A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Archive for May, 2011

Renewal Blessings  Reflections from Australia  by John Davies, Phil Ashton,  Geoff Glass & Tony Stevens

Reflections from Australia

Anglican renewal leaders, Rev John Davies in Sydney, Revs Phil Ashton, Geoff Glass and Mr Tony Stevens in Melbourne comment on renewal blessings in Australia.

Article in Renewal Journal 5: Signs & Wonders as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository.
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 1 (Issues 1-5)

‘Toronto Blessing’ reaches Australia

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.

Overall assessment

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.

Before Toronto

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’.

Strange manifestations

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).

Australian outbreak

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).

 

© Renewal Journal #5: Signs and Wonders, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 5: Signs and Wonders – Discounted in Renewal Journal eStore

Renewal Journal eStore – all publications

Contents of all Renewal Journals

Amazon – Renewal Journal 5: Signs and Wonders

Amazon – all journals and books

See Renewal Journal 5: Signs & Wonders as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository.
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 1 (Issues 1-5)

Back to main page

Renewal Blessings  Reflections from England  by Sandy Millar & Eleanor Mumford

Reflections from England

Rev. Sandy Millar and Mrs Eleanor Mumford of London comment on current refreshing from the Lord being experienced in England.

Reminiscent of Revivals

Rev. Sandy Millar (Now Bishop), then Vicar of the prestigious inner city Anglican church, Holy Trinity Brompton, comments on renewal and refreshing which commenced in May 1994 in their church.

Article in Renewal Journal 5: Signs & Wonders as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository.
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 1 (Issues 1-5)

————————————————————

The manifestations themselves are not as

significant as the working of the Spirit of God

in the individual and the church

———————————————————–

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 baptised 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.

Astonishing outpouring

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, sometime 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.

Great Awakening

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.

Pastors renewed

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?

__________________________________________________________

(c) HTB in Focus, 12 June 1994, the monthly paper of Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church in London. Renewal Journal #5 (1995:1), pp. 24-31.

 

© Renewal Journal #5: Signs and Wonders, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 5: Signs and Wonders – Discounted in Renewal Journal eStore

Renewal Journal eStore – all publications

Contents of all Renewal Journals

Amazon – Renewal Journal 5: Signs and Wonders

Amazon – all journals and books

See Renewal Journal 5: Signs & Wonders as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository.
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 1 (Issues 1-5)

Back to main page

Reviews (7) Blessing

Books

From Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

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.

_________________

Videos/DVDs

  • 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.

_______________________________________________________________

© Renewal Journal 7: Blessing, 1996, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 7: Blessing – Discounted in eStore

Renewal Journal eStore – all publications

Contents of all Renewal Journals

Amazon – Renewal Journal 7: Blessing

Amazon – all journals and books

See Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

Return to main page

Renewal Ministry  by Geoff Waugh

Geoff Waugh is the founding editor of the Renewal Journal.

Article in Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

_________________________________

Blessings abound where e’er he reigns;

The prisoners leap to lose their chains

_________________________________

I’ve been praying for people in meetings for over twenty years, but recently it’s been different. Many now slump to the floor, or shake, or laugh, or sob, or feel heat in their hands or on their head, or have other surprises.

We were worshipping at the Renewal Fellowship recently when I prayed (with my eyes shut) for the Holy Spirit to come upon us. A person in the front row fell over and crashed into me. I quickly opened my eyes, guiding that person to the floor.

Those manifestations are not new. They have been there over the years at various times. Now, however, they happen more often and with greater intensity. I believe this is a time of refreshing and blessing in the mid-nineties.

I remember the early seventies when a wave of renewal swept the earth. Thousands were baptised in the Spirit, spoke in tongues, discovered spiritual gifts, and began to see more answers to prayer for healing or deliverance. That wave gave birth in Brisbane to movements such as Christian Life Centre, Christian Outreach Centre, Bardon Catholic Charismatic meetings, Emmanuel Covenant Community, and some denominational charismatic congregations.

These strong manifestations now in the nineties are more varied and sometimes more surprising than I ve known before. I believe it is part of a worldwide move of God s Spirit, and as always, it is mixed with our human reactions.

A fresh wave

This fresh wave started for us at the Renewal Fellowship during 1994. It seems to be part of our on-going journey.

We have been learning to be respond to the Spirit, as best we know. Our ‘order of service had long given way to the immediate leadings of the Spirit. We still followed our usual pattern, however, of worship for over and hour (with great variety such as in prophetic music, free singing, Scriptures read and prophetic words or visions shared), Bible teaching, and ministry with prayer for one another in clusters, with further prayer for those who could remain later.

Sometimes in praying for people some were overwhelmed and rested on the floor, or slumped in their seats. No problem! We had seen that before from time to time. It just seemed to be more frequent from 1994.

The Christian Outreach Centres had experienced a strong move of the Spirit in 1993, beginning in Brisbane and spreading through their churches. We were blessed in Brisbane through a range of ministries including visits from John Wimber, Rodney Howard-Browne, leaders involved in the ‘Toronto Blessing’ now touching thousands of people and churches all over Canada, America, England, and across the world. We read reports of similar happenings in Australia among some churches touched by this blessing.

As in the seventies, the expressions of this blessing varied from group to group, from ministry to ministry. The essence, however, seemed to be similar everywhere – strong impacts from the Spirit, people being overwhelmed, new and deep love for Jesus, personal refreshing and blessing, catching the fire of a fresh zeal for the Lord, ministering more effectively to others.

As we kept praying for people the manifestations increased, especially with people being overwhelmed and resting in the Spirit.

To pray or not to pray

Problem! Do we actively encourage this? Do we avoid it – such as not praying so much? Do we stop praying for individuals? Do we wait till the end of the meeting, even though some people were being touched strongly as we worshipped? Do we copy methods from the Vineyard conferences, such as praying for people all over the place at the end of the meeting? Do we follow the Toronto example and make plenty of carpet space available? Do we ask people to stand and then ask the Holy Spirit to come, or do we just expect he will move upon us anyway?

In our prayer times before every meeting we declared the Lordship of Jesus, asked him to take over, and claimed his authority. The more we prayed, the more it kept happening!

We don t have all the answers yet – and maybe never will! Who can direct the wind? The whirlwind is even more unpredictable.

Where do we draw the line? Whose line? God’s? Ours? Our traditions?

We all draw a line somewhere. Responsible leadership and pastoral care require some guidelines., even though these maybe quite flexible.

What is regarded as ‘decent’ and ‘in order’ varies widely from church to church, group to group, culture to culture, revival to revival. We need to be spiritually sensitive, theologically insightful and culturally appropriate (as Jesus and Paul were) without quenching the Spirit.

The root and the fruit

Where the root of various experiences is Jesus himself in the power of his Spirit, and the fruit is clearly the fruit of his Spirit, we’re glad.

Remember that Jesus’ presence and ministry produced amazing effects in Scripture. Demons were expelled. People were set free and made whole. Lives were changed.

