Skeptical of the Asbury Revival?

[The following is an edited transcript of a live YouTube video done by David Guzik on Saturday, February 18, 2023. That video can be watched here – Skeptical of the Asbury Revival?

For a long time, I have been interested in revival, largely because of the ministry of a man named Dr. J. Edwin Orr, who went to be with the Lord many years ago. I have read his books and listened to many of his messages. He was an outstanding teacher who understood the dynamic of revival and spiritual awakening. His interest in the subject sparked mine. So, it is with much interest I have been watching what has been called the Asbury Revival, or Asbury Awakening. I want to share some thoughts with those who are skeptical of what is happening there. [J. Edwin Orr’s Website]

What follows is a spontaneous perspective rather than something I have spent much time preparing. I will be leaving for a trip to Florida in a moment, so this is hurriedly put together. Here we go …

If you are skeptical of the Asbury Revival, or revival in general, I don’t blame you.

There is a lot of foolishness that goes on in the name of “revival,” things like the Toronto Blessing and Brownsville Revival. I refer to meetings where people engage ins strange behavior, barking and clucking and screaming and laughing. There is undeniably a lot of foolishness that goes on in the name of revival.

I have not heard of any of that attendant at the Asbury Revival. But let’s be honest, it could end up that way. It is something to keep in mind. And then there are also many people who have been in what I would call revival-hype environments. Some church circles are like this. “Oh ho! Revival is coming. Oh! Revival is on the way. We’re going to have a revival now.  Revival this — Revival that. I don’t blame people like that for being hesitant. I don’t blame them for being what we might call “gun-shy.” They have heard revival announced a million times. I am sympathetic to that. They may just want to see if this is going to live up to the hype.

Another reason people may be skeptical is the reports of some things in the Asbury Revival that have troubled some people. One example is women preaching. That is not going to trouble everybody in God’s family. Some think that is an amazing and wonderful thing. But there are people like myself who believe congregations should be led by qualified men in the body of Christ. Women preaching would be of concern to them. Another report, which is of greater concern, claims there has been a platforming of unrepentant homosexuals at Asbury. Yet they are worship leaders or spokesmen. Others cite a lack of gospel preaching or social action in the Asbury Revival, and these are things that concern them. I think it is okay for people to have concerns. I get why some people are concerned, and I do not think their questions are out of order. You cannot throw down the “revival card” and say, “Everybody has to accept this. Every concern is invalid. If you do not accept this completely and without reservation, you hate the work of the Holy Spirit.” 

The Bible says “test all things.” But here is my caution to the revival skeptic. If that is you and there are some I respect on social media who seem to be revival-skeptics. They say, “There is no way this is of God.” If that is you, here is my caution. You need to also be skeptical of the bad reports about revival.

Again—I don’t blame you for being skeptical about what is going at Asbury. I say this without reservation: You should also be skeptical about bad reports. 

It often does not work that way. People are often complete skeptics one way or another. They are quick to believe every positive report about the Asbury Revival while rejecting any negative report. That’s not balanced. Then there are others who are the other way around. They are hesitant to believe anything good about the Revival but ready to believe any bad thing said about it. 

Maybe you tend to be quick to believe such things. Maybe you tend to be slow to believe such things. Either way, I would just ask you to apply the same kind of thinking to both sides. If you are going to be skeptical about the reported good, please also be skeptical about the reported bet. Who said it? Do they have an axe to grind? Is it one small part of a much larger picture? Is it truly reflective of what is going on?

I would say something else as well. I don’t think you can control revival in the way some people seem to expect. There is a report a problematic individual named Todd Bentley visited Asbury. They allowed him in the building. 

One of the characteristics of genuine revival is that it is not orchestrated. It is not programmatic. It is not planned. There is an air of spontaneity to it. If a work of God is, by nature, non-orchestrated, somewhat spontaneous, and non-programmatic, there is likely to be a few weird things that filter through. Maybe there is so much weirdness it discredits the whole thing. But just do not be so quick to judge it. Do not demand revival with no mess.

