A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Archive for December, 2014

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 30,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 11 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.


Charismatic Renewal: Myths & Realities, by Rowland Croucher

Rowland CroucherChurch on FireChurch on Fire

Chapter 22
Charismatic Renewal: Myths and Realities

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by Rowland Croucher

The Rev. Dr Rowland Croucher wrote as a Baptist minister and was editor of the newsletter Grid. This chapter is adapted from the Summer 1986 issue.  Also reproduced in John Mark Ministries

Charismatic renewal is not going way. According to David Barrett, editor of World Christian Encyclopedia, pentecostals and charismatics numbered an estimated 100 million worldwide in 1980. He says that number jumped to about 150 million by 1985 and 337 million by 1989.

The word charismatic (Greek ‘charisma’ – a gift of grace) is useful as an adjective but sometimes offensive as a noun. Here we will reluctanly use charismatic as a noun, and as an adjective, but with the understanding that every true Christian is charismatic.

We are now hearing about post-charismatics. They had assumed the experiences in Acts 2,8,10,19 and 1 Corinthians 12 to 14 were normative for all Christians for all times. Having sought an emotional high, they found that their version of the charismatic renewal promised more than it delivered.

Let us work through the myths or misconceptions in order.

1. Renewal is a fairly modern phenomenon

Those unfamiliar with the mistakes of the past, as Santayana said, are likely to repeat them. Movements of religious renewal are not new. That happens when something lost is found: the book of the law (Josiah), prayer and asceticism (Desert Fathers), simple lifestyle (Franciscans), justification by faith (Luther), sanctification (Wesley), spiritual gifts (Pentecostals).

Christian renewal emphasizes the church’s organic, communal nature and tends to idealise the primitive apostolic church. Static institutions are challenged to change and become dynamic.

Traditionalists are usually blind to the disparity between the institution’s claims and its ineffectiveness. Renewalists often have little, or an idealised, sense of history; God is on their side and against the institution. They don’t realize that they too will set up new institutions which will eventually settle down, preserve a status quo and be challenged again.

Howard Snyder and others have helped us formulate a mediating model of the church, which affirms history and expects renewal – both.

2. Enthusiasm is a sign of immaturity

Not necessarily. Stolid Anglo-Saxons may not approve of too much enthusiasm, but other cultures (Latins, Africans) like it. Two Israelite leaders, Eldad and Medad, got excited when the Spirit fell on them, so Joshua the institutional spokesman told Moses to stop them. Moses retorted by wishing the Spirit might similarly fall on the lot of them (Numbers 11:26-30)!

Experiences of some of the mystics (Richard Rolle, St. Teresa of Avila, St. John of the Cross), reveal an affinity to modern charismatic phenomena.

The Holy Spirit being manifested in a person, a culture or an age produces various attitudes: an ordering attitude, a praying attitude, a questioning attitude, and an attitude of receiving. Without the receptive attitude the other three dry up. Mark Hillmer says that without mystical experience, without an ongoing awareness of the presence of God, we do not live a full and rich Christian life. The charismatic renewal represents the re-entry into the world of the felt presence of God. It means that mysticism, the attitude of receiving, is being renewed for us.

In all renewal movements there is a predictable dialectic: a move far enough one way will cause the pendulum to swing back to the other extreme.

The sad history of enthusiasts illustrates both the dangers of unchecked fervency not centred on the revelation of Jesus Christ, and also the inadequacy of merely institutional or rational authority. The faith is endangered when Christians have to choose between this uncontrolled fervency and dessicated, authoritative, uninspired orthodoxies in Protestantism or Catholicism. The Spirit of God is the Spirit of love and community, the Spirit of reflection and control.

3. Pentecostalism is an ecclesiastical abberation that can be ignored

Not without reason has Pentecostalism been called the third force within Christendom. Pentecostalism teaches a necessary second stage in a believer’s relationship to the Lord – baptism in the Spirit – whose initial evidence is speaking in tongues. Its mission has been to restore spiritual gifts that had been neglected or opposed by the churches: tongues, interpretation, prophecy, faith, miracles, healing, wisdom, knowledge, and discernment (1 Corinthians 12:8-10).

4. Charismatic renewal in the 1960’s and 1970’s was indistinguishable from the older Pentecostalism

The Neo-pentecostal renewal began in a significant way in the historic churches in the 1950’s.

Catholic charismatic renewal (the term Neo-pentecostal soon went out of vogue) probably goes back to Pope John XXIII convoking the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), and his prayer that the Holy Spirit would renew the church as by a new Pentecost.

Charles Hummell uses a World War II analogy to explain what happened. Pentecostalists based their pneumatology on the Synoptics and Acts: wasn’t Jesus first conceived by the Holy Spirit, then later baptized in the Spirit? Didn’t the disciples receive the Holy Spirit when Jesus breathed on them, but were later filled with the Spirit at Pentecost?

Traditional theologies, on the other hand, were Pauline. They said you mustn’t build doctrines from these events in the primitive church, but rather ask ‘What do the New Testament letters to various churches teach us?’ And only once is baptizing in the Spirit explicitly referred to there (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). And so the battle-lines formed, and the troops became entrenched within their fixed positions.

It was something like the French Maginot Line facing the equally impregnable Siegfried Line. Each army was safe behind its ramparts but unable to advance. Suddenly the German panzer divisions moved swiftly around these fixed positions and rolled into Paris without a pitched battle.

So with our little theologies. We fight our wars, protect territory already won, and are often ill-prepared to take new ground. Hummell explains that for decades pentecostal and traditional theologies of the baptism in the Spirit faced each other along one major doctrinal battle line. Then suddenly the Holy Spirit moved around these fixed positions to infiltrate charismatic renewal behind the lines in mainline Protestant and Roman Catholic churches.

Catholic charismatic renewal has less emphasis on spiritual gifts and more on nurturing a personal relationship with Christ and on developing Christian community. In 1979 the Australian Catholic Theological Association said that through the movement thousands of Australian Catholic men and women were able to experience a deeper conversion to Jesus Christ; a renewal of faith; an introduction to a serious prayer life; a new appreciation of the Scriptures; an openness to the use of their gifts from the Holy Spirit; a commitment to evangelism.

5. Conservative churches are frightened to touch charismatic renewal because it is an all-or-nothing package

Peter Wagner, professor of church growth at Fuller Seminary has popularized the notion of a third wave of renewal experienced in many churches in the 1980’s. He says that many historians feel this century has seen the greatest outpouring of the Holy Spirit since the first century or two. The first wave came with the pentecostal movement. The second came around the middle of the century with the charistmatic movement. The third wave is more recent, having begun around 1980, with the same powerful, supernatural acts of the Holy Spirit which had been confined to pentecostals and charismatics now being seen in a growing number of evangelical churches.

Wagner goes on to talk about his ‘120 Fellowship’ that meets from 7.30 to 9.15 Sunday mornings. They see signs and wonders on a regular basis. They don’t teach a baptism in the Holy Spirit as a second work of grace but see the Spirit’s impact as a filling or anointing of the Spirit which may happen to a person many times. They do not permit themselves to be called Spirit-filled Christians, as if others in the church were something less than Spirit-filled.

They try to avoid the Corinthian error concerning tongues; they neither forbid nor stress it. They treat tongues as just another spiritual gift, not as a badge of spirituality. Many pray in tongues, but they do not encourage public tongues in their class.

Wagner sees the third wave of the Spirit as an opening of the evangelicals and other Christians to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. He notes evidence of this in many mainline churches now incorporating renewal in their worship service, sponsoring healing services, or praying for healing and deliverance in their normal worship times.

6. There’s only one way to understand the term baptism in the Spirit

Baptism in the Spirit, in the pentecostal and charistmatic traditions, is an effusion of God’s Spirit upon a Christian with power for praise, witness and service. It is an experience which initiates a decisively new sense of the powerful presence and working of God in one’s life, and usually involves one or more charismatic gifts, observes Francis Sullivan. Pentecostals normally view it as a second work of grace. Charismatics have come to understand it as a deepening of the faith grounded in the new life received in Christ.

When a person becomes a Christian (and that can happen in many different ways), he or she never realizes all that has happened. A fuller understanding of justification, for example, may come much later. But it happened earlier. So we mustn’t put dogmatic strait-jackets on this experience. Conversion can be dramatic (if the person was running hard from God beforehand, for example), or quite matter-of-fact.

So with the Holy Spirit. Luke and Paul write about the work of the Spirit from different perspectives. For Luke the Spirit gives believers power for witness in the world – and that can be repeatable. Paul talks about the Spirit incorporating us into the body of Christ – that’s once-for-all.

Words can have different meanings in different contexts. Paul has perhaps five separate meanings for flesh. The Bible has many ways to describe the meaning of the death of Christ. Baptism is used in the Scriptures as a flexible metaphor, not merely as a technical term. I heard theologian Clark Pinnock say that so long as we recognize conversion as truly a baptism in the Spirit, there is no reason why we cannot use ‘baptism’ to refer to subsequent fillings of the Spirit as well’.

