Taken by Surprise

The remarkable revival at Asbury University in 2023 started with a routine chapel service. On that morning in February, a group of students chose to linger after their Wednesday hour of prayer, and so began a movement of the Spirit that didn’t cease for another two weeks.

What started with spontaneous worship and calls to renewal in the lives of college students turned into tens of thousands of pilgrims making their way to a small town in the middle of Kentucky, which then spilled over onto campuses across America and awakenings across the globe.

In Taken By Surprise: The Asbury Revival of 2023, Mark R. Elliott writes as a seasoned historian—diving into the what, when, and how behind the revival that may very well be the first of its kind in our digital era.


Mark Elliott, a well-trained historian with a thorough knowledge of Asbury University’s record of earlier awakenings, is perfectly positioned to offer this balanced, superbly researched, insightful, but still probing account of the much-publicized revival that took place at Asbury in February 2023.

The Asbury Outpouring of 2023 was remarkable by most metrics— cultural, spiritual and demographic. And the outpouring continues to be significant as its values self-seed into hundreds of locations around the world wherever people are hungry for a simpler, truer encounter with the living God. In this short record, we find the facts and the essential DNA. Our prayer is that Taken by Surprise will inspire and equip many more to seek God with all their hearts.

Based on extensive research and numerous first hand interviews and reports, Mark Elliott has carefully unfolded another “divine moment” through the Asbury Outpouring of February 2023 . . . My prayer is that readers of this informative, inspiring account of will be encouraged and strengthened in their faith.

Table of Contents

Foreword by Robert E. Coleman and Stephen A. Seamands

 1.    Spiritual Spontaneous Combustion: February
 2.    The Backstory: 2023 in Context
 3.    The Heart of Worship: Unpolished and Quiet—as Compliments
 4.    Transformed in Worship: Dying to Self
 5.    Leadership and Logistics: Coping with Blessing 
 6.    Shepherding the Unexpected:  Decision-Making “Just in Time”
 7.    Security and Safety: “For What Could Have Happened, It Just Didn’t”
 8.    Volunteers: Labors of Love
 9.    Media Coverage: From The Collegian to TikTok
10.    Wilmore: Blessed but Overwhelmed
11.    Spreading Near and Far: “Come, Tarry, Go”
12.    Conclusion or Commencement: Empowered to Forgive and Reconcile

Appendix A: A Critique of the Critics
Appendix B: Chronology: February 8–24, 2023
Appendix C: Worship Music
Appendix D: Colleges and Universities Represented at the Asbury Outpouring

About the Author

Mark R. Elliott (PhD in modern European and Russian history) has taught at Asbury University (KY); Wheaton College (IL); Samford University (AL); and Southern Wesleyan University (SC). In addition to teaching, Elliott held administrative posts for nineteen years as director of the Institute for East-West Christian Studies (Wheaton College) and as director of the Global Center (Beeson Divinity School, Samford University). He is the author of numerous books and editor emeritus of the East-West Church and Ministry Report (, which he edited for twenty-five years.