Controversial Revival, Part II
The Elim Pentecostal denomination did not reject the Latter Rain revival, but did work to correct some of its excesses or unorthodox teachings. While I was speaking for the Elim denomination, I met the former President of the College. I asked him to tell me the most powerful story he knew related to their denomination. He told me about a family who was sent out by a prophetic presbytery to Kenya. It should be noted that - according to China missionary Dennis Balcomb, who was trained by Violet Kitely, one of the first prophetic ministers related to the Latter Rain movement - these presbyteries were to confirm what was already in the heart.
The missionary went to Kenya. After several months he had not led anyone to Jesus. He cried out telling the Lord he had moved his entire family to Kenya believing it was the will of God, but nothing was happening. A short time later he was standing in the city and saw a funeral procession coming where the casket was carried on the shoulders of men. The Lord spoke to the missionary, telling him to go and lay hands on the casket and command the man to be raised to life. The missionary believed and obeyed.
When he carried out the directive from the Lord, the people heard the dead man knocking on the inside of the casket. He was raised! As a result of this miracle, a revival broke out that led to more than 10,000 churches birthed from this movement.
This group, unlike the major Pentecostal denominations they were a part of, also questioned the eschatology of their parent groups, especially in regard to the state of the end-time Church. The leaders of the Latter Rain, with their typological understanding of the tabernacle and the Jewish Feasts as well as the teaching of Jesus regarding the Kingdom of God in Matthew 13, believed in an end-time victorious Church not a lukewarm Church. This was a departure from the one- hundred-year-old dispensational pre-tribulation rapture, pre-millennial viewpoint which had developed in the 1830s.
Another great move of God was the 1948 Healing Revival in Kansas CIty. Beginning with American minister William Branham, others would soon become key leaders who would be used to plant thousands of churches and see millions of people come into the Kingdom of God. Men like Oral Roberts, T.L. Osborn, Jack Coe, R.W. Schambach Lester Sumrall, would take evangelistic healing crusades all over the world, especially to Latin and South America, Africa, and the Philippines.
There were controversies with this part of the revival too. Controversies over pride, moral failures, exaggerated claims, and the tug of war between the powerful ministries some of the evangelists developed with their denominational leaders. However, the abundant fruit of revival spread rapidly through many countries. In line with the Puritans end-time view, it appeared God would in fact expand His kingdom on earth through seasons of revival. Just like the nineteenth century, the Spirit’s visitation again led to a great expansion of mercy ministries and missions.
I spoke with two leaders who were in their 70s and 80s, one who was involved from the beginning in the 1947 Latter Rain Revival and the other who traveled as a teenager with his father and their healing tent in the 1948 Healing Revival. They both told me what they believe caused the revivals to wane. The pastor from the 1948 Healing Revival told me, “There were so many healings that they began to be taken for granted and people lost the ability to be awed by what God was doing. I believe this grieved the heart of God.” At a meeting in Detroit one night the Latter Rain minister told me he believes the Spirit was pouring out and giving “the office” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers in order to equip the saints. But he believes people focused too much on “the office” itself and who has “the office”—rather than doing what “the office” was created to do and equip the saints.
This minister told me, “You know there were a lot of things men said were wrong with the revival, and I am sure there were some excesses somewhere. But these were not the norm, and what our critics said about us was not what the Lord was concerned about. He was concerned about ‘equipping the saints’. That is what you are doing, Randy. Never stop equipping the saints.”
This period of revival was not just experienced among Pentecostals; God was reaching out to His Church, to all who would have “ears to hear and eyes to see” (Proverbs 20:12). In 1949, shortly after Billy Graham had an experience with God in the mountains of southern California, the Lord answered his prayer. He quickly became known for sharing the Gospel throughout America. Suddenly Billy Graham’s tent revival in Los Angeles was national news. He was seeing amazing conversions, including the salvation of some very famous people. During this same year, the evangelist Duncan Campbell was used of God for a great revival in the Hebrides Island of Lewis off the coast of Scotland. This revival as well as Duncan’s role as an evangelist seem to be attributed to the prayers of two elderly sisters.
In 1952 a revival broke out on campus at Asbury College which shook this Methodist Holiness College. Public confessions of sin, weeping and repentance were hallmarks of this move.
The Charismatic Renewal began on Easter in 1960 when Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal Priest in southern California, announced to his church that he received the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. A Pell Study done in 2011 revealed there were more than 300 million charismatic Christians in the world. This was 14% of those who self-identified as Christians in the world. This does not count the Pentecostals that would represent 25% of the Christians in the world. Between these two groups nearly 40% of the Christians of the world are Pentecostal/Charismatic. And, they are the fastest growing segment of the Church.
Some of the controversies associated with the Charismatic movement was how could Catholics who drank wine, Lutherans who drank beer and U.S. Presbyterians who drank whiskey be filled with the Holy Spirit—from the perspectives of the classical Pentecostals, Holiness denominations and the Baptist denominations that all espoused teetotalism from alcohol. Along with the Charismatic movement developed the emphasis upon health and wealth among some of its constituents. The charismatic movement peaked at its largest ecumenical gathering in 1977 at Kansas City. For some the ecumenical emphasis within the Charismatic movement was itself controversial.
Before the Charismatic movement ended, the next wave of revival known as the Jesus Movement began around 1968 and peaked around 1972. This was a new move of God. It began with God touching hippies and then branched out into the larger culture, but was still focused upon young people. Millions of teens and early twenty-year-olds from around the world were saved. My graduating class at Southern Baptist Theological seminary was the largest class it had ever been, and its size was fueled by the Jesus movement.
