infusing the heart with joy, wonder, love and praise,
and a greater desire to witness
A group of five members of our church, St Luke’s Sydenham, attended the Catch the Fire Down Under Conference in Sydney in June 1995. John Arnott from Toronto, Canada, led it.
For me it all started on the first night. We were in an overflow hall watching by video when the Holy Spirit fell on me as John preached on Divine Love. I wept in wonder and joy for the rest of his teaching. Afterwards we moved into a time of ‘soaking prayer’ when we were encouraged to focus on Jesus and worship him as people prayed for us. Some two hours later I was experiencing enormous waves of power coursing through my body, like bolts of electricity. Accompanied by tears and joyful laughter as I soaked in what seemed like a bath of God’s love.
Afterwards I was carried out of the meeting overwhelmed by God’s love, still trembling with his power on me that lasted most of the night.
John Arnott’s theme was that he wanted us to be marinated in the Holy Spirit over the seven meetings. There was opportunity to soak in the Spirit for two to three hours each time. I took every opportunity including another time when John prayed for me after I had attempted to give testimony when experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. That was a very funny experience.
You might ask ‘What was the fruit of all this?’
Firstly, all of us experienced a new and deeper relationship with God which has changed the way we worship, the way we live and the way we minister.
When we shared our testimonies with the congregation on our return, people were touched by God even as they listened, and many more were blessed through prayer ministry. In our evening service the preacher was prayed for before preaching and ended up on the floor for the next two hours, while we moved to plan B – witnessing and praying.
The manifestations vary: shaking, falling, laughing, crying, or just quietly resting in the Spirit. But the inner experience is a deeper awareness and experience of God’s love infusing the heart with joy, wonder, love and praise, and a greater desire to witness.
As people focus on seeking more of God they later find they have received inner healing of life’s hurts, physical healings (from sciatica, back pain, intestinal problems), deliverance from demonic bondages, and freedom from depression.
Some people who have been ministered to for years are now quite changed with healing, new life, and joy.
A new boldness to witness has entered some and we are seeing adults experience the process of becoming disciples of Christ as they turn to him. Two people who were unbelievers were dramatically touched by the power of the Spirit in our services. Two children also asked how they could invite Jesus into their lives. Many children have received ministry and have rested in the Spirit with the same blessing, and in some cases have had changed attitudes.
A steady stream of visitors from other churches are coming. Many arrive feeling very dry and are going home with a new and deeper experience of God’s love, often returning next week with their friends. It certainly is a wonderful time of refreshing by God.
Where do we go from here?
Throughout the world thousands of people have made new commitments or re-commitments to Christ when churches experience the ‘Father’s Blessing’ as John Arnott calls it. I believe we are in a time when God is refreshing his church, recharging our spiritual batteries, and renewing our first love (Revelation 2:4). His love in us will spill over and we will see the prodigals returning in large numbers.
For now, what we need to do is to drink of the Spirit often and deeply, more and more, until we fall passionately in love with Jesus and love those that he loves. Then the world will see and know that Jesus is alive and the harvest will follow.
Reproduced from the August 1995 issue of ‘Spirit Life’, the bi-monthly newsletter of Anglican Renewal Ministries Australia in Victoria and Tasmania, PO Box 1134, Glen Waverley, Victoria 3150.
It was a warm night in March, 1995, as around 2,000 people crowded into the worship centre and overflowing areas of Northside Christian Family in Brisbane. The organisers had been expecting 400-500 but 800 had registered for the day event and many more had gathered for the Wednesday night meeting once it was known it was open for general attendance.
The reason? To find out what this ‘Toronto blessing’ was all about. To find out if God indeed was blessing people with an outpouring of his Spirit, and, if that was so, to get some for themselves, for the people who had gathered were hungry.
Pastor John Lewis introduced us to Baptist pastor Guy (pronounced Gee) Chevrau, and some of what Gee shared with us over the next three days is summarised here.
What cannot be fully expressed is what happened after the message.
I’ve seen people slain in the Spirit before as the man out the front shouts for the power of God to come down and with hand on forehead down they go. But this was different. There was no hand on forehead, nor was there shouts from those in charge. Instead a gentle voice invited to you to close your eyes and fix your vision on Jesus, and, in many cases, legs out from underneath you and gentle down you went.
This was also followed by laughing or sobbing or twitching or moving or jerking or some or all of the above. Some explanation of the phenomena follows in this article.
Guy shared with us that it ought not surprise us that God should want to initiate a blessing upon his people at particular times and in particular places. He said in the UK you can now travel 30 miles in any direction and find an outpouring of God in this way. His comment:
This new move of God is taking us out to where we cannot return.
God is calling us to a radical theological humility.
There’s a world of difference between a commitment to the Lord and a relationship with the Lord.
God desires not just the former but also the latter.
Is this from God?
Guy cautioned us on judging the phenomena. He called on us to wait six months and then look at the kind of fruit we have.
Do we have a renewed desire for worship?
Have the dividing walls come down?
Are we feeding the poor?
Are we praying for the sick?
Is there a renewed love for God’s word?
Is it a privilege to pray?
Has fear and insecurity been lifted off?.
Where did this come from?
Randy Clark is the founding pastor of the Vineyard Fellowship in St. Louis. After years of seeing little fruit and power in his ministry he became desperately hungry for God. Hearing of unusual manifestations of God’s presence through the ministry of South African evangelist, Rodney Howard-Brown, Randy attended one of Rodney’s meetings at Tulsa, OK. Randy was powerfully touched and, in going home, began to see a similar outbreak of the Spirit among his people.
In January 1994 John Arnott, pastor of the Toronto Airport Vineyard invited Randy to come to Toronto to speak and minister. Two days of meetings in Toronto turned into what, to date, have been 90 days of almost continuous in numerous locations in Ontario and in the United States.
The meetings have been dubbed renewal rather than a revival by psychiatrist and author John White and by John Wimber, international leader of the Association of Vineyard Churches.
Randy and those who have been associated with him say that this move of God is more associated with refreshing the church and calling home the prodigals than salvation for the lost. People are coming to Christ but not in the numbers one typically sees in times of revival.
The Toronto Airport Vineyard now has meetings of refreshment every night of the week except Monday and people from all over the world have attended and gone home blessed.
The ministers and leaders of Northside Christian Family and Garden City Christian Church have been across and the ‘Catch the Fire’ meetings at Everton Park occurred in response to these people meeting with this new wave of God’s presence.
Now various Uniting Churches are experiencing this blessing.
The small group which meets at Rosewood Uniting Church on a Sunday night began experiencing some of these manifestations of the Spirit after the April John Wimber conference last year.
This particularly related to the shaking and laughing but in late January /early February this year the falling and resting in the Spirit was added to the agenda. We didn’t understand what was happening at first, except we realised God was doing something. Attending the meetings at Everton Park clarified a number of issues for us. Since then the manifestations have only increased.
Those who have been hungry and desperate for an outpouring of God in their lives and in ministry have come forward for a blessing and have rested in the Spirit as he has gently blessed them. The other manifestations have occurred as well.
To explain this further, the following comments are adapted from Guy Chevrau’s teaching.
What does the Bible and the church say?
There are basic doctrinal approaches in the Bible. These include:
a. Christian theology (what Christians are to be believe),
b. Christian ethics (how Christians ought to behave),
c. Christian experience or practice (what Christians do).
When dealing with supernatural phenomena, we are dealing with the area of Christian practice. While there is primary text dealing with prophetic revelation, there are no primary texts that clearly state that Christians are to fall down, shake or look drunk during seasons of divine visitation.
There are, however, a number of secondary (remember, secondary does not mean invalid or unimportant) texts that illustrate that these were some of the responses people had during the moments of divine visitation.
There are also numerous examples of similar phenomena in church history, especially in seasons of revival. The purpose in putting this information together is to develop a biblical apologetic for what we see happening among us. Much of what we are seeing is strange to the natural mind. The following are some of the phenomena that we have seen in our meetings: falling, shaking, drunkenness, crying, laughter, and prophetic revelation.
Are these manifestations biblical?
First it needs to be said that it is perfectly normal and even necessary to inquire into the biblical nature of Christian experience. It is also OK to admit that much of this looks ‘weird’ as long as we don’t prematurely judge it. When Paul first went to the Greek city of Berea, the book of Acts says that the Bereans were more noble than the other Jews Paul had encountered in Greece because they ‘searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul was saying was true.’ (17 v 11)
When we ask. ‘Is it biblical?’ we are probably asking for what is commonly called proof text. A proof text is a portion of Scripture that, when taken in context, validates a particular position we are taking. In order to ascertain whether these phenomena are biblical, we need to lay down some ground rules for solid interpretation.
The most common phenomena we have seen in our meetings is people falling down. Often they remain conscious but engaged with the Lord. They feel weak and find it difficult to do anything but rest with God. We have seen that as they lay with the Lord they have had significant changes in their lives.
Genesis 15:12 – This literally reads ‘A deep sleep fell on Abram’. This is the same word that is used when God put Adam to sleep when he made Eve (Genesis 2:21).
1 Samuel 19 – This text shows that for something close to a 24 hour period Saul lay in a prone position with God speaking through him.
Ezekiel 3: 23; Daniel 8:17; 10:9 – being overwhelmed
Matthew 17: 6,7; John 18: 6 – As Judas and the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, they had an interesting encounter. ‘When Jesus said. ‘I am he,’ they turned back and fell to the ground.’ Here we see an immediate falling back in response to the presence of Jesus. They were apparently able to get up shortly thereafter because they went on to arrest Jesus.
Acts 9:3 – When Paul was apprehended on the road to Damascus by a light from heaven, he says, ‘I fell to the ground and heard a voice.’ Again we see that falling was a normal response to a divine visitation.
Revelation 1:17 – Here we see an experience similar to Adam’s and Abram’s where the person not only falls but is also unconscious for an extended period of time.
Jonathan Edwards, the main instrument and theologian of the Great Awakening in America (1725 – 1760), says in his Account of the Revival of Religion in Northampton 1740 – 1742:
Many have had their religious affections raised far beyond what they had ever been before, and there were some instances of persons laying in a sort of trance. Remaining perhaps for a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up, but in the mean time under strong imaginations, as though they went to heaven and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects.
It was a very frequent thing to see outcries, faintings, convulsions and such like, both with distress, and also admiration and joy.
It was no the manner here to hold meetings all night, nor was it common to continue them till very late in the night; but it was pretty often so, that there were some so affected, and their bodies so overcome, that they could not go home, but were obligated to stay all night where they were.
Charles Finney (1792-1875) was one of the most powerful revivalists since the reformation:
At a country place named Sodom, in the state of New York, Finney gave one address in which he described the condition of Sodom before God destroyed it. ‘I had not spoken in this strain more than a quarter of an hour.’ says he ‘when an awful solemnity seemed to settle upon them, the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction, and cried for mercy. If I had had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell. Nearly the whole congregation were either on their knees or prostrate. I should think in less than two minutes from the shock that fell upon them. Everyone prayed who was able to speak at all.’ Similar scenes were witnessed in many other places.
A remarkable power seemed to accompany the preaching of George Fox where ever he went, whether in Britain or America, Germany, Holland or the West Indies. He usually went about the country on foot, dressed in his famous suit of leather clothes, said to have been made by himself, and often sleeping out of doors or in some haystack. He was ridiculed and persecuted, beaten and stoned, arrested and imprisoned, more frequently perhaps than any other man, and yet the Lord seemed to greatly bless and own his labours.
Describing his meetings at Ticknell, England, he says ‘The priest scoffed at us and called us “Quakers”. But the Lord’s power was so over them, and the word of life was declared in such authority and dread to them, that the priest began trembling himself, and one of the people said “Look how the priest trembles and shakes, he is turned Quaker also”.’
Conclusion: There is a biblical precedent for shaking in God’s presence. In the verses where the cause of shaking is mentioned, it has to do with holy fear. The shaking we are experiencing seems to be related more to prophetic ministry and impartation of spiritual fights of which parallels can be seen in Fox’s ministry.
Jeremiah 23:9 – as drunk
Acts 2:13 ff – ‘Some, however, made fun of them and said, ‘They have had too much wine.’
Compare Acts 10:44-46 where apparently the same kinds of phenomena occurred with the Gentiles. That the 120 newly filled believers were acting in a ‘drunken’ manner is what is known as an argument from silence. The text never says that they were but it is obviously inferred. They would not be accused of being drunk because they were speaking in different languages. They would have been accused of such because they were acting like drunks. ie.laughing, falling, slurred speech by some, boldness through lack of restraint, etc.. The analogy of the gift of the Spirit being ‘new wine’ would lend itself to the connection.
Eph 5:8ff: In a passage dealing with the Ephesians putting off their old carousing lifestyle, Paul exhorts them ‘Do not get drunk on wine which leads to debauchery, instead be filled (Greek present tense ‘keep on being filled’) with the Holy Spirit’. Paul is contrasting carnal drunkenness with spiritual filling. Given the tense of the Greek verb, he appears to also be making an analogy as well as a contrast. Being filled with God’s Spirit is similar to being drunk on wine. The difference is that the former is holy while the other is sinful.
Shaking is also common in our meetings and is one of the hardest phenomena to understand. The kinds of shaking vary greatly. Sometimes the shaking is accompanied by all sorts of bodily contortions, sometimes mild, sometimes almost violent. What, if any, biblical precedent is there?
Daniel 10:7; Psalm 99:1; 114:7; Jeremiah 5: 22 – trembling
Jeremiah 23:9 – This is a significant verse because Jeremiah is relating that what happened to him on at least one occasion involved a trembling/shaking of his bones. His wording seems to imply that he shook from the inside out. It would take a powerful force to cause his bones to quiver inside his body. The analogy to being overcome could also be a reference to being entranced by the coming of the prophetic word. This text is an answer to God’s plea in Jeremiah 5: 22.
Hab. 3:16; Acts 4:31; James 2:19:
George Fox (1624 – 1691) founder of the Quakers:
After a life changing experience with the Holy Spirit. Fox had some remarkable experiences.
After passing through the experience described above, Fox was mightily used of God, and great conviction of sin fell upon the people to whom he preached. ‘The Lord’s power began to shake them’ says he,, ‘and great meetings we began to have, and a mighty power and work of God there was amongst people, to the astonishment of both people and priests.’ Later, he says, ‘After this I went to Mansfield, where there was a great meeting of professors and people; here I was moved to pray, and the Lord’s power was so great, that the house seemed to be shaken.’
Neh 8:9; 2 Chron 34:27; Lk 19: 41; Heb. 5:7.
Acts 2:37 – This text doesn’t say they wept but it’s hard to imaging ‘being cut to the heart’ as not evoking that emotional response.
John Wesley (1703-1791):
On April 17, 1739,, there was another remarkable case of conviction of sin, in Bristol, Wesley had just expounded Acts 4 on the power of the Holy Spirit, ‘We then called upon God to confirm his Word’ says he. ‘Immediately one that stood by (to our no small surprised) cried out aloud, with the utmost vehemence, even as the agonies of death. But we continued in prayer till ‘a new song was put in her mouth, a thanksgiving unto our God’ Soon after, two other persons (well known in this place, as labouring to live in all good conscience towards all men) were seized with strong pain, and constrained to roar the disquietness of their heart. These also found peace ‘Many other wonderful cases of conviction of sin attended Wesley’s preaching. It was a frequent occurrence for people to cry aloud or fall down as if dead in the meetings, so great was their anguish of heart caused, no doubt, by the holy Spirit convicting them of sin.’
Job 8:21; Psalm 126:2; Ecc 3:4.
John 17:13; If there is any prayer in the Bible that will be answered, it is the high priestly prayer in John 17. Certainly the full measure of joy with the Trinity includes laughter
Johnathan Edwards wrote:
It was very wonderful to see how person’s affections were sometimes moved when God did as it were suddenly open their eyes, and let into their minds a sense of greatness of his grace, the fullness of Christ and his readiness to save. Their joyful surprises has caused their hearts as it were to leap, so that they have been ready to break forth into laughter, tears often as the same time issuing like a flood, and intermingling a loud weeping. Sometimes they have not been able to forebear crying out with a loud voice, expressing their great admiration. The manner of God’s work on the soul, sometimes especially, is very mysterious.
Conclusion: Again, laughter lifts within the general flow of Scripture. Christians can be so filled with the joy of the Lord that they are given over to fits of laughter.
One of the things we are seeing is that people are having visions, dreams and prophetic words while under the power of the Spirit. All throughout the Bible, prophetic revelation occurs during periods of divine visitation.
There is no way we can cover this subject in this context so a few key passages will have to suffice.
Num12:29; This is a very significant passage. It shows that prophecy can be a response to the Spirits coming. The phrase, ‘when the spirit rested on them’ (v25) is also reminiscent of the Spirit alighting on Jesus like a dove at this baptism.
Num 11:6; 1 Sam 10:10; Acts 2:17-18; 1 Cor14.
George Fox: And a report went abroad of me, that I was a young man that had a discerning spirit; whereupon many came to me from far and near, professors, priest, and people; and the Lord’s power brake forth; and I had great openings and prophecies, and spake unto them of the things of God and they heard with attention and silence, and went away and spread the fame thereof.’
What are the phenomena for?
Signs of the Lord’s presence.
In Exodus 33 v 14 in response to Moses, it says, ‘The Lord replied. ‘My Presence will go with you.’ The promise of God’s Presence is the distinguishing mark of God’s people. Moses says to God ‘What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth.’ (v16)
The abiding presence of the Holy Spirit is in each Christian and since Acts 2 has been continually active in the Church. Jesus speaking of the Spirit, says to the disciples, He is with you and will be in you.’ (John 14 v 17) There are times, however, when God allows us to see his presence to build our faith and show us where he is working. 2 Kings 6:17.
Is God shaking us to wake us up?
Eph 5:14 This command precedes the exhortation to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit. We are to wake up and seek to be continually filled with the wine of God’s Spirit.
If we haven’t heeded God’s previous wake up calls, perhaps He is now shaking us to arouse us and get our attention.
To humble us
When Randy Clark asked God why he was bringing all the phenomena to Toronto, God replied that he was looking for people who were willing to look publicly foolish for the honour of his name.
Paul Cain said ‘God offends the mind to reveal the heart.’
The bottom line issue is one of control. God wants to know who among his people will be willing to play the fool for his glory.
To anoint us
The filling of the Holy Spirit is a repeatable experience and one we are commanded to continually experience. (Eph 5:18)
God will sovereignly move on us to impart supernatural ability to do certain things. 2 Tim 1:6.
The Holy Ghost descended on 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, for I could not express it in any other way. It seemed like the very breath of God. I can recollect distinctly that it seemed to fan me, like immense wings.
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. The waves came over me, and over me, one after the other, until I recoiled I cried out ‘ I shall die if these waves continue to pass over me.’ I said ‘Lord I cannot bear any more’ yet I had no fear of death.
Finney continued for some time under this remarkable manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s power. Wave after wave of spiritual power rolled over him and through him thrilling every fibre of his being.
Galatians 5:22: ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.’ Simply put, if the long term fruit is Gal. 5:22, it’s of God. The character of Jesus is the destiny of the Church (Romans 8:29).
