Apart from Him we can do nothing

I Attended the Asbury Revival

I attended the Asbury revival

Table of Contents

Part 1 – The Report

There has been a lot of talk about the Asbury Revival. I want to share my first-hand experience and my thoughts on all the thoughts.

This is a bit of a different post. Typically when I share my thoughts here at Abiding With Christ, it is to share the things that brought me to a transformed faith a few years ago. While at times that can get personal, I prefer to share the message over the messenger.

As I begin to write this, I am one day removed from my experience at the Asbury Revival. I was there on Monday, February 20th, which was the last day that adult visitors were allowed to attend services on campus. Asbury’s plan is to take the celebrations off-campus starting Friday. They aren’t shutting down the revival, they are only moving it. Who knows when it will finally draw to a close.

I know many people have traveled far distances to get to Asbury during the events of the last couple of weeks. It was a drive for me to get there, but nothing I haven’t done for prior places of employment. I had hoped to go down with others, but in the end went by myself.

Honestly, I’m glad it worked out that way, because it freed me to be more than a partaker. It allowed me to also be a documentarian of sorts. I was free to move amongst the crowds in a way I would not have been able to had I been there with someone else. It also allowed me to stay there for as long as I felt it beneficial/necessary. 

This is going to be by nature a very long write up, so I’m going to divide this into 2 posts. The first post will be the details of my experience. Just the raw “play-by-play”. While there will naturally be some commentary on my experience, I’m going to reserve the bulk of my “color commentary” for the second post. This will be where I delve into the commentary and controversy surrounding the Asbury Revival and my conclusions.

Why Did I Go to the Asbury Revival?

It’s a fair question. I felt compelled to go down for 2 reasons.

First, I wanted to see what was going on firsthand. It’s as simple as that. I had been getting second-hand accounts from people who I trust spiritually and hearing their version of it. What they said only made me more interested in attending myself.

I know I don’t have to go to a building or a location to meet God. But I am also comfortable with the idea that some places can become consecrated to God – either temporarily or permanently.

It’s nothing mystical. The Bible is replete with stories of honoring and memorializing God in locations where encounters with God took place. Other than Peter’s outburst at the Transfiguration, I’m pressed to remember another time when the practice was discouraged.

The second reason is because of the growing chatter online by those critical of the Asbury Revival. It seemed that almost immediately, people began to “warn” about the Asbury Revival. Either it didn’t meet the biblical definition of revival, or since it was student-led it was disqualified, or there were people attending or involved that were questionable.

I will talk more about the nature of the criticism in part 2 of my experience attending the Asbury Revival. But as I say, I felt very strongly that I wanted to go see what was happening for myself. If it was a work of God, I wanted to be where God was at work and see what He might reveal to my heart while I was there. And whatever it was, I wanted to give an accurate, first-hand report of what I saw and experienced (and what I didn’t see).

Arriving at the Asbury Revival

I arrived in Wilmore sometime between 12:30 and 1:00 pm. If you were to look up Asbury on Google Maps or somesuch, I came off of SR-68 onto Lexington Rd, and drove into Wilmore from there.

Cars were parked along the left side of N Lexington Ave as I entered town.

I was able to drive all the way to the campus and took a video of the crowds lining up around the lawn leading to Hughes Auditorium (the site where the Asbury Revival began).

I went into the quaint downtown area to find plenty of parking, but it was all 2-hour parking for the local businesses. I’m already a rule follower, I wasn’t about to break the posted guidance. The police in Wilmore have already been strained to their limits. Even if it weren’t already my nature, I was in no mood to take advantage. So I headed back down N Lexington to find a parking spot at the end of the row.

By the time I got back there, the police had started diverting traffic at Banta Lane. And I could see why. The road narrows and people were having to cross the lane to keep driving. There’s a bit of a hill there and it could have made for a nasty accident if someone weren’t paying attention. So I kept going past, and found some open parking on the road in Kalas Village. It looks like a longer walk on the map to the Asbury campus than it feels.

Getting Oriented

So I get on campus, and things are looking pretty orderly, but definitely crowded. I chose not to get in line immediately. At that point I wasn’t even sure if I’d get in before the services wrapped at 5pm. I decided to walk around and take some pictures.

At this point, I wasn’t even sure of the layout of the campus. So I started tracing the line to Hughes Auditorium and made my way over there.

After looking around for a minute, I started to make my way over to where the end of the line was. And this is when I had my first “interesting moment”.

