Is Revival Breaking Out at Asbury University?

by Ken Ham on February 17, 2023
Featured in Ken Ham Blog

Over the past few days, we’ve been asked for our opinion on what’s been called a revival at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky (south of the Ark Encounter). So, what’s going on? Is it revival, is it sincere, is it something else? Well, we asked one of our staff members, Patricia Engler, to go to Asbury and check it out. Below are her thoughts on what’s taking place.

Patricia has a special interest in Christian students and their stand for the Lord, having backpacked around the world to interview Christian students on how they survived their secular education. Here is Patricia’s summary of what’s been happening at Asbury.

As Christians, we’re called to make God’s Word the starting point for thinking about everything, including news of revivals. Thankfully, God’s Word offers key guidance for discerning the nature of new movements and messages. On the one hand, Scripture indicates that we can expect “moves of God” to unfold as history’s conclusion approaches (e.g., Acts 2:16–18). On the other hand, the Bible is equally clear that false teachers will increasingly arise, working deceptive wonders (Matthew 24:24). How can we tell the difference? Jesus answered, “You will recognize them by their fruits.”1

As Christians, we’re called to make God’s Word the starting point for thinking about everything, including news of revivals.

If a movement is of God, it will bear fruit in keeping with his Spirit rather than “the works of the flesh” (see Galatians 5:17–26). The movement’s impact will also be long-lasting and unstoppable, rather than fading with little evidence of “fruit in keeping with repentance” (Acts 5:38; Matthew 3:8). Moreover, the movement’s central aspects will never conflict with God’s Word, for God does not contradict himself.

From this biblical foundation, we can gain further insights by paying attention to hallmarks of past movements marked by a genuine outpouring of God’s Spirit—in other words, revivals. Revival, as the name suggests, involves God revitalizing his church in a way that it can’t help but impact the surrounding society. The resulting fruits in these movements include widespread repentance, clarified focus on the kingdom of God, and renewed unity among believers. Signs of these hallmarks don’t guarantee a revival is happening, but they are consistent with revival.

So, is revival happening at Asbury? That’s what I went to investigate. Armed with what I hoped was a prayerful attitude of both openness and discernment, I reached the campus around 8:30 a.m. on February 15, 2023. Entering Hughes Auditorium, I saw about 150 people mainly sitting and listening as a worship leader sang choruses at the piano. Visitors above age 25 left the auditorium from 9:00–11:30 to allow students to enter for the scheduled chapel service, which I was able to watch from another building. Once back outside, I found two huge lineups of additional visitors gathered, waiting to enter Hughes.

I managed to reenter the auditorium before it filled, even as the lineup continued lengthening behind me. Inside, I reached the balcony and observed the crowd’s mixed responses. Many people stood or sat in postures of focused worship—some praying, some lifting hands, some reading their Bibles. Others sat, appearing disengaged—talking with others around them or gazing at their phones. Meanwhile, at the front, a leader played acoustic guitar while leading the worshippers in song.

Many visitors to this auditorium over the last week have reported experiencing a strong sense of the Holy Spirit’s presence, complete with indescribable peace. I don’t doubt these reports, especially in light of Scripture’s indication that peace follows a posture of prayer (Philippians 4:6–7), that God graciously gives the Holy Spirit to those who ask (Luke 11:9–13), that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3), and that Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them” (Matthew 18:20). By God’s grace, I’m familiar with the Holy Spirit and have tasted the sweetness of his presence many times. Personally, I was not struck with an overwhelming sense of his presence in the auditorium; however, I had come primarily as an investigator rather than a worshipper.

Clearly, the worship was not meant to be a show—no smoke, no mirrors, nobody obviously trying to stir up hype. Equally clear was that the movement had not been manufactured. As the university’s Director of Strategic Communications later told me, the phenomenon has come as a surprise to everyone—including staff, who are regularly meeting for prayer to discern how to best steward the movement.

How did the movement begin, and what fruits have resulted so far? I was able to chat with a couple of students to find answers from their perspectives. The worship movement began, they explained, with a normal chapel service on Wednesday, February 8. After a presentation in a series of messages about “Love in Action,” the speaker offered students an invitation to stay and pray after chapel dismissed, similar to how some churches allow congregants to remain for a time of informal prayer after service dismissal. A number of students did stay—and didn’t leave. Someone began worshipping, others joined in, and still others began returning and staying.

When I asked the first student what fruit, or impacts, she had seen so far, she replied, “There’s just such a sense of unity. Like, we’re coming together. We’re praying for each other. We’re worshipping together. We’re reconciling. We’re serving each other in a way I’ve never seen before.” The other young person I spoke with conveyed that students have been much more open to talking about their faith in a way she’s never seen before—not just debating certain denominational issues but returning to more God-focused conversation.

It’s clear that something has been happening which started with students voluntarily spending time with God.

“Is there anything else you want people to know?” I asked the first student. She replied, “I feel like we’re reaching this stage where a lot of people are coming and seeing, which is great. Come and experience Jesus, but also recognize he is where you are. And the Holy Spirit is where you are. And he will meet you where you are and then start this beautiful journey of healing and reconciliation with you. You just have to accept the gift of grace that he extends. And so, if you’re coming and seeing, we’re also encouraging you to go and tell. Share. And I think that is what the impact is going to be. I’m going to be talking about this for the rest of my life because it’s been so impactful. And I just think it’s really important to recognize that he [the Holy Spirit] is not limited to this town or this university. We are just the vessels of what he is doing in his love.”

So, is revival happening at Asbury? It’s clear that something has been happening which started with students voluntarily spending time with God. Since then, for a wide variety of possible reasons, thousands of visitors have been coming together to either worship or to remain in a worshipful atmosphere. The movement wasn’t planned or manufactured and appears to be attracting a mix of seekers and spectators. So far, there seems to be room for cautious optimism based on the students’ testimonies. At this point, however, I personally prefer to err on the side of calling the phenomenon a remarkable student worship movement rather than prematurely applying other labels. We will know more by the long-term fruit. Meanwhile, like the first student I spoke with emphasized, let’s faithfully seek first the kingdom of heaven wherever we are, praying for those both inside and outside the church to find a renewed hunger for God, passion for his name, and an uncompromised stance on his Word.

I think “cautious optimism” is a good way to describe how we should feel about the worship that is taking place at Asbury. Sadly, though, Asbury (as we learned from viewing its website) teaches theistic evolution and appears to be quite “woke,” promoting CRT-based resources, for example.2 Certainly the school as a whole needs a “revival”: a return to the truth of God’s Word in Genesis! So, as you are reminded about the students and visitors at Asbury on your social media feeds and in conversation, I encourage you to pray for the students, visitors, and the leadership of that school.

Patricia also appeared on the podcast Truth be Told with Mike and Kelly Johnson (Mike is a US Congressman from Louisiana) to discuss what she saw and to give her thoughts. I encourage you to check out this fascinating episode.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.


  1. See Matthew 7:15–20.
  2. While this is certainly not exhaustive, here and here are samples of some of this material from their website.

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