“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20).
We know the Great Commission well. The closing verses of Matthew give Jesus’ commission to his followers during a resurrection appearance on a mountain in Galilee. Usually we hear it used, and have used it ourselves, as an evangelistic mission mandate. It is that, and much more.
The focus is not merely on the task, but on the reason for the task – the reason for the “therefore”. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me,” Jesus announced. “Go, therefore, and make disciples.” This commission concerning discipleship stems directly from who Jesus is as Lord of all. We are commanded to make people his disciples.
Not make converts – though conversion is integral to the task.
Not make decisions – though life-changing decisions are involved in the task.
Not make church members – though incorporation in the church is essential to the task.
But make disciples.
Jesus’ disciples are to make disciples from all people groups – taethna – from all the ethnic groups – from all the nations. They are his disciples, baptized into him, and obedient to him.
Jesus’ discipleship commission does not focus on information but on formation; not on teaching knowledge but on teaching obedience: “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Naturally that involves knowing what he taught them but the great commission, the final command, is to obey. That’s breathtaking!
What did he command them to do? Love God totally. Love others. Repent. Forgive. Serve. Pray. Believe. Heal the sick. Cast out demons. Proclaim the astounding good news of the kingdom of God. The reign of God has broken into this world, shaking everything, transforming everything.
The great commission is the strongest evidence against a cessationist theory – that what Jesus did and what his disciples did was only for the establishment of the church or only for the first century. Jesus’ final instruction to his disciples is that what he did and what they did must not cease, but must be passed on to all generations – to the end of the age.
Impossible? Certainly it is impossible through our own resources: “Without me you can do nothing.” Hence, the incredible final promise “I am with you always – to the end of the age.”
Disciples of Jesus
Discipleship, then, is the total process of making disciples of Jesus who are obedient to their living Lord.
That involves evangelism, mission, and equipping those new disciples for obedient mission. This issue of the Renewal Journal looks at a few of those tasks: evangelism, mission, making disciples of Jesus who make disciples of Jesus.
I reproduce reports on transformation in the South Pacific in the 21st century.
Brian Medway applies lessons learned from revival in Argentina to the Australian scene.
Rodney Howard-Browne talks about God doing what he said he would do. Lindell Cooley describes the impact of revival on his own discipleship and that of others.
Robert McQuillan surveys fresh moves of God’s Spirit across England.
Peter Earle examines mentoring as it relates to discipleship.
Charles Taylor reflects on the meaning of discipleship.
Paula Sandford reports on a gathering from among the nations – the ethnic groups – seeking to obey the Spirit in one body. Stephen Milstead provides an overview of John Dawson=s approach to discipling cities, an approach well illustrated in Argentina today as indicated in the first article in this issue.
Nothing is so radical as making disciples of Jesus. Jesus and his early disciples proclaimed and demonstrated the reign of God in all of life. The kingdom of God has broken into this fallen world through Jesus, God’s Son, the Anointed One. His life, death, and resurrection change everything. The first are last and the last are first. The least are the greatest and the greatest are the servants of all.
This issue of the Renewal Journal only begins to explore such radical changes. The great commission still confronts us all with the implications of Jesus’ authority in heaven and on earth – his total Lordship.
As you read, pray with us the prayer Jesus taught us, including, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
What can be more radical than that?
(c) 2011, 2n edition. Reproduction allowed with copyright included in text.
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Julia C. Loren, a psychotherapist and writer, interviewed Dr John White, psychiatrist and widely read evangelical author, about a theology of the supernatural.
Oh I’ve come home. This is what I want.
This is what I’ve been looking for all my life.
Q. How did you begin shifting towards a theology which included signs and wonders?
A. An obvious case of a shift in theology was when I met John Wimber. When I arrived at his course at Fuller Seminary (MC510: Signs and Wonders) I realized here was the Christ I was looking for all my life, the Christ who heals, the Christ who does this and it is all happening in front of my nose. The search had been going on for much longer and I’d been having visions for much longer without knowing that I was a charismatic. I suppose I was one then but I hadn’t entered into the fullness of being able to do these things.
Yet God had been preparing for that so‑called sudden shift for many years, both by my seeing the supernatural in operation among primitive tribal people and by my encounter with a Pentecostal guy while a medical student. And I thought there must be something in it. But I didn’t know what. I thought especially that I needed to be baptized by the Holy Ghost but the Holy Ghost wasn’t cooperating.
Q. Were you seeking such an experience?
A. I don’t think I was. Or it never occurred to me to seek it. I had read a writer’s work while in the New Tribes boot camp. He described the Holy Spirit’s activity in the 19th century. He talked about it, described his own experience and I thought, “Oh dear, I’d love that.” But it wasn’t clear enough to me to seek it actively.
Toward the end of my time pastoring the Winnipeg church, Ken Blue was at Fuller Seminary finishing his Ph.D., and he called me about this remarkable man John Wimber. I thought that was interesting and I’d like to sit in on his lectures. So Lorrie and I went down to Fuller. Fuller graciously gave us an apartment.
It was the sense of the presence of Jesus during John Wimber’s lectures; I thought, “Oh I’ve come home. This is what I want. This is what I’ve been looking for all my life.” And Lorrie was the same. The moment I got in I thought, “Christ is here.” It was remarkable. My hunger for Jesus has never stopped. And I felt that the anti‑Charismatics particularly also robbed me of Jesus.
Q. This is the first time you ever really encountered the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit?
A. Yes. What happened in the third lecture he gave ‑ he would have a lecture then a workshop ‑ he finished his lecture and asked people who had sicknesses of some kind to come forward. There were about ten of them. The first guy was a football player who was studying theology at Fuller. He came because his leg had, until that week, been in a cast and the cast had been removed after a month. It was his Achilles’ tendon that had been torn. So John propped him against the wall and asked him to demonstrate how much movement he had in both his feet. It was very limited in range as it would be after a tendon had been sown up.
Then John prayed for him and he started shaking. He finally went onto the floor. And I was worried because one leg was kicking wildly and I thought that was his injured leg. So I said to three guys, “Look stop him. Get hold of that leg and stop him from doing this.” When they got hold of the leg they were all shaking too. I was mad at them and said, “Stop it! Do what you’re supposed to do and hold that leg.” I was concerned about his leg but I was mistaken. It was the other leg that was injured and when he got up he had a full range of movement. I got used to seeing things like that.
I asked John, “How do we get into this stuff? Do we get zapped by the Holy Ghost or what?”
John’s reply was, “No, you just stick your neck out and start doing it.” He says in retrospect that he saw great faith in me. See a real Christian has the Holy Spirit and has potentially all the gifts of the Spirit. That was suddenly revealed to me. I thought, “Well, I don’t like his answer but I’ll start.” So we started praying for people’s headaches and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.