As I am walking along the pathway back to the end of the line, I see somebody casually walking my way – with a purpose, but also like me, seemed to be taking it in a bit. We met eyes, and he noticed me having a glimmer of recognition. As I got closer, I pointed at him and said “hey…you’re THAT guy.” And he smiled and affirmed that I was right.

I had just bumped into Zach Meerkreebs.

If you don’t know the name, perhaps you know who he is all the same. This is the fellow who gave the message at the chapel service that initiated the non-stop service. I talked to him briefly for a few minutes.

Todd Posey with Zach Meerkreebs at the Asbury Revival

He struck me as very humble and just appreciative of everything that God was doing. He took no credit for what happened, and didn’t take the opportunity to “brag” on it, simply saying that it would take time to see what the real fruit of this event was. I talked to him for a few minutes about some of the common themes he was hearing from the responses of those who had attended over the last 2 weeks. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed it would be good to talk further over coffee sometime. I’m sure I’ll be taking him up on that soon.

I made my way back to the line and noticed there was a break in the line. Volunteers were telling the people in the front of that section of the line they were unlikely to get into Hughes Chapel by 5pm, and suggested they go to one of the overflow chapels. Once I heard that, I started following people who were crossing the street in search of a place to join the simulcast.

I got to the 2nd overflow area only to see a sign on the door that said “at capacity”. A volunteer came outside and after talking to them for a minute I said “where’s the line to get in here” and he said “there isn’t one yet”. So I said, “now there is!” and I went in the door.

I discovered a lady with a cane had already come in as there were a few chairs in the lobby. So I agreed that she was the first in line, but I was the line leader. Within a couple of minutes a volunteer came out and told us there were a few isolated chairs available scattered throughout the auditorium if we wanted to look. So we went in, and I found myself on the floor, right in the center, about 3 rows from the back.

The Asbury Revival Worship Experience

Singing was already going on. It was really a beautiful time of worship. Honestly, I can’t remember the songs we did now, but they were familiar to me. I do remember one of them being “How Great Thou Art” because it took me back to attending a Billy Graham crusade in my childhood.

We were told brief, quick photos were allowed, but no long videos. But we were also encouraged to just ignore our phones and be engaged in worshipping Jesus instead. The worship time was spirited at times, but never unruly. Every once in a while at a particular word in a song there would be some spontaneous clapping. A few hands raised. But overall, I would call it very controlled. In fact, I was particularly struck at how it was this incredible simultaneous balance of joy and reverence.

I will also say that during my time in there, I saw no appeals to emotion. But it was emotional nevertheless. It was both intimate and corporate. Whenever I closed my eyes, it almost seemed like I was alone in the room but “surrounded by a cloud of witnesses”. It was a special time. How could the Holy Spirit not be in this place? Jesus was being openly, sweetly praised and loved.

In describing this, I’m only trying to take you into the moment with me. At no point did I feel overwhelmed during the worship time. But I did feel very comforted.

An older gentlemen gave a brief, simple message, which was Christ and surrender focused. There was a time when anyone in the auditorium (simulcast) could come share a scripture that was on their hearts, they said about 8 could come. Some passages were Old Testament, some were New. All of the passages were some form of exhortation. Perhaps the biggest applause or response came when a young girl, who could not have been more than 5 years old, read Romans 12:1-2.

The alter was made available to us if we wanted to come down to pray or receive prayer. And then it appeared to me the simulcast went to a taped time of worship. I can’t be sure, but that’s how it appeared.

I will tell you that I went up to the alter and an older volunteer came and prayed for me. He simply asked what I was looking for, and I just told him I was there to pray and anything he felt he’d like to pray for me, he was welcome to do so, and he did. Again, no emotionalism – just joy, really.

I went back to my seat, and honestly, felt led to leave and give others a chance at my seat. I also felt the need to go back outside and be around the people more.

The Asbury Revival Attendees

Going back outside, I went back across the street and continued milling around the lines and the crowd. There was a group of students leading what appeared to be an impromptu praise session. About 100 people were around them, singing along. Joyous, exuberant, but again, controlled.

This is really a great description of what I witnessed the entire time I was there. Even when it was big, it wasn’t showy. As I walked the line, there were parts where people would just begin to circle up and read scripture. 

Everyone stayed in their lane, as it were. If someone was leading singing somewhere, they didn’t co-opt the time to preach. When someone was sharing scripture, everyone respectfully listened. If people were sharing their testimony, they weren’t asking for anything other than the opportunity to express who Christ was to them.

In summary, there were no emotionally-driven calls to action at any time I was on campus. Not one.

