Jerry Steingard wrote as pastor of the Jubilee Vineyard in Stratford, Ontario, Canada. In January 1995, he wrote these revised reflections on the ‘Toronto Blessing’.
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Preparing for Revival Fire, by Jerry Steingard:
Renewal Journal 5: Signs & Wonders:
God’s presence intensified (fullness)
God’s purposes accelerated (fulfilment)
We have been enjoying a ‘season of refreshment’ from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19) in Ontario during the past twelve months. We are calling it renewal, a precursor to revival. It began when John Arnott, pastor of the Toronto Airport Vineyard invited Randy Clark, Pastor of a Vineyard church in St. Louis, to come and conduct four nights of meetings in Toronto, commencing on 20 January, 1994. (Randy Clark had been prayed for by Rodney Howard-Browne several months previously.) The Lord surprised everyone by coming in power! Toronto Airport continues to run nightly meetings, except Mondays.
Conservative estimates are that at least 75,000 different people have attended from around the world, of which 10,000 are pastors. Many of these leaders have been significantly touched, refreshed and are consequently seeing their churches renewed.
Randy Clark and John and Carol Arnott came to our church, Jubilee Vineyard Christian Fellowship, the first weekend in February, 1994, to lead meetings with us. Many of us had already been touched by the services in Toronto, but the presence and power of the Holy Spirit were dramatically manifested in our midst on this weekend. As pastor of this church of about 275 people, it was overwhelming for me to see the auditorium floor strewn with bodies like the slain upon a battlefield!
All the strange phenomena that have often accompanied revivals of the past were happening right before my eyes with adults, teens, and children alike – falling, shaking, jerking, visions, prophecies, healings, laughter and tears! On the one hand I was thrilled; I knew this was of God. Yet I was stressed out because a pastor likes to have a good handle on what is happening with those in his flock. I personally have been refreshed and touched by the Spirit of God time and time again in this fresh move of God and in ways never experienced before. The same goes for my wife and three children. In fact my kids often beg to go to the meetings! They love to see God move.
In February we ran nightly meetings for three weeks, then went to only Thursday nights. Christians from many other churches in the area have come and been touched and now good things are happening in their churches.
I am thrilled to see much good fruit in our people in all this. We have observed that God is presently refreshing his people as well as empowering them for service. For example, the shaking is often an impartation of prophetic and/or intercessory gifts. In the first few weeks we saw about a dozen converts, a couple of dozen prodigals return to the Lord, an increase in hunger for the reading of God’s word, worship and passion for Jesus, more prayer activity, physical and emotional healings, demonic bondages broken, repentance, and reconciliation in relationships.
We are seeing God raising up an army of intercessors, worshippers, prophetic people and teams to go out and minister elsewhere. We are finding the principle true: ‘freely receive, freely give’. We get to keep what we are willing to give away!
This move is not about us, not about the Vineyard. It is about God and his grace and sovereignty. And we are believing God for more waves of his Spirit to come – not just to refresh and renew the church but to powerfully touch our neighbourhoods, our cities, and the nations with full blown revival.
Let us continue to embrace the cross, submit to Scripture, and also ‘keep in step with the Spirit’. ‘The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20).
‘Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Preparing for revival
Winkie Pratney (1994:8,9) suggests we try this little survey with Christians:
How many of you know we need a revival?
How many of you want a revival?
How many of you know what a revival is?
How many of you have ever experienced a true revival?
Most would raise their hands to the first two questions. In fact, according to George Gallup, Jr., in the eighties, 80% of U.S.A. wanted a revival – including the lost! But very few would have an idea as to what a genuine revival really is, let alone ever experienced one.
It is imperative at this time in history that we get a better handle on this thing called revival. Hopefully this paper (used as seminar notes on the subject) can be of some help in this need for understanding by responding to the following six questions:
1. What is revival?
2. Why is revival needed?
3. When has revival occurred before?
4. Should we expect to see revival again soon?
5. What hinders revival?
6. How can we promote revival?
1. What is revival?
The term revival is not technically found in the Bible. Neither is Trinity for that matter, yet both concepts are found throughout the Bible.
Various forms of the verb revive are frequently used as well as such words as restore, renew, awaken, and refresh, for example:
Psalm 85:6 – ‘Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you’ (prayer request).
Isaiah 57:15 – ‘I revive the spirit of the humble and revive the heart of the contrite’ (promise of God).
The theme of revival is described at times in such terms as an outpouring of the Spirit (like rain or fire falling or wind blowing), the renewing of God’s mighty deeds (Habakkuk 3:2), the glory of the Lord returning to his temple (Malachi 3:1), God healing the land (2 Chronicles 7:14) and the time of God’s visitation with his manifest presence (Micah 7:4; Luke 19:44).
(a) Definitions and descriptions of revival
* To revive is ‘to live again’ (1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 13:21).
* ‘When God comes down [Isaiah 64:1,2], God’s Word comes home [Nehemiah 8-9; Acts 2:37], God’s purity comes through, God’s people come alive [Acts 2, overflow of joy and vitality], and outsiders come in’ [Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Corinthians 14:25 ‘God is really among you’] (Packer 1984:244-245; Scriptures added).
* ‘The inrush of the Spirit into a body that threatens to become a corpse’ (D. M. Panton, cited in Wallis 1956:46).
* ‘Revival is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is the Lord making bare his holy arm and working in extraordinary power on saint and sinner’ (Wallis 1956:20).
