The Asbury Revival
by Cadet Grant Hall
What is revival, and how does it occur? In the twentieth
century there have been a few revivals that have occurred in
society. One of note is the Asbury College Revival in
Kentucky. This short paper will focus on this revival, and
compare some common characteristics with some other revivals
that occurred in the twentieth century.
So what happened in 1970 at this small college campus Asbury?
What made this such a tremendously important part of our
church history? Preparation. According to Dr. Dennis Kinlaw,
it began with one of the young female students wanting a
deeper blessing of God on this campus (Parisis). In October
1969, she started a group of six similar minded students which
they called a ‘Great Experiment’. This is similar to the
Wesley brothers ‘Holy club’, stressing study, and rules of
life that included prayer (Shelley). The ‘Holy Club’ was setup
by Charles and John Wesley to be a group that were motivated
by prayer and accountability, in contrast to the impact of
Deism in the school, and society (Sheppard). The ‘Great
Experiment’ is also similar to John Avant’s accountability
group, preceding the Howard Payne College’s revival in 1995
The ‘Great Experiment’ was a small group accountability
covenant. For 30 days, they focused on: Thirty minutes of
daily prayer, Reading God’s word, writing down truth from His
word, Obeying that truth daily, Sharing their faith with
others, Meeting once a week, and Checking up with each other.
From October the ‘Great Experiment’ grew to six groups of six
in January 1970. On Saturday January 31st, the
thirty-six students led a chapel service, sharing what they
were doing, and what God was doing in their life. There were
individual commitment slips on the pews encouraging others to
do the same. In addition to this, there were prayer meetings
held. On the night of February 2nd, they repeated
the question as they would do at the end of all their prayer
meetings “Do you think He’ll come today?” The response was
heard strongly by those present, “It’s gonna happen tomorrow”
(Parisis). And indeed God kept his word.
“I have a problem…and I don’t quite know how to handle it.”
The Dean said.
“What is it?” Asked Kinlaw on the other end of the telephone
conversation from Texas.
“It’s chapel. It’s not over yet.”
isn’t over yet? The morning chapel isn’t over yet? What do you
mean it isn’t over yet? It is 7:00 at night. [Chapel started
at 10 am] What happened?”
“God is here!”
What started in October, brought an eight-day chapel service
to the Asbury College. This was not an individually led rally,
or a meeting like Aimee McPherson’s or Billy Sunday’s that
would entertain us, but it was simply God’s presence among the
students (Cooper). It was a meeting led by the student body,
blessed by God, involving testimonies, weeping, singing, and
prayer. But it did not stop there. At night those students
were on the telephone “when the rates were cheaper”, talking
with parents, friends, and telling others of what happened
(Parisis). And so it spread, like wild fire. A student would
share what happened at the Asbury Chapel in a local church,
and the experience would be duplicated right there in that
church, like a spark on dry brush. God’s spirit was moving,
not just in Asbury, but spreading to nearby towns, cities, and
states. There was television coverage, local newspaper
stories, and students were sharing stories of this event. It
had coverage on a national scale.
When Dr. Dennis Kinlaw arrived into Asbury from Canada, there
was a noticeable difference in the aura of God as he drove
closer. It was obvious that there was something going on
there, and now he was amongst it. Not wanting to deflate what
was going on, or defile the holy presence with his
uncleanliness, he entered the chapel, and sat down at the
back. He heard the confession of the students, and the
repenting of sin. Then one student came up to him. “Dr.
Kinlaw. I am a liar. What do I do?” Kinlaw suggested that this
student start with the last person they lied to, and ask them
to forgive her (Parisis).
What was taking place in this college chapel was, “an honest,
candid dealing with personal sin, and with personal
disobediences, and personal problems.” The student told Dr.
Kinlaw, three days later, she had just repented to her 34th
person, and she was free. This was different to the ‘revivals’
that were managed by people like Billy Sunday, and Aimee
McPherson. There was no entertainment factor, there was no
preaching, just sharing, prayer and repentance. In Asbury
College, Howard Payne College, and the Welsh revival, people
confessed their sins to a public audience (“Welsh Revival”).
Their attitude is similar to what God desired in 1 Chronicles
7 “If my people… will humble themselves and pray and seek my
face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from
heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land”
(v14). On that day in Texas, at Howard Payne University, McDow
tells of an avalanche of 300-400 young students that came to
the platform to share their sin. One began simply by saying
“You think that I have been such a good Christian, but I’ve
been wearing a mask. Tonight I am taking off the mask” (McDow
325). In Asbury College a professor did the same. He shared a
candid confession of his hypocrisy, living with guilt for not
teaching effectively, but then “God came down” (Parisis). The
Professor humbled himself, and acknowledged his sin. God
replaced it with peace, and joy. He was noticeably different
in the following days, weeks, and months.
There was a similar experience in Wales. Evan Roberts was part
of a 1904 revival that spread quickly to the surrounding town.
Like this lone student at the Asbury campus, Roberts prayed
for revival in Wales. It began on Valentine’s Day night with
one woman confessing “I love the Lord Jesus with all my heart”
(“Welsh Revival”). It continued within a small group of
people, who had agreed to seek a deeper spiritual life,
staying behind to hear from Roberts. They agreed to confess
all known sin, remove anything from their life that they were
in doubt, yielding to the Holy Spirit, and publicly confessing
the Lord Jesus Christ as their savior. Like Asbury, a revival
had started from this small group, which encompassed the local
There was change in the darkest, uncanny people in the Welsh
town of Loughor. And the effects of this were felt by people
in the 100,000’s. There were miners, young men, and women who
were now speaking openly, testifying of the saving grace of
It is the Holy Spirit, student led, confession, testimony, and
prayer that brought about these revivals. There are records of
those who have endeavored to do such things by their own
strength, people like Sunday, and McPherson to name a couple.
But the revivals in Asbury College, Howard Payne College and
Loughor, Wales, were started by an individual. One person who
was not content to let God be absent from their community. Not
content to keep the fire within themselves, but to share it.
And have a strategy. The ‘Great Experiment’, the ‘holy club’,
and talking to people who desired change in their community.
It certainly makes me wonder… Are we doing all we can to
encourage revival here?
Cooper, William H. The
Great Revivalists in American Religion, 1740-1944: The Careers
and Theology of Jonathan Edwards, Charles Finney, Dwight
Moody, Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson. Jefferson:
McFarland, 2010. Print.
Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. Print. New Intl. Vers.
McDow, Malcolm, and Alvin L. Reid.
Firefall: How God Has
Shaped History through Revivals. Nashville: Broadman &
Holman, 1997. Print.
Parisis, Peter John. A
Revival Account: Asbury 1970. Archive.org. Internet
Archive, 23 Aug. 2007. Web. 3 Nov.
Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language.
4th. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2013. Print.
Sheppard, Trent, and America Campus.
God On Campus: Sacred
Causes & Global Effects. Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Books,
2009. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 3 Nov. 2015.
"The Welsh Revival of 1904-1905."
Kingdom Treasure Ministries. Truth in History,
2005. Web. 3 Nov. 2015.