Global: How God used Catholic students to ignite a charismatic movement
Fifty years ago, Catholic Charismatics as a group didn’t exist. Today, there are around 120 million of them. Their emergence began when the Holy Spirit came to a dozen Catholic students in a Pennsylvania forest in February 1967.
They were from Pittsburgh’s Duquesne University, out to enjoy a spiritual weekend retreat at a place called The Ark & The Dove. The theme of the retreat was the person and the work of the Holy Spirit. Retreat leaders had assigned each of the students coming to first read David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade – a miracle-filled story of a young Pentecostal pastor leading violent New York City gang members to the Lord.
As she read it, Patti Mansfield (then Gallagher) found herself asking, “Why isn’t the Holy Spirit doing these dramatic things in my life?” That led her to pray, “Lord, as a Catholic, I believe I’ve already received Your Spirit in baptism and confirmation. But if it’s possible for Your Spirit to do more in my life than He’s done till now, I want it.”
‘My spiritual life felt powerless and pedestrian. It was like I was pushing a car uphill.’
It first hit David Mangan, though, after he listened to a teaching that weekend that the Holy Spirit could still bring tongues and power like dynamite. Mangan wanted both – the tongues and the dynamite – and asked the Lord for it because his Christianity felt powerless and pedestrian. “My spiritual life could not be described as dynamite,” he said. “It was limping along. The way I describe it, it was like I was pushing a car uphill.” As for what he was hearing about the gift of tongues, he was so intrigued, “I wrote in my notebook, ‘I want to hear someone speak in tongues – me.’ I realized I did that because I don’t know how much I would’ve believed it if it was someone else.” Mangan received a powerful answer as he sought the Lord alone that weekend in a chapel located on the upper floor of The Ark & The Dove, a location that’s become known now as the Upper Room. That’s the same name used for the place where the Holy Spirit fell in the Book of Acts on the disciples after Jesus had ascended to heaven.
‘I lost all sense of time. I was lost in Christ and happy to be so.’
“The presence of God was so thick, so powerful, you could cut it with a knife,” Mangan said of the atmosphere in that room. “It’s the most intense experience I’ve ever had in my life. Time meant nothing to me. I had no idea if it was two minutes or two hours; it made no difference. I was lost in Christ, and happy to be so.” And he got his dynamite. “There were all these electrical explosions going on in my body,” Mangan described. Then he began to speak in tongues. The overwhelming feeling caused him to run and ask the retreat leaders if it was really possible. They said it is a valid experience which happened throughout history to a lot of saints. The experience infused him with a new dynamism and power in his spiritual life – or as he puts it, “It was like somebody told me that the car I’d been pushing uphill had a motor and now I had the key.”
Shortly thereafter, Patty Mansfield had her own Holy Spirit encounter as she was in the same chapel and His Presence came upon her. “As I knelt in that chapel, I actually began to tremble with this sense of, ‘My gosh, this is God and He’s holy!’” she said. Mansfield soon found herself prostrate, flat on her face. “And as I was lying there, I felt immersed in the love of God. I realized that if I could experience the love, the goodness, the sweetness, the mercy of God like that, anyone could.”
‘What happened to you? You look different! Your face is glowing!’
When right after her experience Mansfield encountered two young ladies, they said: “What happened to you? You look different! Your face is glowing!” She was so excited by what was happening, that she dragged the young ladies right up to the Upper Room so they, too, could experience what she just had. About a dozen ended up with her and David Mangan in the chapel.
As Mansfield describes it in her book As By a New Pentecost, like before, a heavenly Presence filled the Upper Room. “As we were kneeling, some were weeping, others were laughing for joy. Again others, like myself, felt like our bodies were on fire. My hands and my arms were tingling. Others, like David, knew that they wanted to praise God, but it wasn’t going to come out in English.”
‘He said: You’re praying in Arabic! I was astounded. I had no idea.’
At a prayer meeting soon after, a student of French was sitting next to Mangan when he started to pray in tongues. “David, I didn’t know you spoke French,” she said. He said: “Oh, I don’t speak French. I only studied Latin and German.” She told him he was praising God for streams of living water and thanking the Lord for the Divine Child who had come. Later, seeking confirmation, Mangan visited a linguist, who asked the young man to pray. After a few minutes, he jumped up with a look of shock on his face. “You are speaking Middle French!” The linguist asked Mangan to pray for him some more. “When we finished, he turned around and said, ‘Now you’re praying in Arabic!’ And I was astounded. I had no idea.”
In the months and years that followed, by word of mouth, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal spread from the The Ark & The Dove and Duquesne University across the world. Holy Spirit-baptized Catholics and non-Catholics gathered in interdenominational gatherings where their differences and conflicts melted away, and all that mattered was that they were one in the Spirit.
‘The charismatic movement is a current of grace.’ “Now we share this new alive faith in the Spirit and a personal relationship with Christ, I’ve seen many walls come down,” Mark Nehrbas, a Catholic Charismatic who frequently worships with non-Catholics said. Another one, Deacon Darrell Wentworth, points out how Jesus preached in John 17 that such unity is essential for the world to believe. “We need to love one another and be a bold witness for God, so that the world can see that the Father loves everybody.” Pope Francis has encouraged the Charismatic Renewal, calling it ‘a current of grace’, and urged the Charismatics to bless the entire Church with what they have.
Source: Patti Mansfield and David Mangan, interviewed by Paul Strand, summarized by Joel News International, # 1031 | April 5,2017
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by Rowland Croucher
. The Rev. Dr Rowland Croucher wrote as a Baptist minister and was editor of the newsletter Grid. This chapter is adapted from the Summer 1986 issue.Also reproduced in John Mark Ministries
Charismatic renewal is not going way. According to David Barrett, editor of World Christian Encyclopedia, pentecostals and charismatics numbered an estimated 100 million worldwide in 1980. He says that number jumped to about 150 million by 1985 and 337 million by 1989.
The word charismatic (Greek ‘charisma’ – a gift of grace) is useful as an adjective but sometimes offensive as a noun. Here we will reluctanly use charismatic as a noun, and as an adjective, but with the understanding that every true Christian is charismatic.
We are now hearing about post-charismatics. They had assumed the experiences in Acts 2,8,10,19 and 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 were normative for all Christians for all times. Having sought an emotional high, they found that their version of the charismatic renewal promised more than it delivered.
Let us work through the myths or misconceptions in order.
1. Renewal is a fairly modern phenomenon
Those unfamiliar with the mistakes of the past, as Santayana said, are likely to repeat them. Movements of religious renewal are not new. That happens when something lost is found: the book of the law (Josiah), prayer and asceticism (Desert Fathers), simple lifestyle (Franciscans), justification by faith (Luther), sanctification (Wesley), spiritual gifts (Pentecostals).
Christian renewal emphasizes the church’s organic, communal nature and tends to idealise the primitive apostolic church. Static institutions are challenged to change and become dynamic.
Traditionalists are usually blind to the disparity between the institution’s claims and its ineffectiveness. Renewalists often have little, or an idealised, sense of history; God is on their side and against the institution. They don’t realize that they too will set up new institutions which will eventually settle down, preserve a status quo and be challenged again.
Howard Snyder and others have helped us formulate a mediating model of the church, which affirms history and expects renewal – both.
. 2. Enthusiasm is a sign of immaturity
Not necessarily. Stolid Anglo-Saxons may not approve of too much enthusiasm, but other cultures (Latins, Africans) like it. Two Israelite leaders, Eldad and Medad, got excited when the Spirit fell on them, so Joshua the institutional spokesman told Moses to stop them. Moses retorted by wishing the Spirit might similarly fall on the lot of them (Numbers 11:26-30)!
Experiences of some of the mystics (Richard Rolle, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross), reveal an affinity to modern charismatic phenomena.
The Holy Spirit being manifested in a person, a culture or an age produces various attitudes: an ordering attitude, a praying attitude, a questioning attitude, and an attitude of receiving. Without the receptive attitude the other three dry up. Mark Hillmer says that without mystical experience, without an ongoing awareness of the presence of God, we do not live a full and rich Christian life. The charismatic renewal represents the re-entry into the world of the felt presence of God. It means that mysticism, the attitude of receiving, is being renewed for us.
In all renewal movements there is a predictable dialectic: a move far enough one way will cause the pendulum to swing back to the other extreme.
The sad history of enthusiasts illustrates both the dangers of unchecked fervency not centred on the revelation of Jesus Christ, and also the inadequacy of merely institutional or rational authority. The faith is endangered when Christians have to choose between this uncontrolled fervency and dessicated, authoritative, uninspired orthodoxies in Protestantism or Catholicism. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love and community, the Spirit of reflection and control.
. 3. Pentecostalism is an ecclesiastical abberation that can be ignored
Not without reason has Pentecostalism been called the third force within Christendom. Pentecostalism teaches a necessary second stage in a believer’s relationship to the Lord – baptism in the Spirit – whose initial evidence is speaking in tongues. Its mission has been to restore spiritual gifts that had been neglected or opposed by the churches: tongues, interpretation, prophecy, faith, miracles, healing, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).
. 4. Charismatic renewal in the 1960’s and 1970’s was indistinguishable from the older Pentecostalism
The Neo-pentecostal renewal began in a significant way in the historic churches in the 1950’s.
Catholic charismatic renewal (the term Neo-pentecostal soon went out of vogue) probably goes back to Pope John XXIII convoking the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and his prayer that the Holy Spirit would renew the church as by a new Pentecost.
Charles Hummell uses a World War II analogy to explain what happened. Pentecostalists based their pneumatology on the Synoptics and Acts: wasn’t Jesus first conceived by the Holy Spirit, then later baptized in the Spirit? Didn’t the disciples receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, but were later filled with the Spirit at Pentecost?
Traditional theologies, on the other hand, were Pauline. They said you mustn’t build doctrines from these events in the primitive church, but rather ask ‘What do the New Testament letters to various churches teach us?’ And only once is baptizing in the Spirit explicitly referred to there (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). And so the battle-lines formed, and the troops became entrenched within their fixed positions.
It was something like the French Maginot Line facing the equally impregnable Siegfried Line. Each army was safe behind its ramparts but unable to advance. Suddenly the German panzer divisions moved swiftly around these fixed positions and rolled into Paris without a pitched battle.
So with our little theologies. We fight our wars, protect territory already won, and are often ill-prepared to take new ground. Hummell explains that for decades pentecostal and traditional theologies of the baptism in the Spirit faced each other along one major doctrinal battle line. Then suddenly the Holy Spirit moved around these fixed positions to infiltrate charismatic renewal behind the lines in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.
Catholic charismatic renewal has less emphasis on spiritual gifts and more on nurturing a personal relationship with Christ and on developing Christian community. In 1979 the Australian Catholic Theological Association said that through the movement thousands of Australian Catholic men and women were able to experience a deeper conversion to Jesus Christ; a renewal of faith; an introduction to a serious prayer life; a new appreciation of the Scriptures; an openness to the use of their gifts from the Holy Spirit; a commitment to evangelism.
. 5. Conservative churches are frightened to touch charismatic renewal because it is an all-or-nothing package
Peter Wagner, professor of church growth at Fuller Seminary has popularized the notion of a third wave of renewal experienced in many churches in the 1980’s. He says that many historians feel this century has seen the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit since the first century or two. The first wave came with the pentecostal movement. The second came around the middle of the century with the charistmatic movement. The third wave is more recent, having begun around 1980, with the same powerful, supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit which had been confined to pentecostals and charismatics now being seen in a growing number of evangelical churches.
Wagner goes on to talk about his ‘120 Fellowship’ that meets from 7.30 to 9.15 Sunday mornings. They see signs and wonders on a regular basis. They don’t teach a baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace but see the Spirit’s impact as a filling or anointing of the Spirit which may happen to a person many times. They do not permit themselves to be called Spirit-filled Christians, as if others in the church were something less than Spirit-filled.
They try to avoid the Corinthian error concerning tongues; they neither forbid nor stress it. They treat tongues as just another spiritual gift, not as a badge of spirituality. Many pray in tongues, but they do not encourage public tongues in their class.
Wagner sees the third wave of the Spirit as an opening of the evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He notes evidence of this in many mainline churches now incorporating renewal in their worship service, sponsoring healing services, or praying for healing and deliverance in their normal worship times.
. 6. There’s only one way to understand the term baptism in the Spirit
Baptism in the Spirit, in the pentecostal and charistmatic traditions, is an effusion of God’s Spirit upon a Christian with power for praise, witness and service. It is an experience which initiates a decisively new sense of the powerful presence and working of God in one’s life, and usually involves one or more charismatic gifts, observes Francis Sullivan. Pentecostals normally view it as a second work of grace. Charismatics have come to understand it as a deepening of the faith grounded in the new life received in Christ.
When a person becomes a Christian (and that can happen in many different ways), he or she never realizes all that has happened. A fuller understanding of justification, for example, may come much later. But it happened earlier. So we mustn’t put dogmatic strait-jackets on this experience. Conversion can be dramatic (if the person was running hard from God beforehand, for example), or quite matter-of-fact.
So with the Holy Spirit. Luke and Paul write about the work of the Spirit from different perspectives. For Luke the Spirit gives believers power for witness in the world – and that can be repeatable. Paul talks about the Spirit incorporating us into the body of Christ – that’s once-for-all.
Words can have different meanings in different contexts. Paul has perhaps five separate meanings for flesh. The Bible has many ways to describe the meaning of the death of Christ. Baptism is used in the Scriptures as a flexible metaphor, not merely as a technical term. I heard theologian Clark Pinnock say that so long as we recognize conversion as truly a baptism in the Spirit, there is no reason why we cannot use ‘baptism’ to refer to subsequent fillings of the Spirit as well’.
. 7. Regarding spiritual gifts, the best course is to be conservative (stick to the safe ones and leave the others well alone)
Every church ought to be open to the full spectrum of the gifts. Spiritual gifts are meant to create truly Christian community. Where there is love, there’ll be gift-giving. God’s gifts are love-gifts – God at work.
Gifts are given freely by the Holy Spirit. They can’t be manufactured by us nor is their presence or absence a sign of Christian maturity.
In a truly biblical fellowship the focus is not on the gifts, but the Giver. But that shouldn’t be a cop-out, ignoring the gifts we aren’t comfortable with.
Here’s a common problem: ‘I had the best hands laid on me, but nothing happened’. Well, what did you expect to happen? Faith-filled prayer believes you have received the Spirit: leave the rest to God’s timing. David du Plessis (Mr. Pentecost) says that baptism in the Spirit is always easy when Jesus Christ does it for you, but always difficult when you struggle to do it yourself or with the help of others. And Richard Lovelace comments that Christians act as though fellowship with the Holy Spirit were very hard to establish. Actually it is very difficult to avoid! He says all that is necessary is for the believer to open up to that divine Reality in the centre of consciousness which is the most fundamental fact of a Christian’s inner life’.
Western fundamentalism has been infected with dispensationalism which sees the activity in the Book of Acts as transitional; the canon of Scripture is now closed, and the curtain has been brought down on all this sort of thing. When Paul says tongues and prophecy will be with us until the perfect comes (1 Corinthians 13:10) they say Paul meant a perfect Bible. The rest of the church interprets Paul as referring to heaven, when we shall see face to face.
Prophecy is a direct dominical utterance (thus says the Lord) for a particular people at a particular time and place, for a particular purpose. The Divine Word also comes through Jesus, through Scripture, through circumstances, and through visions (more commonly in non-Western cultures).
