Balanced Response

I remember a godly, prayerful old woman who was in our church in the early 80s who has now gone on to be with the Lord who sometimes laughed to herself pleasantly and unobtrusively, after being prayed for.

I also remember being alone praying in my room, when I was a teenager, in the early 80s. I had come home from school burdened to pray for some unsaved fellow-students. After interceding for a while, I got a note of victory in my spirit, and began to laugh.

Then in about ’93, I felt led to pray with and for a woman, and to everyone’s surprise including my own, she began to have a joyful experience with the Lord which lasted about five minutes.

Next in about ’95, I had given an altar call in a church, and so many people responded, so I decided to ask the Pastor’s wife to help me by praying for some of the women. Her eyes were closed, so in order to get her attention I briefly touched her wrist – and as soon as I did so, she fell to the floor – and she was still on the floor after everyone else went home, until only her husband (the Pastor) and I were left. Her husband looked at her rolling around the floor praying and rejoicing, and asked me, “What’s happening to my wife?” I said, “I don’t know, but I know it’s good – and I know it’s God”. When I’d touched her, I wasn’t even releasing my faith – I was simply wanting to get her attention to ask her to come help.

On each of the above occasions I only saw INDIVIDUALS laugh for joy – I still had not seen a WHOLE CONGREGATION laugh for joy in the Holy Spirit. In fact, I’d never heard of such a thing.

A short time later I was in another meeting and the Lord told me He wanted to touch His people. So I told the congregation this, and then many people started crying. Others began speaking with tongues. I found out later, it was their first time to speak with tongues. No-one even laid hands on them. It just fell on the congregation. Others prophesied and saw visions.

Watching everyone cry, I wondered how much of it was the Holy Spirit and how much was just emotions. I remembered the Scripture: “the fruit of the Spirit is…joy”. So I asked the Lord to show me some joy. Before I finished asking, the whole church began to laugh. I’d never seen a whole congregation laugh before. At this time I had no knowledge of what was happening in Rodney Howard-Browne’s meetings or at Toronto. This happened faraway on the mission-field where I’d been for many months and I’d heard no news from around the world.

A few months later still in the same country I was preaching in a different church, and the Lord told me He wanted the congregation to receive the joy of the Lord. I didn’t know what to do, so I laid hands on several people and said, “Receive the joy of the Lord”. Pretty soon the whole church was laughing. After 40 minutes, a deacon asked for testimonies. We heard testimony after testimony of a deeper work that had been going on in people’s hearts whilst they were laughing, such as healings. I still had not heard about Toronto or any such thing.

For quite some time God had been preparing me by showing me in the Scriptures that He wanted us to break out of the usual mould of how we run church services, showing me that He wanted His Spirit to manifest. So the results we were seeing came as a result of acting on what we were seeing in the Scriptures. The more we made room for God, the more we saw in manifestation – not because we’d come into contact with Toronto, because we hadn’t come into contact with it, we hadn’t even heard about it.

The more God moved, the more people gathered. Night after night the people gathered as God visited. Other churches started joining us. This was in a very remote part of that particular country. There was lots of laughter, tears, repentance, confession, reconciliation, deliverance from demons, visions, tongues, interpretations, prophesying, a little bit of healing, and lots of preaching of the Gospel. It spread to many churches. Unprecedented unity came about. It spread to High Schools and Universities. Lots of sinners came to Christ. It even happened that unbelievers heard their own language being spoken as others spoke with tongues, and as a result of this sign they came under conviction and repented. Many young people felt called into the ministry, and made the decision to go to Bible college. It was a wonderful move of God that lasted for months. Pastors from other islands came to check it out, then the same revival broke out in their own churches when they went home. Literally thousands of people were touched by the Holy Spirit.

At the height of all of this happening, a Pastor from my home country of Australia came to visit. And he told me of similar things happening with Rodney Howard-Browne and at Toronto. This was the first I ever knew of it.

The Pastor from Australia witnessed what was happening with us. For example, he saw one 14-yr old girl who was filled with the Spirit and spoke in tongues. She could barely speak her own language for days! When she got to school on Monday, she was still speaking in tongues. The teacher claimed to understand her, yet she knew the girl couldn’t speak that particular language. The whole class fell under the power of God. The girl laid hands on her classmates, cast out demons, and led them to the Lord. All over the school, students started to come under a conviction of sin. Classes couldn’t continue! This lasted for days, for weeks. It soon spread to other educational institutions. I visited one University, and saw students on the floor under the power of the Spirit, in a lecture room. God started to pour out His Spirit upon other townships too.