What are the results of these current blessings for us in the Renewal Fellowship?

Worship is richer, fuller and longer than ever. People comment on the blessing of a stronger, closer relationship with God, both in the meetings and beyond them in daily life. Many people tell about blessings in their service to others, in prayer for the sick and in home groups.

People report a deeper awareness of the reality of the Lord, closer fellowship with Jesus, stronger leadings by the Holy Spirit, increased anointing in their various giftings, and greater love for God. For many people it is already flowing over into sacrificial ministry to others with greater assurance, compassion, and willingness to be involved as they obey the promptings of the Spirit.

One person lay on the floor, overwhelmed, and began praying in tongues with a new love for the Lord and release of his gifts. Some report physical healings received while overwhelmed. Someone with Multiple Personality Disorder caused by childhood trauma had a vision of Jesus while resting on the floor; Jesus brought deep healing and integration, resulting in profound improvement. Many people have found a new zeal in serving the Lord and praying with and for others.

We need pastoral wisdom to avoid the extremes of foolish excesses on one hand or resisting and quenching the Spirit on the other. We need discernment between the true and the false, and that s not easy. We need grace to welcome the refreshing of the Lord even though it comes in different ways to different people. As with conversion, or being filled with the Spirit, or discovering spiritual gifts, some people have dramatic encounters with God while others experience deep and quiet peace.

Let everything be grounded in Scripture, illumined by the Spirit who inspired it. It is more radical than any of us really understand. A few biblical happenings would certainly enliven any church!

Jesus offended many people, such as in worship and teaching meetings. He welcomed outcasts, sinners, the poor and despised. He healed lepers. He banished demons. He sent the disciples off to preach, heal the sick and cast out demons. He told them to teach the rest of us to do the same (Matthew 28:20; Mark 16:17-18; Luke 24:49; John 14:12; 20:21-22; Acts 1:8 and so on).

People in the early church saw the power of God at work. They appeared drunk on the day of Pentecost. They clashed with traditions, as Jesus did. They prayed and witnessed amid the turbulence of light overcoming darkness, truth confronting error, and the kingdom of God invading the kingdoms of this world.

Expect the Spirit to move upon us all even more fully. Welcome his blessings, and pray that revival will yet sweep our nation. Perhaps a spark is being lit for revival in our land.

Praying for People

We found the following guidelines helpful in praying for people. They are adapted from material provided in Toronto. We prefer to pray in pairs if possible so that if someone is overwhelmed they can be gently helped to rest in the Spirit.

1. When praying for individuals, watch closely what the Spirit is doing (John 5:19). Never make a person feel that they are unable to receive or are resisting the Holy Spirit just because they are not openly manifesting something. We are called to encourage and love, not speak words that will bring rejection or discouragement.

2. Do not force ministry! Trust the Lord, knowing that he is doing something personal within an individual, so don’t interrupt that special ‘conversation’.

3. When you are praying for someone a strong anointing may rest on you also. Keep praying for the person without distracting them.

4. You may be able to help some people receive more in the following ways:

(a) Help them deal with a tendency to rationalise; or calm their fears of loss of control.

(b) Let them know what to expect; that even when the Holy Spirit is blessing them they will have a clear mind and can usually stop the process at any point if they want to.

(c) The Holy Spirit often moves in ‘waves’ similar to the blowing wind.

(d) Encourage them to be still and know that God is God (Ps. 46:10), and to stay focused on he Lord. He loves them intensely and longs for them to know him intimately.

5. Generally, it is helpful to have people stand to receive ministry. The Holy Spirit often rests upon people as they wait in his presence. Some people may fear falling, especially if they have back problems or are pregnant or elderly. If they are overwhelmed help them to sit down, kneel, or fall carefully.

6. When people fall or rest in the Spirit, encourage them to soak in the presence of the Lord. It seems that everyone wants to get up far too quickly.

7. It can help to pray and bless the person resting in the Spirit. Many feel very vulnerable while in that position and appreciate the loving care given. They also need to guarded from others bumping into them and/or making comments around them.

8. Never push people over. Watch over-enthusiasm and a tendency to want to ‘help God out’ especially when you are sensing a strong anointing within you.

9. If you get ‘words of knowledge’, pray biblical prayers related to those words. Let prophetic encouragement flow from prayer ministry, and always for edification, exhortation or comfort. Remember, no ‘direction, correction, dates or mates’.

10. You will seldom err if you pray biblical prayers such as:

(a) ‘Come Holy Spirit.’

(b) ‘Your kingdom come, Lord, Your will be done.’

(c) For a deeper revelation of the Father’s love in Christ.

(d) For anointing for service.

(e) For release of gifts and callings.

(f) To bring light and expel darkness.

(g) To open their understanding so they will know the magnitude of their salvation.

(h) For peace, ruling and reigning in their hearts.

(i) ‘More Lord’ – How much more will the Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.

11. Don’t project what God has been doing with you onto the person you are praying with. Bless what God is doing for them.

12. If your hand or body is shaking pray with your hand slightly away from the person so as not to distract them. If a stronger manifestation begins to happen within you then withdraw from ministry for a while and let the Lord bless you.

13. Laying on of hands may be appropriate, not ‘leaning on of hands’. Give a light touch only, generally on forehead, top of head, shoulder, or hands. No inappropriate touching.

14. Some people pray aloud while they are being ministered to. Encourage them to be quiet and just receive. It is difficult to drink in and pour out at the same time.

15. The person you are praying for needs to be assured that he or she is the most important one for that moment. Avoid the tendency to let your mind and eyes wander to other things or other people or other situations in the room. Don’t become distracted with other issues.

16. Your own personal hygiene is important – clean hands, hair and clothes, deodorant, breath mints may help.

17. Don’t step over anyone, or hold discussions near people resting in the Spirit.

18. Be led by common sense and by the Spirit. It helps to have men pray with men, women with women, married couples with married couples.

19. People who pray for others also need to be prayed for themselves, to receive ministry, to be refreshed and anointed anew.

20. Encourage people being prayed for to:

(a) Come humble and hungry. Forget preconceived ideas and what has happened to others.

(b) Experience ministry before trying to analyse it. The Holy Spirit will speak, teach, comfort and reveal Jesus personally. We need to know the Lord experientially as well as theologically.

(c) Face fears such as fear of deception, of being hurt again, of not receiving, of losing control.

(d) Focus on the Lord, not on falling. Give the Holy Spirit permission to do with you what he wants to do.

Above all, we need to seek the Lord. ‘Your kingdom come.’
_______________________________________

© Renewal Journal 7: Blessing, 1996, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 7: Blessing – Discounted in eStore

Renewal Journal eStore – all publications

Contents of all Renewal Journals

Amazon – Renewal Journal 7: Blessing

Amazon – all journals and books

See Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

Return to main page

Discernment, by John Court

Tabor College, Adelaide

Discerning between the emotional, the psychotic and the spiritual

Dr John Court was Professor of Psychology in the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, and Director of Counselling at Tabor College in Adelaide.

