With our proximity to Asbury University, many have asked me about what has been happening. Our home is a 3-minute walk to the Asbury University chapel, which I see from my back window. I taught classes at the university last year and am in a doctorate program across the street at Asbury Seminary. Also, Word Made Flesh was founded by Asbury students, and our US office is based in Wilmore. It is surreal to see the cars overrun this two-traffic-light town and to see lines of thousands and thousands of people wrapped around the university, waiting to get into the chapel. For the moment, this is what I will say about the events:
Celebrate the experience of the students. I have heard testimonies of many who struggle with depression or anxiety, with acceptance and isolation, or without having heard God’s voice ever or for a long time. Let’s suspend our evaluations of the event and simply recognize the students’ intense encounters with God as a good in and of itself.
Prioritize the voices of the students. While many are trying to name or explain this movement of God, it began with students, has been led by students, and has been the primary experience of students. So, let’s let them articulate this experience for themselves. Time will come for analysis but let us continue to be sensitive to the students and to listen to them and to what they are hearing from God.
Recognize people’s hunger for God. This past week there was a shift of focus from the AU students to those who are visiting. The long lines in the sun, in the downpouring rain, and in the cold speak of the genuine hunger that people have to encounter God. This too is a good to be celebrated.
Pray for the leaders. The leadership of the university as well as the student leaders have done an excellent job of facilitating this spontaneous movement, maintaining a safe space, limiting access to fringe groups or those who want to coopt the event, focusing on students and young people, and organizing all the volunteers needed to sustain this 24 hour prayer and worship for almost 2 weeks. Hats off to them. They are certainly exhausted, and they are aware of the hard work that will follow.
Expect this to be a beginning and not an end. While some may be coming to witness this movement, hoping for healing, salvation, deliverance, or an experience in the Spirit, what is happening is only a starting point. What follows is discipleship, formation, counseling, the long work of healing and recovery, institutional change, reconciliation, and mission. Students who I’ve spoken with are aware of this and excited for what’s next.