On Wednesday, Feb. 8, following an ordinary morning chapel service led by Rev. Zach Meerkreebs in Hughes Auditorium at Asbury University, students were encouraged to stay after chapel if they wanted to continue worshiping God.
More than a week later, that worship service hasn’t stopped. As news has spread, Christians from across the country have made pilgrimages to witness what God is doing at the small, multi-denominational university located in Wilmore, Kentucky.
Sarah, a student who attends Asbury University, described the sermon as a “really encouraging and challenging message about love from the book of Romans.”
Meerkreebs encouraged students to sit in the love of God—to taste, see, and experience the power of the Holy Spirit.
“If you want to become love in action, you start by prostrating yourself before the love of God. If you want to become love in action, you have to experience the love of God,” Meerkreebs said. Directly addressing those who are preparing to graduate this year, Meerkreebs added, “Do not graduate and think you are going to do all this stuff in your own strength. Do not leave here before you learn about the love of God and experience the love of God, so you can pour it out, and he will fill you back up.”
“Asbury,” Meerkreebs said, “the world needs this kind of love. Syria and Turkey needs this kind of love. Your mom and dad need this kind of love. The teammates on your team, the people on your floor, Wilmore, Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky, the United States need this kind of love. They need a bunch of Christians to experience the love of God so they can pour out the love of God—not through their own efforts and not through their own knowledge—but because they are filled with his love.”
“I pray that this sits on you guys like an itchy sweater. And when you got an itch, you got to take care of it,” Meerkreebs said.
Sarah shared with Faithit that she was one of the students who stayed after the chapel service and continued to worship, adding, “Something felt different and I couldn’t leave just quite yet.”
Describing what happened next, Sarah said that despite having class right after chapel, she took off her backpack and decided to stay.
“There were maybe 20 students who were there just worshiping Jesus with everything they had, and it was beautiful,” she said, explaining that students “began to pray over each other, and my friends brought in their guitars and started playing and singing too.”
“Jesus has been moving in beautiful ways since the very beginning. The time just absolutely flew that day. I ended up being there for 13 hours straight, not once leaving, because I just couldn’t get enough of it,” Sarah added.
53 years ago, on Feb. 3, 1970, something similar took place in the same auditorium—an event now known as the Asbury Revival of 1970. It began when Dean Custer B. Reynolds invited students to share their testimonies during a chapel service. That revival lasted for 144 hours and resulted in the university canceling classes for a week.
The 1970 revival produced 2,000 Asbury witnessing teams that went to colleges and churches across the nation.
At this same time, on the west coast in the late 1960s and early 1970s, God was bringing people to repentance through what is known today as the “Jesus Movement,” a revival that brought evangelist Greg Laurie to faith and resulted in his becoming a pastor. Laurie’s movie, “Jesus Revolution,” which tells the story of how he came to know Jesus, hits theaters on Feb. 24.
Faithit on Location
Faithit went on location to Asbury University on Wednesday, Feb. 13, seven full days after spontaneous worship began.
Arriving around 9 a.m., the chapel was closed to the public until after 11:30 a.m. so that students could attend their required 10 a.m. chapel service. The university set up two overflow areas on the campus so that non-students could watch the chapel service via video feed. Estes Chapel, the overflow building located across the street from Hughes Auditorium, was standing-room-only when the chapel service began.
Asbury University president Kevin Brown told the packed Hughes Auditorium, “Our hearts are full, because this auditorium is filled with students.”
As Brown welcomed those who don’t attend the university, he shared that what they are experiencing is uncharted territory.
“We have made a discernment as a leadership team, a conscious decision from the start of this moment, for Asbury not to seize what’s happening now as a platform for our school,” he said. “And that’s why we have not live streamed, and we have just asked other guests that have come into this facility to honor that discernment for this present moment.”
Reciting some of Paul’s words from Colossians 3, Brown addressed whether what is happening just a sociological phenomenon.
“Well, on one level, yes, it is,” he said. “We’re human. We’re people. There’s a certain character to this. But at the same time, on another level, I think that something is happening that is not reducible to sociological phenomena alone.”
Brown made clear that there is no political agenda behind what is happening at the university, saying, “The only political agenda is that Jesus is Lord. The only agenda is that we are citizens in the kingdom of heaven…What is happening here isn’t just for us at the university. It’s not an exclusive event. Everyone is invited.”
“Jesus is the kind of Savior that invited people, that if I’m honest, I don’t think they should be invited,” Brown shared. “Jesus is always inviting.”
Brown laughed when addressing whether the event was preplanned.
“No way,” he said. “We are just trying to shepherd and steward and be as hospitable to the Spirit as we know how in real time.”
The president admitted the events that began on Feb. 8 aren’t convenient. Addressing the students, he said, “It’s not convenient for you. It’s not convenient for our university. It’s not convenient for our staff and faculty.”
Noting that several university leaders had been unable to fulfill their normal job functions for the past week, Brown explained, “They’re redeploying their efforts to facilitate and host this special thing. So it’s not convenient.”