The Revival without Repentance

 

By Mark Greenwood

August 2003 ã

 

In 1994 the ‘Toronto Blessing Revival’ started to sweep over the world and eventually came to Sheffield, England, where I live. There were four main places here that promoted this revival as far as I am aware, these were, ‘The Kings Centre’ (A Charismatic offshoot from House Church), ‘Walkley Baptist’ as then was, ‘St Thomas’’ (A Charismatic Anglican church in the Crookes area of Sheffield), and ‘Hope of Sheffield’ (led by an Australian who had a Pentecostal background). Other places may have dabbled at this time.

  Peter Fenwick of House Church openly opposed the ‘Toronto Blessing’ as not being from God.

  In all true revivals there is always a mixture of what is from God, what is from self and what is of the devil. The responsibility of the leaders is to discern between these and warn the flock about actions that will promote the enemies work in the church. Let us look at some of the actions in this ‘revival’ and discern their root.

  At Kings Centre where the leaders had been to Toronto, the chairs were removed from the hall and the people who had come for this experience all stood around waiting for something to happen. I went along and we were encouraged not to praise the Lord or focus on God but rather to just open ourselves to receive. This was said to me because I started to praise and worship God. I was told by the leader to “shut up and just receive”, how could I possibly expect to receive anything while I was giving. It wasn’t said with love but more with contempt. Folk from Kings Centre then went round wafting their hands over the recipients and saying “come Holy Spirit”. People gradually went down on the floor, this was the ‘proof’ that they had got it. Many started to make animal noises or weird actions including what was called the chicken dance and ‘giving birth’. Many animal noises were now apparent as the whole place was affected by this strange ‘revival’. Since this time the leadership at Kings Centre has all changed and it is now linked in fellowship with St. Thomas’ church.

  At the Hope of Sheffield a meeting was held with visitors from America who had been to Toronto, after the main meeting the chairs were removed and people were prayed over so that they might be slain (supposedly) in the Spirit.

  Walkley Baptist had visitors from Toronto and again there were many weird manifestations of animal noises and actions.

  St Thomas’ also had after meetings for the ‘Toronto Blessing’ where people were ‘slain in the Spirit’.

  Around 1995/6 I started to go to St Marks at Grenoside, Sheffield where the Vicar was Mark Stibbe. At this time he was unsure what to make of the ‘Toronto Blessing’, was it of God, man, or the devil, or was there a mixture?

  I eventually left St Marks and started going to St Thomas’. After the main meeting there would be a time for people with needs to come forth and be zapped as it was jokingly called. The phrase “Come Holy Spirit”, with the wafting of the hands became a main feature. Someone went to Toronto and the ‘laughing revival’ started at St Thomas’. He would start to laugh in the meeting and would not be able to stop. Others also started to laugh. I remember one meeting where the leaders were all called to the front and the spirit of laughter was waft upon them bringing most of them to their knees or flat out on the floor in uncontrollable laughter.

  I also remember two separate manifestations of people acting like snakes, completely controlled and dominated by the spirit. It was recognised that this wasn’t God but rather the devil. People would come to the front at every meeting in order to be zapped. The congregation was growing fast with hundreds of young people coming to the meetings. There were many real and lovely Christians involved here, but the question remains, “were they bewitched”?

  Signs and wonders became the big desire at St. Thomas’. The leaders went to meetings where the gold dust was manifested, but I don’t know that this was ever manifested at St. Thomas’, however someone did manifest oil in the palms of their hands.

  I had been brought up in a Pentecostal church and was baptised in the Holy Spirit. While at St. Thomas’ I looked for the witness in my spirit so that I might be part of what was happening, it never came and after three years I left St. Thomas’ church.

