Signs of revival are appearing across our land. It began with an outpouring at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky, on February 8, 2023, when a regularly scheduled chapel service spontaneously transformed into 15 days of nonstop worship, confession, repentance and prayer, drawing tens of thousands of people from across the world to witness a move of the Holy Spirit. The sparks flew from there to more than 20 college campuses as the world witnessed Generation Z’s fervor for an authentic encounter with God.
During this awakening, Jesus also showed up in the Super Bowl on February 12th. As millions of Americans tuned into the most watched sporting event of the year, they were “re-introduced to the Jesus of the Bible” in two “He Gets Us” advertisements as part of a national campaign. And in a break from the political statements demonstrated by NFL players in recent years, both quarterbacks, Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes and Philadelphia Eagles’ Jalen Hurts, took a knee and pointed to the heavens, honoring God as a public display of their personal faith.
The multi-week gathering ended at Asbury on February 23rd with the National Collegiate Day of Prayer hosted on their campus and broadcast to more than 4,600 campus ministries, churches and individuals. The very next day, “Jesus Revolution” was released in theaters. A true story from the early 1970s, “Jesus Revolution” tells how Calvary Chapel Founder Chuck Smith welcomed a group of teenage hippies to his church and it gave birth to one of America’s greatest spiritual awakenings, the Jesus Movement.
In its opening weekend “Jesus Revolution,” starring Kelsey Grammer and “The Chosen’s” Jonathan Roumie, was ranked among the top three movies at the box office. To date it has grossed over $49 million, far surpassing initial projections of $6 – 7 million and astounding the entertainment industry. However, it’s the timing of all these events and the parallels between the outpouring at Asbury and the historical events of “Jesus Revolution” that have many people wondering what God is up to.
Catching the overflow
Danny Slavich, pastor of Cross United Church in Pompano Beach, travelled to Asbury, where his wife is an alumnus, to experience the revival firsthand. He described what he witnessed as “a raw kind of honesty of people just wanting to worship and experience the presence of God and a hunger to pour out yourself in praise and worship to the Lord.”
Slavich, said “He definitely poured out a fresh sense of His love and more than anything there was this overwhelming kind of peace and joy combined …a sense of deep calm. When I think about Gen. Z, a lot of people have talked about how it’s the most anxious generation with depression and suicide, and God poured out that peace and joy upon a generation that’s been so plagued by this… Many of these kids had to graduate from high school via Zoom. I see the kindness of God to a group of people in that moment and to get the privilege of being there to catch some of the overflow…”
Slavich said, “Something is stirring” and he is “cautiously optimistic that there may be a fresh movement of the Spirit in the Church… I think it’s sort of elevated the expectations of what God might want to do in any given moment when we’re gathered as Christians.”
When Paula and Gonzalo Zubieta, who currently attend Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, heard about the outpouring in Asbury from their former pastor in Chile, they decided to take their entire family to experience it for themselves. Catching a plane to Kentucky, they waited eight hours in a line that wove around the campus green for the opportunity to enter Hughes Memorial Auditorium. Big screens mounted outside streamed a glimpse of the revival within, and those who waited got acquainted with one another and prayed together while children played on the green.
“It was a great experience,” said Paula Zubieta. “These people were from different backgrounds, and they were all looking for something real. They wanted to find the truth… There were students who walked through the entire line asking, who needs prayer? Who needs a hug? People came with pizza and hot coffee, coats and blankets. There were people who shared testimonies that they were depressed or had suicidal thoughts and came to the revival and were changed.”
Once inside, Paula said people were crying, singing and applauding, and many students were receiving from God after confessing their sins. “One of the things I received was a desire to start sharing with my neighborhood what I experienced in Asbury and to pray with purpose for the youth during the time when we meet,” said Paula.
The Zubietas finally entered the chapel at 10 p.m. and stayed there until 1 a.m. Impressed by the passion of the worshipers at Asbury, Tim Zubieta, an 8th grade student at Calvary Christian Academy (CCA), said he felt “a sense of community and connection to the larger family of God.” His brother Joel Zubieta, a 6th grader at CCA, said Asbury was unlike anything he had experienced.
Their father Gonzalo Zubieta said witnessing the Asbury revival, “strengthened my conviction” and was “a little piece of heaven.” He became emotional as they encountered the long line of cars entering the campus, because he realized, “Wow! There is such a hunger to search for God… We’re so passive about the power we have access to. Revival is really believing we serve a powerful God that is desperately in love with us and wants to touch the lives and hearts of people.”
While some are hesitant to call the awakening at Asbury a true revival, Gonzalo said he has no doubt. “When you plant a seed, at first you see nothing. It takes a while before you know how many apples one seed will produce, but the word of God will not return void.”
While the family was at Asbury, Campus President Dr. Kevin Brown announced the services in Hughes Auditorium would end the following Thursday. Some wondered if Asbury was “stopping this outpouring of God’s Spirit and the stirring of human hearts.” Brown responded by pointing out that “we cannot stop something we did not start,” and saying, “The trajectory of renewal meetings is always outward — and that is beginning to occur.”
Tim said he learned, “This whole revival is the people that bring it along. They take it to their families and to their schools, and it’s something I want the Spirit to do here at my school.”
Is it really revival?
Bernie Cueto, vice president of spiritual development at Palm Beach Atlantic University (PBA), said, “God is definitely doing something unique,” but he added, “the historian in me would like to wait and see before we call this a revival.”
