Jesus spoke about wineskins, and it is now a well known proverb: You don’t put new wine into old wineskins because the new wine bursts the wineskins; you put new wine into new wineskins – and both are preserved (See Mark 2:22 and Matthew 9:17, Luke 5:37-39).
Even tea-totallers and know that, although they may have never seen a wineskin nor drunk wine! In fact, most of us probably have never seen a wineskin except in pictures!
Jesus also noted that no one having drunk old wine immediately desires new because the old is better. Luke, the radical Gentile writer preserved that wry comment for us Luke in 5:39! So those who like the old wine in old wineskins have a reprieve! However, in times of rapid or massive change, the new wine pours out and needs to be preserved in new wineskins.
Like it or not (some like it, some don’t) we have all be living through these massive changes in all areas of life. Why use a typewriter if a computer is available? Why keep a horse if a car is available? Why use a chip heater if electric or solar power is available? Why use ancient English (or Latin) if few or no people understand it? Why sit on hard wooden pews if cushions, pillows or comfortable seats are available?
Change is now so rapid that Alvin Toffler called it “Future Shock” – the culture of the future invading the present. Some of it is good, some bad – as is true in all cultures. So new wineskins keep emerging to contain the new wine of current moves of the Spirit of God in renewal and revival.
Some churches have managed to contain the old and the new together. One way, among a huge possible range, is to have a traditional morning service and a contemporary or renewal evening service on a Sunday. Some churches have both traditional Bible Study groups and relational prayer groups. Many churches use both hymns and chorouses.
However, the massive shift going on at present involves emerging new wineskins which keep multiplying, growing and changing. This issue of the Renewal Journal gives some implications of some of those changes. It doesn’t cover all the changes. That would take volumes! It does highlight a few significant ones.
Evangelist Tommy Tenny has written about the awesome presence of God invading those who earnestly seek Him. He calls those people the God chasers. Some of our students recently reported how they began praying together one night on an outreach weekend and were amazed to discover it was after 5 a.m. when they finished. That was new for them. Yet, revival is full of such accounts. By the late nineties, Peter Wagner began describing these changes in what he calls The New Apostolic Reformation. It is not post-denominationalism because it is happening within denominations as well as in millions of independent churches and networks globally.
A leading Australian news magazine, The Bulletin, carried a significant cover article on “The New Believers” written by senior editor Dianna Bagnall. She describes one of the more visible emerging wineskins in Australian church life, noting that Pentecostal church attendance in Australia is second only to total Catholic attendance.
Baptist visionary and pastor Lawrence Khong describes a vision and strategy for church growth he has used in Singapore where his church has grown from 350 to now over 8,000 attending.
Sam Hey comments on how emerging Pentecostal scholarship is providing new possibilities for Bible study which responds to both the Word and the Spirit.
I comment on how everyone can now be involved in ministry and also can easily participate in a huge range of readily accessible resources providing powerful education for ministry.
Revival not only provides new wine, sometimes in a rather heady mix, but also escalates the emergence of new wineskins. Revival can never be contained in a ‘normal’ church service. So when we keep praying for revival, we are also praying for new wineskins to help us preserve and share the new wine as God’s Spirit is poured out upon us.
Our ministry is the ministry of Jesus – in us and through us. He said, “You will do greater things than these, because I go to my Father” (John 14:12).
The “greater things” include the ministry of the risen, glorified Jesus in and through us, millions of us, by the presence and power of his Holy Spirit.
The Gospels have only two references to the word “church” – both in Matthew, and both giving Jesus’ comments on ministry in his church and how he will build it.
Peter’s bold confession that Jesus is the Messiah – the Christ – the Anointed One – the Son of God – sounded like blasphemy then. For many people, such as Muslims, it still does. A great prophet, yes. A great teacher, yes. A great leader, yes. But the Messiah – the Son of the living God?
C. S. Lewis brilliantly points out that Jesus does not leave open for us the option of regarding him as only a great prophet, teacher or leader. He is unique – God’s only Son – fully human but fully divine also.
That declaration, made in the fertile northern hills of Galilee, marks a turning point in the gospel story. From that time on, Jesus began his final journey to Jerusalem and his gruesome death. He kept explaining to his disciples the meaning of that revolutionary declaration, but they could not understand, especially as it involved his execution.
Acknowledging the inspired truth of that bold declaration, Jesus reminded his followers that the basis or rock-solid foundation of his church was that very reality. He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus Christ is Lord.
He is building his church and even hell’s gates cannot withstand the onslaught of his church, empowered by his Spirit. We live in that reality right now. Jesus has given his church the authority to bind and loose – an amazing claim (Matthew 16:13-19).
The second use of ‘church’ by Jesus in Matthew’s gospel makes that same claim. Where disputes arise, Jesus requires the church to address the problem if it cannot be solved personally or in a small group. Again, he pointed out the church has authority to bind and loose (Matthew 18:15-20). In that passage, we have Jesus’ promise to be personally present where even two or three gather in his name in unity.
Gradually we are rediscovering the truth of those claims. Gradually we are learning to live together in unity and in love. Gradually we are learning to use the authority given to the church – not to condemn (John 3:17) but to free people.
Jesus’ ministry is ours also. He is building his church and is doing a truly marvellous job of it. He involves us in his ministry, by the power, unction and enabling of his Spirit.
This issue of the Renewal Journal tells a little more of that story of how Jesus is building his church today through anointed, powerful ministry.
Walter Hollenweger takes a scholar’s look at the astounding growth of Jesus’ church in the power of his Spirit with 500 million now involved in the Pentecostal/charismatic stream of the church.
Stephen Hill tells how he has seen the Lord anoint ministry before and during his ministry at Pensacola where over 100,000 have indicated their commitment to Jesus Christ as their Lord.
Kevin Pate describes powerful ministry in Mexico City. Raju Sundras, Nepalese pastor and evangelist, tells of strong moves of the Spirit in Nepal.
Mike Bickle gives guidance in the use of the prophetic ministry gifts of the Spirit. Australian Phil Marshall points out the emerging rise of biblical apostolic gifting in ministry.
Historian Richard Riss shows the close parallels between ministry issues in former and current revival movements, and I give an overview of the charismatic impacts of the Spirit in evangelical ministry in revivals. You can read more about that in my books Flashpoints of Revival (2nd ed., 2009) and Revival Fires (2011). See further details on renewaljournal.com.
Heidi Baker wrote a challenging article on the Primacy of Love in all ministry and mission, now added to this 2nd edition of this Renewal Journal 13: Ministry.
Anointed ministry is simply the ministry of Jesus in and through us by the anointing and empowering of his Holy Spirit within us. This is available to us all. Without him we can do nothing. With him, all things are possible.
The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition by Vinson Synan
Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997
Review by Eerdmans Publishers
Vinson Synan is dean of the School of Divinity at Regent University in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This review from the back cover of the book summarises the scope of this book written by a world recognised Pentecostal historian.
Called “a pioneer contribution” by Church History when it was first published in 1971 as The Holiness-Pentecostal Movement in the United States, this volume has now been revised and enlarged by Vinson Synan to account for the incredible changes that have occurred in the church world during the last quarter of the twentieth century.
Synan brings together the stories of the many movements usually labelled “holiness,” “Pentecostal,” or “charismatic,” and shows that there is an identifiable “second blessing” tradition in Christianity that began with the Catholic and Anglican mystics, that was crystallized in the teaching of John Wesley, and that was further perpetuated through the holiness and Keswick movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to the appearance of modern Pentecostalism.
Synan then chronicles the story of the spread of Pentecostalism around the world after the heady days of the Azusa Street awakening, with special attention given to the beginnings of the movement in those nations where Pentecostalism has become a major religious force. He also examines the rise of various mainline-church charismatic move- merits that have their roots in Pentecostalism. Because of the explosive growth of the Pentecostal movement in the last half of the century, Pentecostals and Charismatics now constitute the second largest family of Christians in the world.