Q. Had it occurred to you to pray for people to be healed before?
Q. Despite Lorrie being healed just before you were married?
A. That’s right. And despite the fact that it was my prayers that apparently did it. I know that I was before long doing major stuff. I was so excited about it after completing MC510 I went around the world talking about this. I prayed for a little two year old girl in Malaysia. The parents brought her ‑ they were Haaka speaking Chinese. She had been running around the room. She had kept her parents awake for 36 hours and when they brought her to us, struggling, she was covered with her execma ‑ and as Lorrie and I prayed we saw the wet area shrinking. This was very exciting to watch the shrinking take place as we prayed. I thought, “Gosh what power I’ve got.” And then the suggestion came to me, “Oh but maybe it’s Lorrie’s prayers that are doing it.” And I was filled with wild jealousy. I suddenly saw how dangerous it is to have power. After that I was very careful. I saw that my own heart was corruptible.
Q. You were quick to see that and to write about it. You mention in The Pathway to Holiness the error of considering manifestations as evidence of superior spiritual power. Is that also a criticism of the Vineyard movement?
A. It is more a criticism of people who have been affected by miraculous power whether Pentecostal, or so‑called “Second Wave” or Vineyard. I think the Lord saw to it that I recognized it right away and I’ve seen it ever since. I’ve seen what it does to people to have that kind of power.
To me Christ is central to everything. Signs and wonders isn’t everything. They probably will be helpful because God loves people and loves to heal their diseases but its no credit to us that we can do it. We should all be able to do it.
Q. After reading about Jack Deere’s theological shift I have a sense that you’d agree with him that the evangelical, intellectual mindset fights against the spirit but that we need both word and spirit.
A. Yes it does. I feel that intellectuals among the evangelicals are not what the Puritans were. I make a distinction between J.I. Packer and many other Bible scholars and theologians. Packer was part of Lloyd‑Jones studying of the Puritan movement. Lloyd‑Jones had an experience of the Holy Spirit, an experience of being picked up in the arms of the Father so to speak. He studied the Puritans and the Puritans knew about the Holy Spirit. That is why John Owen, who was a puritan and I think the vice‑chancellor of Oxford University at one point, was able to write about the difference between those who have the Spirit and those who didn’t.
Q. You have emphasized the healing gifts of the Spirit in recent years. Do you believe that people can operate in the gifts of the Holy Spirit without having an experience such as a “Baptism in the Holy Spirit” in the Charismatic sense?
A. Yes. I think the focus on the baptism of the Holy Spirit came with the Pentecostal movement. It was the Holiness movement at that time. They decided to wait on God until they had something like that. I’m not even sure that the disciples needed it. When Jesus breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit”, at that point they received the Spirit of God. He was in them. But I supposed they needed something extraordinary to initiate the powerful testimony that came. That’s how it was in my own life anyway.
I don’t think there is any difference between Charismatics and non‑Charismatics. That is to say, I think those Christians who do have the Holy Spirit in them, many don’t, may never have repented and those are not true Christians. There are many who are powerfully anointed and that is why their speaking is so effective. They may not realize that they can heal the sick but that seems to come in waves anyway. It seems to build somehow.
Q. Your recent though unpublished book tentatively titled Control, reveals the way control and manipulation dominates individuals in evangelical and charismatic ministries. You cry out against this “witchcraft” or abuse of power and advocate a humility and dependency on God to further the work of His kingdom. You offer your subjective experience of being a “controller, con-artist, and manipulator” as the log you believes God revealed and removed from your eye so that he may remove the mote in the church’s eye. Your subjective experience of an encounter with God leads you to call this “witchcraft” in your lectures. Are you encouraging a more experiential interpretation of scripture?
A. I would say first of all, it enters the whole realm of the objective versus the subjective. That was what God said to me when my computer crashed one day. I was filled with fear for some reason when the computer crashed and I said, “Lord what have I been doing?” It was then that he said, “You have been practising witchcraft since you were three years old.” That was a subjective impression.
I deplore an increasing tendency in scholarship to overemphasize the letter of Scripture and minimize subjective experience of Scripture. The two ‑ objective and subjective ‑ are inseparable. It is only as the Holy Spirit illuminates our understanding of Scripture that we will truly understand it. Jack Deere has taught us that when we speak of our convictions we are often speaking of what we were taught in church or in seminary. Divided seminaries and divided churches are an evidence that we follow human opinions as frequently as we follow divine. Two and a half centuries ago, John Gifford taught John Bunyan this very lesson.
Q. How have you learned to hear the subjective voice of God?
A. That’s a tough one. You see, nobody explained to me as a child that such communications had ceased, so that from earliest childhood I did hear, or else I thought I did. I subjected my impressions to “scientific” checks. I am most certain of God’s voice now as I read Scripture. Even when I was a psychiatrist I would be listening to the Lord. I would pray with my patients whether they were Christian or not. And I would have hunches about them which really were prophetic.
He speaks to me on many channels now. He speaks to me in the night when I sleep and I remember it exactly when I wake up. This is something new for me. He also speaks in night visions which are not the same as dreams ‑ which may emerge out of dreams ‑ but suddenly you know that you’re in a different space. In a dream you don’t usually recognize you’re in a dream but there becomes something different about it and I can’t explain what it is.
Q. You went from hearing God’s voice to seeing visions?
A. Though I resisted it at the time, I was also having visions during my residency and I knew those weren’t hallucinatory experiences. There is something about a vision that you know that you know that you know. First of all in a vision I can understand everything. It’s immediately self‑apparent. I can’t explain this but it is. Even though the vision is symbolic I don’t need anyone to tell me what it’s about.
Q. In other words, you know what your vision means but with psychiatric patients suffering hallucinations and delusions, they don’t know?
A. They don’t know. Many of them have hallucinations that they are demonized. They hear demonic voices. I think psychosis reduces your ability to discern, to discern between the demonic and the differences between the two. Satan mimics God’s voice superbly. But God has taught me to distinguish by the darkness that comes on me. I can’t explain it.
Q. Do you have a sense that those who walk into a growing awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit also come into greater awareness of the demonic?
A. You can’t have with one without the other. The moment you are in touch with the Lord you are open to the whole bang shoot. It’s spiritual sensitivity. Sensitivity to spirit beings.
Q. In the wake of your theological shift towards signs and wonders, a fury of criticism followed. Many evangelical doors have slammed shut against your ministry while charismatic doors swung open. How do you view this shift?
A. I wish the two sides would get together. That’s the only thing that I regret. One door closes and another door opens wide. I long for the day when people realize that the “Charismatic curtain,” as I call it, is not necessary. Real Christians are real Christians.
Q. Where do you believe the church is going?
A. I’m concerned about apostasy and the parable of the wheat and the tares. All the reformers spoke of apostasy. Certainly Calvin did, Arminius did. Calvin said it was impossible for them to have seen the light but John Owen explains it the best of all.