Article in Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

_________________________________

Where we see real and lasting change,

with maturity of spirituality

and a desire to know God more,

then I believe God is at work

_________________________________

Discerning what is of God, and what arises for other reasons is no easy task. We may all see the same things but our interpretations will differ. Objectively, all we have to go on is the observation of behaviour. But we also draw on experience, background, context and spiritual discernment to refine these observations. Behind all that we may carry some deeply-held convictions, both theological and psychological, which tell us what to expect as normal.

History and Scripture combine to tell us certain things are to be expected when the Spirit of God is at work, and this information can help us to some degree to discern the authentic from the counterfeit. Yet we then have to qualify that, since if something unexpected occurs, fitting no known pattern, we have to choose between saying ‘This must be counterfeit’ or ‘The Spirit blows where he will and we must not presume to limit God’. With guidelines like that, practically anything can be identified as the Spirit’s work, or demonic counterfeit, or neither.

So far, I have not been very helpful. In part I think this arises because our dilemma may arise from asking the wrong questions, or the right questions in the wrong way.

Come with me and observe a scene. I see a large number of men and women, some sitting, some standing, some silent, others singing, others again talking apparently to themselves, and on coming closer we can make no sense of what they say. Some sway, others rock to and fro. Some put their hands in the air and leave them there for some time. Others lie on the ground and roll around. I try to engage them in conversation but they seem to be in a private world of their own, quite unresponsive to conversation.

What is it?

What are we to make of these unusual kinds of behaviour? Is this sick, is it demonic, is it theatrical pretence, is it ecstatic? Is God being honoured, and if so how can we know?

My picture is in fact a collage from experiences over the years. This description could well fit my time working in the chronic back wards of a psychiatric hospital before the new anti-psychotic drugs arrived – the snake-pit days, still within living memory for some. The picture might be of a Balinese festival, with extended ceremonies, prayers and fire-walking. In this case we can also add a good deal of colour and music and flowers. The fire-walkers are impressive, whether due to trance or the help of some drugs, I cannot tell.

The picture might also be that of a camp meeting with Rodney Howard-Browne, or the Toronto Blessing, but there, in addition to colour and music I would see many people falling on the ground and laughing uncontrollably. With these additions, we might also have been spectators in a large presentation of stage hypnosis by a skilled performer – a theatrical event in which these as well as other bizarre and unusual behaviours could be observed, strictly for entertainment.

My point in bringing these four together is that if we merely observe what is happening in a detached way, without a context, we shall witness a remarkable degree of similarity, but this will not answer the underlying questions of meaning. Seeking to sort experiences into the emotional or the psychotic or the spiritual by no means exhausts the categories of relevance. Emotional may be the product of something physiological, like a natural biochemistry imbalance, or a drug trip. It may be more the product of inter-personal influences, such as openness to suggestion, persuasion and imitation. Spiritual can, of course, also be sub-divided to ask whether we are responding to a movement of the spirit or some demonic influence.

Even when we have identified all the categories, a sound answer will still elude us because interactions between all the categories can and do occur. To ask about ‘either/or’ when it is both – and is to set ourselves up for confusion. This has been a recurring problem for pentecostals since the days of the Azusa Street revival to the Toronto Blessing, as many commentators have noted 1.

In particular, Harvey Cox makes some interesting comments about the confluence of thinking from faith and science when he remarks,

A rush of research has appeared in scientific journals on the significance of the so-called placebo effect, as the recognition dawns that the improvement patients frequently experience after they have had ‘nothing but a sugar pill may stem from the trust they place in the doctor. New research points to the possibility that certain ritual acts might actually trigger human endocrine and immune systems, and evidence has revealed the vital importance of a patient s perception of being loved and cared for in his or her recovery. A few medical researchers have begun to ask whether what they call ‘altered states of consciousness or trances (which the pentecostals called being ‘slain in the Lord ) can help release the body s inner healing mechanisms (1995:109).

You might want to argue that we can only discern the true nature of the events by abandoning the objective stance and being involved as participators. That argument is attractive at a Christian Convention, but I prefer not to adopt the strategy for understanding the alternatives – like becoming psychotic to understand psychosis. Nor should we risk demonic involvement in order to discern. An objective position based on Biblical wisdom should suffice. I prefer, therefore, to confront such questions by asking some strategic questions.

1. Does it matter if the behaviour looks remarkably similar in these quite different settings?

I sense that some are bothered by the parallels, but for me the answer is ‘no’. I observe the Balinese at prayer and worship and know that they are not worshipping Jesus Christ, but that does not invalidate prayer and worship as human activities. I can observe someone raise a hand in the air – it may be to worship, but it may be for many other reasons too. Stage hypnotists love to demonstrate the phenomena of hand levitation- they are simply using naturally occurring phenomena.

In the past I might have raised the question whether the behaviour was voluntary or involuntary, favouring actions undertaken by choice and expressing concern over what might be beyond personal control. I now know that the distinctions between voluntary and involuntary are meaningless, as we have learned that it is possible to gain control over apparently involuntary behaviour 2.

I might also have asked whether the behaviour was undertaken consciously or unconsciously, but here too the convenient separation we grew up with (due largely to Freud’s influence) has broken down3, so that today we speak of various states of consciousness – alert, asleep, drowsy, preoccupied, dissociated, anaethetised, hypervigilant, etc. We can track the changes through monitoring brain function and find that some tasks are undertaken better by one part of the brain than another. The psychotic’s behaviour is modified by drugs which affect specific pathways and linkages, sometimes with striking results. Listening to me now, you need your left brain to be active, to follow the logic of an argument strung together in sentences in linear fashion. However as we sing and worship together, we engage our right brains more fully, enlarging our experience to be open to beauty, spontaneity and creativity. Logic and reasoning become less important at such times, and we become more open to suggestion and group influence. Here we engage in rational thought, there we access our emotional world more readily.

2. Is one of these states more spiritual than another?

All those four settings I mentioned involve states of awareness that are different from our usual experience. Whether it be the escape from reality of the psychotic, the temporary collusion of the hypnotist and subject to dissociate, the frenzy of the religious festival, or the ecstatic response to word and music at a camp meeting, we can all recognise that an alteration occurs. Disinhibition, openness to suggestion , altered physiological states and a profound sense of things being ‘different’ are typical. The possibility of powerful change in response to an acceptable suggestion is such that many later report amazing benefits. In the Pentecostal context these benefits are attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit.

I repeat the question – is one state more spiritual than another? Is the highly right-brain focussed experience of tongues and slaying in the Spirit more scriptural than the left-brained activity of reading scripture or listening to a sermon? Are the left brained advocates of propositional truth more spiritual than those who expect signs and wonders?

