Asbury and beyond

Mar 3, 2023 | Prayer Focus for the Nations

Pete Grieg has sent out a number of helpful suggestions and observations about this move of God:

‘For a few extraordinary hours on Sunday the Kentucky police shut the roads into Asbury. The crowds coming into this tiny town (population 3,686, size 2.6 sq. miles), had finally hit some kind of negative inflection point. One of the leaders reckons 100,000 people may have arrived in the last 13 days.

I’ve never seen anything like this. Worship rises into the night from the vast crowd snaking around the park in front of the Hughes Auditorium. They wait for hours in the cold to spend a little time in the sacred atmosphere of gentle, low-key worship, led by students, within the auditorium, and it’s three overflow venues.

I am naturally sceptical, but something is taking place here which I can’t explain. The sort of thing I’ve read about in history books; that preachers in future generations may one day recount with awe: “There was a day way back in 2023 when the police shut the roads because so many were coming to pray.”

While I’ve been here I’ve had the privilege of meeting and praying privately with the leaders, but that’s not primarily why I came. I came because I wanted to sit at the back and fall in love with Jesus again. I came because I realised that my heart had become a little calloused. I came (can I be really honest with you?) looking for . . . hope.

This is personal. It’s holy and therefore not to be talked about lightly, analysed too quickly or touched without a certain reverence and awe. There’s already enough noise out there and, as local law enforcement officers can readily confirm, the Asbury outpouring doesn’t actually need any more publicity.

But then there was a moment on Sunday when a teenager called Rose prophesied about taking the fires home and after that someone invited anyone who wanted to respond to stand. Pretty much everyone in that packed auditorium – and, no doubt in the overflow venues too – immediately stood. I say ‘pretty much everyone’ because I noticed five young men in smart jackets on the back row who remained firmly seated and I retain a certain respect for their indifference.

After 23 years making lots of mistakes leading a night-and-day prayer movement, I thought it might perhaps be helpful to offer a few pastoral notes for anyone who stood on Sunday and now finds themself back home seeking to stir it all up in a much less exciting – or at least a much less excited – environment.

Don’t be dissuaded or discouraged. Your commission does not require permission. This thing is gloriously reproducible and scalable and people are palpably thirsty. We need a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in this generation, especially on college campuses. I’m pretty sure God wants to multiply this moment into a movement of ten thousand Asburys around the world! So just gather your friends and give it a try. And if you fizzle out after a few hours or a few days, that’s really not the end of the world!

This is a low-key, un hyped, unprogrammed phenomenon – an adventure in analogue. I talked to Zach who preached at the chapel service where all this began and he admitted “It wasn’t a great message!” (I liked him a lot for this) “I hadn’t prepared because . . . I was being lazy!”

This is intensive but it doesn’t have to be intense. Make it fun. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit in our midst. Intensity is not. Jesus didn’t die to make us Christian, he died to make us human. So don’t forget to do your washing. Make sure to guard your sabbath. Don’t forget to feed the hamster. Don’t quit your jobs. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that an evening laughing with friends is less spiritual than a night interceding for the lost.

Develop healthy rhythms. One of the tragedies of the great Hebridean awakening (one that was hushed up for years) is that the minister in the church where it began eventually suffered a full nervous breakdown. He didn’t take care of himself and in the end his system couldn’t cope. After 23 years of non-stop prayer I can promise you that you’ll blow up unless you do the work to make this both sustainable and enjoyable.

One of the most beautiful things about Asbury is the lack of ego. The only celebrity here is Jesus. Let me tell you a cool little story: One of the leaders here is a seasoned musician called Mark and last week he offered to step in when there was a gap in the worship. The student in charge of worship didn’t know who he was and insisted he should go out the back to receive prayer for consecration first. When he started leading the student came up to him after maybe twenty minutes and asked him to stop. Mark asked why and the student said “I’m just sensing your heart isn’t right”. Mark put down his guitar without objecting, left the stage and asked for prayer about the state of his heart. A little later the student came up to him to apologise “I didn’t know who you were!” And Mark replied “No you were right. There was something I needed to get sorted in my heart. Thanks for calling me out on that.” Right there, that’s humble leadership!

Don’t be afraid to lead. We are so burned out on narcissistic power that we barely recognise leadership when it’s gentle, self-effacing and humble. But make no mistake, this moment at Asbury is being strongly led. In fact the leaders are meeting every three hours – sensing what the Spirit is doing – talking and praying and making difficult decisions (like keeping the focus on young people and turning away Fox News).

Don’t despise the say of small things. Your job is to prepare the way of the Lord. His job is to show up when and how he likes. The Asbury outpouring began tiny and in an unlikely place. But the twilight before the limelight is always when the real action happens. The team at the heart of this outpouring have been friends for years. They know and trust each other. They have invested in relationship; they have done the hard work of thinking hard and of preparing their hearts. When the white-water power of God comes it doesn’t solve anything. It simply increases and accelerates what’s already there. By then it’s too late to make many changes. And so I’m watching these guys operating out of deep muscle memory. With shared values and a high threshold of trust.

I believe it’s significant that this outpouring has come to a college campus and it’s now beginning to multiply on other campuses. It’s a Gen Z outpouring. It’s under 25’s who are taking the lead. At Asbury no one over 25 gets to testify. Anyone with a heart for students should read this.

I wrote some words on the first 24-7 Prayer room wall: “The vision is Jesus!” Our vision is not revival. It’s the Reviver! It’s not prayer. It’s the person of Christ! What’s happening at Asbury will stop. It will fizzle out eventually. And that’s ok. My faith is not in this, it’s in Him. And in so far as people are truly meeting Jesus at Asbury, lifting the name of Jesus, giving their lives to Him and falling back in love with Him – as I did – then what happens here will truly be eternal.’

We recognise that the history of revivals has so often been about the Lord opening a window in Heaven that others have then sought to close and control, whether out of a desire to be at the centre of things for themselves, or who have ended up stifling what God was doing out of fear of letting the Holy Spirit have free reign in bringing glory to the Lord Jesus.

Protect this outpouring now, Lord Jesus, as one phase ends and another begins. May Your work not be knocked off course by criticism or complacency, nor be hijacked by those who would seek to manipulate it for their own purposes as the process moves from impartation to implementation. Preserve its God-given integrity. Let it spread to many places, and result in many being raised up for You in completely new and godly ways, we pray. Let there be long term life as a result of what You have begun in Asbury, Lord!

Continue the wonderful work that You have begun, Lord Jesus, and may many in Gen Z and all the generations be transformed for lives of service by Your Life-giving power, lifting our heads to You, our coming King, bowing before You, adoring You, and singing of Your majesty. Let our praises be pure and holy, giving glory to You the King of Kings.

Banner Photo by Guido Jansen on Unsplash



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