Prophecy gives the church fresh insights into God’s truth (Ephesians 3) or guidance about the future (Acts 11), or encouragement (1 Corinthians 14:3, 1 Timothy 1:18), or inspiration or correction. It either edifies the church or brings it under judgement (God is in this place! – see 1 Corinthians 14:25). The biblical prophets combined judgement with hope.
. 9. Tongues is an ecstatic gift (for immature Christians)
The gift of tongues (glossolalia) is a quasi-linguistic phenomenon, not language in the normal sense of the term.
Tongues-speaking is not an indication of mental imbalance. After fifty years of research the consensus still runs, as with Virginia Hine over twenty years ago, that available evidence requires that an explanation of glossolalia as pathological must be discarded.
Two decades of research into the discrete functions of left and right hemispheres of the brain appears to show that the dominant cerebral hemisphere (the left, for 95% of the population) specializes in thinking processes which are analytical, linear, logical, sequential, verbal, rational. The right hemisphere normally shows preference for thought that is visiospatial, simultaneous, analog (as opposed to digital), emotional.
While speech has been seen to rise from mapped sectors of the left hemisphere, language-formation capacities are probably spread over both hemispheres. Glossolalia may be right hemisphere speech, sharing a location beyond – but not contradictory to – the usual canons of rationality. It is appropriate to think of glossolalic prayer as neither irrational nor arational, but rather transrational; when reason fails in prayer, the Spirit helps (Romans 8:26,27). It’s spirit to Spirit communication rather than mind to mind. (1 Corinthians 14:15).
Richard Beyer claims that there is a fundamental functional similarity between speaking in tongues and two other widespread and generally accepted religious practices, namely Quaker silent worship and the liturgical worship of Catholic and Episcopal churches.
. 10. What if they’re not healed?
Let’s look at the tough questions.
Does God want everyone healed? Pentecostalists usually say yes (and if you aren’t, the problem is with lack of faith – yours, or your praying friends’ or your church’s).
Most others would say no.
Francis McNutt offers a more balanced view. In general, he says, it is God’s desire that we be healthy, rather than sick. And since he has the power to do all things, he will respond to prayer for healing unless there is some obstacle, or unless the sickness is sent or permitted for some greater reason.
The church today surely needs less pride and prejudice in this area. ‘But what if we pray publicly and they’re not healed?’ is the kind of faithless question that stymies our maturing in this area. Our calling is to be faithful and obedient. It’s God’s business whether he heals or not!
. 11. Deliverance from evil spirits is a medieval or animistic idea. We’ve now outgrown all that.
Naturalism is a view of the world that takes account only of natural elements and forces, excluding the supernatural or spiritual.
This world view has influenced theology in this century principally through Rudolf Bultmann. He claimed that because the forces and laws of nature have been discovered we can’t believe in spirits, whether good or evil.
Against this, the biblical worldview holds that the universe consists of both visible and invisible creatures, angels, demons, and powers. As theologians like Gustav Aulen and Helmut Thielicke point out, the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in the ministry of Jesus Christ can’t be understood apart from its being a war against the principalities of evil. Emil Brunner says we cannot rightly understand the church of the New Testament unless we break out of the strait-jacket of naturalism and take seriously the dynamic manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Someone has calculated that 3,874 (49%) of the New Testament’s 7,957 verses are ‘contaminated’ with happenings and ideas alien to a naturalistic world-view. Morton Kelsey noted that the only large group of Christians who take seriously the idea of a direct encounter with the non-space-time or spiritual world are the Pentecostals and the charismatics, and they have come in for derision from every side.
However, as C.S. Lewis and others have warned us, there are two opposite errors we must avoid: either disbelieving in the devil’s existence, or giving Satan more attention than he deserves. Cardinal Suenens similarly exhorts us to steer a safe course between Scylla and Charibdis, between underestimation and exaggeration.
Within the church the gift of discernment of spirits is very important. The Scriptures suggest various tests to discern the spirits: Is Christ glorified (John 16:14)? Is the church edified? Are others helped? Does it accord with Scripture? Is there love? Is Jesus Lord of the person’s life? Is there submission to church leaders – allowing others to weigh what is said or done?
. 12. It’s all so divisive that we ought to leave charismatic issues well alone
Divisiveness would head anyone’s list of the issues confronting us in the modern charistmatic renewal.
My observation, however, is that divisiveness is not a function of the presence or absence of certain spiritual gifts, but of insecurity, fear (charisphobia), insensitivity (charismania), or lovelessness on one or both sides.
David Watson talked about tidy churches, with piles of papers neatly in order. The windows are opened, but the fresh wind of the Spirit blows the papers about, so the elders scurry around collecting them all again, and close the windows. You’ve got tidiness, even stuffiness.
That’s the picture of many a church, he suggests. He wants to have the windows open with a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit blowing. Untidiness with life is preferable if the alternative is tidiness and death. One of the tidiest places you can find is the cemetery.
Let us beware of the error Gamaliel warned about (Acts 5:33-39). If this is of God, we must take the movement seriously.
Certainly the swift stream of renewal often throws debris on to the banks. Old wineskins can’t cope with new wine without bursting. When the Spirit is at work, the devil will be sowing weeds among the wheat.
. 13. Experience-centred and Word-centred theologies won’t mix
The success of an experiential theology must be judged by the ease (or lack of ease) with which it moves from Spirit to Word. If Word and Spirit can be held in dynamic union, then experiential theology has the possibility of becoming definitive for the life and witness of the church today.
Too often Word takes the place of Spirit. Our traditional theologies run the risk of being rationalistic, contrived conceptual schemas. The Holy Spirit is the subject of a sterile pneumatology, with little openness to an experience of his power.
But, again, an experience-centred theology sometimes stays there. Sometimes there’s an unhealthy identification of truth with a prophetic leader, or a great experience; everything else derives validity through reference to these. Or else the Bible is used as a sanction for one’s independent feelings and experiences. Or perhaps we are not open to the whole of experience.
Thus an unhealthy individualism and a pervasive subjectivism often accompany pieties of personal experience. As Russell Spittler has put it, individualism is a virtue when it assures conscious religious experience, but becomes something of an occupational hazard for Pentecostal-charismatics. Add in some dominant personality traits, take away an acquaintance with the church’s collective past, delete theological sophistication, and the mix can be volatile, catastrophic.
Let us beware of inhabiting simplicity this side of complexity, or complexity the other side of simplicity, but rather move to simplicity the other side of complexity!
The security of the slogan is easier than the hard work of discovering the truth. Much of what is written in pentecostal/charismatic books is what Kilian McDonnell calls enthusiastic theological fluff – pink hot air in printed form.
There is a great need for a thorough-going charismatic theology. For example the juxtaposition of the ideas of baptism in the Spirit and the release of spiritual gifts may be seen to be a most significant contribution to twentieth-century theology, but a lot more work has to be done on it yet.
. 14. In the church’s worship you can’t mix charismatic elements with traditional forms
Probably, in retrospect, it will be seen that the pentecostal movement will have made its most important contribution in corporate worship, in the sphere of liturgy and preaching, and not in the sphere of pneumatology, as is constantly and quite wrongly supposed, suggests Walter Hollenweger.
Aspects of pentecostal/charistmatic worship are invading traditional churches with a rush! It’s becoming more common for worshippers of all kinds to raise their hands in adoration, as they sing scripture-songs in their morning worship-services. However these songs are as limited as is charismatic theology. There are very few about mission and justice, for example. They’re mostly ‘God loves me and I love God’ songs. Nice, but there’s more; love issues in a life of witness and obedience in a hostile world.
The way forward ultimately is to integrate the unique insights and results of charismatic renewal into the full life of the church, with a submission to the order, tradition, doctrine and spirituality of the church as a whole. It’s not helpful to go underground. Every special movement needs the whole church body to give focus, direction, discernment and correction; it needs to be tested, evaluated, encouraged, improved and admonished. As Cardinal Suenans says, to be most useful, the charismatic movement must disappear into the life of the church.
. 15. The problem of elitism should eventually go away
I’m pessimistic on this one. We enjoy sorting others out according to false hierarchies of value. There have always been ‘haves and have-nots’ in the church. Only the categories change. In one era a priestly caste takes special prerogatives to itself and we have the evil of clericalism. In others there are heresy trials with the orthodox removing the heterodox. In the charistmatic renewal, experience is the watershed: those who have ‘arrived’ have been ‘baptised in the Spirit’ in a discernible experience subsequent to conversion, and speak in tongues. But the New Testament mostly uses ethical rather than experiential categories to define stages of Christian maturity. For example, Barnabas was spirit-filled; that is, he was filled with goodness and faith (Acts 11:24).
. 16. Magic isn’t a problem if we’re ministering in Christ’s name
It is possible for a miracle-centred theology to become theurgical (Greek ‘theourgia’ – magic). An openness to signs and wonders can easily degenerate into miracle-mongering.
Miracles are not just for show. Jesus resisted the temptation to work miracles to dazzle people or to seduce them into believing in him, notes Alan Richardson. He refused to give the Pharisees a ‘sign from heaven’. He did not want to be sought after as a wonder-worker.
Magic involves repeating formulas (vain repetitions). It’s wanting blessings more for my sake than God’s. It’s manipulating deity for my ends.
. 17. The charismatic renewal is ecumenical
If it is charismatic, it’s ecumenical, says Mr. Pentecost, David du Plessis. But he adds that there has been a dangerous tendency by pentecostals/charismatics to criticize the church, leading to the formation of schismatic, independent groups:
The more schismata the less charismata (1 Corinthians 12:25,26), he would say. This humble Pentecostal pioneer had a passion for unity because the prayer of Jesus was for unity, that the world may believe. He saw little hope for the world unless unity comes to Christianity.
. 18. Charismatic renewal and mission
Christians are commissioned to do in their world what Jesus did in his: bringing salvation (wholeness, the reign of God), where there is pain, sickness, lostness, alienation, oppression, poverty, war, injustice. So the church’s mission has three dimensions: evangelism (preaching good news), works of mercy (relieving persons’ pain), and works of justice (addressing the causes of pain). It uses three instruments: word (what we say), deed (what we do) and sign (what God does).
Pentecostalists/charismatics have brought the church back to signs and wonders and they have generally done evangelism better than others.
But pentecostal/charismatics churches are weakest of all in the justice area. There’s more in the prophets than Joel’s promise of the Spirit on all flesh. The prophets cried out for justice, the redress of wrongs done to the poor.
. 19. Being baptised in the Spirit is an antidote for antinomianism
It isn’t. Antinomianism (living carelessly and lawlessly) is as much a trap for pentecostals/charismatics as for anyone.
. 20. Conclusions: the way forward
Sherwood Wirt noted that the most important gift God has given to the charismatic renewal is a fresh outpouring of love. Not joy, not ecstasy, not tongues, not miracles, not even martyrdom, but love.
And there’s something else the cautious ought to be more afraid of: attributing the work of the Spirit to the devil. That’s a very serious sin, Jesus warned.
Paul sums it up: ‘Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts’ (1 Corinthians 14:1).
I. Body Ministry with II. Body Organization 1. Kingdom Authority with 6. Divine Headship
2. Obedient Mission with 7. Body Membership
3. Mutual Ministry with 8. Servant Leadership
4. Spiritual Gifts with 9. Body Life
5. Body Evangelism with 10. Expanding Networks
Part 2: Ministry Education
11. Open Education: From narrow to wide
12. Unlimited Education: From centralized to de-centralized
13. Continuing Education: From classrooms to life
14. Adult Education: From pedagogy to self-directed learning
15. Mutual Education: From competition to co-operation
16. Theological Education: From closed to open
17. Contextual Education: From general to specific
18. Ministry Education: From pre-service to in-service
From the Foreword by Rev Prof Dr James Haire, former Principal of Trinity Theological College, Brisbane, and President of the Uniting Church in Australia:
The church needs to be analysed in order to prepare itself for mission in the changing situations of societies around the world. However, these always must remain secondary. Its primary self-understanding is that the church, the expression of Christianity in the world, is the object of God’s self-giving love and grace for the sake of the world.
In this very helpful and timely book, the Rev Dr Geoff Waugh takes up the implications of these issues and applies them to ministry within and beyond the church, the Body of Christ. As the framework above indicates, Dr Waugh’s analysis, evaluation and application of the theology of the living Body of Christ inevitably is no less than truly revolutionary, as is his analysis, evaluation and application of the theology of the living Spirit’s work.
Dr Waugh has had a long and distinguished mission career, especially in education, in addressing the central Christian issues outlined above. It has been my honour and my privilege to have served alongside him for eight years (1987–1994) in Trinity Theological College, in the Brisbane College of Theology, and in the School of Theology of Griffith University, in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. He has been a dear and valued friend, and especially one who day-by-day in his life has lived out what he taught. Moreover, he has had vast experience in his long teaching ministry, not only in Australia, but throughout the South Pacific, Asia, and in Africa.
His work is thus very important reading indeed for us all.
From Rev Dr Colin Warren (former Principal of Alcorn College, Brisbane):
I acknowledge that Geoff has had a very big impact on my life, both by the witness of his own life and by the quality of his teaching. I pray that you and your church will be greatly blessed as you read and put into practice these basic biblical principles to reach and bless the people who are searching for the living Christ but often do not know what it is they are searching for.
Geoff and I have worked with students and on mission enterprises together over many years. His writing has come from years of practical experience and a vast amount of prayerful study. He has pioneered a work the results of which only eternity will reveal. He has never sought recognition for his tireless and faithful service in honouring the Lord, in continuing to teach and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. He writes out of varied experiences.
He was the inaugural Principal of the Baptist Bible College in Papua New Guinea (1965-1970). He has taught at Alcorn College and Trinity Theological College (1977-1994) and at Christian Heritage College School of Ministries (from 1995). He is the author of fourteen books, mostly in Christian Education with the Uniting Church, but also on Renewal and Revival. ”Geoff Waugh” on amazon.com lists some of these books.
It is important to note that in this important work, Geoff explores the ministry of the whole body of Christ when Holy Spirit gifts are recognised and are encouraged to be exercised. Then the artificial division between clergy and laity or pastor and non-pastor is removed. At the same time there is the recognition of Holy Spirit endowed leadership gifting such as that between Paul and Timothy. This means that Kingdom authority is expressed through Divine headship. His emphasis on body ministry thus becomes a reality.
Geoff illustrates this clearly with his Case study Number 2 on page 34. There the church no longer consists of passive pew sitters but participants in fulfilling the command of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach repentance, heal the sick and cast out demon spirits, having the certain knowledge that He is with them as He promised “to the end of the age”.
Geoff points out that if the church is to live and grow in today’s world, it must recognise the need to emphasize relationships and adapt to change. This change will include such simple things as the way men and women both old and young dress, and allow others the freedom to dress differently as they attend places of worship in a non judgmental atmosphere.
There is, too, the need to realise the reality that many are affected by a global sense of fear of nuclear destruction and of accelerated and constant change and uncertainty. The church can provide an atmosphere of security through rediscovering the unchanging gospel in a changing world.
Denominations that once were able to be exclusive and hold their numbers in rigid theological disciplines, have been invaded via cassettes, CD’s, DVD’s, and the internet that have widened the thinking horizons of their often theologically bound members, resulting in communication at spiritual levels not possible previously.
Geoff points out that if we are going to fulfil the Great Commission, we must first live the life of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. It is only then that we can do the work of fulfilling Christ’s command to go.
I commend Body Ministry for you to read. All Christians will benefit greatly from reading this insightful book.
From Rev Dr Lewis Born, former Moderator of the Queensland Synod of the Uniting Church in Australia and Director of the Department of Christian Education.