Concerning the fruit of this, we can ask:
1. Are the people being prayed for asking for God? They will get God.
2. Are the people praying asking for God and exalting Jesus? The Holy Spirit will come in answer to their prayers.
3. Are those praying asking for the gift of discernment? It is given.
4. Are the leaders humble and exalting Jesus? Is the atmosphere peaceful, even though perhaps noisy? If yes, then these are signs of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
5. Is the fruit good? Then it’s God.
What about the emotion?
Our presupposition: If it were God, there would be very little or no emotion in it. Again, the Bible says something else
There is a full range of emotions seen in the scriptures.
a. David danced, wept, fought
b. Jesus wept, was joyful, angry
c. Peter wept, rejoiced, felt convicted
d. God has emotion, as we do. We have been created in his image.
Historically, emotions have been seen in the movements of God.
Jonathan Edwards saw no distinction between the head and the heart. ‘Nothing of religious significance ever took place in the human heart if it wasn’t deeply effected by such Godly emotions.’
John White says ‘The lack of emotion is just as sick as being controlled by emotion.’
Emotion comes from seeing reality (truth) clearly. When the Spirit of truth comes, we see things as they really are which opens up our emotional being.
What is happening?
We ask the question, ‘What in the world is happening to us?’ It is clear from what we are seeing and hearing from all over the United States, Canada, England and other places that we are in a sovereign move of the Holy Spirit. Peter told early onlookers to the Spirit’s activity to repent that times of refreshment would come from the Lord’s presence (Acts 3 v 19) What should be our response to such a season of diving visitation? The clearest passage in the New Testament on the subject of a local church’s response to the coming of the Holy Spirit is 1 Cor 12-14.
1. Paul’s purpose in writing 1 Corinthians was to answer a set of questions delivered to him in the form of a letter from the church (see 7 v 1; 16 vv 17). He had also received some information from ‘Chloe’s people’ (1 v 11). When Paul proceeds to answer their questions about spiritual gifts, he does so in a sermon where he is dealing with questions related to when they gather together for church (11:27).
2. In Chapter 12, Paul encourages the activity of spiritual gifts when they gather together also, he also said that the church was Christ’s body which was to be built up as spiritual gifts are exercised.
3. His admonition in chapter 13 is that they exercise disagreement in love. Herein lies the most important point of all as we press into the season that is upon us: without love it profits us nothing.
In chapter 3 Paul had already established that whoever co-labours to build on Paul’s apostolic foundation will have his/her works weighted on the day of the Lord. One works will be labelled ‘gold, silver and precious stones.’ Others will be labelled ‘wood, hay and stubble.’ It is the quality of each person’s work that will make the difference. How do we know that our work is the kind of quality that will pass the fire test on that day? I believe the answer is in the motive. In Chapter 13 Paul says that the motive must be love.
In Matthew 7:15-23, in a passage dealing with false prophets who would be known for their fruit, Jesus said ‘Many will say to me on that day, “Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?” Then I will tell them plainly. “I never knew you. Away from me you evil doers.”‘ This passage allows for a category of person in the church that amazingly are able to move in spiritual gifts but at judgement day will be counted among those that do not know Jesus. The difference is that they are not doing the will of the Father. Their motive is not one of love for God or people, but is self serving. Jesus is clear; self serving activity, no matter how powerful, doesn’t count.
4. Paul finishes his response to the Corinthian question of spiritual gifts in Chapter 14 where he says that the sign of a loving exercise of gifts is the building up of Christ’s body. If the exercising of gifts does not, in the end, build up the church, it has been counter productive. Whether because of ill motive or because the leaders have not been facilitating the operation of the gifts in the meeting ‘decently and in order’ (14 v 40) the fact of the matter is that the gifts have not been allowed to work to build up the church for the common good.
5. The final word then, about the season that is upon us, belongs to the apostle Paul. He calls us to embrace the Holy Spirit’s ministry in our midst. He exhorts us to exercise the gifts with a loving heart posture in such a manner that the church is edified. The leaders need to see that this is done in an orderly way. What counts in the end is not whether someone fell or shook or even was healed. No, what counts ultimately is whether they are loved and built up. What happens as a result of the Spirit’s sovereign intervention is us to God. This is his work, not ours. Our job is to love and pray for the kingdom to come, watching as we do, for what the Father is doing so we can bless it.
So what has Father been doing during this season that has been upon us? As we conclude, we need to ask whether we are seeing any long term fruit. This is the ultimate test in determining if it is God. In Acts 3:19 Peter called his onlookers to repentance so their sins could be wiped out. The result in their lives was that times of refreshing would come to them from the presence of the Lord.
One of those seasons of refreshment is upon us now. John Arnott, the pastor of the Airport Vineyard in Toronto, reports that the overriding theme has been joy. This is thoroughly consonant with the New Testament which sees joy as a sign of the presence of the Spirit in the believer’s life (there are over 60 references to joy in the NT). God’s people are simply having fun in him. In the early days of the apostles, as they were searching for a word that would communicate to the Gentiles the ecstasy of having their sins forgiven and being in right relationship with God through the atoning blood of Christ Jesus, they choose the word euangelion which we now translate ‘gospel’ or ‘good news’. It was a completely secular word that was used in reference to the emperor’s birthday. It was a holiday, a day of good news. The apostles travelled throughout the ancient world preaching the day of God’s party had come.
We are learning to party in God again because the Spirit of the Lord has come among us to teach us grace, mediate forgiveness and reveal the Father’s love in Christ. The second characteristic of this renewal, then, is a return to our first love, Jesus. Reports are coming from every corner about people falling in love with Jesus in a whole new way, about a new love for the Bible, about being taken up into heaven in the form of visions and dreams. In the arms of Jesus is fullness of joy.
The third characteristic of the renewal is healing. Reports too numerous to count tell of physical healings, deliverance from demonic influences and deep emotional wounds being touches. It seems that as people spend ‘floor time’ with God, he meets them where they are, the point of need. He is removing barriers that have kept us from moving forward with God.
Much of the shaking has to do with empowerment for service. Spiritual gifts are being imparted through the laying on of hands. We have impartations for intercession, evangelism, healing, prophecy and pastoral care.
There has been a significant return of prodigals to the church. God is healing old wounds and drawing lost ones back into fellowship with himself and with the church.
Numerous people have been saved but not enough to characterize this as a genuine revival. Revivals are characterized by masses coming to Christ. Those that have been on the vanguard of the move of the Spirit believe that its purpose is to refresh the church and to prepare it for the mighty and genuine revival that is on the horizon.
May God give us wisdom, faith and obedience in this time of his visitation.
We have been enjoying a ‘season of refreshment’ from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19) in Ontario during the past twelve months. We are calling it renewal, a precursor to revival. It began when John Arnott, pastor of the Toronto Airport Vineyard invited Randy Clark, Pastor of a Vineyard church in St. Louis, to come and conduct four nights of meetings in Toronto, commencing on 20 January, 1994. (Randy Clark had been prayed for by Rodney Howard-Browne several months previously.) The Lord surprised everyone by coming in power! Toronto Airport continues to run nightly meetings, except Mondays.
Conservative estimates are that at least 75,000 different people have attended from around the world, of which 10,000 are pastors. Many of these leaders have been significantly touched, refreshed and are consequently seeing their churches renewed.
Randy Clark and John and Carol Arnott came to our church, Jubilee Vineyard Christian Fellowship, the first weekend in February, 1994, to lead meetings with us. Many of us had already been touched by the services in Toronto, but the presence and power of the Holy Spirit were dramatically manifested in our midst on this weekend. As pastor of this church of about 275 people, it was overwhelming for me to see the auditorium floor strewn with bodies like the slain upon a battlefield!
All the strange phenomena that have often accompanied revivals of the past were happening right before my eyes with adults, teens, and children alike – falling, shaking, jerking, visions, prophecies, healings, laughter and tears! On the one hand I was thrilled; I knew this was of God. Yet I was stressed out because a pastor likes to have a good handle on what is happening with those in his flock. I personally have been refreshed and touched by the Spirit of God time and time again in this fresh move of God and in ways never experienced before. The same goes for my wife and three children. In fact my kids often beg to go to the meetings! They love to see God move.
In February we ran nightly meetings for three weeks, then went to only Thursday nights. Christians from many other churches in the area have come and been touched and now good things are happening in their churches.
I am thrilled to see much good fruit in our people in all this. We have observed that God is presently refreshing his people as well as empowering them for service. For example, the shaking is often an impartation of prophetic and/or intercessory gifts. In the first few weeks we saw about a dozen converts, a couple of dozen prodigals return to the Lord, an increase in hunger for the reading of God’s word, worship and passion for Jesus, more prayer activity, physical and emotional healings, demonic bondages broken, repentance, and reconciliation in relationships.
We are seeing God raising up an army of intercessors, worshippers, prophetic people and teams to go out and minister elsewhere. We are finding the principle true: ‘freely receive, freely give’. We get to keep what we are willing to give away!
This move is not about us, not about the Vineyard. It is about God and his grace and sovereignty. And we are believing God for more waves of his Spirit to come – not just to refresh and renew the church but to powerfully touch our neighbourhoods, our cities, and the nations with full blown revival.
Let us continue to embrace the cross, submit to Scripture, and also ‘keep in step with the Spirit’. ‘The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20).
‘Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Preparing for revival
Winkie Pratney (1994:8,9) suggests we try this little survey with Christians:
How many of you know we need a revival?
How many of you want a revival?
How many of you know what a revival is?
How many of you have ever experienced a true revival?
Most would raise their hands to the first two questions. In fact, according to George Gallup, Jr., in the eighties, 80% of U.S.A. wanted a revival – including the lost! But very few would have an idea as to what a genuine revival really is, let alone ever experienced one.
It is imperative at this time in history that we get a better handle on this thing called revival. Hopefully this paper (used as seminar notes on the subject) can be of some help in this need for understanding by responding to the following six questions:
1. What is revival?
2. Why is revival needed?
3. When has revival occurred before?
4. Should we expect to see revival again soon?
5. What hinders revival?
6. How can we promote revival?
1. What is revival?
The term revival is not technically found in the Bible. Neither is Trinity for that matter, yet both concepts are found throughout the Bible.
Various forms of the verb revive are frequently used as well as such words as restore, renew, awaken, and refresh, for example:
Psalm 85:6 – ‘Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you’ (prayer request).
Isaiah 57:15 – ‘I revive the spirit of the humble and revive the heart of the contrite’ (promise of God).
The theme of revival is described at times in such terms as an outpouring of the Spirit (like rain or fire falling or wind blowing), the renewing of God’s mighty deeds (Habakkuk 3:2), the glory of the Lord returning to his temple (Malachi 3:1), God healing the land (2 Chronicles 7:14) and the time of God’s visitation with his manifest presence (Micah 7:4; Luke 19:44).
(a) Definitions and descriptions of revival
* To revive is ‘to live again’ (1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 13:21).
* ‘When God comes down [Isaiah 64:1,2], God’s Word comes home [Nehemiah 8-9; Acts 2:37], God’s purity comes through, God’s people come alive [Acts 2, overflow of joy and vitality], and outsiders come in’ [Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Corinthians 14:25 ‘God is really among you’] (Packer 1984:244-245; Scriptures added).
* ‘The inrush of the Spirit into a body that threatens to become a corpse’ (D. M. Panton, cited in Wallis 1956:46).
* ‘Revival is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is the Lord making bare his holy arm and working in extraordinary power on saint and sinner’ (Wallis 1956:20).
* ‘Revival is divine military strategy; first to counteract spiritual decline, and then to create spiritual momentum’ (Wallis 1956:45).
* ‘Revival is like a rocket ship that gets us back up into the orbit of New Testament Christianity’ (Charles Simpson, sermon 27 May 1994).
Revival is usually comprised of two stages: internal revival or ‘renewal’ (the church is set on fire and prodigals begin to come home) followed by external revival (conversion of those outside on a mass scale).
‘True revival is marked by widespread repentance both within the church and among unbelievers’ (Wimber 1994:4).
This repentance is the result of God coming in power, revealing his holiness and our sinfulness. One comes into the agonising grip of a holy God and is brought under awesome conviction. This manifested presence of God creates a divine ‘radiation zone’.
Here are two examples:
During the 1859 revival, no town in Ulster was more deeply stirred than Coleraine. A schoolboy in class became so troubled about his soul that the schoolmaster sent him home. An older boy, a Christian, went with him and before they had gone far, led him to Christ. Returning at once to school, this new convert testified to his teacher: ‘Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.’ These artless words had an astonishing effect; boy after boy rose and silently left the room. Going outside the teacher found these boys all on their knees, ranged along the wall of the playground. Very soon their silent prayer became a bitter cry; it was heard by another class inside and pierced their hearts. They fell on their knees, and their cry for mercy was heard in turn by a girls’ class above. In a few moments, the whole school was on their knees! Neighbours and passers-by came flocking in and all as they crossed the threshold came under the same convicting power. ‘Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God’ …
During the same 1859 revival in America, ships entered a definite zone of heavenly influence as they drew near port. Ship after ship arrived with the same talk of sudden conviction and conversion. A captain and an entire crew of thirty men found Christ at sea and arrived at port rejoicing. This overwhelming sense of God bringing deep conviction of sin is perhaps the outstanding feature of true revival. Its manifestation is not always the same; to cleansed hearts it is heaven; to convicted hearts it is hell (Pratney 1994:24-25).
2. Why is revival needed?
Throughout biblical history and church history the hearts of God’s people perpetually cool off and harden towards him, creating the need for revival. Nehemiah 9:25-28 describes this cycle or pattern of spiritual decline and renewal which involves six stages (Lovelace 1979:62-80):
1. God’s people are alive and in love with him.
2. Spiritual decline – hearts are subtly cooling off.
3. Hearts of stone.
4. The Lord disciplines those he loves (for example, Israelites were taken into exile).
5. Cry for mercy – intercession and repentance.
6. God pours out his Spirit and revives his people.
Where in this cycle is the church in this country today?
3. When has revival occurred before?
The Bible records at least a dozen revivals within its history (Kaiser 1986:12-13) and many movements of renewal and revival took place prior to and including the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and the Puritan and Pietist movements of the 17th century. Here I will focus upon the major revivals of Europe and North America of the last 250 years.
Note that the intensity of a revival may last only a few years, but the effects are felt in the church and society for decades to come.
The First Awakening (1727-80)
1727-80 (approximate dates) in Germany: Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, with unity, prayer (their 24 hour prayer vigil lasted over 100 years!), and missions. Their motto was ‘To win for the Lamb that was slain the reward of his suffering.’
1734-60 in North America’s 13 colonies: Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, with prayer and preaching.
1740-80 in Great Britain: John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield with outdoor preaching and class meetings (home cells).
Revival brought many social reforms including the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Some historians believe this revival saved England from a bloody revolution like the one in France.
Then came a gradual spiritual slide. By 1794 moral conditions had reached their worst. For example, John Marshall, Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, a concerned believer, wrote his assessment to Methodist Bishop Madison of Virginia stating, ‘The church is too far gone to ever be redeemed’. The famous agnostic Voltaire declared, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in 30 years’. Later Voltaire’s home became the headquarters for the Geneva Bible Society (Relfe 1988:26).
The Second Awakening (1792-1842)
1792 in England: William Carey, ‘Father of the modern missionary movement’ took as his motto, ‘Expect great things from God, attempt great thing for God.’
By about 1800 revival fires were burning once again in the U. S. A. In the East, Timothy Dwight was used in the college setting. On the Western frontier, James McGready, Barton Stone and Peter Cartwright gave leadership.
In 1821 Charles Finney, a lawyer, was converted and became an evangelist and social reformer. This revival was characterised by evangelistic camp meetings, social reforms and missions. Finney’s ministry overlapped the second and third awakenings.
The Third Awakening (1857-59)
1857 in North America: Called ‘the Prayer Revival’ it began when Dr Walter and Phoebe Palmer from New York City went to Hamilton, Ontario in early October. Revival broke out, then went south of the border.
Jeremiah Lanphier, a business man, began noon prayer meetings in New York City in September 1857. Within 6 months, up to 10,000 business men were praying daily for revival.
J. Edwin Orr states that ‘revival went up the Hudson and down the Mohawk. The Baptists had so many people to baptise they could not get them in the churches. They went down to the river, cut a square hole in the ice and baptised them. When Baptists do that, they really are on fire!’ (Relfe 1988:48). The revival spread from New York to Philadelphia and throughout the country. The emphasis was on prayer.
Revival spread to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well.
The fruit of this revival was 2 million converts (1 million within the church, 1 million from without) and in the following years slavery was abolished, and there were reforms in prisons, labour, education, and medical care.
Fourth Awakening (1904-7)
1904-5 in Wales: Youth and children featured in the Welsh revival. The key leader was Evan Roberts, aged 26 (and his brother Dan, aged 20, and his sister Mary, aged 16). Leaders came from around the world and were humbled to see how God used teens and children. Evan and others were not eloquent preachers but good followers of the Holy Spirit.
Their motto was ‘Bend the church and save the world’. Evan Roberts’ vision of seeing 100,000 converted in Wales was fulfilled in less than one year. People got converted just reading about the revival in the newspapers!
Crime dropped off to the point where many courtrooms and jails were empty and judges and police had very little to do. Horses in the coal mines were accustomed to obeying commands that involved yelling and cursing. Since the vast majority of miners were converted, the horses were confused with commands that were humane and wholesome, so the horses needed retraining!
Prior to the revival Wales was in a frenzy over their favourite sport, soccer. With the revival, the stadiums stood empty. No-one preached against soccer. The players and fans had simply become so captivated with the Lord that they were no longer interested in the game (Joyner 1993:51).
The fire spread throughout Great Britain, Scandinavia, Europe, Africa, India, Korea, as well as the U.S.A. The pastors of Atlantic City, New Jersey, reported only 50 adults not converted in a population of 50,000! The First Baptist Church in Paducoh, Kentucky, had 1,000 converts in two months and the elderly pastor, Dr J. J. Cheek, died of exhaustion (Krupp 1988:22).
In California, Bartleman, Seymore, and Smale were impacted by the reports and booklets on the revival in Wales in 1905 as well as from letters of encouragement from Evan Roberts. Shortly thereafter the Azusa Street Revival erupted into the great Pentecostal Revival that saw 5 million converts from 1905-7 and continues to impact millions of lives to this day.
The twentieth century has been called by some ‘The Century of the Holy Spirit’. Although we have not witnessed a major revival since the turn of the century, since 1947 God has been bringing smaller scaled revivals and renewal movements such as:
1947-53 – the Latter Rain movement in western Canada and the U.S.A.
1949 – Hebrides Islands, Scotland.
Here is a wonderful example of how a revival causes a geographical area to become a divine ‘radiation zone’ of conviction and repentance.
Duncan Campbell, en evangelist, came to the Island of Lewis in the Hebrides Islands. On the first night of his arrival, he preached in a church building. When he left the building at 11 p.m. he found 600 gathered outside, 100 from the nearby dance hall, the other 500 who had been awakened, got out of bed, and felt compelled to walk to this place. Campbell preached the gospel to them till 4 a.m., at which time he was requested to come to the police station where 400 people were gathered, baffled as to why they were there. On his way to the station he came across other people along the road who were crying out to God for mercy! Revival continued for 3 years with 75% of the converts coming to Jesus outside of church buildings (Krupp 1988:26-7).
