By Talia Wise —
This year we witnessed a powerful move of the Holy Spirit across college campuses, beaches, prisons, and churches – so much so that 2023 could be dubbed a “Year of Revival.” It could even point to the beginning of what many have called a spiritual awakening in America.
Faith leaders have testified that “revival is happening” in pockets across the U.S. spanning different age groups, denominations, and backgrounds.
‘The Asbury Awakening’
Many would say that the biggest “firestarter” of them all was a simple worship service at Asbury University in Kentucky where 100 people fell to their knees and bowed at the altar in Hughes Auditorium, just to worship God.
“On Wednesday, February 8, a very small but very faithful group of Asbury students listened to the nudging of the Holy Spirit and stayed in Chapel a little longer, and then a little longer, and then way longer,” shared a student speaker. “And we had no idea that the world was about to know God better.”
That small act eventually inspired thousands to flock to the college campus where they sought God’s presence for more than two weeks, leading to repentance, healing, and salvation.
“Peers, professors, local church leaders, and seminary students surround me—all of them praying, worshipping, and praising God together. Voices are ringing out. People are bowing at the altar, arms stretched wide,” wrote Alexandra Presta, the editor of the student-run website The Asbury Collegian. “A pair of friends cling to each other in a hug, one with tears in her eyes. A diverse group of individuals crowd the piano and flawlessly switch from song to song. Some even sit like me, with laptops open. No one wants to leave.”
What took place garnered national attention and began to spring up across other campuses.
“THE FIRE IS SPREADING. Reports say students from more than 21 colleges have now arrived at Asbury University in Kentucky for revival services. Just imagine what will happen if this spreads nationwide,” wrote missionary Lee Grady in February.
Lee University: ‘Awakening the Deep Wells of Revival’
Lee University, a private Christian college in Cleveland, Tennessee is 250 miles away from Asbury University, but students from this small school felt compelled to take part in what was taking place and it began a movement of revival on their campus.
Lee University Campus Pastor Rob Fultz noted on X, “What’s happening at Asbury is not and will not remain confined. It will, and already is awakening the deep wells of revival on campuses across the nation. They have been churning, pressing against the seals that have kept them hidden, and they are about to burst with new life.”
Fultz reported the revival had reached the Lee campus, writing: “A mighty move of God started this morning at Lee and it has been building throughout the day. We are approaching the 10th hour, nothing but voices in prayer, worship, and repentance.”
He also included a video taken of the worship in the campus’s Stone Chapel. Students were coming to the chapel, crying out to God, praying, and repenting.
The revival continued to spread to schools in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia.
“I think there’s a move of God that’s happening; there’s a revival that’s happening, and I wanted to be in the Presence of God,” Regent University student Shameka White told CBN News. “I wanted to just be among believers. And we need it in the climate of the world today.”
Cedarville University President Thomas White shared five short video clips of the revival at his school – just 10 days after the start of the Asbury revival.
“Tonight a large number of students gathered again to pray, read Scripture, testimonies, and to worship Jesus for about two hours! We had 2 more students saved tonight. Tomorrow night we are sending our students out to other Universities to share the Gospel,” he wrote. “Keep praying for wisdom and a genuine movement of the Lord! The last video is from students who stayed around to keep worshipping. They were still there when I left about 11 pm!”
In an email to the Cedarville faculty and staff, White wrote, “We are so thankful for how God is working on our campus in recent days.”
Texas A&M Corpus Christi
Some of the evidence that God was moving on college campuses did not involve massive worship services in an auditorium, but rather, outdoor prayer gatherings and spontaneous baptisms wherever there was water.
In February, Michael Fehlauer, the lead pastor of the New Life Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, posted videos to social media that showed baptisms being performed in a public fountain at Texas A&M Corpus Christi.
An impromptu baptism at Auburn University in Alabama started with one student wanting to be baptized but grew to roughly 200 people who decided to give their lives to Christ.
In September, Hundreds of students made a public declaration of their new life in Christ by dipping in a lake near Red Barn as spectators watched in awe.
“I’ve seen Auburn basketball beat Kentucky. I’ve seen Auburn football beat Alabama, but I have never seen something like I did Tuesday night,” Auburn University senior Michael Floyd told WFSA12 News.
