The viral revival in Asbury reveals Gen Z’s unique approach to faith

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The viral revival at Asbury reveals Gen Z’s unique approach to faith and spirituality

February 23, 2023 -

Stock photo: In the foreground, a man clasps his hands in prayer over an open Bible while another pair of hands is open in prayer. A guitarist and another person in prayer with an open Bible are in the background. Similar scenes are occurring at the revival in Asbury and beyond. © By Pcess609/stock.adobe.com

Stock photo: In the foreground, a man clasps his hands in prayer over an open Bible while another pair of hands is open in prayer. A guitarist and another person in prayer with an open Bible are in the background. Similar scenes are occurring at the revival in Asbury and beyond. © By Pcess609/stock.adobe.com

Stock photo: In the foreground, a man clasps his hands in prayer over an open Bible while another pair of hands is open in prayer. A guitarist and another person in prayer with an open Bible are in the background. Similar scenes are occurring at the revival in Asbury and beyond. © By Pcess609/stock.adobe.com

Starting this Friday, February 24, Asbury University’s ongoing worship services will no longer be held at the university.

With thousands of visitors flocking to the small Christian school from around the world since February 8, University President Kevin J. Brown cited the lack of infrastructure to hold the influx as one of his chief concerns.

But that doesn’t mean the Asbury revival is over.

Viral revival draws Christians from across the globe

The Asbury revival is a uniquely Gen Z occurrence, beginning after a group of college students continued to worship after weekly chapel. Since then, it has drawn thousands of people from all over the country and the world to the Asbury campus, including students from at least twenty-one other colleges.

CBN’s Benjamin Gill and Steve Warren write that “for days, people have been giving testimonies, reading scripture, worshiping God, and praying,” with much of the crowd composed of college students.

The social media element of the Asbury revival is perhaps its most interesting facet. In an age where platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and other social media networks often foster division and a sense of isolation among young people, videos of the ongoing worship meeting have drawn members of Gen Z from around the country and around the world, with visitors from Canada and Singapore en route to the Kentucky college.

The enormous crowds at the prayer meeting are bringing together believers longing for the Lord’s presence, most of them college-aged. And the revival isn’t stopping at Asbury. Cleveland, Tennessee’s Lee University saw a similar worship meeting begin on Valentine’s Day.

Gen Z is open to the gospel

While low church attendance leads many to characterize Gen Z as uninterested in religion, Gen Z is surprisingly open to learning about the gospel.

As the authors of a recent Barna study observe, “Younger non-Christians are more than twice as likely to express a personal interest in Christianity compared to older non-Christians.” Because Christianity is no longer the dominant shaper of the American worldview, many young people have grown up without extensive knowledge of the Christian faith and are curious about learning more.

The phrase “spiritual but not religious” characterizes many young people disconnected from the church. Oftentimes, young seekers construct a personal spirituality from a variety of influences, creating a syncretistic outlook designed to address personal fears and worries.

As the Asbury revival demonstrates, however, members of Gen Z are acutely aware of their need for the gospel. This should be immensely encouraging to Christians everywhere, especially given the current trajectory of our culture. The gospel is every bit as powerful as it has always been (Romans 1:16) and just as relevant to Gen Z as it is to every generation before.

Given the unstable, divisive era Gen Z is growing up in, it’s no wonder that they recognize their need for spiritual stability. Jon Erwin, one of the directors of Jesus Revolution, recognizes a key similarity between Gen Z and the generation coming of age in the 60s and 70s. Both generations recognize their need for spirituality, he observes, but are searching for answers “in all the wrong places.” In the 60s and 70s, it was psychedelics. For Gen Z, it’s social media and influencer culture.

That recognition of weakness and the ensuing search for answers led to the “Jesus Revolution” and revival in the 70s. Could it lead to another one?

The Asbury revival shows that it can.

How can the church reach Gen Z?

As young people are inspired by revivals like Asbury to discover more about the gospel, churches should stand ready to disciple these young seekers, welcoming them into the body of Christ. While youth outreach programs have become standard in most mainline churches today, many churches are developing unique strategies to fully integrate the younger generation into their congregations.

Singapore’s Heart of God Church entrusts the entire Sunday service to its young adults, with members as young as thirteen serving in leadership positions on tech teams and in various ministries. As Heart of God Church recognizes, every Christian has unique gifts and talents indispensable to the Body (1 Corinthians 12:21–25). Honoring those gifts is a fantastic way to make sure teens and young adults feel valued by the church.

While the younger generation’s exodus from the church may be a cause for concern, Gen Z’s openness to conversation and desire for authenticity presents a unique opportunity for reaching young people with the gospel.

The Asbury revival reminds us that young people are open to the message of Jesus, the light of the world (John 8:12), and are longing for his presence.

Rather than despairing over falling church attendance and giving up on lost young people, we should heed our Lord’s call in Luke 10:2, presenting ourselves as workers ready for the harvest. Gen Z is well aware of their need for purpose and meaning, things that only Jesus can provide.

Let’s share his gospel with the younger generation who aches to hear this good news.

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