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In February 2023, claims of a spiritual revival drew over 50,000 people from all over the world to a small town in Kentucky. What they discovered would become a turning point in the lives of thousands as both social media and the Spirit of God reshaped a community. This is the untold story of how it all began and what unfolded over the next 16 days.



#70: The Origin and Outpouring of The Asbury Revival

Note: The Love Thy Neighborhood podcast is made for the ear, and not the eye. We would encourage you to listen to the audio for the full emotional emphasis of this episode. The following transcription may contain errors. Please refer to the audio before quoting any content from this episode. 


AUDIO CLIPS: Love Thy Neighborhood… Discipleship and missions for modern times.

JESSE EUBANKS: Wilmore, Kentucky is a quaint little town – around 6,000 residents, one elementary school, one hotel, one traffic light, two coffee shops. The culture is largely a mix of blue collar and academics – mechanics, farmers, shop owners next to seminary professors and university students. But about two months ago, the stillness of this rural town was transformed. The New York Times reported that during a two week span over 50,000 people all converged on Wilmore – eight times more than the population. To put that in perspective, one modern cruise ship holds around 3,000 people. This tiny town suddenly had the equivalent of 16 cruise ships barreling through their quiet streets. And from the outside, through the internet and social media, you may have heard all of this. 

AUDIO CLIPS: This massive worship service…. Watch what happens… Good news story to start off… I know I’m not the only one… Some have called it a Christian revival…

ANNA TRAN: But that’s actually getting ahead of ourselves because every event has a beginning. Before the crowds of people, before the news segments, before the social media frenzy, there was day one – February 8th, 2023, the spark no one saw coming that would ignite a defining moment in the lives of tens of thousands of people and what would quickly become known as The Asbury Revival.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. I’m Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: And I’m Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “The Origin and Outpouring of The Asbury Revival.” Welcome to our corner of the urban universe.


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, Anna. I just have to say like I do remember like there was this point at which, like, my social media feed was just being taken over with clips from Asbury. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. I mean, I’m not on social media that much, but even I saw some stuff on, like, Facebook or Instagram, and it’s a lot to sift through. But I think for today’s episode I wanna just kind of cut through all of that digital noise and get right to the original voices.

JESSE EUBANKS: Wait, wait. What do you mean by original voices? 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, the voices of the students and faculty who were actually there, just right there in the thick of it. And speaking of being in the thick of it, I think the best place to start is with –

LENA MARLOWE: Lena Marlowe. I am a senior.

ANNA TRAN: Lena is African American. She’s studying sociology at Asbury.

LENA MARLOWE: And I’m also doing the social work track. 

ANNA TRAN: And for some context, Asbury University is a private, non-denominational Christian university in Wilmore, Kentucky. It was founded in the late 1800s, has about 1600 students, and this can be really overwhelming for someone trying to find their way in the world, you know, moving out of the house for the first time onto a campus of 1600 strangers. And this is why Lena joined Asbury’s gospel choir her freshman year. She said that the gospel choir – they became like family to her when she would have a tough week. 

LENA MARLOWE: Just a week of like stress and hopelessness and fear of like exams and stuff. But those Fridays at four o’clock, time has never changed. 

ANNA TRAN: So the gospel choir often practiced at four on Fridays, and she really looked forward to that time together. Now, occasionally the gospel choir would be asked to sing at Asbury’s weekly chapel, and that actually brings us to what I’m going to call Day Zero. It’s Tuesday night, February 7th, 2023, around 8 p.m. Lena and the rest of the gospel choir are wrapping up their rehearsal for chapel the next morning. But as the group is about to dismiss, the choir director suggests that they take some time to pray for each person who’s going to come through the doors the next day. Lena and the other choir members – they make their way off the stage and –

LENA MARLOWE: We literally placed our hand on seats and prayed. We prayed for God to just do a new thing and to bring reconciliation and to just pour out his Spirit. 

ANNA TRAN: The choir members – they placed their hands on each seat, one at a time, and they just prayed. “God, reconcile us. God, show yourself to this person. God, show us the power of your Spirit.” And though Lena’s prayers were sincere for God to pour out his Spirit, she had prayed these types of prayers plenty of times before without any significant ripples to her life. So eventually she heads home, she goes to sleep, with no idea of what’s about to happen. And that brings us to day one – 7 a.m. Lena begins her morning as per usual.

LENA MARLOWE: I usually read a Psalm as I’m like either preparing a quick breakfast or doing my eyebrows or whatever. I had an 8 a.m. class. 

ANNA TRAN: She wraps up her first class and then makes her way over to Hughes Chapel where the weekly chapel service is held.

LENA MARLOWE: 9:15, get to Hughes. 

ANNA TRAN: The gospel choir does a sound check. The speaker does a sound check. The program leader gives a rundown of the program. 

LENA MARLOWE: 9:55, we all come together on the stage and we pray.

ANNA TRAN: At this point, Lena and the choir are ready to go. They’re waiting on stage. 

LENA MARLOWE: We’re on risers. If you’re in the crowd, gospel choir was on the right.

ANNA TRAN: Behind them, you can see the huge dull silver pipes of the organ. Students are filing in. There’s a buzz of conversation in the room. And then, at 11:00, the gospel choir begins to lead the time of worship. And when the time of worship finishes, someone gets up and prays, and they introduce the speaker.

AUDIO CLIP: In Romans 12, the Holy Spirit moving in our midst… Revive us by your love. Amen.

ANNA TRAN: After the speaker concludes, three members of the gospel choir, including Lena, come back up and sing two more songs. Lena said that chapel usually lets out at around 10:50, but this time –

LENA MARLOWE: It actually finished really early, like maybe 10:35.

ANNA TRAN: The campus pastor came up.

LENA MARLOWE: Greg Hasselhoff, he dismissed and prayed out. 

ANNA TRAN: Students get up, they start to leave, and the members of the gospel choir start to sing their final song as people exit. And so far, everything about the chapel service is very typical, nothing out of the ordinary, but then a tiny thing happens that in the moment seems relatively inconsequential.

