In our last article of this two-part blog series, we looked at revival history in the New Testament and Protestant church from the 1700s through the 20th Century. In this continued look at revival history, I will finish the subject of revival’s effect upon theology as we turn to the 20th and 21st Century revivals. Let’s continue asking the Lord for discernment and increased receptivity as we tune our ears to His frequency and hear what He has to say about revival right now, as well as in the future.
The Impact of Revival Upon Theology in the 20th and 21st Centuries:
The 20th Century was birthed with the start of the Pentecostal movement. The last nine days of the 19th Century the Catholic pope called for a “Novena to the Holy Spirit”, asking all Catholics in the world to cry out for a visitation of the Holy Spirit. On the first day of the 20th Century the answer came in Topeka, Kansas when students at Bethel Bible School had the assignment to see if any phenomena would indicate a person knowing they had been baptized by the Holy Spirit. These students came to believe that evidence of Holy Spirit baptism is tongues.
Charles Fox Parham, a well-known member of the Holiness Movement and founder of the Holiness bible school, as well as other students laid hands on Agnes Ozman on January 1, 1901, specifically praying that she would be baptized in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues and the laying on of hands. She received what they were asking for. Many scholars believed this was the birth of the Pentecostal movement, at least in North America.
This was not the first time that tongues were spoken since the apostolic days. This phenomena had occurred for many centuries within the Ancient church. But, it was the first time it occurred within Protestantism with the interpretation that it gave evidence of Holy Spirit baptism. There were other accounts of this experience in which people did not see it as a sign of baptism in the Spirit.
Six years later the great Azusa Street Revival occurred, led by W. J. Seymore. And, during these early years of the 20th Century, there would be other Pentecostal breakouts in India, Chile, Korea and within a few more years, to many countries of the world.
The theology that accompanied the Pentecostal revival was the belief in which God was restoring the gifts of the Holy Spirit that Protestant cessationism had rejected: tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophecy, gifts of healing, and the working of miracles. Also, the hallmark of the new theology’s unique beliefs is that tongues were seen as the initial evidence of Holy Spirit baptism. It is also believed this experience must be separate and subsequent to conversion.
There has been great fruit from this revival. Today almost eighty percent of the Christians in Latin America, Asia and Africa who consider themselves Protestant claim to have had a Pentecostal experience. They embrace at least the restoration of the gifts, if not necessarily the initial evidence and subsequent teaching. This revival also produced a great missions movement.
The next great worldwide revival was the Latter Rain revival that broke out in 1947 among Pentecostals at the Sharon Orphanage in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. Like the Pentecostal movement which preceded it, this revival also produced a great missions movement which sent many people to the mission field. Evangelists would shake nations by the power of God on their lives to break open nations through healing and the Gospel. For example, Tommy Hicks was used of God to powerfully spread the Protestant message in Argentina, making the country no longer the graveyard of Protestant missionaries but the land known for its revivals.
Theology that developed in this revival put emphasis on prophecy and prophetic presbyteries. In addition, there was the experience of the Lord singing over His people, the heavenly choir, and prophecy raising to a higher level than it had in the Pentecostal revival. Two other emphasis were that spiritual gifts could be imparted by the laying on of hands and the importance of the local church equipping its members for ministry.
The next great revival was the Charismatic Renewal that began among the Episcopalians when Father Dennis Bennett spoke in tongues in southern California at his church and told his congregation about his experience. This move would break out in the Roman Catholic Church in America in 1967. The impact upon theology connected to this move of God was the emphasis upon unity among the people of Christian denominations. Before, many groups thought others were not Christians, and they questioned the belief that the witness of the Holy Spirit included tongues. Pentecostals who had endured rejection from most denominations had trouble believing this movement was truly of God.
Why did the Pentecostals have trouble believing the Charismatics were truly being baptized in the Holy Spirit? One must remember that the Pentecostals arose from the Holiness Churches which had strong commitments to the Temperance movement which called a person to totally abstain from all forms of alcohol. In the minds of the Pentecostals they were asking, How can a wine drinking Catholic, a beer drinking Lutheran, and a Scotch drinking Presbyterian speak in tongues and claim to be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Yet, this theology of greater unity, ecumenism, was part of the new theology. It was a theology of who could be saved, with a higher value on unity than any time since the Protestant Reformation.
The balance between God’s free gift of imputed righteousness and the importance of experiential righteousness has been brought to us through the role of the Holy Spirit. In the pursuit of experiential righteousness people become holy, consecrated, delivered, and have power over sin rather than sin having power over them. This put a focus on worship, the sacraments of the Lord’s Supper and baptism, as well as accountability in small groups.
Another great revival of this century occurred in the late 1960s, about 1968, and continued through about half of the next decade. It was called the Jesus Movement. It began in southern California. Some would say among the hippies. It would also touch many Christian colleges and the general population with a large majority of the youth (people under the age of 30) being saved. This is the revival in which my wife DeAnne got saved and that I was called to preach in.
There was not so much a major impact upon theology from this revival as there was a cultural change within the Church. This was noted especially in the area of worship. In time, this revival resulted in guitars and drums becoming more important than the piano organ that Martin Luther had taken out of bars in Germany and brought into church. At the time, this was seen as scandalous.