* ‘Revival is divine military strategy; first to counteract spiritual decline, and then to create spiritual momentum’ (Wallis 1956:45).
* ‘Revival is like a rocket ship that gets us back up into the orbit of New Testament Christianity’ (Charles Simpson, sermon 27 May 1994).
* God’s presence intensified (fullness), God’s purposes accelerated (fulfilment); (based on Bryant 1984:72-91, 169).
(b) Characteristics of revival
Revival is usually comprised of two stages: internal revival or ‘renewal’ (the church is set on fire and prodigals begin to come home) followed by external revival (conversion of those outside on a mass scale).
‘True revival is marked by widespread repentance both within the church and among unbelievers’ (Wimber 1994:4).
This repentance is the result of God coming in power, revealing his holiness and our sinfulness. One comes into the agonising grip of a holy God and is brought under awesome conviction. This manifested presence of God creates a divine ‘radiation zone’.
Here are two examples:
During the 1859 revival, no town in Ulster was more deeply stirred than Coleraine. A schoolboy in class became so troubled about his soul that the schoolmaster sent him home. An older boy, a Christian, went with him and before they had gone far, led him to Christ. Returning at once to school, this new convert testified to his teacher: ‘Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.’ These artless words had an astonishing effect; boy after boy rose and silently left the room. Going outside the teacher found these boys all on their knees, ranged along the wall of the playground. Very soon their silent prayer became a bitter cry; it was heard by another class inside and pierced their hearts. They fell on their knees, and their cry for mercy was heard in turn by a girls’ class above. In a few moments, the whole school was on their knees! Neighbours and passers-by came flocking in and all as they crossed the threshold came under the same convicting power. ‘Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God’ …
During the same 1859 revival in America, ships entered a definite zone of heavenly influence as they drew near port. Ship after ship arrived with the same talk of sudden conviction and conversion. A captain and an entire crew of thirty men found Christ at sea and arrived at port rejoicing. This overwhelming sense of God bringing deep conviction of sin is perhaps the outstanding feature of true revival. Its manifestation is not always the same; to cleansed hearts it is heaven; to convicted hearts it is hell (Pratney 1994:24-25).
2. Why is revival needed?
Throughout biblical history and church history the hearts of God’s people perpetually cool off and harden towards him, creating the need for revival. Nehemiah 9:25-28 describes this cycle or pattern of spiritual decline and renewal which involves six stages (Lovelace 1979:62-80):
1. God’s people are alive and in love with him.
2. Spiritual decline – hearts are subtly cooling off.
3. Hearts of stone.
4. The Lord disciplines those he loves (for example, Israelites were taken into exile).
5. Cry for mercy – intercession and repentance.
6. God pours out his Spirit and revives his people.
Where in this cycle is the church in this country today?
3. When has revival occurred before?
The Bible records at least a dozen revivals within its history (Kaiser 1986:12-13) and many movements of renewal and revival took place prior to and including the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and the Puritan and Pietist movements of the 17th century. Here I will focus upon the major revivals of Europe and North America of the last 250 years.
Note that the intensity of a revival may last only a few years, but the effects are felt in the church and society for decades to come.
The First Awakening (1727-80)
1727-80 (approximate dates) in Germany: Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, with unity, prayer (their 24 hour prayer vigil lasted over 100 years!), and missions. Their motto was ‘To win for the Lamb that was slain the reward of his suffering.’
1734-60 in North America’s 13 colonies: Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, with prayer and preaching.
1740-80 in Great Britain: John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield with outdoor preaching and class meetings (home cells).
Revival brought many social reforms including the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Some historians believe this revival saved England from a bloody revolution like the one in France.
Then came a gradual spiritual slide. By 1794 moral conditions had reached their worst. For example, John Marshall, Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, a concerned believer, wrote his assessment to Methodist Bishop Madison of Virginia stating, ‘The church is too far gone to ever be redeemed’. The famous agnostic Voltaire declared, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in 30 years’. Later Voltaire’s home became the headquarters for the Geneva Bible Society (Relfe 1988:26).
The Second Awakening (1792-1842)
1792 in England: William Carey, ‘Father of the modern missionary movement’ took as his motto, ‘Expect great things from God, attempt great thing for God.’
By about 1800 revival fires were burning once again in the U. S. A. In the East, Timothy Dwight was used in the college setting. On the Western frontier, James McGready, Barton Stone and Peter Cartwright gave leadership.
In 1821 Charles Finney, a lawyer, was converted and became an evangelist and social reformer. This revival was characterised by evangelistic camp meetings, social reforms and missions. Finney’s ministry overlapped the second and third awakenings.
The Third Awakening (1857-59)
1857 in North America: Called ‘the Prayer Revival’ it began when Dr Walter and Phoebe Palmer from New York City went to Hamilton, Ontario in early October. Revival broke out, then went south of the border.
Jeremiah Lanphier, a business man, began noon prayer meetings in New York City in September 1857. Within 6 months, up to 10,000 business men were praying daily for revival.
J. Edwin Orr states that ‘revival went up the Hudson and down the Mohawk. The Baptists had so many people to baptise they could not get them in the churches. They went down to the river, cut a square hole in the ice and baptised them. When Baptists do that, they really are on fire!’ (Relfe 1988:48). The revival spread from New York to Philadelphia and throughout the country. The emphasis was on prayer.
Revival spread to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well.
The fruit of this revival was 2 million converts (1 million within the church, 1 million from without) and in the following years slavery was abolished, and there were reforms in prisons, labour, education, and medical care.