“This could well he the major story of Christianity in the twentieth century,” writes Synan. “Pentecostalism has grown beyond a mere passing ‘movement’ . . . and can now he seen as a major Christian ‘tradition’ alongside the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Reformation Protestant traditions.”
The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition will continue to be an important handbook for shaping our understanding of this phenomenon.
The God Chasersby Tommy Tenny
Shippensburg: Destiny Image, 1998
Review By Ruth A. McKeand
Some books will make you happy. Some will encourage you. Some will challenge you. Some will make you think. Some will even make you angry. The God Chasers will do all these and more.
Tommy Tenney, whose pen authored The God Chasers, has spent 30 years in the ministry. He’s seen and experienced much of God. Like King David, he has always sought to be “a man after God’s own heart.” To Tenney, this seeking after God’s heart is the essence of a God chaser.
The God chaser longs for deep intimacy with God. He or she wants more than just the “stuff” of ordinary religious experience. Tenney, like all true God chasers, has questioned why we find entering into the desired intimacy so difficult. Why, if God is all I truly want, am I so aware of “where He’s been” instead of being conscious of “where He is?” And so, painting picture after picture, Tenney reveals many of the things that get in the way of intimacy with God.
First, Tenney challenges us to ask ourselves if we are truly seeking God. With statements like “it’s simply not enough to know about God. We have churches filled with people who can win Bible trivia contests but who don’t know Him,” he invites us to look at our own walks with God. Do we realize, as Tenney did, that “there is much more of God available than we have ever known or imagined, but we have become so satisfied with where we are and what we have that we don’t press in for God’s best.”
Secondly, we must honestly look at what we’re eating each day. Tenney’s comments may anger you but he believes that “most of us . . . keep our lives so jammed with junk food for the soul and amusements for the flesh that we don’t know what it is to be really hungry.” He views this daily diet of the typical believer as one of the main obstacles to intimacy with the Almighty for most of us. He sees too many of us being more concerned with our own comfort, and that of our families, and all the things we want (or have) to do, that God gets precious little of our attention. When we do come before Him, our minds are preoccupied with the cares of this life. He points out that “we’re happy with our music the way it is” and we’re content with services designed for pleasing men “instead of yielding to what God likes.” We want the stuff that God can give us, without the commitment and intimacy of union with Him. But Tenney calls us repeatedly back to the desire of the God chaser. The true God chaser wants to see His face, just as did Moses and the Apostle John.
Most of us want revival today. We truly believe we want God to be real to us and in us. But Tenney calls us to pause and think. There’s more to this relationship with God than getting the stuff. The first step to real, personal revival, according to Rev. Tenney, “is to recognize that you are in a state of decline.” Recognizing our true state will birth a “divine discontent” in us, out of which real hunger for God will grow.
Tenney contends that most of us have “become addicted to the anointing, the relayed word of good preaching and teaching,” preferring for someone else to go up the mountain to seek God for us. Like Israel of old, we prefer “distant respect” over “intimate relationship” with the Almighty. We seek revival instead of the Reviver just as we so easily fall into the selfish trap of seeking the gifts instead of the Giver.
Tenney points out that “there is something in us that makes us afraid of the commitment that comes with real intimacy with God.” One reason, he says, is that “intimacy with God requires purity.” In this hour “God is calling people who want serious revival into a place of transparent purity. It’s you who He’s after.” This kind of purity requires death and that is the greatest barrier of all that the believer faces. We all fear death, but to see God’s face, one must die. No one can see God’s face and live according to Scripture.
“It is God’s mercy that keeps Him away from us,” Tenney says. We are sinful flesh and He is absolute holiness and purity. The latter will destroy the former if, and when, it comes into its presence. But be encouraged. There is hope. Through “repentance and brokenness—the New Testament equivalent of death,” we can become “dead men walking.” And dead men can enter the presence of God without fear. Brother Tenney urges us not to shrink back from the altar upon which God would have us sacrifice our egos. Instead he provokes us to embrace death of self and to see it as the only way we can truly see God’s face.
The God chaser is after God Himself. Many know about God. He’s everywhere all the time. That’s His omnipresence. But, Tenney declares, “There are also times when He concentrates the very essence of His being into what many call ‘the manifest presence of God.’” That’s the deepest desire of the God chaser, the manifest presence of God! For this, he is very willing to die! But first we must admit our need and our hunger. That’s what God is looking for. It’s in this state of brokenness, repentance, and hunger that God can come with His presence and His power and begin to really change us. It’s admitting our need and our hunger, and then seeing our true state, which brings the brokenness and repentance that opens the door for God “to take us through the complete process . . . without hindering or quenching His Spirit, then when the kabod, the weighty presence of God, comes among us and upon us, then we will be able to carry it without fear because we will be walking in the purity of Jesus and our flesh will be dead, covered by the blood of the Lamb.”
Tenney believes the world cannot be changed until God is freely allowed to change each of us. We can truly touch our world as witnesses and evangelists only when we engage in what Tenney calls “presence evangelism.” He believes God can, and will, change us as we experience His presence because experiencing “God’s glory is life-changing. It is the most habit-forming experience a human being can have, and the only side effect is death to the flesh.” This prepares us for God’s true purpose, evangelism. But the evangelism that Tenney looks for in the church is “when the residue of God on a person creates a divine radiation zone of the manifest presence of God, so much so that it affects those around you.” This type of evangelism is not “an emotional encounter with man but a death encounter with the glory and presence of God Himself.”
“It is time for God’s people to get desperately hungry after Him,” says Tenney, “because the fires of revival must first ignite the Church before its flames can spread to the streets.” But he warns, “Supernatural things . . . will happen to you too, but it only comes one way. There is no shortcut to revival or the coming of His presence. God’s glory only comes when repentance and brokenness drive you to your knees, because His presence requires purity.” It’s only when we candidly look into our own hearts that we, like the prodigal son, see there the deep “poverty of heart.” It is this revelation that will propel us back to the Father’s arms. And once there we will see His face, sense His power, and experience His presence. It’s there, in the arms of Love Himself, the God chaser finds true happiness and a joy unspeakable and full of glory! It’s there that the God chaser finds that he’s been caught by the very One he’s been chasing all along! And that’s the purpose of this book by Tommy Tenney . . . to whet our appetites and change each of us into a God chaser so we too can get caught by the One Who’s caught him!
Primary Purpose by Ted Haggard
Orlando: Creation House, 1995
Reviewed by Tony Peter
Primary Purpose is a practical book on winning souls for the kingdom of God, especially from a pastoral point of view. Founder and senior pastor of the 6000 member New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Ted Haggard is a graduate of Oral Roberts University and has co-authored with Jack Hayford a similar book called Loving your City into the Kingdom.
Ted Haggard writes with a pastor’s heart and a passion for winning souls to Christ in practical, relevant ways. His book includes charts and diagrams as well as practical stories.
The book is focused on three foundations for any attempt to win the lost for Christ and to grow the church. The first is prayer; all kinds of prayer. The second is keeping focused on the task of evangelism; all kinds of evangelism. The third is unity between individuals and the churches.
Haggard begins the book by giving a short testimony of the beginnings of his New Life Church in Colorado Springs. He describes the difficulties and the challenges in starting a new church in an area once known as a difficult place to successfully start and continue a work for the Lord. He describes not only his struggles in starting his church but also in continuing to keep his church on track for the primary purpose of winning the community and city to Christ.
The second part of the book deals with what he calls five principles of keeping your church on the primary purpose. The first principle is that of focusing on the absolutes of Scripture and not side tangents such as different doctrinal issues between individuals and churches.
The second principle is to promote Christ and his Word, not you or your own ideas. This is the key to reaching the lost. Haggard laments that too many individuals and churches focus on winning other Christians from other churches through transfer growth rather than focusing on winning the lost through conversion growth.
The Third principle is to pray for the Holy Spirit’s activity in your area. Haggard describes this as increasing the presence and work of the Holy Spirit in the area where you want to win the lost. This changes the climate of the area to open the way to win souls for the Lord.