The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of the charismatic renewal movement, including the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the ‘Third Wave’ movement’ or the ‘signs and wonders’ movement and the ‘prophetic’ movement. Peter Wagner describes three waves of the Holy Spirit in this century, each continuing to be used by God: the Pentecostal movement, the charismatic movement (largely in the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches), and the ‘Third Wave’ movement which is primarily impacting the evangelical churches.
4. Should we expect to see revival again soon?
Many ‘third world’ countries in Africa, and Central and South America, as well as China and Korea, have been experiencing revival fires for a number of years.
Why should we expect to see revival again soon?
a. Biblical texts that create such expectation include:
Habakkuk 2:14 – ‘for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’ (Reinhard Bonnke, evangelist in Africa, says, ‘not one spot stays dry at the bottom of the sea.’)
Joel 2:23 – ‘He sends you abundant showers, both autumn (early) and spring (latter) rains.’ Early rains soften the ground, making it suitable for ploughing and sowing. With the approach of harvest, heavy rain (latter) returns to swell and mature grain and fruit in preparation for the time of reaping. Pentecost marked the beginning of former rains. After the Reformation, outpourings became more distinct and significant. Latter rain is in preparation for the day of harvest.
Joel 2:28, 31 – ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people … before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.’
Acts 2 – Pentecost, a partial fulfilment of Joel.
Acts 3:19,20 – ‘repent, turn to God, …..
John 14:12 – ‘will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these’ (miracles). Not fulfilled yet!
John 17 – In his priestly prayer, Jesus prays for Christian unity. This prayer has not been fulfilled yet. Of all the prayers the Father answers, would not his Son’s be answered? Rick Joyner says, ‘ Jesus is coming back for a bride, not a harem.’
Ephesians 5:26,27 – Jesus is preparing the bride to be presented to himself as pure, holy and radiant.
b. Based on previous patterns, revival usually occurs in a day of deep moral and spiritual bankruptcy. ‘Before a great awakening, there must come a rude awakening’ (Murillo 1985:11). The worst of times, in other words, precipitates the best of times. Who could deny the desperate need for a mighty revival in our day? Famine, poverty, pollution, war, crime, abortion, drug abuse, massive economic instability, and such like, stare us in the face. Nate Krupp (1988:34) argues that ‘we are at a point in history where it is either world revival or world destruction.’
c. Church historians, theologians and church leaders are predicting it. Many leaders have discerned that God is up to something big! He’s preparing new wineskins for the new wine, a fireplace for the fire, and barns for the harvest. Many even say that previous revivals are but a rehearsal for the big ones to come. ‘Our study of awakening movements only turns up what appear to be rehearsals for some final revelation of the full splendour of God’s kingdom… It is hard to believe that God will not grant the church some greater experience of wholeness and vitality than has yet appeared in the stumbling record of her history’ (Lovelace 1979:425).
d. Many prophets of our day in unison are expecting it in the 1990s and beyond. These include Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, and John Paul Jackson.
e. The growing emphasis on prayer. Prayer mobilisation today is unprecedented in history. Examples include men’s prayer movements, women’s intercessory groups, youth in schools, Marches for Jesus, ’10-40 Window’ prayer project, city wide pastors’ prayer fellowships, and so on. History demonstrates that revival is always preceded by a groundswell of prayer.
f. It’s God’s heart to bring revival. He longs to renew, restore, awaken us, and redeem humanity much more than we want him to. God is committed to renew his people and see the nations come to himself. ‘Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance’ (Psalm 2:8).
5. What hinders revival?
Don’t be a ‘fire-fighter’ or a ‘wet blanket’.
From a safe distance of several hundred years or several thousand miles, revival clearly looks invigorating. What could be more glamorous than a mighty work of God in our midst, renewing thousands and converting tens of thousands. … But if we find ourselves in the midst of revival, rather than being invigorated, we may be filled with scepticism, disgust, anger, or even fear…
The irony of revivals is that they are so longed for in times of barrenness, but they are commonly opposed and feared when they arrive. … The hostility in never to the idea of revival, which is ardently prayed for, but to God’s answer to our prayers and the unexpected form it may take (White 1988:34, 39).
Why does revival produce all this opposition?
‘We grow angry when we are scared. We fear what we cannot understand’ (White 1988:41).
a. Fear of change and losing control
We are creatures of habit (as in nostalgia, traditionalism); changes unsettle us. We fear the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the unpredictable.
b. Fear of emotions
We should be scared of emotionalism, the artificial manipulation of emotion, but emotion itself comes from seeing, from understanding. When the Holy Spirit awakens people, he seems to cause them to perceive truth more vividly … people see their sin as stinking cancer that will kill them and see the mercy of the Saviour with the eyes of those who have been snatched from a horrible death (White 1988:51).
Jonathan Edwards called emotions ‘holy affections’ and said they are essential for spiritual life. A hear heart (heart of stone) is an unaffected heart, a heart not moved by divine truth and revelation.
c. Fear of bizarre behaviour
Examples of unusual behaviour in revivals include shaking, jerking, falling, weeping, screaming, laughing, prophesying and being ‘drunk in the spirit’.
Three questions must be asked about this:
i. Has it happened among the people of God before (the biblical and historical precedence)?
ii. What is the fruit of it?
iii. How do we explain these phenomena?
i. Has it happened before?
Yes, these phenomena of bizarre behaviour have happened among God’s people during heightened spiritual activity. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that
it comes nearer to being the rule in revival that phenomena begin to manifest themselves – phenomena such as these … people are in agony of soul and groaning … sometimes people are so convicted and feel the power of the Spirit to such an extent that they faint and fall to the ground. Sometimes there are even convulsions, physical convulsions. And sometimes people seem to fall into a state of unconsciousness, into a kind of trance, and many remain like that for hours (1987:110-111).
There are also certain mental phenomena… You will find this phenomena of prophecy, this ability to foretell the future, frequently present (1987:135).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes onto say that ‘these phenomena are not essential to revival … yet it is true to say that, on the whole, they do tend to be present when there is a revival (1987:134). John White’s research has brought him to the same conclusion.
Note these biblical examples:
1. 1 Samuel 10:11 – Saul was in a trance, prophesying when the Spirit came upon him (also 1 Samuel 19:23-24).
2. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 – The glory of the Lord filled the temple so the priests were unable to stand to minister.
3. Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23; 43:4; 44:4 – Ezekiel fell face down before the glory of the Lord.
4. Daniel 8:17-18 – Daniel collapsed and sank into a deep sleep during a vision and an angelic visitation (also Daniel 10:7-11 – no strength left; on the ground trembling).
5. Matthew 17:6; Luke 9:32 – On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples fell face down to the ground, but also became heavy with sleep.
6. John 18:6 – When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus they fell to the ground when Jesus said, “I am he”.
7. Matthew 28:4 – On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection the guards at the tomb ‘shook and became like dead men’.
8. Acts 2 – At the Day of Pentecost the place shook, they spoke in strange tongues, and they behaved like being drunk. Peter responded (Acts 2:15) that ‘they are not drunk as you suppose’. Paul makes a comparison between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
9. Acts 9 – Saul on the road to Damascus fell to the ground, blinded by the glory. Later, in a trance-like condition he had a vision (2 Corinthians 12).
10. Revelation 1:17 – The apostle John said, ‘When I saw him I fell at his feet as though dead.’
Not only in Scripture do we find that frail human bodies are affected by the manifest presence of God, but most revivals in history have had physical and emotional manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Some examples:
1. Jonathan Edwards, the great leader of the First Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in New England wrote to a friend saying, ‘many of the young people and children appeared to be overcome with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine things … and many others at the same time were overcome with distress about their sinful and miserable state and condition; so that the whole room was full of nothing but outcries, faintings and such like. … many were overpowered and continued there for some hours (Stacy 1842:546 in DeArteaga 1992:39-40).
2. John Wesley and George Whitefield spoke of the strange physical phenomena that took place in their meetings in England as well. Wesley describes in his Journal:
Monday, Jan. 1, 1739 – Mr Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitfield, Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord’ (MacNutt 1990:98).
Following the two events of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, May 24, 1738, and this January 1, 1739 encounter, the supernatural element in his ministry became more pronounced. For fourteen years it was hardly there; for the next fifty it was (MacNutt 1990:98).
3. MacNutt (1990: 104) tells us that early in George Whitefield’s career,
when he was working with Wesley in England and people started to fall, Whitefield decided to register a protest by letter: ‘I cannot think it right in you to give so much encouragement to these convulsions which people have been thrown into in your ministry.’ Ironically enough, when Whitefield came to confront Wesley in person he found himself reprimanded by reality, for when he, Whitefield, was preaching the next day, ‘four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third has strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God, with strong cries and tears. From this time,’ Wesley writes, ‘I trust we shall all suffer God to carry on his own work in the way that pleaseth him.’
‘By the time he journeyed to America, Whitefield’s preaching was ordinarily accompanied by people toppling over:
Some were struck pale as death, others were wringing their hands, others lying on the ground, other sinking into the arms of their friends’ (Dallimore 1980:392-3, cited in MacNutt 1990:104).
4. Bishop Francis Ashbury, appointed by Wesley in 1771 as a missionary to the colonies, was a very disciplined man who insisted on meetings being conducted in a proper fashion, yet his meetings were characterised by shouting, falling, crying, and the ‘jerks’ (MacNutt 1990:107).
5. At the Cane Ridge camp meetings of 1801, which featured mostly Presbyterian preachers, one observer reported that
The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm… Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents… While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly-strange sensation, such as I had never felt before, came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lip quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground… Soon after, I left and went into the woods, and there I strove to rally and man up my courage…
After some time I returned… At one time I saw at least five hundred, swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them, and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens (Johnson 1955:64-5; MacNutt 1990:109).
6. Peter Cartwright, one of the prominent camp meeting evangelists in the Kentucky area, spoke of the phenomena of the ‘jerks’: ‘… no matter whether they were saints or sinners, they would be taken under a warm song or sermon and seized with a convulsive jerking all over, which they could not by any possibility avoid, and the more they resisted the more they jerked… The first jerk or so, you would see their fine bonnets, caps and combs fly; and so sudden would be the jerking of the head that their loose hair would crack almost as loud as a wagoner’s whip’ (Cartwright 1956:17-18).
7. Charles Finney, at the village schoolhouse near Antwerp, New York, describes the phenomena of falling under the awesome power of God’s presence and conviction: ‘An awful solemnity seemed to settle upon the people; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction and cry for mercy. If I had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell. I was obliged to stop preaching’ (cited in Pratney 1994:24).
8. Note how the Quakers and Shakers got their nicknames!
Yes, cases of physical phenomena have been observed throughout the ages whenever there has been heightened spiritual activity.
ii. What is the fruit of all this?
Jonathan Edwards wrote a treatise in 1741 called The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. Edwards asked his readers to assess the awakening by looking past the enthusiastic behaviour and seeing the ultimate spiritual fruit. He argued that the authenticity of God’s hand in the revival was demonstrated by five ‘sure, distinguishing, Scripture evidences’. It
1. raises the esteem of Jesus in the community;
2. works against the kingdom of Satan;
3. stimulates a greater regard for the Holy Scriptures;
4. is marked by a spirit of truth;
5. manifests a renewed love for God and people (Edwards 1971, 1984:109-115).
In his concluding section, Edwards exhorted his readers not to oppose the Spirit of God in the revival for this is to commit the unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:22-32. Edwards’ warning went unheeded by and large. By 1742 a majority of the New England clergy had come to the conclusion that the Great Awakening was merely an epidemic of emotionalism and what was needed was a return to sound theology. Rev. Charles Chauncey of Boston became the brilliant champion against the revival. He effectively articulated all the doubts, fears and criticisms of the revival. His books became best sellers and ensured the defeat of the Awakening. ‘When Whitefield arrived in 1744 practically all the pulpits were closed to him, and the wind had gone out of the Awakening’ (DeArteaga 1992:52).
It’s worth noting the fruit at the end of the lives of these two prominent figures, Edwards and Chauncey. In 1757, Edwards became president of Princeton, but when he arrived in the area there was a threat of a smallpox outbreak. To set an example, he was quick to volunteer to take the experimental vaccine. He became ill and died. Chauncey became one of the founding theologians of Unitarianism which discarded the Trinity and advocated universal salvation. Chauncey is no longer considered a hero who saved the people from emotionalism. He is now ‘seen as a religious bureaucrat who defended the status quo without comprehending the deeper issues of revival’ (DeArteaga 1992:54).
iii. How do we explain these phenomena?
We must recognise the element of mystery in God’s dealings with us. We should hold explanations tentatively and humbly.
Some explain it as the work of Satan. However, Martyn Lloyd-Jones questions, ‘Why should the Devil suddenly start dong this kind of thing? Here is the Church in a period of dryness, and of drought, so why should the Devil suddenly do something which calls attention to religion and the Lord Jesus Christ? The very results of revival, I would have thought, completely exclude the possibility of this being the action of the Devil… [see Luke 11:14-18]. If this is the work of the Devil, well then the Devil is an unutterable fool. He is dividing his own kingdom; he is increasing the Kingdom of God… There is nothing which is so ridiculous as this suggestion that this is the work of the Devil’ (Lloyd-Jones 1987:141-2).
What is the true explanation?
When God sovereignly visits an individual or group of human beings, his manifest presence and power often affects their bodies in some way. John White (1988:23) states, ‘God is, of course, present everywhere. But there seems to be times when he is, as it were, more present – or shall we say more intensely present. He seems to draw aside one or two layers of a curtain that protects us from Him, exposing our fragility to the awesome energies of his being.’
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1987:145-6) tells us that ‘we must never forget that the Holy Spirit affects the whole person… You see, man is body, soul, and spirit, and you cannot divide these… Man reacts as a whole. And it is just folly to expect that he can react in the realm of the spiritual without anything at all happening to the rest of him, to the soul, and to the body… these phenomena are indications of the fact that some very powerful stimulus is in operation. Something is happening which is so powerful that the very physical frame is involved.’
Lloyd-Jones also argues that such strange phenomena are a means that God uses to get our attention (1987:145). God is shaking us to wake us up (Ephesians 5:14).
God is also humbling us! Paul Cain says, ‘God often offends the mind to reveal the heart.’
Both John White and Martyn Lloyd-Jones conclude that although a small portion of such strange behaviour would be of the flesh (the person’s own need for acceptance and attention) or a demonic manifestation, the bulk of such activity in revival originates from the power and glory of God.
We should not be fixated on the manifestations, but on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!
d. Fear of disorder
Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, declared that ‘revival is a season of glorious disorder’ (Relfe 1988:8).
Martyn Lloyd Jones (1987:103) points out that ‘always in a revival there is what somebody once called a divine disorder. Some are groaning and agonising under conviction, others praising God for the great salvation. And all this leads to crowded and prolonged meetings. Time seems to be forgotten. People seem to have entered into eternity. A meeting may start at six-thirty in the evening, and it may not end until daybreak the next morning with nobody aware of the passing of the hours.’
We don’t like it when meetings get messy and unpredictable. It is embarrassing and offensive to most of us. But John White (1988:35) reminds us that ‘revival is war, and war is never tidy. It is an intensifying of the age-old conflict between Christ and the powers of darkness.’
John Wimber (1985:31) offers this analogy: ‘When warm and cold fronts collide, violence ensues: thunder and lightning, rain or snow – even tornadoes or hurricanes. There is conflict, and a resulting release of power. It is disorderly, messy – difficult to control.’
Understandably we prefer peace, decency, and order. We say, ‘God is a God of order’ but we must realise that to bring in order is sometimes a disorderly process… Chaos and darkness flee but they create a ruckus as they leave (White 1988:44).
Edwards was so convinced of this disorderly process as part of the work of God’s Spirit that he cried, ‘Would to God that all the public assemblies in the land were broken off from their public exercises with such confusion as this next Sabbath day (1741, 1984:127).
Again, John White (1988:45) argues that ‘if we insist that revival must be “decent and orderly” (as we define those terms) we automatically blind ourselves to most revivals. Like the dwarfs in C. S. Lewis’ children’s story The Last Battle, we may spit out heavenly food, for to us it looks like, smells like, tastes like dung and straw.’
Question: Am I missing the burning bush for trying to keep the lawn cut?
e. Fear of controversy
We all shy away from controversy. However, the fact remains, ‘renewal has always been controversial and will always be controversial. We must be ready for it (Mallone 1985:42).
Jonathan Edwards said, ‘a work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected’ (Works 2:273).
John Wesley prayed, ‘Lord send us revival without its defects but if this is not possible, send revival, defects and all (Bartleman 1980:45).
If we find a revival that is not spoken against, we had better look again to ensure that it is a revival… No one would pretend to claim that every revival burns with a smokeless flame (Wallis 1956:26).
Remember, wherever Jesus or the apostle Paul went there was confrontation. Riots and controversy occurred. Luther, Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards were extremely controversial characters in their day – some kicked out of their churches! But once the dust settled centuries later, they have come to be highly revered and seen as fighters for orthodox Christianity.
Further objections and concerns that many may find themselves struggling with are included here. I am indebted to Bill Jackson of Champaign, Illinois Vineyard for his unpublished paper of April, 1994, called ‘What in the world is happening to us?’ for the following section extracted from this paper with his permission.
1. It’s hard to understand
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, I would understand it. …
B. All through the Bible, God revealed himself in ways that were hard to understand.
1. God’s chosen people for the most part misunderstood Jesus. Pharisees said he was in league with Beelzebub, which was a term for the devil.
2. The disciples didn’t understand the mission of Jesus until the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2).
3. The Jews as a whole never understood that God’s heart was for all the nations. Even the disciples were shocked that God would offer the gospel to the Gentiles, law free. They muse in amazement in Acts 11:18, ‘So then God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life!’
4. Historically, God has moved in ways that are hard to understand. The classic example of this is martyrdom. Martyrdom has always been an explosive key to church growth. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian, said, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.
2. It makes me afraid
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, I wouldn’t be afraid.
B. Visitations produce fear throughout the Bible.
1. Lightning, thunder, and smoke on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19).
2. Daniel in Chapter 10 had a great vision: ‘I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale, and I was helpless.’ The angel, Gabriel, had to say, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ because he was terrified.
3. Great fear seized the whole church in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead through a prophetic word when they lied to the Holy Spirit.
C. Note: This fear is not the same fear as that which comes from Satan. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. The devil’s fear robs us of faith and hope and renders us incapable of love. There is, however, a godly fear that the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It is this kind of fear that is produced by divine visitations. It results in a more godly life.
D. How could a visitation of a holy God on sinful people not produce fear?
1. How could our finite minds expect to understand the infinite ways of God? He is completely beyond us and holy.
2. Fear is caused by:
a) the holiness of God coming in contact with our sinfulness.
b) our anti-supernatural world view. Since we have no supernatural category in our western world view, when we encounter the supernatural we encounter the fear of the unknown. It causes the psychological state known as cognitive dissonance. We receive data that does not fit and it causes feelings of insecurity.
3. It causes division
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, there would be no division.
B. There are two kinds of division:
1. When the kingdom of light clashes with the kingdom of darkness, it causes godly division. Jesus said he had not come to bring peace but a sword. ‘A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ (Matthew 10:36).