Fourth Awakening (1904-7)
1904-5 in Wales: Youth and children featured in the Welsh revival. The key leader was Evan Roberts, aged 26 (and his brother Dan, aged 20, and his sister Mary, aged 16). Leaders came from around the world and were humbled to see how God used teens and children. Evan and others were not eloquent preachers but good followers of the Holy Spirit.
Their motto was ‘Bend the church and save the world’. Evan Roberts’ vision of seeing 100,000 converted in Wales was fulfilled in less than one year. People got converted just reading about the revival in the newspapers!
Crime dropped off to the point where many courtrooms and jails were empty and judges and police had very little to do. Horses in the coal mines were accustomed to obeying commands that involved yelling and cursing. Since the vast majority of miners were converted, the horses were confused with commands that were humane and wholesome, so the horses needed retraining!
Prior to the revival Wales was in a frenzy over their favourite sport, soccer. With the revival, the stadiums stood empty. No-one preached against soccer. The players and fans had simply become so captivated with the Lord that they were no longer interested in the game (Joyner 1993:51).
The fire spread throughout Great Britain, Scandinavia, Europe, Africa, India, Korea, as well as the U.S.A. The pastors of Atlantic City, New Jersey, reported only 50 adults not converted in a population of 50,000! The First Baptist Church in Paducoh, Kentucky, had 1,000 converts in two months and the elderly pastor, Dr J. J. Cheek, died of exhaustion (Krupp 1988:22).
In California, Bartleman, Seymore, and Smale were impacted by the reports and booklets on the revival in Wales in 1905 as well as from letters of encouragement from Evan Roberts. Shortly thereafter the Azusa Street Revival erupted into the great Pentecostal Revival that saw 5 million converts from 1905-7 and continues to impact millions of lives to this day.
The twentieth century has been called by some ‘The Century of the Holy Spirit’. Although we have not witnessed a major revival since the turn of the century, since 1947 God has been bringing smaller scaled revivals and renewal movements such as:
1947-53 – the Latter Rain movement in western Canada and the U.S.A.
1949 – Hebrides Islands, Scotland.
Here is a wonderful example of how a revival causes a geographical area to become a divine ‘radiation zone’ of conviction and repentance.
Duncan Campbell, en evangelist, came to the Island of Lewis in the Hebrides Islands. On the first night of his arrival, he preached in a church building. When he left the building at 11 p.m. he found 600 gathered outside, 100 from the nearby dance hall, the other 500 who had been awakened, got out of bed, and felt compelled to walk to this place. Campbell preached the gospel to them till 4 a.m., at which time he was requested to come to the police station where 400 people were gathered, baffled as to why they were there. On his way to the station he came across other people along the road who were crying out to God for mercy! Revival continued for 3 years with 75% of the converts coming to Jesus outside of church buildings (Krupp 1988:26-7).
The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of the charismatic renewal movement, including the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the ‘Third Wave’ movement’ or the ‘signs and wonders’ movement and the ‘prophetic’ movement. Peter Wagner describes three waves of the Holy Spirit in this century, each continuing to be used by God: the Pentecostal movement, the charismatic movement (largely in the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches), and the ‘Third Wave’ movement which is primarily impacting the evangelical churches.
4. Should we expect to see revival again soon?
Many ‘third world’ countries in Africa, and Central and South America, as well as China and Korea, have been experiencing revival fires for a number of years.
Why should we expect to see revival again soon?
a. Biblical texts that create such expectation include:
Habakkuk 2:14 – ‘for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’ (Reinhard Bonnke, evangelist in Africa, says, ‘not one spot stays dry at the bottom of the sea.’)
Joel 2:23 – ‘He sends you abundant showers, both autumn (early) and spring (latter) rains.’ Early rains soften the ground, making it suitable for ploughing and sowing. With the approach of harvest, heavy rain (latter) returns to swell and mature grain and fruit in preparation for the time of reaping. Pentecost marked the beginning of former rains. After the Reformation, outpourings became more distinct and significant. Latter rain is in preparation for the day of harvest.
Joel 2:28, 31 – ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people … before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.’
Acts 2 – Pentecost, a partial fulfilment of Joel.
Acts 3:19,20 – ‘repent, turn to God, …..
John 14:12 – ‘will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these’ (miracles). Not fulfilled yet!
John 17 – In his priestly prayer, Jesus prays for Christian unity. This prayer has not been fulfilled yet. Of all the prayers the Father answers, would not his Son’s be answered? Rick Joyner says, ‘ Jesus is coming back for a bride, not a harem.’
Ephesians 5:26,27 – Jesus is preparing the bride to be presented to himself as pure, holy and radiant.
b. Based on previous patterns, revival usually occurs in a day of deep moral and spiritual bankruptcy. ‘Before a great awakening, there must come a rude awakening’ (Murillo 1985:11). The worst of times, in other words, precipitates the best of times. Who could deny the desperate need for a mighty revival in our day? Famine, poverty, pollution, war, crime, abortion, drug abuse, massive economic instability, and such like, stare us in the face. Nate Krupp (1988:34) argues that ‘we are at a point in history where it is either world revival or world destruction.’
c. Church historians, theologians and church leaders are predicting it. Many leaders have discerned that God is up to something big! He’s preparing new wineskins for the new wine, a fireplace for the fire, and barns for the harvest. Many even say that previous revivals are but a rehearsal for the big ones to come. ‘Our study of awakening movements only turns up what appear to be rehearsals for some final revelation of the full splendour of God’s kingdom… It is hard to believe that God will not grant the church some greater experience of wholeness and vitality than has yet appeared in the stumbling record of her history’ (Lovelace 1979:425).
d. Many prophets of our day in unison are expecting it in the 1990s and beyond. These include Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, and John Paul Jackson.
e. The growing emphasis on prayer. Prayer mobilisation today is unprecedented in history. Examples include men’s prayer movements, women’s intercessory groups, youth in schools, Marches for Jesus, ’10-40 Window’ prayer project, city wide pastors’ prayer fellowships, and so on. History demonstrates that revival is always preceded by a groundswell of prayer.
f. It’s God’s heart to bring revival. He longs to renew, restore, awaken us, and redeem humanity much more than we want him to. God is committed to renew his people and see the nations come to himself. ‘Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance’ (Psalm 2:8).