The Seventh Volume of Owen’s works is a careful exposition of Hebrews 6, focusing particularly on versus 4 through 6. His attempt is to understand apostasy. Owen maintains that one may operate in all the power of the Holy Spirit, without any of the inward graces of God’s character, that is, without being “saved” at all. You do not have to be a Christian to display spiritual gifts. Non‑Christians can display them also, since the Spirit falls on whom He will.
What John Owen says is that you can have the Holy Spirit and still apostatize and you do that because you opt for power rather than for the brightness of the glory of Christ himself. In other words you are not pursuing Christ, you are pursuing power. So it means that on both sides of the Charismatic curtain, there are wheat and tares.
Q. Apostasy as you see it, is more than lapsing into chronic sin, renouncing Christ and abandoning the profession of faith. It is an abuse of power. Frightening thought.
A. It is a very frightening thought. When I first began to understand this I thought, well, what about me? My fear about this personally was countered when Jesus said to me, “He who comes to me I will never reject.” And that filled me with great relief.
Q. Throughout your ministry and particularly in The Pathway of Holiness, you mention a vision of darkness “that falls on men and women when they do not let God be God in their lives,” referencing Romans 1:21‑23. What do you foresee will happen if the darkness is not lifted off of the church?
A. The darkness will be lifted off of the church. There are some Christians who develop so far and then they lose their curiosity and become worshippers of mammon or whatever unwittingly. God doesn’t seem to go on doing things in them. See, in my life, God has been merciful and constantly dragging me into something new. Sometimes against my will.
The church free of darkness would look marvellous. The marvellous church cannot occur unless there is a split ‑ a split between those who have the Holy Spirit and those who haven’t ‑ the wheat and the tares. At what point that would occur I don’t know except that somehow it’s involved in world war and all that’s going to happen in the next little while. Individuals will have to give God control and they will find one another.
We live in a day of God’s visitation. It has become a worldwide awakening. Amid much persecution and difficulty, the church grows in astounding ways especially in China, Korea, Africa, Latin America and North India. Now western countries report renewal and revival in many places.
Jesus wept because so many in his time missed the day of their visitation (Luke 19:41-44). May we not miss our day of visitation. As with all previous awakenings (including the early church and major revivals) it is disturbing, controversial and unpredictable.
This issue of the Renewal Journal touches on a few issues and examples of the current awakening. David Yonggi Cho of Korea tells about moving in spiritual authority by speaking the word God gives. Peter Wagner describes powerful spiritual weapons now being used by the church, especially in corporate repentance. Richard Riss provides a comprehensive survey of the present awakening in its varied expressions. Brian Medway of Canberra discusses the “no-name” revival now spreading through the earth, which also fits the Australian zeal for equality.
Outpouring of God’s glory
The outpourings of God’s Spirit continue, not only with increasing and astounding signs and wonders in the >third world= but increasingly in the West. Even the news media have taken notice. Unprecedented unity among leaders in renewal and revival has emerged in many places, including Australia. Ministers pray together. Prayer groups seeking revival multiply. Churches co-operate to win, nurture and equip people. Repentance, humility and forgiveness increase. Renewal and refreshing seem to be spilling over into touches of revival.
“Renewal has changed us forever,” notes Philip Le Dune, associate pastor of Sunderland Christian Centre in the north east of England. “When God pinned a local gangster to the floor of the church one evening, only God knew that he and his wife were soon to be employed by the church as youth workers. Jim & Marie now hold daily meetings with the people from the local community who are increasingly coming to see SCC as “theirs” (SCC Email Bulletin, 20 August 1996).
All the centres of renewal heading into revival include persistent and widespread prayer, co-operation between churches, humility, repentance, and the overwhelming impact of the Spirit of God including controversial signs and wonders. Mixed in with it all is human frailty and strong opposition, as in the early church.
Toronto in Canada, Melbourne in Florida, Pasadena in California, Holy Trinity Brompton in London, Sunderland in north-east England, and now Pensacola in Florida became household names in renewal and revival.
26,000 conversions in the first year
Reports of revival at Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, north-west Florida, drew increasing crowds from around the world. They recorded 26,000 conversions in its first year. Many people are ignited there and take fires of revival home. So revival spreads.
Some of the leaders at Pensacola, including Lindel Cooley the worship leader, had received a deep impact of the Spirit in their lives. Before the current outpouring of God=s Spirit burst on them, the church had been continually praying for revival, and their worship services had extended in depth and length.
“When church would be over,” reported Cathy Wood, “you know how they play music as you exit – well that didn’t work now… We would try to walk out but we’d get a few pews away and stop again. The worship wouldn’t stop so we could go home. Many times Lindel would have to wave his hands at us and say go home! It would be 10:00 or 11:00 and church started at 6:OO. Wow … I love remembering! Then on Father’s Day [18 June 1995], Steve Hill a missionary to Argentina with the Assemblies of God came to give testimony of how God refreshed his life in London at a meeting and after that service … all heaven came down and has remained…. As thousands continue to come we know the Lord is not finished…. Over 1/2 million in combined attendance. Wherever the Lord is, we know the devil is looking in, so we pray for discernment whenever the flesh arrives; but at the same time … many of the things we have done in the Spirit now such as shaking, falling, jerking, were things we didn’t really believe in either. Now that God has touched us … we don’t know what’s next and we don’t want to be God police and stop someone who is manifesting a true touch of God. … Many thousands have been saved – over 30 thousand counting the backsliders” (Email from Cathy Wood, 31 July 1996).
2 Chronicles 7:14 still applies! We can humble ourselves and pray and seek God’s face and repent. God promises to hear, forgive, and heal the land.
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?
Many books help us understand the current blessing. They include these.
Signs of Revival by Patrick Dixon (Kingsway, 1994),
Prepare for Revival by Rob Warner (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995),
Catch the Fire and Pray with Fire by Guy Chevreau (Marshall Pickering 1994, 1995)
place the current blessing in the context of revival phenomena especially in the last 300 years.
A Breath of Fresh Air by Mike Fearon (Eagle 1994),
The Toronto Blessing by Dave Roberts (Kingsway, 1994),
The Impact of Toronto edited by Wallace Boulton (Monarch, 1995), and
Keep the Fire by John Arnott (Harper/Collins, 1995)
all describe the Toronto version of this blessing in detail and discuss its impact and significance.
Something Extraordinary is Happening by Andy and Jane FitzGibbon (Monarch, 1995) and
The Sunderland Refreshing by Ken and Lois Gott (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995)
both detail the impact of this blessing in Sunderland in the north of England.
Rumours of Revival is probably the best video around describing ‘The Toronto Blessing’. Leaders in England and America comment from various perpectives, including some negative ones. However the overall concensus is that God is moving in powerful ways in the earth through this blessing.
Let the Fire Burn offers an Australian pentecostal perspective by Jeff Beecham (AOG) with testimony and description of the impact of this blessing in churches today.
