Asbury University “outpouring” stretches to second week
Thousands come to Kentucky to witness round-the-clock worship
WILMORE, Ky.—The line to the front doors of Asbury University’s Hughes Auditorium stretches down the concrete steps, across the lawn, around a corner and down the block to a stoplight. As the sun sets on a mild Tuesday evening in February, hundreds of people wait patiently to get inside the crowded chapel.
For a moment, the heavy front doors on the historic building open, and yellow light pours out, along with the clapping and singing of over a thousand worshipers. As a handful of people walk out, organizers allow a similar number to walk in. The line inches forward.
Blake Sunny, the assistant to the vice president of enrollment and marketing for Asbury, stands on the steps of Hughes Auditorium and calmly interacts with people in the front of the line.
“I mean, we never expected this,” he says. “The line goes farther than the eye can see, and we’re watching cars still driving in. And it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop anytime soon!”
What was supposed to be a one-hour chapel service started at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 8. At the end of the service, some students wanted to linger a while to worship. That number grew, and soon there were 100 students.
“I actually wasn’t able to attend chapel that morning, and I got a text on campus that said, ‘Hey, you need to get down here,’” said Mark Whitworth, Asbury’s vice president for intercollegiate athletics and university communications. “So I walked into Hughes Auditorium probably a little after 3 o’clock. And by the time I got there, there were probably somewhere between 200 or 300 students worshiping.”
It has now stretched for more than 170 hours, uninterrupted, day and night. By Tuesday, Whitworth estimated roughly 10,000 people had come through the doors—from places as far away as New York, Hawaii, and Texas—to sing, pray, and listen.
Sunny met a group that arrived from Puerto Rico.
“Obviously we don’t put a restriction on God,” he said. “But there’s no way we would have thought it conceivable that the crowds would grow to this level.”
But is it a revival?
Whitworth hesitates to call it that.
“From those who study and are scholars, I’m told that most often if something is called a revival, it’s called that after. And so we have been referring to this as an outpouring of God’s deep, deep and abiding love, and His desire to have a personal relationship with each of us, and each of us to be living solely for the glory of God,” he says.
Built in 1929, Hughes Auditorium barely almost 1,500. Inside, almost every wooden seat is filled, including in the balcony. Congregants are belting out the lyrics to a contemporary hymn, “O Praise the Name (Anástasis).” Some are clapping and stomping. There are shouts and screams.
At one point, a woman takes the stage to explain some “house rules.” In a soft, gentle voice, she tells congregants to keep the aisles clear and stick to a seat, to keep the fire marshal happy.
“We want to take good care of this building, so if you are in the balcony and you are a holy worship jumper, we need you on the floor!” she says to laughter.
After worshipers are led in several choruses of “I Thank God,” another contemporary worship song, a bald man in a black sport jacket takes the stage. Identifying himself only as an Asbury University employee named Kevin, he urges those in attendance to reach out to young adults—a demographic that increasingly shuns the church.
“Like you, I want to see a change in our communities—our state, our nation, our world,” he says. “I want it to flourish. I think you do, too. But here’s what I believe: a new phone application, a new technological device or solution—it isn’t enough for a flourishing future. More prosperity, more entertainment, new experiences—this is not enough to meet our hunger. And I might step on a few toes here, but the right political candidate—my guy or my gal—that is not enough to bend this world in a Godly direction!”
The crowd responds with booming applause.
Outside the auditorium, Jordan Hampton, a 25-year-old seminary student from Pikeville, Ky., explains that he was initially skeptical when he heard about the events at Asbury. Then he read a Facebook post that changed his mind.
“I just wanted to see what this is about, and I want to see what God is doing,” he says. “Because if God can change a really wretched sinner like mine’s heart, I believe that He can put on this crazy event and have people wake up for Him, you know?”
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