Wilmore, KY (WNews) – People are travelling thousands of miles or even tens of thousands of miles to take part in a Christian service at a college chapel in Kentucky, which has ballooned into a nonstop worship and prayer session that some are calling a “revival” – after seeing viral videos on TikTok that made it so popular.
The growing event started as a routine chapel service on February 8 at Asbury University, a small Christian college in Wilmore, Kentucky, according to university employees. At the tail-end of the meeting, a couple of dozen lingering students assembled informally in a gathering that’s been going on for nine days straight, 24 hours a day.
“The first day we had a very ordinary service. I would call it unremarkable,” said university President Dr. Kevin Brown. Following a morning service on Feb. 8, a multicultural gospel choir sang on stage. Some students stuck around afterwards, and by evening more and more had trickled into the sanctuary creating something special, said Brown.
“It has absolutely been social media that is the mechanism that people found out about this,” said Mark Whitworth, Asbury University’s vice president of communications.
The setup is simple. No projector screens or high-tech integrations, just wooden sanctuary chairs filled with people, and an open altar call with an invitation to prayer that still hasn’t ended. On TikTok and Instagram, videos hashtagged “Asbury Revival” are racking up millions of views. When this article was published, the hashtag #asburyrevival had 50.9 million views on TikTok.
The phrase “spiritual revival” can carry different meanings; in Christianity, they generally refer to a resurgence of interest in the church from believers and nonbelievers. Many attendees of the Asbury gathering say they were drawn by a spiritual presence they sensed at the event.
In the TikTok videos of the event, some people are seen crying to worship music, with their hands extended high. Others, however, lay hands on those seeking prayer. The response of many TikTokers has extended beyond the typical “like” or comment on the videos, which in some cases has stirred viewers to make the trek to Asbury for themselves.
Many have waited reportedly over 4 hours to get into the chapel. 3,000 worshippers piled into the college chapel on Tuesday night and four overflowed facilities throughout the college town due to the large crowd. According to Brown, at least two-thirds of the attendees of the event will be from outside of the state.
Students and staff from 22 schools have visited so far, alongside groups from Hawaii to Massachusetts, university faculty said. Travellers from Singapore and Canada are expected to arrive soon, they added. Although social media has served as a lightning rod for the event, Asbury faculty said they were cautious not to market or brand what was happening.
“The university made an intentional decision not to publicize this because we wanted to place an abundance of respect towards the experience of our students,” said Brown. With the exception of the regular three hours of weekly livestream from the chapel, the videos seen online have all come from participants.
The Great Awakening, for instance, is one of the most popular Christian revivals in history, and it was marked by conversions and wildfire growth, which is why – for now, at least – many people are cautiously describing Asbury as an outpouring, a gathering, or just one big worship meeting.
“The university made an intentional decision not to publicize this because we wanted to place an abundance of respect towards the experience of our students,”
In the wake of the rapid rise in attendance at Asbury over the past week, many students who had joined the spiritual movement have returned to schools where separate worship and prayer gatherings are already taking place. It was announced Monday morning that students at Lee University in Tennessee began a nonstop prayer vigil that is still ongoing, according to Brian Conn, the university’s director of communications. Additionally, a few other schools have received similar reports as well, including Anderson University in Indiana, Ohio Christian University near Columbus, and a few others as well.
Asbury University is no stranger to events like this, as 50 years ago a similar prayer and worship event took place across the campus.
Never, though, had a gathering of this sort lasted as long as this one, which also benefits from the colossal propagating force of social media.
Below is the statement from Mr. Brown posted on Asbury’s website.
“At the completion of a regularly scheduled chapel service on February 8, 2023, at Asbury University, students lingered to pray, worship, and share. They have not stopped and, moreover, have been joined far and wide by hungry men and women across the world who desire to seek the Lord in this space. Since the first day, there have been countless expressions and demonstrations of radical humility, compassion, confession, consecration, and surrender unto the Lord. We are witnessing the Fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We continue to seek to discern the right balance between orderliness for our university students, faculty, and staff and our campus visitors—and creating space for individuals to have a life-transforming, Christ-centered encounter.
We are also tremendously thankful for the men and women who have worked so hard and diligently to create space for this special move of God. Hosting such a significant moment comes with a cost—and the goodwill and humility of our community has been inspiring. Finally, we cannot fully express the profound gratitude we have for stewarding this outpouring in the life of our school and beyond. Ultimately, we pray that our efforts in these days point to our Savior.”
— Kevin J. Brown, Ph.D.
President, Asbury University
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