Thoughts on the Asbury Awakening

Thoughts on the Asbury Awakening

Spring 2023

Timothy Tennent

Editor’s Note: Timothy C. Tennent, Ph.D., has served as president of Asbury Theological Seminary since July 2009. He originally published this reflection on his blog on Feb. 14, 2023. It has been edited for length and is republished with permission.

I have been reticent to write blogs or make a lot of public statements about this outpouring at Asbury because it is always better to stand in awe of something than to talk about something. I have been [to the outpouring] every day and night, and it is like stepping into a flowing spiritual river. You sense the presence and power of God working in people’s lives. Since last Wednesday when the outpouring began, I have reflected many times on Jesus’ statement about the Spirit when he said, “The wind blows wherever it wants. Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it is going, so you can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit.” This is not a time to “manage” this or to try to “shape” it. This is the time to simply receive from God’s hand.

Despite the endless coverage in social media and the regular media calling this a revival, I think it is wise to see this, at the current phase, as an awakening. Only if we see lasting transformation that shakes the comfortable foundations of the church and truly brings us all to a new and deeper place can we look back in hindsight and say, “Yes, this has been a revival.” An awakening is where God begins to stir and awaken people up from their spiritual slumber. This is definitely happening, not only in Wilmore, but as this move of God spreads to other schools and communities across the nation and even the world. There are many reports that this is what is happening. But we must keep our hearts and eyes fixed on Jesus and ask for him to complete the work he has begun so that, over time, there is a lasting transformation in the lives of those who are being touched by God.

This is the reason why both the university and the seminary have not cancelled classes. It is not because we are in a “business as usual” mode. Far from it. There is talk of little else in every chapel, in every classroom, in every hallway conversation, and, I suspect, in every home and apartment in the community. The desire is to “mainstream” renewal into the very fabric of our lives so that we are transformed right where we live and work and study. We all love mountaintop experiences, but we also know that it must be lived out in all the normal rhythms of life.

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We have to live into this desperation for God to do what we cannot do. We have to live into transformed relationships. We have to live into new patterns of life and worship. In short, we must embrace what it means to really live as Christians in the midst of a church culture that has largely domesticated the Gospel beyond recognition. We will know that revival has truly come to us when we are truly changed to live more like him at work, at study, at worship, and at witness. …

Someday, we will look back on these days and thank God that he visited us in ways we will talk about for years to come. But what we are doggedly seeking is not lasting memories, but transformed lives long after the lights go out in Hughes Auditorium or Estes Chapel or all other places that are experiencing this work of grace. In short, it is not about “this place” or “that place,” whether Wilmore or any other city. It is about Christ himself. None of us “owns” this awakening. But all of us must own in our own lives his work and his gracious beckoning to that deeper place. Come, Holy Spirit!