  Before all this started, back in 1993, I was in House church and felt there was a need for a revival of God’s people. A revival that would bring us back to a place of surrender to God and release the gifts of the Spirit with signs to confirm the preaching of the word. I wrote an article for the church magazine warning about the cares and pleasures of this life that would choke the Word and prevent it bringing forth fruit in our lives. In general the reason why we cannot do the works of God is because of a lack of faith, which is a manifestation of hardness of heart (Mark 16 v 14, John 14 v 12, Matthew 17 v 20). 

  True revival always involves repentance, first from Christians then, as it spills over into the world, from non-Christians. I finished my article with these words. “Yes! God is doing wonderful things in our lives each and every day. He is answering our prayers and revealing things to us, but are we doing the things that He said we would do if we believed? If not then I suggest the first step towards revival is that we humble ourselves and repent of a hard heart asking God to soften our hearts and give us a heart of faith.” The Editor refused to print it saying “that the emphasis is critical and negative” however she would reconsider if I changed it and removed the critical parts. I did not feel that it was critical of the church but rather it recognised the need of the church. I felt it very important that the article remained intact and that it was a warning for the church for what was to come. This was October 1993. It was never printed but I did pass the warning on to others to read.

  To leave out all the so called ‘critical points’ would have meant accepting a revival without repentance, a revival exactly the same as the ‘Toronto Blessing’. 

  A week ago I was speaking to someone who said, concerning the ‘Toronto Blessing’, “You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. I can agree with that statement however my question is, “what does the baby represent in this revival”? This prompted me to write this article.  I hope that it will help people to be more discerning about spiritual manifestations and the spirit behind them (1Corinthians 12 v 10, 14 v 29).

  If the baby represented the people then I certainly believe that there are a lot of real Christians who are on the fringe, if not fully involved, in this revival, but I don’t think we would look at people being the baby but rather we would have to look at the core itself which is either the manifestations of signs and wonders or some specific doctrine. If these are of the Holy Spirit they will give glory to Jesus Christ, if they are not of the Spirit they will focus in and on themselves as something to be desired and sought after.

  Manifestations of course neither prove nor disprove anything, but seeing as how they make up the biggest part of this revival then we need to look at them more closely to see if we should throw them out with the bathwater or keep them so we can build on their foundation.

  In past revivals there has been much weeping and groaning. This can be of the flesh but it can also be a sign of deep repentance as a person sees the wretchedness of their state.

  In this revival one of the main manifestations was the spirit of laughter. Laughter, I am sure, can well be the result of being full of the joy of the Lord. The bible tells us that the “joy of the Lord is our strength” and we are told to “rejoice”. So the joy of the Lord is something we need to be full of. To be full of the joy of the Lord would cause us to worship the Lord. The laughter in this revival was not the result of an inner joy but rather was a power that took control over people resulting in them not being able to control themselves. This could go on for hours and often at the most inappropriate moments.

  What was the source of this laughter?

  Watchman Nee 1 warns against seeking this so called “holy laugh”. He says, “He who claims to have this kind of laughing cannot control himself”. He goes on to say “Can this possibly be the fullness of the Holy Spirit? Can this be His work? No, this is plainly one of the works of the soul”. The person may ask to be filled with the Spirit but their real desire is that they want to laugh.

  John Wesley also came across this manifestation and was convinced it was of the devil. 2 He spoke of some “who were buffeted of Satan in an unusual manner, by such a spirit of laughter as they could in nowise resist”. He had come across this same thing many years before and saw it as a tool of Satan to disturb the meetings and to stop them singing God’s praises. 

  If we line everything up with the word then this all controlling laughter can be thrown out with the bath water.

  I think that many people now agree that animal imitations are not of God. In the Westminster Biographies on John Wesley, 3 it is recorded that his brother Charles, when meeting with a French Prophet who “fell into violent agitations and gobbled like a turkey-cock”, prayed to cast the demon out. John Wesley warned his people against them and “to avoid as fire all who do not speak according to the law and the testimony.” These definitely need throwing out with the bathwater.