LENA MARLOWE: We finish the song, but we felt led by the Spirit to keep singing. 

ANNA TRAN: And so they did. 

LENA MARLOWE: And we didn’t even look at each other while we were singing.

ANNA TRAN: And they kept singing, one more song that flowed into another song and then another and then another. For actually nearly 45 minutes, they did not take a break from singing. They were just lost in worship. And at some point they looked up and realized that some people actually stuck around – not many, just a few.

LENA MARLOWE: Maybe 15 students stayed. It looked scattered. 

ANNA TRAN: The three members of the gospel choir – they stop singing and they make their way off stage, but they don’t leave either. They just sit down and begin praying.

LENA MARLOWE: Nobody was in the aisle yet. No one was by the stage yet. Everyone was like in their own seat. 

ANNA TRAN: Lena said that it was almost like each student was in their own bubble.

LENA MARLOWE: So whether that was just standing still and swaying, whether that was lifting our hands and singing the words, whether that was sitting down and journaling or just closing our eyes and praying.

ANNA TRAN: And it wasn’t meant to be anything. No one was trying to prove a point or force an experience. This was just happening. 

LENA MARLOWE: It was more of like, “This is just a sweet opportunity to just keep worshiping and like spending time with God.”

ANNA TRAN: Another hour passes. They’re praying, they’re singing, they’re journaling. And this is when Lena begins to realize that whatever her plans are for the day – they suddenly don’t seem important. This is where she wanted to be.

LENA MARLOWE: It started to step into the, the realm of like, there was no time constraint.

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh, this is so beautiful. Like, I still don’t understand exactly how this becomes a revival. Like, there’s what – like there’s like 15 students and they’re praying and they’re singing. Like, how does this become what I saw online? 

ANNA TRAN: Right. That’s a great question. So let me just show you what began to happen because Lena’s perspective isn’t the only story happening in this moment. So, let’s rewind for a moment.


ANNA TRAN: Okay. We’ve gone back in time. We’re back in chapel. The service has just dismissed, it’s around 10:35, and one of the students who sat in the service is Lexie Presta. 

LEXIE PRESTA: Yes, I’m here. 

ANNA TRAN: Lexie actually leads the school’s news outlet. 

LEXIE PRESTA: I’m the executive editor. 

ANNA TRAN: So, when chapel is dismissed, like all of the other students, Lexie got up, she left. She actually has an 11 a.m. class in the basement of Hughes, which is in the building they’re in, right underneath the chapel.

LEXIE PRESTA: And I’m talking with my friends and so I say goodbye to them and then I go downstairs. I put my bag in my chair. I even say to my professor like, “Good morning. Like I’ll be right back. I’m just going to the restroom.” 

ANNA TRAN: The building is pretty old, so sound just goes through the walls. So, when she goes back to class –

LEXIE PRESTA: And all of a sudden I’m like, “Interesting.” I was like, “I can hear them singing still.” 

ANNA TRAN: And she thinks to herself, “This is strange.”

LEXIE PRESTA: “That’s not normal. Usually they cut it off like once everyone leaves.” And I was like, “Are people still up there?” I felt like literally so torn. I was literally like bouncing between like the balls of my feet. Like, “Do I go upstairs? Do I go to class? Do I go upstairs? Do I go to class?” And I really feel the Holy Spirit just telling me, “Go upstairs.” And I was like, “Okay.” And so I went upstairs, and I peeked in. I was still kind of nervous. I’m like, “Oh no, like I don’t know what I’m walking into.”

JESSE EUBANKS: So, so what does she see? 

ANNA TRAN: Okay. Remember, from Lena’s point of view on the stage, she sees the faces of around, you know, 15 students scattered in their seats around the chapel. Now, Lexie is at the back of the chapel looking in, and from the back she sees – 

LEXIE PRESTA: There were like less than 20 students praying, worshiping, already on their knees. 

ANNA TRAN: Lexie said that she wasn’t sure what to do, but she sees her resident director sitting in the front of a section of seats. So, Lexie walks up to her.

LEXIE PRESTA: And I just felt the nudge to, like, ask for prayer because like I was dealing with, um, just heartbreak, a lot of bitterness, and just like internal and external conflict that was just kind of overwhelming.

ANNA TRAN: So Lexie was experiencing some conflict with some of her friends, and she was just feeling pretty sad and anxious about it all. And this little nudge to make herself vulnerable and ask for prayer for healing – Christians asking each other for prayer becomes really foundational in the days to come – not only for Lexie, but for everyone else too. And so her resident director prays with her, but then Lexie decides not to return to class. Instead, she gets up and goes and sits in the front row.

LEXIE PRESTA: I did not wanna leave yet. Like I – there was just something keeping me there.

ANNA TRAN: So at the same time as all of this is happening with Lexie, there’s actually another person in the room. It was the campus pastor, Greg Hasselhoff. He was the one who actually closed the service in prayer after the service was over. 

GREG HASSELHOFF: There’s plenty of times that I would leave, but I stuck around.

ANNA TRAN: And as Greg sat in the chapel after the service watching the handful of students pray by themselves, then pray for each other and sing together, he said that the atmosphere felt different from other times that students would stay behind.

GREG HASSELHOFF: What I might call a thicker presence of God, a more weighty encounter with the Holy Spirit in the midst of worship.

ANNA TRAN: So he was sitting close to the front. And then –

GREG HASSELHOFF: 20 minutes after 11, probably a dozen of ’em moved from where they were spread off in their own, in their own seats, and they all went to the altar at the same time. And within the next 20 or 30 minutes, we had a student that was asking if he could share a testimony. So he said, “Pastor Greg, I, I really think I wanna share some of my story. Is that okay? How would I do that?”

ANNA TRAN: So in the same way that Lena and the gospel choir’s small decision to keep singing, Greg’s small decision and his willingness to encourage and facilitate the student sharing his story would also have a huge impact on what was to come. And so Greg helps the student share his story. He makes an announcement to the room, and the student shares with everyone some of the difficult experiences he’s been through in his life. 

