By Mark Ellis –
As a senior at Asbury University in Kentucky, Joshua Curry, 22, felt a sense of disquiet about his spiritual condition and the religious atmosphere at the college.
“I was actually feeling very poor spiritually, like a sinking ship. I wrote down in my journal that I’m tired of milquetoast Protestantism. I want liberty from slavery. I want forgiveness of sins. I want a zealous spirit,” but he felt the world and its current cultural milieu was luring him away from what he desired most.
Attendance at chapel is required three days a week at the private Christian university, formally aligned with the Wesleyan-Holiness movement. Many students seemed unenthusiastic, apathetic about the mandatory obligation. “There were a lot of people who were just tired of having to come to chapel, people would always groan about having to show up for an hour a day, three days a week.”
The revival that hit the school in the 1970s was fading from memory.
On Wednesday, February 8th, Curry attended what appeared to be an unexceptional chapel service. A visiting speaker, Zach Meerkreebs, with the Christian and Missionary Alliance, gave a talk about sacrificial love in Hughes Auditorium. “It was a message preached on Romans 12, what love looks like in action,” Curry recalls. “After the message, about 20 or so students stayed in the chapel.”
Curry went back to his dorm room. A few hours went by and then he heard a surprising report. There was still worship going on in the chapel, more students were being drawn, and no one was leaving!
After Zach’s talk, God sovereignly brought a move of the Holy Spirit – revival fire that has not subsided in the last week. Now students and visitors are packing the chapel at all hours of the day and night, even overflowing into other buildings on the campus.
Curry went back to see what was happening that day and was struck by what he witnessed. “What’s happening is extraordinary,” he exclaims. “It’s all about Jesus – a lot of people just hungry for God. And we’re not doing this to be flashy. God did it all.”
The peace that surpasses understanding seemed to descend from above. “There’s a sort of serenity about the place. It wasn’t hyped up. It’s just serene,” Curry says. “It feels like a genuine sanctuary now, like a holy place…Moses and the burning bush. Why did he go up to see the burning bush? Because it was burning, right? It’s like it’s an actual sanctuary.”
The visiting speaker left the chapel after his talk, but returned when he heard what was happening. “He came back and helped lead us through some worship, confession, and more preaching. People started confessing to each other. It was just such an upwelling of love that you could be totally open with people you wouldn’t have been close to at all. And one of my friends said that he had confessed everything he had ever done in his life, and he never felt more free.”
Curry describes some unusual weather events surrounding the move of God. “On Thursday (February 9th), there was a strong wind on the campus, and it was perfect weather. But there was this strong wind and this wall cloud that was just sitting over us that didn’t move. Some people said they had walked around the whole chapel on the outside and it felt like the wind, no matter what side of the building they were on, was always blowing towards the chapel.
“On a very windy day, it (the cloud) was just a thing that didn’t move.”
Curry also felt an unusual warmth during his time in the chapel. “It was like my skin started burning, my cheeks were hot. And I when I left and went back up to my room it like really like looked like my skin was sunburned,” he reports.
He also noted there is no apparent leader orchestrating the events since February 8th. “There hasn’t really been a leader here. There’s no rock star preacher type thing happening. Some of the campus chaplains are facilitating things, but they aren’t leading them.”
“In Zach’s message on Wednesday, he prayed that he would be forgotten. And I would say that was the thing that made Wednesday’s message different from many other chapels. There was a real reverence for the Word of God that he was preaching and an emphasis on genuine repentance, and then also God’s ability to do more than any person actually can do.”
Inside the chapel, Curry discovered a noteworthy inscription. “Asbury was originally a Free Methodist school, and in the very back at the top are the words, ‘Holiness unto the Lord.’ That’s what’s drawing us. I think there’s a real holiness there. That’s what people are being called to — holiness and a holy love.”
Students continue to filter in and out of the chapel. “The rhythms of life are still happening,” Curry notes. “Now we might run back to chapel between classes if we have a spare hour, instead of going and doing something else. I do know some people have been sleeping in the chapel. It’s not packed full at four in the morning, but there are people around.
“Other churches have been opening their doors and there’s a seminary across the street that’s opened their chapel. There’s just been too many people coming here to actually be in one building
Curry has majored in ancient languages at Asbury, with a minor in theater. “When I got out of rehearsal last night, it was 11 o’clock at night, and I felt like I needed to go back to chapel before I went to bed.
“The whole campus has been transformed. People are just nicer…In my dorm halls they have all these whiteboards, and occasionally, there will be all sorts of crass humor scrawled on it. This week, they’ve all been replaced by praises to God.”