The fourth principle is to appreciate and respect one another’s interpretations of Scripture. Different churches interpret Scripture differently and act accordingly. As long as they do not transgress the fundamentals of Scripture they will appeal to different people from all walks of life that become saved and then attend a church that will suit them. Divisions or conflict between churches can stifle the Holy Spirit and stop evangelism.
The fifth principle is honouring others through supportive speech and actions. Haggard explains that this is another way of maintaining unity in the body of Christ between the churches.
The third and last part of the book focuses on the lifestyle, character and fruit of Christians and churches in relationship to evangelism. Haggard explains that it is the church’s function to live as the Bible calls us to live. Then we shall see the fruit of this lifestyle, namely souls won for Christ and churches growing.
Haggard describes the Christian lifestyle as continuous spiritual warfare. Only through a righteous lifestyle can the believer and the church truly advance the Kingdom of God as we are supposed to.
This is a practical, thorough book on evangelism from a pastor’s point of view rather than an evangelist’s point of view. Ted Haggard writes with a passion not only to see souls saved and churches grow but to see the whole community, city and nation changed. The book is a vital manual for any Christian wanting to start a new work or church in any part of the world.
The stories and principles make it a great book for anyone, especially pastors, wanting to reach people with the gospel. This book focuses on proven strategies for the advancing the Kingdom of God today. Essential strategies include prayer warfare, unity between believers and churches, and focusing on the primary mission of the church, evangelism.
This book is one of the best I have read concerning winning souls, communities and cities to Christ through a pastor’s heart for people and not just as a quest for numbers. It shows that whole communities and cities can be won for the Lord and that God wants more of his children to step out in faith with love for the lost.
Dr C. Peter Wagner, formerly Professor of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary, author of numerous books, was President of Global Harvest Ministries and Co-ordinator of the United Prayer Track for the AD2000 and Beyond Movement. This article was published by Global Harvest Ministries as ‘Getting Ready to Sing the New Song’.
The Bible tells us that one day four living creatures and twenty‑four elders are going to surround the throne of the Lamb and sing a new song: ‘You have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation’ (Rev. 5:9). What a song!
If the motto of the A.D. 2000 Movement is fulfilled, that song will be sung pretty soon. I have the faith to join A.D. 2000 in believing that there, in fact, will be ‘A church for every people and the gospel for every person.’
Does it require faith to say such a thing? It definitely does.
Speaking as a professional missiologist, I can, with great assurance, affirm that there is no known human theory of missiology today that could bring about such a result in such a short time. If that is the case ‑ which it is ‑ the only way it could possibly happen is through a mighty move of the sovereign hand of God.
Prayer Moves the Hand of God!
What is it that moves the hand of God more than anything else?
Prayer! In fact, in the verse just before the words of the new song, the ‘prayers of the saints’ are highlighted (see Rev. 5:8).
Nothing could be more important for fulfilling Jesus’ great commission to ‘make disciples of every nation’ than mobilizing massive prayer for world evangelization. Since we founded Global Harvest Ministries and the United Prayer Track in 1991, the burning passion of Doris’ and my hearts has been to see more of God’s people praying in one accord for the lost of the world than ever before.
We are not generating the worldwide prayer movement. God is doing it. I like what Eddie Smith of the U.S. Prayer Track once said: “Our job is not to get people praying, but to get praying people!” Never before in history have there been so many Christians praying on all the continents.
Our assignment from God is to see that as many of them as possible are praying for the lost ‘with one accord,’ as Luke put it in Acts 2:1. When we first began we thought we were stretching our faith to believe that we could get one million praying for the same nation or city at the same time.
But our faith was too small. Much more than this has actually taken place, by the providence of God.
Millions Praying In One Accord
In October 1993, 21 million were praying in one accord for the 62 nations of the 10/40 Window [10 to 40 degrees north between Africa and Asia]. In October 1995, 36 million were praying in one accord for the 100 Gateway Cities of the 10/40 Window. We are confident that in October 1997 there will be 50 million praying in one accord for the 146 Gateway Clusters of 1,739 major unreached people groups.
I am confident that you will be praying in one accord with Doris and me and millions of others. In fact, you may even be a member of one of the 17,390 local churches (10 per unreached people group) or a member of one of the 34,780 home cell groups (20 per unreached people group) committed to praying for one of the groups past October 1997 and through the end of the year 2000.
The Lights Are Coming On!
If you are like many others who pray, you want to know if your prayers are being answered. The answer is yes!
When the A.D. 2000 Movement began in 1989, darkness prevailed across the 10/40 Window. But we have been praying in one accord for seven years now, more and more each year. It would be discouraging if the same degree of darkness persisted. But it has not.
Lights have been coming on in many significant parts of the 10/40 Window since we have been praying. We are getting reports that some of the 1,739 unreached people groups are now reached, but we are not tooled to start deleting names as yet ‑ so let’s keep praying for them all in the meantime.
The three most formidable anti‑Christian forces in the world are Buddhism, Hinduism and Islam. I have some good news for those who want to see multitudes among these peoples move from darkness to light, from the power of Satan to God. Remarkable things have been happening in this decade of the 1990s.
My observations lead me to believe that the principalities over Buddhism are ‘on the run.’ This is the first large wall, after Communism, to come down in our generation. For years Buddhism has been taking a hit in South Korea, and more recently, on even a greater scale, in mainland China.
I visited Thailand, the strongest Buddhist nation in Southeast Asia, twice this year and I was amazed at the growth of Christian churches. Many Thai leaders point to 1993, more or less, as the turning point.
Why not? Twenty‑one million were praying for Thailand in one accord. The video for the 1995 Praying Through the Window II featured a Thai pastor, so Thailand got more prayer than most places. Numerous Thai leaders said, ‘Peter, for the first time in all of history, it is easy to lead a Thai person to Christ!’ Thailand will be a key to evangelizing Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
The principalities over Hinduism are ‘badly battered.’ Nepal is the only Hindu kingdom in the world, and it has recently become one of the brightest lights for the gospel in all of the 10/40 Window. Although it is still supposed to be a crime to convert to Christianity, some changes were made in the constitution in 1990, and churches are being multiplied from north to south and from east to west. Laws are not being enforced. Reports tell us that there are probably
200,000 believers there, possibly 300,000.
The light has just come on in the Indian Himalayan state of Sikkim where some are saying that 20 percent or even 30 percent may now be Christian. Surprising reports are coming in from many other sections of previously resistant North India. Probably Nepal will be a key to breaking through the Buddhist strongholds in Bhutan and Tibet.
The strongest principalities are those over Islam, but I see them as ‘scared stiff.’ They have been shaken by the large numbers of Muslims coming to Christ in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim country. They are fully aware of the power of light being released through our annual ‘Praying through Ramadan’ effort. And, most of all, they are frightened, as they well should be, by the massive Reconciliation Walk tracing the routes of the First Crusade from 1996 through June of 1999 with a message of repentance for the sins of our ancestors during the First Crusade 900 years ago. Nothing could weaken the principalities keeping Muslims in darkness more than this initiative.
Our prayers are working, and the world is changing as a result. Now is the time to pray as never before. Let’s double and triple our efforts.
The heavenly choirs may not quite be ready to sing the ‘new song,’ but they probably should begin choir practice, because the time to sing the song before the throne of the Lamb seems to be right around the corner!
(c) C. Peter Wagner. Used with permission of Global Harvest Ministries.
Some books by C Peter Wagner
Leading your Church to Growth (1984)
The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit (1988)
Your Church can be Healthy (1990)
Spiritual Power and Church Growth (1990)
Prayer Shield (1997)
Churches the Pray (1997)
Breaking Strongholds in Your City (1997)
Church Growth and the Whole Gospel (1998)
Church Quake (1999)
Your Church can Grow (2001)
Your Spiritual Gifts can help your Church Grow (2005)
Comment by Rev. John Davies, the Minister at the Anglican Church in Northbridge, Sydney and editor of the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia Sydney Newsletter (November 1994):
A deepened sense of the presence of Jesus,
a heightened expectancy for the power of the Spirit
to work through me, and a refreshment in my spirit
Earlier this year rumours began to reach our shores that some strange things were happening in one of the Vineyard churches in Toronto, Canada. It was reported that God was moving with new power and blessing. A particular feature was the outbreak of ‘holy laughter’ in their services.