GREG HASSELHOFF: And how in the midst of that God really showed up and restored his hope and brought him out of that period. 

ANNA TRAN: And Lexie is right there. She’s with a few other friends who had also skipped class to join her. 

LEXIE PRESTA: And then it soon it becomes like, it’s like 11:50, you know, when my class was supposed to end, and we’re like, “We don’t wanna leave.” I was like, “But we need to eat lunch.”

JESSE EUBANKS: (laughs) I love that. That’s, that’s very practical. 

ANNA TRAN: Very practical. I know, right? So Lexie and her friend – they go eat lunch quickly, they immediately come back, and shortly after they return the atmosphere in the chapel has actually shifted again. 

LEXIE PRESTA: A lot more people were starting to come back.

ANNA TRAN: The reason for that is because at 1:30 –

LEXIE PRESTA: Our president had sent a message out. 

ANNA TRAN: The email was actually very simple. Um, here you go. You can read that, Jesse. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay. It says, “Asbury community, it is a blessed thing when students, staff, and faculty stay in chapel to pray and worship, which is what we have experienced today. As your schedule allows, I write this as an invitation to come to Hughes this afternoon to join others in prayer and worship. Blessings to you all, Kevin J. Brown, Ph.D., President, Asbury University.”

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so the president’s email goes out, it’s around 1:30. Both Lexie and Lena say that people start to text their friends and even start to tell other people in person. 

LEXIE PRESTA: One of my closest friends – he and a few other people had run out across campus, like bursting into classrooms, and was just like, “You guys gotta come to Hughes. Like, you gotta see what God is doing. The Holy Spirit’s moving.”

ANNA TRAN: One of the people who heard about this was a student named Asher Broughton. He’s a pre-med student at Asbury and a sophomore. He had actually skipped chapel that morning.

ASHER BROUGHTON: I had an exam that morning when everything started. So as soon as my exam got over, I was mentally drained and I decided to skip chapel.

ANNA TRAN: He decides to do some chores in the early afternoon, and as Asher’s trying to focus and get his chores done, he’s getting interrupted by like his phone. It’s like buzzing and –

ASHER BROUGHTON: I kept getting text messages, and it was about 2:00 when like my schedule finally got open and free. 

ANNA TRAN: He was actually in the middle of doing his laundry when he gets this text message from one of his best friends. 

ASHER BROUGHTON: It says, “Are you in chapel? You need to be bro.”

ANNA TRAN: And he thinks to himself –

ASHER BROUGHTON: “Alright, okay, I, I’ll go check it out real quick.” 

ANNA TRAN: Asher – he sends a message back.

ASHER BROUGHTON: I said, “I’m on my way now. Just started my laundry.”

ANNA TRAN: He leaves his laundry basket, he heads over to Hughes, and –

ASHER BROUGHTON: By the time I walked in there, there was already probably over a hundred students. And as soon as I walked in there, I was like, “Oh, my day just became clear.” I knew that I wasn’t gonna go to any class. I wasn’t gonna go to any of my other commitments. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh, this is really amazing. Okay, so we’re saying like within three hours it goes from like 15 students to now we’re like, we’re like over a hundred people. Like, this crowd is growing.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, it’s moving fast. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so what happened in the next few hours then? 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, so by the time Asher gets to the chapel, Lena and Lexie are there too. They describe that the students are still singing, worshiping. Some are kneeling, some are standing or sitting. Some are on their own, others maybe in pairs praying for each other or just, you know, talking quietly. So Lena actually gets out her phone ’cause she wants to document some of this. She actually described some of the photos to me along with the timestamps on them. 

LENA MARLOWE: 2:46, I have a picture of students that are just by the altar praying. 2:48, I took a picture of faculty members in the balcony holding hands. 3:30, there’s a bunch of students entering Hughes and sharing Scripture and testimony. 6:00 p.m., President Brown spoke, water bottles are being brought in. 

ANNA TRAN: Lemme just pause for a second. I wanna acknowledge that for each of these students it was a deep personal experience for them. I think it’s easy to think about young emotionalism, but students said that they were receiving healing and forgiveness. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, what do you mean? Like, can you give me an example of that? 

ANNA TRAN: Sure. So here’s an example. When Asher walked into the chapel that afternoon, one of his friends approached him directly.

ASHER BROUGHTON: He said to me, “Asher, I don’t know why, but God just told me that I need to tell you to let it go.” And he just hugged me, and he prayed over me. After that I was actually, I was very confused and I was a little agitated ’cause I’m like, “God, what do you want me to let go?”

ANNA TRAN: Asher – he sat down, and he was praying about – you know, what could this message mean? What did he need to let go of? He sat and prayed for almost an hour, and then he realized it was connected to something pretty big in his life. He had just celebrated a year of sobriety. You know, Asher was into like drugs and drinking, and it had hurt him and a lot of other people. He still felt horrible about himself whenever he thought about how he used to live.

ASHER BROUGHTON: I still carried a bit of guilt and shame from my past into who I was right now, that I knew who I was in Christ, but I was still thinking that I wasn’t as worthy as he tells me I am because of my past. I hadn’t truly forgiven myself for the actions and the things that I had done. The Spirit really laid it on me and I went up to the altar and I bawled my eyes out. I was emotional. I just had my kind of moment of just confession.

ANNA TRAN: And he stayed there past 4 p.m., past dinnertime, past 8 p.m., past midnight.

ASHER BROUGHTON: I ended up leaving about 2:45 to 3 a.m. It felt literally like a snap of my fingers. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, remember the clothes that Asher had in the washer earlier?

JESSE EUBANKS: (laughs) Oh, yes, yes, of course, his laundry. I forgot about it. 

ASHER BROUGHTON: That laundry did not come out of our community washer and dryer until about 24 hours later the next day when I left. 

ANNA TRAN: Even Lexie stayed well into the evening.

LEXIE PRESTA: I didn’t leave until like two or three in the morning. 