It is almost impossible to record faithfully the details of a true work of God. This is because the people involved in the work itself are so taken up with the move that they have neither the time nor the inclination to consider recording the events. Those outside the move are often antagonistic and have no desire to probe further into the matter. Or they may just be biased and will tend to distort what they see. In all this there is also a great deal of human fear.
Looking for Lasting Results
Because of these things, the best source of truth is almost certainly the word of someone who was at the centre of the movement, recalling it sometime after it began. For example, we can generally rely on the report by Jonathan Edwards of the revival that took place in his church and the surrounding areas in the 18th century as recorded by him about six years later, when, as it were, the dust had settled and the lasting results could be seen.
I was privileged to receive a blessing through the work of God in the East African revival, which began in 1936. I didn’t arrive until 1952, but by that time the results were obvious. When my family and I arrived, people, including missionaries, were still divided. There were those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside.’ We felt happy to be on the inside, and were remarkably blessed. I lost the fear of man, which had been a problem for me up to then.
The East African revival was not Pentecostal or charismatic, but it was what one might term a revival of repentance among Christians and also towards unsaved people they had wronged. There was a clear cut difference between ‘revived’ and other Christians. Worldly business people would employ ‘saved’ East Africans in their homes and businesses, because they could completely trust them and rely on them to work hard.
The best test of a movement of this kind is the same sort of test the Bible gives us for the genuineness of a prophet’s word. Does the fruit correspond with the promise? In Jonathan Edwards’ case he stated that changed lives were the best confirmation that it had been a work of God, plus the fact that the work was continuing. In East Africa the work was still ongoing twenty and more years later.
Blessings are for God’s Glory
I would like to evaluate some of what has been happening in the light of Scripture, bearing in mind also what God has done in past revivals, particularly drawing on the reports of Jonathan Edwards who, as an intellectual, could hardly be biased towards the emotional events he witnessed in New England!
The word ‘blessing’ is currently being used extensively, especially in connection with the move in Toronto. I was struck by the fact that the first reference in Scripture of this word is to God’s assurance to Abram that he will be a blessing to others. This reminded me that blessings are not to be sought for their own sake, or for our own satisfaction, but really for the glory of God.
The word ‘bless’ itself comes earlier, in Genesis 1, where it shows God’s attitude to his newly created humans and animals (v 22,28). He provided them with all necessary and pleasant objects and made life attractive for them. Blessings are not just scattered around in an indiscriminate way. In most cases they are conditional on obedience. John 7:37-39 is regularly quoted these days and clearly says that in order to receive Holy Spirit blessings of rivers of living water, we have to come to Jesus.
I’m not sure who it was that first gave this revival the label ‘laughing revival’, but I see it as unfortunate in that it stresses what is really a side-issue. Perhaps it was the media, in which case it means that those who were blessed didn’t see the laughter as of great significance in itself.
The Bible contains only 40 references to laughing and laughter, whereas there are 169 references to weeping. The most positive reference I could find concerning laughter was in Psalm 126:2, where it is the accompaniment to release from captivity. The kind of laughter I have witnessed in connection with the present move has been a sort of ‘laughing with glee,’ undoubtedly triggering some kind of release.
In our local churches most leaders are wisely saying that the important thing is the inner spiritual blessing, so that’s a healthy sign.
Distinguishing Marks of Revivals
As we look at the history of revivals we find that in most of them there have been strange phenomena, just as the first Pentecost was accompanied by great joy and by tongue-speaking, then a quite unfamiliar phenomenon for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The moves in England and America in the 1730s both involved occasional outbursts of laughter, as recorded in Wesley’s Journal and in Edward’s accounts. Both leaders allowed it but tried to keep it under control.
Because Jonathan Edwards went to some trouble to evaluate the New England part of the revival, it is helpful to note some of his considered remarks about revivals. What follows is a summary of Edwards’ The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Holy Spirit of God. Firstly, nine aspects he said we should not be disturbed about.
* Unusual events
* Physical phenomena
* An increase in speaking of God.
* An increase in ‘ecstasy and imagination.’
* The fact that some just imitate others.
* The fact that some are unwise and ‘unorthodox.’
* Some interference by Satan.
* Some small amount of bad doctrine and practice.
* A trembling fear of hell.
Some of these objections were made by unbelievers. And here is a summary of what he regarded as positive signs:
* The Lord Jesus is magnified.
* There is strong conviction of sin.
* An increase in regard for Scripture
* An increase in truth and honesty.
* Love, unselfishness and humility increase.
Finally, the marks of the 1735 revival itself were:
* It was widespread.
* All ages and types were affected.
* People were convicted of the reality of the truth of God.
* People’s behaviour changed completely.
* People subject to phenomena were sincere and did not lose their reason.
* There was an increase in desire for others’ salvation.
It was also recorded that the phenomena decreased as people became more established in the faith.
The Present Move
Can we apply any of this to the present move? First, we should not be unduly disturbed by phenomena, imitations and irregularities. We should look for the positive signs. As regards comparisons with 1735, and also with the East African revival, one thing that always seems to me to be a mark of God’s activity is that when a move comes, it is found to have started independently in places far removed from each other. In older times, communication was not so good as now, so nowadays this criterion is harder to apply.
In at least two local churches to the north of Sydney, many children in their attached Christian schools were affected independently of the events in the churches. It’s too early to look at behaviour changes or a renewed evangelistic thrust. However, in at least one case I know of, the laughter has accompanied a real character change for the better.
Should we then accept everything that comes? I suggest we follow the biblical advice: ‘Test all things; hold fast what is good.’ (1 Thess. 5:21 NKJV).
* Let us ensure that appeals to the Holy Spirit do not eclipse the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit typically prefers to stay in the background.
* Let’s not confuse feelings with the genuine touch of the Spirit. Should the mind be switched off?
* Experiences can even be consciously ‘faked’. It may happen now, and such things, if perceived, should be dealt with.
* Should we promote the term ‘drunkenness?’ The world may use it, but remember, a drunk is out of control. Peter denied the allegation!
I note with pleasure that lack of balance is being adjusted by wise leadership. Two generations ago Christians were over-intellectual and needed emotional outlets. Today, both in churches and in the world, cold rationalism is unpopular. Our present danger is to look to experience alone to solve problems. We still need a renewal of the mind (Rom. 12:2).
May the Lord be allowed to exercise his control over his people!
Right across our nation, many of our churches are enjoying a fresh touch which is renewing their love for Jesus and his Word and inspiring the congregation to glorify and magnify him and reach out to others. This is a sign that what is happening is a move of God.
The New Wave
Over the last 12 months or so, thousands of churches have reported a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit which is transforming the lives of their people and churches. This, in particular, seems to be occurring in England where, we are told, there are around 5,000 churches of all Protestant denominations being mightily touched.
What has marked this new wave has been the unusual manifestations, such as falling, shaking, ‘drunkenness’ in the Spirit, weeping and laughter. Perhaps the latter has caused the most concern among traditional Pentecostals.