Every revival has had some mess, so to speak to it. Again, it is up to you as an individual before the Lord or a Christian leader to look at in a careful assessment. Discern for yourself whether or not you know if there is enough mess to say it is not of God. I would just say do it with faithful scales and a true balance. If you are going to be skeptical about the good, be skeptical about the bad. If you are going to unreservedly look at the good then unreservedly look at the bad. Judge with righteous judgment, because I will tell you this—Bad and false reports that go out about a genuine revival, damage it. 

Two stories from Dr. J. Edwin Orr illustrate this. One of them has to do with the camp meeting revivals around 1830 on the frontier of the United States. It was reported that in one of those camp meetings, there was what was called “the barking exercise.” The impression has been given there were groups of Christians acting foolishly under strange inspiration, people on their hands and knees barking like dogs, running around and chasing the devil up a tree. It was claimed Christians would stand or sit at the base of a tree and bark at the devil. That idea is found in nearly every standard history of those 1830s frontier revivals. It is not true, a false story. J. Edwin Orr did the research. He heard the stories and decided to track down their origin. He traced it to a man named F. M. Davenport. Davenport wrote a book titled, Primitive Traits of Religious Revivals. He wrote it in the early 20th century, about a hundred years after those revivals happened. Davenport said that during the Kentucky revival, there was weeping, trembling, and dancing for joy. All of that is agreed upon. Then he said there was some barking, but it was not common. He gave no documentation for his statement. He quoted no original source. Dr. Orr could find no original source. 

There was a professor at the University of Minnesota named Alice Tyler who wrote a book called Freedom’s Ferment in 1940. She said there was barking at Camp Meeting revivals, and it was common. She knew that was from an unsourced comment by Davenport. Whereas he said it was not common, she said it was very common.  

Then, Frances Kern, a Jesuit historian, said there was barking at the frontier revivals and that it was completely disgraceful. Whom did he cite for sources? Davenport and Tyler.

Dr. J. Edwin Orr tracked down the historical evidence and found the writings of David Benedict, who lived at the time of the camp meeting revivals. He was present there. He said this, “The Baptists did not bark, but the Presbyterians did.” Then Orr found a contemporary Presbyterian historian, David Rice, who in his book, The History of Present Presbyterianism in Kentucky, said it was the enemies of the revival who circulated the barking story but those who were at the revivals denied it. Barton Stone, a Presbyterian, who became one of the leaders of the Disciples of Christ denomination, said barking at the revivals was a complete fiction. He said that the nearest thing there was to it was when people simply convulsively sobbed under the conviction of sin, making grunting noises.

The whole story of barking up a tree came from one old Presbyterian minister, who was so under conviction of his shortcomings, he stood with his arms against the tree, sobbing convulsively. There was no documented barking at those frontier revivals. Dr. Orr raised this whole issue at a university conference of three-hundred historians, and they attacked him. They said, “You’re spoiling our good classroom fun.” They love to mock Christians and revival and use this false story about the frontier revivals to do it.

Another story from Dr. Orr. This one is about the Welsh Revival. 

One time at a symposium, I think it was the Fiftieth or Seventy-fifth anniversary of the great Nineteenth century Welsh Revival, a critic said in his assessment of the revival, “As many souls were begat as saved.” He meant that in the enthusiasm among the youth, young men and women were getting together and having illicit relationships. Many young Christian girls, under the influence of the excitement of the revival, were getting pregnant. Therefore he said, “As many souls were begat as were saved.” Dr. J. Edwin Orr heard that and said, “Whoa! Wait a minute. What evidence do you have for such an assertion?”

The historian who made the assertion said he’d heard it from my aunt or some such source. Orr told him according to his research that was not correct. Returning to his sources, he looked up the records of births and unwed mothers in that section of Wales during the Welsh Revival. He found that unwed mothers and unmarried births went down in that period. The claim of the historian was a fabrication.

Again, friends, if you are going to be skeptical about the good news in a revival, don’t forget to be skeptical about the bad news.

