A single question runs right from the garden of Eden through all of human experience: To whom will I look to satisfy my hunger?
‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.’—Matthew 5:6
On February 8, 2023, God visited Asbury University in the small town of Wilmore, Kentucky in a truly unique way. As a Lausanne catalyst for orality living in Wilmore, you can imagine the surprise of my family and I as we have suddenly found ourselves witnessing a much bigger story than we could have imagined. What began as a typical Wednesday morning chapel at the university with about nineteen students staying afterwards to pray evolved into a movement of God to such a degree that, at one point, the local police had to close the main road into Wilmore due to the overwhelming traffic of people coming to seek God. Such a movement of God deserves further reflection, particularly for those of us who share the Lausanne heart for the world to meet Jesus Christ.
Characteristics of the Asbury Revival
The first characteristic about this revival that has impacted me has been the sincere spirit of humility, which I have seen reflected in numerous ways these last days. From the beginning, there has been a deep brokenness as people have come to the altar of Asbury’s Hughes auditorium, humbling themselves before God and others. Both university students and visitors to Asbury have knelt at the old wooden altar, confessing their sins, declaring their need for God, acknowledging their fears, expressing shame, and admitting deep wounds. My wife and I have had the privilege to pray with people at that altar, and hearing their vulnerability before us as total strangers but also before God has been awe-some and deeply moving.
This humility has also been reflected in the Asbury University leadership. When I walked into the auditorium for the first time, I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of people in the room that were all adoring Jesus. One of my earliest thoughts was this could be very advantageous for Asbury. They could profit off of all these visitors and the media attention. Yet what has been remarkable to witness is the University president introducing himself not with a title or degree but with a certain deference: ‘My name is Kevin and I have the privilege to work here.’ Furthermore, numerous high profile Christian leaders have offered to help lead worship or preach, and these kind overtures have been humbly turned down—not because such leaders could not have helped but because the University leadership did not want there to be any confusion. God was at work and he seemed very capable without the help of any Christian celebrity. Thus, the attitude throughout has not been, ‘How can we bend this for Asbury’s purposes?’ but rather, ‘How do we not touch the glory?’
Hunger for God
The second characteristic about this awakening of God that I have experienced is an almost insatiable hunger for God. I have come to the point now that I believe the story of the 2023 Asbury Revival is a story that began with 19 hungry hearts asking God to fill them with himself and the remarkable reality of God doing just that.
This theme of hunger is familiar in many ways, making up part of every human experience. With more time, we could investigate hunger by looking at numerous strategic passages of Scripture such as Matthew 4, Isaiah 55, Exodus 16, Genesis 25, or even Genesis 3. But what is apparent is that a question runs right from the garden of Eden through all human reality: To whom will I look to satisfy my hunger? The truth is that all of us hunger for God, and as Jesus reminded us in his desert experience, bread without God will not satisfy. There is no amount of physical or metaphoric bread, whether sex, reputation, achievement, ministry, family, money, beauty, likes, or followers that will satisfy the hunger in the human heart. The reason is that all those hungers, while perhaps feeling primal at our core at times, are actually secondary witnesses to a priority desire—a hunger for God.
I submit this is the only way that you can explain what has motivated people to do what they have done in these last days. Thousands of people converged on a small backwater town in central Kentucky. A couple from the country of Chile sold their vehicle, bought plane tickets, and flew to Lexington, Kentucky to come to a small university’s auditorium. A celebrated basketball player with an impressive ring on his finger drove an hour and half from Louisville to kneel at the altar in front of fourteen hundred people and ask that God would purify his heart. A thirty-year-old man drove ten hours from New Jersey, fasting and praying, and even lied about his age so that he could sneak into the ‘twenty-five and younger’ session to seek guidance. People travelled from as nearby as Ohio, Indiana, and Tennessee as well as from as far away as Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii. This is not what we classify as normal or typical behavior. So what motivates people to seek God in such a way? They are hungry for God.
It is necessary to acknowledge that while we have witnessed and praised God for physical healings and even deliverances of various kinds, these miraculous manifestations of God’s power have not been the revival’s focus. Rather, a spirit of repentance, a confession of sin, and a desire for breakthrough with God have been the norm. Thus, in such an environment, the issues that have been on people’s hearts have been how to be saved, wanting to pray for full surrender, a desire to break pornography addictions, a confessing of substance abuse, an acknowledging of unforgiveness, a seeking of healing from adultery, grieving infertility, navigating illness-related questions, naming sports idolatry, and admitting jealousy. These are merely the beginning of topics that people have poured out at the feet of Jesus, acknowledging their hurt, questions, sin, brokenness, vulnerability, fear, and shame.
In the midst of so much hunger, what has been remarkable is the faithfulness of God to fill people with himself through the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like Jesus promised in Matthew 5:6, we can give testimony that the hungry are being filled and the thirsty are being satisfied—with God himself.
A ‘Coming-To-Go’ Mindset
The third characteristic that we have observed these days at Asbury has been a burden for the world. The nations have come to Wilmore. Men and women from Chile, Canada, South Africa, the UK, Nigeria, Brazil, South Korea, Russia, Norway, Haiti, Myanmar, and Israel have all come seeking God. But they are not just coming for God to meet them—they want to return to the nations and are asking God to visit their countries as well.
I experienced this ‘coming-to-go’ mindset while I was praying with people at the altar one afternoon. A man came with a flag wrapped around his shoulders. I asked him what God was saying and he told me that he had come from Mexico City. He had traveled via four cities by plane before getting a vehicle to drive to Wilmore. He had brought a Mexican flag because he wanted God to move in Mexico. Then he pulled out a white T-shirt with his youth group’s logo on it and placed it on the altar, saying, ‘This represents the young people of Mexico. Will you pray with me for the youth of Mexico?’
So Juan and I knelt at the altar in Hughes auditorium and we cried out for God to come to the nation of Mexico, specifically for God to save the young people of that nation and to anoint Juan in a special way as he returns. It was a sacred and holy moment. Curiously (and convictingly) Juan turned 18 only about three months ago. What motivates such a young man to pay the price to come to such an out-of-the-way place as Wilmore? I suggest again it’s a hunger for God. It is worth reiterating that Juan was not there for himself—he was there because God had given him a burden for his nation.
And here I believe is the deep connection between the Asbury Revival and the Lausanne Movement. Ultimately, the members of Lausanne believe that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ will alone satisfy the hunger of every man, woman, and child the world over. Why are we so committed to the four vision points of Lausanne—our desire for everyone to have a chance to respond to the gospel, for evangelical churches in every community, for Christlike shepherds, and for kingdom impact in all areas of society?
The reason is we believe that only in relationship to Jesus Christ (and his bride, the church), can we truly be satisfied. Lausanne holds fast to Psalm 145:16 and 19, that God alone can fulfill and satisfy the desires and hunger of every human heart. Ultimately, that is why we participate and volunteer in journeys and gatherings like Lausanne 4 and Seoul 2024. The Lausanne Movement exists because we are hungry for God, and we are asking him to fill the hungry people of this world with himself.
During these days of the revival, Asbury’s Hughes auditorium has been filled with a Lausanne-like array of generations and ethnicities all bowing down before the Lord Jesus. I am reminded of the end of Scripture where we see representatives from every nation, tribe, people, and language likewise bowing down in worship to God and to the Lamb. Curiously, at the end of the story, the apostle John echoes the now-familiar theme of hunger and thirst:
The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.
You may be asking, ‘So what can I do?’ or ‘How does one get God to do that for my community?’
To that good question, I would only answer, ‘Pray for a hunger.’