Published on November 27, 2023  
J T Reeves

This post originally appeared at The Gospel Coalition on Oct. 19, 2023.

I’ve often been asked how all this changed my life. But God is a frustratingly elusive subject to pin down with words. So I won’t describe the Outpouring here. I only want you to imagine it with me.

Secular Blitz

Imagine that, like me, you grew up in a hurricane blitz of secularism that systematically dismantled your belief in the unseen. Even if a miracle should happen, you’d probably be too sensible (or cynical) to believe it.

Before you hit puberty, rampant individualism forcefully placed you in a cage like a circus animal and handed you an iPhone so you could pretend you’re not lonely. You use the phone. And sometimes it works.

When it doesn’t, you grow anxious and put up more walls. So you’re never challenged—no, never invited—to attend to the depth of the Living God. The postmodern pressure of not pressuring keeps people from asking hard things.

The postmodern pressure of not pressuring keeps people from asking hard things.

Meanwhile, you’re living virtually. Entertainment is the unrivaled deity in your life. Algorithms of billion-dollar companies have monopolized your attention (your worship).

Sometimes you try to escape this vicious cycle, but with the speed of life, it’s like trying to land flat-footed after jumping out of a moving sports car.

Gen-Z Christian

“Christian” pretty much means not-any-of-those-things-above. And you know this, so you do your best, but honestly, none of “those things” sounds that terrible to you. They’re sort of inevitable.

Ultimately, it’s hard for you to imagine being a Christian.

That’s why you’ve been praying for God to let you know him better. Unexpectedly, you hear word of something gone viral—it’s a wild worship breakout at a college in middle-of-nowhere Kentucky.

At first, you tell yourself you absolutely cannot go, but then your friend says, “What do you actually have to do that’s important?” That kind of hurts. But you know he’s right, so half an hour later you’re packed into a Honda Civic, making the seven-hour trek to who-knows-what and staying at who-knows-where.

When you get there, it’s weird. You’re skeptical. Why is everyone saying “y’all”? This doesn’t feel as hype as those TikToks you saw.

But something makes you stay . . .

For a few, it takes hours; for many, days; for you, it’s weeks. Weeks of worship and prayer back at your own campus get you out of the haze you’ve been in for years. The face of Jesus Christ becomes a bit clearer, and you and your friends look at each other wondering why you hadn’t noticed his irresistible beauty until now.

Or maybe you did notice it; you just never acted like it.

Witnessing Glory

You haven’t believed in miracles, but several of your friends experienced stuff that has no medical explanation. Unfortunately, miracles from the omnipotent God seem terribly normal in the Scriptures. Now you have no excuse but to begin praying for impossible things (Mark 11:23).

All you want to do is worship. Individualism fades as you find you don’t have to pretend anymore—you’re not alone. Uncaged by your Friend’s love, you become vulnerable and confess things you never thought you could (James 5:16).

Soon, anxiety melts as you and your Friend’s friends challenge—no, invite—each other daily to attend to Jesus of Nazareth. Nightlong prayers (Luke 6:12), days of spontaneous worship (Ps. 27:4) and tears of intercession (Phil. 3:18) don’t seem foreign; they feel surprisingly natural.

Your appetite for everything “entertaining” is spoiled, and you walk into a study room to find a friend looking up at you guiltily. “This is terrible,” she says. “What?” you say. “I have so much to do—but I can’t stop reading my Bible!” And you laugh because you came in itching to finish reading Exodus 27–30.


Since when did you want to read Exodus 27–30?

But the Lover of your soul has made himself known. He stepped into your warp-speed haze and took your hand. You’re mesmerized by his words. You knew he was better, but you never gave him the time or attention to experience that knowing.

Changed Imagination

I’ve spoken with a variety of students from a variety of campuses. Though our encounters with the Holy Spirit in the spring of 2023 were vastly different, most of us write the exact same summary.

You knew the Lover of your soul was better, but you never gave him the time or attention to experience that knowing.

The Asbury Outpouring was unique. It wasn’t about mass conversion, mass repentance or mass missions. It seemed more like a soft and sweet song to the seekers of God—an invitation for us to radically retrain our attention, our worship, on the One who is worthy of us.

Above the current of our screaming algorithms, the Jealous God was whispering, I will ask more of you than you ever dreamed of giving, and only then will I give you more than you ever dreamed of asking for.

If you want to know what really changed in us, the answer is simple:

God changed our whole imagination.

And we live believing he’ll do it again.