2. Backbiting, slander, and rebellion are ungodly because they cause the kingdom to be divided against itself.
C. Godly division is thoroughly biblical:
1. Korah was judged for his rebellion against Moses (Numbers 11).
2. Jesus caused division wherever he went.
3. The inclusion of Gentiles in the church caused division (Acts 15).
D. Godly division is thoroughly historical:
1. The Great Awakening broke out in New Jersey in 1725 and was violently opposed by more traditional churches.
2. G. Campbell Morgan called the Pentecostal Movement ‘the last vomit of Satan’.
3. Leaders in the previous move of God often persecute the present one.
4. God over-rides my faculties
A. Our presupposition: God is always a gentleman and would never force anything upon us.
B. The Bible seems to say something else:
1. God is God and he does what he wants. In Isaiah, God says, ‘I say my purpose will stand and I will do all that I please” (46:11).
2. God over-rode Balaam in Numbers 23 and caused Balaam to prophesy against his will.
3. God over-rode Saul and his men in 1 Samuel 19, and caused them to prophecy instead of killing David.
4. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus against his will.
5. God’s killing of Ananias and Sapphira is the ultimate over-ride.
6. Far from treating us gently, God has promised his people persecution.
5. It causes me to be the centre of attention
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, he would not do it publicly.
B. Quite to the contrary, God often uses the person to be the message:
1. In Ezekiel 4-5, Ezekiel is told by God to lie on his side, naked, to shave his head and beard. God made him the centre of attention because he, himself, was the message.
2. Jeremiah was told to smash a jar in Jeremiah 18-19 to draw attention to his message.
3. Hosea was told to marry a prostitute as a message to the nation of Israel.
4. Ananias and Sapphira can be used as yet another example because their dead bodies were the message.
5. Stephen was ‘glowing’ when he was killed.
6. It doesn’t happen to me
A. Our presupposition: When God moves, the same things happen to everyone.
B. Biblical perspective:
1. It’s simply not true that some people seem to be ‘favoured’ while others are not. God’s love is for the whole world. Under his sovereignty he treats everyone in a way that is beneficial for them. God ultimately determines what is best for us.
2. Jesus healed only one man at the pool of Bethesda despite the fact that there were many sick present (John 5). This in no way meant that God loved the man who was healed more than the ones who weren’t. Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father doing and the father was somehow loving all those at the pool that day.
7. A final caution
A. It’s okay to have questions about what is happening but we must try to be honest about the motive behind our questions. What causes the questions?
1. If it’s because of your personality, that’s okay. But let’s not let our personalities keep us from being touched by God during this season of divine visitation.
2. If it’s because you are a ‘noble Berean’ (Acts 17:10-11), that’s to be commended.
a) Search for the truth diligently.
b) When you find it, press in.
3. If it’s because you are afraid:
a) Ask God why.
b) Don’t run. If this is God, then you would be turning your back on him.
B. After the crucifixion, the disciples had questions too. The Jesus who walked with two of them on the road to Emmaus and opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures is the same Jesus who walks in our midst by the person of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:13-35). He will open our minds as well (Jackson 1994).
My conclusion to this section:
Today we need the fire of God. Some are afraid of wildfire but there are always enough ‘wet blankets’ around to dampen it.
On the Day of Pentecost, the crowd responded to the supernatural manifestations of the spirit in three ways: some were amazed, some perplexed, and others mocked. Each generation has been no different.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (1986:25) urges us to study past revivals because ‘once we know how the Lord has acted in the past, we should be better prepared to accept the special working of God when it arrives… Every one of our preconceptions and built-in limitations concerning what God can or cannot do or what he is likely or not likely to do in exact detail must be jettisoned.’
In other words, don’t put God in a box. Let God be God! He is the Great I Am, not the Great I Was! His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55). We should expect to have difficulty understanding and agreeing with the way God does things at times!
We are wise to take the advice of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: ‘we must be careful in these matters… What do we know of the Spirit falling on people? What do we know about these great manifestations of the Holy Spirit? We need to be very careful lest we be found fighting against God, lest we be guilty of quenching the Spirit of God’ (White 1988:13).
6. How can we promote revival?
Taking a survey on the street, a reporter asked a hurried pedestrian, ‘Sir, do you know the two greatest problems in the world today?’ The man responded, ‘I don’t know and I don’t care.’ Without missing a beat, the reporter declared, ‘You got them both!’ (ignorance and apathy).
We can overcome ignorance and apathy concerning revival. How can we promote revival?
1. We need to care
We need to care that God works in our nation. Note that Nehemiah had a cushy job as a cupbearer to the king but left to rebuild the walls.
2. We need to get informed
We need to get the big picture!
Read the Bible. Read biographies of leaders of past revivals. Go where the fire is, such as conferences and places where God is moving powerfully, and get first-hand exposure and experience. It is irresponsible to criticise that which you know nothing about. Slander is sin.
3. Cultivate daily intimacy with the Lord
This is what John Wimber calls ‘developing a personal history with God’. Develop personal disciplines that cultivate a passion for Jesus such as prayer, fasting, Bible study, worship and obedience in the small things.
Jack Deere (1993:201) urges us to pray the following prayer on a daily basis: ‘Father, grant me power from the Holy Spirit to love the Son of God like You love him (John 17:26).
Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Learn to hear God’s voice and catch his heart. Get spiritually prepared so that when God’s zero hour strikes, you’re fit for action.
4. Intercessory prayer
Note these Scriptures and quotes, and many like them:
2 Chronicles 7:14 – ‘If my people… will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’
Isaiah 62:6-7 – ‘You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till…’
Isaiah 64:1 – ‘Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.’
‘God does nothing but in answer to prayer’ (Wesley).
‘Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of his highest willingness’ (Luther).
‘Prayer is rebellion against the status quo’ (David Wells).
‘Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as worthy’ (John Piper).
‘Give me Scotland or I die’ (John Knox).
‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer’ (A. T. Pierson in Bryant 1984:40).
‘When God has something very great to accomplish for his Church, it is his will that there should precede it, the extraordinary prayers of his people’ (Edwards, Works 1:426).
Some argue that revival is sovereign and you can’t do anything to make it happen, while others say you can pray and bring it about. I believe God initiates the prayer that precedes a revival; and in this hour he is stirring the church to be united, aggressive, and persistent in prayer for God to act and move again.
5. Be willing to pay the price
Are you willing to receive a divine ‘baptism of desperation’, a ‘holy dissatisfaction’ that puts your reputation, dignity and personal peace at risk?
We need to have the courage to be honest with God and say with Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, ‘If what I have is all the Christianity there is, then the things is a fraud’ (Brown 1991:28).
We must force a crisis in our lives… when our very being aches with desire for his visitation, when we are consumed with hunger for his reality, when we radically cut back on other activities in order to seek his face, then we are ripe for transformation (Brown 1991:29).
We need to surrender our puny agendas, our need for security, safety and comfort zones. As Hebrews 11 tells us, we are not to shrink back and displease the Lord but to become risk-takers in this adventure of participating in the Kingdom of God.
Christians ought to be old friends with risk and when a church or an individual Christian builds a wall of safety, something very basic to the Christian faith has been violated… Christians ought to be the most gutsy people on the face of the earth (Brown 1983:113-114).
We must have more confidence in God’s ability to lead us than in Satan’s ability to deceive us (Deere 1993:215; see also Luke 11:11-13).
Arthur Wallis (1956:10) says, ‘If you would make the greatest success of your life, try to discover what God is doing in your time and fling yourself into the accomplishment of his purpose and will.’
We, like Peter in the boat during a storm, need to hear Jesus’ words, ‘Do not be afraid,’ and his invitation to ‘come’ and walk on water with him.
God’s gracious disposition is always toward revival and he only looks to see if there is a people, a generation who dares enough and cares enough to pay the price. ‘Now is the time to sanctify ourselves for tomorrow God will do wonders among us’ (Joshua 3:5).
Scripture quotations from the New International Version of the Bible (1973, 1978, 1984).
Bartleman, Frank (1980) Azusa Street. Logos.
Brown, Michael (1991) Whatever Happened to the Power of God? Destiny Image.
Brown, Stephen (1983) If God is in Charge. Nelson.
Bryant, David (1984) With Concerts of Prayer. Regal.
Cartwright, Peter (1956) Autobiography of Peter Cartwright. Abingdon.
DeArteaga, William (1992) Quenching the Spirit. Creation House.
Deere, Jack (1993) Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Zondervan.
Dallimore, Arnold (1980) George Whitefield. Vol. 2. Crossway.
Edwards, Jonathan (1974, 1992 reprinted) Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vols 1 & 2.
Banner of Truth.
Edwards, Jonathan (1741, 1984) The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.
Banner of Truth.
Jackson, Bill (1994) ‘What in the World is Happening to Us?’ Unpublished paper.
Johnson, Charles (1955) The Frontier Camp Meeting. Methodist University Press.
Joyner, Rick (1993) The World Aflame. Morningstar.
Kaiser Jr., Walter C. (1986) Quest for Renewal (Revival in the Old Testament). Moody.
Krupp, Nate (1984, 1988) The Triumphant Church. Destiny Image.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn (1987) Revival. Crossway.
Lovelace, Richard (1979) Dynamics of Spiritual Life. InterVarsity.
MacNutt, Francis (1990) Overcome by the Spirit. Chosen.
Mallone, George (1985) Canadian Revival: It’s Our Turn. Welch.
Murillo, Mario (1985) Critical Mass. Anthony Douglas.
Packer, J. I. (1984) Keep in Step with the Spirit. Revell.
Pratney, Winkie (1994) Revival. Huntingdon House.
Relfe, Mary Stewart (1988) Cure of All Ills. League of Prayer.
Wallis, Arthur (1956) In the Day of Thy Power. Cityhill.
Wallis, Arthur (1979) Rain from Heaven. Hodder & Stoughton.
White, John (1988) When the Spirit Comes with Power. InterVarsity.
Wimber, John (1985) Power Evangelism. Hodder & Stoughton.
Wimber, John (1994) Equipping the Saints, Fall Quarter.
Pastor John Wimber, founding leader of the Vineyard Christian Fellowships, wrote this leadership letter in May 1994 about current moves of the Spirit of God in the Vineyard and in other churches around the world including Australia.
In recent months the Holy Spirit has been falling in meetings throughout the Vineyard. This season of visitation began about the same time in Toronto, Canada at the Airport Vineyard and in Anaheim, California, then rippled out across America, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and to other parts of the world by now.
As the leader of the Vineyard, I am often asked, ‘What is this?’ and ‘Is this revival?’
My answer is, in my opinion, not yet. But it is the only thing that becomes revival. We’re seeing the early stages of an outpouring of the Spirit of God. Some have estimated that as many as 80,000 individuals have been significantly touched and revived to date [200,000 by February 1995]. It has not yet evolved into what most church historians define as revival: an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the church and then in the aftermath, through the church into the community resulting in the conversion of thousands.
What is revival? I like John White’s definition: ‘an action of God whereby he pours out his Holy Spirit, initially upon the church, and it comes as an alternative to his judgment which is about to fall on the church and on the secular world’ (John White, ‘Prayer and Renewal’ course, Canadian Theological Seminary, 1 July 1991).
True revival is marked by widespread repentance both within the church, and among unbelievers. Although as many as four thousand have been converted to date (in various Vineyard churches by May 1994) we’ve not yet seen the dynamic of thousands and thousands of people coming to Christ rapidly. Of course, that is our prayer and I thought that it would be helpful to review some basic things concerning revival to get us focused.
During the last approximately 17 years God has poured out his Spirit, beginning in what is now called the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim and extending through us to churches all over the United States, Canada and Europe, as well as to other places in the world.
Beginning some time in September of ’76, Bob Fulton, Carol Wimber, Carl Tuttle, along with others, began assembling at the home of Carl Tuttle’s sister. The agenda was simple: praying, worshipping and seeking the Lord. By the time I came several months later, the Spirit of God was already moving powerfully. There was a great brokenness and responsiveness in the hearts of many. This evolved into what became our church on Mother’s Day in 1977.
Soon God began dealing with me about the work of the Spirit related to healing. I began teaching in this area. Over the next year and a half, God began visiting in various and sundry ways. There were words of knowledge, healing, casting out of demons, and conversions.
Later we saw an intensification of this when Lonnie Frisbee came and ministered. Lonnie had been a Calvary Chapel pastor and evangelist, being used mightily in the Jesus People Movement. After our Sunday morning service on Mother’s Day 1979, I was walking out the door behind Lonnie, and the Lord told me, ‘Ask that young man to give his testimony tonight.’ I hadn’t even met him, though I knew who he was and how the Lord had used him in the past. That night, after he gave his testimony, Lonnie asked the Holy Spirit to come and the repercussions were incredible. The Spirit of God literally knocked people to the floor and shook them silly. Many people spoke in tongues, prophesied or had visions.
Then over the next few months, hundreds and hundreds of people came to Christ as the result of the witness of the individuals who were touched that night, and in the aftermath. The church saw approximately 1,700 converted to Christ in a period of about three months.
This evolved into a series of opportunities, beginning in 1980, to minister around the world. Thus the Vineyard renewal ministry and the Vineyard movement were birthed.
Ebbs and flows
By July of 1993, VCF (Vineyard Christian Fellowship) Anaheim had an ongoing interaction with the Holy Spirit in which we’d had ebbs and flows. There were times when we had a great sense of nearness and times in which there seemed to be a withdrawal to some degree. But there was never a time in which God was not willing to bless, heal, deliver and touch people. It just wasn’t with the same intensity that we’d had early on. Sometimes your family may have fillet mignon for dinner, and sometimes you have leftovers. But you still eat, and you’re thankful for whatever it is you have to eat.
Most of you know about the discovery of my cancer in April of 1993 and the ensuing treatment. In July of 1993, right before the International Vineyard Pastor’s Conference began, the Holy Spirit spoke to Carol, my wife. He told her I was to go to the nations. We understood then it meant going to the church in the nations, as over against going to evangelise the lost of the world. This in my mind meant a ministry of renewal and revival.
Carol responded, ‘Lord, my husband is sleeping 20-22 hours a day. He has no voice. Tomorrow pastors from all over the world are going to be here and he won’t even be able to participate. If this is indeed your will, touch him tonight. Please give him his voice back so that he may minister.’
That’s exactly what he did the next morning. I woke up able to speak and with just barely enough energy to go and participate in the conference. It was a very blessed event for me as well as for those that love me in the Vineyard.
By October of 1993 God had spoken 27 times confirming that I should go to the nations. Seventeen times he spoke in the same context and said that this would be a ‘season of new beginnings’. The Lord was saying, ‘I’m going to start it all over again. I’m going to pour out my Spirit in your midst like I did in the beginning…
I felt like Abraham might have felt when he was waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises. The New Testament credits Abraham with not wavering in his faith. He had faith that God was going to do it, but I’m sure Abraham and Sarah had a few moments when they wondered how it was going to come together. (That’s how Ishmael came about.) Anyway, I was looking at my age – 59, going on 90. I was coming through an incredibly tough year with the cancer. The church had endured the season of adversity coming through it with a new sturdiness and strength. I saw a new strength in our movement. I knew God was moving.
But I looked at myself, and thought, I’m out of energy. In my spirit I was just murmuring, ‘Oh God, oh God’. And at that point (mid January) the Lord gave me a word. I heard myself say: Shall I have this pleasure in my old age? The very words that Sarah laughingly said to herself when she overheard the Lord say she was going to have a son from her 90-year-old womb by her 100-year-old husband (Gen. 18:10). This was a word of life from the Lord, and it touched me deeply.
I had brought this message of new beginnings to our AVC (Association of Vineyard Churches) National Board and Council meeting in November of 1993 at Palm Springs. Then the Lord confirmed this word in the hearts and minds of our national leadership. They laid hands on Bob Fulton and me and they blessed us to go, and stir up the church.
At the same meeting John Arnott (from Ontario, Canada) learned how the Holy Spirit had recently powerfully renewed and refreshed Randy Clark (VCF St. Louis) in a meeting conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne in Tulsa, Oklahoma. How the Lord got Randy to Tulsa for a meeting conducted by a South African Pentecostal is a story in itself. Nevertheless, Randy began seeing similar outpourings of the Spirit in his home church and elsewhere as he had occasion to minister. It was as if the ‘times of refreshing’ had begun.
So John Arnott, knowing that a season of new beginnings in the Vineyard was near at hand, and hearing about Randy Clark’s transformed ministry, invited Randy to come to Toronto to minister in his church, as well as to those folks from the surrounding area that would like to attend.
This occurred on 20 January, 1994. Four days of meetings turned into five months [now over a year] of almost nightly meetings in numerous locations in Ontario. It has since poured out through those who have visited there into similar renewal meetings all over the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and even Europe.
Meanwhile at the Anaheim Vineyard beginning on Sunday, 5 December, 1993, the Holy Spirit told me to stir up the gifts of the Spirit that our people may have a greater hunger for the Giver, Jesus. Throughout the month of December and early January, we set aside nights for that with an ever increasing sense of the Lord’s presence and willingness to bless.
On the afternoon of Sunday, 16 January, 1994, the Holy Spirit gave me the word ‘Pentecost’. I spent the rest of the afternoon asking the Lord what he meant by it. No answer. At that evening’s church service, the Lord gave me a vision of young people in a certain set and order. During the ministry time, from the pulpit I asked the young people to come forward. They did and the Lord came, consuming them in a beautiful and powerful way. It began a significant increase of the outflowing of power at Anaheim that has continued until this writing.
In interaction with leaders and workers across both the United States and Canada, I have encouraged the Arnotts, as well as Randy Clark and others that have been touched by the Spirit and are being used to share with others, to refer to this present visitation of the Spirit in our churches as a ‘refreshing’ or ‘renewal’ rather than a revival. I have no problem with the notion that people are being revived. I just have a problem with our using a term that most evangelicals at least reserve for that phase of revival that is an outpouring, not only on the church but through the church and into the community. The result is the salvation of thousands.
What about the phenomena?
Nearly everything we’ve seen (falling, weeping, laughing, shaking) has been seen before, not only in our own memory, but in revivals all over the world. One of my colleagues on the AVC staff, Steve Holt, has compiled an extremely helpful summary of Jonathan Edwards’ thoughts on the place of physical manifestations and phenomena in the midst of revival.
During the first Great Awakening in America, Edwards was right in the middle of it all. Not only was he a thoughtful participant, and observer, but he applied his keen theological mind to the ‘problem’ of religious enthusiasms, which were the object of much scorn and criticism among the religious establishment. Edwards’ perspective on revival can be very helpful to us as we evaluate some of the manifestations of the Spirit that we see in our meetings. Edwards saw them too, and he developed a very wise counsel regarding it.
Edwards attempted to answer the question, ‘How do we judge whether these phenomena are from God or the Devil? Edwards’ logic is lucid and spiritual, but after 250 years, some of his language is a challenge. The following are his main points in outline from. For further details on the writings of Jonathan Edwards, I refer you to his Complete Works.
1. We do not judge by a part: the way it began, the instruments emphasised, the means used, the methods that have been taken. We judge by the effects upon the people (Isa. 40:13, 14; Jn. 3:8; Isa. 2:17). Edwards reminds us that God often uses the most foolish things to confound the wise.
2. We should judge by the whole of Scripture, not our own personal rules and measures, nor some portion of Scripture. Furthermore, Edwards enjoins us not to judge phenomena negatively just because we have not personally had such an experience.
3. We should distinguish the good from the bad, and not judge the whole by the parts. Summation: We can become so paranoid of extremism that we actually sin by grieving the Holy Spirit and stopping his work. To accomplish his work, God seems more willing at times to tolerate extreme behaviour (that is not clearly sinful) than we are.