One line was separated specifically for college age and students to get into Hughes – they had priority. In that line there were a couple of young men who were doing a form of street preaching. They mentioned they had traveled about 100 miles to be there and didn’t have anything. They weren’t asking for or even speaking of any donations, but when one of them stood to the side as others gave testimonies, I felt compelled to discreetly come alongside him and slip some money in his pocket for their travel back home.

At one point, I did feel overwhelmed, simply with the thought of so many people hungry for God, willing to patiently wait in line on a cool February day, to be able to be a part of the Asbury Revival. The enormity of the event didn’t get to me, but the idea that I was in a place where history was being made did. I sat down in an open area of the field. One of the volunteers was nice enough to ask if I was ok, and then offered to pray with me, which I accepted.  

I continued to walk around and chat with people here and there. Just brief encounters. I talked to one young man who had spent the weekend there, coming from Florida. I talked to a few people that had driven together from Fayetteville, Arkansas. Everywhere I walked around I could hear people who were clearly from other countries talking in their native tongues. Many people walked around taking videos and talking, narrating their experience.

A Few More Encounters

As it was getting later in the day, a gentleman showed up carrying a life-size cross on the sidewalk in front of the lawn area. This drew my interest so I started making my way towards him. A citizen journalist was interviewing him, and his answers were kind of directed to the crowd around him, and he directed a few of his answers right at me, which I couldn’t help but enjoy. Clearly, the crowds of people wanting to come be a part of the Asbury Revival energized him.

After the interview was over, I started to talk to him and found out his name was Steve and he lived a couple of hours away. We had a good conversation. The citizen journalist continued to hang around. He asked me if I’d like to be interviewed, so I agreed. Fairly straightforward questions but I did get the notion that he was hoping for something that he didn’t quite get from Steve or myself. Steve and I both shared our phone numbers with him asking to let us know when he’d be posting it to his social media.

Todd Posey with Steve at the Asbury Revival

Steve started to make his way back to his car, and I just walked up the sidewalk with him, and we continued to talk. It was getting close to 5pm, and it felt like this was the right way to wrap things up.

Before we got to the stoplight, we were met by a young man named Cyrus who was Mennonite, and was, as best as I could tell, attempting to engage people in how we were going to take what we got from our time here and keep it going. It was a respectful conversation.

And that was it. I exchanged numbers with Steve because he lived in an area that I do pass through fairly often, and hoped to be able to engage with him further, fascinated by the “bearing the cross” moments he has had throughout the country.

At this point it was 4:30pm or later. The service was to wrap at 5pm, but there were still people dutifully in line hoping to get inside if even for a few minutes.

Small wooden cross in yard with He Lives engraved across it

As I headed to my car, I stopped at the corner gas station, happy to find they had some fresh coffee brewed. I sipped on it on the way back to my car. Many of the cars that had lined the street previously had already departed, but there were still plenty that remained. About halfway there in front of one of the homes someone had displayed a small wooden cross with the words “He Lives” engraved on it. So of course I took one last picture. I eventually made it back to my car, and made my way back home.

Concluding Thoughts on Attending the Asbury Revival

So, without getting into too much of what I’ll be getting into in Part 2, I will say what I came away with in my initial impressions was that from everything I saw, people were not coming for some emotional experience, but they were coming to partake in whatever “God moment” was happening.  Again, nothing I saw at any time was over emotional – there were some emotions, some tears, but nothing that I would describe as unusual for a person who was having a personal, intimate encounter with Christ.

At no time did I see anyone attempting to exhibit “sign gifts” or making any spectacular claims for themselves.

Dipping into my professional experience – many years ago I was in Event Management, managing large crowds, but none as large as this. The type of orderliness that existed with so little organizational guidance was not just impressive, it defied logical description. This could have EASILY turned into something out of control, but I think there was a general protectiveness on the part of the crowd of the serenity of the moment. Everyone just seemed to want to experience what it was, not what someone wanted it to be. It was beautiful in its simplicity.

I know I’m trying to describe attitudes and feelings here. I’m just trying to give you the sense of the place as I saw it. I left with a favorable impression of the day.

Please join me in part 2, where I attempt to address some of the criticism that has been levied at the Asbury Revival. I will talk about which critiques I think have validity and which I think do not. And I will share with you any thoughts or concerns I have regarding the Asbury Revival as it moves forward.

All Biblical reference links courtesy of Bible Gateway, a searchable online Bible tool hosting more than 200 versions of the Bible in over 70 languages.

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