5. What hinders revival?
Don’t be a ‘fire-fighter’ or a ‘wet blanket’.
From a safe distance of several hundred years or several thousand miles, revival clearly looks invigorating. What could be more glamorous than a mighty work of God in our midst, renewing thousands and converting tens of thousands. … But if we find ourselves in the midst of revival, rather than being invigorated, we may be filled with scepticism, disgust, anger, or even fear…
The irony of revivals is that they are so longed for in times of barrenness, but they are commonly opposed and feared when they arrive. … The hostility in never to the idea of revival, which is ardently prayed for, but to God’s answer to our prayers and the unexpected form it may take (White 1988:34, 39).
Why does revival produce all this opposition?
‘We grow angry when we are scared. We fear what we cannot understand’ (White 1988:41).
a. Fear of change and losing control
We are creatures of habit (as in nostalgia, traditionalism); changes unsettle us. We fear the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the unpredictable.
b. Fear of emotions
We should be scared of emotionalism, the artificial manipulation of emotion, but emotion itself comes from seeing, from understanding. When the Holy Spirit awakens people, he seems to cause them to perceive truth more vividly … people see their sin as stinking cancer that will kill them and see the mercy of the Saviour with the eyes of those who have been snatched from a horrible death (White 1988:51).
Jonathan Edwards called emotions ‘holy affections’ and said they are essential for spiritual life. A hear heart (heart of stone) is an unaffected heart, a heart not moved by divine truth and revelation.
c. Fear of bizarre behaviour
Examples of unusual behaviour in revivals include shaking, jerking, falling, weeping, screaming, laughing, prophesying and being ‘drunk in the spirit’.
Three questions must be asked about this:
i. Has it happened among the people of God before (the biblical and historical precedence)?
ii. What is the fruit of it?
iii. How do we explain these phenomena?
i. Has it happened before?
Yes, these phenomena of bizarre behaviour have happened among God’s people during heightened spiritual activity. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that
it comes nearer to being the rule in revival that phenomena begin to manifest themselves – phenomena such as these … people are in agony of soul and groaning … sometimes people are so convicted and feel the power of the Spirit to such an extent that they faint and fall to the ground. Sometimes there are even convulsions, physical convulsions. And sometimes people seem to fall into a state of unconsciousness, into a kind of trance, and many remain like that for hours (1987:110-111).
There are also certain mental phenomena… You will find this phenomena of prophecy, this ability to foretell the future, frequently present (1987:135).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes onto say that ‘these phenomena are not essential to revival … yet it is true to say that, on the whole, they do tend to be present when there is a revival (1987:134). John White’s research has brought him to the same conclusion.
Note these biblical examples:
1. 1 Samuel 10:11 – Saul was in a trance, prophesying when the Spirit came upon him (also 1 Samuel 19:23-24).
2. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 – The glory of the Lord filled the temple so the priests were unable to stand to minister.
3. Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23; 43:4; 44:4 – Ezekiel fell face down before the glory of the Lord.
4. Daniel 8:17-18 – Daniel collapsed and sank into a deep sleep during a vision and an angelic visitation (also Daniel 10:7-11 – no strength left; on the ground trembling).
5. Matthew 17:6; Luke 9:32 – On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples fell face down to the ground, but also became heavy with sleep.
6. John 18:6 – When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus they fell to the ground when Jesus said, “I am he”.
7. Matthew 28:4 – On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection the guards at the tomb ‘shook and became like dead men’.
8. Acts 2 – At the Day of Pentecost the place shook, they spoke in strange tongues, and they behaved like being drunk. Peter responded (Acts 2:15) that ‘they are not drunk as you suppose’. Paul makes a comparison between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
9. Acts 9 – Saul on the road to Damascus fell to the ground, blinded by the glory. Later, in a trance-like condition he had a vision (2 Corinthians 12).
10. Revelation 1:17 – The apostle John said, ‘When I saw him I fell at his feet as though dead.’
Not only in Scripture do we find that frail human bodies are affected by the manifest presence of God, but most revivals in history have had physical and emotional manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Some examples:
1. Jonathan Edwards, the great leader of the First Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in New England wrote to a friend saying, ‘many of the young people and children appeared to be overcome with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine things … and many others at the same time were overcome with distress about their sinful and miserable state and condition; so that the whole room was full of nothing but outcries, faintings and such like. … many were overpowered and continued there for some hours (Stacy 1842:546 in DeArteaga 1992:39-40).
2. John Wesley and George Whitefield spoke of the strange physical phenomena that took place in their meetings in England as well. Wesley describes in his Journal:
Monday, Jan. 1, 1739 – Mr Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitfield, Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord’ (MacNutt 1990:98).
