Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Spontaneous Revivals of Asbury

Asbury College, located just south of Lexington in Wilmore, KY, was founded in 1890 as Kentucky Holiness College. Its founder, the Methodist evangelist John Wesley Hughes, said that God had directly instructed him to open a college where students and faculty were "always endeavoring to tear down the works of the Devil and to build up the Kingdom of God". (Years later though, in 1905, he was ousted from his own board of directors for unknown reasons.)

Asbury is famous for the "Spontaneous Revival of 1950" and the "Spontaneous Revival of 1970". According to Asbury's website, "In February 1950 a student testimony led to confessions, victories, and more testimonies. This went on uninterrupted for 118 hours and became the second leading news story nationwide; it is estimated that 50,000 people found a new experience in Christ as a result of this revival and witness teams that went out from it." And of the 1970 incident: "In February 1970 student confession and testimonies led to 144 hours of unbroken revival; some 2,000 witness teams went out from Wilmore to churches and at least 130 college campuses around the nation."

But actually, Asbury has had a long history of these "spontaneous" revivals, usually taking place in the month of February for some reason, and dating all the way back to 1905. From Asbury's website again:

In February 1905, during a blizzard, a prayer meeting in the men's dormitory spilled out to the rest of campus and the town of Wilmore.

In February 1908, revival broke out while someone prayed in chapel; the revival lasted two weeks and was signified by prevailing prayer and intercession.

In February 1921 the last service of a planned revival lasted until 6 am, and services were extended for three days.

Apparently the zeal around the school has fallen a bit lackluster in these space-age secular times. There have been only two "spontaneous revivals" at Asbury since 1970 - one in 1992 and one in 2006 that is described rather sketchily as "four days of continuous prayer and praise". I note this not to mock anyone, but to hopefully instill them to greater heights of religious fervor this February, and to urge them towards disseminating their beliefs on a grander scale as was done by their esteemed alumni in 1950 and 1970.

(On the other hand, in an anonymous Forerunner article credited to "Editorial Staff", the idea is proposed that the great Spontaneous Revival of 1950 never actually ended, and that we are still in the midst of its reverberations even today. An interesting and beautiful idea, but marred somewhat by its association with The Forerunner, known for hateful and tinfoil-hatted articles like "Islam and Mormonism: Kissin' Cousins". They also claim to know the true identity of the Beast of Revelation, but you have to buy their DVD to find it out.)

Also located in Wilmore is the Asbury Theological Seminary, which was originally part of Asbury College but has been a separate institution since 1931. This is an interdenominational graduate school of theology, whose graduates now serve in more than 80 denominations in over 57 countries around the world.

Both the College and the Seminary are named for Bishop Francis Asbury of the Methodist Episcopal Church (as is Asbury Park, NJ, made famous by Bruce Springsteen).


Anonymous said...

They also have a Skull and Bones chapter.

JSH said...


Is this real? Surely not. I'm not aware of the Yale-based Skull & Bones having "chapters" at other universities, much less a small religious school in rural Kentucky.

Either way, gotta love a "secret society" that's so secret, they felt the need to join Facebook.