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10 Questions for an Asbury Revival Participant
We asked Maybe30Bats about his experience at the Asbury Revival.
If you’ve somehow missed out on the cultural phenomenon that is the Asbury Revival, then we definitely have different circles on the Internet. I’ve seen everything from raving affirmations of the Holy Spirit present at the Revival to harsh rebukes of it being a viper’s brood of false prophets. However, most of these blogs, articles, and tweets were posted by those who hadn’t actually been there at all. I wasn’t sure what to believe.
With Checkpoint Church’s global reach online, I wondered if the best course of action might be to reach within our own digital halls and see who might have attended the service. Lo and behold - I discovered one of our LVL2 members - under the username Maybe30Bats - had not only attended the service but had also graduated from Asbury Seminary. I asked if they would be willing to answer some contextual questions so that we could hear more about the subjective experience of this supposedly life-changing moment in American Christianity.
So, take this firsthand account and consider what this Revival might mean for yourself. In our Wesleyan heritage, ask yourself: where is there good being done; how is harm being avoided; and how is growth in relationship with God being seen?
1) What is the context of your experience with the Revival?
Maybe30Bats: As an alumnus of Asbury Seminary (across the street, but independent of the university), I have a kind of casual interest in what goes on in Wilmore. When my friends and I heard about the sense of God's presence there that people kept reporting, we started paying very close attention to what was happening there.
Then the stories I was hearing from old roommates about their spiritual wounds being healed simply by being present in the worship there—along with stories of conversion, repentance, the fact that it had been student-led and spontaneously initiated, the pervasive sense of peace and lack of hype on the ground—they all were pretty loud indicators, to me, that God was in fact doing something there.
It wasn't just another religious emotionalist event. So, I went.
First on Sunday afternoon, immediately after holding services at the church I serve in Asheville, North Carolina, and again on Tuesday afternoon (dCOM [District Committee on Ordained Ministry] made my return a necessity). The reason I returned was because of a question put to me by my dCOM: "How are you bringing that home to the local church?"
I didn't have a good answer for them, and after praying about that, I made my return to Asbury not just to see what God was doing there this time, but to try and find out what God intends for the local church in the wake of this revival of faith.
The reason I returned was because of a question put to me by my dCOM: "How are you bringing that home to the local church?"
What I discovered is that, I believe, we are being called toward ministry among and alongside people who identify themselves as Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha; God has peace for the anxiety-laden and hope for the culturally nihilistic; God has healing for those whose parents and peers have been harmed by the institution of the Church. Because of what I witnessed there, I believe that the first step of that ministry is a faithful and holy Lent, in which we commit ourselves as communities to a lifestyle of tenacious prayer on behalf of these generations, seeking the whole time for means by which we might connect with and support them on their own terms and in ways that are relevant to their expressed needs.
2) What was the most surprising thing that you saw?
Honestly, I wasn't terribly surprised by anything. None of this is out of the realm of expectation if you're looking at revivalistic events like this through the lens of what God has historically done among his people. Spiritual and physical healing, clear calls to ministry, repentance, open and sacrificial support for those in need, widespread testimony, prophetic utterances in partnered prayer, reports of visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the form of a haze, all that stuff is God stuff.
In the life of the Church, it shouldn't surprise us when God does God stuff—and we shouldn't be shocked when we don't experience it directly in other ways, but that's another discussion. Maybe the most striking thing I saw, though, in terms of what happened with the people, was the outpouring of prayer for our youngest generations.
There was a testimony given on the value of travailing prayer (persistent prayer which centers on the things for which God has given us a burden in our hearts), which resulted in no fewer than two thousand people committing to a lifestyle of tenacious and specific prayer for the salvation and holiness of Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha individuals and communities outside the church. The phrase "here's my heart, Lord; break it and give it a voice" was given as an instruction to us, and each person who responded immediately got to work praying for this.
I don't mean to say this in exclusion of the fantastic work we do in the Church to right social wrongs through direct action and support: This kind of prayerful response is one of the most powerful demonstrations of Christian faith that I have seen in public in a long time.
3) What is actually happening there?
It's not anything programmatic. A lot of people have given criticism of the revival saying that all they're seeing happen is singing, but that's not even half the story of what's going on.
There is preaching, spontaneous study of scripture, testimony, prayer, fellowship, confession of sin (privately, among people who trust one another with this vulnerable space); in short, it's every kind of legitimate Christian activity you can think of, all going on more or less simultaneously.
The main platform of events that are going on have been led by students, peacefully and in an orderly way, but there is no schedule being set outside of certain limitations that have been set since after I returned—it's still a school. They still have to get their academic work done.