I hope the answer to that set of questions is ‘no’. When we try to box in that which is spiritual, and separate it from the intellectual, or the physical, or the emotional parts of ourselves, we cultivate the kind of dualism that has confused us for centuries. Just as our conventional categories of body, mind and spirit do not reflect the Hebrew view of mankind found in scripture, so too if we try to label one experience more spiritual than another, we risk similar problems. Evangelicals look down on charismatic phenomena because they are emotional and non-rational, while prizing purity of teaching and doctrine. Pentecostals meantime rejoice in a different kind of knowing which is experientially based, and sufficiently convincing of the presence of God that sound doctrine can afford to follow on behind.

3. If the behaviour is so similar, what questions should we be asking?

The really important questions relate not to the behaviour we observe, but the meaning of this behaviour, and its purpose. In the psychiatric hospital, bizarre behaviour occurs as deeply troubled people, who feel powerless, seek to escape from reality and the demands placed on them. They enter a private altered world where they make their own rules, regardless of the wider world. Some cults do the same, collectively of course. It is not useful to ask whether this escape is chosen voluntarily, as I have already indicated that this is a problematic category. We can understand the escape behaviour a little better if we follow the view of illness that argues that the psychosis is not the problem, but it is the solution to the problem.

The stage hypnotist encourages people to explore experiences in a new way, thereby creating a form of entertainment which rewards the hypnotist not only financially, but also with a great sense of personal power. Stage hypnosis is something I stand firmly against,not because it is intrinsically evil, but because it is open to abuse of trusting people, and it carries hazards which are not justified for the sake of entertainment. The hypnotic state, or trance, is one powerful example of an altered state of consciousness, and one which is readily entered in a group setting without any formal induction being needed.

Patrick Dickson in Signs of Revival writes as a medical practitioner and one who has had a positive experience of the Toronto Blessing in England. He raises as cautions the possibilities of auto-suggestion, hysteria, group pressure of the crowd, and the disinhibition that suggestible people show in such settings4. I am fully persuaded that these concerns are well-founded, but they are no reason to reject the reality of spiritual blessing that also occurs. The dangers of group hypnosis have been expressed with regard to Billy Graham crusades also, even though the overt behavioural expression is less obvious5. What matters is not that this happens, but that we recognise and understand this so that false claims are avoided. This cannot be achieved if we simply deny that powerful suggestion is at work, and certainly not if we follow the view that hypnosis is intrinsically demonic6.

Nor do we need to fear these altered states. Not only can good clinical work be done using them, but scripture is clear that God speaks when people are in trance states. Peter’s vision which occurred in a trance state at Joppa7 is a fine example of an experience that proved to be a major cross-roads for the early church. Some of the Jews might well have supposed that such a radical message of taking the gospel to the Gentiles could only be demonic in origin, as the traditional barriers and categories were shattered8.

Apart from the two uses of the word (trance) in Acts 10 relating to Peter’s experience, the other usage is in Paul’s experience (Acts 22:17) when he reports ‘as I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw Jesus…..’ The terminology is from the physician Luke in each case, and might suggest a technical sense of the term. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible suggests that

As other elements and forms of the prophetic work were revived in ‘the Apostles and Prophets’ of the N.T., so also was this…..Though different in form, it belongs to the same class of phenomena as the gift of tongues, and is connected with ‘visions and revelations of the Lord’. In some cases, it is the chosen channel for such revelations. To the ‘trance’ of Peter in the city….we owe the indelible truth stamped upon the heart of Christendom, that God is ‘no respecter of persons’, that we may not call any man ‘common or unclean’.9

Money, Sex and Power

Just ten years ago, I was called to travel from Adelaide to Houston, Texas, to testify to the U.S. Attorney-General’s Commission on pornography. As I left the hearings and walked back to my hotel, I paused at a secular bookshop, struck by the title in the centre of the window, Money, Sex and Power, by Richard Foster. They were actually the three temptations we had been addressing at the commission, as we discussed the pornography industry.

They are the three great temptations we always need to check out when we see something new and growing. In 1994, Harvey Cox delivered a lecture at Fuller Seminary based on his book Fire From Heaven10, his history of Pentecostalism from Azusa St to the present. These are among the cautions he raises as he sympathetically documents the phenomenal growth of Pentecostalism in recent years – he also mentions the oft-repeated charge that there is a demonic element at work.

While expressing cautions, he analyses the powerful positive reasons why there has been such a tremendous positive response around the world. He identifies some of the unmet needs of the urban society, such as loneliness, powerlessness, loss of meaning, a loss of transcendental spirituality, showing how these themes are addressed in pentecostal theology. These appear to be equally powerful in Australia in understanding the response of many to the Toronto Blessing meetings.

So let us get behind the questions like ‘Is this demonic or of God?’ ‘Is this real or counterfeit?’, ‘Is this spiritual or hypnotic?’ As I have thought these issues through, the more have I realised that the questions are presented in the language of traditional pentecostal theology, which is not my tradition, so my own bias emerges as I advocate caution over such dualism.

The divine, the natural, the demonic

I am much more comfortable with a world view that embraces not only the divine and the demonic, but also allows space for the natural – our humanness, created by God, but distorted by sin. I confess my sympathy for the comments of Andrew Walker, who, in writing about Demonology and the Charismatic Movement, says throughout the Middle Ages, a sound psychology of the spiritual life developed that distinguished between God’s acts, the devil’s ploys, and the normal processes of the natural world.

A Christian world view that is divided into the tripartite arenas of the divine, the natural, and the demonic is unlikely to fall prey to a paranoia that dissects the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’. Charismatic theologies and methodologies that do tend to divide the cosmos into God’s kingdom of light and Satan’s kingdom of darkness are in constant danger of first adopting a paranoid world view, and then becoming entrapped and socialized into the paranoid universe.11

Discernment will not create artificial separations, but it can offer wisdom in knowing the balance of forces at work. Even the question of separating the godly from the demonic is not clear-cut since we should expect to find a mixture, like wheat and tares. The fruit will help us discern in due course, but it is risky to pre-judge the balance.

The fact is that God made us complex beings, innately spiritual so that we may relate to Him. If these unfamiliar experiences bring people into a more intimate relationship with God, then we should welcome them. At the same time there will be people attracted to the phenomena ,seeking not God but the experience. Others will be attracted by the temptations of money, sex and power. To the extent these overshadow the Godly purpose of the experience, they will compromise the gospel, yet without extinguishing it.

The most common question I hear is ‘Are we dealing with something spiritual, or something psychological, and how can we know the difference?’ The question is impossible to answer because it comes from false assumptions. The dualism in the question, spiritual or psychological, comes from Greek thought, in contrast to the unified view of mankind expressed in Hebrew thought –

Plato had made a clear-cut distinction between mind and matter. Although Aristotle had recognised they were interdependent, he still insisted mind and matter were unlike. Even Descartes, who marks the beginning of modern psychology, held to a dualism…12

Wholeness and integration

Hebrew thought emphasises that wholeness or healing can only occur when the spiritual and the emotional come together as a total entity – the self.