Let’s wait and see what the Holy Spirit does. I would just counsel and advise skepticism on both sides of the issue. And let’s pray. If God is doing something good at Asbury and the few other universities and places where we hear there it is spreading, then praise the Lord. It is a wonderful thing. It reminds us God can do such things today. If it is not, if this is something that goes off the rails, or if in the opinion of some, it was never on the rails, then let us pray the Lord would make that abundantly evident. But friends, if you are slow to believe the good news about the Asbury Revival, I encourage you to have at least a bit of skepticism about the bad news you hear as well. 

Finally, I am not saying it is unfair to ask questions and examine. That is fair. We just need to do it with righteous judgment.

This post came from Pastor David’s YouTube livestream that appeared on Saturday, February 19, 2021:

post image: Daily Citizen

16 thoughts on “Skeptical of the Asbury Revival?”

  1. Let’s wait and see what the Holy Spirit does. I would just counsel and advise skepticism on both sides of the issue. And let’s pray. If God is doing something good at Asbury and the few other universities and places where we hear there it is spreading, then praise the Lord. It is a wonderful thing. It reminds us God can do such things today. If it is not, if this is something that goes off the rails, or if in the opinion of some, it was never on the rails, then let us pray the Lord would make that abundantly evident. But friends, if you are slow to believe the good news about the Asbury Revival, I encourage you to have at least a bit of skepticism about the bad news you hear as well. AMEN
    As someone who was saved in a Charismatic Church in 1965, I have great misgivings about coming to a conclusion about Asbury before the Fruit has been seen. I think if people repent and are drawn to the Word of God and they realize the peril in which America and the Western World now lie, there may be hope. The Wimber Cain and Kansas City manifestations produced by and large division and bitter fruit. The Gospel is by and large absent from the mainstream denominations so let’s hope it is preached at Asbury. As a communing member of the PCA I am secure in the Doctrines of Grace and have no qualms about the future, be it for good or bad. But my desire for the people at Asbury is that they learn that it is the fear of the Lord which is the beginning of Wisdom. Mercifully I don’t see the beginnings of Asbury as men “seeking after a Sign” as was the case in many manifestations in past years. But America is almost terminally sick at its Heart and we must therefore pray that good will be the fruit from this place. In His Name and by His Blood.

  2. Hello David,

    Revival? Don’t think it is anything more than reviving the revival. The Eternal WORD of God is not about any numbers of various historical revivals but rather about New Creation. I too was associated with Calvary Chapel in my youth. Even had a conversation with Chuck. I know Pentecostalism has roots in Methodism. “We got the power”! There is much I could share as to why this is as an old revived old creation – creating God in our own image. You speak of the “barking”, what was previously called “Toronto Blessing” :1970’s. Even Watchman Knee mentioned it in a book I think may have been called “The Spiritual Man” (not certain as I read it decades ago). He called it in his day in the 1930’s demonic. I like that he spoke with non-negotiating authority, and that not on his own.

    Well should you care to dialogue, I’ll share the time as to why according to Jesus’s teachings and Paul’s calling it out as one of the many principalities and powers in Ephesians 6 – well I’m available. Churches like all governments and institutions fads and styles can become P&P’s. By that K. Barth meant man with his idols attempting to dwell in the heavenliness. Remember Jesus’s teachings about the waterless places in Matt and Luke?

    If you have given ear this far: much Christian spiritism is not to be confused with revelation of the Holy Spirit. I think most spiritism or spiritualism dwells not in the heavenliness but the metaphysical “waterless places”. As I’ve past the three score in ten mark. As one’s mortality comes closer I suppose one of the greatest lessons He has revealed to me is that He wants me to be more human and less spiritual. Now resurrection hope becomes new creation hope breaking into the (already) present possibilities (Philippians 3 uses resurrection uniquely as no where else in Paul’s writings as “out” resurrection. Out of myself and into Him. “Not that I’ve already attained it……”