4. We should judge by the fruit of the work in general. Edwards could justify in his own mind the extravagance of some in the revival because of the revival’s impact in New England. The Bible was more greatly esteemed; multitudes had been brought to conviction of truth and certainty of the gospel; and the Indians were more open to the gospel than ever before.
5. We should judge by the fruit of the work in particular instances. Edwards wrote of many examples of people who had been transported into the glories of the heavenlies for hours at a time. Great rejoicing, transports (visions and dreams), and trembling have produced an increase in humility, holiness, and purity. Answered prayers became the norm.
6. We should judge by the glory of the work. Edwards passionately called for the church to be seized by the rapture, glory, and enthusiasm of God. In his view, the Great Awakening (with all its various manifestations) was exceedingly glorious in the extraordinary degrees of light, love, and spiritual joy that God had bestowed on great multitudes.
Restoration and Revival
There’s a time of restoration coming. There’s a time of revival coming. There’s an outpouring of the Spirit that’s preparing the hearts and lives of men and women across our country, and around the world. We saw it recently in New Zealand, and in Australia. The Lord poured out his Spirit mightily. We’ve seen it in the Anaheim Vineyard. We’ve seen it across the country. It’s happening wherever there’s receptivity.
Remember, as long as people keep hearing about this, and as long as people keep coming, the Spirit will be poured out. The laughter will bubble forth. So don’t be afraid of it. It indicates the ongoing truth of God’s word. It’s another verification that God is among us. It’s another standard if you will, being lifted up and exalted unto the Lord. It’s his work. It’s not craziness. It’s not people acting weird (Not that they don’t look crazy and seem strange). But it’s appropriate. The Lord is being exalted by his own means. Remember, the Lord says, ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways’ (Isa. 55:8). And God just goes about doing things differently than you or I would.
What do the phenomena mean?
Our theology and experience of revival must be tempered by our understanding of sanctification. Sanctification is the necessary counterpart to justification, or the forgiveness of sins.
I view sanctification as that work of the Holy Spirit that takes place both as ‘a one-time act, valid for all time, imputing and imparting holiness, and as an ongoing, progressive work’ (New Dictionary of Theology, p. 615). In the sense that it’s ongoing, we co-operate with the Holy Spirit.
All Christians need to be cleansed, and dedicated to the service of God (Rom. 12:1-2) and thereby make practical our prayer, ‘Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth (and in my life) as it is in heaven.’
Let us not allow ourselves to equate the experience of various manifestations of the Spirit with sanctification. Such experiences may accompany, accent, or provide a milestone on the journey of sanctification, but they are not necessarily the agents of sanctification.
In summary, I believe that this could readily become the revival we’ve all longed for and prayed for. I do not believe that it has reached its full stature yet, but I believe it may be around the corner. People have asked me what I think the next step may be. I’ve said that I know that at some point in time we must give a call to full-scale repentance undergirded by deep and heartfelt contrition. Changed lives and the fruit of true repentance will result.
Australian Christians have often thought that revival was ‘just around the corner’ (Wilson 1983:26). However, since the mid-1960s the prevailing trends in Church attendance in Australia have shown a steady decline, apart from the growth of the Pentecostal Churches (Chant 1984:219-224). Without doubt Pentecostals have had many new conversions but it can be argued that the new growth is also transitional – dissatisfied people coming from mainline denominations. But, have there been any signs of genuine revival in recent times?
Ian Murray (1988:333) writes, ‘The Christian past of Australia has largely vanished out of sight. Not surprisingly, many have drawn the conclusion that the country has no Christian history of which it is worth speaking.’ However, this paper outlines an episode of Australian Christian history which is well worth retelling.
The story is simple. The happening is unique. It illustrates the way in which the Christian gospel can profoundly penetrate and radically re-orient Australian people.
Ministry at Wudinna
Wudinna. This was the Rev. Deane Meatheringham’s first appointment following his training at Wesley College. The town is somewhat isolated, being situated about 250 kilometres west of Port Augusta on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.
‘What a depressing picture the Wudinna Circuit must have presented to the young, enthusiastic probationer, Rev. Deane Meatheringham and his new bride, Rosslyn, as they arrived in 1967 to live and labour there’ (Curnow 1977:81).
The district was known to be one of the hardest Methodist circuits in the state, and hard for others also. At one time the residents in nearby Minnipa quite literally ran the Anglican minister out of town.
Deane Meatheringham began by preaching the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. He attempted to form small Bible study groups but this didn’t arouse any interest (Meatheringham 1981:3). At best, the Wudinna congregation consisted of about 40 to 50 members. About 8 families were regulars. By October 1967, the numbers attending Sunday services were actually down to about 9 or 10 people, and most of those were reluctant even to speak of spiritual matters. The status quo prevailed.
Even so, Meatheringham persisted with his preaching and teaching. ‘He pounded the gospel, the grace of God,’ remembers Marj Holman. In November 1967 he preached a sermon at Minnipa entitled ‘God has acted; we must react.’ He invited a formal response and much to his surprise three women who only haphazardly attended church came forward. For the regular worshippers, this occasioned a slightly embarrassing end to the service, but it also marked the beginning of an outbreak of groups in which many people expressed an unprecedented desire to learn and grow in their faith.
The three women were eager to become involved in confirmation classes, and they invited some of their friends to join the class at Mount Damper. About 15-20 people had attended the first teaching group in which the preparation for confirmation took place. Then, early in 1968, another confirmation class began with others who had been affected by Meatheringham’s preaching and teaching of the gospel. Studies were given on the meaning of baptism and also on justification by faith. A continual stream of people found their lives renewed as they happily put their trust in Jesus Christ.
The Leighton Ford Crusade came to Adelaide from 31 March to 7 April, 1968. Participation in and prayer for the Crusade was commended to all Methodists, ‘in the strongest possible terms’, by the President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev. Merv Trenorden. About 150 people attended the hall in Wudinna to listen to Leighton Ford via a land-line. An appeal was made and again people came forward. Soon after, when Merv Trenorden came to Wudinna to preach for the Confirmation Service, he was astonished by the activity which was taking place.
Twenty new converts were confirmed. People who had held nominal roll membership for years were experiencing Christian conversion – new birth. A group of teenagers had responded to the gospel. In October, 1967, the Wudinna Youth Group had joined with Glen Osmond Baptist youth for a Church camp at Crystal Brook. This had been a significant time for several of them. A vibrant Christian Endeavour group was formed and lead by Meatheringham. The Churches of Christ people were welcomed as associate members of the Methodist Church. People were starting to ask for Bible study groups and there was a growing hunger for Christian teaching and literature (Curnow 1977:81).
Wudinna has known many hard times and had experienced a severe drought in 1959, but interestingly enough locals recall how 1966, 1968 and 1969 were particularly good years. The country flourished, the economy was buoyant and it was a very busy time for farmers. At this time, the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been quite active within the area and it is not insignificant that people were very aware of ‘the law’ and of morality. However, the people here were largely unaware of and unaffected by the charismatic movement which was making some impact within the Australian churches. In this sense, the message of unconditional grace was being sown in well-prepared and virgin soil.
Mission at Wudinna
Meatheringham was authorised by his local 1968 September quarterly meeting, to make enquiries concerning a mission. As a result, the former overseas missionary, Anglican minister and Principal of the Adelaide Bible Institute (now the Bible College of South Australia) the Rev. Geoffrey Bingham, was contacted and he agreed to come. Meatheringham sought Bingham’s advice regarding preparation for the mission. It was recommended that prayer groups be formed. A total of 12 groups soon began meeting around the circuit.
The Wudinna folk also had a strong desire to be trained in some way. This happened through the Lay Institute For Evangelism (L.I.F.E). It was a wing of the Department of Evangelism in the Church of England Diocese of Sydney. Rev. Geoffrey Fletcher was the Director. The L.I.F.E. programme was designed to teach lay people ‘how to present Jesus Christ, how to avoid religious jargon, how to overcome anxiety in sharing, how to answer questions, how to avoid arguing’ and so on. Deane Meatheringham led the studies.
The enthusiastic desire to participate in these training courses was beyond anyone’s expectation. Sixty people came along to listen to the hour long tapes and to take part in the drill. A telegram was hurriedly sent off to Sydney: ‘Rush Twenty Extra LIFE Manuals to Wudinna S.A.’ While some folk did become Christians or were renewed through these programmes, they were primarily times of preparation for the mission.
The mission was planned for 24-31 August, 1969, and was a joint venture of the five congregations in the Wudinna Methodist Circuit. The few Churches of Christ families in the district were also closely associated with the Methodist Church. The Anglican parishes of Elliston and Streaky Bay joined in encouraged by the Rev. Dennis Crisp, the Anglican Minister from Elliston. It also had the support of the Lutheran Church. The Catholic Priest at Minnipa, Father Wesley Heading indicated his personal enthusiasm and prayerful support by sending Meatheringham a telegram prior to the mission. A combined Methodist-Anglican committee consisting of 8 members was elected to promote and make arrangements for the programme.
The mission was entitled FREE INDEED. The theme was taken from John 8:36, ‘If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.’ It was well advertised using posters, personal and printed invitations, and through the use of articles written for local papers. As it was intended to be a ministry of the body of Christ it was agreed that no offerings be taken up at meetings.
Geoffrey Bingham came to Wudinna with a team of 11 students from the A.B.I. They played an active and significant part in the worship services and shared their own personal testimonies with the locals. Bingham was no newcomer to missions, nor to revival. He brought wisdom and experience with him. At one time he was the minister of a strong, dynamic congregation which sometimes attracted up to 1000 people at Holy Trinity Church, Millers Point in Sydney. Historian Stuart Piggin described him as probably the most successful young minister in Sydney during the 1950s (Lecture, 1992).
In 1957 Bingham had gone to Pakistan as a missionary (Loane 1988:90). Then in 1961 he founded the Pakistan Bible Institute and during a nine year teaching career from 1957-1966, witnessed two great waves of revival in this predominantly Muslim Country (Bingham 1992:95-120).
Bingham came to Wudinna not give revival messages, but to simply preach from the Bible. The messages were solid teaching about bondage to sin and Satan and the powers of darkness and the flesh and the world and so on; and the true freedom which Christ gives from such powers. Bingham is a powerful preacher. He has a commanding presence and a winning sense of humor.
The huge turnout for the first meeting at the Minnipa Anglican Church startled the organisers, impressed the visiting preacher and surprised the crowd of about 150 locals who came to hear him. ‘No one gets West Coast people to come out if they don’t want to,’ observed John Kammermann.
But this was a phenomenon which continued throughout the week of the mission. The atmosphere was expectant, people listened intently and many who attended were people no one even expected to be interested in Christian things. One well known local businessman who was an avowed atheist and communist attended more than one of the meetings!
On the first Sunday morning in Wudinna, the Church was so packed with 200-300 people that the ministers had to tip toe through the sanctuary in order to get past the overflowing masses of people. Many folk were crammed into the porch and some were even forced to listen from the windows outside.
At the service at Koongawa on Sunday afternoon, Ruth Toy, the organist, who usually put out about 6 chairs for the congregation, added enough extra to allow for the mission team! By the time the meeting began, the entire hall was filled with about 100 people. Ruth Toy was stunned. Not surprisingly, she was one of those who was deeply affected by the mission. She experienced such an amazing conversion, that her husband approached Rev. Bingham and asked him what he had been doing with his wife. When Bingham asked what he meant, the husband replied ‘Well she was a chain smoker and she stopped smoking and she was a pretty powerful swearer and she doesn’t swear a word and she was a very angry woman and I don’t see any anger.’
Things like that happened one after the other. All meetings were extremely well attended. Kyancutta Hall on the Monday night had 200-300 in attendance.
Wudinna local Marj Holman vividly remembers how she was completely renewed through the mission. Both young and old, those who had been pew sitters for many years, plus those who had been newly drawn into the church scene, repented, were brought to tears, brought to their knees, received forgiveness and were given new life and unimaginable joy in the Spirit. Some were amazed that even their headaches were healed immediately. Yet, there seemed to be no pattern at all to the way in which God was moving.
On the Monday night at Kyancutta as Bingham was preaching, he could hear strange noises going on during the meeting. He had been fighting to get his words out. He couldn’t see anyone’s mouth open and it struck him that it was a demonic phenomenon. He had previously witnessed meetings like that in Pakistan, and so he said, ‘Satan, in Christ’s name we rebuke you, and command you to leave this meeting.’ There was a loud bang. People sat there a little bit astonished at what had happened, but, the whole place was absolutely quiet.
People later remarked that up until that point they had felt their minds were very scrambled and they couldn’t hear what the preacher was saying. It had not made sense, people couldn’t hear rationally. But at once, everything changed and the preaching was full of power. Many people remained behind after this meeting and refused to go home until they had spoken with someone about becoming converted to Christ.
Impact of the Spirit
John Dunn, one of the students on the mission team, testified to being healed of a longstanding problem during the week of the mission. He also recalls some of the unusual events: A farmer who had not been coming to the meetings, although his wife did, was out on his tractor when great conviction came upon him and he got down in the dust and gave his life to the Lord. A woman believed she was healed of a kidney complaint in one of the meetings, and tests at the hospital the next day showed that there was no longer any problem with the kidney. Many were converted. There was also great opposition. Some shouted back or walked out as Geoff was preaching.
John Kammermann was another local Wudinna farmer who became a Christian at this time. He was a man who had previously listened thoughtfully to preachers, but had always known that he had insufficient resources within himself to sustain a commitment to Christ. However, this mission was different. He had a strong desire not to attend the meetings at all, yet somehow he was compelled to go.
‘I remember that by the time we got to the Sunday service,’ he recalled wryly, ‘there were only seats right down the front under the preachers nose. However in the wisdom of God that’s where you get a good look at the conviction of the messenger! I was convinced that he knew God. If he could know God like that then maybe I could as well.’
The reality of God’s presence and the singing in the meetings was quite extraordinary. It was something John and others had never expected. He recalls how the truth and words of one particular song kept coming back to him: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days, all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, and I shall feast at the table set for me.’
In many ways the situation and the events of those glorious days defies both explanation and description. God was at work graciously revealing himself, giving to each what they needed. It was remarkable, and somewhat unusual, to see the way in which children would happily go to sleep on the seats of motor vehicles or on the floor of the meeting halls. Bingham (1992:99) comments on this same phenomenon during revival in Pakistan.
Some folk surprised their own friends and relatives, as they deliberately broke normal patterns of behaviour and hurried off to be in time for the meetings. ‘I think our parents thought we were a bit strange,’ recalled Kay Kammermann.
The gift of the Spirit
On the Saturday night Bingham taught concerning the Holy Spirit. He made the point that the Father was pleased to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who asked. He said, ‘What the cross cleansed, the Spirit comes to fill.’ The assurance given was that God was true to his Word and that he delighted for the West Coast folk to receive his gift. Many did.
‘God was in the place forgiving the sin of our past godlessness, and giving the gift of His Spirit,’ John Kammerman remembered. ‘Even now that memory still evokes emotion.’
The promise of a rich future from God’s hand was something many could not contain. The atmosphere at the meetings could neither be explained or induced. People felt the presence of the Lord and had the expectation that all was well with them on account of that Presence.
At the end of the meetings crowds of people would just sit silently in wonderment for half an hour not moving. One woman was so settled in her seat a member of the mission team invited Bingham to meet her. She spoke in a voice of wonderment saying ‘I never knew he loved me like that!’
Deane Meatheringham reported, ‘We couldn’t get people to stand up and leave. This is the closest I have come to seeing things we read of in Acts or in John Wesley’s Journal.’
There was a woman who had heard the Christian message many times before. For years she had experienced the agony of various shoulder aches and pains. Some time after the mission, she stood up in Church and told how as she was sitting down milking the cow one morning it dawned on her what the Word of God had been saying to her for years. And that was that she was free! All her aches and pains went and she was liberated.
Other occurrences were similar to those decribed in the New Testament such as Acts 2:13 where newly Spirit-filled believers were described as drunk. One man, Trevor Gerschwitz, was so excited and effervescent when he called in to speak with his Lutheran Pastor, Ron Wilsch, on the way home from one of the meetings, that the Pastor later commented that if he hadn’t known him better, he’d have sworn he was drunk.
One burly farmer approached Bingham one night and said, ‘My wife and I made decisions when we were teenagers, but I’ve never seen her like that. I want what she’s got. You’ve got to give it to me.’
Bingham explained that what she had was freedom and that he could not give it to him; only Christ could do that. So one night the man stood in a prominent place at the back of the great mob at Minnipa while Bingham preached. All of a sudden he put his hand up and waved at Bingham as much as to say, ‘It’s happened you know; I’ve got it, this freedom’.
One night after the meeting, a local man, Ron Holman, ‘fairly stoic by nature,’ went and sat down beside Bingham. When asked what he thought of the meeting, Holman replied that he thought it was all right.
Bingham recognised that here was a man who generally didn’t seek conversation, so he said to him ‘Have you ever received the gift of forgiveness?’
Holman replied, ‘No I haven’t.’
Bingham then asked him if he wanted to. The reply was blunt: ‘Why do you think I’m sitting next to you?’
Within a few minutes he was absolutely liberated. Holman has since had quite a history of helping on mission teams, and regularly having witness and ministry.
The mission included a civic luncheon and visits to schools. Each day the mission team would meet for prayer. Throughout the week there were also numerous small informal gatherings for meals and discussions all across the 80 mile circuit, as well as a Saturday afternoon picnic, where people took the opportunity to talk more intimately with one another. Numerous folk sought out Bingham to ask him further questions concerning his messages.
Many beheld a previously unseen phenomenon – West Coast men actually had their Bibles out while they were cooking the BBQ – and were more interested in the message of the Bible than the food on the fire. But what was so strikingly unusual about all this, was that it seemed so natural.
Bingham notes that revival should be natural.
We need to understand God’s purpose for history. We need to see why, and how, revival is essential as a phenomenon in the course of history. We need to understand its goal. When we do, then the whole subject of revival is removed from the theoretical area, from mere human theologising, or human attempts at manipulating God into action. It comes into the realm of necessary action. We discover, in fact, that the word ‘revival’ in one sense covers the whole of the action of God in history. The principle of giving life, sustaining it and renewing it – that is, revival – is the work which God is about continually’ (1983:ix).
This was not religion but life. People were free indeed. Consistent with Bingham’s style, the mission had been free of gimmicks and tricks aimed at manipulating people. From one point of view, there was no need for it, it was an evangelist’s delight. ‘People were getting converted hand over fist,’ and this left a deep impression upon everyone.
The climate was such that in fact ‘someone could have got up to skull duggery,’ John Kammermann noted. The West Coast community had seen their fair share of entertainers, hypnotists and spiritualists. Bingham was aware of the pitfalls of such an atmosphere and was well acquainted with his own powers as a speaker. On the Wednesday night at the Wudinna Hall, in his concern that people not be manipulated, he gave a demonstration of the effects which could be induced by a speaker. He deliberately vocalised a hissing noise. The whole gathering reacted and a loud clunk was heard as everyone’s feet hit the floor together. People have commented how thankful they were that the potential of the situation had been publicly exposed and recognised. A clean, clear atmosphere prevailed.