Those who attended the Wimber conference in Brisbane in April reported something of this phenomenon happening there, where many were blessed. There seemed to be a new level of spiritual power.
Tri Robinson, from the Vineyard church in Boise, Idaho, who spoke at the Melbourne Pentecost Rally, and the Port Macquarie Conference in June, mentioned that he had been to the Toronto church. He told how he had been rather sceptical of the reported happenings, but had been convinced that it was God when he found himself on his face on the floor, unable to move for an hour.
At the end of May the phenomenon spread to several churches in London, UK, including the rather prestigious Anglican church, Holy Trinity, Brompton, just down the road from Harrods. Within weeks the London newspapers were beginning to take notice, and headlines in the daily papers proclaimed outbreaks of ‘Holy Laughter’.
The religious press in England was also quick to comment. The Church of England Newspaper of June 17 had the headline ‘Revival breaks out in London churches’ and reported that ‘Church leaders admit bewilderment as manifestations affect business and staff meetings as well as church services’. The Church Times of June 24 spoke of ‘a mighty wind from Toronto which blew through Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), laid flat a staff meeting, and then set a whole congregation laughing hysterically, crying and falling repeatedly on the floor’. There was a brief note of this report in the Australian Church Scene of July 1, but not much other mention in Australia…
The English Renewal magazine for July had a brief report under the heading ‘Spreading Like Wildfire’. This was essentially a summary of the report to HTB by Eleanor Mumford, the wife of the pastor of the Southwest London Vineyard, on her visit to Toronto. She told how she saw the ‘power of God poured out in incredible measure’. She said: ‘I saw many very weary pastors who turned up with their even wearier wives, and they were so anointed by the Lord.’
Mrs Mumford also spoke of the personal effect on her: ‘For myself, there is a greater love for Jesus than I’ve ever known, a greater excitement about the Kingdom than I ever thought possible. I haven’t had such an appetite for ministry for years. Jesus is restoring his joy, and his laughter is like medicine to my soul.’
Further reports of what was happening at HTB, and at other churches in England, appeared in the August and September issues of Renewal. There was even an article in Time Magazine for August 10.
Rosemary and I managed to hear about this just before we left on 3 months Long Service Leave in July. And, by a series of small miracles, we were able to change our itinerary to include six days in Toronto, and visits to HTB and Chorleywood in England. What we saw, and what we received, has had a dramatic effect on our lives. And, since our return, has begun to affect members of our church.
From what we have seen and experienced we have no doubt that at the heart of what is happening there is a genuine movement of the Spirit of God. Although some of the outward manifestations are unusual, and sometimes bizarre, the fruit that is being produced bears all the marks of true godliness.
There is, especially in Toronto, a strong emphasis on the centrality of Jesus, and the need for true repentance and faith. Many have shared of the deepening of their love for Jesus, and their increased desire to serve him. There has been a greater enthusiasm for sharing the gospel, and a steady stream of new converts. Numbers have been physically healed, including a girl with chronic ME and a ten year old boy, whom we saw, with severe asthma.
My own experience has been a deepened sense of the presence of Jesus, a heightened expectancy for the power of the Spirit to work through me, and a refreshment in my spirit.
The so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’ did not, in fact, originate in Toronto. It began with a South African evangelist ministering in the USA by the name of Rodney Howard-Browne. During the early part of 1993 the Spirit of God began to move powerfully in his meetings and many were blessed.
A Vineyard pastor from St Louis, Missouri, Randy Clarke, was feeling very dry and weary after 10 years in the ministry and determined to get to a Howard-Browne meeting. As a result of the blessing he received, his whole church came alive. In September of ’93 he shared what was happening in a Vineyard leaders’ meeting and, as a result, John Arnott, from the Airport Vineyard in Toronto invited him to come for a series of meetings.
The Toronto ‘fountain’
Randy Clarke came to Toronto for a 4-day mission on 20th January 1994. The Spirit of God moved so powerfully that the meetings were extended again and again for forty days.
Originally the church met every night of the week, with meetings going often until 2 a.m.! Eventually they decided to have Mondays off. They have continued to meet six nights per week, plus Sunday mornings, until the present time, and meetings still continue until 2 a.m.
The church is situated in a small office/industrial block beside the runway of Toronto airport. Although it only seats 400, with an overflow of 200, it regularly has congregations of over 700 as visitors flood in from all over the world. Just recently they have decided to ban visitors from their Sunday Morning Service so that they can care for their own congregation.
From the beginning the Toronto leadership realised that God was calling them to give away what they had received. A number of local Baptist, Presbyterian and other pastors were invited to come together for lunch on a Wednesday. Not only were the pastors blessed, but they took the blessing back to their churches.
Word soon began to spread, and pastors from further afield expressed an interest. The Wednesday pastors’ meetings became a regular feature. When we were there, there were pastors from many parts of the USA and Canada, from Great Britain, Europe, South Africa, Cambodia, and South America.
It is as though the church in Toronto is a fountain to which the weary and thirsty from around the world might come and be refreshed. Those who come are encouraged to keep seeking after God for all that he has to give. The most common expression is ‘More, Lord!’ (The other is: ‘It’s a party!’) While some have been overwhelmed by God’s blessing on the first contact, the more common experience is that there is a progressive deepening of the blessing as people keep coming back for more.
Revival or refreshment?
The phrase ‘Revival’ was often used in the early stages, but more mature reflection has led to the conclusion that it is not fully ‘Revival’ yet. Wimber and others believe that this is, at present, essentially a refreshment for Christians. It may well be the preparation for the revival that many believe is coming soon. Or, it may be a preparation for coming persecution, or both! However, for the present, the streams of refreshment are flowing, and the invitation stands: ‘Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters’.
While many of the physical manifestations associated with this phenomenon have been seen before in previous movements of the Holy Spirit, the widespread distribution of phenomena such as laughter that has occurred this time has led some Charismatic and Pentecostal leaders to confess to some scepticism. However, most have come away convinced that this is truly a work of God.
As in previous moves of the Hoy Spirit, there are some ‘fleshly’ excesses, but the leadership maintains a careful oversight. Their attitude is that even if there is 70% flesh, they do not want to crush the 30% Spirit.
While laughter was the chief characteristic in the early days, more recently there have been instances of people roaring like lions (e.g. David Pytches) … Probably the most widespread manifestation is some kind of shaking or jerking.
It is quite common, though not universal, for people to fall to the floor under the power of the Spirit. ‘Spending carpet time’ is a common Toronto expression. In my observation, God often does a much deeper work once people are on the ground. It may be that in the surrender to his power there is an opening up of one’s life to new levels of his ministry. The ministry team are encouraged to keep praying for those who are on the ground.
While falling down, jerking, laughing, etc., may not be normal Christian experience, especially in Anglican churches, they are not unknown in the Bible. Certainly, the history of revivals such as that in New England in the 18th Century, recorded by Jonathan Edwards, showed similar phenomena. …
Spread of the blessing
The blessing has spread like wildfire in many places. When we were in Toronto in August it was reported that 800 English churches had been affected. Many more have been touched since then. At the evening service at HTB there was a queue of 200 outside the doors an hour before the service. A recent report said that it is now necessary to get a ticket to get into the church which seats 1200! 700 clergy and leaders turned up to a special day at St Andrew’s, Chorleywood in August to hear an assistant pastor from Toronto.
Many have wondered why it is necessary to travel across the world to catch the blessing. All I can say is, that is how it is so often with the gospel. Only very few are converted without personal contact with someone who knows Jesus. God has chosen to work through personal contact to spread the blessing and it is not for us to argue.
Certainly, it is those who make the commitment of time and money to seek from God who generally go away filled (Jeremiah 29:13).
Spirit Life, the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia (ARMA) Victoria Newsletter, reported in its October issue: ‘Two Anglican Clergy from Melbourne have just returned from Toronto … I am led to believe that the blessing has now flowed to a number of other churches in Melbourne.’