7. Regarding spiritual gifts, the best course is to be conservative (stick to the safe ones and leave the others well alone)

Every church ought to be open to the full spectrum of the gifts. Spiritual gifts are meant to create truly Christian community. Where there is love, there’ll be gift-giving. God’s gifts are love-gifts – God at work.

Gifts are given freely by the Holy Spirit. They can’t be manufactured by us nor is their presence or absence a sign of Christian maturity.

In a truly biblical fellowship the focus is not on the gifts, but the Giver. But that shouldn’t be a cop-out, ignoring the gifts we aren’t comfortable with.

Here’s a common problem: ‘I had the best hands laid on me, but nothing happened’. Well, what did you expect to happen? Faith-filled prayer believes you have received the Spirit: leave the rest to God’s timing. David du Plessis (Mr. Pentecost) says that baptism in the Spirit is always easy when Jesus Christ does it for you, but always difficult when you struggle to do it yourself or with the help of others. And Richard Lovelace comments that Christians act as though fellowship with the Holy Spirit were very hard to establish. Actually it is very difficult to avoid! He says all that is necessary is for the believer to open up to that divine Reality in the centre of consciousness which is the most fundamental fact of a Christian’s inner life’.

8. Prophecy isn’t needed today – we’ve got the Bible

Western fundamentalism has been infected with dispensationalism which sees the activity in the Book of Acts as transitional; the canon of Scripture is now closed, and the curtain has been brought down on all this sort of thing. When Paul says tongues and prophecy will be with us until the perfect comes (1 Corinthians 13:10) they say Paul meant a perfect Bible. The rest of the church interprets Paul as referring to heaven, when we shall see face to face.

Prophecy is a direct dominical utterance (thus says the Lord) for a particular people at a particular time and place, for a particular purpose. The Divine Word also comes through Jesus, through Scripture, through circumstances, and through visions (more commonly in non-Western cultures).

Prophecy gives the church fresh insights into God’s truth (Ephesians 3) or guidance about the future (Acts 11), or encouragement (1 Corinthians 14:3, 1 Timothy 1:18), or inspiration or correction. It either edifies the church or brings it under judgement (God is in this place! – see 1 Corinthians 14:25). The biblical prophets combined judgement with hope.

9. Tongues is an ecstatic gift (for immature Christians)

The gift of tongues (glossolalia) is a quasi-linguistic phenomenon, not language in the normal sense of the term.

Tongues-speaking is not an indication of mental imbalance. After fifty years of research the consensus still runs, as with Virginia Hine over twenty years ago, that available evidence requires that an explanation of glossolalia as pathological must be discarded.

Two decades of research into the discrete functions of left and right hemispheres of the brain appears to show that the dominant cerebral hemisphere (the left, for 95% of the population) specializes in thinking processes which are analytical, linear, logical, sequential, verbal, rational. The right hemisphere normally shows preference for thought that is visiospatial, simultaneous, analog (as opposed to digital), emotional.

While speech has been seen to rise from mapped sectors of the left hemisphere, language-formation capacities are probably spread over both hemispheres. Glossolalia may be right hemisphere speech, sharing a location beyond – but not contradictory to – the usual canons of rationality. It is appropriate to think of glossolalic prayer as neither irrational nor arational, but rather transrational; when reason fails in prayer, the Spirit helps (Romans 8:26,27). It’s spirit to Spirit communication rather than mind to mind. (1 Corinthians 14:15).

Richard Beyer claims that there is a fundamental functional similarity between speaking in tongues and two other widespread and generally accepted religious practices, namely Quaker silent worship and the liturgical worship of Catholic and Episcopal churches.

10. What if they’re not healed?

Let’s look at the tough questions.

Does God want everyone healed? Pentecostalists usually say yes (and if you aren’t, the problem is with lack of faith – yours, or your praying friends’ or your church’s).

Most others would say no.

Francis McNutt offers a more balanced view. In general, he says, it is God’s desire that we be healthy, rather than sick. And since he has the power to do all things, he will respond to prayer for healing unless there is some obstacle, or unless the sickness is sent or permitted for some greater reason.

The church today surely needs less pride and prejudice in this area. ‘But what if we pray publicly and they’re not healed?’ is the kind of faithless question that stymies our maturing in this area. Our calling is to be faithful and obedient. It’s God’s business whether he heals or not!

11. Deliverance from evil spirits is a medieval or animistic idea. We’ve now outgrown all that.

Naturalism is a view of the world that takes account only of natural elements and forces, excluding the supernatural or spiritual.

This world view has influenced theology in this century principally through Rudolf Bultmann. He claimed that because the forces and laws of nature have been discovered we can’t believe in spirits, whether good or evil.

Against this, the biblical worldview holds that the universe consists of both visible and invisible creatures, angels, demons, and powers. As theologians like Gustav Aulen and Helmut Thielicke point out, the inbreaking of God’s kingdom in the ministry of Jesus Christ can’t be understood apart from its being a war against the principalities of evil. Emil Brunner says we cannot rightly understand the church of the New Testament unless we break out of the strait-jacket of naturalism and take seriously the dynamic manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Someone has calculated that 3,874 (49%) of the New Testament’s 7,957 verses are ‘contaminated’ with happenings and ideas alien to a naturalistic world-view. Morton Kelsey noted that the only large group of Christians who take seriously the idea of a direct encounter with the non-space-time or spiritual world are the Pentecostals and the charismatics, and they have come in for derision from every side.

However, as C.S. Lewis and others have warned us, there are two opposite errors we must avoid: either disbelieving in the devil’s existence, or giving Satan more attention than he deserves. Cardinal Suenens similarly exhorts us to steer a safe course between Scylla and Charibdis, between underestimation and exaggeration.

Within the church the gift of discernment of spirits is very important. The Scriptures suggest various tests to discern the spirits: Is Christ glorified (John 16:14)? Is the church edified? Are others helped? Does it accord with Scripture? Is there love? Is Jesus Lord of the person’s life? Is there submission to church leaders – allowing others to weigh what is said or done?

12. It’s all so divisive that we ought to leave charismatic issues well alone

Divisiveness would head anyone’s list of the issues confronting us in the modern charistmatic renewal.

My observation, however, is that divisiveness is not a function of the presence or absence of certain spiritual gifts, but of insecurity, fear (charisphobia), insensitivity (charismania), or lovelessness on one or both sides.

David Watson talked about tidy churches, with piles of papers neatly in order. The windows are opened, but the fresh wind of the Spirit blows the papers about, so the elders scurry around collecting them all again, and close the windows. You’ve got tidiness, even stuffiness.

That’s the picture of many a church, he suggests. He wants to have the windows open with a fresh breath of the Holy Spirit blowing. Untidiness with life is preferable if the alternative is tidiness and death. One of the tidiest places you can find is the cemetery.

Let us beware of the error Gamaliel warned about (Acts 5:33-39). If this is of God, we must take the movement seriously.

Certainly the swift stream of renewal often throws debris on to the banks. Old wineskins can’t cope with new wine without bursting. When the Spirit is at work, the devil will be sowing weeds among the wheat.

13. Experience-centred and Word-centred theologies won’t mix

The success of an experiential theology must be judged by the ease (or lack of ease) with which it moves from Spirit to Word. If Word and Spirit can be held in dynamic union, then experiential theology has the possibility of becoming definitive for the life and witness of the church today.

Too often Word takes the place of Spirit. Our traditional theologies run the risk of being rationalistic, contrived conceptual schemas. The Holy Spirit is the subject of a sterile pneumatology, with little openness to an experience of his power.

But, again, an experience-centred theology sometimes stays there. Sometimes there’s an unhealthy identification of truth with a prophetic leader, or a great experience; everything else derives validity through reference to these. Or else the Bible is used as a sanction for one’s independent feelings and experiences. Or perhaps we are not open to the whole of experience.

Thus an unhealthy individualism and a pervasive subjectivism often accompany pieties of personal experience. As Russell Spittler has put it, individualism is a virtue when it assures conscious religious experience, but becomes something of an occupational hazard for Pentecostal-charismatics. Add in some dominant personality traits, take away an acquaintance with the church’s collective past, delete theological sophistication, and the mix can be volatile, catastrophic.

Let us beware of inhabiting simplicity this side of complexity, or complexity the other side of simplicity, but rather move to simplicity the other side of complexity!

The security of the slogan is easier than the hard work of discovering the truth. Much of what is written in pentecostal/charismatic books is what Kilian McDonnell calls enthusiastic theological fluff – pink hot air in printed form.

There is a great need for a thorough-going charismatic theology. For example the juxtaposition of the ideas of baptism in the Spirit and the release of spiritual gifts may be seen to be a most significant contribution to twentieth-century theology, but a lot more work has to be done on it yet.

14. In the church’s worship you can’t mix charismatic elements with traditional forms

Probably, in retrospect, it will be seen that the pentecostal movement will have made its most important contribution in corporate worship, in the sphere of liturgy and preaching, and not in the sphere of pneumatology, as is constantly and quite wrongly supposed, suggests Walter Hollenweger.