    Oh well, hope something grabs your attention – David

  3. I have deep concerns for Asbury University for which it is one of many so-called Christian colleges that follow new-age spiritualism that entails, spiritual formation, and contemplative prayer, and the whole genre of mystical spirituality this college and other Christian colleges embrace are all a part of the end-time deception for which Satan is using to continue to blind the masses against the power of the God’s unadulterated word.
    This continuous outburst of spiritual madness is part and partial of a major affront against God and His holiness, as a result, many unsuspecting souls are being deluded into thinking this travesty of hypocrisy is of God.
    These so-called Christian universities need to repent from teaching their students ‘doctrines of demons and expelled it from their curriculum, then and only then will they experience ‘REAL REVIVAL’ a revival that begins with repentance in total submission to God’s holy Scriptures, synchronize not God’s word with the devil’s wit.
    15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? (2 Cor. 6:15)

    Psalm 50:16-17
    16. But to the wicked God says,
    “What right do you have to tell of My statutes
    And to take My covenant in your mouth?
    17. “For you yourself hate discipline,
    And you throw My words behind you.”
    God is not impressed with this out-pouring of religious madness, because the foundation has not been built upon that infallible Rock; Jesus Christ!
    Because men love darkness rather than light and if there’s no REAL spiritual change through the rebirth, there will be no real revival.
    There are too many Scriptures that expound on apostasy in the last days, I cannot agree with those who hold such hope for this church age. 1&2 Timothy; 2 Peter, Jude, Acts 20:30-31 Paul warned the church of Ephesus of the apostasy in his day, then why are we not believing apostasy is even more crucial in our day?
    Paul said,
    30. Even from your own number, men will rise up and distort the truth to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore be alert and remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
    And as a result of that this makes it abundantly clear apostasy is an inevitable fate for this church’s age.
    Real revival will not materialize until after the Rapture of the church, and I believe that the Scripture is clear on this fact.

    Revelation 7:13-14
    13Then one of the elders addressed me: “These in white robes,” he asked, “who are they, and where have they come from?”
    14“Sir,” I answered, “you know.”
    So he replied, “These are the ones who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

    At that time there will be such a real revival unequaled by any here on earth there actually will be another revival when the remnant of Israel will grieve when they look at Him whom they’ve pierced, her Messiah.

    10. Then I will pour out on the house of David and on the people of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and prayer, and they will look on Me, the One they have pierced. They will mourn for Him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for Him as one grieves for a firstborn son.

    11. On that day the wailing in Jerusalem will be as great as the wailing of Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.
    12. The land will mourn, each clan on its own: the clan of the house of David and their wives, the clan of the house of Nathan and their wives,
    13. The clan of the house of Levi and their wives, the clan of Shimei and their wives,
    14 and all the remaining clans and their wives.

    Then and only then will there be two great revivals. Great revivals as close as we are to the close of this dispensation? No.

  4. As John the Baptist asked If Jesus was the Messiah or was there another to come. Jesus told his disciples to report the facts which were happening. The facts now, young people are praying, singing praises, giving thanks, repenting, giving glory to God. This is what we pray for. There are enough skeptics in the unbelieving world, why shouldn’t God’s people be happy for these young people?

    1. I can’t be happy because it’s too easy, that’s the way the angel of light appears as one cloaked in deception appearing as one whose main purpose is to communicate positive messages from God.
      As God spoke to Jeremiah the prophet to tell Israel; “Then the LORD said to me, “The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them, nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility, and the deception of their own minds.“ (Jeremiah 14:14)

      13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.
      14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.
      15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15)

      Where is the Bible? Is the Bible being read or studied during this shameful goings-on?
      No Christian lives within God’s power without God’s weapon of choice, the Word of God. Where is the true power of God being displayed? Clearly not in emotional displays of erratic behavior, that do not represent the Holy Spirit’s presence, without the Word of God these displays of vagarious ramblings do not reveal the power of God, but it is another spirit that is not of God.
      No, I cannot rejoice when an institution that represents Christ uses demonic and new-age teachings as a part of the curriculum. No, I cannot rejoice.
      No, I cannot rejoice when mystical spirituality is being used as a learning tool, I cannot rejoice, why? Because the foundation isn’t built upon the Word of God, but upon that false religious system birthed in Babylon.
      No, I cannot rejoice, I cannot rejoice when the word of God is being used as a secondary supplemental workbook and things such as Spiritual Formation, and Contemplative Prayer is being used as primary sources to draw one closer to God instead of simply the Word of God?
      No, I do not rejoice, I am deeply saddened by the apostasy.