Following the two events of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, May 24, 1738, and this January 1, 1739 encounter, the supernatural element in his ministry became more pronounced. For fourteen years it was hardly there; for the next fifty it was (MacNutt 1990:98).
3. MacNutt (1990: 104) tells us that early in George Whitefield’s career,
when he was working with Wesley in England and people started to fall, Whitefield decided to register a protest by letter: ‘I cannot think it right in you to give so much encouragement to these convulsions which people have been thrown into in your ministry.’ Ironically enough, when Whitefield came to confront Wesley in person he found himself reprimanded by reality, for when he, Whitefield, was preaching the next day, ‘four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third has strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God, with strong cries and tears. From this time,’ Wesley writes, ‘I trust we shall all suffer God to carry on his own work in the way that pleaseth him.’
‘By the time he journeyed to America, Whitefield’s preaching was ordinarily accompanied by people toppling over:
Some were struck pale as death, others were wringing their hands, others lying on the ground, other sinking into the arms of their friends’ (Dallimore 1980:392-3, cited in MacNutt 1990:104).
4. Bishop Francis Ashbury, appointed by Wesley in 1771 as a missionary to the colonies, was a very disciplined man who insisted on meetings being conducted in a proper fashion, yet his meetings were characterised by shouting, falling, crying, and the ‘jerks’ (MacNutt 1990:107).
5. At the Cane Ridge camp meetings of 1801, which featured mostly Presbyterian preachers, one observer reported that
The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm… Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents… While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly-strange sensation, such as I had never felt before, came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lip quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground… Soon after, I left and went into the woods, and there I strove to rally and man up my courage…
After some time I returned… At one time I saw at least five hundred, swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them, and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens (Johnson 1955:64-5; MacNutt 1990:109).
6. Peter Cartwright, one of the prominent camp meeting evangelists in the Kentucky area, spoke of the phenomena of the ‘jerks’: ‘… no matter whether they were saints or sinners, they would be taken under a warm song or sermon and seized with a convulsive jerking all over, which they could not by any possibility avoid, and the more they resisted the more they jerked… The first jerk or so, you would see their fine bonnets, caps and combs fly; and so sudden would be the jerking of the head that their loose hair would crack almost as loud as a wagoner’s whip’ (Cartwright 1956:17-18).
7. Charles Finney, at the village schoolhouse near Antwerp, New York, describes the phenomena of falling under the awesome power of God’s presence and conviction: ‘An awful solemnity seemed to settle upon the people; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction and cry for mercy. If I had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell. I was obliged to stop preaching’ (cited in Pratney 1994:24).
8. Note how the Quakers and Shakers got their nicknames!
Yes, cases of physical phenomena have been observed throughout the ages whenever there has been heightened spiritual activity.
ii. What is the fruit of all this?
Jonathan Edwards wrote a treatise in 1741 called The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. Edwards asked his readers to assess the awakening by looking past the enthusiastic behaviour and seeing the ultimate spiritual fruit. He argued that the authenticity of God’s hand in the revival was demonstrated by five ‘sure, distinguishing, Scripture evidences’. It
1. raises the esteem of Jesus in the community;
2. works against the kingdom of Satan;
3. stimulates a greater regard for the Holy Scriptures;
4. is marked by a spirit of truth;
5. manifests a renewed love for God and people (Edwards 1971, 1984:109-115).
In his concluding section, Edwards exhorted his readers not to oppose the Spirit of God in the revival for this is to commit the unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:22-32. Edwards’ warning went unheeded by and large. By 1742 a majority of the New England clergy had come to the conclusion that the Great Awakening was merely an epidemic of emotionalism and what was needed was a return to sound theology. Rev. Charles Chauncey of Boston became the brilliant champion against the revival. He effectively articulated all the doubts, fears and criticisms of the revival. His books became best sellers and ensured the defeat of the Awakening. ‘When Whitefield arrived in 1744 practically all the pulpits were closed to him, and the wind had gone out of the Awakening’ (DeArteaga 1992:52).
It’s worth noting the fruit at the end of the lives of these two prominent figures, Edwards and Chauncey. In 1757, Edwards became president of Princeton, but when he arrived in the area there was a threat of a smallpox outbreak. To set an example, he was quick to volunteer to take the experimental vaccine. He became ill and died. Chauncey became one of the founding theologians of Unitarianism which discarded the Trinity and advocated universal salvation. Chauncey is no longer considered a hero who saved the people from emotionalism. He is now ‘seen as a religious bureaucrat who defended the status quo without comprehending the deeper issues of revival’ (DeArteaga 1992:54).
iii. How do we explain these phenomena?
We must recognise the element of mystery in God’s dealings with us. We should hold explanations tentatively and humbly.
Some explain it as the work of Satan. However, Martyn Lloyd-Jones questions, ‘Why should the Devil suddenly start dong this kind of thing? Here is the Church in a period of dryness, and of drought, so why should the Devil suddenly do something which calls attention to religion and the Lord Jesus Christ? The very results of revival, I would have thought, completely exclude the possibility of this being the action of the Devil… [see Luke 11:14-18]. If this is the work of the Devil, well then the Devil is an unutterable fool. He is dividing his own kingdom; he is increasing the Kingdom of God… There is nothing which is so ridiculous as this suggestion that this is the work of the Devil’ (Lloyd-Jones 1987:141-2).
What is the true explanation?
