Of the Holy Spirit, Truth, Tares, and Wheat at the Asbury Revival

“[N]o one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”

I listened to Voddie Bauchaum summarize what is wrong at Asbury recently. The video title is (Wow) The Asbury Revival is NOT of God. His summary is similar to other skeptical takes I have heard, so I will summarize his summary here. (You can also watch the video and hear what he says for yourself.)

Bauchaum said he listened to four testimonies of students who attended the “revival”, and they “confirmed exactly what I figured was going on.” It’s a small sampling size, but I have no reason to believe he didn’t hear what he heard.

His conclusions were more in number than his sampling size. First, he said, “This event is nothing more than strange fire.” (The whole event.) For proof, he offered what the students said in their testimonies: One student admitted said he experienced a “fit of laughter”; another student claimed his mother began speaking in “unknown tongues”. (If Bauchaum supplied a summary of the other two testimonies he heard, I missed it.)

The phrase, “strange fire”, is a reference to Leviticus 10:1-3 an incident in which two priests put incense into censors and offered “strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.” (KJV) Those men were consumed by fire from the Lord, the passage says. Therefore, Bauchaum is comparing the people at Asbury to the two rogue priests who presented offerings to God they were not instructed to give and were killed for it.

Clearly, Bauchaum is suggesting that “this event” is not of God; it is “unauthorized” worship; and God views it like He viewed the priests who offered strange fire and were killed for it.

As further proof that this event could not be from God, he said, “A lot of this took place out of the church!” He added that “the university ordains women for ministry, so there is a lot wrong here.”

He went on to explain to say that he was looking for a man of God taking the pulpit to open the Bible and preach the word of God, “and it never happened.” Though he didn’t say it, I am left to assume that revivals must happen only inside church buildings, and then only when a man of God preaches the word of God from a proper pulpit.

I note that he didn’t do much research if he only heard four testimonies, as I found testimonies all over the Internet, including many statements by professors and school administrators. The happenings at Asbury took place over roughly a two-week period, so there was a lot of footage to see and many people who were there talking about it.

I also note that the chapel service began with someone preaching, but, then, I don’t know if he was “a men of God”, and I don’t recall whether he used a pulpit. (Sarcasm alert.)

Bauchaum warned that Satan tricks people with music. As anecdotal proof, he recounted his own experience attending a Pentecostal church a few times when he was a new believer. He recalled feeling emotional, on the verge of tears, because he felt like God was moving, but he determined it was “nonsense” after reading the Bible for himself for several weeks.

To his credit, he said that he “matured really fast” during during those few weeks. (I am not being sarcastic now. These were his words, not mine.) He said he desired to hear someone preach the Word of God because he was hungry for preaching.

To be fair, I can appreciate. I have been in his shoes before when all I wanted was to hear a meaty sermon that dug deep into God’s word.

Bauchaum recalled an old Paul Washer sermon in which people were moved by the preaching of the word, not by the music. As proof that this is the way it should be done, he quoted Romans 10:17: “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” (No issue there.)

I don’t know if Bauchaum is a cessationist (someone who believes the “gifts of the Holy spirit” have ceased), so I don’t want to make any assumptions. If he is a cessationist, then it would not matter if people had limbs grow back: a cessationist has already determined God doesn’t do those things anymore.

To give him the benefit of the doubt, I can admit that his concerns might be just as validly expressed by someone who is not a cessationist. His concerns do suggest a need for some circumspection, but I have greater concern over his conclusions than any of the spectacle he described that took place on the Asbury University campus for over two weeks in February of 2023.

Continue reading “Of the Holy Spirit, Truth, Tares, and Wheat at the Asbury Revival”

What Is a Revival? And What Does It Matter?

The spark in the beginning seemed to be a small group of students who didn’t want to leave. They didn’t want to stop worshiping.

I am not who took this photo, but I am grateful to the person who captured the scene.

I pay only casual attention to the news. Maybe that is why I didn’t know much about what is going on at Asbury University in Wilmore, KY until about 10 days into the 1-hour chapel service that turned into a two weeklong, around the clock gathering of young people worshiping Jesus. Or maybe I hadn’t noticed because most media outlets aren’t reporting on it. Not that they would know what to do about it if they did!

When I began scrolling through Instagram that Friday evening, I found one video after another from the chapel at Asbury University. It was all I had in my feed, and I started following it.

Other than the live feeds, video, and people self-reporting on the Asbury phenomenon, I began seeing many cautionary pundits who seemed uniformly concerned about whether what was happening is a revival, most of whom were convinced it wasn’t. Notably, the Asbury school administrators and staff seemed uniformly hesitant to categorize what was happening as a revival.

I have watched a lot of live video. I have listened to interviews with students, staff, professors and visitors. I have listened to people who are skeptical. I have listened to the cautions and warnings.

I “grew up” in the Lord in Charismatic churches in the 1980’s. Since the 1990’s, however, I have gravitated away from charismatic circles into more traditional Christian environments. I have focused on daily Scripture reading, weekly church attendance, and getting involved in leading and participating in small groups, apologetics, and regular fellowship – and writing.

I have been disillusioned by the emotionalism and thrill-seeking that can characterize the charismatic movement. I have seen the dangers of idolizing charismatic leaders and the charismatic movement, itself.  