Aspects of pentecostal/charistmatic worship are invading traditional churches with a rush! It’s becoming more common for worshippers of all kinds to raise their hands in adoration, as they sing scripture-songs in their morning worship-services. However these songs are as limited as is charismatic theology. There are very few about mission and justice, for example. They’re mostly ‘God loves me and I love God’ songs. Nice, but there’s more; love issues in a life of witness and obedience in a hostile world.

The way forward ultimately is to integrate the unique insights and results of charismatic renewal into the full life of the church, with a submission to the order, tradition, doctrine and spirituality of the church as a whole. It’s not helpful to go underground. Every special movement needs the whole church body to give focus, direction, discernment and correction; it needs to be tested, evaluated, encouraged, improved and admonished. As Cardinal Suenans says, to be most useful, the charismatic movement must disappear into the life of the church.

15. The problem of elitism should eventually go away

I’m pessimistic on this one. We enjoy sorting others out according to false hierarchies of value. There have always been ‘haves and have-nots’ in the church. Only the categories change. In one era a priestly caste takes special prerogatives to itself and we have the evil of clericalism. In others there are heresy trials with the orthodox removing the heterodox. In the charistmatic renewal, experience is the watershed: those who have ‘arrived’ have been ‘baptised in the Spirit’ in a discernible experience subsequent to conversion, and speak in tongues. But the New Testament mostly uses ethical rather than experiential categories to define stages of Christian maturity. For example, Barnabas was spirit-filled; that is, he was filled with goodness and faith (Acts 11:24).

16. Magic isn’t a problem if we’re ministering in Christ’s name

It is possible for a miracle-centred theology to become theurgical (Greek ‘theourgia’ – magic). An openness to signs and wonders can easily degenerate into miracle-mongering.

Miracles are not just for show. Jesus resisted the temptation to work miracles to dazzle people or to seduce them into believing in him, notes Alan Richardson. He refused to give the Pharisees a ‘sign from heaven’. He did not want to be sought after as a wonder-worker.

Magic involves repeating formulas (vain repetitions). It’s wanting blessings more for my sake than God’s. It’s manipulating deity for my ends.

17. The charismatic renewal is ecumenical

If it is charismatic, it’s ecumenical, says Mr. Pentecost, David du Plessis. But he adds that there has been a dangerous tendency by pentecostals/charismatics to criticize the church, leading to the formation of schismatic, independent groups:

The more schismata the less charismata (1 Corinthians 12:25,26), he would say. This humble Pentecostal pioneer had a passion for unity because the prayer of Jesus was for unity, that the world may believe. He saw little hope for the world unless unity comes to Christianity.

18. Charismatic renewal and mission

Christians are commissioned to do in their world what Jesus did in his: bringing salvation (wholeness, the reign of God), where there is pain, sickness, lostness, alienation, oppression, poverty, war, injustice. So the church’s mission has three dimensions: evangelism (preaching good news), works of mercy (relieving persons’ pain), and works of justice (addressing the causes of pain). It uses three instruments: word (what we say), deed (what we do) and sign (what God does).

Pentecostalists/charismatics have brought the church back to signs and wonders and they have generally done evangelism better than others.

But pentecostal/charismatics churches are weakest of all in the justice area. There’s more in the prophets than Joel’s promise of the Spirit on all flesh. The prophets cried out for justice, the redress of wrongs done to the poor.

19. Being baptised in the Spirit is an antidote for antinomianism

It isn’t. Antinomianism (living carelessly and lawlessly) is as much a trap for pentecostals/charismatics as for anyone.

20. Conclusions: the way forward

Sherwood Wirt noted that the most important gift God has given to the charismatic renewal is a fresh outpouring of love. Not joy, not ecstasy, not tongues, not miracles, not even martyrdom, but love.

And there’s something else the cautious ought to be more afraid of: attributing the work of the Spirit to the devil. That’s a very serious sin, Jesus warned.

Paul sums it up: ‘Pursue love and strive for the spiritual gifts’ (1 Corinthians 14:1).

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Fire of God among Aborigines by John Blacket

Fire In the OutBack, by John BlacketChurch on FireFire of God among Aborigines
by John Blacket

Chapter 2 of Church on Fire

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The Rev. John Blacket, a Uniting Church minister is author of Fire in the Outback.

Soon after the arrival of the first European settlers in Australia some Christians started to take the gospel to Aborigines. Much of this early work was thwarted by aboriginal repulsion at the life style and cruelty of these strange new people.

Not that all Aborigines rejected foreigners. There had been contact with Macassans from Indonesia every year for hundreds of years. They came to gather trepang, a sea delicacy found in North Australia. Some Aborigines visited Indonesia with them, and the cultures and even families mixed together.

No, the clash between Europeans and Aborigines was a deep cultural issue of differing world views related to what is important in each culture. Europeans did not value highly the same things Aborigines did, especially family relationships. They seemed more interested in material things.

These Europeans spoke about God and his love. They tried to teach the ‘inferior, primitive’ Aborigines by rational, cerebral processes. Aborigines, however, ‘know’ things by a heart experience rather than abstractly in their minds. So Europeans tended to see mission as a very long process of teaching abstract Western concepts.

There was some success. This came mainly from the love and commitment of these Christian foreigners to total strangers at incredible personal sacrifice. That spoke more than words.

Ron Williams, an aboriginal evangelist, observed that those Christians were the kind of heroes the children ought to know about, people not ashamed to shed tears and love their black friends, pioneers who poured out love and healed the wounds of many sorrowing, suffering and dying Aborigines.

Aborigines were searching for something in this new teaching to catch hold of, but it didn’t seem to have any spiritual handles for them. It seemed to be ideas without answers to the struggles of life. Their world was full of very real spiritual powers, especially evil spirits and the power of ‘magic men’. If this God was like they said, he should be stronger than the evil spirits, and they would see evidence of this. They didn’t.

To the European, this world view was primitive superstition and was wrong. People just had to learn with their minds. Then they would understand. Even missionaries who did believe in satan and evil spirits did not seem to have the ability and power to deal with them.

Yet through it all God was at work. Seeds were sown which paved the way for the aboriginal revival.

Aborigines began finding a real relationship between their culture and the gospel. They rejected aspects of their culture which conflicted with God’s Word but came to see that their ‘law’ was like the Jewish law which Jesus came to fulfil, not destroy. They sensed that God had given Aborigines some revelation of his divine nature and purpose in their culture that needed to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

Makarrwala (Harry) from Buckingham Bay in eastern Arnhem Land, North Australia was one. An early convert in the region, he committed his life to Christ at Milingimbi in 1940. His conversion resulted from God speaking to him in a dream, a way in which God speaks to many Aborigines still. That led to the beginnings of indigenous changes, submitting the culture to the gospel, not through missionary teaching but through personal conviction by the Holy Spirit.

God prepared the way for revival, in people like Harry, in visions and dreams, in personal sacrifices and teaching, in signs and wonders, in healings and struggles, in personal relationships, and in meetings where God’s power was clearly evident and many lives were changed.

Arnhem Land revival

It was not until 1979 at Galiwin’ku (Elcho Island) that a really powerful community-changing move of the Holy Spirit occurred. It seems that most of the revival among aboriginal people has stemmed from this in some way.

Arnhem Land, the north east section of the Northern Territory, is an aboriginal reserve, so over 90% of the residents are Aborigines. The rest are called ‘balanda’ (non-aboriginal) who work in the region to assist the aboriginal communities. Galiwin’ku is one of the largest communities with over 1,000 people.

The Methodist Church (which became part of the Uniting Church in 1977) pioneered missionary work in this region in 1923. Rev. Harold and Ella Shepherdson worked at Galiwin’ku from 1942, spending 35 years there and 50 years altogether in the region. This gave Galiwin’ku great stability through their incredible practical wisdom.

The church and tribal elders carefully trained key young local Aborigines for leadership. Rrurrumbu Dhurrkay, the assistant school principal and an evangelist was one. Another was Rev. Djiniyini Gondarra who was placed in charge of the local church in 1977. God was preparing him for a wider and important national apostolic task. For both of them, this involved preparation in spiritual dimensions of family life which neither balanda nor aboriginal training had given them.

Yet the Holy Spirit began to move visibly in the community at the time Djiniyini and a number of other leaders, who were all praying expectantly for this move of God, went on holidays.

The first evidence of this special move of the Holy Spirit came with the wet season of 1978-79. People started to ask about God. At a social gathering on the beach Christians sensed God’s presence in a unity they had never before experienced. Only one or two balanda were present. People wanted to spend more time together, and with God. Many fellowship meetings began to happen spontaneously, every night and at other times.

The fruit and gifts of the Holy Spirit started to be experienced in new ways. Non-Christians felt God’s presence, came to join in, were convicted of sin and repented. Even some who were sceptical and opposed to what was happening were drawn to come and sit on the side-lines and mock, but were brought to repentance by God.

While Djiniyini was on holiday he prayed for God’s leading about what should be planned for the church for 1979. He listed many things.

On the day of his return in March some people said they wanted a fellowship meeting at his house that night. Tired after his journey, his spirits fell. But it turned out to be an exceptional night. During the night people began crowding into the lounge room. Many of them were people he had never seen at church. They began telling what had been going on while their pastor had been away. As Djiniyini and his wife Gelung listened, tears filled their eyes. Everything on that list had already happened, or was beginning to happen.