Religious experiences are spiritual. They are also emotional, or should be. A response to the gospel is profoundly emotional in its significance. Worship, laughter, joy all bring changes which affect the emotions well as the endocrine system such that illnesses may be reduced or even cured. There is now a respectable literature on the effects of laughter in assisting cancer sufferers13.

We cannot automatically attribute the benefits of sustained laughter to the work of the Holy Spirit. Such phenomena are also seen in other religious contexts as well as totally secular ones. Nor should we dismiss benefits because they seem unusual, or because we find them hard to understand.

I believe in a God who cares as much about my emotional health and physical well-being as he does about my spiritual condition. And I believe that all these are inextricably entwined as one entity, the person, so that benefits to one affect all the rest, just as harm to one area also impacts the rest. I have found it helpful personally to follow these questions of interaction through with David Benner, who in his book Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest14 develops a strong argument for embracing the Hebraic understanding of human nature, favouring the term psychospirituality as a challenge to our dualist categories.

The either-or question is the wrong one, so the question about how to discern which is which becomes moot. Graham Twelftree, writing on the demonic, remarks helpfully on the difficulty when he says

An increasing number of psychologists and therapists employ a multiple-causation approach, recognising that mental illness and the demonic are not mutually exclusive but that either, both or neither may be the cause of illness. However, there are those represented by John White, who consider that science is helpless in diagnosing the presence of the demonic: ‘I can conceive of no demonic state which cannot be explained by a non-demonic hypothesis’. Therefore, because of the subtle, incoherent and devious nature of the demonic, the pastor or healer requires a God-given facility to discern the possible demonic dimensions of an illness.15

Although this paper was invited to have a primary focus on the current manifestations of the Toronto Blessing, it it clear that the question of discernment goes much wider than this. Quite apart from efforts to discern what is of God in major movements, there is also the personal question that presents when individuals show unusual signs of activity which may have similar ambiguity. Here too a broad range of opinions exists, from those who deny the demonic, to those who percieve this to be a very common phenomenon, all too often missed by secular and even Christian counsellors.

A ministry of discernment

Here too I would offer similar cautions to those above. While I have personally no doubt about the presence of the demonic in the experience of some who come for help, I could not be certain of this or more than a handful of cases in thirty years of practice. On those occasions, a time of prayer has been helpful but I have valued being able to call on those with specific gifts who have used their deliverance ministry to bring release.

On the other hand, I have met dozens who had been reported by their pastors as being possessed or demonized, whose condition had not improved with spiritual ministry, but who were benefitted by conventional psychological treatments. This suggests that a broader knowledge of alternative explanations would be helpful among those who exercise a ministry of discernment.

The most important area these days in which great care should be exercised lest people are actually made worse is in the area of what used to be called multiple personality disorder (now dissociative identity disorder)16. It is a common pattern for such persons to reject unacceptable parts of themselves as a key part of the disorder, even calling such parts evil or demonic, as their mode of trying to understand what is happening to them. This is particularly the case where Christians are struggling to understand the splitting which has occurred in their experience. Some are also able to recognise parts which are distinct or non-self, and not just unacceptable parts of the self. It is essential to distinguish between these two aspects, since the former parts need to be acknowledged and re-integrated into the whole person if healing is to be achived, while the latter parts may be understood as evil influences needing deliverance.

Concerning discernment, the important questions are ‘What is the outcome? ‘What is the fruit?’ ‘Is God glorified?’ ‘Are his works manifest?’ ‘Is there personal spiritual growth?’ ‘Is the body of Christ blessed?’ This is not just a ‘means justifies the end’ argument. We need great sensitivity and respect for one another when altered states of consciousness occur. There is vulnerability and trust at stake, so manipulation of any kind in order to promote signs and wonders cannot be ethically justified. We all know that short term ‘cures’ can remit later and engender bitterness and disillusionment against God.

In some contexts, powerful effects lead people away from God – to seek power, or money, or self-aggrandisement or occultic involvement or, as with the psychotic, an escape from reality. Where we see real and lasting change,with maturity of spirituality and a desire to know God more, then I believe God is at work, even though we recognise that human failings complicate that truth.

Notes

1.e.g. The most obvious either-or polemical tract is Henry Sheppard’s A New Wave of the Spirit? Revival or Satanic Substitute? Paradise, SA 1995.. For a solid historical commentary see Chap 2 of Harvey Cox Fire from Heaven. Addison Wesley, 1995. Specifically addressing the Toronto Blessing and RHB, see ‘Is it Revival?’ Mainstream, Summer 1994; Nigel Copsey, ‘Touched by the Spirit’, Baptist Times, Sept 15, 1994; Harry Westcott’s Vision Newsletter No. 64; Toronto Blessing-true or false? PWM Trust, 1994; Geoff Strelan, ‘Toronto Blessing: The Facts’, New Day, Feb. 1995.

2. In the clinical area, the use of biofeedback, which grew out of psychological research in the sixties, especially through the work of Neal Miller, has been developed as a way of gaining control over functions such as heart rate, pulse and body temperature with tremendous health benefits. Pain management, muscle re-education and migraine treatment are among the striking benefits.This approach relies on technology. Other religions have taught such control, using meditation and relaxation techniques, for centuries, especially in Asia.

3. Not only is there greater complexity of thought in relation to conscious/unconscious experiences. In addition, the very negative understanding of the unconscious as the residual location for our evil impulses and secret sinful desires is giving way to recognition that the unconscious can also be the repository of creativity, appreciation of beauty and the capacity for much good that has remained hidden. This more Christian understanding challenges the negative view of the Freudians. See especially, Wanda Poltawska, ‘Objectifying Psychotherapy’, Catholic Medical Quarterly, May 1992, 18-23: and George Matheson’s entry Hypnosis and Spiritual Experience’ in Baker’s Encyclopedia of Psychology (ed. D. Benner) 1985.

4. Quoted in S. A. Baptist News, April, 1995, p.1.

5. A good historical linkage between trance phenomena and religious experience, and with reference to experiences in crusades, see George Matheson, ‘Hypnotic Aspect of Religious Experience’, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1979, 7, (1), 13-21.

6. This argument was advanced by Nader Mikhaiel, Slaying in the Spirit – The Telling Wonder (self published, 1992). He makes a convincing case for showing that the phenomena of slaying in the Spirit are very similar to those found in hypnotic states, but then goes on to a guilt-by-association argument that hypnosis is intrinsically demonic, and therefore rejects what happens when people are slain in the Spirit. This association with the demonic is illogical and unwarranted. There really is no reason to fear the professional and ethical use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes. Most of the objections to it arise from false stereotypes, second-hand misinformation and selective quotes from Christian authors. For an alternative view, see Court, J. H., ‘ Hypnosis revisited’, Interchange, 1984, 34, 55-60; Court, J. H., ‘Hypnosis and Inner Healing’, Journal of Christian Healing,,1987, 9,(2), 29-35, and Court J. H. (in preparation) Hypnosis, Healing and the Christian.