What were the controversies? Hippies and many non-hippies had powerful encounters with the Holy Spirit. The movement was pretty charismatic. Some of these young people did not want to cut their hair or put on shoes to attend church. They wanted to wear their bell-bottom blue jeans rather than dress up. They wanted to bring their own music and instruments (guitars, drums, synthesizers) and change the style of worship. This continued for another quarter century and became known as “worship wars”. However, in my opinion, this move of God was afflicted with an eschatology that caused many of these young people not to prepare for a productive future. It seemed like everyone was reading Salim Kirbim’s “Guide to Survival” and Hal Lindsey’s “The Late Great Planet Earth”. These and other books like them promoted pre-tribulation rapture premillennialism. The thinking was, Why go to college if in the near future the earth will end?
In 1970 Asbury College experienced another revival characterized in quite similar ways to its 1952 revival with public sin confession, weeping and teams going out to spread revival to other colleges.
About this time a great Indonesian Revival happened. You can read about it in Mel Tari’s book “Like a Mighty Wind”. The book’s many recorded miraculous events are popular but also controversial. Stories such as water turning into wine, supernatural lights lighting a pathway, healings, signs and wonders, and much more. Critics say theses things that happened are exaggerations. Mel Tari, however, says the opposite is true. He and Rolland Baker of Iris Global say they knew Westerners would have a hard time believing what God did so they only shared part of what He did.
The Third Wave Revival (1982-1986) was led by pioneering pastor John Wimber and the Vineyard Church, but other Evangelicals and movements were also involved. They believed a person could be baptized in the Holy Spirit after conversion, and sometimes at conversion, though this was less true experientially. They believed speaking in tongues could occur at the moment of baptism, as well as before or after. This movement was controversial because the theology regarding the gifts and the baptism of the Spirit was neither classical Pentecostal or Evangelical. It was also controversial because of its contemporary music and manifestations of the Spirit, which were primarily people shaking, trembling and falling under God’s power. These manifestations occurred during many of the preceding revivals. Despite these controversies, the Association of Vineyard Churches grew to more than several hundred members within a few years.
In the mid-1990s another revival occurred which was known by names such as the Laughing Revival, the Toronto Blessing, the Brownsville Revival, and the Smithton Awakening. The phenomena began in Argentina with historic revivalist Claudio Freidzon when his church growth exploded. Lakeland, Florida experienced revival through Rodney Howard-Browne in 1993. It was characterized by people falling under God’s power and sometimes being stuck to the floor, as well as crying. Its laughing phenomenon was different from other times within both Protestant and Roman Catholic groups because it was new for most people under age 60.
Then in January 1994 God used me when I went to Toronto, Canada. The Toronto Revival became the longest protracted meeting in Western history lasting six nights a week until the summer of 2006, or 12.5 years. Its influence spread everywhere quickly. During the first two years, more than two million people came to Toronto for the meetings. Some say as many as four million came during the first five years, and some reports indicate over 50,000 churches were touched during the first three to four years. An army of itinerants went out to preach who had been touched in this move of God. It would not be an exaggeration to believe that thousands went to the nations. Each of the three people I prophesied over led a million souls to the Lord and the Lord continues to use them in His harvest: Henry Madava in Ukraine, Heidi Baker in Mozambique, and Leif Hetland in Pakistan. Plus, thousands have been saved in Brazil after the country was also powerfully touched by the outpouring in Toronto.
The controversy over Toronto was great, as it was during the First Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, the Holiness Revival, the Pentecostal Revival, the Mid-twentieth Century Revival, the Charismatic Renewal, and the Third Wave Revival. The most controversial issue was the animal sounds that occurred a few times in the first few years. I could personally count on one hand the number of services I was in where animal sounds happened. There was also controversy over people falling, laughing, shaking, and prophesying. There was even controversy surrounding the lines drawn on the floor to help bring the masses of people in single file who were desiring prayer at ministry time.
The next outbreak of this revival was on Father’s Day in 1995 and went until 2000. Steve Hill was the evangelist and John Kilpatrick was the pastor. Hundreds of thousands to millions of people came (I do not know exactly how many) and, again, many of them went into ministry and started preaching the Gospel. These meetings occurred in Brownsville or Pensacola, Florida.
In 1996 pastor Steve Gray experienced revival in his church in Smithton, MO. His church was literally in a cornfield. Thousand came and lives were radically changed. These meetings continued for a few years.
Like in Toronto, Brownsville and Pensacola, FL and Smithton, MO there were manifestations such as people laughing, falling, being stuck to the floor, thrown backwards, and experiencing transferable anointing. With the manifestations came controversy, just as it came for these public figures and movements in revival history too: Wesley, Asbury and Cartwright, Finney, Evan Robert, W.J. Seymour; A.A. Allen, Jack Coe, T. L. Osborne, and Oral Roberts; the leaders of the Latter Rain, the Charismatic Renewal, the Jesus People Revival, and the Third Wave.
I believe the multiple revivals that occurred during the last decade of the twentieth centuries were one great move of God. Just as it was for the Great Evangelical Revival in England and the First Great Awakening in America. The same is true for the Second Great Awakening that spread throughout the states as well as to colleges, as well as the mid-nineteenth century revivals in America, England, Scotland, Hebrides Island of Lewis, and other locations.It doesn’t stop being true for the Pentecostal-Holiness revival which began simultaneously in several countries and continents near the end of the nineteenth century and continued into the first decade of the twentieth century. And it won’t stop being true for the revivals in 1947, 1948, 1949, and 1952. Yet, almost every one of the above-mentioned revivals was also surrounded by controversy.
Action Point: I believe world revival is happening all around us. Let’s ask ourselves: Will we be offended by its manifestations or will we remain open to observing and examining the fruit as Jonathan Edwards recommended?
I leave us with the words of John Wesley, “Lord, send us revival without the wildfire, but if it cannot come without wildfire, then let the wildfire come too, but by all means, send us revival!”
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