A visit by the Rev. Dan Armstrong, a Uniting Church minister and evangelist, had previously been planned for May. He arrived with a small team and found a people prepared by God. The church had more than doubled that year already. The team discovered they had come on the crest of a wave of God’s Spirit moving among the people.

Dan Armstrong tells the story of their visit to that revival.

‘The first day when we arrived there was such a sense of expectation. It was tremendous. We had a feast the first night, not a meeting. About 500 people arrived! They were gathered around the area, sitting at their little fires. Someone just started strumming a guitar. Others joined in and a few people started to sing.

‘Then out of the darkness more people started to come. They knelt down all round the area. Some started to weep. I hadn’t preached or anything at this point!

‘We started to gather around and pray with them. The incredible thing was that the Lord just ‘smote’ them. But then they would get up and join with us in praying for others.

‘There must have been fifty of them who came to Christ that night. Then the next day the word got out and the place was just jammed with people. We couldn’t fit in the building where we started and had to move out into a big open area.

The beautiful thing was that the first morning the old men came first and started weeping. Others gathered around them day after day and night after night. We saw miracles. Several people were totally delivered from demonic power. Some were healed of all kinds of physical ailments.   Particularly significant was the description that they gave again and again of a blanket of blackness being lifted and the light of Christ shining in.

One of the meetings was held on an old ceremonial ground. Through the worship and praise in that place that night the evil spiritual forces were at first aroused and then soundly defeated by the mighty power of God. Some dramatic manifestations were reported. This was another point of release for many people.

Each night after the team retired, others would remain singing and praying into the early hours of the morning. One night a country and western group held a concert in the big hall near the space where they held their meetings. Only 40 attended the concert while over 500 attended the meeting. For Aborigines, that is a miracle!

Aboriginal teams

This revival took teams from Galiwin’ku throughout Arnhem Land, into Queensland, Western Australia, and even to Canberra. They visited aboriginal communities in remote places but included some balanda churches in cities. The results showed powerful evidence of God’s ministry to receptive people. Mostly it was not as dramatic as at home, except for Warburton.

Warburton, with a population of 400, lies in the Central Desert area 250 kilometres west of the junction of the Northern Territory, South Australian and Western Australian borders.

The United Aborigines Mission has worked there for many years but it was hard going. Fighting, drunkness and despair filled the town. In 1980, the Federal Minister for Aboriginal Affairs described it as the worst aboriginal community in Australia.

In September 1981, Rrurrumbu led a team from Galiwin’ku to Alice Springs, and the Pitjantjatara area south of Ayer’s Rock, and finally to Warburton. They flew almost 3,000 kilometres, mainly by light aircraft, to conduct the meetings.

One man commented about Warburton: ‘We knew things couldn’t get worse, so God was our only hope.’ There was real expectancy in spite of disruptions.

A group travelling to a men’s tribal ceremony arrived in town at the same time as the mission team. They intended to take all the men with them on to the ceremony.

One of their truck drivers said, ‘I want to stay and listen to what these strangers have to say.’ So they all stayed!

Drunkenness and petrol sniffing caused disruptions. The old warehouse community store made of corrugated iron used for the meetings echoed with every dog fight or disturbance, despite being packed out. Young people hurled rocks onto the roof or rattled sticks along the corrugated iron walls.

Yet, somehow God moved sovereignly that weekend. Hundreds came to new life. A change took place in the spiritual realms over that place.

A couple of months later, Djiniyini led a smaller team from Galiwin’ku to Warburton in response to another request for help. Once again the Holy Spirit moved in power. Hundreds had prayer for the release of the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, receiving supernatural signs of his answer and a real sense that God was anointing people for ministry.

The first test of this change came through a horrible car accident where six young people were shockingly burned. Instead of plunging into ceremonial grieving, wailing, injuring themselves and seeking revenge, the Christian leaders went to the hospital to pray for the young people, some of whom were dying. Christians went around comforting and praying with the families and ministering to them.

Within a few weeks a team went out from Warburton to share what they had received. In 1982 the team had up to seventy on the road for months at a time, preaching the gospel all over Western Australia. Their teams picked up new members from each community they visited. No outside church group supported them. Basically it was a tribal movement.

The revivals of Arnhem Land and the Central Desert resulted in thousands of aboriginal people having their lives changed from misery to new life in Christ. Families were re-united and many family relationships healed. The misery of alcohol was exchanged for joy and hope. Over 1,000 people were baptised. In one small town 150 were baptised. Even non-aboriginals, seeing the changes, made their own commitments to Jesus Christ.

Sometimes God worked through unusual events to deal with social evils and sins. A group of gamblers were mocking Christians who were praising God in the front yard of a house in one aboriginal community in South Australia. Suddenly one of the gambler’s vehicles started up, drove into a ditch, and burst into flames and the cards in the gambler’s hands caught on fire. That is a true story! The people who told it gave the moral: ‘Don’t mock God.’

I have concentrated here on Galiwin’ku and Warburton. The Holy Spirit has moved strongly in other places as well, especially the Kimberleys, Fitzroy Crossing, and Roeburn in Western Australia, and in rural and urban areas of northern New South Wales. The details I have given portray some of the overall picture.

Results of revival

Has it lasted? The gatherings of 100 to 200 every night at Galiwin’ku gradually diminished. By August 1979, weekly Bible studies were established to nurture new Christians, and have continued. Five years after the revival began a core group of 30 to 50 people still met three nights a week for fellowship, with attendances sometimes as high as 100. In the nineties a strong core group is still meeting.

When I revisited Warburton and the whole region late in 1989 I saw that many had fallen away from the Lord and a lot of the fire had gone. I asked about the changes that remained. Even non-Christian European staff acknowledged that conditions were enormously better than before the revival.

Similarly I have seen some of the highs and lows of spiritual life at Galiwin’ku in several recent visits. Many have fallen away, and some still have an active faith but are not involved with the organised church.

However, conversions still happen, lives are changed, relationships healed, and there are miracles, physical healings, signs, wonders, dreams and visions among them. Many who did not know Jesus before the revival and had been real problem people now follow him with a strong commitment. Some still reach out to groups beyond the normal family responsibilities, including ministry to outcast groups.

There is a deep desire to work through the relationship between the gospel and their own culture, rather than sweeping it under the carpet or trying to deny their roots by rejecting all their culture. This process will take time, prayer and hard work with the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, guidance and strength. It requires prayerful support, not the misguided intervention of well meaning non-aboriginals.

Most of all they have a growing expectation of a further wave or move of the Holy Spirit. There is a new earnest calling out to God. I believe that what has happened is just a foretaste of an ingathering that is far greater than most of us have dreamed possible. Certainly the vision regarding Aborigines that God has given to many people, even before the revival, has only just begun.

The Lord gave Dan Armstrong a vision on the last day of his 1979 mission at Galiwin’ku. He saw the young men going out in groups and landing in other spots. Everywhere they went, a fire came up. He shared this with them and the Lord gave them the word from 1 Corinthians 1:26-29,

Not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were
powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is
foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in
the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised
in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that
are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God.

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Pilgrimage in Renewal by John-Charles Vockler

Church on Fire

Church on Fire 

Chapter 3
Pilgrimage in Renewal
by John-Charles Vockler

Brother John-Charles wrote in 1990 as an Anglican Bishop and the founder of
The Franciscan Order of The Divine Compassion.
This book is immediately avaible as an eBook.

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Until recently I would never have dreamed that I would sit down and write a testimony for a publication like this one, nor that it would have as its principle thrust my concern with and my blessings from the charismatic renewal.

I am an Anglican Bishop who was a member of the Society of Saint Francis and is now a member of the Franciscan Order of The Divine Compassion. Very early in life I was attracted both to Holy Orders and to the character and the witness of Saint Francis.

This attraction to St Francis greatly increased during my study in Theological College. I asked my bishop whether I might be allowed to go almost at once to test my vocation in a Franciscan religious community. He rightly pointed out that I had undertaken to be ordained in the Diocese of Newcastle and to serve in that diocese for five years. He added that if I were faithful in persevering in that vocation then he would be willing to release me in due course to test this other vocation to the Religious life.

However, as the years went by, other things presented themselves which seemed right and proper to do. In every case, when I sought advice, I was urged to go forward with those things. They included overseas studies and eventually a call to the episcopate in the Diocese of Adelaide. There I was Assistant Bishop before being translated to Polynesia to the Diocesan Bishop.

Many streams

I grew up in a Christian family. I was unable to accept the narrowly evangelical teaching which then characterized the Diocese of Sydney, that is, unable to accept it in its strict and partisan form. Nevertheless, I owe a great debt of gratitude to the teaching which I received in the Diocese of Sydney and in evangelical circles.

The narrower aspects of evangelicalism were tempered in my case by the parish in which I grew up, St John’s at Dee Why, and by the liberal attitudes of my Sunday School teachers. They had been influenced by the findings of the last century of biblical criticism and research.

Whilst a student at Moore Theological College, I was brought into touch through Christ Church St Lawrence with a third stream of influence and theological insight in Anglicanism, Anglo-Catholicism.

