In "Generation Awakened," Sarah Thomas Baldwin gives an eyewitness account of the powerful outpouring of God at Asbury

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In “Generation Awakened,” Sarah Thomas Baldwin gives an eyewitness account of the powerful outpouring of God at Asbury

June 4, 2024 -

Hands in the air of people who praise God at church service. By tutye/stock.adobe.com

Hands in the air of people who praise God at church service. By tutye/stock.adobe.com

Hands in the air of people who praise God at church service. By tutye/stock.adobe.com

Generation Awakened: An Eyewitness Account of the Powerful Outpouring of God at Asbury

Generation Awakened: An Eyewitness Account of the Powerful Outpouring of God at Asbury

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

Do you remember what was in the news in early February 2023?

  • Memphis resident, Tyre Nichols’ story about being beaten by police and his eventual death was everywhere.
  • China was trying to play down a dispute over a high-altitude balloon it launched over North American airspace after the U.S. Air Force shot it down.
  • President Biden delivered his State of the Union Address on February 7th calling Republicans to help him “finish the job” building the economy.

But modest-sized Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky was on the brink of bursting into the news around the world. Unprepared. Unproduced.

In Generation Awakened: An Eyewitness Account of the Powerful Outpouring of God at Asbury, author Sarah Thomas Baldwin, part of the administrative team at Asbury University gives an eyewitness, first-person account of the events, the atmosphere and the personal and organizational challenges of being at the epicenter of the “…Powerful Outpouring of God at Asbury.” This book is not a sermon or a theological treatise on revival. It’s a ground-level, play-by-play account of what actually happened day by day. In some cases, moment by moment. The details, the personalities, the dilemmas, and the euphoria are on full display.     

It all begins with the regularly scheduled Wednesday, February 8, 2023, student-led chapel service, in Asbury’s Hughes Auditorium. An unexpected—and unmanipulated— outpouring of God’s love begins after the scheduled service that will ultimately draw thousands of people from around the world. God shows up on an ordinary day in an extraordinary way. And for the next fifteen days a spontaneous, unproduced expression of God’s love, forgiveness, and majesty changes everything.

Once it begins, it doesn’t stop. Around the clock. 24-7. Worship flows. Prayer and praise are spontaneous. Music and testimonies fuel the outpouring.

But was it real? Was it authentic? Would it last a day? A week? A month? None of them knew as it unfolded. How do you “manage” such an experience as a school administrator? Who is in charge?  Who makes decisions? Who decides who can speak… and who can’t? How do they care for thousands of uninvited—but never unwelcomed—people showing up on campus?    

At least fifty thousand people arrived from over three hundred colleges and universities, more than thirty states and at least thirteen countries to experience the lavish love of God in Wilmore, Kentucky, between February 8 and February 24, 2023.

Most of us desire an authentic, life-changing encounter with God. But how does that happen? What does it look like when it does? Especially amongst Gen Z, a generation focused on apps and entertainment from handheld devices searching in vain for “likes” that might somehow fill what the seventeenth century’s Blaise Paschal called “that God-shaped emptiness” inside all of us.    

Culturally, what have we provided Gen Z to satisfy their souls? We’ve tried replacing heroes and saints with celebrities. We’ve given them reality TV instead of modeling lives surrendered to Jesus. For many, Christians are more known for what we dislike than for what (who) we love.

As Baldwin points out, “Social media influencers disciple this generation more than pastors and mentors do… we share in discouragement over the anxiety with which our students live and how little of the hope, freedom, and goodness of Jesus they experience” (page 8).

So, was it real?

In many ways, Generation Awakened allows the reader to be onsite.

While told from the perspective of a university administrator, Baldwin is transparent about her own struggles as a wife, mother, and Christ-follower. Her faith is on full display, as are her doubts and struggles to manage, yet simultaneously embrace all that is happening.

What makes an experience like this real? Baldwin explains:

This move of God is marked by humility. It is not about anyone other than Jesus. I have spent hundreds of hours planning worship services in my life, but this is simply the Holy Spirit settling upon us. I get to be a doorkeeper in the house of God.  I get to tend the platform, the seats, the space, and the rhythm of prayer and worship. My heart beats with such peace and wonder. In the economy of the kingdom, there are no rock stars or celebrity Christians. The central figure of the kingdom of God is the crucified and risen Jesus. The posture of our hearts in the surrendered life challenges the powers and ideologies of this world, more than the influence of celebrity Christians with likes and squares on a screen. Followers of Christ come from every tribe and tongue, many political perspectives, and cultural landscapes, but it is the gravity of the claim “Jesus is Lord” that pull us together (page 43).

She convinced me it was real with a keyword: humility. Scripturally, anytime God “shows up” our repentance, surrender, and honesty are the hallmarks of his presence. It’s not about a showy performance, thunderous applause or rave reviews. What happened in Hughes auditorium and adjacent locations over those days in February 2023 was marked by peace, unity, humility, praise and prayer. Baldwin described it this way, “A sense of unity of relationship envelopes us.  The humility of the moment engulfs me like a flood of honest love and compassion. (page 46) 

Outpourings happen

Generation Awakened will reinforce and revive your belief in a God who desires to inhabit the praises of his people. (Psalm 22:3) If you’re longing for the authentic hand of God to move among us, this book will give you evidence that it happens.    

It’s the genuineness of God that we yearn for. He sometimes moves as gently as the dew rising and sometimes, he arrives likes a rushing river. But ultimately, it’s the Lord behind either of those means that we so desperately seek to embrace.

And, until he returns one day, reading Generation Awakened will give you a front-row-seat to a transforming display of the love of God. As the great outpouring eventually diminished after nearly two weeks, Baldwin spoke in Hughes auditorium on February 21st,

“When you experience the love and freedom of Jesus, you know that you want to put everything out on the altar.  Jesus laid his whole life out for you, died on the cross for you. The kingdom of God is this:  all of Jesus for all of you” (page 152).

“Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20b)

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