Body Ministry and Open Ministry Education come in its right time for adult education, gospel communication, and the growth of the church.
Open Education promises to become the most commonly used adult educational methodology of the new millennium. The demand is likely to increase. This indicates that the work of Geoff Waugh is a significant contribution to the current educational enterprise. It is particularly valuable to Christian Educators. The author’s orientation is theological and his target audience is the faith community, its nurture, growth and outreach.
To this point in time the educative process has been inhibited by dependence on structured courses, the classroom and qualified teachers. Accelerated technology, as Mr Waugh observes, has made modern resources commonly available to individuals, churches and schools in every village community. By this medium Open Education for the first time in history is able to offer high quality education from the world’s best teachers to people in their own lounge, church or local group meeting place.
All this coinciding with the renewal movement has stimulated interest in theological learning to an unprecedented degree in the history of Christendom. The incredible numerical religious revival in the illiterate Asian and Latin church has been stimulated and served by modern technology.
This gives Open Ministry Education and therefore Mr Waugh’s work a global relevance, which he has applied in the Australian context.
As a fellow Australian I am appreciative. My appreciation is greatly enhanced by a deep respect and affection for the author. He is a competent teacher, an excellent communicator, an informed, disciplined renewalist and an experienced extension educator.
All these qualities combine to commend the author and his work.
Sample from the book:
Case study 1: traditional ministry
Peter was deeply committed to his calling to the ministry, ably supported by his wife, Petrina. His many talents found full expression in his ministry: preaching, teaching (including school Religious Education), counselling, visiting, chairing committees, leading meetings, representing the church on denominational boards and in civic functions, administering church activities, interviewing people for baptisms, church membership and weddings, conducting weddings and funerals, and fitting in a bit of study when he could as well as attending seminars for church leaders.
The phone rang constantly, especially at breakfast or dinner when people hoped they could catch him before he was off again. He wished he had more time for his family, and knew that the strain was showing in family relationships and in his own reaction to stress, inevitable with the constant demands of the ministry. He wished he could find time for waiting on God and quiet reflection as well as study, but there was so much to do. His work was less than his best, because he had so little time to pray, wait in God, and prepare well, and because the constant demand of meeting people’s needs saps energy and consumes time.
Case study 2: body ministry.
Paul and Pauline were both deeply committed to their ministry. They recognized that they had different gifts and calling within that ministry. They also believed strongly in the need for all Christians to minister in the power of the Spirit. They prayed regularly with people about this and saw their prayers answered. The members of their church asked for, expected, and used spiritual gifts. Church members prayed together for one another and for others. Most of the pastoral care and outreach happened in the home groups. Paul met with home group leaders one night each week, and enjoyed that. Mary met regularly with the leaders of women’s day time groups, social caring groups and the music team in the church.
Paul usually preached once on Sundays, and the home groups, study groups and youth groups used the summary of the message. He encouraged gifted preachers in the church who also preached. Church members did most of the teaching (including all the school work) and those gifted with administration organized it all, usually part time with one specific area of responsibility they had chosen and loved to do. A small caring group organized volunteers to visit all the sick people. A keen task group made sure all visitors were contacted by phone or a personal visit during the week after they came to a service. The elders insisted that one day each week was family day for the pastor and his family so they encouraged them to spend time away to wait on God and bring their vision and the Lord’s leading clearly in their ministry.
From pages 16-19
Accelerating social change
Alvin Toffler wrote about the Third Wave in sociology. He could not find a word adequate enough to encompass this current wave we live in, rejecting his own earlier term ‘super-industrial’ as too narrow. He described civilisation in three waves: a First Wave agricultural phase, a Second Wave industrial phase, and a Third Wave phase now begun.
He noted that we are the final generation of an old civilisation and the first generation of a new one. We live between the dying Second Wave civilisation and the emerging Third Wave civilisation that is thundering in to take its place.
Think of church life during those three sociological waves. Church life changed through the agricultural, then industrial, and now the technological ‘third wave’.
1. Churches for most of 2000 years of the First Wave agricultural phase were the village church with the village priest (taught in a monastery) teaching the Bible to mostly illiterate people, using Latin (and Greek and Hebrew) parchments copied by hand for 1500 years. Worship involved chants without books or music. These churches reflected rural life, with feudal lords and peasants.
2. Churches in 500 years of the Second Wave industrial phase (co-existing with the First Wave) became denominational with many different churches in the towns as new denominations emerged. Generations of families belonged there all their life and read the printed Authorised (1511) version of the Bible. They have been taught by ministers trained in denominational theological colleges. Worship has involved organs used with hymns and hymn books. These churches reflected industrial town life, with bureaucracies such as denominations.
3. Churches in 50 years of the Third Wave technological phase (co-existing with the Second Wave industrial phase in towns and cities and the First Wave agricultural phase in villages and developing nations) are becoming networks of churches and movements, among which people move freely. They tend to be led by charismatic, anointed, gifted, apostolic servant-leaders, usually trained on the job through local mentoring often using part time courses in distance education. Their people have a wide range of Bible translations and use Bible tools in print, on CDs and on the internet. Worship involves ministry teams using instruments with data projection for songs and choruses. These churches reflect third wave technological city life.
Many churches, of course, live in the swirling mix of these phases, especially now with the Second Wave receding and the Third Wave swelling. For example, some denominational churches, especially those involved in renewal, may have a gifted ‘lay’ senior pastor not trained in a theological college or seminary. Some denominational churches function like independent churches in their leadership and worship styles. Some new independent churches have theologically trained pastors with doctoral degrees in ministry.
These changes have become increasingly obvious in the last 50 years. Many of us became involved in renewal and revival ministries both in denominational churches and in independent networks and movements.
I give many examples of those developments in my autobiographical reflections, Looking to Jesus: Journey into Renewal and Revival (2009), and in my accounts of revivals in Flashpoints of Revival (2009) and South Pacific Revivals (2010).
These books on renewal and revival are one small example of rapid change. They describe the swirling changes renewal and revival bring as they recapture New Testament Christianity in our day and 21st century context.
Even more! Telling the story has changed. You can read about it right now on a Google search and on many web pages such as renewaljournal.com.
Furthermore, this book is updated regularly also – for free with Amazon’s Print on Demand (POD). Check out the “Look inside” feature in a year’s time and you may see more changes. No longer do we need to spend thousands of dollars to stock pile resources, when we can freely update and adapt them.
We live and minister in this revolutionary ‘post-modern’ era, full of freeing possibilities and challenges.
Subsistence villagers still think and act in a First Wave mode, rural townspeople tend to think and act in a Second Wave mode, and urban people in megacities usually think and act in a Third Wave mode.
The norms of the Second Wave Industrial Society still influence us all strongly. We are familiar with the organizational society of the town and its bureaucracies, especially the religious and educational ones. We organized the church around denominational bureaucracies.
However, the Third Wave megatrend swirling around us now involves adapting to different and smaller social groupings, more transient and diverse than ever before. Denominations continue to exist, of course, but now mix with many flexible, changing structures, such as networks of small groups or house churches and national or global networks for prayer and mobilising action together through websites and emails.
We have a mixture of both Second Wave people and Third Wave people in local churches. Second Wave people tend to emphasize institutional roles and responsibilities. Third Wave people tend to emphasize relationships and adaptation to change – as in renewal and revival.
Read current examples from this book (pages 76-82) in Geoff’s article in this Renewal Journal – Community Transformation
Autobiographical discoveries of renewal and revival by this Australian Baptist minister and missionary.
Preface: thanks Introduction: Waugh stories 1. Beginnings: state of origin 2. Schools: green board jungle 3. Ministry: to lead is to serve 4. Mission: trails and trials 5. Family: Waughs and rumours of Waughs 6. Search and Research: begin with A B C 7. Renewal: begin with doh rey me 8. Revival: begin with 1 2 3 Conclusion: begin with you and me
This book traces the author’s journey through a lifetime of discovering renewal and revival. He explores the transforming and unpredictable nature of God’s Spirit now touching and changing people in all denominations and in all countries. The book will interest people who love to read about renewal in the church and revival in the world. The author’s other books such as Flashpoints of Revival, Revival Fires and Revival in the South Pacific give fuller and more general descriptions of God’s transforming work around the world. This autobiography gives a personal account of the author’s experience of renewal and revival in Australia, the South Pacific, and in other nations. “Looking to Jesus” points continually to Jesus, the One who renews and revives us by his Spirit within us and who is so powerfully at work in the whole world.
By Rev Dr John Olley, former Principal of Vose College, Perth.
Invitation to a Journey
Geoff Waugh’s life and ministry have influenced people all around the world. This autobiography with reflections will be of interest not only to those who know him. Beginning in Australia, then Papua New Guinea, his invited ministry in renewal and revival has involved every continent. While he has written “Flashpoints of Revival” (recently updated) recounting revivals in the past three hundred years around the world and many books of bible studies this book “Looking to Jesus” has a different focus, as Geoff traces his journey from strong roots which remained the solid core of his life from childhood to marriage to retirement. Here is a personal journey with reflections that will enrich the lives of all readers. As he ?looked to Jesus? along the way he was opened up to many exciting new ventures in Australia and into countries where revival and renewal is vibrant, changing many lives. Although a biography, many others are involved. Geoff?s journey is like a rose bush with strong roots and branches. He is one bud of many, opening into a beautiful bloom as he opened himself to God?s leading into an exciting journey. A bonus is an appendix with outlines of his other works.
By Romulo Nayacalevu, Pastor and Lawyer. Fiji
Dr Waugh’s account in “Looking to Jesus” demonstrates his passion and servanthood life, displayed in his calling from the pulpit to the mountains and valleys of the Pacific and beyond. His passion, zeal and commitment to the Gospel makes Him a true missionary to places where we wouldnt dare. I would recommend this book to all, the story of a man who is truly sold out to His King and Master – the Lord Jesus Christ. Dr. Waugh’s personal journey and convictions is a testimony to people like me who are trying to be available to God’s call. Dr Waugh remains a mentor and a friend and “Looking to Jesus” is the simplest way of describing Dr. Waugh’s faith journey. His testimony will challenge us all about our priorities and the true meaning of Obedience. A strongly recommended read.
By Jo, Pastor and college graduate
I have been blessed to be a student of Geoff Waughs in the COC Bible College in Brisbane. This book was such a blessing. It showed how God has been such a huge part of Geoffs life, since he was a young boy. It was really inspiring to read the book and to realise all the amazing things God has done through Geoff, that he is not just a teacher on revivals, he is really someone who lives it! I highly reccommend this book. We need more fathers in the faith who have walked with Jesus for so long and who have seen real moves of the Holy Spirit to share with us and encourage us like Geoff does in this book.This is not just a biography, it is a book that will teach and inspire you in your walk with God.
By Daphne Beattie
Insightful, inspirational, informative
An interesting survey of 70 years from his early life as the son of an evangelical minister, to becoming a minister and missionary and a leader in renewal and revival through his teaching in Australia and overseas. Revival – stirs both curiosity,excitement and anticipation in God’s people. Geoff shares his personal journey with humour and life flowing out of it, always directing us to follow Jesus’ example alone. I strongly recommend this book and found it easy to read but at the same time it stirred up a deep longing in my heart to reach a more intimate relationship with God. Thank you Geoff
Jesus spoke about wineskins, and it is now a well known proverb: You don’t put new wine into old wineskins because the new wine bursts the wineskins; you put new wine into new wineskins – and both are preserved (See Mark 2:22 and Matthew 9:17, Luke 5:37-39).
Even tea-totallers and know that, although they may have never seen a wineskin nor drunk wine! In fact, most of us probably have never seen a wineskin except in pictures!
Jesus also noted that no one having drunk old wine immediately desires new because the old is better. Luke, the radical Gentile writer preserved that wry comment for us Luke in 5:39! So those who like the old wine in old wineskins have a reprieve! However, in times of rapid or massive change, the new wine pours out and needs to be preserved in new wineskins.
Like it or not (some like it, some don’t) we have all be living through these massive changes in all areas of life. Why use a typewriter if a computer is available? Why keep a horse if a car is available? Why use a chip heater if electric or solar power is available? Why use ancient English (or Latin) if few or no people understand it? Why sit on hard wooden pews if cushions, pillows or comfortable seats are available?
Change is now so rapid that Alvin Toffler called it “Future Shock” – the culture of the future invading the present. Some of it is good, some bad – as is true in all cultures. So new wineskins keep emerging to contain the new wine of current moves of the Spirit of God in renewal and revival.
Some churches have managed to contain the old and the new together. One way, among a huge possible range, is to have a traditional morning service and a contemporary or renewal evening service on a Sunday. Some churches have both traditional Bible Study groups and relational prayer groups. Many churches use both hymns and chorouses.
However, the massive shift going on at present involves emerging new wineskins which keep multiplying, growing and changing. This issue of the Renewal Journal gives some implications of some of those changes. It doesn’t cover all the changes. That would take volumes! It does highlight a few significant ones.
Evangelist Tommy Tenny has written about the awesome presence of God invading those who earnestly seek Him. He calls those people the God chasers. Some of our students recently reported how they began praying together one night on an outreach weekend and were amazed to discover it was after 5 a.m. when they finished. That was new for them. Yet, revival is full of such accounts. By the late nineties, Peter Wagner began describing these changes in what he calls The New Apostolic Reformation. It is not post-denominationalism because it is happening within denominations as well as in millions of independent churches and networks globally.
A leading Australian news magazine, The Bulletin, carried a significant cover article on “The New Believers” written by senior editor Dianna Bagnall. She describes one of the more visible emerging wineskins in Australian church life, noting that Pentecostal church attendance in Australia is second only to total Catholic attendance.
Baptist visionary and pastor Lawrence Khong describes a vision and strategy for church growth he has used in Singapore where his church has grown from 350 to now over 8,000 attending.
Sam Hey comments on how emerging Pentecostal scholarship is providing new possibilities for Bible study which responds to both the Word and the Spirit.
I comment on how everyone can now be involved in ministry and also can easily participate in a huge range of readily accessible resources providing powerful education for ministry.
Revival not only provides new wine, sometimes in a rather heady mix, but also escalates the emergence of new wineskins. Revival can never be contained in a ‘normal’ church service. So when we keep praying for revival, we are also praying for new wineskins to help us preserve and share the new wine as God’s Spirit is poured out upon us.
Evangelist Tommy Tenny describes people and churches who seek the Lord zealously in his book The God Chasers. This article from his first chapter tells how he witnessed the visitation of God in the 3,000 member Christian Tabernacle Church in Houston, Texas, led by Richard Heard.
This body of believers in Houston had two scheduled services on Sundays. The first morning service started at 8:30, and the second one followed and began at 11.
When I returned for the third weekend, while in the hotel, I sensed a heavy anointing of some kind, a brooding of the Spirit, and I literally wept and trembled.
You could barely breathe
The following morning, we walked into the building for the 8:30 Sunday service expecting to see the usual early morning first service “sleepy” crowd with their low-key worship. As I walked in to sit down in the front row that morning, the presence of God was already in that place so heavily that the air was “thick.” You could barely breathe.
The musicians were clearly struggling to continue their ministry; their tears got in the way. Music became more difficult to play. Finally, the presence of God hovered so strongly that they couldn’t sing or play any longer. The worship leader crumpled in sobs behind the keyboard.