It is interesting that Martin Luther and Larry Norman, one of the main young musicians of the early Jesus Movement, said exactly the same thing: “Why should the devil have all the good music?” This statement was not about song lyrics or words but about the quality of the music.
This movement would also be more open to the gifts of the Spirit. It would have a major impact upon worship through its worship. The Calvary Chapel Movement would be born out of this move of God, as would the Vineyard Movement and other similar church planting movements.
This revival was followed by the Third Wave Revival under the leadership of John Wimber and propelled by the Vineyard Movement. The uniqueness of this movement was the desire of Wimber to demystify the gifts of the Spirit, teaching and training Christians in how to move in the gifts. It was a swing from God’s “Man of Power for the Hour” to His “Church of Power for the Hour”. It was a swing away from the gift of healing only being upon the healing evangelist to the gift of healing being upon the people of God. It was a swing away from emphasizing constituted gifts to emphasizing situational gifts.
The battle cry of this revival was to equip the saints for the work of ministry. Or, Just Do It. The focus was on the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit in power, and not being locked in to the classical framework for the necessary evidence to be speaking in tongues or for this to be the necessary subsequent experience of conversion. Wimber allowed for greater diversity than either the Evangelical or Pentecostal classical positions allowed. This movement also had an even greater impact on worship than that of preceding movements.
In the 1980s and 1990s there were several revivals in Argentina. One of the theological new perspectives that arose out of these revivals was the theology associated with Strategic Level Spiritual Warfare which meant to address or pray against principalities and powers in the unseen realm.
The next major world revival would be called many things: the Laughing Revival, the Toronto Blessing, the Pensacola Outpouring or the Brownsville Revival, and the Smithton Outpouring. Many saw these as separate revivals, but I see them as manifestations of one great outpouring beginning with the Rodney Howard-Browne in Lakeland, Florida. Then myself and John Arnott in Toronto, Canada; then Steve Hill and John Kilpatrick in Brownsville, FL; then Steve Gray in Smithton, Missouri; London, England; Pemba, Mozambique; and Bethel – Redding California.
Once again this revival produced millions of souls being saved, scores of thousands of new churches being started, as well as a focus on the Father’s heart, healing, prophecy and equipping the saints. The missionary work of Rolland and Heidi Baker was greatly impacted by what happened to them in Toronto and the prophetic word given to Heidi. Leif Hetland’s missionary work was likewise powerfully impacted through the laying on of hands and the prophecy that I gave him.
Missions would become a major theme of this revival, with one quarter of the sermons I preached during the first several years being on missions and the relationship between revival and missions.
The primary message and theological emphasis of my own ministry has been that of impartation through the laying on of hands and sometimes accompanied by prophecy.
I was sharing about the impact of this revival in England once when a key leader in Alpha asked me, “Why do you not talk about Alpha as one of the influences of the Toronto Blessing?” I told him that I was not aware there was a connection. He told me that he saw a connection right after the Toronto Blessing when Alpha really took off. I knew that Reverend Nicki Gumble had been profoundly touched by the Vineyard Movement through Wimber, but I did not know he had been touched by God through the Toronto Blessing.
Then there would be the fruit of the culture change at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. Pastor Bill Johnson was powerfully impacted and influenced by the Spirit of the Living God as well as the friendships and relationships he made with key leaders of the Toronto Blessing. Through Bill, an emphasis on the goodness of God would become a theological impact.
In summary, the following became strong theological emphasis of this revival: Missions especially through Rolland and Heidi Baker, Leif Hetland, Che Ahn, and myself; the Father’s heart through John and Carol Arnott; God is good through Bill Johnson; the importance of healing, signs and wonders to the proper proclamation of the Gospel through Bill Johnson and myself; and the primary message and theological emphasis of my own ministry has been that of impartation through the laying on of hands and sometimes accompanied by prophecy.
All of the members of the Revival Alliance: Rolland and Heidi Baker, Che and Sue Ahn, John and Carol Arnott, Georgian and Winnie Banov, Bill and Beni Johnson, as well as DeAnne and I were impacted through the power of impartation in this revival. But, not only were we touched; Evangelist Steve Hill was touched in London at the Holy Trinity Brompton Anglican Church on his way to Lakeland, FL, while Lindell Cooley and John Kilpatrick’s wife were touched powerfully in Toronto.
This revival ended in Toronto after six nights of meetings each week for twelve and one-half years. But the powerful result of the revival itself has continued through the work of those who went to the nations and who are influencing our nation. The work I have been involved with since 1999 in Brazil is even increasing with the number of very large, multiple-thousand member churches increasing dramatically in the last few years.
Action Point: Let us be faithful to carry the fire that God not only entrusted to the leaders of these revivals but to all of us. Join me and the Apostolic Network of Global Awakening in praying we continue as long as we have breath in our lungs. May we finish the course and have much fruit and trophies of grace of transformed lives to lay at the Master’s feet. God bless you!
P.S. Do you know what God’s will is for us? God-empowered living where the supernatural becomes our expectation. This is our inheritance in Christ. This is God’s will for us, for such a time as this. Come join me and many others at an upcoming Greater Things event.