7. Acts 10:10

8. Acts 10:28; Gal.3:28

9. Smith, William (1863) A Dictionary of the Bible. London. pp. 1566-68.

10. Cox, Harvey (1995) Fire from Heaven. Addison-Wesley.

11. Walker, A. (1994) ‘Demonology and the Charismatic Movement’, In T. Smail, A. Walker and N. Wright (eds.) The Love of Power and the Power of Love. Minneapolis: Bethany House. p. 56.

12. Whitlock, Glenn (1983) ‘The structure of personality in Hebrew psychology’, in H. N. Malony (ed) Wholeness and Holiness. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. p. 47.

13. The emerging specialisation of psychoneuroimmunology is proving very effective in bringing healing, and conceptually challenging the traditional dualism. Norman Cousins was a pioneer in showing that laughter can be therapeutic.

14. Benner, David. (1989) Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.

15. Graham Twelftree, writing an entry ‘The Demonic’, in David J.Atkinson and David H. Field (eds.) New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. Leicester: InterVarsity Press. 1995. pp. 296-297.

16. Dissociative Identity Disorder is the term now used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, 1994 (known as DSM-IV).

_____________________________________________________________

(c) John H. Court, 1995.

© Renewal Journal 7: Blessing, 1996, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 7: Blessing – Discounted in eStore

Renewal Journal eStore – all publications

Contents of all Renewal Journals

Amazon – Renewal Journal 7: Blessing

Amazon – all journals and books

See Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

Return to main page

Balance, by Charles Taylor

Bantu Language, Uganda

Dr Charles Taylor was a well known linguist, Bible teacher, author, and Christian magazine contributor.  His Ph.D. researched the Bantu Nkore-Klga language in Uganda.

Article in Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

_______________________________

I was privileged to receive a blessing

through the work of God

in the East African revival

_________________________________

It is almost impossible to record faithfully the details of a true work of God. This is because the people involved in the work itself are so taken up with the move that they have neither the time nor the inclination to consider recording the events. Those outside the move are often antagonistic and have no desire to probe further into the matter. Or they may just be biased and will tend to distort what they see. In all this there is also a great deal of human fear.

Looking for Lasting Results

Because of these things, the best source of truth is almost certainly the word of someone who was at the centre of the movement, recalling it sometime after it began. For example, we can generally rely on the report by Jonathan Edwards of the revival that took place in his church and the surrounding areas in the 18th century as recorded by him about six years later, when, as it were, the dust had settled and the lasting results could be seen.

I was privileged to receive a blessing through the work of God in the East African revival, which began in 1936. I didn’t arrive until 1952, but by that time the results were obvious. When my family and I arrived, people, including missionaries, were still divided. There were those ‘inside’ and those ‘outside.’ We felt happy to be on the inside, and were remarkably blessed. I lost the fear of man, which had been a problem for me up to then.

The East African revival was not Pentecostal or charismatic, but it was what one might term a revival of repentance among Christians and also towards unsaved people they had wronged. There was a clear cut difference between ‘revived’ and other Christians. Worldly business people would employ ‘saved’ East Africans in their homes and businesses, because they could completely trust them and rely on them to work hard.

The best test of a movement of this kind is the same sort of test the Bible gives us for the genuineness of a prophet’s word. Does the fruit correspond with the promise? In Jonathan Edwards’ case he stated that changed lives were the best confirmation that it had been a work of God, plus the fact that the work was continuing. In East Africa the work was still ongoing twenty and more years later.

Blessings are for God’s Glory

I would like to evaluate some of what has been happening in the light of Scripture, bearing in mind also what God has done in past revivals, particularly drawing on the reports of Jonathan Edwards who, as an intellectual, could hardly be biased towards the emotional events he witnessed in New England!

The word ‘blessing’ is currently being used extensively, especially in connection with the move in Toronto. I was struck by the fact that the first reference in Scripture of this word is to God’s assurance to Abram that he will be a blessing to others. This reminded me that blessings are not to be sought for their own sake, or for our own satisfaction, but really for the glory of God.

The word ‘bless’ itself comes earlier, in Genesis 1, where it shows God’s attitude to his newly created humans and animals (v 22,28). He provided them with all necessary and pleasant objects and made life attractive for them. Blessings are not just scattered around in an indiscriminate way. In most cases they are conditional on obedience. John 7:37-39 is regularly quoted these days and clearly says that in order to receive Holy Spirit blessings of rivers of living water, we have to come to Jesus.

I’m not sure who it was that first gave this revival the label ‘laughing revival’, but I see it as unfortunate in that it stresses what is really a side-issue. Perhaps it was the media, in which case it means that those who were blessed didn’t see the laughter as of great significance in itself.

The Bible contains only 40 references to laughing and laughter, whereas there are 169 references to weeping. The most positive reference I could find concerning laughter was in Psalm 126:2, where it is the accompaniment to release from captivity. The kind of laughter I have witnessed in connection with the present move has been a sort of ‘laughing with glee,’ undoubtedly triggering some kind of release.

In our local churches most leaders are wisely saying that the important thing is the inner spiritual blessing, so that’s a healthy sign.

Distinguishing Marks of Revivals

As we look at the history of revivals we find that in most of them there have been strange phenomena, just as the first Pentecost was accompanied by great joy and by tongue-speaking, then a quite unfamiliar phenomenon for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The moves in England and America in the 1730s both involved occasional outbursts of laughter, as recorded in Wesley’s Journal and in Edward’s accounts. Both leaders allowed it but tried to keep it under control.

Because Jonathan Edwards went to some trouble to evaluate the New England part of the revival, it is helpful to note some of his considered remarks about revivals. What follows is a summary of Edwards’ The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Holy Spirit of God. Firstly, nine aspects he said we should not be disturbed about.

* Unusual events

* Physical phenomena

* An increase in speaking of God.

* An increase in ‘ecstasy and imagination.’

* The fact that some just imitate others.

* The fact that some are unwise and ‘unorthodox.’

* Some interference by Satan.

* Some small amount of bad doctrine and practice.

* A trembling fear of hell.

Some of these objections were made by unbelievers. And here is a summary of what he regarded as positive signs:

* The Lord Jesus is magnified.

* There is strong conviction of sin.

* An increase in regard for Scripture

* An increase in truth and honesty.

* Love, unselfishness and humility increase.

Finally, the marks of the 1735 revival itself were:

* It was widespread.

* All ages and types were affected.

* People were convicted of the reality of the truth of God.

* People’s behaviour changed completely.

* People subject to phenomena were sincere and did not lose their reason.

* There was an increase in desire for others’ salvation.

It was also recorded that the phenomena decreased as people became more established in the faith.

The Present Move

Can we apply any of this to the present move? First, we should not be unduly disturbed by phenomena, imitations and irregularities. We should look for the positive signs. As regards comparisons with 1735, and also with the East African revival, one thing that always seems to me to be a mark of God’s activity is that when a move comes, it is found to have started independently in places far removed from each other. In older times, communication was not so good as now, so nowadays this criterion is harder to apply.

