans testimony after dealing with the Lord in surrender to the Lord and allowing Him to lead her ….she said in Wales in 1904 ….”I love Jesus Christ with all my heart ” and then travelled with others to share that love and then went as a missionary to India….from Asbury many will share the Love of God that has transformed their lives and take this to many ..we are as Christians as shown in Ephesians 3 vs 16 to 21 to experience together with the saints the Love of God and to be strengthened by Holy Spirit . Yes Romans 12 as ministered at Asbury is worth reflecting on . Blessings
Thanks, Stephen. Great commentary! I hadn’t before heard of Florrie Evans, so I’m Googling her now.
Great article Kim. Thank you.
Thanks Kim……I really appreciate the “cause and effect” you have observed, between the sermon about love (Romans 12), coupled with the prayer/petition at it’s end; and then the answer to that prayer viz Revival! viz Divine visitation.
Yes, Ian, that’s what got me, the “cause and effect”. But then that begs the question: as there’s no shortage of appeals to God to pour out His Spirit and revive us, why does He not do so more often?
I think what I said about the misuse of the charismatic gifts in the ’90’s by many churches is part of the clue. If He just poured it out every time that prayer went up He’d just be a “blessing machine” for our benefit, not for His glory.
So i come back to a phrase I’ve used often in my articles here, “God’s deeply laid plan”. He will always have a plan which includes such visitations, as we’re seeing at Asbury, but like the healing miracles of Jesus in the Gospels, He never does the same thing twice. He always does something different. And as with Asbury, and now other Christian campuses, it will reflect a different aspect of His character and His love.
And the one outcome that should accompany all visitations like this is the response of the Shulammite Woman in Song of Solomon, ” He is wholly desirable. This is my beloved and this is my friend”.
Wow is me. Kim Beazley pinched all my favourite videos for my next Asbury Revival artilce. LOL !!!
Congratulations Kim, on a great article on a very exciting subject!
Indeed it is exciting. But I think you need to speak to the editor, as apart from the sermon video I had nothing to do with the rest
Still, looking forward to any more wisdom you have to add (I think I have one or two articles to add myself).