Filling a ‘spiritual vacuum’ for Gen Z: Non-stop revival meeting spreads nationwide

by WorldTribune Staff, February 17, 2023

A Christian university’s marathon prayer revival, which has been going on continuously since Feb. 8, has attracted visitors from across the USA and garnered millions of views on social media.

The morning worship at Asbury University in Wilmore Kentucky included a sermon by the Rev. Zach Meerkreebs, a campus minister, on “Becoming Love in Action.” After the message, students gathered to pray — and they have not stopped since, Mark A. Kellner reported for The Washington Times on Feb. 16.

Marathon prayer revival at Asbury University / Video Image

“Videos of tearful worshipers singing hymns and offering personal testimonies have gone viral on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, racking up millions of views and inspiring carloads of visitors to descend on Wilmore, population 6,000, to share in what some are calling a movement,” Kellner wrote.

Schools including Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee; Cedarville University in Cedarville, Ohio; Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma; and the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky are among campuses reporting extended prayer-and-worship sessions attributed to interest in the Asbury event.

“We haven’t seen anything like this in a long time in the United States,” said Hal Poe, a professor of religion at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.

Poe added that the small Kentucky school at the heart of the prayer marathon has a unique history when it comes to American revivals: Asbury University was the catalyst for a similar wave of campus-based religious fervor in February 1970, when another extended prayer meeting in Wilmore captured the attention of Christian students and faculty nationwide.

Since the 24/7 worship service began last week, participants have lined up for a chance to join the worshipers inside the school’s 1,500-seat Hughes Memorial Auditorium.

Two other locations in the city have been opened as overflow locations to accommodate a steady stream of visitors, Mark Whitworth, the school’s vice president of communications, told The Washington Times.

“We’re getting ready to open up again today,” Whitworth said Thursday. “There’s a line outside, and plans for worship, around the noontime hour, and ministry from 2 to 5. Then there will be some worship as part of that as well. And then at 5, we’ll do more worship and then do more ministry beginning at 7:30 this evening.”

The Asbury student body of 1,639 has swelled with “tens of thousands” of visitors to the prayer-and-worship gatherings, Whitworth said, most of whom “stay for a day or two, or an afternoon or an evening, that kind of thing.”

“This is well beyond the student body. And it has probably been since [last] Thursday. … We’ve had students from over two dozen schools come [here] physically and participate in the worship. The other thing is that we see adults and families, we see all ages, all ethnicities and nationalities,” Whitworth said.

One of the visitors to Asubry, the Rev. Robby Gallaty, senior pastor at Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, Tennessee, said the unassuming setting of the auditorium — there are no projection screens, no plethora of instruments, “no expansive sound system,” didn’t detract from the impact.

“None of that mattered to anyone,” Gallaty said. “Because they weren’t there for that. I sense this genuine hunger by the people, that they were there for God and they wanted more of God.”

The revival is filling a spiritual void among members of Generation Z., accoding to William M. Wilson, president of Oral Roberts University.

“These young people are feeling in their life this spiritual vacuum, somewhat of an emptiness in the society they’re in and a real need for hope,” Mr. Wilson said. “The mental health crisis in this generation is significant. The uncertainty of the times, the feeling of lostness, in a world of 8 billion people, who are they, in the midst of it, the desire for purpose. I think all of these are driving a generation to look beyond themselves for the answer.”

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