The last planned meeting on the Sunday afternoon was quite amazing. There were well over 400 at the meeting. People came from as far away as Ceduna and Cummins. Many have said it was like the first Pentecost but without tongues.
Of the final night Bingham said, ‘Like a great rain of beauty and silence and joy, it just descended on the whole congregation. It was quite remarkable. I’d have called it a very gentle but a very powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And I can remember the joy in the worship and praise that night.’
During the mission there had been no appeals for people to come forward. There had been no pressure applied. But there had been an astonishing response. Children and people right up to those in their seventies, and many from each age group, had been deeply moved.
At the close of the final meeting, people wanting to talk with someone about faith were invited to move about halfway down the hall and enter into the supper room, where the team and other local folk were waiting to help. Over 50 people were counselled by those who had been prepared for the task.
In the weeks, months and years that followed the mission, God continued to reveal his love to his people at Wudinna. The mission had been no seven day wonder, but folk continued to be converted to Christ (Curnow 1977:82-83).
During the week immediately after the mission, John Kammermann arrived home from work keen to share with his wife Kay the details of a marvellous encounter with God, which he had experienced while shearing a sheep. In it he had understood anew the dynamic truth of God’s love. ‘It was not that God is love AND sent his Son; but rather IN the sending of his Son, God is love.’
How might that be communicated to a farmer in a shearing shed? As he recounted the somewhat unusual, yet seemingly natural happening, Kay quickly replied, ‘Guess what? The very same thing happened to me today while I was hanging out the washing.’
Many enriching conversations took place. Neighbours would sit down together somewhere out on the boundary fence of their large properties and go through the great events of salvation together, or read and ponder the words of Scripture while working on a tractor.
There had been something like 31 home groups in the week leading up to the mission. Some of these now combined and turned into Bible studies. The Ladies Guild virtually became a Bible Study Group (Curnow 1977:82).
Meatheringham was untiring in his efforts to nurture his people. This included writing a counseling booklet entitled ‘Christianity is Christ.’ As a Pastor he moved well among the community and encouraged people to continue in their faith. There were 61 confirmees during his 5 year term at Wudinna (Curnow 1977:83). Pastoral letters were written to teach, exhort and encourage people. The instruction given was clear and simple. People were enjoined to accept their salvation joyfully, live by faith in Christ, read the Bible diligently, pray earnestly and worship regularly.
Following the mission the Wudinna folk regularly sent teams of young preachers out to places like Haslam and Streaky Bay to help out. Families and groups would often get into cars with all their kids, and they would sing from chorus books all the way to and from their destination. Many people opened their lives and homes to one another. Spontaneous sharing of meals took place and people loved to gather together in homes after Church. There was a general air of excitement in the Church and people eagerly heard the Word from Deane and guest preachers.
One of the leaders, when praying during the mission ‘saw’ a large heap of leaves and a strong gust of wind scattering them all over what seemed a map of Australia. This was interpreted as indicating that lots of people touched by God would be moved on into many parts of this land; and it happened that way. Many people moved in later years to Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and other parts of South Australia.
A consolidating mission entitled WE REIGN IN LIFE was organised in 1972 with the circuit now being pastored by the Rev. Ian Clarkson. Bingham and another team of students returned to lead the mission and the important question put to the Wudinna folk was taken from Galatians 3:3 ‘Having begun in the Spirit’ where are you now?
There had in fact been some difficulties within the church community since the time of the first mission. Some had sought to place greater emphasis upon the role and work of the Holy Spirit, and this caused divisions. One group broke away and later became the Christian Revival Crusade (C.R.C). To this day, hurts are slowly being healed.
After the first mission, it was natural enough that reports of revival soon began to circulate. Fellow pastors were eager to discover what techniques were used. When faced with this question at the Annual Methodist Conference, Deane Meatheringham made the now famous reply: ‘We organised a mission and God got out of hand.’
In a report on the happening, Meatheringham concluded: ‘Some people might say that we have had a revival. But in such arid days as ours I think this is exaggeration. We have seen the sparks of revival, and possibly the beginnings of even greater things.’
Apart from the movement in Pakistan, Bingham describes this event as the second closest thing to revival he has seen. The closest being what began at the Garrison Church in Sydney and spread from there to other churches during the mid 1950s.
This was the episode of Christian life which took place at Wudinna in 1969. In manifold ways the story continues to unfold in the 1990s.
Bingham, G. C. (1983) Dry Bones Dancing. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1985) The Day of the Spirit. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1985) Christ the Conquering King. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1992) Twice Conquering Love. Adelaide: New Creation
Chant, B. (1984) Heart of Fire. Adelaide: The House of Tabor.
Curnow, E. A., ed. (1977) Faith on the Western Front. Aldis.
Loane, M. L. (1988) ‘Geoffrey Cyril Bingham’ in These Happy Warriors. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
Meatheringham, D. (1981) Gospel Incandescent. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1969) Pastoral Letter: ‘The Assurance of God’s Word.’
— (1969) Pastoral Letter: How to Succeed as a Christian.’
— (1969) Report of Mission Held at Wudinna, August 21-31.
Murray, Ian. H. (1988) Australian Christian Life from 1788. The Banner of Truth Trust.
Piggin, Stuart (1992) Lecture: ‘Piety and Politics in Australia in the 1950s,’ given to ‘Australian Religious History’ class at Flinders University (S.A.), on 21 May.
Wilson, B. (1983) Can God Survive in Australia? Albatross Books.
After years of prayer, vision and planning, we have established a place of healing the whole person from a Christian perspective. It is called the Christian Wholeness Counselling Centre (See: Living Wholeness ).
This is a place where Christians and non-Christians can be seen by Professional Counselling Consultants from a number of disciplines, including Psychology, Social Work, Occupational Therapy, the Pastoral area and Psychiatry. It is a place where our passions are to strive for excellence in the area of psychiatry, psychology and the social sciences, and counselling within the context of a Biblical theology.
The psychiatric, psychological, social and spiritual issues are addressed within a framework of professional Christian counselling, facilitating one’s journeying toward wholeness. We acknowledge the spiritual dimension of the person in addition to the physical, psychological and social dimensions. We invite clients to integrate the spiritual aspect of their life within a Christian counselling context. It is also a place where professional counsellors can develop their skills, integrating their Christian beliefs with their professional practice. The centre helps to equip and train Christian counsellors and the church in Christian counselling and pastoral work. All this is done in an ethical manner with integrity and compassion. Here, the problems relating to the whole person can be addressed. These include personal, emotional, psychiatric, behavioural, physical, spiritual, social and family, educational, career related, stress, and trauma related problems.
The problems can relate to the whole person so the avenues for healing are focussed on each part of the person. In essence, helping the person to face their failures and their pain in the presence of God and from there to move on to practise the presence of God is the spiritual pathway to healing. Healing comes not only in practising the presence of God, but also in walking alongside with a fellow human being, and in conjunction with a supportive church network. Thus, healing does not come in a vacuum but is done in the context of the priesthood of all believers, the presence of God and being part of the body of Christ.
Integrated approach to healing Spiritual healing or prayer in itself often is not the only thing which needs to happen for healing. People often need other interventions. That may be medication, marital therapy, or some of the other forms of professional interventions. God never made us just to be spiritual, although the spiritual is central. God also made our bodies and our minds which often groan. Our bodies and brains may need medication, and our minds therapy. These are provided in many forms at the Christian Wholeness Counselling Centre. They include: Individual Therapy, Group Therapy, Family Therapy, Marital Therapy, Child Therapy, Adolescent Therapy, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, Pastoral Counselling, Psychiatric Treatment, Educational Assessment, Career Guidance, Grief Counselling, Crisis Counselling, Trauma Therapy (EMDR), Stress Management, Anger Management, Conflict Management, Assertiveness Training, Communication and Social Skills Training.
The likelihood of success in healing depends on how motivated or desperate the person is to change, the extent of how much they feel they can be involved in changing compared to how hopeless they might feel, and how severe their problems are in terms of physical, psychological, social or spiritual ones. The longer the problems have been going on, even back into previous generations, the harder it seems to be for change to occur. Intervention may include prayer for inner healing, breaking of past bondages, and on-going medication or counselling support. For some healing happens at a faster rate, for others it may take a number of years.
Healing is significantly enhanced if, in the context of coming to the Centre, a person can be free to be real and open in the Body of Christ. Thus the importance of close fellowship is vital. The church itself is a major organ for healing. In summary, Christian Wholeness Counselling looks at the whole person in the context of their relationship with God and the church, and their own social network. It acknowledges that our bodies are yet unredeemed. It acknowledges that at times God does work in miraculous ways, but normally tears will not be dried or taken away until we reach heaven. Healing follows a sequence. Here are essential steps on the pathway to wholeness.
Admit and be Real about Failure START HERE: The place for healing to begin is where one walks alongside another – one step beside and one step behind. In that posture, the person is strengthened to be able to face the pain, their failures and their sin. This often seems to be the hardest part but is where healing starts.
As the darkness is brought into the light, then that which was hidden can be addressed. Where many find it hard to walk on a road to healing, is this very first step of even acknowledging the problem. For true healing this needs to be acknowledged to oneself, to God and to another human being. Admitting and being real about one’s failures and sins is the place to start. The Christian Wholeness Counselling Centre allows this to occur in a place where the issues of the whole person can be addressed.
Believe and Receive Forgiveness THE 1ST STEP: Having faced and, to some extent, owned the problems, the first step of healing on a spiritual dimension is to return to the rock from which one was hewn, to receive the things which God has done. This step to healing is through a repentance, a returning, a step of faith rather than by the primary strivings of our wills and our own efforts. This step is one of believing and receiving God’s forgiveness. It happens initially at conversion, and needs to be repeated frequently. As we remember and return to what God has done, rather than trying to strive to better ourselves, change can come. It is through this step that one returns to the rock from which one was hewn, to receive the things which God has done to stand in one’s true position.
YOUR POSITION: Where is the position to which we need to return? What has God done which is healing? What is it that is there for healing, even when we have failed and fallen? God has done four major things for us in this area: he has provided us with his presence, he has placed us and set us apart for himself, he has given us his purposes, and he has provided all we need. This enables us to say, ‘I am yours and you are mine’, even in our pain or failure as well as in wholeness. First, God’s presence is with us: Emmanuel. Although we can quench the Holy Spirit, we have been sealed with him as he has been stamped on to our hearts. For those who are truly his, we cannot rub off that stamp. Even though the prodigal son felt no longer worthy to be a son, the Father thought otherwise. Even in our darkest moments, the darkness cannot turn off the light. Even in our lowest periods, God is beneath us. Even where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more.
Healing comes as we realise God has not abandoned nor forsaken us, but is there for us right in the context of our pain. God owns us despite our sin. Second, God has placed us close to himself. He has given us an identity of being a child of the Father with his Spirit indwelling us. Being identified with Christ in God lifts up the head of the shameful and weary traveller. Third, God has purposed us to relate with him in intimacy, in Jesus by his Spirit. This gives us a reason for living which nothing can touch, even in the context of suffering. God’s purposes remain constant despite our unfaithfulness. This leads the wandering person to have a God-given clarity and perspective on where they have come from and where they are going. So, even in our groaning, with all around seeming to overwhelm us, God’s purposes can still be fulfilled. All things can work for good. His good is our intimacy with Jesus. Our imitation of Jesus can grow. Our conformity to him can be renewed. Our sense of companionship and closeness to God can deepen. Fourth, God has provided for us his forgiveness and his freedom, leading us to his fullness.
Our lives and experiences so often betray what God has done, leaving us feeling hypocritical, shameful, and in effect no different from what we would be if we were non-Christians. Our lives more often than not are lives of the wilderness rather than those of the Promised Land. The tendency then is to believe much more in our failings and feelings than in what God has done because the two do not seem to match up. Having faced our own sins and failures and returned to what God has done, we can stand in his grace, mercy, and forgiveness. In the context of facing the reality of oneself, the head of the wounded and fallen can be lifted up and can see another reality, the reality of God and what he has done. Through being real about these realities a new perspective and new direction can again be followed. So the shameful may stand upright, in grace and access to God; the lost may belong; the fallen and failed may get up, yet again.
Choose to Respond to Freedom 2ND STEP: From this position, we can move on in the freedom which God provides. Receiving the provision of God’s freedom leads us to relate with God in the fullness of his Spirit and walk in wholeness and healing. Only as we receives what God has done in our life can we move on to practise the presence of God in the context of our humanity. But how do we receive and respond to this freedom? Where does this freedom come from and where does it lead? How do we take this second step? This is where the mystery of God’s provision applies. Because he has placed us in Christ, we also died with him and have been raised with him. We know, however, that we are very much alive and our sinful nature abounds. How is it then that we continue to sin? A major reason appears to be not only the abuse of God’s grace, but the unbelief of what God has done. The unbelief is partly because the reality of our experience shouts louder than the reality of what God has done.
Thus in Romans 6, Paul provides 3 steps to receive and respond to this freedom.
* First (v 6), we must know and remember what God has done. We must realise that we have been crucified with Christ. We should have been warned of this when we became Christians.
* Second (v 11), we must believe this and reckon ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
* Third (vs 12-13), we must then yield ourselves to God and not to our own sinful desires.
Our bodies are very much alive but our self-centred nature has been crucified with Christ. However, it is only as we know this, it is only as we believe this and as we then put this into practice that we appropriate and apply what God has done. As we take these steps in the face of our selfishness, a Godliness can slowly and falteringly develop. There can be a renewing of our minds and a conformity to Jesus. This is a gradual walk and needs to be applied to each situation. As we do this, as we present our bodies and our minds as a living sacrifice, to be renewed by God, then we can move on to practise the presence of God, to fellowship with God and to love others. Then we can start to move into true Christian wholeness.
YOUR PRACTICE: As we respond to God and to what he has done, we can move our position into the practice of Christian wholeness and healing. Wholeness was defined best by Jesus when he said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength … Love your neighbour as yourself’. So as we struggle with issues, we start to bring into God’s light and into God’s presence these problems and, together with God and a fellow traveller, we can move on. The pains and hurts of the past and the present can be cast on God; we are now not alone. As they are faced, the past which lives in the present can be let go on and released. Forgiving others starts to become possibe. Changing thoughts, perceptions and behaviours in relation to oneself and others can begin again. We go on again. Love arises. The salvation which God has worked in us starts to become worked out.
So we are freed to respond and to relate with God. In the context of pain and sin, we can actively relate with God and in doing so can actualise and realise the presence of God in their humanity. Being very real, we can start to interact with God, to imitate Jesus and to slowly experience some kind of intimacy with the Trinity. We can start to live who we are, to walk by the Spirit and not just to be born of the Spirit. Shame and guilt no longer hold their power. We are free to leave our self-centredness to live a God-centred life. We are free to respond to God even as the Psalmist did, in ruthless reality. We can now move from the isolation and aloneness of darkness into abiding in God. This is not ‘airy fairy’ or living in some supernatural spiritual cloud. This is relating to God and being free to do so as a very real human being. Having reconnected with God, hope revives and we can once more go to others to love them and to bring God’s healing to them. There is power to go to those who have hurt us, in our families especially. There is power to be real about the pains which we have received from others and yet to go and to seek and touch our offenders with the wounded hands of Jesus. Spiritual warfare can be done. This is practising the presence of God. This is the narrow road which brings life. This is knowing God and showing God. This is being filled with the Spirit. This is the narrow path that leads to life, and healing.
RETURN TO THE START: Yet so quickly practising the presence of God seems to disappear yet again in our sins and failings from which we have just come. And so, returning to the reality of our failures, we can AGAIN turn to our position in God and from there move on to practising a God-centred way of life. This is not sinless perfection, but a spiral – from practising the presence of God to falling back into sin to repenting, to walking on with God. As we do this, it is more than going round in circles. We spiral up on a journey, as with wings like eagles, slowly rising in sanctification. As we take hold of God in this way, God takes hold of us and as we open to God, God fills us with his Spirit. This is the spiritual aspect of healing – abiding in God, and is something which we need to encourage in each other. However, when things get too hard, a place like the Christian Wholeness Counselling Centre can further facilitate healing. Consultants cannot of themselves do the work, but in closeness to the suffering clients, and in the presence of God, all three in a healing triangle can walk the road to true healing, to wholeness, to Shalom.
Summary: a sequence of healing and wholeness.
START HERE: “I Admit and am Real about my Failures.”
1ST STEP: “I Believe and Receive God’s Forgiveness.”
YOUR POSITION: God’s Presence, Placing, Purposes and Provisions.
2ND STEP: “I Choose to Respond to God’s Freedom.”
YOUR PRACTICE: “I Do live and Relate with God in the Fullness of his Spirit.”
Dr David Lithgow and his wife Daphne were Bible translators and medical missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators for over 30 years, mainly in the Milne Bay Islands of Papua New Guinea. These edited selections from newsletters tell a little of their work for the Lord.
* Seven sick people were prayed for in Jesus’ name, and all were healed. Other people kept their sick relatives hidden inside their houses, preferring to trust their own magic and spirit cures. No one among these people was healed. This has been a demonstration of the power of Jesus.
* A woman who had been crippled for years got up and walked immediately, and was doing normal garden work in a week. The people here were convinced that Jesus is the Strong One, and this report spread through the whole area.
* The Lord has worked some surprising miracles, like multiplying the one remaining antibiotic capsule for treating an infection to become twelve – enough to complete the cure.
* After the studies and worship services many of the people came for prayer for the Lord’s cleansing from sin, and to receive the Holy Spirit. At Wabunun they came in a continuous stream, many weeping, for one and a half hours.
* The Lord moved powerfully through healing miracles and casting out evil spirits, demonstrating that his power is greater than that of local spirits and magic.
The Word and Work of the Lord
David and Daphne summarise their life together including work in the Muyuw, Dobu and Bunama languages of the Milne Bay Islands:
We had been leaders in the Evangelical Union of the University of Queensland since 1950, Daphne studying Science and David doing Medicine. In 1954 Daphne left for Ubuya Leprosy Treatment Centre near Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea. There she learnt the Dobu language and trained Papuan staff in laboratory work. When Daphne returned, David had graduated and was a Resident Doctor at Townsville General Hospital. We married in August 1957.
In February 1958 we left for Fiji where David was a doctor for the Methodist Mission Hospital serving Indian people. This entailed learning the Hindustani language. Our first two children, a daughter and son, were born there.
David, as the only doctor continuously on call, worked hard meeting physical needs of the people, but had little time to get to understand their spiritual needs. He felt helpless when faced with demon possessed Hindu patients, and could only prescribe sedation.
The work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics (W.B.T. and S.I.L.) was just beginning in Australia. Here we felt was a way of meeting people’s deepest needs – living with them as they live, learning their language and customs, and bringing God’s Word to them right where they are.
In 1960 we returned to Australia, and David found work at the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital. In the next two years we welcomed two more sons. We became members of Wycliffe Bible Translators and in May 1963 we flew to Ukarumpa, the Summer Institute of Linguistics Headquarters in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
In the first few years while getting started in language work David was also the group doctor. In 1963 an allocation site was found at Wabunun village on a long sandy beach on the south-east coast of Woodlark Island off Milne Bay. Wabunun was home for the children from 1964 to 1972 in their house built of bush materils – split black palm floor, platted bamboo walls, and sago leaf roof. Daphne taught them correspondence lessons until they were 7 or 8 years old, after which they were in Children’s Homes for schooling at the Ukarumpa base.