Many are saying, and rightly so, ‘Are these manifestations biblical?’ Without presenting an exhaustive study, I suggest the following Scriptures for you to meditate on.
* Saul fell when meeting the risen Christ (Acts 9:4).
* John fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17). Ezekiel had a similar experience (Ezekiel 1:28), and so did Daniel (Daniel 8:17-18, 10:9).
* A whole company were once overcome by Jesus and fell back (John 18:6).
* The disciples evidently needed Jesus to ‘touch them’ after they fell down on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:6-7).
Shaking and ‘Drunkenness’
* When the Holy Spirit came on a praying company, the whole building began to move (Acts 4:31 cf 2:2; 16:26).
* The Old Testament speaks of trembling in God’s presence (Dan. 10:7; Ps. 99;1 Jer. 5:22).
* The prophets experienced such shaking (Hab. 3:16; Jer 23:9).
* Jeremiah, in the presence of the Lord and overwhelmed by his holy words, expresses that he is like a drunken man, overcome by wine (Jer. 23:9).
* Paul exhorts ex-drunkards to drink instead of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
* When the Holy Spirit fell in an incredible way on the Day of Pentecost, observers initially thought 120 disciples were drunk. Peter pointed out that it was a work of the Spirit and the church was born with 3,000 souls saved (Acts 2:13-18, 40-41).
* In the Old Testament, the people wept at God’s Word (Neh. 8:9)
* In the New Testament, listeners to Peter at Pentecost were ‘cut to the heart’ (Acts 2:37) – an emotional response.
* Weeping is a needful, natural and a normal response to the movement of the Spirit.
* In the Old Testament, the freed captives’ mouths were filled with laughter (Ps.1 26:1, see also Ecc. 3:4).
* Jesus promised the disciples he would make their joy full (Jn. 17:13).
* The word ‘rejoice’ used by Jesus in Luke 10:20-21 of both the disciples and himself literally means ‘to leap for joy’. You can’t do that soberly!
As you read the history of revival, you will discover that all of the above manifestations have occurred in the past. I would like to highlight a few excerpts from a revival in Tennessee in 1886 where God moved mightily and the record of that revival was placed in the archives in Washington by an act of Congress:
‘The laughing exercise was frequent, confined solely to the religious. It was a loud hearty laughter, but it excited solemnity in saints and sinners.’
Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, a famous British preacher, in his book on revival, confirmed from his study of revival movements that this kind of manifestation occurred, although he himself would take a rather conservative view in his approach to the moving of the Holy Spirit:
‘…always in a revival, there is what somebody once called a divine disorder. Some are groaning and agonising under conviction, others praising God for the great salvation. And all this leads to crowded and prolonged meetings. Time seems to be forgotten. People seem to have entered into eternity. A meeting may start at 6.30 in the evening, and it may not end until daybreak the next morning with nobody aware of the passing of the hours.’
One of the prominent personalities in this revival move is the 33 year old South African, Rodney Howard-Browne. There has been much misinformation circularised about this young man, so I submit the following from my own research, having talked to Assemblies of God leaders in the United States, including AOG pastors on his Advisory Board and other prominent charismatic and Pentecostal leaders.
Rodney Howard-Browne was brought up in a traditional Pentecostal home. He was saved at the age of five and baptised in the Holy Spirit at the age of eight. His uncle was for some years the moderator of a movement in South Africa which originated from the ministry of John G. Lake and was an offshoot from the Apostolic Faith Mission, the largest Pentecostal movement in that country, with 600,000 members and adherents.
At the age of 18, at a non-Pentecostal camp, he cried out to God in desperation that he would use him. He had an unusual visitation where he felt the power of God and, for the next four days, was immersed in that fire, alternatively crying and laughing as he enjoyed a touch from God.
He then began ministry as both an evangelist and a pioneer pastor, in South Africa, but never saw any particularly powerful results, but laboured faithfully to follow through the call that Christ had placed on his life.
For two years, he was associated with Ray McCauley in his great church of 15,000 in Johannesburg. Part of Rodney’s role was to teach in the Bible school.
In 1987, he felt a call to the United States and was sponsored, through immigration, to that country by an AOG pastor in Florida, called Bob Rogers. I spoke to Bob regarding Rodney and he told me of his early endeavours in USA as an evangelist.
For a couple of years, there was not a great deal of fruit for his labour, but approximately five years ago, while holding a crusade in a church of 200, he experienced an unusual move of the Spirit where people fell off their seats, some began crying and others were laughing. He was rather taken aback by this, but felt that it was of the Holy Spirit, and thus allowed it to continue.
The fruit of that move was that the church grew, lives were changed and people experienced a fresh touch which gave them a new love for the Lord Jesus. From that time on, his meetings have grown and his name has become known around the world as being synonymous with this new wave and, perhaps , reached its peak when he ministered in an AOG church, pastored by Karl Strader, where last year he held a nine week revival resulting in 6,000 people being baptised in water.
On another occasion, he ministered to 4,000 students in the Oral Roberts University, where the majority of them were slain in the Spirit. Many went outside and then, after prayer, literally hundreds were laying on the grass prostrate under the power of God.
I felt led to invite Rodney to Adelaide, after a great deal of prayer and research into his ministry, and we had a very successful crusade with him. Over 8,500 people, many from interstate, attended the meetings. We were forced to move out of our church and into the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
There were over 500 decisions and reconsecration. Pastors from all over Australia were touched with the fire of God and our own church has been wonderfully revolutionised.
How to Handle the New Wave
Some of these manifestations have been in other churches of other fellowships and have resulted in decline, rather than growth. Some good people have left other churches feeling that there has been too much wildfire, without any order or control.
Due to our desire to channel this move and not lose by it, I questioned a number of people who were doing that successfully. Here are some responses.
Mike is an AOG pastor in the largest city in Alaska, who had Rodney Howard-Browne minister in his church four years ago. At that time, they had a congregation of 200, but over the last 4 years, they have seen it grow to 600 in a community of 35,000.
The format that Mike uses is one which gives a balanced approach to church life, allowing for worship and the Word, ministry to the unsaved as well as impartation of the Holy Spirit.
To do this, he has followed a fairly traditional Sunday morning worship service with worship, communion and preaching of the Word, as well as all the other activities which occur in our morning services, such as dedications and so on.
If there are two or three people who are perhaps crying or laughing uncontrollably, the ushers will gently lead them into the prayer room where they can continue to enjoy the presence of Jesus without affecting those around them.
However, he is also open to the possible occasions when the Holy Spirit will just sweep over the service and the majority of the people will be either laughing, crying or worshipping at one time.
His Sunday evening service generally lasts for three to four hours, compared to the morning one of around two hours. At the conclusion of the evening evangelistic endeavour, people are invited to open up their hearts and hunger for a fresh touch of the Spirit. It was during these times that the powerful manifestations will take place and, having observed what has been happening in our Adelaide meetings over the last few weeks, these times have a great similarity to the old time Pentecostal camp meeting or tarrying services where people received a fresh touch of God.
