It may have begun with students, but Rich Wilson believes that what God is doing at Asbury is an invitation, a sign and an alarm call to us all, especially those in the second half of life. It’s time to prioritise the work of Christ in us, he says


Source: Asbury University

My journey to Asbury was not my idea. I love God, I love the spaces and places where God is moving and I live with Christ in me. I don’t need to go anywhere to get ‘more’ of God. Except that is far too simplistic and God consumes my theology with his ways. His ways are far higher than mine and, so, a few days ago, I found myself at Asbury University.

What did I see and experience? What do I believe God is doing? And what can the UK Church learn?

This outpouring started with a few dozen students at the end of a very ordinary chapel service. And this age group, which is desperately lost and broken, continues to be at the very heart of what God is doing there.

God is gently leading a generation in repentance

But alongside those young people, it was heartening to see the wisdom of older leaders, coaching from behind the scenes and at the sides, creating space for the 18-25 year olds to lead.

Authentic faith

Around half of those in the room were under 25, and it was beautiful to see a lot of ethnic diversity and people from across the US and the world. There was a bias towards letting 18-25s into the venue – they had a separate queue which was prioritised over us older folk.

The format is simple, ordinary and unpolished - and that authenticity is key to why Gen Z have come flocking.

There are no big names. This faceless movement has turned down famous worship leaders who have offered their services. Only first names are mentioned from the platform and there is no ‘main’ leader. This outpouring started not in a response to an individual but a conviction of the Holy Spirit to linger in a space and seek Jesus.

I believe this nation is in the grip of a slow awakening and we must pay attention to what God wants to do in us

The meeting is punctuated with short testimonies, vetted by older leaders, and only from the under 25s. Their stories ranged from the dramatic: “last week I tried to take my own life” to “I just needed to get right with God”.

Occasionally, a student reads a Bible verse. I witnessed a few short talks on salvation, surrender and bringing your stuff to God. There is no finger wagging, coercion or hype.

There is an altar rail at the front, but not many altar calls are given. People just go forward and kneel when they are ready, or when they can’t not go because the pull to sort out their stuff, confess sin or embrace the slow and gentle healing that God is pouring out becomes too strong.

There are tears (lots of them) but they fall quietly; I didn’t witness any wailing - although there was sobbing, as deep pain and relief slowly found its way to the surface.

In the Hughes Auditorium, where this outpouring began, the signs of God at work are evident. He is gently leading a generation in repentance.

And the kindness of God is evident too, especially demonstrated by university leaders, elders and mature volunteers from local churches who serve and serve and serve, keeping in step with this gentle, transformative outpouring.

A holy moment

These meetings are only moments. But they are very important ones. They are a provocation, a sign, an alarm call. Many Christians have had these moments of encounter and ignition. And, over time, many have stopped participating in the work that God awakened in them.

I believe there is a new invitation to the Church across the UK to prioritise the work of Christ in us. I believe this nation is in the grip of a slow awakening and we must pay attention to what God wants to do in us.

Joy is bestowed on those who give themselves away. I believe the Holy Spirit wants to empower those in the second half of life afresh, to embrace the calling to be spiritual mothers and fathers. Amid the brokenness and pain of the younger generation is great treasure, waiting to be affirmed, and noticed. The glorious purpose for which they were created needs calling out.

In Asbury, as the older leaders served and ministered, one leader spoke of how God was ministering into the shattered and broken places in their life, healing things that they had learned to live with but about which God was saying: “Enough!”

The fullness of healing may come later, but a significant move of the Spirit works in the ashes of broken dreams and disappointment, bestowing joy. This joy is not a holy laughter, and doesn’t depend on circumstances; it is a joy from above and within.

Becoming a movement

We need this to be more than just a moment. We need it to become a movement, where those 18-25s, having now been ignited, are equipped to run well for the next four to five decades. At Asbury, they are making plans to help the students land and transition off the mountain top and into ordinary everyday life, carrying the fire into whatever comes next.

I believe the Holy Spirit wants to empower those in the second half of life afresh

Asbury is a special moment. It is also something that can happen anywhere and, if we are honest, it must happen everywhere – if we want to see transformation in ourselves and our society.

My own experience of personal revival is that it is awkward, costly and, at times, painful. Our intimacy with God is connected to our surrender - and it demands humility. We can learn from those students who were kneeling, humbling themselves and recognising that they needed help. We can learn from their stories of how God met with them and saved them.

These outpourings sow seeds, and we have no comprehension of what they will become. It is too early to label what is happening in Asbury, but we can be inspired by it. We can run our race with a deeper hunger for Jesus. Now is the time to respond to what God is doing in us and maybe create or visit the spaces and places where we need to humble ourselves and pray.

Come Lord Jesus.