There is news in the past few weeks of the ‘blessing’ having broken out in a number of churches in Sydney. Hills CLC, Sutherland Growth Centre, North Shore CLC and Randwick Baptist all report powerful moves of the Holy Spirit, particularly in their evening services.
In our own small church in Northbridge, God has powerfully touched a number of people. Some have been refreshed, others have been changed, and there is a new sense of expectancy in our meetings. While we are learning afresh what it means to keep coming back to our Father for more and more of his unlimited grace, we are also seeking to give away everything he has given us.
No one knows just how long this blessing will last, or whether it will lead to widespread revival. Certainly it fits with a number of prophetic words, some going back to 1984, that 1993/’94 would see a great outpouring of blessing. In the end we can only tap into what God is doing in the present, and be very careful that we do not miss out because it does not fit our preconceptions.
The Blessing is spreading
Comment by Rev. Phil Ashton, the Associate Minister at Christ Church Anglican, Dingley in Melbourne (December 1994):
people in quiet and in dramatic ways
were touched by God’s Spirit
The October edition of Spirit Life (the Victoria and Tasmania Newsletter of Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia) noted that the ‘Tronoto blessing’ was being spread as the result of the Holy Spirit and a couple of Anglican clergy from Melbourne having visited Tronoto. I have to confess to being one of them!
The trip to Toronto for my wife Maryann and I was a miracle in itself. What with church commitments here at Dingley, four children to be looked after in our absence, a dog and a recently acquired mortgage, there was no way we could afford to go to Toronto, either commitment-wise or financially. Yet within ten days of seeking God’s will in all this, every problem had been blown away. Three people offered to have the children, someone paid the airfare, – even the dog was looked after! There was no longer any reason why we could not go!
After the trip
Our time at the Airport Vineyard was challenging, refreshing, faith stretching and a real party! But the fun didn’t stop there. Upon our return, in response to the question, ‘What happened?’, we decided to hold a testimony evening to share our story. At the end of the evening, being a safe, conservative sort of person, it would have been easier for me simply to pronounce the final blessing and send everyone home.
However, I felt God was calling us to move in faith; to stand on the edge of the cliff with him – and jump! We offered prayer to folk, and God’s Spirit came in power. There were those who laughed, those who cried, those who rested in the Spirit. Talking to people in the days that followed, we realised however, that God was changing people’s hearts. There was a desire for a second meeting following the Monday, to which about 60 people came, with similar results. A few visitors had come this time as well.
It was then decided to take, what for us was a huge leap of faith – to hold meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays for the whole month of October. We did not advertise in any formal sense, and our intention was that these meetings were for our own church folk as together we explored what God was doing in our midst.
The results, however, took us by surprise! The agenda for the meetings was kept very simple: some worship, a short teaching or encouraging word, some testimony from folk who had been touched by God previously, some practical issues were addressed (such as falling and not falling, and that people would not be pushed by the pray-ers, etc.), and then we went into a time of prayer with individuals.
The number of visitors increased as word got around, as people in quiet and in dramatic ways were touched by God’s lovely Spirit. One boy who had lost his brother in a traffic accident and had not cried since then, sobbed for a long time, before the crying turned to a gentle laugh or giggle. The change in him has been dramatic. Others have had their love for Jesus renewed and restored, and have captured again that first love that John speaks of in Revelation chapter 2.
Where are we now?
At this point in time we have moved into the larger hall; last week there were 240 people at the Monday meeting and 200 on Tuesday. A recent development from some parishioners has meant that the ministry will continue. Cumulatively over 2,000 people have been to the meetings from more than 110 churches of many different denominations. We praise God for the breaking down of denominational barriers.
Leaders and people together are coming to God for a fresh touch, a renewing and refreshing touch of his Holy Spirit. The testimonies are often simple and real:
* ‘Laid on the floor for one hour. Felt God’s love and peace, smelt the fragrance of the Spirit. Next day had amazing breakthroughs in marriage relationship and real healing.‘
* ‘God released me from anger and a feeling of unworthiness.’
* ‘Last night Jesus healed me from past memories of three people on different occasions molesting me. Praise Jesus.’
Some people ‘rest in the Spirit’ on the floor for a while, and God meets them there. One or two have spoken of being held down on the floor, as if God has put a great weight on their limbs and they are unable to get up until he has finished with them. Not everyone goes down. One man stood for quite a long time as the power of God came upon him. Those around sensed what almost seemed like a strong electrical current flowing into him. Sometimes the pray-ers and the catcher are touched as the Spirit manifests himself.
God is certainly at work. Whether people stand of fall is not the point. As John White has written in his book When the spirit comes with power,
manifestations, while they may be a blessing, are no guarantee of anything. Their outcome depends on the mysterious traffic between God and our spirits. Your fall and your shaking may be a genuine expression of the power of the Spirit resting on you. But the Spirit may not benefit you in the least if God does not have his way with you, while someone who neither trembles nor falls may profit greatly.
Of one thing we are sure. This is no new work of the Holy Spirit. As we read church history we note that the same things were seen and experienced by George Fox (1624-1691), by Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening (1740-1742), and by Charles Finney (1792-1875), as people came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and were drawn by God’s love for them.
Our cry to God today is: ‘Lord, do it again’.
Toronto in Melbourne? Really?
The Rev. Geoff Glass, Anglican Minister at Beaumaris in Melbourne comments (December 1994):
all have found a real spiritual refreshment,
a deepened awareness of God,
a bubbling joy and a deep peace
Some of us have heard stories of some remarkable happenings in a Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada, and at Holy Trinity, Brompton, in England. Some of us have thought how good it would be to receive the blessings that are being poured out on people there.
On October 4 my wife Jan and I went to a clergy meeting over at Christ Church, Dingley, and found that their Vicar, Rob Isaachsen, and also his curate, Phil Ashton, had just returned from Toronto and Rob shared with us what had happened. It was obvious he had been profoundly touched by God and when he offered to pray for us I was first in. It wasn’t long before I found myself on the floor for the first time in the 21 years I have been in renewal. I lay there for some time as the Holy Spirit continued to minister to me. When I got up I felt remarkably alive and peaceful and had a new sense of freedom. Jan was prayed for soon after and she too ended up on the floor for the first time ever. When she got up she too felt the same as I did.
Later that day I was speaking to one of my church wardens on the phone and mentioned what had happened to us. He asked if he and his wife could come and see us that evening. They did, and as we prayed for them they too ended up on the floor and were profoundly blessed. Both Jan and I had a sense of the Holy Spirit releasing enormous power as we prayed for them.
As I reflected on this the next morning the Lord kept bringing to mind the phrase ‘times of refreshing’. It seemed familiar and I found a Bible reference using this phrase in Acts 3:19 that seemed to make sense of what had happened.
As we have shared this experience of the Holy Spirit with our congregations a number of people have asked for prayer. Nearly all ended up on the floor, but all have found a real spiritual refreshment, a deepened awareness of God, a bubbling joy and a deep peace. We are praying for the Holy Spirit to extend his blessing of refreshment to all of our congregation.
The Blessing reaches Mulgrave
Mr Tony Stevens, editor of ‘Spirit Life’ the Victoria and Tasmania Newsletter of the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia, comments (December 1994):
Let us all pray that the Lord
will keep his blessing flowing
to the churches and people
St Matthew’s, Mulgrave, has been experiencing a mighty move of the Spirit this year. This all started around the time of Pentecost and has been heightened by the ministry of Tri Robinson and Lamar Junkins from the Vineyard.
Many people have been blessed by the ministry of the Rev. Brian Thewlis (whose home base is Christ Church, Dingley) who has been ministering here over the last couple of months. Many people from the 10.30 a.m. congregation have been freed, blessed and healed. Many of the congregation have also been to Dingley and received a blessing from the Lord there.
The church is praying for mighty things to happen next year. Praise the Lord for what is happening now!
Let us all pray that the Lord will keep his blessing flowing to the churches and people during 1995. Let us all have open minds to what he is doing at this time in history.