Cueto referred to Jonathan Edwards, the Great American puritan theologian who wrote a treatise on signs of revival during the first Great Awakening in the mid-1700s. According to Cueto, Edwards would say there are certain things that need to happen in revival. In addition to a desire and hunger for God, there’s always prayer; there’s always worship. It’s always gospel centered, and there are always fruits of repentance… Many would argue there should be a measurable change that took place as a result. And while extended times of worship can be good, they don’t necessarily mean revival.
“What we do know that happened at Asbury was a very sovereign, gentle move of the Holy Spirit that is more wordship centered,” said Cueto. “Ironically at PBA, we had two 12-hour prayer services and then another service that was supposed to be 40 minutes that went seven hours, so there’s definitely a hunger for the presence of God and a hunger to experience God even here at PBA.”
A new generation
This awakening among Gen. Z counters trending statistics about America’s youth, which has been called “the least Christian generation in American history with only about four percent holding a biblical worldview and more teens identifying as agnostic, atheist or not religiously affiliated than previous generations,” according to a Barna study.
However, Mike Blanc, chaplain for the University of Miami football team and director of Fellowship of Christian Athletes at UM, said, “I think more young people are looking to follow God.” The attendance at their Wednesday night Bible study Huddles have doubled in recent months, and he added, “I really believe that young people are tired of all the stuff on social media, and they’re hungry for the truth. They’re hungry for some real foundational perspectives instead of just some influencer with his own perspective… The world is doing a really good job of pointing out our flaws, but I think people are hungry for love. I think people are hungry to receive forgiveness and grace and mercy.”
Concerning Super Bowl quarterbacks Mahomes and Hurts, Blanc said, “We are seeing the future of the NFL. These two quarterbacks are in their early 20s and with Tom Brady it was 41. It’s a new generation. And the Super Bowl is the biggest stage, so those guys professing their faith is everything. When I think about when Tim Tebow was playing the championship game and wrote John 3:16 underneath his eye, they said over 200 million people went and researched, what is John 3:16? So, yeah, that’s huge influence those guys have because the world is watching the Super Bowl.”
Starting a conversation
Nielson estimates more than 113 million viewers watched the Super Bowl this year. One study indicates about 43 percent of the men and 60 percent of the women say they tuned in to the Super Bowl just to watch the commercials. And for the first time, Jesus was there to meet them through the “He Gets Us” ad campaign.
Jordan Carson, director of communications and spokesperson for He Gets Us, said their commercials garnered 189 million impressions during Super Bowl LVII.
Their first commercial, titled “Be Childlike,” showed children hugging and helping each other, overlayed with the message, “Jesus didn’t want us to act like adults.” The second ad entitled “Love Your Enemies” depicted the violence, conflict and social disorder common in today’s news, with the message, “Jesus loved the people we hate.” Designed to pique viewers’ curiosity, both ads pointed to HeGetsUs.com to learn more, join an online discussion group or connect with a local church.
“Our goal for the Super Bowl ads was to create a conversation about Jesus, his life and his teachings, and that’s exactly what was accomplished,” said Carson. USA Today’s Ad Meter, a public survey, ranked “Be Childlike” and “Love Your Enemies” at numbers eight and 15, out of 51, and Google Search Trends showed that searches for “Jesus” were higher after the ads aired than they are at Christmas.
“Our research shows that many people’s only exposure to Jesus is through Christians who reflect him imperfectly, and too often in ways that create a distorted or incomplete picture of his radical compassion and love for others,” Carson said. “We believe it’s more important now than ever for the real, authentic Jesus to be represented by his followers as he is in the Bible. He cares about our problems because he has experienced them. He gets us. We believe that these events will encourage others to consider his life and teachings, which will in turn help improve the lives of those around them — and begin to create a kind of cascade of confounding love and forgiveness he taught us through his words and actions.”
Perhaps the love that drew a generation of hippies to Jesus in the early 1970’s as depicted in “Jesus Revolution” is doing it again.
In its fifth week, “Jesus Revolution” remains in more than 2,000 theaters, and Co-producer Kevin Downes, with Lionsgate and Kingdom Story Company, said, “the encouragement we get is when people express how the film instigated conversations, how it’s literally led to instantaneous worship or these events people have in their life that are somewhat life altering, and we’ve seen literally hundreds of them.”
Asked if he saw any parallels between the outpouring at Asbury and “Jesus Revolution,” Downes, said, “The timing of that was very interesting. We sat back and were literally in awe of what was happening not only at Asbury but in other colleges. It was really incredible… Clearly our film is about a revival that happened in the late 60s, early 70s and so how that happened - it’s only God, literally.”
Prior to the movie’s release, Greg Laurie, the American pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship and author of the memoir Jesus Revolution the movie is based on, said, “In America, we’ve had four great spiritual awakenings. The Jesus Movement was the last. I feel like we’re overdue for another. And I’m hoping that this film will inspire people to pray, ‘Lord, do it again.’”
Hearing reports of the revival at Asbury from friends there and seeing it take off at college campuses around the country, even secular campuses, Darren Davis, Pastor of Harbour Church in Pompano Beach and an active member of Church United, said it made him think of “Jesus Revolution.”
Davis said of the movie, “I went in expecting another cheesy Christian film, but I was pretty much weeping or laughing the whole time… And the story is the same thing as today. You’ve got the older generation serving the younger ones that are in a pretty broken place away from God, seeking him and drugs, sex - just like the Jesus Movement. Then I thought, Lord you knew when this film would come out… as this stuff is going on in Asbury and beyond. I feel like we need to pay attention!”
He added, “I think this movement should be seen as an invitation and permission for what’s possible for us. We all know that God wants to move in South Florida, and I’m convinced of that, especially with what’s going on through Church United, the bringing together and unification of pastors and leaders across this city.”
Read more on Jesus Revolution and other faith based movies by clicking here.