More than 5,000 people showed up to Unite Auburn’s “Night of Worship”. The campus ministry’s outreach was created to bring the Alabama school’s Christian community together for a night of worship. It featured guest speakers New York Times Best-Selling Author Jennie Allen and Pastor Jonathan Pokluda, and worship was led by Passion Music.
“It was such a move of God,” Allen told CBN News. “There is something very special happening right now. I believe in their hearts I think they are, they are hungry for God and, and they want God in a very real way, this is not manufactured.”
A Move of God at HBCUs
One organization reported in March that God was also moving powerfully among the country’s historically black colleges and universities, also known as HBCUs.
The Black Voices Movement, a ministry of Circuit Riders, is on a mission to reach the next generation with the good news of Jesus Christ by empowering young black men and women across America to be evangelists and preachers of the gospel.
It is an important work because statistics show only 1% of American missionaries are black.
Yasmin Pierce, the director of the Black Voices Movement, told CBN News they had tours to 20-30 HBCU campuses this year and have seen many salvations.
“We are all about the gospel. We’re evangelists. We love Jesus. We’re so grateful for the cross,” Pierce explained.
‘Radically Transformed’ College Students
Healings on college campuses were also reported this year. One report from Texas A&M in College Station revealed that an A&M student who couldn’t previously walk unaided, walked 20 steps after Aggies students prayed over him. One young man shared what he saw in a video posted to Facebook.
Tarik Whitmore, the young adult pastor at New Life Church in Corpus Christi, Texas, told CBN News he is seeing a movement among college students who are getting saved and then boldly proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ with the student body.
The result is campuses are being transformed for Jesus – and it is happening quickly.
“We are seeing these people repent from compromise and make a decision to make a public declaration of, ‘No, I want to give my whole life to Jesus starting today.’ And then we see them radically transformed before our eyes where their lifestyle is radically different [and they have] boldness to preach the Gospel to their friends like never before,” said Whitmore.
This spiritual awakening was not just limited to college campuses but spread throughout towns in America.
As CBN News reported, in a small community in southeastern Kentucky, hundreds of people were changed by a move of God’s Spirit.
Pastor Scott Phipps told CBN News that for 77 nights God moved “in a mighty way” as people were delivered, healed, and set free from addiction.
“People are really pouring their hearts out to the Lord and the altars are full,” Phipps said in January. “There’s no room at the altars and people are just pouring in.”
Nearly 300 people showed up to North Main Community Church in Barbourville, Kentucky to have an encounter with God.
“Addicts have been delivered every night. And one thing about the people coming is that most of them do not have any background in any Christianity whatsoever,” Phipps added. “The Lord says those who have been forgiven much, loveth much, and many of these people were at death’s door.”
He shared that the light of Jesus Christ is shining brightly in a dark season.
Phipps explained, “As far as the world is concerned it looks like it’s not going to get better, but at the same time the Bible says we would shine as light in the midst of a dark world in a crooked and perverse generation and nation. It is a great time for [revival].”
In Hammond, Louisiana, a four-day church worship service turned into an eight-month-long revival at an old Baptist church.
Old Zion Baptist Church held its first service on Oct.16, 2022 by June 2023 thousands had decided to put their faith in Jesus. People from 17 states and two countries traveled to the church to see what God was doing.
“The Awakening in Louisiana has truly been life-changing. When God sent me there on October 17, I never would have dreamed we would still be there! It has been the most supernatural event I’ve ever seen,” Evangelist David R. Harrison of Voice of Hope Ministries told CBN News in June.
“Thousands of decisions have been made for Christ! Salvations, restorations deliverance, and healings,” Harrison reported.
“Has there been many battles along the way? Yes! But, it truly has been worth it all just to see the thousands of lives who have been changed! I’m so thankful and humbled that God would allow me and my family to experience such an amazing move of the Holy Spirit. To God be the glory, great things HE hath done,” he added.
Massive Beach Baptisms
One beach in California, once the site of spiritual outpouring among young people during the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s, became a historic location where thousands gathered to be baptized.
Inspired by the movie “Jesus Revolution”, thousands of people came from all across America and the world to take part in the “Jesus Revolution Baptism” in July at the now-famous Pirates Cove in Newport Beach, California.
Harvest Christian Fellowship Sr. Pastor Greg Laurie held the massive baptism event where 32,500 people gathered and 6,794 made decisions to dedicate their lives to Jesus Christ.