It’s easy enough to want what God can do for us more than we want God.

Some people I looked up to in those charismatic churches walked away from God. The church that I practically idolized in my early Christian walk, splintered and fragmented and fell apart in a very short time. The pastor who married my wife and I got divorced a few years later. It didn’t last.

I am an attorney. I am trained to be analytical, even skeptical. I am naturally more comfortable exercising my brain than my heart. I can easily settle into an intellectual faith that is thin on authenticity.

I didn’t immediately pay attention to the Asbury University “revival”. We live in a sensationalized world of clickbait, and I have learned to look away. Revival isn’t a biblical term, as far as I know. I can’t think of a verse or passage that uses that terminology.

Anyway, I began scrolling through Instagram last on Friday night. I know better than to scroll through Instagram late at night like that, but it was a long week. I was looking for some mindless entertainment before I shut my eyes and went to sleep.

I scrolled to one video after another from Asbury University. Mild interest began to pique. Something was going on there. It was then that I realized that 10 days is a long time for a routine chapel to last!

One video showed the last few minutes of the message that ended the chapel. It was ok, but anything but spectacular. It was far from a passionate call to the altar. It was an ordinary message by any measure.

Now, I was even more interested.

Continue reading “What Is a Revival? And What Does It Matter?”

Taste and See that God is Good: The Asbury Revival

We spend far more time praying for renewal of our strength than soaring on wings like eagles.

I have noticed with some mild interest at what is going on at the chapel on the Asbury University campus in Kentucky. Posts show up in my Facebook feed daily, as I am connected to many Christians (and many other people too) on Facebook. One post today, shared from someone who has been there from the beginning, described it succinctly as follows:

“A chapel service that didn’t stop but continued spontaneously for 8 days now.”

Today has been ten (10) days since that spontaneous beginning, and I have been watching various live streams of the February 8th chapel service that is still going on. This is how it started:

How the Asbury University chapel started on February 8, 2023

I have seen doubters and critics, I have seen posts from people who jumped in their cars and traveled hundreds of miles to see it for themselves: this chapel service that started and has not stopped. It has continued around the clock for 10 days now.

I have seen hype. I have seen caution. Critics caution about emotionalism. Critics want to de-emphasize experience and double down on the Bible and doctrine. Critics say that an omnipresent God should not require a person to travel to a particular location to experience Him.

I have been cautious myself. I am also aware that a sovereign God does what He wants to do despite our understanding of scripture, and theology and the way things ought to be. I have experienced “moves of the Holy spirit”, myself.

I have experienced that people cannot dictate how, when, or whether the Holy Spirit moves. “The wind blows where it will.” We don’t put the Holy Spirit in our pocket like a rabbit foot. We don’t command or possess Him.

People have described what is going on at Asbury University as a revival. That term may conjure up images of a “tent revival” and flamboyantly crass preachers, artificially slick hair, words that drip like honey, and ecstatic chaos.

The Asbury Revival is characterized by a different atmosphere. The person’s post from today who has been there from the beginning said this:

“To quote Professor McCall, a theology professor at Asbury Seminary, ‘what we are experiencing now—this inexpressibly deep sense of peace, wholeness, holiness, belonging, and love—is only the smallest of windows into the life for which we are made.’”

As a child of the 60’s and 70’s, I am reminded of the hippies who wanted “Peace and love. Not war!” I think of John Lennon who imagined a world without war – and without religion – with only peace. Hippies, however, were a contentious bunch, and John Lennon was no saint.

Not that I blame them for dreaming or trying. It’s just that people are completely incapable of making these kinds of dreams come true. Just when we think we have created our utopia, it is already disintegrating and slipping through our fingers like a mirage we feel we can grab hold of.

I lived for several years in a communal house. It was a leftover from the flower children of the 1960’s who became the Jesus people of the 1970’s. I loved it, but it was no utopia. The reality is that people have rough edges. So, “iron sharpens iron,” but the sharpening isn’t always a pleasant process.

Yet, when people get together to devout themselves to following God together, to worship and pray together, to do life together, God is in their midst. These words of Jesus are as true today as the day he spoke them:

“Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

These words are true when our rough edges are rubbing against each other as much as when we “feel the love” (which may not be as often as we like). Even then, I have never experienced the intimacy with another human being as I have experienced when I have experienced the Holy Spirit “moving” in me, usually during times of group worship..

I have experienced the “inexpressibly deep sense of peace, wholeness, holiness, belonging, and love” described by the Asbury professor. It cannot be manufactured or trumped up. When it “happens”, words are difficult to describe it; the experience is life changing.

The experience is only truly life changing, however, if we recognize that the experience is not the point. The experience is a brush with God, who is the source of peace, wholeness, holiness, belonging and love.

If we walk away from the experience longing for another experience, we have missed the important thing. It isn’t ultimately the experience that we long for at all; we long for God, and relationship with Him.

If we chase the experience, it becomes ever more elusive. In our desperation and desire to repeat it, we may resort to emotionalism. We may even resort to trumping up experiences that are artificial.

We desperately need connection to our Creator and the lover of our souls.

Continue reading “Taste and See that God is Good: The Asbury Revival”