Mike encourages his people to hunger and has taught them along that line. He helped them to understand and develop a new sensitivity to the ways of the Holy Spirit. His observations were:
* You cannot sustain a move of the Spirit without hunger.
* Corrections need to be made from time to time.
* Don’t just get fascinated by the move of God, but rather keep your eyes on Jesus.
* Mission giving and outreach evangelism should be a prominent part of this move and the churches which don’t reach out soon dry up.
He encourages us not to hype it up and that there needs to be a continual emphasis on holiness and that only qualified people should lay hands on those who have come for prayer.
Mike is also an adviser on Rodney Howard-Browne’s Revival Ministries committee, along with three or four other AOG pastors in the USA. He informed me that he had sat in over 110 of Rodney’s meetings and been impressed by the lack of pressure and hype, but by the powerful anointing of the Spirit which accompanies this young man.
2. John Lewis and Others
Our brother, John, who has been experiencing this move for some months now, has followed a similar format as Mike, and I have similar testimonies from Geoff Holdway (Brisbane), Brian Houston (Sydney) and Steve Penny (Melbourne).
The result has been that their churches have experienced the blessing without experiencing fallout from extremes. May the Lord help us to be wise master builders.
The following are a few tips from leaders around the world which may help you:
1. Do not seek to develop a ministry of manifestations out of what is a move of the Holy Spirit.
2. Create an atmosphere of faith, by giving opportunity for the Spirit to move. Rule out any manifestations of the flesh.
3. Be careful to maintain the focus on God himself and don’t transfer people’s faith to a man, place or a method.
4. Continue in both the Word and the Spirit and don’t be caught in the trap of alternating between the two.
5. The best setting for people to receive from God is for them to come before him in the way the Scripture entreats us: ‘Enter in his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.’ Testimonies can also prove an encouragement to others to respond to the Lord.
6. Remind people that Jesus invites us to come and drink, promising not only to quench our thirst, but also to release rivers of living water to flow out from us to others.
7. When people fall over, be open to keep praying for them. Encourage them to stay down and continue to receive from God. It is not unusual for people to stay down for several hours.
8. Have capable people available to catch those falling over. This removes the fear of falling and also avoids unnecessary collisions.
9. There is no need to cause people to fall to the floor by forcing them. The Holy Spirit is perfectly able to overwhelm people without your effort.
10. Allow God time to work with people. If some are not ready to respond, simply encourage them to remain open and in prayer to God. Return again to them when you have prayed for others.
11. Instruct the people while God is moving. Explain any unusual manifestations and try to settle unnecessary fears by giving understanding about what God is doing.
12. Deal with any carnal behaviour and do not allow it to hijack what God is doing. Take advantage of the opportunity that this can present to instruct people more fully on how to respond to God.
13. Be open yourself, as it should be a time of refreshing for you too.
Don’t Miss This Hour of Visitation!
One of the saddest verses in the Bible records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and saying, ‘You did not know the hour of your visitation.’ This failure to discern the seasons of God, resulted in the sombre declaration of Jesus’ words, where he said, ‘Your house will be left desolate.’
My cry to God is, ‘Help me not to miss what you are doing. Give me wisdom to lead my church into the blessing. Help me, Lord, not to force it or make it happen and may I not just seek some formula, but out of a relationship with Jesus, guide my assembly into the fulness of the Spirit.’
(c) ‘Minister’s Bulletin’, April 1995, pages 2-5, the quarterly communication of the General Superintendent to Assemblies of God in Australia Ministers, PO Box 336, Mitcham, Victoria 3132. Used with permission.
In November 1994 I was dramatically confronted by the power of God during ministry to a line of people who had come for prayer at Southside Assembly in Brisbane. About two thirds of the way along the line I reached my hand out over a lady on the floor to pray for her. She had been powerfully prostrated before anyone had prayed for her or touched her. As I reached out over her I was suddenly immobilised, unable to move or speak.
Incredible personal experience
I was not aware of any passage of time and thought that this was just momentary before crumpling to the floor. While on the floor I was still unable to move in any way. I could not open my eyelids or speak or move my hands at all. The pastor and congregation were concerned and mystified, and called a nurse to take my pulse and check if I was still alive!
After a while I became afraid, wondering what was happening to me. ‘What has gone wrong. What is happening to me, Lord?’ I cried out in my mind since there was no voice to speak with. He answered me straightaway, ‘I just want you to see what I can do if I can get you out of the way.’
This overwhelming and uncomfortable experience was to get my attention and become the beginning of a process which has turned my heart towards the Lord in simplicity and sincerity more than ever before in my life.
The pastor later told me that when I reached out to pray for the lady on the floor I was instantly frozen like a statue for about fifteen minutes. Then I was violently thrown backwards through the air landing feet away from where I had been standing, and was paralysed for more than another hour. It was after 11 p.m. when that manifestation of the power of God lifted enough for me to sit up. There was an awesome sense of the presence of God in the room and we worshipped until midnight.
‘Burning Bush’ Confrontations
Through the rest of the weekend the power of God broke out in astonishing ways. There were manifestations of God’s glory and power which I had not been familiar with. The majority of those coming for prayer were powerfully prostrated. No one had hands laid on them and most times these people fell to the floor without anyone catching them. Many were crying and some were overcome with holy laughter. The senior pastor was so under the power of God that he could only be described as drunk in the Spirit.
The next weekend I was due to minister at Westside Assembly in Adelaide and once again the power of God broke out in the meetings in ways that astonished us all. The senior pastor was so powerfully touched by the Spirit that he was unable to drive home. Many were weeping, laughing and falling to the floor before they were prayed for. The reports since that time are of people who have been wonderfully changed, and have been drawn into a deeper consecration to the Lord.
These two amazing weekends had an even greater effect on Marie and me. We felt that we had been confronted by a ‘burning bush’ and, like Moses, needed to turn aside to see this great sight.
During December we travelled to Toronto and spent a week at the Airport Vineyard Church where multitudes have been wonderfully touched by the Spirit since January 1994. In one year more than 100,000 people have attended these meetings which have been conducted every night since then except Mondays.
It was challenging and impacting to see about 1,500 people each night pressing in for a visitation of God. The intense spiritual hunger amazed me. Hundreds stood outside the auditorium for up to two hours before the service started, to get a seat. Every night the temperature was below freezing and some nights it went as low as minus 21 degrees!
Although there were many things occurring in these meetings which were unusual and hard to explain we were mightily touched by the Spirit of the Lord, and our desire for a closer relationship with him was intensified during this week.
Early in January we travelled to Florida to attend the Rodney Howard-Browne camp meeting held in the 10,000 seat Carpenter’s Home Church in Lakeland, pastored by Karl Strader. The camp meeting had taken up all the hotel facilities within the Lakeland area. Even though we had booked more than six weeks before, the closest motel we could get was 24 miles away. There were registrants from 49 US states and 32 foreign countries. No amount of words will do justice in reporting what we were to experience!