Laurie, whose salvation story is featured in the “Jesus Revolution” film and who was also baptized at this location 50 years ago, couldn’t believe the size of the crowd.
“We have around 4,000 people signed up to be baptized today, can you believe that!” Pastor Laurie exclaimed. But then the number grew even larger.
Just a week earlier, more than 4,000 people were baptized on that same beach on Pentecost Sunday to celebrate not only the gift of eternal life but to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Jesus Movement.
Oceans Church organized Baptize SoCal – an event advertised as “the biggest water baptism in history.”
More than 280 churches and 8,000 attendees watched as 4,166 people flocked to the shore of Pirates Cove to declare their new life in Christ.
“What an amazing and historic day,” said musician and pastor at West Coast Life Church, Ray Gene Wilson. “Thousands baptized at Pirates Cove, God is moving in California!”
“A moment I’ll never forget,” one attendee commented on Instagram.
God Behind Bars
God Behind Bars, a national prison ministry, has baptized 599 prison inmates and seen 126,000 salvations this year.
The organization strategically works to reach the more than 2.3 million people in the prison system and bring the hope found in the Gospel.
The ministry’s goal to win souls for the Kingdom of God is exploding into an outreach that is providing hope to thousands in a dark place.
“In prison, it’s very easy to be a bitter, cold person,” one inmate recently shared. “But because of my relationship with Jesus Christ and because of who I’ve become while being in prison, I’ve learned (to be) a joyful person. Having a life sentence plus 30 (years), and people not understanding where this joy is coming from or not understanding how you can maintain a smile while going through adverse moments…and I know that it only came from God.”
Over the years, worship leaders like Brandon Lake, Naomi Raine, and Kirk Franklin as well as speakers like Sadie Robertson and Russell Wilson have prayed and sung alongside inmates. It could be described as a glimpse into a small facet of what we will likely see in Heaven – people from all walks of life worshipping Jesus Christ.
The ministry once shared that what is happening in the prisons is a “new thing” and it is evident in the joy that is felt and the lives that are changed.
“God is bringing revival to prisons! Jesus is doing a NEW THING,” they wrote.
Spontaneous Baptisms at Churches
Many churches across the country have experienced record-breaking water baptisms – some spontaneous.
More than 2,000 baptisms took place across Life.Church’s 40-plus campuses in August.
The Oklahoma megachurch celebrated as people took that step of faith at a large facility pool used by the church, while others got baptized at satellite campuses. Some even got baptized in their bathtubs, previously recorded video showed.
“We’re not praying for revival. We’re in the middle of one. I thank God for what he’s doing,” Life.Church founder and pastor Craig Groeschel said. “God is doing a big thing.”
In Houston, Texas, 755 publicly declared their faith in Jesus Christ at Champion Forest.
Nearly 300 people were baptized one Sunday morning at The Biltmore Church in Arden, North Carolina. And in one service at Long Hollow Church in Hendersonville, TN, 136 people were spontaneously baptized.
But the numbers represent far more than mere statistics, it is a representation of lives transformed and citizenship established in Heaven.
“This is something to celebrate, people being raised from death to life,” remarked one Long Hollow leader. “And how good is it that we don’t have to earn the victory? We don’t have to earn salvation. We get to rest in the victory Christ already won on our behalf.”
As revival and mass baptisms have hit every generation this year, in many ways Gen Z has been leading the way. This year served as a spotlight on the increasing hunger among young people for God.
A recent Pew Research study claims that Gen Z is losing their religion, but in reality, there is a spiritual awakening that is happening among that generation.
Thousands are hearing the gospel message, making professions of faith in Jesus Christ, and answering the call to ministry.
“This I believe is for Generation Z, for this generation coming up now,” shared Dr. Corne Bekker, dean and professor of the Regent University School of Divinity. “This is their moment where God is getting a hold of their hearts.”
“Their eyes are opening, and they are surrendering their lives to Christ,” he continued.
The move of God is not just happening in the U.S. Bekker references revivals overseas and believes that what’s taking place on a global scale is the beginning of the next Great Awakening.
“From my perspective, I believe it is here,” Bekker said. “The time is now; the kingdom of God is here. What should be our response? Repent and believe in the Good News.”
Bekker believes this could be the last great move of God to usher in the second coming of Jesus Christ. — CBN