If there was one good decision I made in life, it was made that day. I had never been this close to “catching” God, and I was not going to stop. So I spoke to my wife, Jeannie. “You should go continue to lead us to Him.” Jeannie has an anointing to lead people into the presence of God as a worshiper and intercessor. She quietly moved to the front and continued to facilitate the worship and ministry to the Lord. It wasn’t anything fancy; it was just simple. That was the only appropriate response in that moment.
The atmosphere reminded me of the passage in Isaiah 6, something I’d read about, and even dared dream I might experience myself. In this passage the glory of the Lord filled the temple. I’d never understood what it meant for the glory of the Lord to fill a place. I had sensed God come in places, I had sensed Him come by, but this time in Houston, even after there was all of God that I thought was available in the building, more of His presence literally packed itself into the room. It’s like the bridal train of a bride that, after she has personally entered the building, her bridal train continues to enter the building after her. God was there; of that there was no doubt. But more of Him kept coming in the place until, as in Isaiah, it literally filled the building. At times the air was so rarefied that it became almost unbreathable. Oxygen came in short gasps, seemingly. Muffled sobs broke through the room. In the midst of this, the pastor turned to me and asked me a question.
“Tommy, are you ready to take the service?”
“Pastor, I’m just about half-afraid to step up there, because I sense that God is about to do something.”
Tears were streaming down my face when I said that. I wasn’t afraid that God was going to strike me down, or that something bad was going to happen. I just didn’t want to interfere and grieve the precious presence that was filling up that room! For too long we humans have only allowed the Holy Spirit to take control up to a certain point. Basically, whenever it gets outside of our comfort zone or just a little beyond our control, we pull in the reins (the Bible calls it “quenching the Spirit” in First Thessalonians 5:19). We stop at the tabernacle veil too many times.
“I feel like I should read Second Chronicles 7:14, and I have a word from the Lord,” my pastor friend said.
With profuse tears I nodded assent and said, “Go, go.”
My friend is not a man given to any kind of outward demonstration; he is essentially a man of “even” emotions. But when he got up to walk to the platform, he appeared visibly shaky. At this point I so sensed something was about to happen, that I walked all the way from the front row to the back of the room to stand by the sound booth. I knew God was going to do something; I just didn’t know where. I was on the front row, and it could happen behind me or to the side of me. I was so desperate to catch Him that I got up and publicly walked back to the sound booth as the pastor walked up to the pulpit to speak, so I could see whatever happened. I wasn’t even sure that it was going to happen on the platform, but I knew something was going to happen. “God, I want to be able to see whatever it is You are about to do.”
My pastor friend stepped up to the clear pulpit in the centre of the platform, opened the Bible, and quietly read the gripping passage from Second Chronicles 7:14: If My people, which are called by My name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
Then he closed his Bible, gripped the edges of the pulpit with trembling hands, and said, “The word of the Lord to us is to stop seeking His benefits and seek Him. We are not to seek His hands any longer, but seek His face.”
In that instant, I heard what sounded like a thunderclap echo through the building, and the pastor was literally picked up and thrown backward about ten feet, effectively separating him from the pulpit. When he went backward, the pulpit fell forward. The beautiful flower arrangement positioned in front of it fell to the ground, but by the time the pulpit hit the ground, it was already in two pieces. It had split into two pieces almost as if lightning had hit it! At that instant the tangible terror of the presence of God filled that room.
People began to weep and wail
I quickly stepped to the microphone from the back of the room and said, “In case you aren’t aware of it, God has just moved into this place. The pastor is fine. [It was two and a half hours before he could even get up, though – and even then the ushers had to carry him. Only his hand trembled slightly to give proof of life.] He’s going to be fine.”
While all of this happened, the ushers quickly ran to the front to check on the pastor and to pick up the two pieces of the split pulpit. No one really paid much attention to the split pulpit; we were too occupied with the torn heavenlies. The presence of God had hit that place like some kind of bomb. People began to weep and to wail. I said, “If you’re not where you need to be, this is a good time to get right with God.” I’ve never seen such an altar call. It was pure pandemonium. People shoved one another out of the way. They wouldn’t wait for the aisles to clear; they climbed over pews, businessmen tore their ties off, and they were literally stacked on top of one another, in the most horribly harmonious sound of repentance you ever heard. Just the thought of it still sends chills down my back. When I gave the altar call then for the 8.30 a.m. service, I had no idea that it would be but the first of seven altar calls that day.
When it was time for the 11 a.m. service to begin, nobody had left the building. The people were still on their faces and, even though there was hardly any music being played at this point, worship was rampant and uninhibited. Grown men were ballet dancing; little children were weeping in repentance. People were on their faces, on their feet, on their knees, but mostly in His presence. There was so much of the presence and the power of God there that people began to feel an urgent need to be baptized. I watched people walk through the doors of repentance, and one after another experienced the glory and the presence of God as He came near. Then they wanted baptism, and I was in a quandary about what to do. The pastor was still unavailable on the floor. Prominent people walked up to me and stated, “I’ve got to be baptized. Somebody tell me what to do.” They joined with the parade of the unsaved, who were now saved, provoked purely by encountering the presence of God. There was no sermon and no real song – just His Spirit that day.
Two and a half hours had passed, and since the pastor had only managed to wiggle one finger at that point to call the elders to him, the ushers had carried him to his office. Meanwhile, all these people were asking me (or anyone else they could find) if they could be baptised. As a visiting minister at the church, I didn’t want to assume the authority to tell anyone to baptize these folks, so I sent people back to the pastor’s office to see if he would authorize the water baptisms.
I gave one altar call after another, and hundreds of people were coming forward. As more and more people came to me asking about water baptism, I noticed that no one I had sent to the pastor’s office had returned. Finally I sent a senior assistant pastor back there and told him, “Please find out what Pastor wants to do about the water baptisms -nobody has come back to tell me yet.” The man stuck his head in the pastor’s office, and to his shock he saw the pastor still lying before the Lord, and everyone I had sent there was sprawled on the floor too, just weeping and repenting before God. He hurried back to tell me what he had seen and added, “I’ll go ask him, but if I go in that office I may not be back either.”
We baptized people for hours
I shrugged my shoulders and agreed with the associate pastor, “I guess it’s all right to baptize them.” So we began to baptize people as a physical sign of their repentance before the Lord, and we ended up baptizing people for hours. More and more people kept pouring in, and since the people from the early service were still there, there were cars parked everywhere outside the church building. A big open-air ball field next to the building was filled with cars parked every which way.
As people drove onto the parking lot, they sensed the presence of God so strongly that some began to weep uncontrollably. They just found themselves driving up onto the parking lot or into the grass not knowing what was going on. Some started to get out of their cars and barely managed to stagger across the parking lot. Some came inside the building only to fall to the floor just inside the doors. The hard-pressed ushers had to literally pull the helpless people away from the doors and stack them up along the walls of the hallways to clear the entrance. Others managed to make it part way down the hallways, and some made it to the foyer before they fell on their faces in repentance.
Some actually made it inside the auditorium, but most of them didn’t bother to find seats. They just made for the altar. No matter what they did or how far they made it, it wasn’t long before they began to weep and repent. As I said, there wasn’t any preaching. There wasn’t even any music part of the time. Primarily one thing happened that day: The presence of God showed up. When that happens, the first thing you do is the same thing Isaiah did when he saw the Lord high and lifted up. He cried out from the depths of his soul:
Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts (Isaiah 6:5).
You see, the instant Isaiah the prophet, the chosen servant of God, saw the King of glory, what he used to think was clean and holy now looked like filthy rags. He was thinking, I thought I knew God, but I didn’t know this much of God! That Sunday we seemed to come so close; we almost caught Him. Now I know it’s possible.
They came right back for more
People just kept filling the auditorium again and again, beginning with that strange service that started at 8.30 that morning. I finally went to eat at around 4:00 that afternoon, and then came right back to the church building. Many never left. The continuous “Sunday morning service” lasted until 1 a.m. Monday morning. We didn’t have to announce our plans for Monday evening. Everybody already knew. Frankly, there would have been a meeting whether we announced it or not. The people simply went home to get some sleep or do the things they had to do, and they came right back for more – not for more of men and their programs, but for God and His presence.
Night after night, the pastor and I would come in and say, “What are we going to do?”
Most of the time our answer to one another was just as predictable: “What do you want to do?”
What we meant was, “I don’t know what to do. What does He want to do?”
Sometimes we’d go in and start trying to “have church,” but the crying hunger of the people would quickly draw in the presence of God and suddenly God had us! Listen, my friend, God doesn’t care about your music, your midget steeples, and your flesh-impressive buildings. Your church carpet doesn’t impress Him – He carpets the fields. God doesn’t really care about anything you can “do” for Him; He only cares about your answer to one question: “Do you want Me?”
Ruin everything that isn’t of You, Lord!
We have programmed our church services so tightly that we really don’t leave room for the Holy Spirit. Oh, we might let God speak prophetically to us a little, but we get nervous if He tries to break out of our schedules. We can’t let God out of the box too much because He can ruin everything. (That has become my prayer: “Break out of our boxes, Lord, and ruin everything that isn’t of You!”)
Let me ask you a question: How long has it been since you came to church and said, “We are going to wait on the Lord”? I think we are afraid to wait on Him because we’re afraid He won’t show up. I have a promise for you: “They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength” (Isa. 40:31). Do you want to know why we’ve lived in weakness as Christians and have not had all that God wanted for us? Do you want to know why we have lived beneath our privilege and have not had the strength to overcome our own carnality? Maybe it’s because we haven’t waited on Him to show up to empower us, and we’re trying to do too much in the power of our own soulish realm.
God ruined everything in Houston
I am not trying to make you feel bad. I know most Christians and most of our leaders genuinely mean well, but there is so much more. You can “catch” God – ask Jacob – and it might ruin the way you’ve always walked! But you can catch Him. We’ve talked, preached, and taught about revival until the Church is sick of hearing about it. That’s what I did for a living: I preached revivals – or so I thought. Then God broke out of His box and ruined everything when He showed up. Seven nights a week, for the next four or five weeks straight, hundreds of people a night would stand in line to repent and receive Christ, worship, wait, and pray. What had happened in history, past and present, was happening again. Then it dawned on me, “God, You’re wanting to do this everywhere.” For months His manifest presence hovered.
Richard Heard’s account of that visitation is reproduced in the Renewal Journal, # 10: Evangelism. He tells of continual evangelism and the whole carpet of the church being tear-stained from people repenting for over a year. See also: God’s Awesome Presence, by Dr R Heard
Daryl Brenton wrote this article summarising the influence of 20 pioneers as part of his Bachelor of Ministry studies at the School of Ministries of Christian Heritage College at Brisbane Christian Outreach Centre. He served in Papua New Guinea as a Language Programme Co-ordinator with the Bible Translation Association.
Christ as Saviour, Sanctifier/Baptiser in the Holy Spirit,
Healer, and Coming Lord, are important in the formation
of Pentecostal/Charismatic ministry and evangelism.
The late 19th Century saw a blend of four major doctrines that produced a seedbed for Pentecostal/Charismatic theology and ministry in popular Evangelical and Fundamental circles. These doctrines: Christ as Saviour, Sanctifier/Baptiser in the Holy Spirit, Healer, and Coming Lord, are important in the formation of Pentecostal/charismatic ministry and evangelism.
Edward Irving (1792‑1834) was appointed as a Scottish Presbyterian pastor of a London congregation in 1822. He developed a Christology which essentially said that Jesus took on the complete human condition and was only enabled to live a sinless life or work any miracles through the operation of the Holy Spirit. Thus the means of sanctification and miracles were considered to come via the operation of the Holy Spirit in people. His church used gifts of the Spirit including tongues, prophecy and healing prayer. Expelled from his church, he established the Catholic Apostolic Church. The movement was used by early Pentecostal theologians as an interpretative guide for their own experience.
Charles Parham (1873‑1929) was the founder of two bible schools and many Apostolic Faith churches, author of two books and editor of a publication promoting Pentecostal theology. He was first to formulate the opinion that baptism in the Spirit was shown by the occurrence of speaking in other tongues (1901). This gave emerging Pentecostals an identity separate from previous holiness movements. Along with this, he gave the movement a strong missionary emphasis through his expectation that the reinstatement of tongues would lead to a world‑wide missionary movement and had a large influence on the spread of the doctrine of divine healing.
William Seymour (1870‑1922) was the other outstanding person involved in the beginning of the Pentecostal movement. Seymour was influenced by Parham’s theology and started a mission (1906) which became famous/infamous as thousands of people came to see what was happening. Publication of the periodical, Apostolic Faith reached 50,000 and gave Seymour a wide influence. While his influence was curtailed by 1914, Seymour is still regarded as having influenced every Pentecostal strand, either directly or indirectly through the Azusa St. Mission in Los Angeles.
Donald Gee (1891‑1966) spent a significant amount of time as a Bible teacher, editor, author, historian and Pentecostal theologian. He served as vice chairman and chairman of the British A.O.G. for ten years and three years respectively. With this influence, Gee tried to stifle the parochialism of the day and made efforts to promote ecumenicalism within and without Pentecostalism. His wrote more than thirty books and over five hundred articles.
Smith Wigglesworth (1859‑1947), an effective personal evangelist, was primarily famous for his emphasis on faith and the miraculous healings and other answers to prayer that accompanied his ministry. This combination has made Wigglesworth an important example for Christians of every denomination to believe for miraculous answers from God and was often called the Apostle of Faith. Wigglesworth was influential in the life of David du Plessis through a prophecy and subsequent advice, which directed David into a widespread ecumenical ministry.
Maria Woodworth‑etter (1844‑1924) started as a Holiness minister. Because she was a woman preacher and her meetings were attended with supernatural occurrences, she drew great media attention. From 1885 on, her ministry had large numbers of conversions. She claimed to experience speaking in tongues, prophecy and other charismata. In 1912, Maria preached at F.F.Bosworth’s church, influencing many important Pentecostal leaders in the USA. All of this greatly helped to spread the Pentecostal message and must have served the cause of women’s calling and gifting in ministry.
Aimee Semple Mcpherson (1890‑1944) served as an evangelist for the A.O.G. and later founded the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel. She edited a publication, The Bridal Call, opened a radio station, wrote several books, started a bible college (L.I.F.E.) and an aid organisation for the poor and distressed and encouraged many women to enter into ministry. One of her main goals was to challenge her followers to trust in Jesus. Her vision was interdenominational and worldwide, from the start.
John G. Lake (1870‑1935) was noted for a marvellous healing ministry and his contribution to the establishment of the Apostolic Faith Mission in South Africa where he established over 600 churches in seven years. He was influenced by Alexander Dowie, William Seymour and Charles Parham. In his missionary work, John helped to establish one of the largest works in South Africa. Returning to America, John settled in Spokane, Washington and established some churches and his famous Healing Rooms. Here it was estimated that over 100,000 people were healed.
Oral Roberts (1918‑) is internationally famous for his message of hope and healing. Oral’s huge crusades helped to revitalise Pentecostalism after WWII, he was instrumental in helping form the FGBMFI and greatly influenced the foundation of the Charismatic movement with his ecumenical style. Wide spread use of TV, radio, books, magazines, newspaper articles, personalised letters and intercessory prayer made him one of the most influential Christian leaders in the USA. His decision, in 1968, to affiliate with the United Methodist church formed a bridge for the Pentecostal message to move into mainline churches. Oral established one of the most amazing educational organisations in the world. The Oral Roberts University and the City of Faith medical and research facility, both run on Christian principles and prepare many Christians for the ministry, mission work and vocations.