      1. Don’t know if you have been there or watching online but yes there has been the reading, teaching, and preaching from the Bible. I don’t know if this is revival or not depending on your definition, but can’t understand how you can condemn students you don’t even know. Do you really think if Jesus were bodily in the chapel he would say stop praying, reading my word, repenting, giving thanks, and praising me? Tell me what they can do that would make you happy?

        1. No, I must be totally honest, I’ve not taken the time to listen at great lengths to this display of ‘strange fire’ I failed to see the hand of God in a gathering such as this, simply because the school itself as I’ve stated before was built upon a faulty foundation that embraces new age teachings that teaches the importance of getting closer to God beyond the way God has ordained, through Christ Jesus the only way to God. There isn’t any other way to appease God but through the work of His Son. There is no other salvific way to God but by Jesus, in other words you are dealing with works salvation and God has already deemed it as a curse.
          For all who depend on the Law [seeking justification and salvation by obedience to the Law and the observance of rituals] are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED (condemned to destruction) IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, SO AS TO PRACTICE THEM But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:10-11)
          Glenn, I don’t want to debate with you or anyone else concerning God’s word, my prayers for you are to look beyond what you see with your eyes and live by faith. God bless you my friend.

          1. Jennifer, I agree with your post. We as born-again- believer must continue to study and meditate on God’s word, so that we will not be deceived.

  5. Pastor David, and the rest who have contributed to this post..,
    Time will tell…, but since we have heard about Asbury, have we gone across the street to tell your neighbor about Jesus.,,do your coworkers know you are a Christ follower, have you repented of known sins ?? Are you reading your Bible with expectation ?? Me too…Jesus revive my heart here in my sphere of influence !
    If we scoff for or against Asbury…what have you heard from Jesus since the news from Kentucky
    May our ears hear what the Spirit says to the churches !!
    God Bless

  6. thanks for the wise advice, David. As one who, along with my wife, were part of the early Jesus Movement, there was plenty of criticism and questions about what took place in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Some of the criticism was valid but I say “some”. I saw and heard some questionable things but on a whole it became as close to a genuine revival as seen in previous history.
    The other caution is don’t be too quick to judge one way or another. Give it time. See what the Lord does with it all. My prayer is that what appears to be a wave of awakening, or renewal and possible revival, will continue and spread without the help of well-intentioned promoters and in spite of resistance and exaggeration of critics. As has been said by others, as Gamaliel said in Acts 5:38-39, if it’s of men, it won’t last; but if it’s of God, no one can stop it.
    Let’s pray for revival! I know I will continue to pray for a fresh outpouring of God’s Spirit even greater than many of us saw before.

    1. Hi Trip
      My wife and I were right at the beginning the second generation ( 1986 both were saved at Harvest )
      By the way, we saw the Jesus revolution with some friends ( Calvary 14/6 Surprise AZ. ) there are some things I didn’t know,
      Yes !! Thank you for your reference to the Bible, ( Act 5:38-39 ) I do pray the Asbury meetings starts another Jesus movement, and many are saved and then who knows, we go home to be with the LORD forever, still praying for my siblings to be saved !!
      Thank you again Trip for your wisdom in your post.
      God Bless

  7. John 16:12 “I have much more to tell you but you cannot bear it now. Yet when that one I have spoken to you about comes—the Spirit of truth—he will guide you into everything that is true. For he will not be speaking of his own accord but exactly as he hears, and he will inform you about what is to come.”

    Perhaps you all should consider that it’s time to hear what Jesus has wanted to tell you. You have not grown…women preacher, big deal Paul and Jesus had women preachers. Homosexuality…they way you guys have been praying, you would think God would have wiped them off the face of the earth. The Bible is living and dynamic, why close it off to what you were taught years ago.

    I’m not sure if the revival is real or not, but my decision will not be based on those two things.

    By the way this is a Christian website, try not to be ugly when/if you respond, even if sent to my email address. I will post your comments here so everyone will know how you think a Christian should behave. I don’t mind having a conversation. I will not argue with you.

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