In at least two local churches to the north of Sydney, many children in their attached Christian schools were affected independently of the events in the churches. It’s too early to look at behaviour changes or a renewed evangelistic thrust. However, in at least one case I know of, the laughter has accompanied a real character change for the better.

Should we then accept everything that comes? I suggest we follow the biblical advice: ‘Test all things; hold fast what is good.’ (1 Thess. 5:21 NKJV).

* Let us ensure that appeals to the Holy Spirit do not eclipse the worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. The Spirit typically prefers to stay in the background.

* Let’s not confuse feelings with the genuine touch of the Spirit. Should the mind be switched off?

* Experiences can even be consciously ‘faked’. It may happen now, and such things, if perceived, should be dealt with.

* Should we promote the term ‘drunkenness?’ The world may use it, but remember, a drunk is out of control. Peter denied the allegation!

Adjustments

I note with pleasure that lack of balance is being adjusted by wise leadership. Two generations ago Christians were over-intellectual and needed emotional outlets. Today, both in churches and in the world, cold rationalism is unpopular. Our present danger is to look to experience alone to solve problems. We still need a renewal of the mind (Rom. 12:2).

May the Lord be allowed to exercise his control over his people!

_______________________________________________________

(c) The Australian Evangel, May 1995, pages 37-38, PO Box 336, Mitcham, Victoria, 3132.  Used with permission.

© Renewal Journal 7: Blessing, 1996, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 7: Blessing – Discounted in eStore

Renewal Journal eStore – all publications

Contents of all Renewal Journals

Amazon – Renewal Journal 7: Blessing

Amazon – all journals and books

See Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

Return to main page

A Fresh Wave  by Andrew Evans

Dr Andrew Evans wrote as the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia and Senior Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Paradise, Adelaide.

Article in Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

See also Andrew Evans on “Church Growth through Prayer

____________________________

A fresh wave of the Holy Spirit

is transforming the lives of

people and churches

____________________________

Right across our nation, many of our churches are enjoying a fresh touch which is renewing their love for Jesus and his Word and inspiring the congregation to glorify and magnify him and reach out to others. This is a sign that what is happening is a move of God.

The New Wave

Over the last 12 months or so, thousands of churches have reported a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit which is transforming the lives of their people and churches. This, in particular, seems to be occurring in England where, we are told, there are around 5,000 churches of all Protestant denominations being mightily touched.

What has marked this new wave has been the unusual manifestations, such as falling, shaking, ‘drunkenness’ in the Spirit, weeping and laughter. Perhaps the latter has caused the most concern among traditional Pentecostals.

Many are saying, and rightly so, ‘Are these manifestations biblical?’ Without presenting an exhaustive study, I suggest the following Scriptures for you to meditate on.

Falling

* Saul fell when meeting the risen Christ (Acts 9:4).

* John fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17). Ezekiel had a similar experience (Ezekiel 1:28), and so did Daniel (Daniel 8:17-18, 10:9).

* A whole company were once overcome by Jesus and fell back (John 18:6).

* The disciples evidently needed Jesus to ‘touch them’ after they fell down on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:6-7).

Shaking and ‘Drunkenness’

* When the Holy Spirit came on a praying company, the whole building began to move (Acts 4:31 cf 2:2; 16:26).

* The Old Testament speaks of trembling in God’s presence (Dan. 10:7; Ps. 99;1 Jer. 5:22).

* The prophets experienced such shaking (Hab. 3:16; Jer 23:9).

* Jeremiah, in the presence of the Lord and overwhelmed by his holy words, expresses that he is like a drunken man, overcome by wine (Jer. 23:9).

* Paul exhorts ex-drunkards to drink instead of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).

* When the Holy Spirit fell in an incredible way on the Day of Pentecost, observers initially thought 120 disciples were drunk. Peter pointed out that it was a work of the Spirit and the church was born with 3,000 souls saved (Acts 2:13-18, 40-41).

Weeping

* In the Old Testament, the people wept at God’s Word (Neh. 8:9)

* In the New Testament, listeners to Peter at Pentecost were ‘cut to the heart’ (Acts 2:37) – an emotional response.

* Weeping is a needful, natural and a normal response to the movement of the Spirit.

Laughing

* In the Old Testament, the freed captives’ mouths were filled with laughter (Ps.1 26:1, see also Ecc. 3:4).

* Jesus promised the disciples he would make their joy full (Jn. 17:13).

* The word ‘rejoice’ used by Jesus in Luke 10:20-21 of both the disciples and himself literally means ‘to leap for joy’. You can’t do that soberly!

History

As you read the history of revival, you will discover that all of the above manifestations have occurred in the past. I would like to highlight a few excerpts from a revival in Tennessee in 1886 where God moved mightily and the record of that revival was placed in the archives in Washington by an act of Congress:

‘The laughing exercise was frequent, confined solely to the religious. It was a loud hearty laughter, but it excited solemnity in saints and sinners.’

Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, a famous British preacher, in his book on revival, confirmed from his study of revival movements that this kind of manifestation occurred, although he himself would take a rather conservative view in his approach to the moving of the Holy Spirit:

‘…always in a revival, there is what somebody once called a divine disorder. Some are groaning and agonising under conviction, others praising God for the great salvation. And all this leads to crowded and prolonged meetings. Time seems to be forgotten. People seem to have entered into eternity. A meeting may start at 6.30 in the evening, and it may not end until daybreak the next morning with nobody aware of the passing of the hours.’

Rodney Howard-Browne

One of the prominent personalities in this revival move is the 33 year old South African, Rodney Howard-Browne. There has been much misinformation circularised about this young man, so I submit the following from my own research, having talked to Assemblies of God leaders in the United States, including AOG pastors on his Advisory Board and other prominent charismatic and Pentecostal leaders.

Rodney Howard-Browne was brought up in a traditional Pentecostal home. He was saved at the age of five and baptised in the Holy Spirit at the age of eight. His uncle was for some years the moderator of a movement in South Africa which originated from the ministry of John G. Lake and was an offshoot from the Apostolic Faith Mission, the largest Pentecostal movement in that country, with 600,000 members and adherents.

At the age of 18, at a non-Pentecostal camp, he cried out to God in desperation that he would use him. He had an unusual visitation where he felt the power of God and, for the next four days, was immersed in that fire, alternatively crying and laughing as he enjoyed a touch from God.

He then began ministry as both an evangelist and a pioneer pastor, in South Africa, but never saw any particularly powerful results, but laboured faithfully to follow through the call that Christ had placed on his life.

For two years, he was associated with Ray McCauley in his great church of 15,000 in Johannesburg. Part of Rodney’s role was to teach in the Bible school.

In 1987, he felt a call to the United States and was sponsored, through immigration, to that country by an AOG pastor in Florida, called Bob Rogers. I spoke to Bob regarding Rodney and he told me of his early endeavours in USA as an evangelist.