From 1970 onwards the children all stayed at Ukarumpa for schooling, and we were able to travel around the language area, 150 miles by 70 miles, mostly on the big Muyuw outrigger sailing canoes.
The churches throughout this area had selected young men who came to Wabunun where we trained them as teachers of Muyuw, and sent them back with reading primers and duplicated portions of translated Scriptures. They all achieved some degree of success. Two of these teachers who were barely literate themselves had taught all the young adults to read as well as some of the older folk. They had established the church which worshipped together every Sunday morning – or when they thought it was Sunday, because they had no calendar.
In 1972 the Muyuw New Testament translation was virtually complete, so we moved to Dobu Island to help in the Bible Society project to retranslate the Dobu New Testament into modern Dobu. There the house had a sawn timber floor, bush materil walls and an iron roof.
From 1978 to 1982 we were settling our teen-age children into life in Australia while we worked as the Wycliffe Bible Translators representatives in Queensland. Every year David returned to Dobu to keep the literacy and translation program moving.
In 1978 our doctor advised against David returning to Papua New Guinea because of incipient cancer. It seemed David could expect about another two years of normal health. Our plans were examined closely but there seemed no need to change any of them. We also sought healing through prayer in Jesus’ name. Since then David has had better health then he had before. After such a sentence of death, every day is valued as a special gift from the Lord, and it gives an added sense of urgency to the task.
From 1982 we were at Dobu or Diwala Translation Centre, helping with the translations and doing literacy work. In 1985 the Muyuw New Testament was revised and reprinted. We travelled in S.I.L.’s new 24 foot boat with the minister, Rev. David Kuwab, who had been the main translation helper. We visited every island and village selling Scriptures and hymn books, and re-establishing literacy work where it was needed. Near the beginning of this trip the Lord moved powerfully through healing miracles and casting out evil spirits.
The new Dobu New Testament was dedicated in 1986. It is now used widely alongside the old Dobu Bible. Over 10,000 copies have been sold. As the Lord worked in Muyuw, he has also worked strongly in the Dobu speaking area, leading individuals and groups to renounce traditional magic and to trust in Jesus’ name for salvation and healing.
In 1991 the Bunama New Testament was printed and dedicated. It was distributed by three groups of three Bunama speakers who gave Bible studies from the new Scripture in twenty different villages. In almost every village there were people who sought the Lord’s salvation – older folk, young men, girls, school children. We were amazed at the many different ways in which the Holy Spirit spoke to people’s needs.
Preach the Good News, Heal the Sick, Cast out Demons
David describes a few events on mission patrols:
Muyuw Patrol, 1985
The 600 Muyuw New Testaments, first printed and sold in 1977, are worn from heavy use, tattered and discoloured. Some have lost their cover. People were eager to buy new ones for themselves and their children. Those who had no money traded canoe paddles, shells, ebony carvings, turtle-shell ear-rings, or baskets of food.
The main Muyuw translator Rev. David Kuwab, who is now Superintendent Minister, with his wife Dasel came with us on the seven week’s patrol by boat to all the inhabited islands and villages where this language is spoken. On one island Rev. Kuwab baptised ninety people and married five young Christian couples.
At another island an old man asked if he could take his wife with us on the boat to the next island where they wanted to get strong Papuan magic. Hospital staff had told his wife that the basis of this sickness was witchcraft, so they could do nothing and said she should go home and get Papuan treatment. All Papuan treatments had failed and they wanted to try stronger traditional magic. Rev. Kuwab and I went to her house and prayed for her. We asked if she believed Jesus could heal her, and she said ‘Yes’. So we helped her to her feet and started her walking. Soon she walked unaided doing heavy work in the food garden.
At the Government Administration Centre the wife of the Provincial Member for Health had been bed-ridden for three years. They believed this was from witchcraft. He had employed all the local methods to appease the witches and cure the sickness but she only got worse. He asked us to pray for his wife and we did so. When Kuwab asked if she believed Jesus could heal her he got a lethargic response. Daphne visited this woman to pray with her daily. She was improving, so the Provincial member asked Kuwab and me to pray for her again. After prayer this time, she got up and walked. We noted that she was quite anaemic and gave her iron tablets and advice on diet and encouraged continuing prayer and trust in Jesus. Rev. Kuwab warned them strongly against reverting to Papuan magic.
On our last day at Woodlark a man brought his mentally disturbed wife. Rev. Kuwab had told them to stop doing anti-witchcraft magic and to pray in Jesus’ name. The previous night they had done that and she told us she was now all right. They agreed to another prayer but as soon as Jesus’ name was uttered she screamed and stiffened and talked of bad things put in her abdomen by a witch. I rebuked the evil spirit in Jesus’ name and we prayed strongly. When Kuwab asked if she believed in Jesus she gave a definite ‘No’. I felt led to pray in the Spirit. Kuwab asked her again and she now said that she believed Jesus could save her. She seemed normal, though lethargic, when we left. She did recover.
One day was free to visit another village so the deacon took me there by canoe. We were not able to tell the people that I was coming, so the deacon and I prayed for the Lord to prepare the people. Normally they would have been scattered in the bush, in their food gardens, or at creeks and beaches getting fish and shell-fish; but we found almost all the people sitting in the church. One Tuesday each month they have a devotional meeting. This was that meeting.
They had just finished their devotions so they invited me to speak about the New Testament, hymn book and other Muyuw books. They bought them eagerly. Then the youth leader showed me their study paper on the Holy Spirit from a youth convention and asked me if I could help them understand it. So after a lunch break we went into the church again. I read and explained the Muyuw Scriptures about the Holy Spirit and they responded very positively. Many asked for prayer for the filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
There was much sickness in another village, especially children. They have no medical help. I had few medicines suitable for children. We gave them what medicines we had and prayed for all the sick. As in all places, they bought New testaments eagerly. Many people came under conviction of sin, coming forward for prayer for Jesus to cleanse and forgive them.
At the Sunday service at Wabunun, where we as a family had lived and worked for eight years, after Scripture had been expounded Rev. Kuwab invited people to come for prayer for sickness, or cleansing from sin, or for the Holy Spirit. People came forward in a solid stream, some weeping. Kuwab’s own son, now a grown man and getting into bad ways, came forward with bowed head and his father prayed for him. Kuwab had never before prayed for people under such conviction of sin and desiring salvation.
After a Bible study for preachers and leaders the next day more people came forward for prayers. It took half an hour to pray for them all. On the third and final day, after a straight Bible study no appeal was made but during the final hymn people began to come forward for prayer, mostly sick folk who had been brought from more distant places.
West Woodlark Patrol, 1989
We visited the islands of west of Woodlark in October. After two days of rough weather we limped in with a broken rudder attachment. The Lord provided an ex-plumber on the island who had some tools in his village house and was able to fix it.
We really admire the teachers of the English Curriculum Government Schools. Through their work many children become literate in English and Muyuw, but as not all children go to school there are many illiterate teenagers and adults who now want to learn to read. To try to meet this need we trained 26 new village literacy teachers.
Four places with a total of over 1200 people were still without any medical service despite government efforts to get Aid Post Orderlies to work there. We heard that people of one island were saying, ‘You don’t recover if you pray but you will recover if you use magic.’ When we arrived at that island 80 people were sick with malaria, some desperately ill. All recovered with prayer and chloroquine treatment. The people of one island complain more about having no minister than they do about having no medical help. For most, the value of Christian leadership is rated very high.
As well as Muyuw New Testaments and hymn books we took Kiriwina and Dobu New Testaments for sale. We found that the Holy Spirit’s blessings are not restricted to one way of ministry or to one language. People from a number of languages live at the commercial centre for Woodlark Island. The new United Church minister does not know Muyuw but has a powerful and effective ministry through the Dobu language.
The dialect on one island was a mixture of two main languages. There we found the strongest church on all of these islands. However, a matter of concern is a prophetess who is visited by a spirit from time to time and gives confusing teaching, but she has a large following.
After we returned from the Woodlark area Daphne stayed in our house at Dobu catching up with household matters and weeding our yam garden while I did a survey of another area with Peter from Holland. He and his doctor wife are looking for a language in which to begin translation work. Family in-fighting which is worsening, destruction of villages, and criminal activities among some of those people are causing widespread concern. The police recently made a large number of arrests. There are, however, faithful Christians there in the United, Catholic, and Seventh Day Adventist Churches.
On the patrol we had hard hiking in rain and flooded rivers, then sea travel to return. I had been having intermittent malaria and some other problems, but improved during the patrol and returned feeling strong and fit.
Bunama Patrol, 1991
The Bunama New Testament is now with the people, and the Lord blessed the distribution patrol. Of the 600 printed only 40 were left unsold.
I went with the nine Bunama speakers in the distribution team. We spent two days in preparation, praying and studying 1 Timothy, the book we were to use for village Bible studies. Then we set off in groups of three, each group to a different village.
The emphasis was on teaching, and at some stage in most places at the end of a session the team leader or the local pastor would invite people wanting help from the Lord to remain behind. The manifold working of the Holy Spirit was amazing to all of us. Together with the local pastors we prayed in pairs for the people who requested help. Several times the boat captain was teamed with me. Two years before he was illiterate but Daphne taught him from a Dobu primer. Now he reads the Dobu Bible and his prayers were spiritually sensitive and powerful.
Even among the most distant of the dialect groups they understood the Bunama Scripture and teaching quite well and many of them responded to the Lord. They all had individual and different needs, and the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts.
In another place a team leader was hesitant about making an invitation and did so rather tentatively. Later he felt rebuked for his reluctance because many responded. He discovered the agony of soul of one woman who needed the Lord’s help, as well as seeing two boys of 10-12 years who had waited back in the distance but were strongly convicted of their need for forgiveness.
There were failures too. — After church one Sunday a number of people went back inside the church and sat quietly. Too late, the members of that team realised they were probably wanting help. — Often after uplifting experiences, team members and local people would sing all night. This was good for the local people but I felt it left team members unable to give of their best the next day. — Some pastors felt that hospitality required them to give betel nut and tobacco to team members, and most felt that good manners required them to use it. Three of the team members were smokers and most used betel nut to some degree. I feel that this drug can dull a person’s spiritual sensitivity. — When under pressure near the end of the trip I hurt someone by an outburst of anger, and my apology may not heal all of that hurt.
Half of the team members and some of the village pastors are people the Lord had touched in Dobu Bible studies as we have visited these areas in previous years. It is wonderful to see the Lord’s work being multiplied.
All team members spoke clearly against the use of traditional magic and spirit practices. This is a break-through and a key to the Lord’s blessing on their ministry. Ten years ago it was considered wrong to mention these things in church.
In the second week the engine of our boat was getting harder to start, taking up to an hour with the crank handle. So before trying one day we prayed and it started first crank. Next morning a team member prayed for the engine. It started by battery power just with the starter button. It has kept starting that way ever since.
The language used at another village was not Bunama and I was undecided about calling there, but called in anyway. There were lots of people about, and they wanted a Bunama Bible study. A team member led it and made an invitation at the end. I could see six young men hanging back in the shadows and listening from a distance. They responded, each with a strong desire to leave his old ways and be a true Christian. The pastor was away, but his wife was delighted. She told us that those young men had been a heavy burden on their hearts.
Our trip finished on the island where it began. They wanted a Bible study from Bunama New Testament and afterwards several of them bought it. The response for prayer was mainly from men aged 25-30. Some were so moved by God’s Spirit that they could hardly speak.
Woodlark and Marshall Bennett Patrol, 1994
This trip took three months. Revival is now spreading through these islands.
We arrived soon after a mission led by a United Church minister. During the mission at the main population centres hundreds sought salvation through Christ and were baptised in the sea, surrendering their equipment for magic and sorcery. One witch admitted having killed over twenty people, and she collapsed physically as the power of the Lord came on her.
Two local ministers travelled with us on the S.I.L. boat, continuing this ministry to the more remote places. Rev. Bili Wilson went with us to the Lachlan Islands and the eastern end of Woodlark. Rev. David Kuwab, co-translator of the Muyuw New Testament, was with us in visiting the rest of Woodlark and the Marshall Bennett Islands.
The people gave Rev. Bili Wilson and us their full attention for five days so we gave them the Good News and sold lots of Scriptures. They responded in an amazing way. On Friday I gave the main study in the church and invited people during the last hymn to come into the fenced section near the pulpit for prayer. That area was soon full and most of the rest of the congregation were crowding forward. Rev. Bili and the Pastor worked as one team; Daphne and I as a second team.
On Sunday people were invited to give up their equipment for doing magic, so after church the older men brought wood, gum, ginger, stones, and bones and eagerly released it to be burnt. Rev. Bili, using a metaphor, said, ‘If you have any death in your house bring it here and burn it.’ On Sunday afternoon Rev. Bili baptised 18 young adults in the sea.
There was widespread response to the Lord. Hundreds more were baptised in most places, and lots of equipment for magic and sorcery was burnt. Hundreds also sought prayer for special needs. One woman came to Rev. Bili Wilson and said, ‘This is my heaviness – I am a witch.’ Then she collapsed, and two other women held her on her feet while we asked the Lord to take away this evil spirit and give her the Holy Spirit.
We went to another island where the enthusiasm was the greatest yet. Older folk there, as well as the young folk, are very keen for the Lord. There was another baptism of many people in that area. Two leaders prayed for each candidate before their baptism. Afterwards the newly baptised Christians stood in a line and all who wished to do so shook each by the hand and gave words of encouragement or prophecy as the Spirit led. The biggest prayer need of the young people was to learn to read so as to read the Bible and hymn book. We prayed for them, gave them primers, and instruction for those who can read to help them daily in their homes. I also told them that betel nut gums up their brains.
There is a strong Pentecostal church in one island we visited. They had just finished a mission. They all speak Holy Spirit tongues and have no tobacco, betel nut, traditional mortuary feasts or kula trading. Whether they are right or not on these issues, it frees them to worship the Lord with such joy that I have never seen before. Their faces shine with a happy peaceful radiance. When you meet them along the road they talk enthusiastically about the Lord and his return.
They baptised 42 people on Sunday, many of them being United Church followers who will continue in the United Church. The United Church there follows the Pentecostal worship pattern in most ways. I preached at the United Church mid-day service. The singing praise session at the start turned into a congregational prayer meeting, all praying together. It seemed they would never stop!
We were delayed a day leaving there by a cyclone. Everything got wet. At least it was cool when the cyclone was around. After it cleared it was terribly hot. On almost every trip we caught fish including some big ones. One pulled my attaching knot undone and got away with the whole line. If you have any weakness in your tackle you lose all those big ones, and your tackle.
At the next island it seemed as though everyone turned to the Lord and was baptised in the sea. It was the same in two more islands.
Frightening gossip preceded us in some places. People were told that if they are baptised in the sea and then commit sin again they will die. Some people wanted to stay with the ways of worship and life practices to which they were accustomed. These people saw the revival movement as a new and different religion.
However, in each of the opposition strongholds ten to twenty people sought baptism and new life in Christ. One was a healing magician who found that after practising his art he had terrible dreams, so he wanted to be rid of his magic. Another man testified in church that he was finished with his various sorcery practices.
Rev. David Kuwab’s youth was spent in the midst of sorcery and magic. He dramatically explained the use of items for magic and sorcery and physical poisons as he threw them into the fire, shouting, ‘These are Satan’s things.’ The people showed no sign of embarrassment; just relief and joy. The young people sang praises to the Lord during the long baptism procedures. Mature Christians prayed for each person before they were taken down into the water, and another Christian prayed for them when they came back to the shore.
When the Gospel of Christ was proclaimed in one place a famous spirit healer was one of the first to respond. He was quite willing to give up his healing and killing practice. He told Rev. Kuwab, ‘I have only used sorcery to kill bad people, never good people.’
Spiritual hunger generated a great demand for Muyuw Scriptures. We had to get fresh supplies, and we still ran out of New Testaments at the last island. The new large print New Testament was very popular with people of all ages. In a population of some 4,000 people we sold 700 New testaments, 150 hymn books, and 300 booklets on Spiritual Warfare which Rev. Kuwab had translated.
The Marshall Bennett Islands at the end of a three months trip were exhausting. That is where we ran into opposition. There is no medical worker for over 2,000 people. The three main islands are flat-topped craggy limestone, 500-600 feet in elevation with no water supply where the people live on the tops of the islands, except what falls from the sky. There are few good anchorages.
With no medical services the people have depended heavily on healing magicians. On one island there was hostility between members of the church, and many were suffering from malaria, coughs and scabies. The plight of some small children was pathetic. We were carrying medicine for malaria and pneumonia but nothing for scabies. Rev. Kuwab worked hard to help the church leaders overcome their differences through the power of Christ.
Although people were resistant there, at one smaller preaching place 60 were baptised. At another place 20 were baptised and gave up their magic.
We had planned and prayed for the Woodlark trip for a long time. Since 1963 we have been praying that God’s Word would bear fruit among the Muyuw people. What is now happening exceeds our greatest expectations. To our Lord Jesus be the glory.
Dr Dorothy Mathieson was the Australian Coordinator of Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor, and lived and worked in the slums of Manila in the Philippines as well as travelling to support Servants staff internationally.
Dr Tim McCowan served for eight years with Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor in Mainila
Only the Spirit can bring forgiveness, love and patience,
so essential to community building
We are called to community with one another and with the poor in the slums.
This is one of the principles of a group of crosscultural workers called Servants in Manila,
Bangkok, Phnom Penh and other Asian cities. We are trying to respond to God’s heart for the poor. We have embarked on a journey of vulnerability discovering gradually how increasing intimacy with the Father leads to opting for the poor and the despised, not for the systems of power and control. Only the Spirit can empower this.
Servants’ principles are not just abstract Guidelines but living realities, forged in the context of the joy and struggles of welding teams together and living with the poor.
Incarnation calls us to the poor, to live with them, learn from them, discover the poverty of our rational, materialistic worldview and stance of western accomplishment.
Simplicity calls us to live focussed lives, discovering the freedom of releasing as many resources as possible to God’s agenda of lifting up the downtrodden.
Servanthood reminds us that followers of Jesus must live as he lived, as a servant. Then we will be eager to empower and liberate the poor through relinquishing our own agendas, expertise and control.
Holism calls us not to function with a limited mandate in the context of a complicated poverty and injustice. What is the gospel to the starving mother, the prostitute supporting her extended destitute family, the community worker jailed illegally? We are called to preach the word, show compassion, plant churches, heal the sick, but also to do justice. The whole gospel for the whole person means the Spirit must be allowed to operate so the good news comes truly in word, deed and in power.
Community challenges us to forgo our cherished individualism and private agendas and to
discover how others are totally necessary for our survival, effectiveness and spiritual growth. But it is here that we founder. We need a clear theology of community and we need to flesh out what this means for us.
Tim McCowan of the Manila team has worked on this:
Servant’s Community: Theological Basis
Christianity is a communal faith. ‘Individual Christianity is a contradiction in terms’ (McAfee Brown, The Bible speaks to you, 202). We cannot live the Christian faith in a vacuum, or without others. This belief is based on the following theological foundations.
1. God is ‘a community’
As Christians we believe God is a trinity of persons, called Father, Son and Holy Spirit. An intimate communion of three making one. Distinct but unified. A community, selfsufficient yet desiring to reach out and include others in their extravagant love.