Kathryn Kuhlman (1907‑76) was one of the world’s best known female evangelists. By the age of twenty eight, Kathryn had established a church with a 2,500 seater building and an influential radio ministry. At thirty nine, miraculous healings unexpectedly began to occur in her meetings, bringing her national fame through ‘Redbook’ magazine. She regularly filled a 7000 seat auditorium for ten years, having outgrown one with 2500 seats. Kathryn had a great impact on the Charismatic movement through her widespread fame.
The Latter Rain Movement
George Hawtin (1909‑) was prominent in the early Latter Rain movement. He pioneered a bible institute as a Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada pastor in 1935. George resigned in 1947 and joined Herrick Holt’s ‘Sharon’s Global Missions’ as president. Shortly after this, a revival in the bible school brought him a leading role in the resulting movement. His leadership was rapidly eclipsed as others took on leadership roles.
Myrtle Beall (1896‑1979) ‑ founded the Bethesda Missionary Temple, with a 3000 seat building, from a Sunday school ministry. Originally an A.O.G. church, the Bethesda temple withdrew its membership, as it became a centre of the Latter Rain movement. It provided direction for many North American churches. Her son James succeeded her as senior pastor in the late 1970’s and is an influential charismatic renewal leader and contributed to many charismatic journals. Myrtle’s daughter, Patricia Gruits, authored an important book, Understanding God (1962), which has influenced many churches’ theology in the USA.
Yonngi Cho (1936‑) was elected general superintendent of the Korean A.O.G. in 1966 and is the pastor of the world’s largest single congregation with 800,000 people. Cho has also authored many books on faith and church growth which have been very influential. Perhaps Cho’s greatest contribution has been the establishment of ‘Church Growth International’, which has promoted the principles of home cells, prayer and fasting, which have made such a change to his church.
Demos Shakarian (1913‑) was the founder of the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International and has helped to spread the Pentecostal message into many countries. FGBMFI has over 300,000 members world wide and is a non‑denominational organisation. It has been a great impetus to the Charismatic movement.
David du Plessis (1905‑87) was instrumental in promoting ecumenical fellowship between factions of the Pentecostal movement and later, between the Pentecostals and Evangelicals. Perhaps his greatest influence was in his unofficial liaison between the Pentecostal movement and the World Council of Churches. Through this work, representatives from mainline churches found a non‑antagonistic representative of the Pentecostal message with whom they could establish a rapport. He also lectured in many universities and seminaries This greatly influenced the formation of the Charismatic movement.
David Wilkerson (1931‑) was an A.O.G. pastor who established Teen Challenge as an organisation which would cater for the converts from his successful street evangelism ministry in New York City. He established a bible institute as a part of Teen Challenge and the organisation has become international as World Challenge. David also co‑founded Times Square church in New York City. Of his many books, perhaps the most influential has been The Cross and the Switchblade which sparked interest about baptism in the Holy Spirit from both Protestant and Catholic circles.
Loren Cunningham (1914‑) was the founder of Youth With a Mission (YWAM). Once an A.O.G. youth pastor, Cunningham’s vision has spawned an international missionary organisation that is primarily manned by self‑supporting, short‑term, volunteer youth. Through this organisation, a school of ministry has been established, much missionary work has been accomplished in many countries and aid has been distributed to needy countries. YWAM’s emphasis is on spiritual and physical aid to the mission field and finding, then obeying God’s will.
John Wimber (1934‑) founded the Vineyard Ministries International. John had worked as a church growth consultant with hundreds of churches of many denominations. The occurrence of healings in his ministry in 1977, launched him into an international ministry and an intense church planting program. He lectured at Fuller Seminary on the relationship of miracles and church growth, influencing many upcoming ministers.
The Charismatic Movement
Dennis Bennett (1917‑) was an Episcopalian clergyman who was baptised in the Spirit in 1959. Taking over a parish which was due to close for the third time, Dennis transformed it into the strongest Episcopalian parish in Northwest America within twelve years. His testimony introduced thousands of people to the charismatic experience in the US. and overseas, often lecturing in major universities and theological schools. He helped to found the Episcopal Renewal Ministries.
John Sherrill (1923‑) worked as senior editor for Guideposts for several years and with his wife Elizabeth, has co‑authored several influential charismatic books. His, They Speak with other Tongues was an important book in shaping the charismatic movement. It explained charismatic phenomena and how he, an Episcopalian, had been baptised in the Spirit. He and his wife also co‑authored The Cross and the Switchblade, another influential book
Pentecostalism can be seen as a bridge between the currents of the Holiness movement and the modern Charismatic movement. It preserved a specific type of theology with a strong emphasis on evangelism in the power of the Holy Spirit that has been released into the main body of Christendom in recent years. Its ministers came from all walks and stations of life and reflect God’s multi‑faceted character.
Language Programme Co-ordinator
with Bible Translation Association
One of the stories which really affected me was about an expatriate translator who was working in the Sepik province of Papua New Guinea in the 1970s. Once, after a three-hour canoe ride, this translator arrived in a village of another language group and she noticed that there was a church building in the village square. When she asked the people if there was a missionary staying with them, they replied that no, there was not. She asked if they had a pastor and again they said, “No.” Finally, she asked them why they had built a church and they answered, “We are waiting for someone to come and translate God’s Word for us.” When I heard these words, I began to realise that English readers have dozens of Bible translations, and thousands of Bible resources, but many people do not even have scripture in their language, let alone commentaries, Bible studies, and other books that we take for granted. The tragedy of this story is that no one was available to take up the project in this particular village.
While thinking about these kinds of issues, we met the Executive Director of the PNG Bible Translation Association as he was passing through Brisbane. It occurred to me that if a time ever came when expatriate organisations would have to leave the country, a national organisation could still be effectively in place. So, I thought that helping BTA would be something important that I could do to support the Kingdom of God in Papua New Guinea.
Comment by Rev. John Davies, the Minister at the Anglican Church in Northbridge, Sydney and editor of the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia Sydney Newsletter (November 1994):
A deepened sense of the presence of Jesus,
a heightened expectancy for the power of the Spirit
to work through me, and a refreshment in my spirit
Earlier this year rumours began to reach our shores that some strange things were happening in one of the Vineyard churches in Toronto, Canada. It was reported that God was moving with new power and blessing. A particular feature was the outbreak of ‘holy laughter’ in their services.
Those who attended the Wimber conference in Brisbane in April reported something of this phenomenon happening there, where many were blessed. There seemed to be a new level of spiritual power.
Tri Robinson, from the Vineyard church in Boise, Idaho, who spoke at the Melbourne Pentecost Rally, and the Port Macquarie Conference in June, mentioned that he had been to the Toronto church. He told how he had been rather sceptical of the reported happenings, but had been convinced that it was God when he found himself on his face on the floor, unable to move for an hour.
At the end of May the phenomenon spread to several churches in London, UK, including the rather prestigious Anglican church, Holy Trinity, Brompton, just down the road from Harrods. Within weeks the London newspapers were beginning to take notice, and headlines in the daily papers proclaimed outbreaks of ‘Holy Laughter’.
The religious press in England was also quick to comment. The Church of England Newspaper of June 17 had the headline ‘Revival breaks out in London churches’ and reported that ‘Church leaders admit bewilderment as manifestations affect business and staff meetings as well as church services’. The Church Times of June 24 spoke of ‘a mighty wind from Toronto which blew through Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), laid flat a staff meeting, and then set a whole congregation laughing hysterically, crying and falling repeatedly on the floor’. There was a brief note of this report in the Australian Church Scene of July 1, but not much other mention in Australia…
The English Renewal magazine for July had a brief report under the heading ‘Spreading Like Wildfire’. This was essentially a summary of the report to HTB by Eleanor Mumford, the wife of the pastor of the Southwest London Vineyard, on her visit to Toronto. She told how she saw the ‘power of God poured out in incredible measure’. She said: ‘I saw many very weary pastors who turned up with their even wearier wives, and they were so anointed by the Lord.’
Mrs Mumford also spoke of the personal effect on her: ‘For myself, there is a greater love for Jesus than I’ve ever known, a greater excitement about the Kingdom than I ever thought possible. I haven’t had such an appetite for ministry for years. Jesus is restoring his joy, and his laughter is like medicine to my soul.’
Further reports of what was happening at HTB, and at other churches in England, appeared in the August and September issues of Renewal. There was even an article in Time Magazine for August 10.
Rosemary and I managed to hear about this just before we left on 3 months Long Service Leave in July. And, by a series of small miracles, we were able to change our itinerary to include six days in Toronto, and visits to HTB and Chorleywood in England. What we saw, and what we received, has had a dramatic effect on our lives. And, since our return, has begun to affect members of our church.
From what we have seen and experienced we have no doubt that at the heart of what is happening there is a genuine movement of the Spirit of God. Although some of the outward manifestations are unusual, and sometimes bizarre, the fruit that is being produced bears all the marks of true godliness.
There is, especially in Toronto, a strong emphasis on the centrality of Jesus, and the need for true repentance and faith. Many have shared of the deepening of their love for Jesus, and their increased desire to serve him. There has been a greater enthusiasm for sharing the gospel, and a steady stream of new converts. Numbers have been physically healed, including a girl with chronic ME and a ten year old boy, whom we saw, with severe asthma.
My own experience has been a deepened sense of the presence of Jesus, a heightened expectancy for the power of the Spirit to work through me, and a refreshment in my spirit.
The so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’ did not, in fact, originate in Toronto. It began with a South African evangelist ministering in the USA by the name of Rodney Howard-Browne. During the early part of 1993 the Spirit of God began to move powerfully in his meetings and many were blessed.
A Vineyard pastor from St Louis, Missouri, Randy Clarke, was feeling very dry and weary after 10 years in the ministry and determined to get to a Howard-Browne meeting. As a result of the blessing he received, his whole church came alive. In September of ’93 he shared what was happening in a Vineyard leaders’ meeting and, as a result, John Arnott, from the Airport Vineyard in Toronto invited him to come for a series of meetings.
The Toronto ‘fountain’
Randy Clarke came to Toronto for a 4-day mission on 20th January 1994. The Spirit of God moved so powerfully that the meetings were extended again and again for forty days.
Originally the church met every night of the week, with meetings going often until 2 a.m.! Eventually they decided to have Mondays off. They have continued to meet six nights per week, plus Sunday mornings, until the present time, and meetings still continue until 2 a.m.
The church is situated in a small office/industrial block beside the runway of Toronto airport. Although it only seats 400, with an overflow of 200, it regularly has congregations of over 700 as visitors flood in from all over the world. Just recently they have decided to ban visitors from their Sunday Morning Service so that they can care for their own congregation.
From the beginning the Toronto leadership realised that God was calling them to give away what they had received. A number of local Baptist, Presbyterian and other pastors were invited to come together for lunch on a Wednesday. Not only were the pastors blessed, but they took the blessing back to their churches.
Word soon began to spread, and pastors from further afield expressed an interest. The Wednesday pastors’ meetings became a regular feature. When we were there, there were pastors from many parts of the USA and Canada, from Great Britain, Europe, South Africa, Cambodia, and South America.
It is as though the church in Toronto is a fountain to which the weary and thirsty from around the world might come and be refreshed. Those who come are encouraged to keep seeking after God for all that he has to give. The most common expression is ‘More, Lord!’ (The other is: ‘It’s a party!’) While some have been overwhelmed by God’s blessing on the first contact, the more common experience is that there is a progressive deepening of the blessing as people keep coming back for more.
Revival or refreshment?
The phrase ‘Revival’ was often used in the early stages, but more mature reflection has led to the conclusion that it is not fully ‘Revival’ yet. Wimber and others believe that this is, at present, essentially a refreshment for Christians. It may well be the preparation for the revival that many believe is coming soon. Or, it may be a preparation for coming persecution, or both! However, for the present, the streams of refreshment are flowing, and the invitation stands: ‘Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters’.
While many of the physical manifestations associated with this phenomenon have been seen before in previous movements of the Holy Spirit, the widespread distribution of phenomena such as laughter that has occurred this time has led some Charismatic and Pentecostal leaders to confess to some scepticism. However, most have come away convinced that this is truly a work of God.
As in previous moves of the Hoy Spirit, there are some ‘fleshly’ excesses, but the leadership maintains a careful oversight. Their attitude is that even if there is 70% flesh, they do not want to crush the 30% Spirit.
While laughter was the chief characteristic in the early days, more recently there have been instances of people roaring like lions (e.g. David Pytches) … Probably the most widespread manifestation is some kind of shaking or jerking.
It is quite common, though not universal, for people to fall to the floor under the power of the Spirit. ‘Spending carpet time’ is a common Toronto expression. In my observation, God often does a much deeper work once people are on the ground. It may be that in the surrender to his power there is an opening up of one’s life to new levels of his ministry. The ministry team are encouraged to keep praying for those who are on the ground.
While falling down, jerking, laughing, etc., may not be normal Christian experience, especially in Anglican churches, they are not unknown in the Bible. Certainly, the history of revivals such as that in New England in the 18th Century, recorded by Jonathan Edwards, showed similar phenomena. …
Spread of the blessing
The blessing has spread like wildfire in many places. When we were in Toronto in August it was reported that 800 English churches had been affected. Many more have been touched since then. At the evening service at HTB there was a queue of 200 outside the doors an hour before the service. A recent report said that it is now necessary to get a ticket to get into the church which seats 1200! 700 clergy and leaders turned up to a special day at St Andrew’s, Chorleywood in August to hear an assistant pastor from Toronto.
Many have wondered why it is necessary to travel across the world to catch the blessing. All I can say is, that is how it is so often with the gospel. Only very few are converted without personal contact with someone who knows Jesus. God has chosen to work through personal contact to spread the blessing and it is not for us to argue.
Certainly, it is those who make the commitment of time and money to seek from God who generally go away filled (Jeremiah 29:13).
Spirit Life, the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia (ARMA) Victoria Newsletter, reported in its October issue: ‘Two Anglican Clergy from Melbourne have just returned from Toronto … I am led to believe that the blessing has now flowed to a number of other churches in Melbourne.’
There is news in the past few weeks of the ‘blessing’ having broken out in a number of churches in Sydney. Hills CLC, Sutherland Growth Centre, North Shore CLC and Randwick Baptist all report powerful moves of the Holy Spirit, particularly in their evening services.
In our own small church in Northbridge, God has powerfully touched a number of people. Some have been refreshed, others have been changed, and there is a new sense of expectancy in our meetings. While we are learning afresh what it means to keep coming back to our Father for more and more of his unlimited grace, we are also seeking to give away everything he has given us.
No one knows just how long this blessing will last, or whether it will lead to widespread revival. Certainly it fits with a number of prophetic words, some going back to 1984, that 1993/’94 would see a great outpouring of blessing. In the end we can only tap into what God is doing in the present, and be very careful that we do not miss out because it does not fit our preconceptions.
The Blessing is spreading
Comment by Rev. Phil Ashton, the Associate Minister at Christ Church Anglican, Dingley in Melbourne (December 1994):
people in quiet and in dramatic ways
were touched by God’s Spirit
The October edition of Spirit Life (the Victoria and Tasmania Newsletter of Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia) noted that the ‘Tronoto blessing’ was being spread as the result of the Holy Spirit and a couple of Anglican clergy from Melbourne having visited Tronoto. I have to confess to being one of them!
The trip to Toronto for my wife Maryann and I was a miracle in itself. What with church commitments here at Dingley, four children to be looked after in our absence, a dog and a recently acquired mortgage, there was no way we could afford to go to Toronto, either commitment-wise or financially. Yet within ten days of seeking God’s will in all this, every problem had been blown away. Three people offered to have the children, someone paid the airfare, – even the dog was looked after! There was no longer any reason why we could not go!