ANNA TRAN: And, although they were tired, you know, some students didn’t wanna leave the chapel. So instead of going to their dorms to sleep –

ASHER BROUGHTON: Some of my friends brought mattresses and slept in the back. Um, there was hammocks put up between rafters, like people were doing anything they could do to stay in that chapel. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, like I remember hearing from people that I trust who visited, uh, saying that like you would walk into the chapel and it was both intensely peaceful and totally energizing at the same time. That is something that I would wanna be around all day. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. And like the people who I talked to, they said it was wonderful. 

LEXIE PRESTA: It was just so special. Like it was just so peaceful. There was so much inner healing taking place, not just in me, but like in other people, like my friends and classmates I didn’t really know super well.

ANNA TRAN: But – there’s a catch. Something very modern is also taking place at the same time during this prayer and worship service ’cause, starting in the afternoon on day one, students begin doing what almost every young adult seems to be doing these days. They’re documenting and sharing what’s happening around them in the chapel. They’re posting on their Instagram and TikTok stories. They’re texting, sending photos to their friends. They want people to see what God is doing. And this – the presence of social media and instant communication – it ends up ushering in a new chapter to what is happening at Asbury. 

SARAH BALDWIN: And there was this kind of thought of like, “Oh, we have a lot of people on their way here.”

ANNA TRAN: When we come back, the first pilgrims arrive. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: You’re listening to the Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “The Origin and Outpouring of The Asbury Revival.” 

JESSE EUBANKS: So we’ve been following the timeline of three students at Asbury University – Lena, Lexie, and Asher. On Wednesday, February 8th, after a seemingly normal chapel service, hundreds of students returned to the chapel to pray, sing, and meet with Jesus.

ANNA TRAN: So we’re picking the story back up on day one, and to give us a perspective from someone who was further away from Hughes Chapel that day, I talked with a faculty member who was there from the start. 

SARAH BALDWIN: Sarah Baldwin, and I serve as the Vice President of Student Life. 

ANNA TRAN: Sarah oversees a lot of departments, like chapel services, student career services, counseling services.

SARAH BALDWIN: So everything that supports our students outside the classroom.

ANNA TRAN: Sarah heard about the worship service through a text message, so she decided to stop by the chapel on her way to a lunch meeting, and she sat down for a few minutes. She saw just a handful of students there.

SARAH BALDWIN: So I thought, “Oh, this is a really sweet spirit of worship.”

ANNA TRAN: She left for her afternoon meetings, but when she came back – 

SARAH BALDWIN: Maybe like at 3:00, and I was like, “Wow, there are so many students here. Like, what is happening?” And at that point then I canceled the rest of the things for the day. 

ANNA TRAN: As night approached on the first day, there was word that other visitors were going to join. 

SARAH BALDWIN: Then we started to get some texts and like students saying, “Oh, you know what? UK – University of Kentucky – they’re gonna come down and see what’s going on.”

ANNA TRAN: At some point that night, Sarah and a small group of staff gathered in the downstairs hallways of Hughes. 

SARAH BALDWIN: There was this kind of thought of like, “Oh, we have a lot of people on their way here.” Like we’re hearing like reports of students coming and “Okay, well we need to make a plan to have Hughes open overnight.” It just seemed like, “Yes, of course we do.” And so just that’s my responsibility. 

ANNA TRAN: She springs into action and starts sending texts out to support staff.

SARAH BALDWIN: “Who can take the 2 to 4 a.m. shift?” And I said, “I’ll take the 4 a.m. to 6 a.m. shift. Can anyone be here at 6 a.m.?” So we just kind of mapped it out for the night.

ANNA TRAN: And at this point Sarah’s not expecting this worship service to go on any longer than just that evening.

SARAH BALDWIN: We just kind of thought, “This’ll be great, but, you know, regular life is gonna happen.” And the next day it just continued, and more and more college students came.

ANNA TRAN: She got messages from one source and then another source. 

SARAH BALDWIN: “50 students are leaving from Huntington. There’s a van leaving from Indiana Wesleyan. There’s students coming from Ohio Christian.” 

ANNA TRAN: What had started with about 15 students was now growing to hundreds of students. 

SARAH BALDWIN: They just came all day Thursday, so that by Thursday night the place was just full of students. And the worship was incredibly beautiful and people began testifying, doing like times of focused prayer for one another. 

ANNA TRAN: Students from other schools would come for a few hours, and then they would head back home. And as they departed, the staff would try to get a few minutes of intentional time with them.

SARAH BALDWIN: As student groups left, we were like commissioning them in prayer. 

ANNA TRAN: Greg and other staff would create 20 to 30 minute intervals for students to share. 

GREG HASSELHOFF: Whether that was a testimony or confession or repentance was really dependent on what was going on with each student that wanted to share. 

ANNA TRAN: And throughout those first two days, not only were students pouring in –

SARAH BALDWIN: Food was outpouring. People brought like protein bars and protein shakes and granola bars and fresh fruit and then they started to bring like homemade baked potato soup and then there was like lasagna and like multiple times we would get 50 pizzas delivered at a time. (Unclear) Were just like, “From Dan in Tennessee.” And we’re like, “Who’s Dan in Tennessee?” 

ANNA TRAN: Community members stepped up to help visitors.

SARAH BALDWIN: Someone else like, “I’m gonna help with housing,” and so she created on her own like a QR code and “Do people need to have a place to stay?” 

ANNA TRAN: And at this point, you know, Sarah wasn’t necessarily fully calling this thing a revival or an awakening.

SARAH BALDWIN: We wanted to be sensitive to not like put the cart before the horse, so to speak, you know, and to like say, “We don’t really know what God is doing yet.”

JESSE EUBANKS: Gosh, this sounds so sweet. Like they’re taking care of each other, they’re taking care of visitors. Like it’s so beautiful. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. It’s very like home-y and just like very family-oriented. 

JESSE EUBANKS: But like we know that at some point this thing really starts to take off, like more pilgrims are going to come to town.