2. God’s image
According to the evangelical German theologian, Karl Barth, we most accurately reflect God’s character and image when we are in community. God ‘created man in his own image … male and female he created them.’ The image of God is not so much ‘our rationality’ or volitional capacity, but our communality. God’s image therefore is only properly reflected when we are together in our differences and complementarity. Art Gish in his classic, Living in Christian Community (p. 21) says that the phrase ‘Let us make man in our image’ indicates that the fellowship in the Godhead created the manwoman community to reflect God’s concern for fellowship and communion. The human ‘we’ identity is to be a reflection of the divine ‘we’.
3. God is a covenant maker
God delights to make covenants to show his concern for ‘peoples’ rather than just individuals. All his covenants, although made with individuals, are focused on affecting his people or the nations. They embrace communities, not simply individuals.
4. Jesus is a community builder
Jesus intentionally called a group of disciples, and gathered them together into a community. They were to be ‘with him and to be sent out’ (Matthew 10:1; Mark 6:1; Luke 9:1, 10:1). Jesus’ central teaching was to the so called kingdom or reign of God. But
if it is true that God’s reign concerns history … we who live nineteen hundred years after the event [of Jesus’ living, death and resurrection] must share in its power, not merely by reading of it in a book or hearing it in a verbal report, but by participating in the life of that society which springs from it and is continuous with it … The centre of Jesus’ concern was the calling and binding to himself of a living community of men and women who would be the witnesses of what he was and did. The new reality which he introduced into history was to be continued through history in the form of a community, not in the form of a book (Lesslie Newbigin, The Open Secret, pp. 5758).
He called them to leave their families and previous vocation and stay with him. They lived together, shared a common purse, and adopted an alternative lifestyle from the surrounding society. He also sent them out in pairs to preach, heal, cast out demons and invite others to join their wider band. He therefore formed them into a ‘community in mission’.
5. The church is a community
Throughout the New Testament, the church is described in communal terminology. It was a community of believers, centred on Jesus Christ, more than an institution. The Reformers, living in a time of ‘Corpus Christianum’, sought to define the church by its various functions, i.e. the teaching of the Word of God, the administration of the sacraments, and right discipline. Yet this misses a fundamental point. The church does not consist of those who merely do certain things, but by those who are ‘in Christ’. It is a fellowship of persons, entirely without an institutional character. It is the body of Christ; the family of God; a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people (1 Peter 2:9).
Tim applies these biblical principles to Servants.
Servants’ community in Manila is:
1. A ‘missionary band’
We are expatriates in a foreign land, called and committed to a single, broad missionary mandate. We are not a community just to share our struggles and a few possessions, but to engage in holistic mission amongst the urban poor. Like the Moravians before us, we are a ‘community in mission’ that seeks to find empowerment for ministry through our communal life together. In other words, we are bifocal, aiming to keep community and mission holding hands. We live separately, but come together two days a month, in order to be sent out again. This is our missionary spiral, if you like.
2. A valiant attempt
Trying to engage in strategic ministry whilst living with the urban poor, plus maintaining a viable communal life, places us in an unavoidable tension. We often feel torn between the calls of our squatter neighbours and our own community. Where is the priority? Not wanting to lay down hard and fast rules, and keeping our bifocal vision, means we have sadly seen some fall through the gaps. We are still not sure how possible it is for us to ride this gigantic wave of the Spirit, who calls us with such amazing patience, to trust him for ‘the impossible’.
3. A fragile association of ragged radicals
Every Servant starts off as an idealist. We are all very different, but we all come out generally to see the slums transformed. Pretty soon we realise that most squatters are set in their ways, and are not so open to being changed. When all our plans have filled the waste bin, we discover just how much we need each other in the team. Maybe our self esteem or a particular project is in tatters, so that our frustration level is up and our energy level is down. These are the times when we come into ‘teamtime’ wounded, bruised and broken. This is why we are unashamedly committed to each other, to be burdenbearers, available to be agents of the Lord’s healing for each other.
4. An ‘open circle’
Servants is not a selfperpetuating community. Our real empowerment for mission comes not just through our corporate life together, but our corporate worship life. In our fragility and brokenness, we unashamedly open ourselves up to our Healer, Redeemer and Lord. The depth of our need goes beyond ‘the water’ each of us can contribute. We need ‘the living water’ that only he can give. He is the reason for our leaving family, friends and earthly treasures, and embracing the pain and joy of serving the ‘little ones’. Beside the extravagant generosity of our God, we are mere grateful beggars, trying to encourage some others to accept his gracious invitation.
5. A ‘little leaven’
Servants is a small daring minority, that seeks to be an agent transforming both the squatters and their slum communities. Although we boldly cling to such a grand vision, few outsiders know of our existence as a community. It is ‘hidden’ and seemingly insignificant to any social analyst. We are seeking not to multiply our organisation, but our distinctive ethos and values. Slowly, yet wonderfully, this leaven is spreading through ‘the dough’. Others (both Filipinos and Westerners) are now joining us as we follow the Lord into difficult discipleship amongst the poor and marginalised.
6. An unfinished story
We have made many mistakes on our journey as a ‘community in mission’. We don’t claim to have the whole truth, or to be on our last chapter. We are on a big learning curve, wanting to keep listening to the Lord, each other, the poor, and our brothers and sisters in the wider body of Christ. We’re not builders laying concrete footings, but sojourners putting down a few tent pegs, that we may just have to pull up tomorrow. Our structures, our leaders, and our composition have all changed, but the One who calls us on is faithful and he will accomplish what he has set out to do (1 Thessalonians 5:24). We don’t wish to put ourselves up as the only model of mission amongst the urban poor, but to be faithful to the vision and invitation that the Lord has given us in this small corner of his world. Please pray for us.
Community only possible through prayer
The theology is sound; the derivative principles are inspiring. But the gaps created by the reality of community living are glaringly obvious. We discover that our desperate inadequacy for the huge task reveals not only our own weaknesses but those of other team members. After the first thrill of involvement, we reach the awful conclusion that we don’t like one another, doubt the others’ callings, disrespect their motivations.
Closeness lowers the barriers, then we fear losing control. We dissolve, become belligerent, too passionate for side issues, too reformist about others, too accusing of our own shortfalls. The more and more we try to create unity, we destroy it. The high call to selfsacrifice that community issues jars against our pervading personality preferences, impressive education, theological training and expertise.
Only the Spirit can bring forgiveness, love and patience, so essential to community building. And it is happening, but it’s so fragile. We have to abandon ourselves to the dynamic of the Spirit, not to legislation or to past successes. What will the Spirit reveal next …. in me …. in us …. in new directions?
As we respond to his painful and joyful refinings, we can build ourselves into communities which the poor can see and say in amazement, like the earliest observers of the faith did, ‘See how they love one another.’
The Rev Dr Charles Ringma taught at the Asian Theological Seminary in Manila and Regent College in Vancouver and was the founding Director of Teen Challenge in Australia. He reflects on Christian community in our homes.
If you had seen her in a crowd you would have been none the wiser. She probably would not have arrested your attention although she was attractive. Deena was a prostitute supporting a drug habit. Her small inner-city flat was her place of work.
Deena’s life was spinning out of control with a failed marriage, a small child in tow, poor health, hassles with the police, an expensive drug habit to maintain, and an increasing sense of loneliness and despair. At this point our paths crossed through my involvement in regular street work.
After several conversations it became obvious that Deena did not need a hospital or a psychiatrist. She did not need a treatment centre or a drug rehabilitation program. Rather, she needed a place of safety in which she could start again and rebuild her life. So Deena eventually came to live in our home.
In this we were not alone. One way in which charismatics and pentecostals, particularly during the 1970s, sought to demonstrate their concern for others was by taking them into their communities and homes. This was one way to help broken and wounded people who were not only on the fringes of the church but also on the fringes of society.
There were many reasons for this development.
1. Charismatic renewal was not yet heavily institutionalised. The focus was on people more than programs. Ministry took priority over buildings and projects.
2. The empowerment of the Spirit was celebrated as equipment for service, not as an enhancement for personal wellbeing and selfdevelopment.
3. The new discoveries of renewal brought the church into closer contact with the wider
community. This happened through the use of theatres, general community buildings, and the creation of dropin centres and coffee shops as ways of reaching out to nonchurch people, especially youth.
4. Renewal had not only brought new life to church members but had also brought new people into the church.
5. Inspired by such books as David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade, Christians
touched by renewal believed that something could be done through the power of the Holy Spirit for people with lifecontrolling problems.
For these and other reasons the church seemed to be closer to the person in the street.
There are several reasons why ‘caring charismatics’ became involved in these types of initiatives.
1. One factor was that, unlike the traditional churches, charismatics were not overwhelmed with seeking to maintain massive institutional structures. They were therefore free to explore other ways of expressing their social concern.
2. Another factor was the rediscovery of small groups in homes where people could share their lives, pray for one another, discover and use spiritual gifts, and involve friends in informal activities.
3. A similar factor which helped to direct the particular expressions of their concern was the renewal’s rediscovery of community. Christians in the 1970s believed that being church had something to do with being together and sharing life. As a consequence both institutional and informal Christian communities were established as well as house churches.
What characterised this impulse towards Christian community? It was not introversion and
escapism. The purpose of sharing life together was not simply to celebrate God’s gift of new life in Christ. Nor was it simply to care for one another. Instead, this life together, consisting not only of spiritual fellowship but also of sharing resources, sought to provide a context into which we could bring those needing help and encouragement.
Furthermore Christian community was seen as providing a way to make the good news in Christ more visible. This does not mean that the life of the community takes priority over the Word of God. It simply means that Christians sharing life together could demonstrate something of what it meant to be part of the body of Christ.
An underlying idea was that if others could see Christians sharing life together in common
worship and service then they would gain some idea of what the Christian life was all about.
Some might see this as a high risk strategy. They may believe that it is better for ‘seekers’ to be exposed to the purity of the preached word. However, those practising a community approach of life together believed that ‘seekers’ should see something of the warts and all life style of Christians.
The intake process
So Deena came to live in our home. She was not the first and certainly not the last. Nor was she the most difficult. During a period of fifteen years, my wife Rita and I have invited a range of young people into our home.
The most difficult were not drug addicts or prostitutes but those with major psychiatric
disturbances. But for them all, the invitation to live in our home was not a haphazard process. Early in the piece we had learned some valuable lessons from young people who needed help but in fact took advantage of our generosity.
This caused us to develop a simple but multipronged intake strategy.
First of all, Rita, Jenny (a wonderful Christian fellow traveller who shared our home), the children when they were older, and I would discuss and pray about taking in a certain person.
This person was then invited to share some meals with us over a period of several weeks and was then invited to stay for a weekend. The purpose was to build some relationship. Our concern was to determine whether our situation best served this person’s needs or whether he or she required a more structured environment such as a rehabilitation centre.
Certain guiding principles emerged.
1. Our home was not a crisis centre nor a youth refuge. It was an extended family practising hospitality to people who were invited to stay with us for a period of time.
2. The invitation to join us did not depend on the person being a Christian. In fact, the opposite was the case. Nearly all those who shared our home were not Christians when they joined us. Nor were they made to understand that they had to become Christians during their stay. What was made clear, however, was that we were Christians, that we sought to honour Christ in our life style, and that we practised certain disciplines which included devotional times.
3. We attempted to make it clear that the person was not a client, a patient, nor a family member, but a guest of the family. The focus, therefore, was not rehabilitation nor psychiatric counselling. We offered a safe place in which the person could reevaluate his or her life and begin to rebuild it.
Within this context, counselling was informal. The key strategy was to encourage the person to begin to live a life of responsibility and integrity.
A theology of hospitality
A set of theological ideas undergirded our practice of hospitality to Deena and other troubled young people who came to share our home.
It should be noted, however, that the ministry of hospitality was not a formal ministry for us. It was simply a part of living life. We were all involved in other areas of ministry.
1. One of the broader concepts that guided our action was that God calls his people to
demonstrate to others the quality of love that God has shown to them. Put differently, God wants us to reflect to others something of the kindness and goodness he has shown to us.
While there is an emphasis in Scripture that this care for others should be demonstrated within the community of faith (see Deuteronomy 15:1215; Galatians 6:10), there is a corresponding emphasis that this requires a wider application.
In the Old Testament both those within the community and those who were strangers and aliens were to be treated with similar fairness and justice (Deuteronomy 24:1718). The reason for responding in this way was because God is his great goodness had liberated his people from slavery. They were commanded to treat aliens with similar generosity and goodness.
The New Testament also requires this. Not only is there a persistent emphasis on caring for brothers and sisters in the faith (Romans 12:13; Galatians 6:2), but acts of service must also be extended to those who were outside the Christian community (Luke 6:3435; Galatians 6:10).
2. A supporting theme is the emphasis in Scripture on the ministry of hospitality (Genesis 18:15; 19:12; Judges 19:1520; Job 31:32; Matthew 25:3446; Acts 9:43; 16;15; 1 Timothy 3:2; Hebrews 13:2).
A key inspiration for this type of ministry is a concept central to the work of Mother Teresa in India. It is that when we minister to the poor and needy we are somehow ministering to Christ himself. This idea comes from Matthew 25:3446. It is also supported by other passages of Scripture. The statement that ‘whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me’ (Matthew 18:5) conveys a similar idea.
We can also put this a little differently. By inviting a needy person into our lives we are involved in a process of seeing that person grow into wholeness. Where that leads to a Christian commitment we are seeing that person’s awakening to the Christ who was already there calling him or her to the fullness of life he has for them.
In this sense a guest, no matter now broken that person may be, is a very special person. While the temptation is to become fixated on this person’s needs and problems, the challenge of Matthew 18:5 (welcoming Christ) is to focus on what is yet to come into being and to emerge in that person.
So the practice of hospitality for people with lifecontrolling problems involves receiving them in hope and to trust for the emergence of Christ’s life within them. This can be an exciting adventure.
3. A third ideological foundation for this kind of ministry is Isaiah 58:612. Some themes in this significant passage should be noted. The most basic is that God desires us to convert our spiritual disciplines into strategies of social concern. Fasting can be expressed in seeking to set oppressed people free and to practically care for their needs.
A related theme is that genuine ministry is a twoway process. Working with wounded people makes us all the more aware of our own needs and imperfections. We too need further healing. As we serve others God promises that our own ‘healing shall spring up quickly’ (58:8).
Finally, working restoratively with individuals means that not only will their individual lives be renewed but that potentially families and communities will also be transformed (58:12). A healed person can also mean a healed marriage, family, or wider set of social relationships.
A rhythm of restoration
Our ministry of hospitality was supported by these theological ideas. They also helped to guide our practical application in living together.
1. A basic issue in our praxis was that the normal rhythm of our life as an extended family could act as a way to orient our guest towards more normal behaviours and attitudes. Most drug addicts, prostitutes, or people with lifecontrolling problems live highly irregular lives with little routine or structure. We found the experience of a more disciplined life style helped to orient them towards a more realistic approach to life.
2. A related idea is that life involves responsibility. Deena was not with us for a holiday. She was a guest of the family with corresponding benefits and responsibilities. Along with all the others she had her part to play in the functioning of the household. For all of us this meant cleaning, food preparation, shopping, cooking, and gardening.
The idea behind the involvement of all of us was that no one was more important than someone else and all had responsibility. Coupled with the joy of working alongside of each other, this had the effect of reinforcing the idea that we have to act responsibly in life. Life is not merely a number of arbitrary forces. I am not simply the victim of my circumstances. Life is also what I make of it and how I choose to live.
3. A further idea is that hospitality involves creating free space for the guest. Simply put, we are not there to entertain and look after Deena twentyfour hours a day. The home is neither a prison nor a fun parlour. This means that Deena has the responsibility to manage some of her own time. It also means that she has time for reflection and solitude.
Personal space for reflection is particularly critical. Many people with lifecontrolling problems are people who are in flight. They find it difficult to face their pain and disappointments. Yet, however slowly this may occur, these do need to be faced so that like a boil they can be lanced.
The framework then for the rhythm of restoration was realism, responsibility and the creation of a free space.
Journey to wholeness
The outworking of restoration varied according to each person. No one makes the same journey on the way to wholeness. But there are some common factors.
The first issue that usually occurs early in a person’s stay is the temptation to return to the old and the familiar. Because the shape of the new is not yet clear there is a pressure to revert to old habits. This occurs even when a person was thoroughly sick of their previous life style and desperately wanted to change.
Clearly, when this pressure takes place the person must take more time in order to begin the rebuilding process. This critical transition phase requires that the other household members provide much encouragement and quiet intercessory prayer for the person.
A second feature is that the guest begins to question whether the new is really possible. This is the crisis of hope. Questions emerge. Can I really make something better of my life? How can I overcome my past problems? What will my new life look like?
In this phase the guest usually begins to probe the spirituality of members of the household to see if that may possibly provide the bridge to the new life. Questions are asked. What does prayer mean to you? What does it mean to have faith? What is Jesus supposed to do for you?
At this point it is important that time is given for these questions to be explored properly. A guest should not be pressed into an easy decision for Christ. In our experience, people took many months to settle these issues.
Once a person came to faith in Christ and began to grow in his or her discipleship, issues of restitution and reconciliation with others began to emerge. This was usually followed by
questions of future life direction.
Somewhere within the space of the year that a person on average stayed with us there would come various crises of faith. These crises usually led to the realisation that further inner healing and renewal were required.
Facing the world
Our home was not the end of the road. It was the beginning of a further journey for people. This journey would also take them beyond our situation. Our place was only a temporary stopping place. It attempted to provide a place of safety and normality in which people like Deena could begin to rebuild their life.
It made no attempt to provide anything magical. Nor were easy solutions offered. The invitation, instead, was to face life realistically and responsibly. Living with Christians gave these people a close look at what the Christian life was all about for us. It allowed them to observe and to ask questions. It furthermore allowed them to explore what Christian spirituality might mean for them and what answers the Christian faith held for their lives.
We made no attempt to live a special life in front of these people. We were ourselves. We also made time for our own special family needs and for the other priorities in our lives. We made no attempt to make our home a little haven for people. They, like us, had to come to terms with the real world. So as time went on the issues of employment, where to live, vocation, calling and further life direction became issues of discussion, reflection and prayer.
Just as the intake was a careful process, so leaving us was a series of moves that gave Deena increasing responsibility. Beginning moves for her to create a life of her own included more free time, weekends away with family and friends, and eventually employment with the additional choices a steady income provided.
A final reflection
God calls the Christian community to be salt and light in a dark world. The church is to be God’s instrument of transformation. That transformation, however, must be conceived holistically and it must take place at various levels.
While on Sunday the church is the gathered community, during the rest of the week it is the scattered church. As such, Christians find themselves in families, neighbourhoods, and in a great variety of work situations where they are to be God’s instruments for good, reconciliation and reconstruction.
This means that Christians are involved in all of life. They work with the poor and in areas of policy and economics and get their hands dirty in areas of microreform.
What we must keep in focus is that we lack credibility when we pontificate on the big issues but never become practically involved with individuals and their needs. Here the example of Jesus is practical and to the point. His was the task to usher in the kingdom of God and to build the new community of faith. But Jesus also made time to heal and care for those who came to seek him out. Thus, while we seek to practice social justice to bring about a more just society, we can also lower the drawbridge and bring this ministry into our own homes.