On February 8 at Asbury University, a small, Christian college in central Kentucky, the students filed out of their regular 10:00am chapel service. Well, all but a few students. That particular chapel service was on the topic of genuine love from the book of Romans, and several students stayed in the chapel to pray and worship. Word quickly spread around campus that something was going on in that space, called Hughes Auditorium, and it didn’t look like it was ending anytime soon. Worship continued, prayer continued, students began giving testimonies of how God was moving in their lives through this time. This chapel service continued on for 16 days straight, many of them lasting throughout the night. As word spread across news and social media platforms, it drew tens of thousands of people from all over the world to Wilmore, Kentucky, a 2-stoplight town of 6,000.
I live in Lexington, about 20 minutes from Asbury. I first heard about the “revival”, as many were calling it by then, on Friday, February 10 via a text from a friend. “If you have not been to Asbury University Chapel yet, I would go. You just feel warm, holy love. I don’t want anyone to miss. Spirit is tangibly present.” Although I was in the middle of preparing dinner, I felt a sense of urgency to go right then. I call it the urging of the Holy Spirit. My husband had heard about it also, and encouraged me to go. At this point, the word had really only spread to the immediate community surrounding Asbury. This first time I went, I walked into the building with some trepidation about what I would experience. The auditorium was less than half full with mostly community folks and lots of children. Surprisingly few college students. A man was playing the piano and leading worship. Some people were chatting around me. Some were worshipping, some praying. It just seemed like a worship service. I stayed for about an hour and left overall encouraged, but not feeling like I had a major encounter with God.
In the days that followed, the word spread across the country and world like wildfire. Many major news outlets picked it up. Social media platforms were abuzz with a revival at Asbury University. Busses arrived by the handfuls from other colleges as students in surrounding states wanted to be a part of what was going on. Some colleges even started their own multi-day worship services. When Fox News picked up the story and started making plans to be there in person to cover it, the university asked them not to come. They didn’t want any hint of political undertones to what God was doing on campus. Asbury started opening up overflow areas as the number of people increased from hundreds to thousands daily. The lines to get into the auditorium often lasted hours. The testimonies of students were powerful, full of miracles and healings.
The second time I went to Asbury was Thursday, February 16, 8 days into the revival. I arrived at 10:00pm. The campus was packed with people. The university had set up screens with speakers outside. Students were handing out snacks and water to guests. The security had a stronger presence. The line was about an hour to get in, so I opted to head to an overflow area where they were streaming in the main auditorium. Again, I entered into a room of worship, prayer, tears, joy. The worship team was still a group of students from Asbury – nothing flashy. This time, those present in the room were decidedly international. In fact, I have attended church services my whole life and have never been in a place so filled with the diversity I saw here. It was truly breathtaking and beautiful. At 11:00pm, I headed over to the main auditorium and stood in line for about 30 minutes. I struck up conversation with those around me. The girl in front of me, Gabby, had just flown in from London, England to come. She saw it on Tik Tok and wanted to see for herself. The two men behind me drove down from Detroit. Nearly everyone I talked to was in town from outside of Kentucky. More than mere curiosity, they wanted to experience the presence of God and the power of the Holy Spirit. There was a palpable longing, a desire for God among the visitors. Upon entering the main auditorium, I noticed the first 10 or so rows in the front were reserved for college students. The university made it clear that, while they were glad to welcome all those attending, they wanted to focus on the student population first and foremost. I stayed for about an hour among the throngs of worshippers and left once again encouraged.
On February 24, the 10:00am chapel service that began on February 8 concluded at Asbury University. The names for it have included revival, outpouring, awakening, re-awakening and more. However it’s called, something unique and sincere happened on that campus last month. When the news tells us that Gen Z is more depressed, more mentally unstable, more social media addicted and less religious than any other generation, my time at Asbury University gave me hope that God is at work in the lives of the generation coming up. That is, after all, the very definition of a revival: a group of individuals who are revived by God to live more faithfully for Him. Let it be so, in Wilmore, in Talbot County, and around the globe.
Shannon Armbrust, a former resident of a cute downtown home in Easton, now resides in Lexington with her husband and 4 young children.