ANNA TRAN: Exactly. Okay, so I’m gonna use Google Trends to give us an idea of what the scope of this is like. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, like Google Trends helps you understand the history of a search term. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Like how popular it was and on what date. 

ANNA TRAN: Mm-hmm. Right. So on day one, it shows that the search term “Asbury Revival” is at 0%. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so like no one is doing Google searches for this thing.

ANNA TRAN: Nope. No one’s typing it in. No one’s looking it up. Okay, so day two it’s at 2%. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so we’ve got a few folks checking it out. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. Now, days three and four, local news outlets start covering the event. 

AUDIO CLIP: A religious revival is entering…

ANNA TRAN: Some personal video testimonies get posted. 

AUDIO CLIP: Hey, my family and I went to the Asbury college revival…

ANNA TRAN: Some tweets with videos of students in Hughes singing were posted these days. Now on day five, Google Trends shows the search term “Asbury Revival” is at 25% popularity. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Holy smokes. So like in three days it has gone up from like 2% to like 25%. 

ANNA TRAN: Exactly. I think this is a major turning point ’cause on day five more smaller news outlets are covering it. 

AUDIO CLIPS: Wendy Griffith brings us this story from Wilmore… Videos of the service popped up on social media…

ANNA TRAN: Tweets from this day have videos showing the auditorium filled with people.

SARAH BALDWIN: That first weekend we were like, “This is amazing. Like, what is happening?” There’s like maybe four or five thousand people came this weekend.

ANNA TRAN: And at one point Sarah wondered if the flow of people would eventually crest or level out.

SARAH BALDWIN: But that next week it started to pick up like more and more, and, you know, I would leave really late like at 1 a.m. and then come in at like 8 a.m. and on my way in I started to like see people lining up.

ANNA TRAN: Okay, day six – Christian Broadcasting Network, they ran their first video about the events. 

AUDIO CLIP: So Alexandra, there is quite an incredible thing happening…

ANNA TRAN: Christianity Today runs an article. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, I think this is a really good time for me to ask this. Like, I think a lot of people are curious – like, what kind of people were traveling from out of town to go to this thing? Like what, what was just, you know, the common person that was traveling there? 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, that’s a good question. Well, for example, I talked to a guy from here in Louisville.

MARK SINGLETON: Mark Singleton. 

ANNA TRAN: Mark had heard about the events from his pastor, but like a lot of people, Mark also saw social media posts. 

MARK SINGLETON: I’m old, so I was on Facebook. For me, I was very excited, but also assumed maybe it was just something that was tied directly to some specific denomination. I didn’t really understand much. 

ANNA TRAN: But Mark had heard enough that his curiosity was piqued. He asked his wife if she’d be willing to do a quick day trip so they could go see it firsthand.

MARK SINGLETON: It was about an hour and a half drive. We ended up parking at a grocery store parking lot in the back. We walked over and just asked students, and they pointed to the chapel building, people making podcasts and doing interviews outside of it. We hear the singing pretty loud ’cause, I mean, it’s hundreds of people singing to the top of their lungs. To describe the atmosphere, it was definitely a very contagious excitement. 

ANNA TRAN: They get a spot in the balcony of Hughes. 

MARK SINGLETON: There were people singing every section, but there was still – I mean, our pew, there probably could have set maybe 15 people and there was four or five of us. So it wasn’t packed, packed at that point. But then, uh, that evening it was completely packed.

ANNA TRAN: And Mark essentially describes the exact same thing that everyone else described earlier. It’s not a flashy event. It’s literally just simple songs of worship being sung. Testimonies are being shared, along with people praying to God, praying over each other.

JESSE EUBANKS: And like, so this is what Mark discovered? Like students just, I don’t know, worshiping, praying, sharing with each other?

ANNA TRAN: Yep. That’s it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Man. That is wild. It’s just so much more simple, I think, than people would think it would be. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, really basic. And Mark actually ends up going twice in a row. So day six and seven, he does a one and a half hour drive back and forth from Louisville. Now, at about the same time that Mark visits, another big thing happens. On day eight, NBC runs their first article. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Whoa. Like we are getting out of the grassroots movement at this point then.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, we’re definitely getting into the big news outlets, and this is the start of when many of the most viewed TikTok videos get posted.

AUDIO CLIPS: About three hours in line… The truth about The Asbury Revival… Went to Asbury yesterday…

ANNA TRAN: Along with YouTube responses.

AUDIO CLIP: Myself and a friend of mine, Drew, came, just to get into…

ANNA TRAN: On day nine, Mike Cosper from Christianity Today is at Asbury.

AUDIO CLIP: There’s a line least two football fields long, you know, three or four… 

ANNA TRAN: And on day nine is also when the president, Dr. Kevin Brown, releases an official statement acknowledging to the public that these events are happening on their campus. Day 10 – Fox News runs an opinion piece. And shortly after, day 11 – CNN and Fox both run their own stories. 

AUDIO CLIP: Asbury University, which is a private Christian… 

ANNA TRAN: Meanwhile, the news outlets and social media people who’ve already released stories and posts – they’re continuing to cover it, giving realtime updates.

AUDIO CLIPS: This massive worship service… Good news story to start off… It was pretty incredible… I know I’m not the only one… Even for those who experienced it, it’s hard to define. Some have called it a Christian revival. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh, my head is spinning. This is so much stuff so fast. 

ANNA TRAN: It is a lot. Okay, check this out. Day 12 – Google Trends puts the search term “Asbury Revival” at a hundred percent.

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh. This is crazy. So like day, day five was what? 25 percent? 

ANNA TRAN: 25 percent. 

JESSE EUBANKS: And so here we are day 12 and it’s gone up all the way to a hundred percent. Like this is peak. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. It grows in a week from 25 to a hundred. That’s 75 percent growth. 


ANNA TRAN: In just a week. 


ANNA TRAN: And of course in a small town like Wilmore of around, you know, 6,000 people, you can imagine things got intense. You remember sophomore Asher Broughton? Here’s how he describes it. 