Manifested glory of God
We arrived at 5 p.m., two hours early for the Monday evening service and found it hard to get a seat. There were about 2,000 present as soon as the doors opened at 6 p.m. and by the time the service commenced at 7 p.m. the ground floor was filled with around 7,000 people. The worship was wonderful and there was an immediate and tangible sense of the presence of the Lord.
In his first message, Rodney declared that in the last days the supernatural will become normal and natural, that it is not normal for Christians to be miserable, joyless and depressed. At this point great waves of glory began to sweep over the congregation. There was a long period of people standing during the sermon and shouting to God. The atmosphere was electric with the presence of the Lord.
Rodney said that many have mocked and characterised these meetings as the ‘laughing revival’ and have missed the boat. Every genuine revival has had a stone of offence – God provides a reason for people who want to find fault with what he is doing so they can salve their conscience in resisting him. While many are laughing, just as many are quiet or weeping. The real object is the manifested glory of God.
Awesome power and presence of God
There had been no altar ministry yet and we were still in the middle of receiving the preaching. There was an incredible sense of God’s awesome power and presence. I have seen just about every possible manifestation before but had never been in a meeting remotely like this.
Rodney said that the majority of Pentecostals and charismatics had been baptised with the Spirit and had spoken in tongues, but now that is all they can do. And they do this by habit, and mechanically without impact on their lives. They know nothing about ‘yielding’ to the Spirit.
While he was speaking both the lady camera operator on the platform and one of the musicians went out under the power. He was not anywhere near either of them. They were just overcome through the preaching and fell to the floor.
In every evening service he gave a very strong, tenacious, specific and long altar call for salvation and restoration of backsliders. He was very bold and authoritative and every time there was a huge response.
The manifestation of the Spirit in the meetings were quite incredible. There were many laughing in the Spirit with supernatural joy, but probably as many were weeping or struck with a holy quietness in the middle of the noise. There were large numbers falling under the power of God, most of whom were not prayed for or touched by anyone. Often people would fall out of their seats during the preaching or other ministry and be prostrate on the floor for the rest of the service and sometimes for hours afterwards.
One of the most common manifestations we observed was to be so overcome by the Spirit that it both felt and looked like drunkenness. Often it was hard to stand or walk. On one occasion it was impossible for me to drive the car, and Marie had to be supported to the car at another time. We both experienced holy laughter and strong bouts of holy weeping, but in it all the dominant feature was a renewed love for the Lord and his Word as well as a stronger desire for prayer and to be continually in his presence more than ever before in our lives.
There is no substitute for this glory and anointing. We have been robbed so long by ‘safe’ and ‘sterile’ Pentecost which can only deliver words of human wisdom, but does not know anything about the demonstration of the Holy Spirit. During these incredible meetings we felt that we were being drawn out to where we can never return. We decided to cross the line for the new wine and to drink so deeply of the Spirit that he would have full control of our lives.
There were many times during this week when Rodney could not continue to preach and was immobile and speechless behind the podium for a long time. I was impressed with his commitment to allow the Holy Spirit complete freedom in the services and to wait on him until he was sure of the direction the meeting was to take when anything out of the ordinary began to occur.
Glorious vision for Australia
One evening he invited all the international visitors to come for prayer and some of the Australian group stood together to pray for our country. As soon as he touched us we all fell to the floor. Not once during this week was there the slightest suggestion of anyone pushing people over in any of these meetings. Marie was totally overcome with the joy of the Lord, however I was totally silent and felt closed in with God. After a while I was aware that I was seeing something clearly.
It was as though I was up in the sky looking down and saw land wreathed in thick fog. As I peered into the fog I recognised that it was the coastline of Australia. There were some places where the fog was not so dense but it was still persistent and many years old. I could see through it over Brisbane, parts of Queensland and Adelaide. The thickest fog was over Sydney which was almost black in density. Canberra and Tasmania and some parts of the inland regions and centre of the country were also very dense. Melbourne seemed to have equally dense fog over it but it was a different colour, like the thick smoke from bushfires and it was swirling around. I am still not sure what this means.
As I watched in the vision a small swirling wind like a cone (an upside down tornado) began in the sky high over Sydney and kept increasing in intensity and size as it descended closer to the earth. Soon the base of the cone was covering all of the greater region and the fog was sucked up by this swirling tornado and the entire Sydney region was cleared of fog. Then all of the fog from every part of Australia began to be sucked up into this vortex of power and was destroyed. Strangely, the fog from some of the areas further away from Sydney seemed to be drawn into the vortex before that, covering areas closer to Sydney. As soon as all of the fog was gone, intensely bright sunshine began to shine on the entire country.
The sunshine was so bright that in the vision it was painful to my eyes and I was squinting to be able to endure this intense light. As the light struck the country, Australia began to radiate like a glorious jewel and flashes of coloured rays began shooting out from the country all over the rest of the world which for the most part seemed to be in darkness. Wherever those beams of reflected and radiating glory touched other nations great swathes of permanent light were cut through the darkness.
This vision has not left me since and I believe that I was seeing the fulfilment of the prophetic promises that Australia is to be the ‘Great Southland of the Holy Spirit.’ I do not think anyone has comprehended the glory that God intends for this entire nation. I cannot any longer settle for a little program which merely addresses the peripheral problems of our land. It is not just more churches we need but the manifested glory of God. More religion or more of the same may only deepen the fog.
Jesus must be exalted
During that week Rodney challenged those people who just come to his meetings to ‘laugh and roll on the floor’ but do not allow the Holy Spirit to change them. He said the entire purpose of this move of God is change. He called these people ‘drug addicts’ looking for their next fix of spiritual cocaine. Unless they accept change and never be the same again they miss the whole point. He specifically targeted smoking, drinking, cursing and immorality. He said that there are some ministers who think they have a free pass and do not have to live to the same standards as they preach. They freely indulge in the 17 works of the flesh instead of the 9-fold fruit of the Spirit.
He also took issue just as strongly with many of the religious routines that the church has substituted for the genuine work of the Spirit of God, and with pharisaical preachers who resist the work of the Holy Spirit of God in their own lives and in the churches they control.
The ministry was strongly exalting Christ, especially in the emphasis of the worship and ministry as well as the incredible results of a renewed relationship with Jesus and a deeper desire for holy living which was evidenced in everyone I spoke to during that week of divine visitation. The yielding to the Holy Spirit certainly produced what Jesus in John 16:13-14 (NKJV) said it would: ‘When he, the Spirit of truth is come, he will take of what is mine and declare it to you.’ I have never seen or experienced any ministry which caused such a desire for Christlikeness or confronted bondage and brought about deep and genuine repentance in so many people.