  The term “come Holy Spirit” on the surface can appear scriptural however the hearts desire here is for manifestations for the sake of manifestations. We do not pray to the Holy Spirit to “come” but rather we ask the Father in Jesus Name for the Holy Spirit that we might glorify Jesus. Jessie Penn-Lewis says, 4 “The Holy Spirit is not to be prayed to, or asked to come, as He is the Gift of Another”. When we focus on the Holy Spirit we grieve the Holy Spirit because He has come to point us to Jesus Christ and not to Himself. By seeking such spiritual manifestations we are also creating the right conditions for deceiving spirits to operate.

  To receive this ‘spirit’ I was told (at Kings Centre) not to worship Jesus but instead to open myself up to receive the Spirit, or should I say ‘spirit’? Passivity of the mind is an open door for the spirit of deception.

  All these things can and should be thrown out. But what should be saved? Here we need to look at what doctrine is emphasised. Unfortunately the one thing that I felt was missing was an emphasis on sound doctrine or in fact any doctrine. I was not on my own here as others who are faithful in their support of St Thomas’s were concerned that they were not getting any real food as far as sound doctrine went.

  Looking back at St Thomas’ I believe there were three main areas that were emphasised. The first emphasis was on the church itself, the second emphasis was on the Spirit and being zapped by the Spirit and the third emphasis was on signs and wonders.  Their ‘vision’ was ‘up, in, and out’. Up to God in worship, in with one another in fellowship and out to the world to bring them in. They also ran several Alpha courses for new Christians or people that weren’t saved but interested in knowing more. A major emphasis in these was the Holy Spirit weekend.

  St. Thomas’ eventually set up their own web site, which I thought would certainly give some idea what biblical doctrines they emphasised. There was none. 

  Things have moved on since when I left three years ago. It would be nice to think that their emphasis was now on Jesus Christ and Him crucified but only those now involved can answer that. An insight into what kind of structure has been built on the foundation of the Toronto Blessing can be found on their new web site.

  Their new web site can be found at http://www.stthomaschurch.org.uk/

  The web site for their youth involvement can be found at http://www.churchnext.net/

  The ministry team at St Thomas’ has a lot of charisma. For young people (whether saved or not) there is a lot of encouragement to be part of what is happening. It’s family and it’s fun. A lot is happening at St. Thomas’; they are growing together as a community and reaching out into “all the world”. But what is their real gospel, what is the ‘good news’ they emphasise?  Are they busy building up a massive church structure that they have lost the emphasis on the simplicity of the gospel. Has their emphasis on reaching out and building groups and ‘tribes’ of people all being part of a family and having fun, taken the place of teaching sound doctrine?

  St Thomas’ is a force to be reckoned with in this part of the world. I hope the leadership will get back to lining up their foundation and structure with the word of God.

  As far as I am aware there was no doctrine in the bathwater to save, so then what was the baby that we needed to save from being thrown out with the bathwater? 

When God does move by His Spirit on any congregation, whether by great conviction of sin, by sending times of refreshing and revival, or in response to a humble attitude and right spirit in the congregation then there may be a manifestation of the move of God on the people present (see Acts 4 v 31).  However any move of God will also see a counter move of the enemy to discredit the work..  In all true moves of God the enemy will also manifest himself through unscriptural and unholy expressions in order to cause confusion and bring condemnation upon the whole work.  The godly leaders need to discern the difference and deal with the false manifestations before much damage is done. 

For more information about the laughter revival read Eddy Cheong's book "Deceiving The Elect" online at http://www.agape.com/laughter.htm

  Notes

  1. The Latent Power of The Soul by Watchman Nee. Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc. New York. Page 71
  2. The works of John Wesley, Vol. 2, page 392, 469 . Also, The Journal of the Rev. John Wesley Volume 1 page 271-272
  3. John Wesley by Frank Banfield. The Westminster Biographies. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co Limited. Page 46.
  4. War On The Saints by Jessie Penn-Lewis and Evan Roberts. The Overcomer Literature Trust. Page 46