When God sovereignly visits an individual or group of human beings, his manifest presence and power often affects their bodies in some way. John White (1988:23) states, ‘God is, of course, present everywhere. But there seems to be times when he is, as it were, more present – or shall we say more intensely present. He seems to draw aside one or two layers of a curtain that protects us from Him, exposing our fragility to the awesome energies of his being.’
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1987:145-6) tells us that ‘we must never forget that the Holy Spirit affects the whole person… You see, man is body, soul, and spirit, and you cannot divide these… Man reacts as a whole. And it is just folly to expect that he can react in the realm of the spiritual without anything at all happening to the rest of him, to the soul, and to the body… these phenomena are indications of the fact that some very powerful stimulus is in operation. Something is happening which is so powerful that the very physical frame is involved.’
Lloyd-Jones also argues that such strange phenomena are a means that God uses to get our attention (1987:145). God is shaking us to wake us up (Ephesians 5:14).
God is also humbling us! Paul Cain says, ‘God often offends the mind to reveal the heart.’
Both John White and Martyn Lloyd-Jones conclude that although a small portion of such strange behaviour would be of the flesh (the person’s own need for acceptance and attention) or a demonic manifestation, the bulk of such activity in revival originates from the power and glory of God.
We should not be fixated on the manifestations, but on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!
d. Fear of disorder
Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, declared that ‘revival is a season of glorious disorder’ (Relfe 1988:8).
Martyn Lloyd Jones (1987:103) points out that ‘always in a revival there is what somebody once called a divine disorder. Some are groaning and agonising under conviction, others praising God for the great salvation. And all this leads to crowded and prolonged meetings. Time seems to be forgotten. People seem to have entered into eternity. A meeting may start at six-thirty in the evening, and it may not end until daybreak the next morning with nobody aware of the passing of the hours.’
We don’t like it when meetings get messy and unpredictable. It is embarrassing and offensive to most of us. But John White (1988:35) reminds us that ‘revival is war, and war is never tidy. It is an intensifying of the age-old conflict between Christ and the powers of darkness.’
John Wimber (1985:31) offers this analogy: ‘When warm and cold fronts collide, violence ensues: thunder and lightning, rain or snow – even tornadoes or hurricanes. There is conflict, and a resulting release of power. It is disorderly, messy – difficult to control.’
Understandably we prefer peace, decency, and order. We say, ‘God is a God of order’ but we must realise that to bring in order is sometimes a disorderly process… Chaos and darkness flee but they create a ruckus as they leave (White 1988:44).
Edwards was so convinced of this disorderly process as part of the work of God’s Spirit that he cried, ‘Would to God that all the public assemblies in the land were broken off from their public exercises with such confusion as this next Sabbath day (1741, 1984:127).
Again, John White (1988:45) argues that ‘if we insist that revival must be “decent and orderly” (as we define those terms) we automatically blind ourselves to most revivals. Like the dwarfs in C. S. Lewis’ children’s story The Last Battle, we may spit out heavenly food, for to us it looks like, smells like, tastes like dung and straw.’
Question: Am I missing the burning bush for trying to keep the lawn cut?
e. Fear of controversy
We all shy away from controversy. However, the fact remains, ‘renewal has always been controversial and will always be controversial. We must be ready for it (Mallone 1985:42).
Jonathan Edwards said, ‘a work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected’ (Works 2:273).
John Wesley prayed, ‘Lord send us revival without its defects but if this is not possible, send revival, defects and all (Bartleman 1980:45).
If we find a revival that is not spoken against, we had better look again to ensure that it is a revival… No one would pretend to claim that every revival burns with a smokeless flame (Wallis 1956:26).
Remember, wherever Jesus or the apostle Paul went there was confrontation. Riots and controversy occurred. Luther, Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards were extremely controversial characters in their day – some kicked out of their churches! But once the dust settled centuries later, they have come to be highly revered and seen as fighters for orthodox Christianity.
Further objections and concerns that many may find themselves struggling with are included here. I am indebted to Bill Jackson of Champaign, Illinois Vineyard for his unpublished paper of April, 1994, called ‘What in the world is happening to us?’ for the following section extracted from this paper with his permission.
1. It’s hard to understand
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, I would understand it. …
B. All through the Bible, God revealed himself in ways that were hard to understand.
1. God’s chosen people for the most part misunderstood Jesus. Pharisees said he was in league with Beelzebub, which was a term for the devil.
2. The disciples didn’t understand the mission of Jesus until the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2).
3. The Jews as a whole never understood that God’s heart was for all the nations. Even the disciples were shocked that God would offer the gospel to the Gentiles, law free. They muse in amazement in Acts 11:18, ‘So then God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life!’
4. Historically, God has moved in ways that are hard to understand. The classic example of this is martyrdom. Martyrdom has always been an explosive key to church growth. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian, said, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.
2. It makes me afraid
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, I wouldn’t be afraid.
B. Visitations produce fear throughout the Bible.
1. Lightning, thunder, and smoke on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19).
2. Daniel in Chapter 10 had a great vision: ‘I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale, and I was helpless.’ The angel, Gabriel, had to say, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ because he was terrified.
3. Great fear seized the whole church in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead through a prophetic word when they lied to the Holy Spirit.
C. Note: This fear is not the same fear as that which comes from Satan. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. The devil’s fear robs us of faith and hope and renders us incapable of love. There is, however, a godly fear that the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It is this kind of fear that is produced by divine visitations. It results in a more godly life.
