So we took a road trip to Wilmore, Kentucky to see the Asbury Revival.
The TLDR version is, it's real.
Beyond that, there are thoughts and reflections I wrote on the way to and from the visit that I'll share here, in three parts.
Part One is me being equal parts hopeful and annoyed with the internet comment level criticism of a movement that is in it's infancy.
Part Two is why we went.
Part Three is what we saw when we got there.
THREE NOTES ON ASBURY, PART ONE
We just entered Kentucky and I'm hopeful about the events surrounding Asbury. Here are some stream of consciouness thoughts in no particular order... at the time of this writing, I haven't been in the room yet.
- Revival is not a bureaucracy or a result of systemic process. It's organic and surprising and part of the nature of it is that it is God-breathed. This is a feature, not a bug, or we would bask in how clever we are as we make a Tower of Babel of Revival right up to heaven with our man-made wisdom and effort. It's not that we can't be wise, or in any way organized - but we have to know that our own administration will never cause God to outpour.
- The response to Asbury has become a weird Rorshach Test. It tells me almost nothing about the movement itself, but it tells me a good deal about the people talking. "Why does the Asbury Revival look like my father being disappointed in me again?"
Most of the things I've read are from people who haven't been to see it - which is strange. And while I understand the hopeful permissiveness and the skepticism ranging from cautiously optimistic to shrieking troll level 11 - it is odd to me that people have trouble reserving judgment on something they clearly don't understand, or at least don't have enough information on yet to make any sort of informed call.
I wouldn't recommend the serious study of philosophy to most people, it has some real downsides in terms of internal life impact. But a very good thing from that work is the ability to have an internal "hmmm, I don't know what I think about that - I haven't really looked at it yet" bucket. A cosmos sized container of no opinion, which is as warm as a beautiful blanket and hot cup of cocoa in mid-winter.
- The Judas Argument. One of the most repeated criticisms so far says something like, "well, I'll believe it's a REAL revival when they start feeding the poor and move out with social issues."
Sigh. Three quick things here. First, generosity is right and good. But it's not the only right and good thing. Second, this has been going on for about 5 minutes now; settle down. Third, does it strike anyone as ironic that this was the exact argument given by Judas when Mary poured out the expensive perfume on Jesus in a stunning act of worship? That the people saying this don't realize this tells you everything you need to know about that idea.
And by the way, if you've said this, tell me - how much of your income do you give to the poor and to charitable organizations every month? How about over the last 12 days? If that number is less than 20 percent, I have a suggestion that I will refrain from sharing here for public consumption.
- A quick re-iteration of my most basic Theological assumptions:
1) God can do what He wants.
2) God is not dumber than Oprah Winfrey.
That's not intended to be a slam on Oprah, I'm fond of Oprah - but you know exactly what I mean by that.
- Emotionalism! It's all emotionalism! Wow. OK, most people who know me would not describe me as particularly emotional or empathetic. I'm not a sociopath, but no one is coming to me for advice on how to feel things. That being said, my response to the idea that this is emotionalism is: so what?
If that is ALL this turns out to be, fair enough, but it's way too early to say that at this point.
The Enlightenment is a serious two-edged sword. Science, literacy, medicine, cities, good. The reduction of human definition to the natural and rational, bad. The asssumption that we are primarily rational beings is only partly true. We are spiritual, intellectual, emotional, and physical beings and the path to human flourishing needs to touch all of those pieces. Jesus taught people stuff, and also wept and was kind to us, and spent a couple of miracles on food and drink, lest we forget.
It's been about 12 days since this thing started, and we've all had emotional states that lasted that long.
Grieving can take months or years, depending on situation and context. The squishy, dopey, "love makes you stupid" high can last for months, even years sometimes. I'm imagining a Babylon Bee headline in this vein:
MAN FROM ASBURY ON 130TH HOUR OF BEING GRUMPY FOR NO GOOD REASON
If a bunch of college kids had pulled a really hard and focused couple of weeks on a research project would we be shrieking, "Intellectualism! This isn't real! Their translation of the cuneiform is bogus and one sided!"? Yeah, probably not.
As a nation, we spent literally billions of hours on Stranger Things in it's first weekend. I certainly did my part. Why is it amazing that people would similarly binge the presence of God? I didn't see the internet rise up and tell kids to stop watching Wednesday to go spend some time in a soup kitchen instead.
- It occurs to me that this is the first revival in the era of social media. Or the 24 news cycle. Or the era of anonymous internet comments. So this really shouldn't be surprising. It's cool that the word got out early... and I suppose revival has always seen exactly this kind of criticism - just the timeline is compressed by our informational overflow at present.
- Birth is messy. Beginnings are rarey clean and polished. I remember being at a conference with Dennis Jernigan, a talented creative in songwriting, worship and books. He showed us his song journal and you know what? It looked almost exactly like the songs that I've written in first draft form. Notes all over the place, scribbles up the side of the page, things written, crossed out, written again. It's just the nature of things that are new. Imagine someone being in a delivery room saying, "That's not a real baby, there is blood everywhere! Listen to all the crying!"
- For my part, I want to assume the very best, until I can't do that anymore. What I've heard from firsthand accounts so far has been encouraging and I'm hopeful.
- This seems to be driven by college kids. Oh man, that is terrific - go get em. We should be giving these young men and women as much encouragement and permission as we can muster.
So here is my suggestion:
Pray for these students and the good people at Asbury who are trying to support and not smother what God is doing. Give them encouragement and the benefit of the doubt. Send them some cash to support the work and the eventual social spillover into good works. And don't be afraid to be part of the spread. The Gospel is an amazing idea and we are overdue for a generation level event.
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