For those of us involved in what became to be known as the Charismatic Movement, it’s particular emphasis seemed to be a move of the Holy Spirit to bring renewal to mainline churches. The infilling of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts which resulted were nothing new to those in Pentecostal churches, but they were a bit askance to see God pour this same blessing out upon people they had always considered spiritually dead. We in those mainline churches were then amazed to see the same outpouring on the Holy Spirit taking place among people some of us did not even consider saved, the Roman Catholics.
Radical change of thinking
It was a radical change of thinking, and left many of us incredulous, floundering to rethink our theology, in the light of what we could see happening. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, a renewed love for God, and a desire to serve Him with a passion and total commitment were just some of the fruit which began to emerge.
But, in my memory, perhaps the most outstanding distinctive of the Charismatic Movement, which began in the 1970s was the love they had for each other. Denominational barriers melted away, and people who had experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit in their lives, began to enjoy coming together to praise and worship God.
There was a great emphasis on praise, and a change in the way that praise was expressed. It became more vocal, loud, earthy, and joyous. The traditional hymns, accompanied by the organ were replaced with simple songs of love, sung to guitar music. The words of Scripture became a prime source for these songs, many of them sung TO God, rather than simply about Him. There was also the freedom given to use the gift of tongues, and to sing in the Spirit, during the times of worship.
Naturally, not all within the mainline churches felt comfortable with this. So charismatic groups often met together outside of their regular church times. For some this was enough, and they happily returned to their own denomination on a Sunday while still meeting in interdenominational groups through the week. For others this was not possible, and it was a time of church splits, and new denominations being formed.
During this time there seemed to be an influx of teaching tapes available. The cassette recorder had just appeared on the scene, and this made it possible for those of us in outlying areas to hear the words of some of the great preachers then coming on the scene. David Pawson, David Watson, Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter and Derek Prince were just some of those who fed the hunger we all felt for learning about God.
Also, the availability of paperback books, opened up a new area of learning, and biographical books began to flood the market. Christian book shops opened up in many places, or for those already in existence, the ‘heretic section’ began to be filled with books on the stories of what God was doing all over the world in peoples’ lives. These books were very inspirational and some have since become Christian classics. “The Cross and the Switchblade”, “The Hiding Place”, and “Prison to Praise” were among these.
With the passage of time, some of the groups which had met for charismatic worship grew large enough to become self supporting. The need then to worship with others from different denominations was no longer there. They had reached a point where they did not need to come aside to meet with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Uniting or whatever. They were now strong enough to set up their own renewal services within their own denomination, alongside the traditional service. My personal opinion is that something wonderful – the emphasis on reconciliation and unity despite our different viewpoints, was lost.
The renewal movement however, kept going under such influences as the Wimber decade. Renewal spread rapidly through the evangelical church. This present blessing, unfortunately labelled ‘Toronto Blessing’, erupted just as suddenly as the charismatic movement, and has caused the same consternation, and Bible searching for a theological base.
From my perception, its distinctive emphasis seems to be more on receiving from God, in the form of an awareness of His love – rather than on doing for God. More of a ‘Mary’ response to God, rather than the ‘Martha’ one in which so many of us have been caught.
Within this blessing there is a desire to just spend time, soaking in the presence of God, and within that soaking, allowing Him to do any repair work on us that is necessary. In other words, ‘His agenda, not mine’.
For me this is quite new, as in the past we have always come to God with our list of requests. Now, we are more aware of allowing Him to show us exactly what is in need of His touch. This has produced some amazing examples of inner healing and restoration. Testimonies abound of people being set free from lifetime struggles, as they “soak in His anointing”. The bottom line seems to be an awareness for each individual of just how precious they are to God.
There is also an evangelical element to this blessing. We have seen unsaved people come to a service where this blessing is flowing. They have been touched by the anointing. They have experienced God’s love and grace as they ‘soaked’ in His presence. Then they have been open to receive teaching on repentance and the need to make a personal commitment to Jesus.
The physical manifestations of this present blessing at first appear very odd, to say the least. Personally, this caused consternation and alarm, and caused me to again search the Scriptures, and to reread of the revival times in church history to see if there were any similarities. There were.
But, just as the beginning of the charismatic movement had shaken our comfortableness and preconceived ideas and set patterns of acceptable Christian behaviour, so this move has caused many of us to seek God. We were caught between not wanting to get carried away with deception and yet not wanting to miss out on anything God was doing.
For me a very strong proof of the pudding has been the change I have witnessed in my own life, and in the lives of those involved. Renewed love for God, commitment to him and an effectiveness in Christian living have manifested.
I have spent many years in Christian counselling and God has blessed that ministry, but it has been time consuming and slow. Now I am seeing similar results, but at a much faster rate, and to many people at the same time, as they simply ‘soak in his anointing’ (with varying degrees of outward physical manifestation).
Even though we are seeing some being saved I believe this is not revival. It is a time of refreshing. It is preparation for something more which is to come. In some ways this is a gentle rebuke to the Christians in the western world who have become so analytical in their Christianity. Our whole world view is so wrapped up in thoughts, concepts and ideas. It is as if God is now saying: ‘It is time for you to experience my love’. To many, this is threatening – concepts seem safer.
This could be a dangerous and foolhardy thing God is doing as there is great potential for misuse and abuse. But I seem to remember thinking the same thing 25 years ago when God began to pour out His Spirit on Roman Catholics.
However I am disturbed by the critical articles which link this move to the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, Benny Hinn and others and call the lot the Toronto Blessing. (The Airport Christian Fellowship at Toronto do not like the name and are not seeking the notoriety it brings). What is coming out of Toronto is distinctly different from the ‘super star’ oriented ministry we are seeing from other parts of the world.
The blessing which began in, and has flowed from the Vineyard Airport Church in Toronto, is a church based movement, involving teams of people drawn from many churches in the city of Toronto. The hundreds of people who make up these prayer teams are all involved in personal one-to-one prayer for those who are seeking. There is no emphasis on one particular person as the one who has all the answers, power, or anointing.
One obvious difference between this present move of God and the Charismatic move is the physical manifestations. They can appear very odd! It is often difficult to assess the manifestation by just watching what is going on. Our assumptions of what is decent and in order are often proved to be premature. Later discussion with the one involved in the manifestation will often reveal that they were experiencing a unique and specific touch from God.
In others the manifestation was of demonic origin, or from their own desire to be a part of what was going on. Wisdom is called for. Also we need to not jump in and judge too quickly. It is important to watch for the fruit.
I have also noticed there seems to be a progression in the physical manifestations. Some people seem to go through stages of pain, weeping, shaking, roaring, to joy, peace, laughter. It seems that healing is taking place at a deep level and it is of benefit not to give up too soon by rejecting what is taking place.
In answering this request to write my thoughts I am not seeking for a debate. While many people may disagree with my perceptions, as is their right, we must be careful we do not become like the philosophers on Mars Hill, endlessly discussing concepts and ideas rather than experiencing what God is doing. Let us encourage one another to remain open to whatever He has for us, both to receive and to do.