After the trip
Our time at the Airport Vineyard was challenging, refreshing, faith stretching and a real party! But the fun didn’t stop there. Upon our return, in response to the question, ‘What happened?’, we decided to hold a testimony evening to share our story. At the end of the evening, being a safe, conservative sort of person, it would have been easier for me simply to pronounce the final blessing and send everyone home.
However, I felt God was calling us to move in faith; to stand on the edge of the cliff with him – and jump! We offered prayer to folk, and God’s Spirit came in power. There were those who laughed, those who cried, those who rested in the Spirit. Talking to people in the days that followed, we realised however, that God was changing people’s hearts. There was a desire for a second meeting following the Monday, to which about 60 people came, with similar results. A few visitors had come this time as well.
It was then decided to take, what for us was a huge leap of faith – to hold meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays for the whole month of October. We did not advertise in any formal sense, and our intention was that these meetings were for our own church folk as together we explored what God was doing in our midst.
The results, however, took us by surprise! The agenda for the meetings was kept very simple: some worship, a short teaching or encouraging word, some testimony from folk who had been touched by God previously, some practical issues were addressed (such as falling and not falling, and that people would not be pushed by the pray-ers, etc.), and then we went into a time of prayer with individuals.
The number of visitors increased as word got around, as people in quiet and in dramatic ways were touched by God’s lovely Spirit. One boy who had lost his brother in a traffic accident and had not cried since then, sobbed for a long time, before the crying turned to a gentle laugh or giggle. The change in him has been dramatic. Others have had their love for Jesus renewed and restored, and have captured again that first love that John speaks of in Revelation chapter 2.
Where are we now?
At this point in time we have moved into the larger hall; last week there were 240 people at the Monday meeting and 200 on Tuesday. A recent development from some parishioners has meant that the ministry will continue. Cumulatively over 2,000 people have been to the meetings from more than 110 churches of many different denominations. We praise God for the breaking down of denominational barriers.
Leaders and people together are coming to God for a fresh touch, a renewing and refreshing touch of his Holy Spirit. The testimonies are often simple and real:
* ‘Laid on the floor for one hour. Felt God’s love and peace, smelt the fragrance of the Spirit. Next day had amazing breakthroughs in marriage relationship and real healing.‘
* ‘God released me from anger and a feeling of unworthiness.’
* ‘Last night Jesus healed me from past memories of three people on different occasions molesting me. Praise Jesus.’
Some people ‘rest in the Spirit’ on the floor for a while, and God meets them there. One or two have spoken of being held down on the floor, as if God has put a great weight on their limbs and they are unable to get up until he has finished with them. Not everyone goes down. One man stood for quite a long time as the power of God came upon him. Those around sensed what almost seemed like a strong electrical current flowing into him. Sometimes the pray-ers and the catcher are touched as the Spirit manifests himself.
God is certainly at work. Whether people stand of fall is not the point. As John White has written in his book When the spirit comes with power,
manifestations, while they may be a blessing, are no guarantee of anything. Their outcome depends on the mysterious traffic between God and our spirits. Your fall and your shaking may be a genuine expression of the power of the Spirit resting on you. But the Spirit may not benefit you in the least if God does not have his way with you, while someone who neither trembles nor falls may profit greatly.
Of one thing we are sure. This is no new work of the Holy Spirit. As we read church history we note that the same things were seen and experienced by George Fox (1624-1691), by Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening (1740-1742), and by Charles Finney (1792-1875), as people came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and were drawn by God’s love for them.
Our cry to God today is: ‘Lord, do it again’.
Toronto in Melbourne? Really?
The Rev. Geoff Glass, Anglican Minister at Beaumaris in Melbourne comments (December 1994):
all have found a real spiritual refreshment,
a deepened awareness of God,
a bubbling joy and a deep peace
Some of us have heard stories of some remarkable happenings in a Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada, and at Holy Trinity, Brompton, in England. Some of us have thought how good it would be to receive the blessings that are being poured out on people there.
On October 4 my wife Jan and I went to a clergy meeting over at Christ Church, Dingley, and found that their Vicar, Rob Isaachsen, and also his curate, Phil Ashton, had just returned from Toronto and Rob shared with us what had happened. It was obvious he had been profoundly touched by God and when he offered to pray for us I was first in. It wasn’t long before I found myself on the floor for the first time in the 21 years I have been in renewal. I lay there for some time as the Holy Spirit continued to minister to me. When I got up I felt remarkably alive and peaceful and had a new sense of freedom. Jan was prayed for soon after and she too ended up on the floor for the first time ever. When she got up she too felt the same as I did.
Later that day I was speaking to one of my church wardens on the phone and mentioned what had happened to us. He asked if he and his wife could come and see us that evening. They did, and as we prayed for them they too ended up on the floor and were profoundly blessed. Both Jan and I had a sense of the Holy Spirit releasing enormous power as we prayed for them.
As I reflected on this the next morning the Lord kept bringing to mind the phrase ‘times of refreshing’. It seemed familiar and I found a Bible reference using this phrase in Acts 3:19 that seemed to make sense of what had happened.
As we have shared this experience of the Holy Spirit with our congregations a number of people have asked for prayer. Nearly all ended up on the floor, but all have found a real spiritual refreshment, a deepened awareness of God, a bubbling joy and a deep peace. We are praying for the Holy Spirit to extend his blessing of refreshment to all of our congregation.
The Blessing reaches Mulgrave
Mr Tony Stevens, editor of ‘Spirit Life’ the Victoria and Tasmania Newsletter of the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia, comments (December 1994):
Let us all pray that the Lord
will keep his blessing flowing
to the churches and people
St Matthew’s, Mulgrave, has been experiencing a mighty move of the Spirit this year. This all started around the time of Pentecost and has been heightened by the ministry of Tri Robinson and Lamar Junkins from the Vineyard.
Many people have been blessed by the ministry of the Rev. Brian Thewlis (whose home base is Christ Church, Dingley) who has been ministering here over the last couple of months. Many people from the 10.30 a.m. congregation have been freed, blessed and healed. Many of the congregation have also been to Dingley and received a blessing from the Lord there.
The church is praying for mighty things to happen next year. Praise the Lord for what is happening now!
Let us all pray that the Lord will keep his blessing flowing to the churches and people during 1995. Let us all have open minds to what he is doing at this time in history.
Selections edited from the November 1994 ARMA Sydney Newsletter (17 Trunks Street, Northbridge, NSW 2063) and Spirit Life the December 1994 Victoria and Tasmania ARMA Newsletter (PO Box 1134, Glen Waverley, Victoria 3150).
This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel! (Acts 2:16) Or, as the old version puts it: ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.’
This … is … that!
The immediate responses to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost included amazement and amusement. Some, Luke tells us, made fun of them and said, ‘They’ve had too much wine’ (v. 13). Why would anyone who wanted to be taken seriously suggest they’d drunk too much? Presumably because they looked drunk, sounded drunk and generally behaved as though they were drunk!
It is interesting that St Paul too in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus links and contrasts the effects on the body of alcohol (‘Do not get drunk with wine which leads to debauchery…’) with the effects of being immersed with the Spirit of God (‘… but be filled with the Spirit’) which leads to ‘speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 5:18-20).
Paul wasn’t at Pentecost but many times he’d seen people genuinely filled with the Spirit. Indeed he seems to have been able to tell pretty quickly whether disciples were or were not filled with the Spirit!
He may have been thinking of his visit to Ephesus described in Acts 19 when he asked what we would think of as a rather direct question: ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ To which he got back an equally direct and honest answer, ‘No we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. And, as we all know, ‘on hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus and, when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied’. Luke adds that there were about twelve men in all.
Since about Tuesday of two weeks ago, we have begun to see an astonishing outpouring of the Spirit of God upon our own church and congregation. It seems to be a spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit and there are certainly some very surprising manifestations of the Spirit very excitingly reminiscent of accounts of early revivals and movements of God’s Spirit.
Some of the manifestations include prolonged laughter, totally unselfconscious for the most part, and an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8). For some it is prolonged weeping and crying with a sense of conviction and desire for forgiveness, purity and peace with God. For others it seems to be a silent reception of the Spirit of God sometimes leading to falling down and sometimes standing up, sometimes kneeling, sometimes sitting.
There are great varieties of the manifestations of the Spirit. They are breaking out both during services and outside them in homes and offices. At times they are easy to explain and handle, and other times they are much harder and more complicated!
We had been hearing for several days of the movement of God’s Spirit in the Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada, and a number of people have come to us from there telling us about what was going on and of what they thought it all meant.
For that reason Jeremy Jennings and I decided to go to Toronto at the beginning of this month just for two and a half days to see what we could learn and what conclusions, if any, at this stage it was possible to draw. The manifestations are quite extraordinary and would undoubtedly be alarming if we hadn’t read about them previously in history.
That’s really why I started where I started in this article. You don’t get accused of being drunk just because you speak in tongues. And many of the manifestations of this modern movement of the Spirit of God carry with them many of the symptoms of drunkenness. Laughter, swaying about, slurred speech, movements which are difficult to control … all sometimes continuing for long periods of time.
The manifestations themselves of course are not as significant as the working of the Spirit of God in the individual and the church. The manifestations are the symptom and therefore of course it is to the fruit that we look rather than the signs.
Times of refreshing
The church in Toronto first experienced these symptoms on January 20th (1994) and since then they have been ministering to an increasing number of outside people: ministers and church members from all over America, Canada, now Europe and even further afield.
Meetings go on night after night (every night except Monday) and include a pastors’ meeting on a Wednesday from 12 to roughly half-past three in the afternoon. Their understanding is that God seems to be pouring out his Spirit, refreshing his people and drawing them closer to himself, revealing his love to them and a deep sense of preciousness in away that kindles their own sense of the love of God, their love for Scripture, and their desire to be involved in the activities of the Spirit of God today.
So this is primarily a movement toward God’s people. Naturally we expect it to flow out and over into a movement that will affect the rest of the world but for the moment it’s God’s deep desire to minister to his church – to refresh, empower, and prepare them fora wider work of his Spirit that will affect the world to which the church is sent.
Charles Finney (1792-1875) – one of history’s greatest evangelists – records his experience of the Holy Spirit immediately following his conversion:
The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me body and soul. I could feel the impression like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love… And no words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after another until I recollect I cried out ‘I shall die if these effects continue to pass over me’.
During the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in the 1735 revival in New Hampshire, he described some of the effects of the spontaneous work of the Spirit of God. ‘The town seemed to be full of the presence of God,’ he wrote. ‘It was never so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then.’
He describes something which happened during one of his sermons in New Jersey on March 1st 1746: ‘Toward the close of my talk, divine truths made considerable impressions upon the audience, and produced tears and sobs in some under concern and more especially a sweet and humble melting in sundry that, I have reason to hope, were truly gracious.’
During the Cambusland revival in Scotland in 1742, Doctor Alexander Webster described some of the effects of the preaching there: ‘There were two kinds – the outcrying and trembling among the unconverted and the ecstatic joy among believers… indeed such joy was more a part of this work than the sorrow over sin. It appears that many believers found themselves so moved by a sense of the Saviour’s love to them and, in turn, by their new love to him, as to be lifted almost into a state of rapture.’
I could go on and on – and probably you could add your own accounts that you’ve read about in history. There are more than one in the Acts of the Apostles.
I think it’s important that we should stay close to the Lord and be grateful for every sign of his grace upon us. Don’t let’s get too caught up with the symptoms of his Spirit, but more with him and his love for us.
Let’s encourage those who think they have experienced nothing (it may or may not be true) – and let’s above all continue to pray that through this outpouring of God’s Spirit he will build a church worthy of him: holy, equipped, and full of love and grace towards him and the outside world.
Meanwhile let’s pray that it may continue. And continue to pray for one another.
The current move of the Spirit
Mrs Eleanor Mumford , wife of the pastor of the South West London Vineyard church, comments on her visit to Toronto in this edited version of her message at Holy Trinity Brompton on Sunday morning 29 May 1994.
This whole move of the Lord
is all about Jesus
I have just been to a church in Toronto in Canada. I heard that there were things going on. I wanted to go and get into the middle. I went because I knew I was bankrupt and that I was longing. And I went with a spirit of tremendous expectancy.
So the first night I went forward and this delightful pastor said to me, ‘Do tell me who you are and what you’ve come for.’
I said, ‘I’ve come for all that you’ve got. I have two days and I’ve come from London.’
So he looked at me with a glint in his eye and then proceeded to pray for me on and off for the next two days.
At the same time there was a young Chinese pastor who arrived at Toronto from Vancouver where he was pastoring and he came fasting. The darling man looked as if he’s spent his whole life fasting and he was the most wonderful and godly man. As he arrived at the church the Lord spoke to him clearly and said, ‘You can forget about your fasting. This is a time for celebration.’
Indeed it was.
An ordinary little church
The Airport Vineyard church in Toronto is a funny little place. It’s just a very ordinary little church set in an office block on the end of the runway of the airport. Even that in itself, I thought, was gracious of the Lord because so many of us can get there so easily. It takes 10 minutes from the check-out to the church!
It was a very ordinary place. I was reminded when I went in there of how the people in the crowd said at Pentecost: ‘Are not these Galileans? Are these not just terribly ordinary people?’
I went in and I thought, ‘Well, God bless them, these are just ordinary people like me.’
It’s just to do with Jesus, and yet the attitude and the sense of expectancy was enormous. As the worship leader strummed his rather tuneless guitar, he stood up and said, ‘What have you come for?’
We all said, ‘We’ve come for the Lord. We’ve come for more of God.’
And he said, ‘Well, if you’ve come for God you’ll not be disappointed.’
From that moment on that was the truth.
There was just a beauty on those who were ministering there – the leaders and the pastors and the worship leaders – the sort of beauty that I guess the people saw in Acts when they looked at the disciples and they said, ‘These people have been with Jesus.’
These Canadians were just men and women who had spent 130 days in the company of Jesus who was pouring out his Spirit on them. They shone with faces like Stephen. It was beautiful to see.
I saw the power of God poured out in incredible measure and it was all accompanied by phenomena.
Jonathan Edwards, a great man of God during the eighteenth century who was part of the Great Awakening in America, wrote this in his journal of a similar outpouring of the Spirit of God at that time: ‘The apostolic times seem to have returned upon us, such a display has there been of the power and grace of the Spirit.’
He wrote of fear, sorrow, desire, love, joy, tears, and trembling, of ‘groans and cries, agonies of the body and the failing of bodily strength.’
So I thought, ‘Well, none of this is new. It may be unusual but none of it is new.’
Edwards also wrote, ‘We are all ready to own that no man can see God and live. If we see even a small part of the love and the glory of Christ, a foretaste of heaven, is it any wonder that our bodily strength is diminished.’
That is indeed what happened to many of us despite ourselves.
The truth is that this whole move of the Lord is all about Jesus. I was there for only 48 hours. I never heard anybody talk about the devil. I never heard anybody talk about spiritual warfare. I never heard a principality or a power mentioned. We were so preoccupied with the person of Jesus that there was really no time. There was no space for talk of the opposition because there was just a growing passion for the name of Jesus and for the beauty of his presence among his people.
So I went scurrying back to the Scriptures and scurrying back to church history and it’s all happened before. It’s all in the book and there’s nothing that I saw – however strange or unusual – that I haven’t since been able to read about in the Bible.
Jonathan Edwards’ wife had an intimate acquaintance with her carpet for 17 days during the time of the Great Awakening. For 17 days she was unable to make their meals or take care of the family or look after the visitors.