I am grateful to all of these. Each school of thought enriched my life and to this day leaves its mark on me. I have never doubted God, though there have been times of coldness, barrenness, and infidelity to God’s demands upon me.

I was very fortunate to find in a second hand book shop in Sydney a French book entitled (in English) The True Disciple: The Priest According to the Gospel. This book written by Father Chevrier, a 19th Century Capuchin Tertiary, had a profound influence on my life. From it I learned, among other things, a prayer which governed Father Chevrier’s life: ‘Lord, I am at your disposal’.

That prayer became, and still remains, a part of my life. It is, as I know, a dangerous prayer to pray. God has a habit of taking it at its face value.

Always there recurred the call to Franciscanism. So eventually I resigned my See of Polynesia and left to join the Society of Saint Francis. There I was enriched, very happy, and conscious of the continuing guidance and blessing of Almighty God. More recently God called me to found The Franciscan Order of the Divine Compassion.

Renewal overseas

My first contact with the charismatic renewal was in Paris. I was staying with a young French nobleman whom I had met first at the Abbey of Our Lady at Bec Hellouin. On this later visit to Paris I had accepted his invitation to stay with him. He mentioned that he had been booked in for a weekend conference before he knew of my coming. He invited me to join him there.

The conference was a meeting of several hundreds of Roman Catholic charismatics from in and around Paris. That weekend was, I think, one of the most moving experiences of my whole life. The joy! The warmth! The wonder of it all!

I spoke to an old priest, over seventy, whom I was somewhat astonished to find there. He said to me, ‘Father, three years ago hardly any of these young people prayed. Now, look at them! If this is what the Holy Spirit is doing for them then I want to be part of it.’

He went on to say that in the beginning he had not fully understood it but that now he too was a part of that great joy.

I can shut my eyes now and I can hear and see the people, the smiles, the love. I can hear the wonderful sound of that group of people singing in tongues. I have never heard anything so moving, so beautiful, in all my life. It sounded like a gentle flock of birds taking off and it moved me deeply. It touched my heart.

Later, when I was appointed Assistant Bishop of Southwalk, I shared in an Anglican charismatic experience, or rather, an ecumenical one in an Anglican setting. A number of Anglo-Catholic parishes had been deeply influenced by the renewal. I was invited to share in a day long meeting in one of them.

People from different denominations and from different traditions within Anglicanism had come. I remember with joy the charismatic Stations of the Cross. I could not ever imagine such a thing myself. You may think, ‘What an unlikely vehicle for praising God!’ Yet it was a wonderful and profoundly moving experience filled with deep worship of our blessed Lord in his Passion, and marked with tremendous joy.

The Eucharist, with its time for prophecy and free prayer, was again a moving experience. Until then, that was novel for me. Looking back, I see how great an influence it had on my own thinking and my own changing patterns of worship. It all seemed so right and proper.

Later on, when people were invited to receive the laying on of hands, I went forward to do so. When they asked me what gift I wished to have, I replied rather cunningly as I then thought, ‘Whatever the Holy Spirit wishes to give me.’ As people laid hands upon me and prayed I was suffused with a great warmth and joy, filled with the spirit of love and an abiding peace.

I had other brief encounters with the charismatic renewal in the Diocese of Southwalk and always found them occasions of joy and love and peace. I found there was a blessing in it all which I was slowly receiving.

I knew that I was unwilling to surrender, unwilling to give a part of me. I felt, as so many bishops still do, that this was a great movement of renewal. Yes, there was something good here, but I was also saying, ‘Good Lord, don’t let it touch me!’

Renewal in Australia

On my return to Australia, to the Friary of the Society of Saint Francis in Brisbane, I was presented very soon after my arrival with a question. Could the brothers be allowed to go to the national Roman Catholic charismatic conference in Brisbane.

I was willing that some should go, and determined to go myself in order to keep an eye on them! We mustn’t have these young men getting up to strange tricks. I wanted to know what was going on. I wanted to protect the community from any spirit of division.

Of course, I myself was deeply touched by the whole thing. The kind of charismatic experience being spoken about at this conference, deeply rooted in sacramental piety and churchly in character, was one which I found immensely attractive.

Before this conference, I had been worried by the naive fundamentalism which seems to me to afflict so many charismatics and the undue emphasis on external signs such as speaking in tongues. This emphasis, I felt, was a phenomenon which occurred when charismatic renewal was divorced from a normal churchly and sacramental life. Needless to say there was none of that at this conference.

The workshops on prayer were characterised by wonderful testimonies. Old ways of prayer had come alive for people under the influence and power of the Holy Spirit. I was struck at once by the way in which the development of the charismatic life paralleled at so many points the classical spiritual tradition about development in the life of prayer.

The shared prayer, the public meetings, and indeed the whole conference up to the last great mass, were characterised by joy – a joy made sad by the sacramental disunity which separated us at the altar.

At one of those meetings someone prophesied that the Spirit was moving powerfully among us to heal. That prophecy was followed by one from Father Michael Scanlan from America. He said it had been given to him by the Spirit that the healing was particularly for those who were afflicted with arthritic and rheumatic pain.

While we went on singing those who had these pains were simply to claim the healing. I did so and felt a remarkable surge of power. From that moment to this the pains that had afflicted me for almost twenty years have never recurred. Now that was a pretty impressive sign given to me!

A few weeks later I was staying with the Community of St Clare. A young priest who used charismatic gifts and was a friend of that community, was speaking to me. I asked him to lay hands on me because of an affliction in my ears. That too was healed. Other physical disorders remained with me. I do not see any evidence in Christian history to suggest that physical healing will always be given, nor do I believe that healing is only of the body.

I did know that still deep within me there were parts of my life which were unsurrendered, which I was keeping to myself. I also knew that some of the things which still afflicted me were related to that unwillingness to surrender.

At a national charismatic conference in Adelaide in 1976 in which many Roman Catholics shared, I made that surrender. I was healed in yet another part of my body and received a baptism of love of a most wonderful and intense kind.

For all this I give thanks to almighty God and I praise him for all he has given me. Like many others, I came to speak and indeed to pray in tongues for the first time when alone. It began in a place where many people would least expect, while I was staying with an enclosed contemplative community of nuns.

Effects of renewal

This experience has been pre-eminently one of love and of great joy, of a calm assurance, and of a revivifying of all that I have always believed and all that I have been given. It has meant for me a new ordering of my life, a new place for holy scripture, a new sense of priorities, a deeper peace, and I believe it has made me more readily available to people, particularly those from whom I differ.

For me, this total experience grows out of my baptism, that is my baptism in water in the name of the Holy Trinity. That is the source and origin of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit and of all that has touched my life. I prefer not to speak of baptism in or by the Spirit, but rather of a being filled up with, or of having a new flow of, grace. Words, as the mystics have found in every age, are hopeless for speaking of the deepest mysteries of life.

I have no doubt that the Holy Spirit of God is at work in his church, restoring its foundations, bringing new life, new hope, new power. Anyone would be very foolish to judge this renewal simply by those who have experienced it but misunderstood it, misused it, or over-emphasised its secondary external phenomena. My deepest reservation is the frequent association of charismatics with right wing politics.

It would be sad for these reasons to stand aside from it all. We could then miss out on the promise which God offers to his church and his world through the renewal which the Holy Spirit alone can give.

My commitments and public life do not leave me many opportunities for sharing specifically in charismatic gatherings. But whenever I can, I am richly blessed. Since these earlier beginnings I have received further healings, especially through the ministry of Mary Rogers. I am conscious of how enriched my whole life and ministry have become.

I urge all who read this, and have their doubts, to look again at the passages in the New Testament which refer to the work and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Such a study can, I believe, only lead those who engage in it to see how far we have drifted from the power and the vitality of the primitive church. That power and vitality came from the gifts and the presence of the Holy Spirit recognized, sought after, and deeply desired.

May God bless all who read this and quicken in your hearts that deepened desire for the indwelling power of God the Holy Spirit. May he bless you in your life and your work and ministry.

May he use us all, whatever our theological and spiritual character, to restore to his Body the unity which is his will and his desire, for which he died, and for which he longs with an ardour beyond our comprehension.

God’s Positive Will: A Christian Paraphrase of The Ten Commandments – Exodus 20

10 Commands

by Rev Zak Cronjé

I am the Lord, your God. Jesus redeemed you from the slavery of sin through his suffering on the cross and his triumphant resurrection. You, therefore belong to Me. Confirm your salvation with a grateful life.

  • Worship only Me the Triune God. I am one.
  • Love Me openly, at all places, in the manner I ask. I am everywhere.
  • Worship Me with reverence. Use my Name with respectful awe in your prayers, songs, confessions and conversations. I am holy.
  • Love Me all the time. Retire frequently at specific times with the purpose of growing in our relationship. Every seventh day is such a time. I am eternal.
  • Maintain order and discipline. Keep your parents’ name high, because they will sacrifice themselves on your behalf. I establish all authority.
  • Treasure life. Care for health and quality of life. I am the life and I create all life.
  • Respect relationships. Be faithful and contribute to harmony. I join together.
  • Value the possessions, ability and time of others. Be fair, work for what you want and share with less privileged people.  I give talents.
  • Count your words. Encourage your neighbours and serve the community with tactful factual statements. I am the truth.
  • Desire to know my will and then obey it. Grant other people happiness and prosperity. I am the way and I provide.