Selections edited from the November 1994 ARMA Sydney Newsletter (17 Trunks Street, Northbridge, NSW 2063) and Spirit Life the December 1994 Victoria and Tasmania ARMA Newsletter (PO Box 1134, Glen Waverley, Victoria 3150).
This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel! (Acts 2:16) Or, as the old version puts it: ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.’
This … is … that!
The immediate responses to the pouring out of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost included amazement and amusement. Some, Luke tells us, made fun of them and said, ‘They’ve had too much wine’ (v. 13). Why would anyone who wanted to be taken seriously suggest they’d drunk too much? Presumably because they looked drunk, sounded drunk and generally behaved as though they were drunk!
It is interesting that St Paul too in his letter to the Christians at Ephesus links and contrasts the effects on the body of alcohol (‘Do not get drunk with wine which leads to debauchery…’) with the effects of being immersed with the Spirit of God (‘… but be filled with the Spirit’) which leads to ‘speaking to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Ephesians 5:18-20).
Paul wasn’t at Pentecost but many times he’d seen people genuinely filled with the Spirit. Indeed he seems to have been able to tell pretty quickly whether disciples were or were not filled with the Spirit!
He may have been thinking of his visit to Ephesus described in Acts 19 when he asked what we would think of as a rather direct question: ‘Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?’ To which he got back an equally direct and honest answer, ‘No we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit. And, as we all know, ‘on hearing this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus and, when Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied’. Luke adds that there were about twelve men in all.
Since about Tuesday of two weeks ago, we have begun to see an astonishing outpouring of the Spirit of God upon our own church and congregation. It seems to be a spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit and there are certainly some very surprising manifestations of the Spirit very excitingly reminiscent of accounts of early revivals and movements of God’s Spirit.
Some of the manifestations include prolonged laughter, totally unselfconscious for the most part, and an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8). For some it is prolonged weeping and crying with a sense of conviction and desire for forgiveness, purity and peace with God. For others it seems to be a silent reception of the Spirit of God sometimes leading to falling down and sometimes standing up, sometimes kneeling, sometimes sitting.
There are great varieties of the manifestations of the Spirit. They are breaking out both during services and outside them in homes and offices. At times they are easy to explain and handle, and other times they are much harder and more complicated!
We had been hearing for several days of the movement of God’s Spirit in the Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada, and a number of people have come to us from there telling us about what was going on and of what they thought it all meant.
For that reason Jeremy Jennings and I decided to go to Toronto at the beginning of this month just for two and a half days to see what we could learn and what conclusions, if any, at this stage it was possible to draw. The manifestations are quite extraordinary and would undoubtedly be alarming if we hadn’t read about them previously in history.
That’s really why I started where I started in this article. You don’t get accused of being drunk just because you speak in tongues. And many of the manifestations of this modern movement of the Spirit of God carry with them many of the symptoms of drunkenness. Laughter, swaying about, slurred speech, movements which are difficult to control … all sometimes continuing for long periods of time.
The manifestations themselves of course are not as significant as the working of the Spirit of God in the individual and the church. The manifestations are the symptom and therefore of course it is to the fruit that we look rather than the signs.
Times of refreshing
The church in Toronto first experienced these symptoms on January 20th (1994) and since then they have been ministering to an increasing number of outside people: ministers and church members from all over America, Canada, now Europe and even further afield.
Meetings go on night after night (every night except Monday) and include a pastors’ meeting on a Wednesday from 12 to roughly half-past three in the afternoon. Their understanding is that God seems to be pouring out his Spirit, refreshing his people and drawing them closer to himself, revealing his love to them and a deep sense of preciousness in away that kindles their own sense of the love of God, their love for Scripture, and their desire to be involved in the activities of the Spirit of God today.
So this is primarily a movement toward God’s people. Naturally we expect it to flow out and over into a movement that will affect the rest of the world but for the moment it’s God’s deep desire to minister to his church – to refresh, empower, and prepare them fora wider work of his Spirit that will affect the world to which the church is sent.
Charles Finney (1792-1875) – one of history’s greatest evangelists – records his experience of the Holy Spirit immediately following his conversion:
The Holy Spirit descended upon me in a manner that seemed to go through me body and soul. I could feel the impression like a wave of electricity, going through and through me. Indeed it seemed to come in waves and waves of liquid love… And no words can express the wonderful love that was shed abroad in my heart. I wept aloud with joy and love; and I do not know but I should say, I literally bellowed out the unutterable gushings of my heart. These waves came over me, and over me, and over me, one after another until I recollect I cried out ‘I shall die if these effects continue to pass over me’.
During the ministry of Jonathan Edwards in the 1735 revival in New Hampshire, he described some of the effects of the spontaneous work of the Spirit of God. ‘The town seemed to be full of the presence of God,’ he wrote. ‘It was never so full of love, nor of joy, and yet so full of distress, as it was then.’
He describes something which happened during one of his sermons in New Jersey on March 1st 1746: ‘Toward the close of my talk, divine truths made considerable impressions upon the audience, and produced tears and sobs in some under concern and more especially a sweet and humble melting in sundry that, I have reason to hope, were truly gracious.’
During the Cambusland revival in Scotland in 1742, Doctor Alexander Webster described some of the effects of the preaching there: ‘There were two kinds – the outcrying and trembling among the unconverted and the ecstatic joy among believers… indeed such joy was more a part of this work than the sorrow over sin. It appears that many believers found themselves so moved by a sense of the Saviour’s love to them and, in turn, by their new love to him, as to be lifted almost into a state of rapture.’
I could go on and on – and probably you could add your own accounts that you’ve read about in history. There are more than one in the Acts of the Apostles.
I think it’s important that we should stay close to the Lord and be grateful for every sign of his grace upon us. Don’t let’s get too caught up with the symptoms of his Spirit, but more with him and his love for us.
Let’s encourage those who think they have experienced nothing (it may or may not be true) – and let’s above all continue to pray that through this outpouring of God’s Spirit he will build a church worthy of him: holy, equipped, and full of love and grace towards him and the outside world.
Meanwhile let’s pray that it may continue. And continue to pray for one another.
The current move of the Spirit
Mrs Eleanor Mumford , wife of the pastor of the South West London Vineyard church, comments on her visit to Toronto in this edited version of her message at Holy Trinity Brompton on Sunday morning 29 May 1994.
This whole move of the Lord
is all about Jesus
I have just been to a church in Toronto in Canada. I heard that there were things going on. I wanted to go and get into the middle. I went because I knew I was bankrupt and that I was longing. And I went with a spirit of tremendous expectancy.
So the first night I went forward and this delightful pastor said to me, ‘Do tell me who you are and what you’ve come for.’
I said, ‘I’ve come for all that you’ve got. I have two days and I’ve come from London.’
So he looked at me with a glint in his eye and then proceeded to pray for me on and off for the next two days.
At the same time there was a young Chinese pastor who arrived at Toronto from Vancouver where he was pastoring and he came fasting. The darling man looked as if he’s spent his whole life fasting and he was the most wonderful and godly man. As he arrived at the church the Lord spoke to him clearly and said, ‘You can forget about your fasting. This is a time for celebration.’
Indeed it was.
An ordinary little church
The Airport Vineyard church in Toronto is a funny little place. It’s just a very ordinary little church set in an office block on the end of the runway of the airport. Even that in itself, I thought, was gracious of the Lord because so many of us can get there so easily. It takes 10 minutes from the check-out to the church!
It was a very ordinary place. I was reminded when I went in there of how the people in the crowd said at Pentecost: ‘Are not these Galileans? Are these not just terribly ordinary people?’
I went in and I thought, ‘Well, God bless them, these are just ordinary people like me.’
It’s just to do with Jesus, and yet the attitude and the sense of expectancy was enormous. As the worship leader strummed his rather tuneless guitar, he stood up and said, ‘What have you come for?’
We all said, ‘We’ve come for the Lord. We’ve come for more of God.’
And he said, ‘Well, if you’ve come for God you’ll not be disappointed.’