She said after 17 days that she had a delightful sense of the immediate presence of God – of ‘his nearness to me and of my dearness to him.’
I thought to myself when I came home, that’s what this is about. It’s about his nearness to me and my dearness to him.’ Wonderful, wonderful things are going on.
During the time I was there I saw all sorts of people coming and going. There were many very weary pastors who turned up with their even more weary wives, and they were so anointed by the Lord.
There was one very sensible middle-aged man who’d been in pastoral ministry for years and when he spoke to us after having been there for several days he was just behaving like an old drunk. It was funny. Once he stood up and talked about the intimacy that he’d gained with Jesus. Then the leading pastor said to him, ‘Well thank you, Wayne, for telling us about this. May we pray for you?’
He said, ‘I’d be glad for you to pray for me.’
They prayed for him and down he went and he rolled on the floor for the next two hours and no-one took any notice. He just continued to commune with his God.
I saw another young pastor who talked at the pastors’ seminar that I went to. He was a very all-together young man – quite serious minded and godly and thrilled with everything but very much in control and very anxious when he came and not at all sure of what he’d come to.
For a day or two he just watched and he just basked in the presence of the Lord. After a day or two he started to twitch and he was a little embarrassed. Then he started to shake and he was very embarrassed. Then after a while of shaking and laughing in the presence of the Lord he decided, ‘Who gives a rip? Who cares what people say?’
A verse in Psalms says, ‘gladness and joy shall overtake me.’ This young man had been overtaken by the gladness of the Lord. But he had a sense of responsibility and felt, ‘I’ve got to keep my church on the road.’
So he decided that the obvious thing to do was to go into the office and to type out the church bulletin, the news sheet.
‘Someone’s got to keep a grip round here,’ he said to himself.
So he went to type out the bulletin and as he got to announcing the seminar. The title of it was ‘Come Holy Spirit’.
He typed, ‘Come Holy Spirit’ and fell under the power of God.
There was another young man who was a youth worker who arrived and he was worn down with ministry. His wife had said to him, ‘Why don’t you go to Toronto?’ She thought he was getting far too straight and serious.
So he came to Toronto and arrived the night that I did. That night he fell on the ground and he laughed and laughed. I thought he would have died. The next day he spoke about what God had done for him and the refreshment that had come to his soul. Then they said to him, ‘Would you like us to pray for you again?’
He said, ‘I think so.’
So we prayed and down he went and just laughed his way through hour after hour of the pastors’ seminar.
And you think to yourself, ‘What is this?’
But this is just the refreshing of the Spirit of God. It talks in the book of Acts about times of refreshing from the Spirit of the Lord, and that’s what God is doing.
He’s pouring his Spirit out upon us. He’s sending his joy and he’s refreshing our spirits just because he loves us.
I’m not even sure that he’s equipping us. I’m not even sure it’s all about being better this, better that, better ministers. It think it’s just his love for us. It’s about his nearness to me and my dearness to him.
Joy and refreshing
I could tell you heaps of stories. There are stories about people who are ringing one another up and getting led to Christ over the phone.
There was a story about a young woman who’d lain on the floor and laughed for two hours. Then she got up and decided she was peckish and went off to a little fast food restaurant. She sat down. Opposite, she saw a whole family sitting at a table and, completely out of character, she went to them and said, ‘Would you like to be saved?’ And they all said yes! The whole family was led to Christ.
I went to the Dolphin school [a Christian school in Clapham] the other day and talked to them about what the Lord had been doing and I prayed for them. The Lord fell on those children aged five years old and they were laughing and weeping for the lost and crying out to the Lord. The teachers were affected and the parent were rolling around.
I thought, ‘God, this is a glorious thing you’re doing. This is fantastic.’
Jesus is breaking down the barriers of his church because he’s coming for a bride, and he wants his bride to be one.
We’ve been meeting with Baptist pastors this week. We’ve been meeting with New Frontiers pastors. We’ve been meeting with the Anglicans. And God is pouring his Spirit out on us all and it’s a glorious thing.
I was reminded of that verse in the Psalms (133:1,3), ‘How blessed it is when brothers dwell together in unity … for there the Lord commands the blessing.’
He doesn’t just invite it, or suggest it. He commands a blessing on us when we dwell together in unity – when we love one another and we love one another’s churches and we bless one another’s people.
So God is moving, not just on this funny little church at the end of the runway. He’s moving across the denominations. He’s moving across the land. He’s moving across London and England in a fantastic way. And he’s moving across the world.
Greater love for Jesus
What are the perceived results so far?
For myself, there is a greater love for Jesus than I’ve ever known, a grater excitement about the Kingdom than I ever thought possible, a greater sense that these are glorious, glorious days in which to be alive. I’m thrilled about the Scriptures and I’m going back to the Word and finding that it’s all been there from the very beginning.
I’m excited about church history. I have a heightened sense of what’s been going on up to this point.
I have an ever stronger sense of the whole church than ever before. The Lord said to them in Toronto right at the beginning, ‘This is not about the Vineyard; this is about the Kingdom.’ This is not about any one church. This is about the Kingdom, and about the Bride of Christ. Right across the church Jesus’ passion for his Bride is beginning to be understood.
I’ve also discovered that I’m desperate to give this away. I haven’t had this appetite for ministry for years. I mean, I’ve always been enthusiastic but I’ve not had this passion before. I’ve just found that there’s a greater recklessness in me than there’s ever been before because God is coming upon us, and the joy of the Lord is coming on the church and Jesus is restoring his joy. And his laughter is like medicine to the soul.
In our church the people are getting freed and the people are getting healed. We’ve got people who have gone down on the floor and got up healed. Nobody ever knew they were sick and they got better without us even naming the words.
The Lord is coming with mercy and kindness.
The prodigal son went to look for parties but he discovered that the best party was in his father’s house. Isn’t that the truth?
Pastor John Wimber, founding leader of the Vineyard Christian Fellowships, wrote this leadership letter in May 1994 about current moves of the Spirit of God in the Vineyard and in other churches around the world including Australia.
In recent months the Holy Spirit has been falling in meetings throughout the Vineyard. This season of visitation began about the same time in Toronto, Canada at the Airport Vineyard and in Anaheim, California, then rippled out across America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and to other parts of the world by now.
As the leader of the Vineyard, I am often asked, ‘What is this?’ and ‘Is this revival?’
My answer is, in my opinion, not yet. But it is the only thing that becomes revival. We’re seeing the early stages of an outpouring of the Spirit of God. Some have estimated that as many as 80,000 individuals have been significantly touched and revived to date [200,000 by February 1995]. It has not yet evolved into what most church historians define as revival: an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the church and then in the aftermath, through the church into the community resulting in the conversion of thousands.
What is revival? I like John White’s definition: ‘an action of God whereby he pours out his Holy Spirit, initially upon the church, and it comes as an alternative to his judgment which is about to fall on the church and on the secular world’ (John White, ‘Prayer and Renewal’ course, Canadian Theological Seminary, 1 July 1991).
True revival is marked by widespread repentance both within the church, and among unbelievers. Although as many as four thousand have been converted to date (in various Vineyard churches by May 1994) we’ve not yet seen the dynamic of thousands and thousands of people coming to Christ rapidly. Of course, that is our prayer and I thought that it would be helpful to review some basic things concerning revival to get us focused.
During the last approximately 17 years God has poured out his Spirit, beginning in what is now called the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim and extending through us to churches all over the United States, Canada and Europe, as well as to other places in the world.
Beginning some time in September of ’76, Bob Fulton, Carol Wimber, Carl Tuttle, along with others, began assembling at the home of Carl Tuttle’s sister. The agenda was simple: praying, worshipping and seeking the Lord. By the time I came several months later, the Spirit of God was already moving powerfully. There was a great brokenness and responsiveness in the hearts of many. This evolved into what became our church on Mother’s Day in 1977.
Soon God began dealing with me about the work of the Spirit related to healing. I began teaching in this area. Over the next year and a half, God began visiting in various and sundry ways. There were words of knowledge, healing, casting out of demons, and conversions.
Later we saw an intensification of this when Lonnie Frisbee came and ministered. Lonnie had been a Calvary Chapel pastor and evangelist, being used mightily in the Jesus People Movement. After our Sunday morning service on Mother’s Day 1979, I was walking out the door behind Lonnie, and the Lord told me, ‘Ask that young man to give his testimony tonight.’ I hadn’t even met him, though I knew who he was and how the Lord had used him in the past. That night, after he gave his testimony, Lonnie asked the Holy Spirit to come and the repercussions were incredible. The Spirit of God literally knocked people to the floor and shook them silly. Many people spoke in tongues, prophesied or had visions.
Then over the next few months, hundreds and hundreds of people came to Christ as the result of the witness of the individuals who were touched that night, and in the aftermath. The church saw approximately 1,700 converted to Christ in a period of about three months.
This evolved into a series of opportunities, beginning in 1980, to minister around the world. Thus the Vineyard renewal ministry and the Vineyard movement were birthed.
Ebbs and flows
By July of 1993, VCF (Vineyard Christian Fellowship) Anaheim had an ongoing interaction with the Holy Spirit in which we’d had ebbs and flows. There were times when we had a great sense of nearness and times in which there seemed to be a withdrawal to some degree. But there was never a time in which God was not willing to bless, heal, deliver and touch people. It just wasn’t with the same intensity that we’d had early on. Sometimes your family may have fillet mignon for dinner, and sometimes you have leftovers. But you still eat, and you’re thankful for whatever it is you have to eat.
Most of you know about the discovery of my cancer in April of 1993 and the ensuing treatment. In July of 1993, right before the International Vineyard Pastor’s Conference began, the Holy Spirit spoke to Carol, my wife. He told her I was to go to the nations. We understood then it meant going to the church in the nations, as over against going to evangelise the lost of the world. This in my mind meant a ministry of renewal and revival.
Carol responded, ‘Lord, my husband is sleeping 20-22 hours a day. He has no voice. Tomorrow pastors from all over the world are going to be here and he won’t even be able to participate. If this is indeed your will, touch him tonight. Please give him his voice back so that he may minister.’
That’s exactly what he did the next morning. I woke up able to speak and with just barely enough energy to go and participate in the conference. It was a very blessed event for me as well as for those that love me in the Vineyard.
By October of 1993 God had spoken 27 times confirming that I should go to the nations. Seventeen times he spoke in the same context and said that this would be a ‘season of new beginnings’. The Lord was saying, ‘I’m going to start it all over again. I’m going to pour out my Spirit in your midst like I did in the beginning…
I felt like Abraham might have felt when he was waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises. The New Testament credits Abraham with not wavering in his faith. He had faith that God was going to do it, but I’m sure Abraham and Sarah had a few moments when they wondered how it was going to come together. (That’s how Ishmael came about.) Anyway, I was looking at my age – 59, going on 90. I was coming through an incredibly tough year with the cancer. The church had endured the season of adversity coming through it with a new sturdiness and strength. I saw a new strength in our movement. I knew God was moving.
But I looked at myself, and thought, I’m out of energy. In my spirit I was just murmuring, ‘Oh God, oh God’. And at that point (mid January) the Lord gave me a word. I heard myself say: Shall I have this pleasure in my old age? The very words that Sarah laughingly said to herself when she overheard the Lord say she was going to have a son from her 90-year-old womb by her 100-year-old husband (Gen. 18:10). This was a word of life from the Lord, and it touched me deeply.
I had brought this message of new beginnings to our AVC (Association of Vineyard Churches) National Board and Council meeting in November of 1993 at Palm Springs. Then the Lord confirmed this word in the hearts and minds of our national leadership. They laid hands on Bob Fulton and me and they blessed us to go, and stir up the church.
At the same meeting John Arnott (from Ontario, Canada) learned how the Holy Spirit had recently powerfully renewed and refreshed Randy Clark (VCF St. Louis) in a meeting conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne in Tulsa, Oklahoma. How the Lord got Randy to Tulsa for a meeting conducted by a South African Pentecostal is a story in itself. Nevertheless, Randy began seeing similar outpourings of the Spirit in his home church and elsewhere as he had occasion to minister. It was as if the ‘times of refreshing’ had begun.
So John Arnott, knowing that a season of new beginnings in the Vineyard was near at hand, and hearing about Randy Clark’s transformed ministry, invited Randy to come to Toronto to minister in his church, as well as to those folks from the surrounding area that would like to attend.
This occurred on 20 January, 1994. Four days of meetings turned into five months [now over a year] of almost nightly meetings in numerous locations in Ontario. It has since poured out through those who have visited there into similar renewal meetings all over the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and even Europe.
Meanwhile at the Anaheim Vineyard beginning on Sunday, 5 December, 1993, the Holy Spirit told me to stir up the gifts of the Spirit that our people may have a greater hunger for the Giver, Jesus. Throughout the month of December and early January, we set aside nights for that with an ever increasing sense of the Lord’s presence and willingness to bless.
On the afternoon of Sunday, 16 January, 1994, the Holy Spirit gave me the word ‘Pentecost’. I spent the rest of the afternoon asking the Lord what he meant by it. No answer. At that evening’s church service, the Lord gave me a vision of young people in a certain set and order. During the ministry time, from the pulpit I asked the young people to come forward. They did and the Lord came, consuming them in a beautiful and powerful way. It began a significant increase of the outflowing of power at Anaheim that has continued until this writing.
In interaction with leaders and workers across both the United States and Canada, I have encouraged the Arnotts, as well as Randy Clark and others that have been touched by the Spirit and are being used to share with others, to refer to this present visitation of the Spirit in our churches as a ‘refreshing’ or ‘renewal’ rather than a revival. I have no problem with the notion that people are being revived. I just have a problem with our using a term that most evangelicals at least reserve for that phase of revival that is an outpouring, not only on the church but through the church and into the community. The result is the salvation of thousands.
What about the phenomena?
Nearly everything we’ve seen (falling, weeping, laughing, shaking) has been seen before, not only in our own memory, but in revivals all over the world. One of my colleagues on the AVC staff, Steve Holt, has compiled an extremely helpful summary of Jonathan Edwards’ thoughts on the place of physical manifestations and phenomena in the midst of revival.
During the first Great Awakening in America, Edwards was right in the middle of it all. Not only was he a thoughtful participant, and observer, but he applied his keen theological mind to the ‘problem’ of religious enthusiasms, which were the object of much scorn and criticism among the religious establishment. Edwards’ perspective on revival can be very helpful to us as we evaluate some of the manifestations of the Spirit that we see in our meetings. Edwards saw them too, and he developed a very wise counsel regarding it.
Edwards attempted to answer the question, ‘How do we judge whether these phenomena are from God or the Devil? Edwards’ logic is lucid and spiritual, but after 250 years, some of his language is a challenge. The following are his main points in outline from. For further details on the writings of Jonathan Edwards, I refer you to his Complete Works.
1. We do not judge by a part: the way it began, the instruments emphasised, the means used, the methods that have been taken. We judge by the effects upon the people (Isa. 40:13, 14; Jn. 3:8; Isa. 2:17). Edwards reminds us that God often uses the most foolish things to confound the wise.
2. We should judge by the whole of Scripture, not our own personal rules and measures, nor some portion of Scripture. Furthermore, Edwards enjoins us not to judge phenomena negatively just because we have not personally had such an experience.
3. We should distinguish the good from the bad, and not judge the whole by the parts. Summation: We can become so paranoid of extremism that we actually sin by grieving the Holy Spirit and stopping his work. To accomplish his work, God seems more willing at times to tolerate extreme behaviour (that is not clearly sinful) than we are.