Some Biblical foundations for this effort.

  • Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19
  • Proverbs 15:3
  • Hebrews 12:28-29
  • Luke 4:16; Luke 6:12
  • Proverbs 1:7; Proverbs 13:18; Proverbs 19:18; 2 Timothy 1:7; Romans 13:1-5
  • Genesis 1:26-31
  • Proverbs 20:5-7; Mathews 19:4-6
  • Matthews 25:14-46; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15
  • 1 Peter 3:8-12; James 3:3-18
  • Deuteronomy 6:4-12; Ezekiel 34:25-31; 1 Peter 4:1-2

Of course there are many more scripture passages which could be added.


If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

The following prayer shines more light on God’s positive will. Found in Uniting in Worship.


You are the Lord our God who saved us from the slavery of sin through your son Jesus Christ who paid the price on the cross and secured eternal life for us through his resurrection.

Where our devotion was not focused on you alone –

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have not been satisfied with your own testimony of yourself, seeking to add to it a false image of our own making –

Have mercy on us, O God

God where we used your name disrespectfully or to give credibility to our own false promises or to intimidate others –

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have worked ceaselessly without stopping to remember and to celebrate that you have delivered us from sin –

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have not shown respect to people with experience or to people in authority

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have become wasters, not respecting the resources of the earth or where we have acted with violence, or out of hate or out of feelings of personal injury

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have been unfaithful in thought and in deed, or provided occasion for others to be unfaithful –

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have been unfair to others, or taken advantage of the kindness others

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have lied to one another or testified against another deceitfully, without concern for their reputation or the truth –

Have mercy on us, O God

Where we have been motivated by jealousy or the competitive desire to possess more

Have mercy on us, O God

and forgive our sins in the name of Jesus



God has forgiven us all our trespasses, having cancelled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this God set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Colossians 2:13, 14

Rev Zak Cronjé,
UCA Minister, Bicton, Perth.


A fun way for kids to ‘memorize’ 10 commandments – & the positives
Visualize each number as a rhyming image:

1 Bun:     No other gods – bun shaped as a god
2 Shoe:   No idols – shoe hung on idol’s feet
3 Tree:    No swearing – fall from tree swearing
4 Door:   Remember Sabbath – church door
5 Hive:    Honour parents – beehive family
6 Sticks:  No murder – kill with big stick
7 Heaven: No adultery – no marriage/divorce there
8 Gate:    No stealing – thief creeps through gate
9 Vine:    No lies – vineyard owner exaggerates
10 Hen:  No coveting – wanting friend’s fat hen

10 commands

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What on earth is God doing? by Owen Salter

Times of Refreshing, by Greg Beech

Renewal Blessing, by Ron French

Catch the Fire, by Dennis Plant

Reflections, by Alan Small

A Fresh Wave, by Andrew Evans

Waves of Glory, by David Cartledge

Balance, by Charles Taylor

Discernment, by John Court

Renewal Ministry, by Geoff Waugh

Book Reviews:

Comment on books by Partick Dixon, Rob Warner, Guy Chevreau, Mike Feardon, Dave Roberts, Wallace Boulton, John Arnott, Andy & Jane Fitz-Gibbon, and Ken & Lois Gott

Renewal Journal 7: Blessing – PDF





This Renewal Journal continues to discuss controversial issues, such as the current ‘blessing’ transforming thousands of churches and multiplied thousands of people in the last few years.

People often have strong and opposite opinions about whether it is indeed a ‘blessing’ or not.

What can we make of it all?


Important cautions need to be made. To endorse and swallow everything that is happening as good would overlook the usual excesses, theological imbalances, and human sin. We are never free of that. It is present in all we do.

So we need to recognize our own bias to sin and to blindness. We all need the light of God’s grace and mercy.

Often those who most strongly assert their own theological purity may tragically disobey the most important commandments of all – to love God and love others. Theological purists, of all traditions, tend to judge others in direct contraction to Jesus command (Matthew 7:1 – judge not).


Having said that, we do need to exercise wisdom and discernment.

Some groups are excessively emotional and gullible. Other groups are excessively intellectual and proud. Others toss around like the waves of the ocean, riding the latest fad. None of us are free of a blind spot or two. So we need to walk humbly with our God, open to correction and willing to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).

God gives grace to the humble and wisdom to the meek, but he resists the proud. The discernment we need is available but hidden from the worldly wise and haughty. That is a key to understanding this current ‘blessing’.

Thousands of God’s people testify to the humbling grace of God transforming their lives, even with and often through strange manifestations. Hard hearts are softened, and people weep – then joy comes in the morning. Burdened souls find release in joy unspeakable, full of glory and wonder, including laughter. Broken lives find a peace that passes understanding even in the midst of uncertainty; worry dissolves into exultant faith.


A common thread in the blessing of the mid-nineties is the empowering grace of God multiplied to those who hunger and thirst after what is right.

More than most of us have ever seen, we now see, hear about and read of significant changes in people and in churches where the current blessing has burst into bloom.

Pastors confess their sins of control, pride, theological rigidity, jealousy and fear of people’s opinions. Many are reconciled and work publicly together for God’s glory, not for the glory of their own denomination or theological stance. Churches which once competed, blamed others for ‘sheep stealing’ and criticised each other, have confessed their sins of division and hatred, found reconciliation and an astonishing love for one another. Many of them now co-operate to minister this blessing together.

Blessing in the nineties catapulted so many of us into new dimensions of renewal and revival in the 21st century.  This century opened with renewal and revival transforming individuals, churches and whole communities. The Renewal Journals document some of those recent changes. 


The current ‘blessing’ has been around long enough for us to assess its fruit in thousands of churches and lives.  Ask around.  You may be amazed at the people who will tell you of God’s grace bursting into their lives in these days, of new zeal for the Lord, of worn out leaders refreshed and renewed, of timid Christians finding surprising boldness and joy. 

The high and mighty are being brought low, and the lowly made strong.  Such is the Kingdom of God.  Surely it is logical that if the glory and power of God touches us even a little, we will be undone, shake, tremble, weep or laugh for sheer joy. 

The Renewal Journal, Number 5, on ‘Signs and Wonders’ included comment on the current blessing from overseas by Derek Prince, John Wimber, Jerry Steingard and others.  It included some early Australian observations on this blessing.  This issue, Number 7, gives Australian testimony and comment from leaders involved in it. 

Owen Salter describes developments in Australia and overseas.  Greg Beech, and Ron French add historical reflection to their testimonies.  Dennis Plant, Alan Small, Andrew Evans and David Cartledge give their perspectives on the impact they have seen in the church.  Charles Taylor and John Court offer wise counsel, and I comment on our discoveries in current renewal ministry. 

The Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (formerly Toronto Airport Vineyard Christian Fellowship), which during the first two years of the current blessing impacted about 100,000 people a year continues to minister in its significant expression of this current blessing.  The Vineyard Churches also continue to minister that blessing in their unique way which has brought blessing to thousands around the world.  Others minister this blessing in their own ways also, such as the Anglicans at Holy Trinity Brompton in London, the combined churches in Sunderland in England, Melbourne in Florida, Pasadena in California, and various Pentecostal expressions of this impact such as ministries of people like Rodney Howard-Browne, Benny Hinn, Argentine healing evangelists, and many others. 

And you? And me?

If, as multiplied thousands testify, God is blessing his people in profound ways right now, may we not miss the day of our visitation.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.  They shall be filled (Matthew 5:6).

© Renewal Journal 7: Blessing, 1996, 2nd edition 2011.


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RJ 04 Healing 1Missionary Translator and Doctor, by David Lithgow

My Learning Curve on Healing, by Jim Holbeck

Spiritual Healing, by John Blacker

Deliverance and Freedom, by Colin Warren

Christian Wholeness Counselling, by John Warlow

A Healing Community, by Spencer Colliver

Divine Healing & Church Growth, by Donald McGavran

Sounds of Revival, by Sue Armstrong

Revival Fire at Wuddina, by Trevor Faggotter

Healing by Francis MacNutt; 
Power Healing
by John Wimber & Kevin Springer; 
Healing through Deliverance
by Peter Horrobin;
Healing in the Now by John Blacker;
All Together in One Place by Harold Hunter & Peter Hocken (eds)

Renewal Journal 4: Healing – PDF


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The cover photo shows Grant Shaw with Leah WaqaGrant Shaw and I attended the Sunday service at the Upper Room church in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu in the South Pacific.  There Leah, a nurse, told how she had been dispensing medicines at the hospital that week when parents brought in their young daughter who had been badly hit in a car accident, and showed no signs of life – the monitor registered zero – no pulse.  Leah felt unusual boldness, so commanded the girl to live, and prayed for her for an hour, mostly in tongues.  After an hour the monitor started beeping and the girl recovered.

