A ‘surprising work of God’ in Asbury chapel

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Joel News International Edition # 1291, February 16, 2023

See also: Fresh Outpouring at Asbury University


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A ‘surprising work of God’ in Asbury chapel


Fresh Outpouring at Asbury University
Renewal Journal – a chronicle of renewal and revival: www.renewaljournal.com

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A service at a college chapel in Kentucky has ballooned into a nonstop prayer and worship session that some are calling a ‘revival’. People are traveling thousands of miles to take part in it after seeing viral videos on social media.

Asbury Theological Seminary professor Tom McCall writes about what happened on Wednesday, February 8, and continues:

Most Wednesday mornings at Asbury University are like any other. A few minutes before 10, students begin to gather in Hughes Auditorium for chapel. Students are required to attend a certain number of chapels each semester, so they tend to show up as a matter of routine.

But this past Wednesday was different. After the benediction, the gospel choir began to sing a final chorus – and then something began to happen that defies easy description. Students did not leave. They were struck by what seemed to be a quiet but powerful sense of transcendence, and they did not want to go. They stayed and continued to worship. They are still there.

I teach theology across the street at Asbury Theological Seminary, and when I heard of what was happening, I immediately decided to go to the chapel to see for myself. When I arrived, I saw hundreds of students singing quietly. They were praising and praying earnestly for themselves and their neighbors and our world – expressing repentance and contrition for sin and interceding for healing, wholeness, peace, and justice.

‘Some were praying, others were lying prostrate’

Some were reading and reciting Scripture. Others were standing with arms raised. Several were clustered in small groups praying together. A few were kneeling at the altar rail in the front of the auditorium. Some were lying prostrate, while others were talking to one another, their faces bright with joy.

They were still worshiping when I left in the late afternoon and when I came back in the evening. They were still worshiping when I arrived early Thursday morning – and by midmorning hundreds were filling the auditorium again. I have seen multiple students running toward the chapel each day. By Thursday evening, there was standing room only. Students had begun to arrive from other universities.

The worship continued throughout the day on Friday and indeed all through the night. On Saturday morning, I had a hard time finding a seat; by evening the building was packed beyond capacity. Every night, some students and others have stayed in the chapel to pray through the night. And the momentum shows no signs of slowing down.

‘Asbury has an extensive history with revivals’

My colleague Steve Seamands, a retired theologian from the seminary, told me that what is happening resembles the famous Asbury Revival of 1970 he experienced when he was a student. That revival shut down classes for a week, then went on for two more weeks with nightly services. Hundreds of students went out to share what happened with other schools. But what many don’t realize is that Asbury has an even more extensive history with revivals – including one that took place as early as 1905 and another as recent as 2006, when a student chapel led to four days of continuous worship, prayer and praise.

Many people say that in the chapel they hardly even realize how much time has elapsed. It is almost as though time and eternity blur together as heaven and earth meet. Anyone who has witnessed it can agree that something unusual and unscripted is happening.

As an analytic theologian, I am weary of hype and very wary of manipulation. I come from a background (in a particularly revivalist segment of the Methodist-holiness tradition) where I’ve seen efforts to manufacture ‘revivals’ and ‘movements of the Spirit’ that were sometimes not only hollow but also harmful. I do not want anything to do with that.

And truth be told, this is nothing like that. There is no pressure or hype. There is no manipulation. There is no high-pitched emotional fervor. To the contrary, it has so far been mostly calm and serene. The mix of hope and joy and peace is indescribably strong and indeed almost palpable – a vivid and incredibly powerful sense of shalom. The ministry of the Holy Spirit is undeniably powerful but also so gentle.

‘There is an inexpressible sweetness to it’

The holy love of the triune God is apparent, and there is an inexpressible sweetness and innate attractiveness to it. It is immediately obvious why no one wants to leave and why those who must leave want to come back as soon as they can.

I know that God moves in mysterious ways; Jesus tells us that the Spirit blows where it wills (John 3:8). And sometimes God does what Jonathan Edwards called “surprising work” and what John Wesley referred to as “extraordinary” ministry. I know that these are no replacement for the long road of discipleship. But our Lord promises that those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” will be filled. Hopefully this encounter will have real-life implications in society too, in the same way the Second Great Awakening was pivotal to bringing about the end of slavery in our country.

Source: Tom McCall, CT

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