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Reflections on the 2023 Asbury Revival and its Implications for Pentecostal Christians

Here we are post-pandemic, surprised and encouraged by a move of God in the campus of Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. The revival (or renewal as some call it) started on February 8, 2023, during the school’s chapel service and went on for fifteen days. Basically, it was fifteen days of 24-hour prayer and worship. The university, through it all, did not cancel its classes. The revival became famous because among others, New Testament scholar, Craig Keener, who teaches in Asbury Seminary, posted about it on Facebook. There were mixed global responses to this revival—some positive, some cautious, while others quite skeptic. Regardless, it is a historical evocative phenomenon that triggered excitement, reflection, and questions. Perhaps the most asked question is: what is a revival?

The struggle with precise definitions of revival comes from the fact that the nouns “revival” or “awakening” as we use it today, are extrabiblical. What we read in the Bible are active verbs like “revive” in Psalm 85:6 “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (c.f. Habakkuk 3:2, Psalm 119:25), “filled” in Acts 2:4 “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them,” or “awake/arise” in Ephesians 5:14 “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”[1] There are more related words, but most of them are verbs connected to this idea of God revitalizing his people whether in their religious affections, in their vocational call as witnesses, in their spiritual health, and even in their relationship with God and with their neighbors.

Revival is defined as the spontaneous act of God in revitalizing Christianity.

Because many “revival” phenomena have occurred throughout Christian history, contemporary Evangelical Christians, which we Pentecostal Evangelicals belong to, have defined these events in particular terms as: revival, renewal, and revivalism. Revival is defined as the spontaneous act of God in revitalizing Christianity. For example, the modern Pentecostal Revival is considered a revival because 100 years after its polycentric occurrence, global Christianity has reversed secularism in many parts of the world and restored what we Pentecostals call ‘apostolic spirituality’.[2] To date there are more than 600 million Pentecostals in the world, making it the 4th major tradition in Christianity.[3] Renewal is defined as the reinvigoration of Christian spirituality at the individual level, and the reinvigoration of historic Christian churches at the global level, both through the superintendence of the Holy Spirit. For example, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal as it exists today is the outgrowth of the Duquesne prayer meeting in 1967. Many mainline Protestant churches now consider the Holy Spirit as the sine qua non of Christian life. Revivalism on the other hand is the preparation for and deliberate cultivation of revival experiences. There are two types of revivalism. First is the Protestant Evangelical revivalism represented by the likes of Charles Finney and Dwight L. Moody, whose revival meetings were evangelistic and aimed at mass conversion.[4] Second is the Pentecostal/Charismatic revivalism with its revivalist spirituality of search-encounter-transformation.[5] A representative of this type of revivalism is Catch the Fire (previously known as Toronto Vineyard Church), the epicenter of the Toronto Blessing Revival. After experiencing a revival in the mid-90s, they have continued to cultivate revival experiences with the goal of experiencing God’s manifest presence which may result in ecstatic epiphenomena, and spiritual healing.

Latham’s typology on the six senses of revival can help us understand the different revival encounters the church experiences today:

R1 A spiritual quickening of the individual believer

R2 A deliberate meeting or campaign especially among Pentecostals to deepen the faith of believers and bring non-believers to faith.

R3 An unplanned period of spiritual enlivening in a local church, quickening believers  and bringing unbelievers to faith.

R4 A regional experience of spiritual awakening and widespread conversions (e.g. the Welsh, Hebridean, East African and Indonesia revivals, and possibly Pensacola in    the 1990s).

R5 Societal or cultural “awakenings” (e.g., the transatlantic First and Second Awakenings).

R6 The possible reversal of secularization and “revival” of Christianity as such.[6]

This typology presents a wide semantic range of the term “revival” which is more appropriate for what’s really going on in the global church. This typology tells us that revivals today come in different shapes and forms, and that most often, what we experience in our Pentecostal churches are results of revivalism, or deliberate cultivation of revival experiences. The Asbury Revival, if we look at it from this semantic range, would fall under R3. Although we have heard testimonies that said they were praying for a revival at Asbury beforehand, it was an unplanned event and it did enliven the students, neighboring campuses, and led to the revitalization of student led prayer movements all over the nation.

A first-hand participant of the Asbury revival, Madison Pierce, testified via Facebook on February 15, 2023. Here’s an excerpt of the testimony:

The movements of the spirit in western evangelicalism always exist in the middle of a cultural moment. A generous interpretation of these movements reveals unique traits for each one. For example, fervor for the great commission at the Mt. Hermon Conference, overwhelming joy in Toronto Outpouring, zeal for the lost in Brownsville Revival, acts of healing at the Kansas City awakening, and manifestation of tongues at the Azusa Street revival. In each move of the spirit, God clearly manifests in a specific way for that generation. I find it interesting that God would mark this outpouring with:

A tangible sense of peace for an [sic] generation with unprecedented anxiety.

A restorative sense of belonging for a generation amidst an epidemic of loneliness.

An authentic hope for a generation marked by depression.

A leadership emphasizing protective humility in relationship with power for a generation deeply hurt by the abuse of religious power.

A focus on participatory adoration for an age of digital distraction.

It feels as if God is personally meeting young adults in ways meaningful to them. My generation was formed differently then [sic] previous generations and so the traits of this revival are different then revivals of old.[7]

For Pierce, the revival was timely for his generation. After a pandemic that brought fear of disease, anxiety, isolation, depression and grief, the younger generation has been asking for authentic encounters with God.

I would suggest that it was humility, repentance, and a desire to love God and neighbor that started the revival.