Grant joined me on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu.  South Pentecost attracts tourists with its land diving – men jumping from high bamboo towers with vines attached to their ankles.  Grant prayed for a jumper who had hurt his neck, and the neck crackled back into place.  That young man and his father both gave their lives to the Lord right there in the village.  Grant prayed for a son of the paramount chief of South Pentecost.  He was healed from a painful leg and later he invited the team to come to his village to pray for the sick.  No white people had been invited there to minister previously.  More were healed there in Jesus’ name.  The full account is in South Pacific Revivals by Geoff Waugh (2010).

Healing is a tough subject, especially if you or your loved ones are sick!

Attitudes to ‘the healing ministry’ and theologies about healing vary greatly. At one extreme lies the claim that everyone can and should be well, and if you have enough faith in God you will be healed; at the other extreme lies the claim that healing, if it occurs, now happens through medical science.

People at the first extreme tend to avoid medical help, trust in God alone for healing, and deny any ‘lying symptoms’. However, they usually acknowledge the importance of healthy food, exercise, rest and positive attitudes – which people at the other extreme also acknowledge.

The truth, I believe, doesn’t just stand somewhere in the middle, but in both. God heals. His healing power is always at work in us with every heartbeat, every breath. Life is his gift to us. Healthy living contributes to good health. Oranges and Vitamin C tablets promote health. So do healthy attitudes. So does prayer, and faith.

We know that being healthy is good, not bad. We go to a doctor or we take medicine because that can help overcome sickness and restore health.

Most of us pray for healing, for others and for ourselves. We usually appreciate others praying for us. We pray for others in many different ways.

It may be the general ‘God bless them’ prayer or our wish for their well being. It may be the more specific ‘Heal them, please God’ or ‘Lord lay your healing hand on them’. It may be the still more specific prayer with a person as we lay our hand on them in Jesus’ name. It may be the even more specific prayer or command, led and anointed by the Holy Spirit, through various gifts of the Spirit including healing, miracles, faith, prophecy, words of knowledge or wisdom, discernment of spirits, or tongues and maybe interpretation.

And sometimes we don’t pray for healing, but it happens anyway!

More difficult to understand is when we do pray for healing, we do have faith, we ‘trust and obey’ and yet healing does not happen, as far as we can see. We have to acknowledge that we don’t ‘see’ very far yet. There is a mystery in healing, as there is in living. We don’t understand the mystery of life, nor do we understand a lot about eternal life.

However, we know that God gives life, and sustains life. We can learn more about how to co-operate with God, including learning how to pray more effectively, believe more truly, and love more fully.

Healing is complex. Most healing takes time, but intervention through prayer or medicine can speed up the process, sometimes dramatically. Healing also involves the whole being – spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). These are inter-related.

We are also learning more about blockages to healing such as unforgiveness, unbelief, unhappiness, and unwillingness to yield fully to God. These can be removed in a loving, caring environment.

One major discovery in charismatic renewal, and in similar ministries, has been the reality of God’s healing grace revealing the Father’s love, such as through compassionate prayer in Jesus’ name in the power of the Holy Spirit. This ministry of love and compassion increases everywhere now.

Those who live and worship in places or among people where there is love, compassion, forgiveness, faith, courage and support for one another are especially blessed, for all these facilitate healing. As we yield to the Spirit of God among us, these abound, and so does healing. This is part of the Lord’s purpose and commission for his church – to be a loving and healing community.

We believe that Jesus healed, especially in compassion for people. He commanded and taught his disciples to preach the good news about the reign of God, heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. Jesus is the same – yesterday, today and forever. His commission is the same still. We are learning again to humbly and courageously obey him in the power of his Spirit. There is more to learn and do yet.

This issue of the Renewal Journal aims to help you do that. David Lithgow, Jim Holbeck, John Blacker, Colin Warren, John Warlow and Spencer Colliver tell of their discoveries and understanding of healing. Sue Armstrong and Trevor Faggotter describe revival movements which also include healing through prayer.

The next issue of the Renewal Journal, Number 5 (95:1), looks at Signs and Wonders including an overview of their place in the church throughout history and their explosion in revival movements today. Subsequent issues are planned for topics such as worship, prayer and compassion. These take on new meaning and expression in renewal ministry.

The Renewal Journal will continue to carry articles on renewal and revival across all churches and in the community. Please pray as you read! May God bring healing to the land as we repent and believe the good news of God’s great grace.

© Renewal Journal 4: Healing, 1994, 2nd edition 2011

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See Also


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Renewal Journal 3:



Renewal Journal 3: CommunityLower the Drawbridge, by Charles Ringma

Called to Community, by Dorothy Mathieson and Tim McCowan

Covenant Community, by Shayne Bennett

The Spirit in the Church, by Adrian Commadeur

House Churches, by Ian Freestone

Church in the Home, by Spencer Colliver

The Home Church, by Colin Warren

China’s House Churches, by Barbara Nield

Renewal in a College Community, by Brian Edgar

Spirit Wave, by Darren Trinder

Book & DVD Review: Viva Christo Rey!

Renewal Journal 3: Community – PDF


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Pray always

1 Thessalonians 5:17

Every revival is born in prayer, in seeking the Lord earnestly together. Every revival is sustained in prayer, as people continue to seek God and bring others into praying, believing, obeying communities of God’s people.

Young George Whitefield, converted at 21 in 1735 wrote in his journal in 1737:

We began to set apart an hour every evening, to intercede with the Great Head of the Church to carry on the work begun… Once we spent a whole night in prayer and praise: and many a time, at midnight and at one in the morning, after I have been wearied almost to death in preaching, writing and conversation, and going from place to place, God imparted new life to my soul, and enabled me to intercede with Him for an hour-and-a-half and two hours together… I cannot think it presumption to suppose that partly, at least, in answer to prayers then put up by His dear children, the Word for some years past, has run and been glorified, not only in England, but in many other parts of the world. [George Whitefield’s Journals (1960:91)]

The Spirit of the Lord was poured out on one of those praying groups in January 1739. Within two months the crowds which gathered to hear George Whitefiled preach at Kingswood near Bristol had grown from 200 to 20,000 as God’s Spirit moved upon them. John Wesley began his famous open air preaching with those crowds and continued that for fifty years.

Pray always

I recently visited Elcho Island, east of Darwin, with a team of 15 for their annual Thanksgiving Weekend on the anniversary of the revival there in 1979. God’s Spirit moved most strongly that weekend, I believe, when we waited on the Lord together, with Aboriginal leaders responding sensitively to the Spirit’s leading. We worshipped and prayed. Small clusters of people prayed for those who sought prayer, and God touched them gently and strongly.

The small communities there impressed me. Many people pray constantly, for hours a day, still. In some of those remote places the presence of the Lord is strong. The fires of the Spirit burn.

We can all do that – in our home groups, house churches, and meetings. We can wait on the Lord in worship and prayer and respond to his Spirit among us.

May revival fires be blown by the wind of the Spirit across this great south land of the Holy Spirit, igniting thousands of communities of the King.

God’s Spirit now moves like gusts of wind blowing and like waves breaking over us. It can be turbulent.

Many people report that their lives have been profoundly disturbed lately. Props and false securities are being shaken. False foundations crumble revealing what is built on the Rock.

This issue of the Renewal Journal explores some of the emerging developments as human structures are shaken and eternal issues emerge. In radical small communities people are learning to be the church, to pray in faith, to use spiritual gifts, to serve one another, to reach out in love. Increasingly, small groups are becoming the church in the home and the work place for many people. Some are linked with congregations. Some are house churches.

Communities of the King multiply. God is raising up a new breed of people committed to him and to one another, loving and serving in the power of the Spirit.

The articles in this issue of the Journal describe that. Charles Ringma, Dorothy Harris and Tim McCowan call us to discipleship in community life. Shayne Bennett and Adrian Commadeur report on charismatic communities among Catholics. Ian Freestone, Spencer Colliver and Col Warren outline emerging patterns of house churches and Barbara Nield examines the amazing growth in China’s house churches. Brian Edgar tells of renewal in a Bible College community and Darren Trinder reports on Spirit waves in Christian Outreach Centres across Australia.

Spirit waves

God moves in many ways, including the multiplying of these emerging small communities of committed people. Thousands are praying as never before. Reports continue to come of God’s Spirit stirring.

All across this land the Spirit of God is leading people to wait on the Lord in worship, prayer and faith, then minister in the Spirit’s power. This journal strongly encourages that.

A lady in Belmont, Victoria wrote, ‘We thoroughly enjoy reading the Renewal Journal and have started a prayer group for revival.’

A husband and wife in Newtown in Victoria were blessed by the Journal and as a result they started a prayer group for renewal in their Reformed Church.

A young man in Brisbane bought extra copies of the Renewal Journal to distribute to his leaders’ group at his church and has urged them to spend more time seeking the Lord together.

This Renewal Journal strongly encourages prayer – personally, in groups and families, and in networks of praying people.