ASHER BROUGHTON: Suddenly, even the combination between Asbury students and the Wilmore town population – to have over double that amount of people just show up one day, it was insane and it was crazy. Um, parking was horrible. 

ANNA TRAN: Sarah said that people from all around the world came into town.

SARAH BALDWIN: Brazilians, people from Chile, so many people from Mexico, fellows from Canada, a family from Holland, two families at least that came from Russia.

ANNA TRAN: And of course, like, all of these people descending onto campus – they needed to get organized fast. Greg told me about how the campus staff and faculty needed to build up an infrastructure.

GREG HASSELHOFF: Taking care of super practical things like bathrooms, where people were sleeping if they came, not knowing where they were gonna spend the night, how long we were gonna leave our doors open, what kind of security we had.

ANNA TRAN: Asher actually described what it was like to drive in and out of town.

ASHER BROUGHTON: Police from all around – sheriffs, uh, officers, deputies, everybody – they shut down the roads leading into Wilmore, and you had to either show a student ID or show a driver’s license which proved that you were a resident of the town to even drive on the roads to get into Wilmore because so many people were wanting to come.

ANNA TRAN: Lexie told me that Asbury’s small campus is set up to where there’s a few main buildings, including Hughes Chapel, set on this large semicircle, and there’s a nice big patch of grass and trees located there. 

LEXIE PRESTA: They had set up screens to show people what was going on inside of Hughes for those who were waiting or those who just wanted to come and be outside. So you have every inch of that grass covered. 

ANNA TRAN: And what’s interesting is that there were thousands of people there, and although, you know, there are instances like street preaching and small groups of protestors – the overwhelming majority of people who went, you know, they gave accounts that the atmosphere, once people settled in, was actually very calm and very peaceful.

LEXIE PRESTA: There was one moment I had stepped across the street to the seminary to give people pizza there and I turned back around and it was like almost dead silent ’cause everyone was praying, like together, like on the ground, like kneeling on the ground or whatever posture they could take, and it was quiet and you just hear prayer. And that was such a peaceful, holy moment for me.

ANNA TRAN: So, meanwhile, in the Hughes Chapel, the singing, prayer, and sharing of testimonies is still going on. On many days, you could find Sarah along with the other staff in the building. 

SARAH BALDWIN: This team of people, like we were meeting in like just a little storage closet behind Hughes Auditorium and we would just meet like every couple hours and I’d ask the group, “Okay, so what’s next? What are we seeing? What’s happening in the Spirit? Like how should we respond to this? Is it time for more testimonies?” 

ANNA TRAN: Greg described how the faculty and staff all fell into their own concentric pockets of leadership. 

GREG HASSELHOFF: There was the leadership around the order of worship in Hughes Auditorium, the leadership of our cabinet, our president and and vice president, leadership of our logistics team. And the seminary had its circle of leadership that was opening up the three or four spaces that they had on their campus and how they were going to create those safe spaces for worship on their campus. That took a thousand small miracles for all those concentric circles to keep making decisions in the same direction.

SARAH BALDWIN: There was no point person calling the shots. Everyone was really falling over each other to be like, “How do we listen together to God in this?” and like, “How do we steward this?”

JESSE EUBANKS: Gosh, this is so wild. You know, in less than 12 days’ time, this little town that I’ve been to many times – and lemme tell you it is rural, it’s remote – and it’s now a buzz. And this incredible community of campus leadership is just merging their skills a moment at a time just to love everybody as best as they can. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, I can’t believe it never turned like dangerous. It’s like pretty amazing. 


ANNA TRAN: And, you know, at this point, remember, students actually still have to go to class. The campus was a whole new world for these students. They had to learn how to live in it. Here’s Asher again. 

ASHER BROUGHTON: Being a pre-medical student, a lot of my classes – we just don’t have the ability and we don’t have the option to cancel them and to not go to class. It’s such a rigorous course load and course schedule that taking a week or two weeks off of classes – it’s not feasible.

ANNA TRAN: And in a lot of ways, these thousands of people were visitors to the homes of these students, like Lena.

LENA MARLOWE: During the fall and spring, this is like where I live. This is where I feel safe. This is where I eat. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, you know how visitors coming into your home can be great and all that? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah. Yeah. Like you’re like so excited. Like, “Everybody come over. I can’t wait to have this party at my house.”

ANNA TRAN: It’s fun. 


ANNA TRAN: You kind of want them to leave at some point. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Totally. Yes. 

LENA MARLOWE: The leaders were seeing like, “You know what? Our students are our first priority. Our students are tired from serving, but also there are some students that want their home back.”

ANNA TRAN: And then on day 12, the president officially announced the final date of public worship services. 

AUDIO CLIP: After Thursday of this week, we will conclude our last service in Hughes Auditorium here. 

ANNA TRAN: And so at this point – between day 12, 13, 14, 15 – there are still so many social media posts, articles, and videos being uploaded, clip after clip, sound bite after sound bite, and people were not shy in stating their opinions. 

AUDIO CLIPS: It’s the so-called revival, this movement… Was it on the rails to begin with… Revival is… Causing logistical issues for…

ANNA TRAN: And all of these opinions and agendas started pressing in on Asbury as well. As outsiders began arriving in increasing numbers, staff often had to be decisive in how to handle scenarios that would suddenly arise.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, what do you mean? Like what? 

ANNA TRAN: Well, here are a few examples. One visitor began blowing a ram’s horn in the chapel.

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Staff had to intervene. One guest wore a t-shirt with the message “Homosexuality Is Sin” written in oversized text. 


ANNA TRAN: They were asked to leave. Tucker Carlson of Fox News – he made plans to actually attend in person.

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh. 

ANNA TRAN: And report on the event. But then the school called him and asked him not to come. 

JESSE EUBANKS: So it just seems like, you know, the staff really worked hard to keep the experience from being absorbed into any outside agenda or cause. 