From that moment on that was the truth.
There was just a beauty on those who were ministering there – the leaders and the pastors and the worship leaders – the sort of beauty that I guess the people saw in Acts when they looked at the disciples and they said, ‘These people have been with Jesus.’
These Canadians were just men and women who had spent 130 days in the company of Jesus who was pouring out his Spirit on them. They shone with faces like Stephen. It was beautiful to see.
I saw the power of God poured out in incredible measure and it was all accompanied by phenomena.
Jonathan Edwards, a great man of God during the eighteenth century who was part of the Great Awakening in America, wrote this in his journal of a similar outpouring of the Spirit of God at that time: ‘The apostolic times seem to have returned upon us, such a display has there been of the power and grace of the Spirit.’
He wrote of fear, sorrow, desire, love, joy, tears, and trembling, of ‘groans and cries, agonies of the body and the failing of bodily strength.’
So I thought, ‘Well, none of this is new. It may be unusual but none of it is new.’
Edwards also wrote, ‘We are all ready to own that no man can see God and live. If we see even a small part of the love and the glory of Christ, a foretaste of heaven, is it any wonder that our bodily strength is diminished.’
That is indeed what happened to many of us despite ourselves.
The truth is that this whole move of the Lord is all about Jesus. I was there for only 48 hours. I never heard anybody talk about the devil. I never heard anybody talk about spiritual warfare. I never heard a principality or a power mentioned. We were so preoccupied with the person of Jesus that there was really no time. There was no space for talk of the opposition because there was just a growing passion for the name of Jesus and for the beauty of his presence among his people.
So I went scurrying back to the Scriptures and scurrying back to church history and it’s all happened before. It’s all in the book and there’s nothing that I saw – however strange or unusual – that I haven’t since been able to read about in the Bible.
Jonathan Edwards’ wife had an intimate acquaintance with her carpet for 17 days during the time of the Great Awakening. For 17 days she was unable to make their meals or take care of the family or look after the visitors.
She said after 17 days that she had a delightful sense of the immediate presence of God – of ‘his nearness to me and of my dearness to him.’
I thought to myself when I came home, that’s what this is about. It’s about his nearness to me and my dearness to him.’ Wonderful, wonderful things are going on.
During the time I was there I saw all sorts of people coming and going. There were many very weary pastors who turned up with their even more weary wives, and they were so anointed by the Lord.
There was one very sensible middle-aged man who’d been in pastoral ministry for years and when he spoke to us after having been there for several days he was just behaving like an old drunk. It was funny. Once he stood up and talked about the intimacy that he’d gained with Jesus. Then the leading pastor said to him, ‘Well thank you, Wayne, for telling us about this. May we pray for you?’
He said, ‘I’d be glad for you to pray for me.’
They prayed for him and down he went and he rolled on the floor for the next two hours and no-one took any notice. He just continued to commune with his God.
I saw another young pastor who talked at the pastors’ seminar that I went to. He was a very all-together young man – quite serious minded and godly and thrilled with everything but very much in control and very anxious when he came and not at all sure of what he’d come to.
For a day or two he just watched and he just basked in the presence of the Lord. After a day or two he started to twitch and he was a little embarrassed. Then he started to shake and he was very embarrassed. Then after a while of shaking and laughing in the presence of the Lord he decided, ‘Who gives a rip? Who cares what people say?’
A verse in Psalms says, ‘gladness and joy shall overtake me.’ This young man had been overtaken by the gladness of the Lord. But he had a sense of responsibility and felt, ‘I’ve got to keep my church on the road.’
So he decided that the obvious thing to do was to go into the office and to type out the church bulletin, the news sheet.
‘Someone’s got to keep a grip round here,’ he said to himself.
So he went to type out the bulletin and as he got to announcing the seminar. The title of it was ‘Come Holy Spirit’.
He typed, ‘Come Holy Spirit’ and fell under the power of God.
There was another young man who was a youth worker who arrived and he was worn down with ministry. His wife had said to him, ‘Why don’t you go to Toronto?’ She thought he was getting far too straight and serious.
So he came to Toronto and arrived the night that I did. That night he fell on the ground and he laughed and laughed. I thought he would have died. The next day he spoke about what God had done for him and the refreshment that had come to his soul. Then they said to him, ‘Would you like us to pray for you again?’
He said, ‘I think so.’
So we prayed and down he went and just laughed his way through hour after hour of the pastors’ seminar.
And you think to yourself, ‘What is this?’
But this is just the refreshing of the Spirit of God. It talks in the book of Acts about times of refreshing from the Spirit of the Lord, and that’s what God is doing.
He’s pouring his Spirit out upon us. He’s sending his joy and he’s refreshing our spirits just because he loves us.
I’m not even sure that he’s equipping us. I’m not even sure it’s all about being better this, better that, better ministers. It think it’s just his love for us. It’s about his nearness to me and my dearness to him.
Joy and refreshing
I could tell you heaps of stories. There are stories about people who are ringing one another up and getting led to Christ over the phone.
There was a story about a young woman who’d lain on the floor and laughed for two hours. Then she got up and decided she was peckish and went off to a little fast food restaurant. She sat down. Opposite, she saw a whole family sitting at a table and, completely out of character, she went to them and said, ‘Would you like to be saved?’ And they all said yes! The whole family was led to Christ.
I went to the Dolphin school [a Christian school in Clapham] the other day and talked to them about what the Lord had been doing and I prayed for them. The Lord fell on those children aged five years old and they were laughing and weeping for the lost and crying out to the Lord. The teachers were affected and the parent were rolling around.
I thought, ‘God, this is a glorious thing you’re doing. This is fantastic.’
Jesus is breaking down the barriers of his church because he’s coming for a bride, and he wants his bride to be one.
We’ve been meeting with Baptist pastors this week. We’ve been meeting with New Frontiers pastors. We’ve been meeting with the Anglicans. And God is pouring his Spirit out on us all and it’s a glorious thing.
I was reminded of that verse in the Psalms (133:1,3), ‘How blessed it is when brothers dwell together in unity … for there the Lord commands the blessing.’
He doesn’t just invite it, or suggest it. He commands a blessing on us when we dwell together in unity – when we love one another and we love one another’s churches and we bless one another’s people.
So God is moving, not just on this funny little church at the end of the runway. He’s moving across the denominations. He’s moving across the land. He’s moving across London and England in a fantastic way. And he’s moving across the world.
Greater love for Jesus
What are the perceived results so far?
For myself, there is a greater love for Jesus than I’ve ever known, a grater excitement about the Kingdom than I ever thought possible, a greater sense that these are glorious, glorious days in which to be alive. I’m thrilled about the Scriptures and I’m going back to the Word and finding that it’s all been there from the very beginning.
I’m excited about church history. I have a heightened sense of what’s been going on up to this point.
I have an ever stronger sense of the whole church than ever before. The Lord said to them in Toronto right at the beginning, ‘This is not about the Vineyard; this is about the Kingdom.’ This is not about any one church. This is about the Kingdom, and about the Bride of Christ. Right across the church Jesus’ passion for his Bride is beginning to be understood.
I’ve also discovered that I’m desperate to give this away. I haven’t had this appetite for ministry for years. I mean, I’ve always been enthusiastic but I’ve not had this passion before. I’ve just found that there’s a greater recklessness in me than there’s ever been before because God is coming upon us, and the joy of the Lord is coming on the church and Jesus is restoring his joy. And his laughter is like medicine to the soul.
In our church the people are getting freed and the people are getting healed. We’ve got people who have gone down on the floor and got up healed. Nobody ever knew they were sick and they got better without us even naming the words.
The Lord is coming with mercy and kindness.
The prodigal son went to look for parties but he discovered that the best party was in his father’s house. Isn’t that the truth?
Many books help us understand the current blessing. They include these.
Signs of Revival by Patrick Dixon (Kingsway, 1994),
Prepare for Revival by Rob Warner (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995),
Catch the Fire and Pray with Fire by Guy Chevreau (Marshall Pickering 1994, 1995)
place the current blessing in the context of revival phenomena especially in the last 300 years.