© Renewal Journal #3: Community 1994, 2nd edition 2011

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Church Growth

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Renewal Journal: 2 Church GrowthChurch Growth through Prayer, by Andrew Evans

Growing a Church in the Spirit’s Power, by Jack Frewen-Lord

Evangelism brings Renewal, by Cindy Pattishall-Baker

New Life for an Older Church, by Dean Brookes

Renewal Leadership, by John McElroy

Reflections on Renewal, by Ralph Wicks

Local Revivals in Australia, by Stuart Piggin

Asia’s Maturing Church, by David Wang

Astounding Church Growth, by Geoff Waugh

Book Reviews:
Heart of Fire by Barry Chant,
The Spirit in the Church
by Adrian Commadeur,
Streams of Renewal by Robert Bruce (ed),
Word and Spirit by Alison Sherington,
Living in the Spirit by Geoff Waugh,
Reviews of the Renewal Journal by Lewis Born and James Haire

Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth – PDF


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Jesus is totally committed to radical church growth.  He promised to build his church.  He is still doing that – in astounding ways.  We can co-operate with him as he works in us and through us.

The famous revivalist, Reuben A. Torrey, reported on moves of God’s Spirit in his time early this century. We can pray and participate in this in our day. Here is Torrey’s comment. God can do this for your church

The very first sermon I preached as pastor of Moody Church, Chicago, was on prayer. As I drew my address to a close I said something like this:

‘Beloved brethren and sisters, how glad it would make your new pastor if he knew that some of you people sat up late every Saturday evening and rose early every Sunday morning to pray for their minister.’

Those honest souls took me at my word. What was the result? When I took the pastorate, the church (which seats about 2,200 in comfort) had never been filled above the main auditorium and the galleries had never been opened. But God heard prayer, and in a few weeks the place was packed.

But that was not the best of it. The power of God fell, and from that day till I left America, there was never a single Sunday without conversions. I don’t believe that there has been a single day in the whole of the ten years that have since passed without somebody being converted in or about that building.

You say, ‘That must have been remarkable preaching!’ Not at all. I was away five months in almost every year, but the work went on.

What God did for that church, he can do for yours. Pray without ceasing. Pray and believe. Pray and obey.

Thank you for your interest in this Renewal Journal. Many people have found it timely and helpful.

A minister in Ulverstone, Tasmania, wrote saying how appropriate the Journal was because the Lord is moving in that area in ways described in the Journal.

A man in Wangaratta, Victoria, noted that the Renewal Journal ‘has come at just the right time when there are stirrings of the Spirit in our own area after a long dry spell.’

A lady from the Atherton Tablelands in North Queensland wrote: ‘I believe the Lord is awakening his people because everyone I talk to has the same urgency about prayer in the churches. Many who have been sitting still for years are beginning to blossom and are encouraged and growing more than they have for twenty years in a short space of time. People are returning to the churches of their own accord – not through being witnessed to, but because the Lord is drawing them. This can only be because God’s people are praying and this is enabling the Holy Spirit to work.’

A man in Brisbane was so interested in the Renewal Journal he bought 50 copies to sell at meetings. He sold them all.

A group in Adelaide has been distributing the Journals at meetings.

These people all requested bulk orders of the Journal so they could pass copies on to their friends.

We encourage you to do the same. That will help us keep the Renewal Journal afloat, for we need more subscribers for this new journal. Friends telling friends are our best advertising.

You can still obtain copies of the first issue, on revival. It has struck a strong chord for many people.

This second issue explores church growth. Andrew Evans describes the place of prayer in a church that grew from 150 to 3,500 people. Jack Frewen-Lord, Cindy Pattishall-Baker and Dean Brookes all report on significant growth in Uniting Churches. John McElroy outlines vital leadership principles in growing churches. Stuart Piggin gives an overview of local revivals in Australia and Trevor Faggoter tells the story of one of these. David Wang tells of revival growth in Asia, and I comment on the astounding church growth in the world today.

I’ve been encouraged by reports of people who have started prayer groups for revival since reading the first issue of this journal. The example of people giving one day a month for prayer and fasting, described in this issue by Andrew Evans, has been taken up by more churches. One young man in Brisbane heard of this and asked his minister if he could organize it in their church. He promptly gathered a list of over 31 people who would pray and fast for their church and for revival one day a month. Now they have someone doing that every day of each month.

Stuart Piggin’s article in this issue tells of over 6,000 Anglicans in Sydney now gathering regularly to pray for revival.

Not only are more people praying than ever before, but there are now reports of the Spirit of God moving more strongly in individuals and in churches, such as the reports at the beginning of this editorial. In church services and prayer meetings whole groups of people are being touched afresh by God. Some groups now report strong impacts of the Spirit in people’s lives like we saw in the early seventies. Many are renewed. Many saved. Many have visions or are overwhelmed by the Spirit.

Hoist your sail! Fresh winds blow across the land now.

(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011)

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Renewal Journal 1: Revival – PDF


Renewal Journal 1:  RevivalPraying the Price, by Stuart Robinson

Prayer and Revival, by J Edwin Orr

Pentecost in Arnhem Land, by Djiniyini Gondarra

Power from on High: The Moravian Revival, by John Greenfield

Revival Fire, by Geoff Waugh


Cho, David Yonggi. 1984. Prayer: Key to Revival,

Burgess, S. M. and McGee, G. B. 1990. Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements,

Jan Jongenell, ed. 1990. Experiences of the Spirit,

Jan Jongeneel, et. al. eds. 1992. Pentecost, Mission and Ecumenism: Essays on Intercultural Theology. Festschrift in Honour of Professor Walter J. Hollenweger,

Geoff Waugh, ed. 1991. Church on Fire,

YWAM Videos/DVDs.

Renewal Journal 1: Revival – PDF


Great Revival Stories

Pentecost in Arnhem Land and Power from on High are chapters in Great Revival Stories – with free airmail postage worldwide and on Kindle for your PC, tablet & smartphone.

Great Revival Stories – PDF

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Renewal Journal 1: Revival on Amazon and Kindle and The Book Depository


Welcome to the first issue of the Renewal Journal. It is a resource in renewal ministries for the whole church, the body of Christ.

This issue describes a little of the amazing move of God’s Spirit in the world today. Future issues will give more details, especially on how renewal and revival affect us. We can be involved. We need to be. We can pray for revival and believe God’s promises. We can humble ourselves, pray, seek God, and repent (2 Chronicles 7:14). We need to repent of our disobedience, for we have not loved God wholeheartedly and we have not always loved one another.

Many thousands of praying groups now meet in unity across the land like showers of glowing sparks blown by God’s wind. Prayer cells, home groups, church prayer meetings, vocational groups, student groups and informal clusters of friends gather regularly in ever-increasing numbers. Your praying groups are part of that vast movement raised up by God.

We are learning to pray and minister as Jesus did, as he taught his disciples to do, and as he told them to teach others to do (Matthew 28:18-20). It’s a massive revolution in prayer and ministry in homes, farms, schools, colleges, universities, and workplaces, as well as in many churches.

This journal encourages you to pray in faith for renewal and revival. You can make a difference – a big difference. Pray in unity with others. It only takes two or three, as Jesus told us (Matthew 18:20).

The articles in this issue by Stuart Robinson and Edwin Orr show the vital link between earnest prayer and revival. Djiniyini Gondarra describes recent touches of God’s Spirit which have affected Aboriginal communities. John Greenfield’s writings recall the impact of the Moravian revival, and I give an overview of revival movements including some current examples.

Reviews and news in this Renewal Journal will inform you of some current renewal activities and resources.

You could keep copies of the Renewal Journal in your church or college library. Some home groups or churches may be interested in arranging bulk orders for their people. Please don’t throw your copy away! Pass it on to a friend.

Your prayer and support, such as encouraging people to subscribe, will help to keep this new venture going. I am grateful for the constant prayer and personal support given by our Renewal Fellowship in Brisbane which grew naturally out of a small home group, and for the involvement of the Brisbane Outreach Centre School of Ministries which is publishing this Renewal Journal from 1999.

Pray without ceasing

All across the land thousands of small groups are praying. Many are spontaneous, brought together by God. Some congregations have dozens or scores of praying groups now. Every revival began this way. Your part in this is vital.

We urge you to pray on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings for your leaders as they prepare, pray and preach. We also urge you to join with us and others praying on Mondays every week (in groups or alone) for renewal and revival, for God’s glory. Be encouraged as you join with thousands of others in earnest prayer for revival in the land.

If you have 31 people willing to set aside one day a month to fast and pray for revival and for your ministry, you would have someone in your church or fellowship doing so every day of the year. That is now happening in some churches in Australia.

If you have 168 people willing to set aside one hour a week to pray for revival and for your ministry, you could have continuous prayer around the clock, in hourly shifts, day and night all year long. The Moravians did that for 100 years. We can now, in this day of God’s power.

The Renewal Journal will keep you informed of developments as we hear about them. One example is the 600 million people now involved in Pentecostal, charismatic and church renewal, which is over one-quarter of all Christians. Those numbers continue to explode in revival.

May revival fire burn brightly within us all so that thousands believe, the church comes alive, and communities are radically transformed by God. To God be the glory.


Renewal Journal 1:  Revival(c) Renewal Journal 1: Revival (1993, 2011)

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RJ Vol 1 (1-5) 1

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