4. We should judge by the fruit of the work in general. Edwards could justify in his own mind the extravagance of some in the revival because of the revival’s impact in New England. The Bible was more greatly esteemed; multitudes had been brought to conviction of truth and certainty of the gospel; and the Indians were more open to the gospel than ever before.
5. We should judge by the fruit of the work in particular instances. Edwards wrote of many examples of people who had been transported into the glories of the heavenlies for hours at a time. Great rejoicing, transports (visions and dreams), and trembling have produced an increase in humility, holiness, and purity. Answered prayers became the norm.
6. We should judge by the glory of the work. Edwards passionately called for the church to be seized by the rapture, glory, and enthusiasm of God. In his view, the Great Awakening (with all its various manifestations) was exceedingly glorious in the extraordinary degrees of light, love, and spiritual joy that God had bestowed on great multitudes.
Restoration and Revival
There’s a time of restoration coming. There’s a time of revival coming. There’s an outpouring of the Spirit that’s preparing the hearts and lives of men and women across our country, and around the world. We saw it recently in New Zealand, and in Australia. The Lord poured out his Spirit mightily. We’ve seen it in the Anaheim Vineyard. We’ve seen it across the country. It’s happening wherever there’s receptivity.
Remember, as long as people keep hearing about this, and as long as people keep coming, the Spirit will be poured out. The laughter will bubble forth. So don’t be afraid of it. It indicates the ongoing truth of God’s word. It’s another verification that God is among us. It’s another standard if you will, being lifted up and exalted unto the Lord. It’s his work. It’s not craziness. It’s not people acting weird (Not that they don’t look crazy and seem strange). But it’s appropriate. The Lord is being exalted by his own means. Remember, the Lord says, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ (Isa. 55:8). And God just goes about doing things differently than you or I would.
What do the phenomena mean?
Our theology and experience of revival must be tempered by our understanding of sanctification. Sanctification is the necessary counterpart to justification, or the forgiveness of sins.
I view sanctification as that work of the Holy Spirit that takes place both as ‘a one-time act, valid for all time, imputing and imparting holiness, and as an ongoing, progressive work’ (New Dictionary of Theology, p. 615). In the sense that it’s ongoing, we co-operate with the Holy Spirit.
All Christians need to be cleansed, and dedicated to the service of God (Rom. 12:1-2) and thereby make practical our prayer, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth (and in my life) as it is in heaven.’
Let us not allow ourselves to equate the experience of various manifestations of the Spirit with sanctification. Such experiences may accompany, accent, or provide a milestone on the journey of sanctification, but they are not necessarily the agents of sanctification.
In summary, I believe that this could readily become the revival we’ve all longed for and prayed for. I do not believe that it has reached its full stature yet, but I believe it may be around the corner. People have asked me what I think the next step may be. I’ve said that I know that at some point in time we must give a call to full-scale repentance undergirded by deep and heartfelt contrition. Changed lives and the fruit of true repentance will result.
I will never forget January 1975. I was in Melbourne as the representative of a youth prayer group to attend a national conference on charismatic renewal. It was a time when the charismatic renewal was riding on the crest of a wave. Thousands of people had gathered from across the country as well as overseas to hear a line up of exciting speakers. They represented many denominations and the gatherings were marked by an incredible sense of joy and freedom.
During this conference, Fr Vince Hobbs, Brian Smith and John Carroll, three leaders from the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Brisbane, began to share a vision of developing covenant community. They also took the opportunity to speak with Ralph Martin, one of the conference speakers, who was also a leader of a charismatic covenant community in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
The Statement of Community Order Document (Section B.1.) explains that ‘A covenant community is a group of Christians who have been led by the Lord to express their love and commitment to him and to one another as part of a divine call or vocation. They do this through a public life-long commitment called a covenant.’
A time to begin
I still remember Brian Smith coming to me at the conference saying, ‘I really believe now is the time to build community.’
The idea of charismatic communities was not new. We had been in contact with them from as early as 1972 when Brian Smith first went to the United States. The hesitation about moving towards community was always a question of timing and maturity. Until now, no one was ready to step out and make that first move. That was about to change.
On their return to Brisbane, Brian Smith and John Carroll with their wives and families began to meet with two other couples to pursue this sense of call. In February of 1975 the four couples washed each others’ feet as a sign of their commitment and as an expression of their service to one another, not just in spiritual matters but in the whole of their life circumstances.
A new foundation was being laid which others would soon be invited to join. These couples shared their vision with the people of the prayer group at Bardon, which was the principal meeting place for Catholics involved in charismatic renewal with about 400-600 attending.
Responses varied. Some were excited at the new iniative because they had been looking for an opportunity to be more committed and for a way of including their children in this charismatic experience. Others were cautious and questioned this new direction.
After some weeks the community had its first intake. Thirteen families expressed a desire to be part of this new move of the Spirit. In the first year the community grew to nearly 200 members.
I observed the community from the beginning, preferring to remain part of the youth prayer group that had also begun to develop a strong sense of community. I had some suspicion about how this Brisbane Covenant Community (as it was then called) was going to develop. Would it begin well and simply become another prayer meeting or would it actually begin to achieve the goal of building a Christian way of life?
By the end of the first year it was obvious that the community was not only talking about a way of life, it was actually living it.
Early in 1976 our youth group of around 30 people decided that our call was to a community way of life and that it was better to join with the Brisbane Covenant Community than attempt to go in our own direction. After a few months formation our group made covenant, committing ourselves to follow the Lord in the context of this people called the Brisbane Covenant Community.
A time to build up
The first years of the community were life the beginning of a great adventure. It was the time of laying the foundationstones. The dynamism of the charismatic renewal had flowed into the community. Charismatic gifts played an important role in bringing depth and richness into our praiseand worship.
As well as gifts that we’d come to appreciate in prayer groups, we realised there were so many more gifts that we hadn’t thought about as charisms. As we shared life together as a community, other things became important.
Different ministries with children and young adults began to emerge as well as gifts of administration and various roles of service. Our horizons were broadening. We grew in our appreciation that charisms were given for the building up of the body.
We had a growing consciousness that this Christian community lifestyle was important both for the church and for the world. Cardinal Suenens had already begun to articulate the need for the church to offer pilot projects as a prefiguration of the kind of human community for which the world is searching so painfully… From a human point of view, it might seem paradoxical to make the future of the church dependent upon small Christian communities which, no matter how fervent, are but a drop in the ocean… But if we consider the spiritual energy released by every group which allows Christ to fill it with the life of the Holy Spirit, then the perspective changes, for we are putting ourselves in the strength and power of God (A New Pentecost, pp. 151-153).
If the Church is to fulfil its mission, communities which demonstrate this Christian way of life are an integral part of that mission.
A study conducted by Fusion, a Christian organisation committed to evangelisation in the Australian context, spoke of Australians as ‘people who think in terms of the concrete rather than the abstract, and very often thought forms that are used to express the Christian message are alien to them… What Australians need is a model. Once it’s seen in action they are quite capable of recognising its meaning’ (Fusion 1986).
This challenge to be a Christian community for the church and for the world was somehow at the heart of our mission.
One of the other hopes which was born out of this community life was a longing for reconciliation between Christians. While the founding members were predominently Catholic, there were also two Anglicans among them. This experience of sharing life together, coupled with the general enthusiasm of the 70s with regard to ecumenism, caused the community to hope that through the charismatic experience and a committed way of life it might find a way through the problems and divisions of a separated Christianity.
In late 1976 the name of the community was changed to the Emmanuel Covenant Community and with the change of name was a growing confidence that God really was with us and leading us in building this way of life. From the point of view of structure, the community lifestyle encompassed four main expressions, as outlined in the Emmanuel Statement of Community Order Documents (Section B.5.):
1. The General Community Gathering which is a meeting of the whole community to worship, to receive teaching and to maintain a common vision and fellowship;
2. Small group meetings are opportunities for share the Christian journey and receive encouragement and support;
3. Formation teaching courses are conducted to provide teaching on the spiritual life and everyday living as well as giving a clear orientation on the life of the community.
4. Social life in the community plays an important role in developing a genuine and balanced Christian lifestyle.
While these basic structures were important, the community had to offer more if it was to be a model to the church and the world. One of the most important developments in this area was the forumation of clusters.
In 1978, members of the community began tomove geographically closer together so that the community dimension would take moreconcrete expression. Community had to be demonstrated in practice, not just in theory. As families and single people moved closertogether, more and more opportunities presented themselves for the building of authentic Christian community. These included travelling to work together, sharing mowers, syupporting people when they were sick, providing practical care for widows, and other expressions of support.
Localised community expressions also enabled Emmanuel to be more effective in its local outreach and to contribute something to the wider community. Taking initiative at the local level to hold football games, Australia Day celebrations, picnics in the park, and Christmas carols were but a few ways that we endeavoured to share our lifestyle and contribute to our local community.
These were bridges of friendship which were built in local neighbourhoods to let others know we were ordinary human beings and not aliens from another planet ready to capture them and take them with us (which was one rumour circulating about us). Time and good will helped to break down some of the initial fears that were encountered when devloping clusters.
A time to reach out
While the initial concentration of energy in Emmanuel was in trying to become that which we claimed to be – a Christian community – we didn’t cease to reach out to others in local parishes, at national conferences, and in assisting other groups in both Australia and New Zealand in their desire to develop community.
In February, 1980, when I was conducting one of those outreaches to northern Queensland, I received a phone call asking me to serve as an Elder of the community. ‘An Elder is a leader in the community who together with a body of Elders exercises a governing role in the community’ (Statement of Community Order Document, Section D.3.).
My first response was a sense of awe as I reflected on God’s call in my life. The second awareness that I had was the sense of responsibility in leading and caring for this people that God had called into being. The prophet Jeremiah came to mind and his exclamation to the Lord when he protested that he was too young. ‘Say not, “I am too young.” To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak’ (Jeremiah 1:7). I was 25 years old at the time, married for three years with one small daughter. In the days ahead, that scripture gave me a lot of strength.
In November of 1980 the Emmanuel Community began its most ambitious missionary outreach. Responding to requests for assistance, three teams of five people travelled to six south east Asian countries to conduct leadership and training programmes for the Catholic charismatic renewal. I led the team which went to West Malaysia and Indonesia.
For each one of us who participated in these outreaches our lives would never be the same. Asia and her people had taken deep root in our hearts and in the coming years God would give some of us many opportunities to return, to live amongst the people and assist them in the devlopment of their own covenant communities. Today there are at least six covenant communities in Malaysia with new groups forming year after year.
Our outreach to Asia was not just a matter of going to Asia and giving out. We received more than we could ever hope or imagine. This was true for Emmanuel as a whole, especially when Asian brothers and sisters would visit us. In sharing life together, we were changed by their humility, love and commitment to Christ. Through our contact with them we became aware of our own poverty.
This experience of our own poverty was to be relived over and over again as future teams would go to Papua New Guinea and Fiji sharing life with the people and growing in love and understanding of their culture and way oflife. For Emmanuel, the key to outreach is living the life.
The people who participated in these outreaches were not experts but ordinary people who gave up their own holidays and paid their own way. What they had to do share was not so much what they had read in books but what they had experienced in trying to live the Christian life day by day in the context of a community. These were things that people could relate to, whether they lived in the highlands of Papua New Guinea on in the coastal villages of Fiji. Through outreaches like these the community grew to realise the importance of being faithful to the challenge of living the Christian life day by day.
A time to die
The first ten years of the community, although facing many challenges, were rather like when the apostles walked with Jesus and never ceased to be amazed at what he could do. Then just as the apostles were called to a baptism of suffering, so were we although I don’t think we really anticipated what we were about to experience.
Our baptism into Christ emcompasses his life, death and resurrection. All of these elements are imporant. What is it like for a community to be baptised into the death of Christ?
For Emmanuel, there was no single event but rather a series of them which brought about a real sense of dying in the community. At a very human level, people were tired of living such a committed life year after year. It was demanding and the cost was high. People struggled with their commitment and asked the question, ‘Is it worth it?’
At around the same time ecumenical tensions arose as well. We found ourselves struggling with the same ecclesiological problems that the wider church was experiencing. Despite our early hopes and many years of hard work, we had to admit our own limitations and faced the fact that it was not possible to build the ecumenical community we had once dreamed about.
Added to this was the breakdown of international relationships amongst covenant communities resulting in divisiveness and resentments. The once young and healthy community was suffering through its own sin and human limitations.
Perhaps the greatest test of trust was to come on 1 February, 1988. We had just celebrated Eucharist at our community office when we received word of an urgent phone call for Brian Smith. No one could have anticipated his words as he emerged from his office: ‘My daughter Teresa has passed away.’ The next twenty-four hours would reveal the truth of Teresa’s brutal rape and murder.
The question on everyone’s lips was how could God allow this to happen. Like many other people in the community, I had known Teresa since she was a little girl. She was a real character, full of fun, life and faith. That evening as Brian and Lorraine Smith were interviewed on national television, they spoke of their forgiveness for Teresa’s murderer. As the Emmanuel community attempted to comfort Brian and Lorraine, so too did they comfort the community by continuing to speak of forgiveness and the need to surrender to God’s will.
While Teresa’s life had a wonderful impact on the lives of many, I would dare to say that her death had a greater impact. There is no doubt that she was a servant of God in both her life and in her death. As we trusted in God to raise Teresa, his servant, from death into fulness of life within him, it somehow gave us all a little more courage to believe that God would raise Emmanuel from its despair and bring it to new life.
A time for healing
The resurrection for which we hoped was not immediate but it did happen. It did not come as a result of good planning or skilled leadership but purely through the action of the Holy Spirit. Members of the community were renewed in their commitment. There was a new enthusiasm to move on. It was a different enthusiasm from that of the beginning. It was one marked by realism and a desire to give in to the will of God.
This was especially evident among the young people in the community. While the community is now clearly Catholic and not ecumenical in its entity, the heart to work towards Christian unity still remains an important charism.
A fruit of the difficulties experienced between communities internationally has been the development of two international associations for communities.
The first is the International Brotherhood of Communities (IBOC) which provides a meeting place for all the different expressions of covenant communities around the world. It is ecumenical in its expression and seeks to encourage leaders of communities as they respond to God’s call.
The second group is the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Communities and Felowships. Inaugurated in Rome in November 1990, the Catholic Fraternity had very humble beginnings. While fewer than 40 delegates from 13 communities gathered for the inaugural meeting, we experienced a conviction that God intended to do great things from this small beginning. More than 200 covenant communities from around the world have sought information on becoming part of the Fraternity. The Emmanuel Community in Brisbane was not only a founding member of the fraternity but did much of the preliminary work which culminated in a formal recognition by Pope John Paul II. This is the first time a cononical approval has been given by the Vatican to any charismatic group.
As I look back over my years of involvement in the Emmanuel Covenant Community, some things are clear to me. The contribution of covenant communities to the life of the church and the world must come out of brokenness and humility rather than pride or arrogance. The path to humility is the way of the cross and whether we like it or not, Jesus calls us to embrace it. ‘Whoever does not take up his cross and follow in my steps is not fit to be my disciple’ (Matthew 10:38).
We are not people who have it all together, but people who are on a journey, people who experience the same trails and temptations as anyone else. Unlike our early years when we thought we were going to save the whole world, we have come to find that our only boast is the cross of Christ. The cross is our redemption. As we surrender to the cross, so too do we dare to hope in the resurrection.
Fusion (1986) ‘Understanding and Reaching Australians’, a Position Paper.