D. How could a visitation of a holy God on sinful people not produce fear?
1. How could our finite minds expect to understand the infinite ways of God? He is completely beyond us and holy.
2. Fear is caused by:
a) the holiness of God coming in contact with our sinfulness.
b) our anti-supernatural world view. Since we have no supernatural category in our western world view, when we encounter the supernatural we encounter the fear of the unknown. It causes the psychological state known as cognitive dissonance. We receive data that does not fit and it causes feelings of insecurity.
3. It causes division
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, there would be no division.
B. There are two kinds of division:
1. When the kingdom of light clashes with the kingdom of darkness, it causes godly division. Jesus said he had not come to bring peace but a sword. ‘A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ (Matthew 10:36).
2. Backbiting, slander, and rebellion are ungodly because they cause the kingdom to be divided against itself.
C. Godly division is thoroughly biblical:
1. Korah was judged for his rebellion against Moses (Numbers 11).
2. Jesus caused division wherever he went.
3. The inclusion of Gentiles in the church caused division (Acts 15).
D. Godly division is thoroughly historical:
1. The Great Awakening broke out in New Jersey in 1725 and was violently opposed by more traditional churches.
2. G. Campbell Morgan called the Pentecostal Movement ‘the last vomit of Satan’.
3. Leaders in the previous move of God often persecute the present one.
4. God over-rides my faculties
A. Our presupposition: God is always a gentleman and would never force anything upon us.
B. The Bible seems to say something else:
1. God is God and he does what he wants. In Isaiah, God says, ‘I say my purpose will stand and I will do all that I please” (46:11).
2. God over-rode Balaam in Numbers 23 and caused Balaam to prophesy against his will.
3. God over-rode Saul and his men in 1 Samuel 19, and caused them to prophecy instead of killing David.
4. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus against his will.
5. God’s killing of Ananias and Sapphira is the ultimate over-ride.
6. Far from treating us gently, God has promised his people persecution.
5. It causes me to be the centre of attention
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, he would not do it publicly.
B. Quite to the contrary, God often uses the person to be the message:
1. In Ezekiel 4-5, Ezekiel is told by God to lie on his side, naked, to shave his head and beard. God made him the centre of attention because he, himself, was the message.
2. Jeremiah was told to smash a jar in Jeremiah 18-19 to draw attention to his message.
3. Hosea was told to marry a prostitute as a message to the nation of Israel.
4. Ananias and Sapphira can be used as yet another example because their dead bodies were the message.
5. Stephen was ‘glowing’ when he was killed.
6. It doesn’t happen to me
A. Our presupposition: When God moves, the same things happen to everyone.
B. Biblical perspective:
1. It’s simply not true that some people seem to be ‘favoured’ while others are not. God’s love is for the whole world. Under his sovereignty he treats everyone in a way that is beneficial for them. God ultimately determines what is best for us.
2. Jesus healed only one man at the pool of Bethesda despite the fact that there were many sick present (John 5). This in no way meant that God loved the man who was healed more than the ones who weren’t. Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father doing and the father was somehow loving all those at the pool that day.
7. A final caution
A. It’s okay to have questions about what is happening but we must try to be honest about the motive behind our questions. What causes the questions?
1. If it’s because of your personality, that’s okay. But let’s not let our personalities keep us from being touched by God during this season of divine visitation.
2. If it’s because you are a ‘noble Berean’ (Acts 17:10-11), that’s to be commended.
a) Search for the truth diligently.
b) When you find it, press in.
3. If it’s because you are afraid:
a) Ask God why.
b) Don’t run. If this is God, then you would be turning your back on him.
B. After the crucifixion, the disciples had questions too. The Jesus who walked with two of them on the road to Emmaus and opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures is the same Jesus who walks in our midst by the person of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:13-35). He will open our minds as well (Jackson 1994).
My conclusion to this section:
Today we need the fire of God. Some are afraid of wildfire but there are always enough ‘wet blankets’ around to dampen it.
On the Day of Pentecost, the crowd responded to the supernatural manifestations of the spirit in three ways: some were amazed, some perplexed, and others mocked. Each generation has been no different.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (1986:25) urges us to study past revivals because ‘once we know how the Lord has acted in the past, we should be better prepared to accept the special working of God when it arrives… Every one of our preconceptions and built-in limitations concerning what God can or cannot do or what he is likely or not likely to do in exact detail must be jettisoned.’
In other words, don’t put God in a box. Let God be God! He is the Great I Am, not the Great I Was! His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55). We should expect to have difficulty understanding and agreeing with the way God does things at times!
We are wise to take the advice of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: ‘we must be careful in these matters… What do we know of the Spirit falling on people? What do we know about these great manifestations of the Holy Spirit? We need to be very careful lest we be found fighting against God, lest we be guilty of quenching the Spirit of God’ (White 1988:13).
6. How can we promote revival?
Taking a survey on the street, a reporter asked a hurried pedestrian, ‘Sir, do you know the two greatest problems in the world today?’ The man responded, ‘I don’t know and I don’t care.’ Without missing a beat, the reporter declared, ‘You got them both!’ (ignorance and apathy).
We can overcome ignorance and apathy concerning revival. How can we promote revival?
1. We need to care
We need to care that God works in our nation. Note that Nehemiah had a cushy job as a cupbearer to the king but left to rebuild the walls.
2. We need to get informed
We need to get the big picture!
Read the Bible. Read biographies of leaders of past revivals. Go where the fire is, such as conferences and places where God is moving powerfully, and get first-hand exposure and experience. It is irresponsible to criticise that which you know nothing about. Slander is sin.