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, for sure. But it only intensified the public’s point of view of what was happening. Even people that attended firsthand found plenty of opinions waiting for them back home. For example, remember Mark from earlier?

MARK SINGLETON: I was excited, super excited. I come back and I’m talking to people about how, you know, awesome it is just to, feels like a taste of heaven and everybody’s super pumped and I start talking to people and I’m just, I’m kind of feeling the skepticism. My friends are African American, shared just concerned about how in history, uh, revivals, their majority white contexts many times haven’t produced social change. And some of the other people talked about how, you know, just seemed overly emotional and… 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, I can understand people’s skepticism. You know, it is true that a lot of people get high on a religious experience and then go out into the world and they never actually change how they live or how they treat other people.

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. Sadly, I’ve heard that before. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, so people are seeing what’s happening at Asbury, and they’re just, they’re asking a thousand questions, you know. Is the gospel being proclaimed? Is it too inclusive? Is it not inclusive enough? Will it lead to social change? Is sin being called out?

ANNA TRAN: Yeah, it’s really important to take these critiques and concerns into account. It’d be unwise to blindly just accept everything we hear. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yeah, the Bible encourages us to wrestle with questions of truth – What is true? What are lies? We need to know the difference. 

ANNA TRAN: Right. I think we should talk about that. So, when we come back, we’re gonna talk about how do we know if this is a true revival and what’s the evidence. Stay with us.


JESSE EUBANKS: Love Thy Neighborhood podcast. Jesse Eubanks. 

ANNA TRAN: Anna Tran. Today’s episode – “The Origin and Outpouring of The Asbury Revival.”

JESSE EUBANKS: We’ve been following the story of what people have called The Asbury Revival. Over 50,000 people flocked to the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky to see for themselves if the news they heard about was real – was a supernatural awakening by God occurring at Asbury University? We’ve talked about how it started, what was happening, how it spread, and now we’ve got some questions to wrestle with, right? 

ANNA TRAN: Right. What is a revival? And, how do we know when a real one is taking place? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Yes. I mean, those are the big questions – like, is this legitimate? Is this from God, or is this being fabricated by people?

ANNA TRAN: Well, to help with this, I’d like to refer to the work of a guy named Gavin Ortlund. He actually did a really long video reflecting theologically on the events at Asbury. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Oh my gosh. That sounds like it could get a little heady and wordy. 

ANNA TRAN: Well, it’s not that bad, trust me. But for brevity’s sake, there are essentially four key things I think that’ll be great to consider. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay. Give it to me. 

ANNA TRAN: Number one – addressing the word “revival” and its definition. 

GAVIN ORTLUND: Revival is the season in the, of the life of the church when God causes the normal ministry of the gospel to surge forward with extraordinary spiritual power. It is the normal ministry of the gospel, not something eccentric or even different from what the church is always charged to do. What sets revival apart is simply that our usual efforts greatly accelerate in their spiritual effects. God hits the fast forward button. 

ANNA TRAN: Second thing – criteria for a true revival. 

GAVIN ORTLUND: The things that do tell you always come back to spiritual fruit. If the revival is producing firm conviction of the truth of the gospel, that tells you something ’cause Satan doesn’t do that. When it increases our reverence for Scripture, when it increases our love for God and for others, we must steward revival to keep the focus on Jesus and to keep the focus on the gospel. 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, third thing – addressing emotionalism. 

GAVIN ORTLUND: The fact that people are responding with lots of emotion is not necessarily good or bad. It just doesn’t tell you enough information yet to know.

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, I’ll say this – the presence of a lot of emotion may not tell us if it’s true, but I will say when there is a lack of emotion, that actually makes me even more concerned. Emotions are essential to deep life experiences. Okay. Anyway. Anyway. Uh, what’s the fourth thing? 

ANNA TRAN: Okay, fourth thing – the reality of church history.

GAVIN ORTLUND: Here’s the simple fact is that this happens a lot throughout church history and throughout the Scripture. The kingdom of God does not advance evenly and at the same rate all the time. Rather, the kingdom of God tends to go through periods of stasis or declension punctuated by these incredible big breakthroughs.

ANNA TRAN: And a bonus point, just a note on perfectionism.

GAVIN ORTLUND: You can’t tell that something isn’t a revival just because there are errors and imperfections involved. During times of revival, Satan always comes in with counterfeits, and part of the strategy of that is then people will look to the counterfeit and dismiss the whole thing.

JESSE EUBANKS: I actually really, really appreciate that because I think a lot of people look at something and they go, “Oh, there’s a flaw present, so this can’t be from God.” And so often it’s like, “Man, human beings are involved. Like this thing’s just not capable of being perfect, like we’re not in heaven yet.”

ANNA TRAN: Yeah. I think in another video Gavin also mentions that the absence of theological sophistication – that’s not a good reason to completely disregard the whole thing.

JESSE EUBANKS: Okay, so let me recap. So first, revival is a time period where God pushes the fast forward button on people’s spiritual lives. It’s like accelerated growth. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Second, true revival can be judged on evidence of spiritual fruit of the people, like an increased love for God and other people, an increased love for the Bible, for the gospel.

ANNA TRAN: You got it. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Third, emotional responses are not enough to tell us whether it’s a true revival or not. 


JESSE EUBANKS: Okay. And then finally, fourth, revivals in church history is not a new or weird thing. It’s actually very normal for things like this to happen throughout the history of the church.

ANNA TRAN: So, with these things in mind, let’s go back to Asbury’s campus. On day 12, the president announced that official public gatherings for visitors would end on February 23rd, which would be day 16. And although that service was the official end of the public events at Asbury, for many of the students, it was just the beginning. Here’s Greg again.

GREG HASSELHOFF: Almost every conversation to a T that I’ve had with a student, we’ve looked at each other and said, “We’re gonna be talking about this the rest of our lives.” The longevity of its impact is so much bigger than, you know, like, “Oh, what’s the next exciting spring break trip I have?” Every one of them are saying, “This is something we’re never gonna quit talking about.” 