On the topic of those time & access limitations: It's my opinion that this is not an attempt to "quench the Spirit" as if human beings could actually do anything to stop the Holy Spirit (y'know, the Third Person of the Trinity?) from doing anything he so pleased. The students I've spoken with are getting tired, and some of them are starting to feel . . . raw after having to deal with so much criticism, doubt, and vitriol from less-than-charitable sources. Reducing the access of outsiders to this event is a wise decision, in my view. Let them experience it as participants, rather than mainly as hosts.
4) What separates this from being "just another [blank]?"
I think that the main thing which separates this from being "just another" whatever is that it's not something that was planned by human beings. This happened by the movement of the Spirit of God at the end of a normal chapel service. Why? I have no idea; I don't have to know. I'm not in the business of mechanically reproducing the movement of God—that's not my job. What I do know is that God is changing lives and broadening the horizon of his Kingdom through this event. It's not predicated on my feelings about it—the evidence is in the people and how they are experiencing deep changes in their lives as a result of their meeting with the Lord in this place which has become, for whatever reason, a thin place where heaven and earth are touching.
What I do know is that God is changing lives and broadening the horizon of his Kingdom through this event.
5) What have been the key changes that have happened already?
We're still in the infancy of this thing; it's not even really over yet! What I've seen in my little corner of the world, though, is that people are being deeply encouraged and having their hope for these generations renewed. I cannot overstate the cynicism I have encountered among Christians about the hope they had for anyone under the age of 30—that is changing. Because of what we have seen here, and what I have been privileged to witness, the Christians I know are becoming hopeful again.
6) What do you hope will come from this when all is said and done?
The salvation of the world. But I also hope that for the rummage sale at the church where I serve and in the conversations that I have at my favorite brewery.
Specifically for this, in the short term, I am hoping that we will see the tide begin to turn in our societal hopelessness and anxiety, because of the peace and hope that we have been shown in this revival's sense of God's presence.
7) How can those of us who didn't attend learn from this?
I believe that God is showing us what He intends to do with us in events like this, and it looks like we are going to be in the business of sharing His love, expressing and transmitting His peace and His hope. I also believe that He is calling us to a lifestyle of prayer that refuses to let go; we must be tenacious in our pursuit of humanity's heart, just as our God is.
8) What is the role of the younger generation in this?
Younger generations are absolutely key to what is going on here. It has, from the beginning and all the way through, been led primarily by people who are college-aged. Demographically, that makes sense, at least in the beginning, but it has been intentionally carried through as a defining feature of this revival: The young are prized as leaders in this movement.
9) How have commercialization and co-opting been avoided?
I love this question. There have been multiple "celebrity" pastors and worship leaders who have called or arrived on campus there to extend a hand and take on leadership roles in this event. Every single one of them has been told that they are welcome to see what God is doing here, but the students have the leadership well in hand, with the support of faculty. I know of several sensationalists and exponents of various harmful movements who have been escorted off the property and told in no uncertain terms that their messages of hate are not welcome there.
Every single one of [the celebrity pastors] has been told that they are welcome to see what God is doing here, but the students have the leadership well in hand.
The leadership of this revival has been extremely serious about maintaining its character and integrity from the beginning, and I find it to be highly commendable.
10) How has this been bipartisan?
By filtering out extremists and welcoming the international community, this movement has largely avoided the partisanship we have come to be so deeply plagued by in the U.S. I don't know what else to say, really, because most of the partisanship surrounding this event has been in debate between outsiders who never attended. On the ground, it's not really a thing, as far as I was able to tell.
11) Bonus Q - what's one thing we absolutely must know about this Revival?
This is real. It is happening. God is doing His move-the-mountains thing. The Gospel is being proclaimed and lived. The Gospel—the fact that Jesus Christ defeated sin and death by His death and resurrection, and He wants us along for the journey—is being made evident every step of the way. I'm writing this on Ash Wednesday, so it feels appropriate to say: Repent and believe the Gospel.
So, there you have it - a firsthand account from someone who was physically present at the Asbury Revival of 2023. What did you learn from Maybe30Bats’ testimony at this moment?
I want to invite you to reflect upon them in the comments section down below, but please don’t seek out Maybe30Bats without express permission from him first to discuss this information. As the Pastor of Checkpoint Church, I am sharing this privileged conversation with this community, so let’s keep the conversation here and allow our guest to respond as he deems fit on this post.
All in all, I hope that you will celebrate with us in the midst of this that there are people being empowered with a truth we echo here at Checkpoint every time that we gather.
God loves you.
We love you.
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