3. Cultivate daily intimacy with the Lord
This is what John Wimber calls ‘developing a personal history with God’. Develop personal disciplines that cultivate a passion for Jesus such as prayer, fasting, Bible study, worship and obedience in the small things.
Jack Deere (1993:201) urges us to pray the following prayer on a daily basis: ‘Father, grant me power from the Holy Spirit to love the Son of God like You love him (John 17:26).
Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Learn to hear God’s voice and catch his heart. Get spiritually prepared so that when God’s zero hour strikes, you’re fit for action.
4. Intercessory prayer
Note these Scriptures and quotes, and many like them:
2 Chronicles 7:14 – ‘If my people… will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’
Isaiah 62:6-7 – ‘You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till…’
Isaiah 64:1 – ‘Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.’
‘God does nothing but in answer to prayer’ (Wesley).
‘Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of his highest willingness’ (Luther).
‘Prayer is rebellion against the status quo’ (David Wells).
‘Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as worthy’ (John Piper).
‘Give me Scotland or I die’ (John Knox).
‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer’ (A. T. Pierson in Bryant 1984:40).
‘When God has something very great to accomplish for his Church, it is his will that there should precede it, the extraordinary prayers of his people’ (Edwards, Works 1:426).
Some argue that revival is sovereign and you can’t do anything to make it happen, while others say you can pray and bring it about. I believe God initiates the prayer that precedes a revival; and in this hour he is stirring the church to be united, aggressive, and persistent in prayer for God to act and move again.
5. Be willing to pay the price
Are you willing to receive a divine ‘baptism of desperation’, a ‘holy dissatisfaction’ that puts your reputation, dignity and personal peace at risk?
We need to have the courage to be honest with God and say with Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, ‘If what I have is all the Christianity there is, then the things is a fraud’ (Brown 1991:28).
We must force a crisis in our lives… when our very being aches with desire for his visitation, when we are consumed with hunger for his reality, when we radically cut back on other activities in order to seek his face, then we are ripe for transformation (Brown 1991:29).
We need to surrender our puny agendas, our need for security, safety and comfort zones. As Hebrews 11 tells us, we are not to shrink back and displease the Lord but to become risk-takers in this adventure of participating in the Kingdom of God.
Christians ought to be old friends with risk and when a church or an individual Christian builds a wall of safety, something very basic to the Christian faith has been violated… Christians ought to be the most gutsy people on the face of the earth (Brown 1983:113-114).
We must have more confidence in God’s ability to lead us than in Satan’s ability to deceive us (Deere 1993:215; see also Luke 11:11-13).
Arthur Wallis (1956:10) says, ‘If you would make the greatest success of your life, try to discover what God is doing in your time and fling yourself into the accomplishment of his purpose and will.’
We, like Peter in the boat during a storm, need to hear Jesus’ words, ‘Do not be afraid,’ and his invitation to ‘come’ and walk on water with him.
God’s gracious disposition is always toward revival and he only looks to see if there is a people, a generation who dares enough and cares enough to pay the price. ‘Now is the time to sanctify ourselves for tomorrow God will do wonders among us’ (Joshua 3:5).
Scripture quotations from the New International Version of the Bible (1973, 1978, 1984).
Bartleman, Frank (1980) Azusa Street. Logos.
Brown, Michael (1991) Whatever Happened to the Power of God? Destiny Image.
Brown, Stephen (1983) If God is in Charge. Nelson.
Bryant, David (1984) With Concerts of Prayer. Regal.
Cartwright, Peter (1956) Autobiography of Peter Cartwright. Abingdon.
DeArteaga, William (1992) Quenching the Spirit. Creation House.
Deere, Jack (1993) Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Zondervan.
Dallimore, Arnold (1980) George Whitefield. Vol. 2. Crossway.
Edwards, Jonathan (1974, 1992 reprinted) Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vols 1 & 2.
Banner of Truth.
Edwards, Jonathan (1741, 1984) The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.
Banner of Truth.
Jackson, Bill (1994) ‘What in the World is Happening to Us?’ Unpublished paper.
Johnson, Charles (1955) The Frontier Camp Meeting. Methodist University Press.
Joyner, Rick (1993) The World Aflame. Morningstar.
Kaiser Jr., Walter C. (1986) Quest for Renewal (Revival in the Old Testament). Moody.
Krupp, Nate (1984, 1988) The Triumphant Church. Destiny Image.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn (1987) Revival. Crossway.
Lovelace, Richard (1979) Dynamics of Spiritual Life. InterVarsity.
MacNutt, Francis (1990) Overcome by the Spirit. Chosen.
Mallone, George (1985) Canadian Revival: It’s Our Turn. Welch.
Murillo, Mario (1985) Critical Mass. Anthony Douglas.
Packer, J. I. (1984) Keep in Step with the Spirit. Revell.
Pratney, Winkie (1994) Revival. Huntingdon House.
Relfe, Mary Stewart (1988) Cure of All Ills. League of Prayer.
Wallis, Arthur (1956) In the Day of Thy Power. Cityhill.
Wallis, Arthur (1979) Rain from Heaven. Hodder & Stoughton.
White, John (1988) When the Spirit Comes with Power. InterVarsity.
Wimber, John (1985) Power Evangelism. Hodder & Stoughton.
Wimber, John (1994) Equipping the Saints, Fall Quarter.
(c) Jerry Steingard, 707 Downie Street, Stratford, Ontario N5A, Canada.
Used with permission.
© Renewal Journal #5: Signs and Wonders, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
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