Heaven Invades Asbury, Again: Echoes of the 1970 Jesus Revolution Are Already Resounding
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WILMORE, Kentucky – Starting this week, the Asbury revival is moving off campus and into the community. The hope is that the services will spread from place to place and spark a nationwide move of God. It's a strategy that Asbury followed after a similar wave in 1970 that helped kick off the Jesus revolution.
Rev. Jim McIlrath remembers the 1970 revival because he was there. "When I walked in those doors, it was almost like 53 years hadn't passed. The same Spirit washed over me," he recalled.
As an 18-year-old high school senior, McIlrath worked as a janitor at Asbury when revival broke out on that snowy morning, February 3rd, 1970.
"The spirit of worship, the attitude, the people lifting their hands in praise, people kneeling around the altar, just nobody really leading – the Holy Spirit led. I didn't feel anything different than I felt that morning in 1970," the retired Georgia pastor told us.
Harold Rainwater, now 76, remembers the 1970 revival as well, but for different reasons. Rainwater has been the mayor of Wilmore, Kentucky for 47 years and also heads up Asbury's Equine program that teaches students the art of horse training.
Back in 1970, Harold owned Dine-A-Mite, a restaurant that sat right next to Hughes Auditorium where the students had gathered and featured the best honeybuns in town. The morning of February 3rd, 1970, he noticed the students didn't show up to get their honeybuns. "I was frustrated, I thought I'm going to lose $100, and I didn't really realize what was happening, you know, until later," he told us.
Although Harold didn't have a profound encounter with the Lord back then, he still gets emotional talking about his grandfather who came to Asbury in the 1940s.
"He was a blacksmith working on horses, and they needed a stoker for the fire here at Asbury because they had coal then, so the goal for him was to come here and keep students warm because he was a fire builder, and to ring the bell at the church. And so he told my Dad, 'Build the fire, ring the bell,'" Rainwater remembered as he teared up.
In 1970, there was no social media to help spread the word. The news, however, spread quickly. And just like today, the revival made national headlines.
When CBN News visited on Saturday, February 18th, the lawn in front of Hughes Auditorium was covered with thousands of people from all over the country, and some from as far away as Brazil, kneeling and praying. No one seemed to care they weren't inside the auditorium.
A Move of God Coming to Kentucky
Evangelist Rick Curry, who grew up about 30 miles from Wilmore, says God told him – this kind of outpouring was coming to Kentucky.
"About 10 years ago, the Lord said to me, 'There's a move of God coming to Kentucky that will change the course of the land.' And for the last 10 years, we've been networking and bringing leaders together and really contending for a move of God greater than anyone of us individually," Curry told us. "So, when this broke out, we just knew this is where we need to be."
"The minute I walked in, I just had to stand still. I was just in awe and thinking maybe I should take my shoes off because I'm in the presence of the Lord," said Meg Helton, a 26-year-old grad student at Asbury.
Helton said she thought she'd missed her chance to see revival on campus when it didn't happen three years ago during the 50th anniversary of the 1970 outpouring. "I ended up being there for 8 hours thinking I didn't care about what the time was, I just knew I had to be there at that moment. I just allowed myself to be vulnerable, I cried and cried. The Lord doesn't care how many tears we cry, someday He'll wipe them all away, and the Lord knew why I was crying," Helton told us.
Student Body President Alison Perfater says this latest move of God at Asbury has been a supernatural experience. "There were a couple of people at chapel that I was surprised to see, if that makes sense – just like, you don't really like chapel so wonder why you're here. So I felt something had started and we kept telling each other, and we went from a school to a church to a mission field in a week," she said.
Asbury Seminary student Daniel Moye told us this revival has been life-changing for him. "I never thought I'd be a pastor and over the past week, I'm not saying that I'm going to be, but for the first time in my life, I've thought, maybe I could be, maybe the Lord's calling me in that direction," Moye said.
Harold believes this young generation has gotten a bad rap and what they really need is someone to believe in them.
"I think us white hairs have got to get out of the way and let the next generation come on, and believe in them and empower them. And I want to instill in them that they can be anybody they want to be," Rainwater said.
He sees the revival as proof of God's love not just to Gen Z (anyone born from 1997 on) but to all of us, and a chance to get right with the One who made us. "We're born and we die, and we have a dash – What's your dash? What's your bell? Did you build your fire? Did you ring the bell? did you make a difference?"
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