For a couple of years, there was not a great deal of fruit for his labour, but approximately five years ago, while holding a crusade in a church of 200, he experienced an unusual move of the Spirit where people fell off their seats, some began crying and others were laughing. He was rather taken aback by this, but felt that it was of the Holy Spirit, and thus allowed it to continue.

The fruit of that move was that the church grew, lives were changed and people experienced a fresh touch which gave them a new love for the Lord Jesus. From that time on, his meetings have grown and his name has become known around the world as being synonymous with this new wave and, perhaps , reached its peak when he ministered in an AOG church, pastored by Karl Strader, where last year he held a nine week revival resulting in 6,000 people being baptised in water.

On another occasion, he ministered to 4,000 students in the Oral Roberts University, where the majority of them were slain in the Spirit. Many went outside and then, after prayer, literally hundreds were laying on the grass prostrate under the power of God.

I felt led to invite Rodney to Adelaide, after a great deal of prayer and research into his ministry, and we had a very successful crusade with him. Over 8,500 people, many from interstate, attended the meetings. We were forced to move out of our church and into the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.

There were over 500 decisions and reconsecration. Pastors from all over Australia were touched with the fire of God and our own church has been wonderfully revolutionised.

How to Handle the New Wave

Some of these manifestations have been in other churches of other fellowships and have resulted in decline, rather than growth. Some good people have left other churches feeling that there has been too much wildfire, without any order or control.

Due to our desire to channel this move and not lose by it, I questioned a number of people who were doing that successfully. Here are some responses.

1. Mike Rose

Mike is an AOG pastor in the largest city in Alaska, who had Rodney Howard-Browne minister in his church four years ago. At that time, they had a congregation of 200, but over the last 4 years, they have seen it grow to 600 in a community of 35,000.

The format that Mike uses is one which gives a balanced approach to church life, allowing for worship and the Word, ministry to the unsaved as well as impartation of the Holy Spirit.

To do this, he has followed a fairly traditional Sunday morning worship service with worship, communion and preaching of the Word, as well as all the other activities which occur in our morning services, such as dedications and so on.

If there are two or three people who are perhaps crying or laughing uncontrollably, the ushers will gently lead them into the prayer room where they can continue to enjoy the presence of Jesus without affecting those around them.

However, he is also open to the possible occasions when the Holy Spirit will just sweep over the service and the majority of the people will be either laughing, crying or worshipping at one time.

His Sunday evening service generally lasts for three to four hours, compared to the morning one of around two hours. At the conclusion of the evening evangelistic endeavour, people are invited to open up their hearts and hunger for a fresh touch of the Spirit. It was during these times that the powerful manifestations will take place and, having observed what has been happening in our Adelaide meetings over the last few weeks, these times have a great similarity to the old time Pentecostal camp meeting or tarrying services where people received a fresh touch of God.

Mike encourages his people to hunger and has taught them along that line. He helped them to understand and develop a new sensitivity to the ways of the Holy Spirit. His observations were:

* You cannot sustain a move of the Spirit without hunger.

* Corrections need to be made from time to time.

* Don’t just get fascinated by the move of God, but rather keep your eyes on Jesus.

* Mission giving and outreach evangelism should be a prominent part of this move and the churches which don’t reach out soon dry up.

He encourages us not to hype it up and that there needs to be a continual emphasis on holiness and that only qualified people should lay hands on those who have come for prayer.

Mike is also an adviser on Rodney Howard-Browne’s Revival Ministries committee, along with three or four other AOG pastors in the USA. He informed me that he had sat in over 110 of Rodney’s meetings and been impressed by the lack of pressure and hype, but by the powerful anointing of the Spirit which accompanies this young man.

2. John Lewis and Others

Our brother, John, who has been experiencing this move for some months now, has followed a similar format as Mike, and I have similar testimonies from Geoff Holdway (Brisbane), Brian Houston (Sydney) and Steve Penny (Melbourne).

The result has been that their churches have experienced the blessing without experiencing fallout from extremes. May the Lord help us to be wise master builders.

Helpful Advice

The following are a few tips from leaders around the world which may help you:

1. Do not seek to develop a ministry of manifestations out of what is a move of the Holy Spirit.

2. Create an atmosphere of faith, by giving opportunity for the Spirit to move. Rule out any manifestations of the flesh.

3. Be careful to maintain the focus on God himself and don’t transfer people’s faith to a man, place or a method.

4. Continue in both the Word and the Spirit and don’t be caught in the trap of alternating between the two.

5. The best setting for people to receive from God is for them to come before him in the way the Scripture entreats us: ‘Enter in his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.’ Testimonies can also prove an encouragement to others to respond to the Lord.

6. Remind people that Jesus invites us to come and drink, promising not only to quench our thirst, but also to release rivers of living water to flow out from us to others.

7. When people fall over, be open to keep praying for them. Encourage them to stay down and continue to receive from God. It is not unusual for people to stay down for several hours.

8. Have capable people available to catch those falling over. This removes the fear of falling and also avoids unnecessary collisions.

9. There is no need to cause people to fall to the floor by forcing them. The Holy Spirit is perfectly able to overwhelm people without your effort.

10. Allow God time to work with people. If some are not ready to respond, simply encourage them to remain open and in prayer to God. Return again to them when you have prayed for others.

11. Instruct the people while God is moving. Explain any unusual manifestations and try to settle unnecessary fears by giving understanding about what God is doing.

12. Deal with any carnal behaviour and do not allow it to hijack what God is doing. Take advantage of the opportunity that this can present to instruct people more fully on how to respond to God.

13. Be open yourself, as it should be a time of refreshing for you too.

Don’t Miss This Hour of Visitation!

One of the saddest verses in the Bible records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and saying, ‘You did not know the hour of your visitation.’ This failure to discern the seasons of God, resulted in the sombre declaration of Jesus’ words, where he said, ‘Your house will be left desolate.’

My cry to God is, ‘Help me not to miss what you are doing. Give me wisdom to lead my church into the blessing. Help me, Lord, not to force it or make it happen and may I not just seek some formula, but out of a relationship with Jesus, guide my assembly into the fulness of the Spirit.’

_________________________________________________________________

(c) ‘Minister’s Bulletin’, April 1995, pages 2-5, the quarterly communication of the General Superintendent to Assemblies of God in Australia Ministers, PO Box 336, Mitcham, Victoria 3132. Used with permission.

© Renewal Journal 7: Blessing, 1996, 2nd edition 2011
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright included.

Now available in updated book form (2nd edition 2011)
Renewal Journal 7: Blessing – Discounted in eStore

Renewal Journal eStore – all publications

Contents of all Renewal Journals

Amazon – Renewal Journal 7: Blessing

Amazon – all journals and books

See Renewal Journal 7: Blessing as on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository
Also in Renewal Journals bound volume 2 (Issues 6-10)

Return to main page