The Asbury Revival Stirred Up Memories
In 1997, the now defunct ex-gay group Exodus International once held its national conference in that very chapel...
In 1997 I was a Co-Director of Living Hope Ministries, an Exodus International affiliate in Arlington, Texas. Exodus held its annual international conference at Asbury College and Seminary that summer. Yes, the same Asbury where there was a recent revival that went viral everywhere online for about two weeks.
Asbury is out in the middle of absolutely nowhere Kentucky (Wilmore) and has a gorgeous campus.
The only thing I remember about the conference was staying up late at night and making a friend of mine double-over laughing at my impersonation of Yoda saying highly inappropriate things to Luke Skywalker.
I should have known then … ::: sigh :::
I also remember Erwin Lutzer explaining how there is no theological basis for the belief that Satan will rule hell or have any influence over the inhabitants of hell and that Satan has no authority to assign demons to conduct “spiritual warfare.” Of course, that caused raised eyebrows among those who think they know better, but he is right… it does not say that in the bible.
I don’t believe in an eternal hell now, so it doesn’t matter, but… I remember that teaching because it interrupts a significant religious right doctrine.
But I digress…
That said, I also remember the conference’s worship times (before every morning and evening keynote speaker) as transcendent moments where I would have communion with the Divine. I still believe those moments were extraordinary and genuine, not because of Exodus but because the Divine shows up for the individual soul regardless of circumstance or errant beliefs.
I now believe the Divine showed up despite Exodus.
So I do not doubt, but also can’t confirm since I wasn’t there, that the Asbury revival was an authentic worship experience that probably encouraged many who went to worship with the students who led the experience.
Some worship songs are straight-up propaganda or reinforce stereotypes and other negative messages. But many others are pure and honest expressions of prayer and love for the Divine.
At first, singing my heart out during worship sets was the only time I felt comfortable in the church. However, those experiences have solidified (for me) that the Divine is real, loves me, and has a two-way connection.
I no longer experience worship within a church every week, but you may see me singing with Kirk Franklin or other Christian worship leaders on the way to work, messing around in the yard, or exercising. But, of course, I also find the Divine in many secular songs. Does anyone need a pocketful of sunshine?
While I doubt I would be welcome on the Asbury campus or even want to attend any conference they may have (because of their conservative views of scripture), I don’t envy or doubt their worship experience.
There is something magnificent about a voice lifted in a transcendent and beautiful song.
Thrive is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support this work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Please join us in the subscriber chat! It is also available on the web. They just haven’t updated the below button yet :). When you click the “Join Chat” button below, it will take you to a QR code to download the app. The link to the web version of the chat room (and Substack in general) is below the QR code.
A friend and I were just discussing last week the Asbury revival and I asked her if she had ever been in a spontaneous revival. She said, "Only at Exodus Conferences". I shared that I had only been in one at a church service that lasted about three hours, but I knew what she meant about the worship services at Exodus. I shared some of the most profound worship experiences of my life at those conferences. I used to tell folks that those conferences were like a spiritual B-12 shot for us. On this side of it all and knowing that it shutting down was the right thing, I have questioned why exactly it was so life changing for me. As my dear friend who was also there said, "There was both harm and healing in the same place!" I have to remind myself that yes, there were errors in some of the teachings, but also there were other general Christian teachings that were very helpful to most anyone's spiritual life. And the fellowship among us who were earnestly seeking God's will for our lives and the lives of others was genuine, though somewhat misguided. As you said, God met us there. I have had to and am still facing the harm to others that I was involved in, but I don't regret the time I spent with wonderful people like you Randy, and so many others! I still have a lot of friends who benefited greatly also! My prayer for all of us now is that we take what we've learned and truly help others in the LGBTQ+ community to walk in true freedom!