What’s more interesting is that just before this revival, Zach Meerkreebs, the preacher for the chapel service on February 8, 2023, preached about God’s love.[8] His challenge for the students was to not graduate from Asbury without a genuine experience of God’s love, so that in return they can be channels of that love. He also paused during his preaching to pray for the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of students who were victims of the wrong kind of love. After the chapel, a few students stayed behind to pray. As those remaining students prayed, witnesses claim that the atmosphere of the chapel changed. There was a sweetness, gentleness, and peace and it attracted other students to join in on the prayer and worship. I would suggest that it was humility, repentance, and a desire to love God and neighbor that started the revival.

Although I evaluate this revival at the R3 level, we still don’t know its long-term effect. Who knows with the reinvigoration of student led prayer movements and the varied campus revivals around the nation, this revival may reach all the way to R6? We look forward to seeing its long-term effect.

To experience revival: we need humility, repentance, and a recognition that we will never stop needing God.

This leads us to an important mark of a genuine Spirit-empowered revival: deep long-term effect of wholeness and witness. The Holy Spirit is always known for his effect, his fruit. Because the Holy Spirit is the spirit of the common good, the spirit of love, one can recognize his work from how he transforms individuals, neighborhoods, and nations. It is God’s goal for his people and his communities to be made whole by his love, not fragmented by sin, not lost or anxious, held together by his grace, and moving forward to being who they are created to be. Out of our wholeness comes a recentering into the will and passion of God, which is mission. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit on a mission—he advances God’s kingdom, breaking all kinds of barriers, and bringing all creation back into his original intent. Our role in this process is to be his witnesses, proclaiming to the world that only in God, through Jesus and the Holy Spirit, can all creation be reconciled to the Creator. Thomas McCall, one of the professors of Asbury seminary said: “We are made to be creatures of worship and we are never more alive, never more whole, never more fully ourselves when we are no longer looking at ourselves but looking to God and to neighbor.”[9]

In conclusion, revival is the spontaneous act of God in revitalizing his people and recentering us to his will, his love, and his passion. When the human “I” becomes less, and the eternal “I AM” becomes greater, the result is a restoration of wholeness and witness. The 2023 Asbury revival is just a reminder from God that he is still in control, and he is not done yet.

Let me end this essay by sharing Esther Jewel Holmes Shin’s testimony from her experience at Asbury. She posted it on Facebook on February 22, 2023. Here are excerpts of what she posted:

At Asbury people were delivered from demons, physical healings were taking place, repentance was a real thing, people were being saved. But mostly I heard testimonies of people who are experiencing internal healing.

A sense of belonging to those who feel alone. A sense of peace and hope to those struggling with mental health issues. People are being healed from social anxiety, PTSD, depression, trauma, panic attacks, and internal hurt from abuse of all types (religious, sexual, physical and power abuse.) All without hype or pressure. Just the gentle kindness of God’s love healing and restoring all things…

Truthfully, it was hard to leave…But we had responsibilities at home, and we needed to head out. But the beautiful thing with God is that he is not limited by geographic location. He is with us in our home. And I feel his presence more today than I have in a long, long time. I know everybody cannot drive to Asbury. But I promise you, no matter where you are located, if you will humble yourself and pray, God will be there. God is not pushy. He will not fill a space that has not been offered. But if you will make space for him in your heart (with your affection, thoughts, and time) He will gently, kindly, mercifully fill whatever space you have offered him.[10]

We don’t need to go to Asbury because our homes and our churches can be our sacred spaces. What we need is humility, repentance, and a recognition that we will never stop needing God. Let us not want revival for the sake of revival, but let us want God, desire God, and in humility lay flat on our face and pray: “Lord, have mercy on us. Take center stage in our lives and in our churches. Restore us to wholeness and embolden us to be your witnesses, so that the earth be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the water covers the sea (Habakkuk 2:14).”





[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture is taken from the New International Version (NIV).

[2] Harvey Gallagher Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century (Addison-Wesley Pub., 1995).

[3] Douglas Jacobsen, The World’s Christians: Who They Are, Where They Are, and How They Got There (Chicester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2011).

[4] David W. Bebbington, “What Is Revivalism?,” Christianity Today, 1990,

[5] Mark J. Cartledge, “‘Catch the Fire’: Revivalist Spirituality from Toronto to Beyond,” PentecoStudies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements 13, no. 2 (2014): 225.

[6] Cartledge, “Catch the Fire,” 225.

[7] Madison Pierce, “I’m hesitant to post my thoughts on what’s happening in Wilmore. A few of you may have heard about the “Revival” at Asbury University.” Facebook, February 15, 2023, (Accessed April 11, 2023).

[8] Zach Meerkreebs, “The Chapel Service that Launched the Asbury Revival 2023,” YouTube, (Accessed April 11, 2023).

[9] Thomas McCall, “Reflections on the Outpouring-Dr. Thomas McCall,” YouTube, March 11, 2023. (Accessed April 11, 2023)

[10] Esther Jewel Holmes Shin, “So why was 4 days of driving to and from Asbury worth it? I will do my best in this post to communicate when I saw and heard during my time at Asbury,” Facebook, February 22, 2023. (Accessed April 11, 2023).

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2023

About the Author: Lora Angeline Embudo Timenia, M. Th., is a Filipino Pentecostal scholar ordained with the Philippine General Council of the Assemblies of God. Currently, she serves as a regular faculty of the Asia Pacific Theological Seminary and adjunct faculty of Bethel Bible College of the Assemblies of God. She also serves as Accreditation Committee secretary of the Asia Pacific Theological Association. She is the author of Third Wave Pentecostalism in the Philippines: Understanding Toronto Blessing Revivalism's Theology of Signs and Wonders in the Philippines.

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