By Alayna Simons
Assistant News Editor
On his way home from a trip to Indiana with his family, Seth Conley, associate professor of film and television, heard about an outpouring of worship at Asbury University on Sunday Feb. 12, where he received his graduate degree in December of 2022.
Knowing his skills in video and audio, his friends, whom he was going there to see, invited him to control the live stream that evening, not knowing that soon hundreds of thousands of people would be watching.
“They had consciously decided that they were not going to live stream up until that Sunday night I believe. The reason is because they wanted it to remain private for those who were there worshiping, and they made a strong effort to keep media out and to not make it anything other than what it was, which was a service where people felt the Holy spirit moving and participated in that and didn’t want to exploit that,” said Conley.
Conley spoke with the dean of the film program at Asbury, discovering that the average views for their chapel services online were 1,200 to 1,500 per month, but that Sunday night that Conley went and served, people from 109 countries watched the stream, and views skyrocketed to over 600,000 views.
On Wednesday, Feb. 8, the words “revival” and “outpouring” became the lasting headline of the events that broke out at Asbury University, with thousands lining up at the church campus to experience it themselves.
The word spread to campuses across the world with each reacting differently. The events at Asbury slowed down and ended on Thursday, Feb. 23, according to Asbury University’s school website.
“I would say what’s important to say about what I saw at Asbury is not to listen to what TikTok, the news, and what a lot of people say it is. It’s just a bunch of people, just like at Trevecca, who are hungry to worship Christ and that are willing to stay and do it. I think people here at Trevecca are hungry too,” said Conley.
Erik Gernand, university chaplain, guessed that there were 30 to 40 students from Trevecca who traveled to Asbury to experience it.
“It’s been inspiring to hear how one of the most consistent themes among the students who have had experience at Asbury or even those who didn’t go and they experienced the spillover in our community, is how they are inspired by the renewed hunger and thirst for God to move in their generation,” said Gernand.
John Gardner, a sophomore residential assistant for the Benson dorm, who was one of the first people to drive to Asbury University during the experience, heard about it while on a lobby sit Thursday night, the day after the revival began.
“I was super excited, and so I called as many people as I could,” said Gardner.
Gardner left Trevecca at 3 a.m. the next day to go and did not return until 11 p.m. that night. Throughout that first full day of events at Asbury, the number of people fluctuated from 30 to 40 in the morning, to the church being packed by the end of the day before Gardner and a few of his friends had left.
The second time he went to Asbury on Feb. 12, there were up to 20,000 people, said Gardner.
“I was in awe the second time, but the first time I went in the beginning was more personal,” said Gardner. “I brought back a lot more joy and wonder that God is still moving in such a big way.”
Having stayed so long at the church at Asbury, Gardner experienced God moving in every generation.
“One of my biggest takeaways from Asbury was that there were no barriers between the generations. When I first got there, there was this old man walking around, praying over every chair, and that touched me just as deeply as when I saw a young guy jumping up and down at the front,” said Gardner. “I think that’s what I think we should bring back to our churches—we’re supposed to be one body.”
Senior Micah Zimmerman, who visited Asbury on Valentine’s Day, described her experience from staying for a few hours.
“Immediately when I walked into the room, tears just fell from my eyes,” said Zimmerman. “It just made me really emotional to be there and to see everybody worshiping and giving their hearts to the Lord. It was just such a beautiful thing to witness.”
A series of events broke out on Trevecca’s campus after students came back from Asbury.
“Asbury in our mind is the main picture of what revival looks like for some of us, but that’s not always what revival looks like, and that may not be what it looks like at Trevecca. We’ve seen pockets of that and it’s beautiful when it happens, but it just comes down to the question of ‘what does it look like for our community to become hungrier and more desperate for a drawing near to God?’” said Gernand.
The events that broke out on campus came in different forms, all mostly student-led.
Freshmen Brennan Watson and Jeremiah Carlton started a “worship circle” last semester and made it a space of worship that was meant to be more private and personal, starting with 10 to 12 students.
“Erik Gernand pulled me aside and asked if he could email the entire school and tell everyone about what’s going on, and then Dan Boone hops in on our conversation and says we should definitely go forward with it and said if we needed anything to let him know,” said Watson.
On Feb. 16, Trevecca opened its doors at 10 p.m. in the Jackson building for students to gather and worship with the worship circle that had already been meeting every Thursday.
Over 100 students gathered at this worship circle that night.
“I don’t know where we stand and what it looks like going forward, but we’re praying that the Lord would sustain that hunger, not so that we can build a platform, but because we believe there’s something specific and special that the Lord wants to do here right now,” said Watson.
After this night, the following Monday on Feb. 20 at the evening chapel service, students stayed longer to pray and worship, and the worship band continued to play.
Junior Jacob Stacer led worship that night, along with others in the band, and they did not stop singing and playing guitar until 10 p.m.
“I was really praying that God would give me a voice to sing that long because I had ended up singing for like three and a half hours straight. I just wanted to keep going with what God was doing, and I didn’t want any interruption. As soon as we had ended, I had lost my voice,” Stacer said.
Stacer said that he feels it is such a huge thing for students, especially starting out their week on a Monday night—to lay down their assignments and everything and realize that this is what they needed right then.
Zimmerman, who had an exam the next day to study for, was one of the students who decided to stay after service.
“I was planning on not staying because I had an exam the next day, but after chapel ended, they just continued worship and I just felt like I needed to just keep praying. I looked up like 15 minutes later and there were still tons of people in their seats, and I just kept praying for the Lord to tell us where we were,” Zimmerman said.
After the four hour service had ended, students left with hope from the experience.
“I just felt like the line was so thin between us and heaven and what our hunger for God was, and people just stayed and encountered God in a new way. I knew that it wasn’t about me. I was just there to worship just as much as everyone else,” said Stacer.
Moving forward, Gernand had spoken with the chaplain team about how they can create more space in the services for quiet, reflection and prayer and how they can end services more intentionally.
“They don’t have to be just another chapel service,” said Gernand. “The Spirit of God is available to us and is moving among us and we will do our best to take that opportunity seriously.”
Gernand expressed that God has already moved towards us and encourages the faculty, staff and the student body to draw near to Him.
“I think moving forward, I want to continue to try and gather stories and try to be open to creating space where we can,” said Gernand. “That can look like encouraging students to create an extra prayer group or an extra Bible study or move into service in a new way.”
Students have spoken up about how they would like to move forward with what they have seen and experienced so far.
“I would say to students to lean into the hunger and desire for God, pray for what He wants to do next here, and know that even though God has done things elsewhere and in the past, He is still doing new things and moving in new ways,” said Stacer.
Coming back from Asbury, along with her friends and many other students, Zimmerman expressed doubts of if it is attainable or possible on Trevecca’s campus and recalls a conversation she had with her dad.
“I had a conversation with my dad and he just told me to stop worrying about the ‘I don’t know’ or the ‘I’m not sure’ and just focus on what the Spirit wants to do and let everything be Spirit led, and that’s just put the fire back in me,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman felt encouraged by and continues to encourage others with a passage from the Bible that she heard in the midst of these events, quoting Deuteronomy 7:7-8, which says:
“The Lord did not set His affection on you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the LORD loved you and kept the oath, He swore to your ancestors that He brought you with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.”