By Walter Fenton
“When I first entered the balcony, I had a moment where I couldn’t breathe—there was a weight in the room, like a barometric pressure difference. It took a moment to adjust,” writes a professor and pastor about the widely reported revival at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. “We so often forget that our physical bodies are not separate from our spiritual selves. When God appears in powerful ways, we are physically affected by what is happening in our spirits.”
In a stirring and thoughtful essay published in Firebrand Magazine, the Rev. Dr. Suzanne Nicholson, a Professor of New Testament at the school, shares her thoughts about the revival sweeping her campus and spreading to others around the U.S. Nicholson is just the latest of many to offer a firsthand account of the revival. It has also garnered the attention of national newspapers and major broadcast networks.
Nicholson confesses she was not sure what to make of the reports of revival breaking out in the auditorium just above her office. But then she writes, “On the second day of the revival I went up to the balcony of Hughes Auditorium to let God do the soul work I so desperately needed. As I sat and listened to the worship, I wept as God lifted my burdens, and I rejoiced at the sweet, gentle Spirit of the Lord. This was not what I had expected when I heard students running down the hallway the day before proclaiming, ‘There’s a revival going on upstairs!’ Stereotypes of big personalities and manufactured power had filled my mind earlier, but this was so very different. This was a tender and beautiful outpouring of the Spirit.”
This is not the first time a revival has broken out at the non-denominational Christian school just south of Lexington, Kentucky, and right across the street from Asbury Theological Seminary. Among other revivals on the university’s campus, the “Great Revival” of February 1970 happened in the same auditorium and lasted for eight days.
However, unlike the 1970 revival, people all over the world learned about the present one within hours as students shared testimonies and bore witness to what was happening via social media. Within days, people were traveling to the school to join with the students or simply to witness such a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Earlier this week, police officers were politely turning away all but residents of Wilmore; the small town, with just two stop lights and a handful of restaurants, was filled to overflowing.
“We celebrate the movement of God at Asbury University which has spread to so many other places around the world. As I have read testimonies, viewed videos, and watched the livestream, I have been filled with great joy, praising God for what He does through a simple gathering of God’s people,” said the Rev. Keith Boyette, the Global Methodist Church’s Chief Connectional Officer. “Our fervent prayer is that this Divine Moment will result in millions of encounters with the God who sets captives free, and energizes fresh moves of God in our homes, churches, the streets of our communities, and throughout the world.”
The school’s leadership has responded to the revival with support for its students and as much hospitality as possible for the thousands wanting to join them in an auditorium that can only accommodate approximately 1,500 people. Administrators have encouraged professors to be flexible with students regarding classroom attendance and assignments. It has also set-up portable bathrooms for campus visitors waiting to gain entrance to the auditorium. And everyone at Asbury University has welcomed the assistance it has received from people throughout the community: from the seminary across the street, to the churches in the area, and on to the town’s civic and business leaders.
Nicholson believes the revival “is meant to revive us for a purpose.” She calls attention to the devastating earthquakes in Syria and Turkey, where the loss of life nears 50,000, and hundreds of thousands are now homeless. And she notes that is just one tragedy where people are suffering and are in great need.
“God calls us to perfect love of both God and neighbor,” she writes. “If we keep this refreshing Spirit to ourselves, then we have missed the point. God has given us shalom—wholeness and healing and flourishing—so that we can bring the love of God to others. If we proclaim the love of Jesus but do not demonstrate God’s love by helping the poor and destitute, then we are nothing but a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Corinthians 13:1). God forbid that we turn these songs of praise into nothing more than a noisy interruption.”
Rev. Walter Fenton is the Deputy Connectional Officer for the Global Methodist Church.
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