A Breath of Fresh Air by Mike Fearon (Eagle 1994),
The Toronto Blessing by Dave Roberts (Kingsway, 1994),
The Impact of Toronto edited by Wallace Boulton (Monarch, 1995), and
Keep the Fire by John Arnott (Harper/Collins, 1995)
all describe the Toronto version of this blessing in detail and discuss its impact and significance.
Something Extraordinary is Happening by Andy and Jane FitzGibbon (Monarch, 1995) and
The Sunderland Refreshing by Ken and Lois Gott (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995)
both detail the impact of this blessing in Sunderland in the north of England.
Rumours of Revival is probably the best video around describing ‘The Toronto Blessing’. Leaders in England and America comment from various perpectives, including some negative ones. However the overall concensus is that God is moving in powerful ways in the earth through this blessing.
Let the Fire Burn offers an Australian pentecostal perspective by Jeff Beecham (AOG) with testimony and description of the impact of this blessing in churches today.
For those of us involved in what became to be known as the Charismatic Movement, it’s particular emphasis seemed to be a move of the Holy Spirit to bring renewal to mainline churches. The infilling of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts which resulted were nothing new to those in Pentecostal churches, but they were a bit askance to see God pour this same blessing out upon people they had always considered spiritually dead. We in those mainline churches were then amazed to see the same outpouring on the Holy Spirit taking place among people some of us did not even consider saved, the Roman Catholics.
Radical change of thinking
It was a radical change of thinking, and left many of us incredulous, floundering to rethink our theology, in the light of what we could see happening. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, a renewed love for God, and a desire to serve Him with a passion and total commitment were just some of the fruit which began to emerge.
But, in my memory, perhaps the most outstanding distinctive of the Charismatic Movement, which began in the 1970s was the love they had for each other. Denominational barriers melted away, and people who had experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit in their lives, began to enjoy coming together to praise and worship God.
There was a great emphasis on praise, and a change in the way that praise was expressed. It became more vocal, loud, earthy, and joyous. The traditional hymns, accompanied by the organ were replaced with simple songs of love, sung to guitar music. The words of Scripture became a prime source for these songs, many of them sung TO God, rather than simply about Him. There was also the freedom given to use the gift of tongues, and to sing in the Spirit, during the times of worship.
Naturally, not all within the mainline churches felt comfortable with this. So charismatic groups often met together outside of their regular church times. For some this was enough, and they happily returned to their own denomination on a Sunday while still meeting in interdenominational groups through the week. For others this was not possible, and it was a time of church splits, and new denominations being formed.
During this time there seemed to be an influx of teaching tapes available. The cassette recorder had just appeared on the scene, and this made it possible for those of us in outlying areas to hear the words of some of the great preachers then coming on the scene. David Pawson, David Watson, Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter and Derek Prince were just some of those who fed the hunger we all felt for learning about God.
Also, the availability of paperback books, opened up a new area of learning, and biographical books began to flood the market. Christian book shops opened up in many places, or for those already in existence, the ‘heretic section’ began to be filled with books on the stories of what God was doing all over the world in peoples’ lives. These books were very inspirational and some have since become Christian classics. “The Cross and the Switchblade”, “The Hiding Place”, and “Prison to Praise” were among these.
With the passage of time, some of the groups which had met for charismatic worship grew large enough to become self supporting. The need then to worship with others from different denominations was no longer there. They had reached a point where they did not need to come aside to meet with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Uniting or whatever. They were now strong enough to set up their own renewal services within their own denomination, alongside the traditional service. My personal opinion is that something wonderful – the emphasis on reconciliation and unity despite our different viewpoints, was lost.
The renewal movement however, kept going under such influences as the Wimber decade. Renewal spread rapidly through the evangelical church. This present blessing, unfortunately labelled ‘Toronto Blessing’, erupted just as suddenly as the charismatic movement, and has caused the same consternation, and Bible searching for a theological base.
From my perception, its distinctive emphasis seems to be more on receiving from God, in the form of an awareness of His love – rather than on doing for God. More of a ‘Mary’ response to God, rather than the ‘Martha’ one in which so many of us have been caught.
Within this blessing there is a desire to just spend time, soaking in the presence of God, and within that soaking, allowing Him to do any repair work on us that is necessary. In other words, ‘His agenda, not mine’.
For me this is quite new, as in the past we have always come to God with our list of requests. Now, we are more aware of allowing Him to show us exactly what is in need of His touch. This has produced some amazing examples of inner healing and restoration. Testimonies abound of people being set free from lifetime struggles, as they “soak in His anointing”. The bottom line seems to be an awareness for each individual of just how precious they are to God.
There is also an evangelical element to this blessing. We have seen unsaved people come to a service where this blessing is flowing. They have been touched by the anointing. They have experienced God’s love and grace as they ‘soaked’ in His presence. Then they have been open to receive teaching on repentance and the need to make a personal commitment to Jesus.
The physical manifestations of this present blessing at first appear very odd, to say the least. Personally, this caused consternation and alarm, and caused me to again search the Scriptures, and to reread of the revival times in church history to see if there were any similarities. There were.
But, just as the beginning of the charismatic movement had shaken our comfortableness and preconceived ideas and set patterns of acceptable Christian behaviour, so this move has caused many of us to seek God. We were caught between not wanting to get carried away with deception and yet not wanting to miss out on anything God was doing.
For me a very strong proof of the pudding has been the change I have witnessed in my own life, and in the lives of those involved. Renewed love for God, commitment to him and an effectiveness in Christian living have manifested.
I have spent many years in Christian counselling and God has blessed that ministry, but it has been time consuming and slow. Now I am seeing similar results, but at a much faster rate, and to many people at the same time, as they simply ‘soak in his anointing’ (with varying degrees of outward physical manifestation).
Even though we are seeing some being saved I believe this is not revival. It is a time of refreshing. It is preparation for something more which is to come. In some ways this is a gentle rebuke to the Christians in the western world who have become so analytical in their Christianity. Our whole world view is so wrapped up in thoughts, concepts and ideas. It is as if God is now saying: ‘It is time for you to experience my love’. To many, this is threatening – concepts seem safer.
This could be a dangerous and foolhardy thing God is doing as there is great potential for misuse and abuse. But I seem to remember thinking the same thing 25 years ago when God began to pour out His Spirit on Roman Catholics.
However I am disturbed by the critical articles which link this move to the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, Benny Hinn and others and call the lot the Toronto Blessing. (The Airport Christian Fellowship at Toronto do not like the name and are not seeking the notoriety it brings). What is coming out of Toronto is distinctly different from the ‘super star’ oriented ministry we are seeing from other parts of the world.
The blessing which began in, and has flowed from the Vineyard Airport Church in Toronto, is a church based movement, involving teams of people drawn from many churches in the city of Toronto. The hundreds of people who make up these prayer teams are all involved in personal one-to-one prayer for those who are seeking. There is no emphasis on one particular person as the one who has all the answers, power, or anointing.
One obvious difference between this present move of God and the Charismatic move is the physical manifestations. They can appear very odd! It is often difficult to assess the manifestation by just watching what is going on. Our assumptions of what is decent and in order are often proved to be premature. Later discussion with the one involved in the manifestation will often reveal that they were experiencing a unique and specific touch from God.
In others the manifestation was of demonic origin, or from their own desire to be a part of what was going on. Wisdom is called for. Also we need to not jump in and judge too quickly. It is important to watch for the fruit.
I have also noticed there seems to be a progression in the physical manifestations. Some people seem to go through stages of pain, weeping, shaking, roaring, to joy, peace, laughter. It seems that healing is taking place at a deep level and it is of benefit not to give up too soon by rejecting what is taking place.
In answering this request to write my thoughts I am not seeking for a debate. While many people may disagree with my perceptions, as is their right, we must be careful we do not become like the philosophers on Mars Hill, endlessly discussing concepts and ideas rather than experiencing what God is doing. Let us encourage one another to remain open to whatever He has for us, both to receive and to do.
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.