This article originally appeared at Baptist News Global on February 21, 2023.
Surprise! It’s a revival!
So said Thomas H. McCall, a theology professor at Asbury Theological Seminary, located adjacent to the ongoing spiritual event at Asbury University in Wilmore, Ky. “Sometimes God does what Johnathan Edwards called ‘surprising work’ and what John Wesley referred to as ‘extraordinary’ ministry,” he recalled.
Patricia Engler of Answers in Genesis reported, “The university’s director of strategic communications … told me the phenomenon has come as a surprise to everyone — including staff.”
But is the protracted season of worship that many are calling “The Asbury Revival” really a surprising movement of the Spirit blowing like a mighty wind? Or was it marketed and manufactured?
Christians across the theological spectrum have reached different answers to these questions. Whether a person is a progressive or a conservative evangelical — or somewhere in between — seems to have little effect on determining opinions about what is happening. Some are skeptical based on differing theology or even triggered from past spiritual abuse, while others are more hopeful or in awe of seeing a long-held dream fulfilled before their eyes.
Despite the differences, many people across the theological spectrum seem to have come to a consensus — only time will tell if what is happening at Asbury University can be considered a “true revival”
Despite the differences, many people across the theological spectrum seem to have come to a consensus — only time will tell if what is happening at Asbury University can be considered a “true revival.”
Those who support calling the event a revival have hailed it as a spontaneous movement of God for repentance toward justice, with no political- or personality-driven agenda. But when we move from speculation about the guitar-strumming students on stage to discussing the facts about who is standing in plain sight right around the corner, serious questions arise.
Francis Chan’s promotional video
One week before the big revival surprise of Feb. 8, a coalition that backs the Collegiate Day of Prayer released a promotional video Feb. 1.
The video starts with a narrator saying, “Fifty years ago, something extraordinary happened on one college campus.”
Then a witness from the time adds: “I thought I had seen everything. But today, I saw something that I have never seen before.”
A news anchor then comments: “It started at 10:00 yesterday morning. It didn’t end at 11:00 yesterday morning. It didn’t end at 11:00 last night. In fact, as Jim and I took the air, it was still going on.”
Then others add: “It all started when one student gave his testimony. That was followed by another. And the testimonies have been going ever since. … And as it spread, people began coming in from all around.”