ANNA TRAN: Story after story, each person I talked with had clear memories of what they saw and witnessed.

SARAH BALDWIN: Every afternoon and every evening, at least every three hours, we had like a salvation call and a call for full commitment, full surrender to Jesus, and hundreds of people came to know Jesus for the first time. It was so exciting.

ANNA TRAN: So remember Asher, the sophomore? He actually told me this story that has really stuck with me. It’s this memory he has from the first night of how people responded to a student who went on stage and was sharing how hopeless she was. 

ASHER BROUGHTON: She got up on stage and she got the microphone and she just shouted out and screamed that “Nobody sees me. Nobody sees me. I’m alone. Nobody’s here for me.”

ANNA TRAN: He said that one of the pastors there directed the group to pray specifically for her in that moment, and then this really incredible thing happened. At the same time, about 50 women went over to her directly.

ASHER BROUGHTON: All different ages, students, non-students, faculty, community members, all coming together and laying hands and praying over this one girl, praying against her suicidal thoughts, her depression, and her anxiety that she had been struggling with for years. After them praying over her for 30, 45 minutes, um, I kid you not, she was walking around and jumping and dancing and had a smile on her face that stretched from ear to ear. I went up to her afterwards, and I said, “There is such a joy on your face.” It’s just obvious and evident that the Lord touched her in such an incredible way that those chains were broken.

ANNA TRAN: There were so many amazing stories about God at work in people’s lives at the revival. You know, there’s a story of a student’s missions trip getting fully paid for, a story about two people with opposite political opinions reconciling their differences. There’s a story of answered prayer for physical healing of people’s loved ones. People came to know Jesus for the first time. People rededicated their lives to Jesus. And the stories go on. But, as life continues on, students know that there’s still more growth to come and that guidance is needed. Here’s Lena, who was there from the very beginning with the gospel choir. 

LENA MARLOWE: There’s a lot of students that never had an experience like this, has never been to church, but they go to a Christian university, and this was the first experience that they had here that was so amazing. And so they need a mentor. They need somebody who is like further than them in their walk with Christ to help them and guide them.

JESSE EUBANKS: What happened at Asbury reached out beyond the limits of Wilmore. 

ANNA TRAN: What do you mean by that? 

JESSE EUBANKS: Well, it makes me think of this. Okay, so there were some ladies in our family that saw everything that was happening at Asbury. They were watching it online, super, super captivated by it. So they were like, “Let’s actually go in person and see what’s happening.” And here’s the thing – like, these are not, like, ladies that, like, do road trips together. Some of these ladies are older, some of them have anxiety, some of them are, you know, tend to sort of stay home more often. But they were so struck that they wanted to go see for themselves. Well then Asbury of course said, “Well, we’re closing to the public,” so the ladies were like, “Well, crud.” But they didn’t end up just totally canceling. They actually went to this coffee shop and they sat down and they ended up having some of the most meaningful conversation that this group of ladies had ever had together, talking about the movement of God, about doubt, about faith, about death, about hopes, about what is the Bible, all of these really wonderful conversations. And the reality is that they had that moment because of what God did at Asbury. It’s almost as if Asbury was a bonfire and these embers lifted up and out and spread across the country into these little pockets, these little moments, all over the place – other colleges, youth groups, dinner table conversations, coffee shops. People excited by the love of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. People amazed to know that God is still with us, he’s transforming us and loving us into wholeness. 

SARAH BALDWIN: I’ve been really contemplating that God brings revival not when everything is right, but when it needs to be set right. I mean, revival implies that something is dead or dying, right? And so I, I feel like that God brought this, not because like this is a shining moment of faith, (laughs) but because we so need to be set right, we need to be restored in Jesus.


JESSE EUBANKS: Oh, and one other thing. We do have to ask – if revivals lead to fruit, what does some of that fruit look like? What do young adults do after an experience like this? Well, we’re gonna answer that in two weeks when we explore stories of young adults leaving their old normal behind to follow Jesus into a world in need.


JESSE EUBANKS: If you benefited at all from this podcast, please help us out by leaving a review wherever it is that you listen to podcasts. Your review will help other people discover our show.


JESSE EUBANKS: Special thanks to our interviewees – Lena Marlowe, Lexie Presta, Asher Broughton, Dr. Sarah Baldwin, Greg Hasselhoff, and Mark Singleton. Thank you also to Dr. Craig Keener. Also, I encourage you to check out the show notes for this episode. We are going to put some links to some key moments in the episode if you’d like to explore those further.

ANNA TRAN: Our senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks. 

JESSE EUBANKS: This episode was written by Anna Tran with Jesse Eubanks. It was produced and edited by Anna Tran, who the other day I caught with the window open in her office, arms outstretched, saying, “Yes, Lord, bless me.” 

SARAH BALDWIN: Food was outpouring, like fresh fruit. 

JESSE EUBANKS: Music for this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions, Lee Rosevere, and Murphy DX.

ANNA TRAN: This show is brought to you by Love Thy Neighborhood. If you want a hands-on experience of missions in our modern times, come serve with Love Thy Neighborhood. We offer summer and year-long missions internships for young adults ages 18 to 30.

JESSE EUBANKS: Bring social change with the gospel by working with an innovative nonprofit and serving your urban neighbors. Experience community like never before as you live and do ministry with other Christian young adults. Grow in your faith by walking in the life and lifestyle of Jesus and being part of a vibrant, healthy church. Apply now at Which of these was a neighbor to the man in need? The one who showed mercy. Jesus tells us, “Go, and do likewise.”


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Special thanks to our interviewees Lena Marlowe, Lexie Presta, Asher Braughton, Dr. Sarah Baldwin, Greg Haslehoff, and Mark Singleton. Thank you also to Dr. Craig Keener.

Senior producer and host is Jesse Eubanks.

This episode was produced and edited by Anna Tran.

This episode was written by Anna Tran with Jesse Eubanks.

Music for this episode comes from Blue Dot Sessions, Lee Rosevere, and Murphy D.X.