Jennifer McChord is Asbury University’s vice president of enrollment and marketing, and her daughter is a first year student there. She tells Premier Christianity what those first few days were like, and what they have learned from the outpouring they’ve prayed so long to receive
My daughter is a student here at Asbury. She, and a couple of friends, have been feeling led to pray for revival for a couple of years now. And we’ve heard story after story of Asbury alumni, people in the community, people all over the world, not even connected to Asbury, praying for revival for decades.
On 8 February, I got a text from my daughter at 12:05pm. We have chapel every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There was nothing extraordinary about that morning; chapel concluded at 10:50am officially, and students left for class. But there was a call to the altar at the end of the service for anybody who wanted prayer, or wanted to accept Jesus.
Asbury students don’t have to be Christians, they just have to accept our statement of faith, agree to attend chapel and abide by our community guidelines. So we’re always shepherding people to Christ, even in our own community, which is beautiful.
That particular Wednesday, a small group of students stayed after, and the gospel choir continued to worship quietly while the students prayed.
It’s time for the torchbearers to go back to their communities, homes, workplaces and schools and spread that fire
And that continued. People began to notice that their friends were missing from class, and some came back to the chapel and saw there was still music and prayer going on. So it started exponentially increasing. Students were so excited about what was happening. People were coming to Christ, repenting and just getting free of junk. They were getting free of sin and shame, anxiety and depression. There was something special happening.
Students started to leave the chapel and say: “I think revival is starting!” I have chills just thinking about that. It wasn’t a massive onslaught, but students started coming out of their classrooms. My daughter excused herself from her class and went to check out what was happening. At 12 noon, maybe 30 students were there. She sent me a text message and said: “You need to come check this out. Revival is happening!”
The start of something
By the time I got there at 1:30pm, there were probably 200 students. There were no microphones, no screens. The gospel choir had stepped off the stage, and they were just playing guitar, somebody was at the piano. Nothing was planned. They didn’t even know what song they were going to sing next. Somebody would just hit a chord or start a song, and everybody would join in.
And from that small group, it grew and grew. By 3pm, we were all texting our families saying: “Something’s happening. You got to get down here.” My husband came. We cancelled all of our meetings. Our whole team was worshipping together. Some left to get their children from school and brought them back. It just became this incredible night and day worship experience. For the next couple of days, the Asbury community - students, staff and families – were worshipping together, praying over each other. We had staff praying for students, and students praying for staff.
It was so organic, so authentic, that it couldn’t be denied. It wasn’t a well-known celebrity speaker on the stage, rallying people. It wasn’t an emotional response. It was a true work of Christ. It was having the right people there, shepherding the students and helping them pray through what they were feeling, what they were repenting from, and what they were discovering - maybe for the first time - about the love of Christ.
Because it started that way, we kept it that way. There’s been no programme. We truly don’t know what the worship band is going to play next. It’s been so radically full of humility, compassion, joy and peace; I’ve never experienced anything like it.
Changed by grace
We’ve seen people come from all over the world. I’ve had people from Finland in my office, from Russia, the Ukraine, Alaska and Hawaii. We’ve had over 160 colleges and universities represented - and those are just the ones who signed the whiteboard! We don’t have any idea how many people have been through these doors.
It’s been a privilege for people to be able to come here and, maybe for the first time, truly touch the hem of Jesus’s garment, whether for just a touch or for hours upon end.
There’s been so much happening inside that building that its now escaping. And it’s time for that. It’s time for the torchbearers, the people who have caught the fire inside that building, to go back to their communities, homes, workplaces and schools and spread that fire.
Jesus lives in all of us. The Holy Spirit is everywhere. This is not confined to Hughes Auditorium, or Wilmore, Kentucky. People don’t have to come here to find Jesus. All we have to do is get into our Bible and start really digging deep into our own heart. God is moving in every single one of our lives, every moment of every day. All we have to do is have an open heart for him.
Asbury is already different. Our students are different. Our staff are different. We’ve always had a community full of amazing people but, in the last two weeks, we’ve pulled together in a way I could never have imagined. Situations like this can either bring people together, or tear them apart.
When you have 20,000 people show up, everybody jumps in. We’ve had our vice president cleaning up and setting up barricades. We had our entire athletic coaching staff directing traffic from 6am until midnight. People have jumped in to serve, pray for people, go and get food, water and toilet paper. It’s been a blessing to work shoulder to shoulder with people that we may not work with on a normal basis.
Challenges and blessings
The greatest challenge has been making sure that we hold this loosely. We know this is special. We know there are so many people who would love this to happen in their community. We recognise we have a responsibility to steward it well. That’s why we had no live stream running for the first 13 days, because it’s such a pure space, and people are having radical transformations. They are meeting Jesus, some of them for the first time, and that’s not something necessarily to capture on camera for the world to see.
We have had an abundance of celebrities show up, some who have wanted to speak. For many, we didn’t even know they were here until they left. They honoured what was happening. They were so respectful and we are so grateful for that.
We have really prayed about every single decision, and tried to keep it as student focused and led as possible, because it’s all about is this generation. Gen Z is the largest generation now. I believe God’s wanting to do something really special with them.
This is not confined to Hughes Auditorium, or Wilmore, Kentucky. People don’t have to come here to find Jesus
The most special part has been to see these students, including my daughter, go deeper in their faith, and really understand who Jesus is at a deeper level. The focus has been on allowing them to authentically worship, authentically experience Jesus, and not need the fog machines, lights, lyrics and big business of it all; to really be able to focus, for an extended period of time, and just worship and learn the truth of what Jesus says about them.
Is this a revival? Time will tell. When you’re in the Hughes auditorium, the peace, and the overflowing love, joy, calmness and presence of the Holy Spirit is so evident that it feels like an outpouring: your cup is so full, it just pours out.
What will be the fruits of this outpouring? What happens after what happens now? And as that spreads? We’re already starting to see our students go out to other churches, to other places in their community, to their homes, and see radical transformation. The conversations they’re having, as they’re just going about their daily life, that’s really what it’s about. That’s how Jesus moves.
That’s when somebody can look back in history and say: “Oh, yes, that was a revival!”
Jennifer McChord was speaking to Premier’s Kathleen Durham, who is reporting live from Asbury University