After 19-months I returned to my home country of Australia, to discover that everyone was talking about Toronto. I was surprised to learn about the controversy. On the mission-field, there was no controversy. Even nine-year olds were having visions of angels, Jesus and heaven. It was pure. To everyone, it felt holy. And it produced holiness. Hallelujah!

We didn’t see anyone jirking, no-one making sudden loud shreeks, no groups of people making animal noises. Just joy, laughter, tears, people unable to stand up, deliverance, visions, tongues, interpretations, prophecies, repentance, people getting into the Word, etc.

It was wonderful to learn God was doing this simultaneously all around the world at the same time – even in places where people had not come into contact with Toronto.

I know what we experienced was genuinely from God, because it happened as a result of acting on what we saw in the Scriptures, particularly I Cor.12-14. There was a holiness, a reverential fear, about it.

I read something written by John Arnott about alleged animal noises at Toronto. He explained that only one or two people made an animal noise, for example, one person crowed like a rooster. He wrote that he questioned the person about it afterwards, and the person explained, “It’s a new day!” So it was evidently the person’s own lighthearted way of expressing their glee. John Arnott added that the person was a Pastor, and a visitor, not a regular at Toronto. He then said that beyond those two isolated incidences, there were NO OTHER INCIDENCES OF ANIMAL NOISES AT TORONTO. And yet from the staggering amount of talk that’s gone on about it, you would think it was a regular occurrence at Toronto. Not so, according to John Arnott. I’ve noticed that most critics who bring-up the subject of animal noises at Toronto are really only quoting what they’ve heard from another critic. They’re not usually critiquing something they’ve actually witnessed themselves. John Arnott said he did not necessarily endorse that visiting Pastor’s manner of expressing their joy.

But even if it is true that questionable things have indeed taken place in some places – my above testimony illustrates that there was nevertheless a genuine move of the Spirit of God that took place all around the world at that time. At that time I even witnessed an entire hilltribe come to Christ that had never before heard the Gospel nor seen foreigners before. I also saw spontaneous laughter and tears happen without any suggestion on my part whatsoever, in the most remote villages of more than one country. It’s beautiful, and it drew so many to love Jesus.

I think, what I witnessed, and Toronto, Pensacola, Shillong, and Rodney Howard-Browne’s meetings, are basically the same anointing, basically the same move of God with very similar manifestations. Perhaps it was purer in my part of the world than in one or two other meetings, or perhaps not, I don’t know. But I do know that each leader and each congregation responds differently to the same move of God. The Spirit is poured upon human vessels.

I never saw anything get out of hand in our gatherings. But if I did, I would not have hesitated to correct it, while at the same time not despising or forbidding the genuine.

I think, had I not been brought into this experience through my own acting on the Word of God, and had I not experienced all of this before ever hearing about Toronto, I too might have been turned-off by some of the reports that are now coming from some places. But the fact that I experienced such a pure, beautiful move of God quite independent of anything that was happening anywhere else showed me that God was doing something around the world. There was a beautiful move of His Spirit that God was making available to all the world at that time.

But that doesn’t mean flawed humanity can’t get in on it too. But if flawed humanity does get in on it, it doesn’t mean there never was a genuine move of God to begin with. If flawed humanity does get in on it to some extent in some place, it doesn’t negate the underlying truth that God was pouring out a beautiful blessing around the world!

I once listened to an Australian guy criticize at length that whole move of God, based on what he’d heard. After listening to him, without saying a word, finally I said, “Now let me tell you something.” And I took about 15 minutes to tell him what I’d witnessed. He was speechless. He was in awe. He knew what I described was a heavenly move of God. And he could see it was basically the same move.

Don’t forget that many of St Paul’s hearers misrepresented his teachings too, and brought the doctrine into disrepute. But in some places where Paul visited, this didn’t happen as much as in other places. But either way – whether they twisted it or not – it was a genuine move of God that was being introduced into the world at that time through Paul.

It’s the same today. The same Bible which says “judge prophecy” also says “despise not prophesyings”. The same Bible which says “let all things be done decently and in order” also says, “forbid not to speak with tongues”. Keep our heart like a little child, innocent to evil, wise to what is good.

There can be a genuine move of God around the world – and some leaders may manage to keep it in a purer expression than others. Some have differing ethical standards in how they report certain things. But if you’re going to throw the whole thing out because of how it’s being treated in one or two places – you’re the one who’s going to miss out. And you may hinder others from flowing with it too.

Just because Paul had to instruct the Corinthians how to manage the move of God wisely, does not mean the whole thing had been false. Paul didn’t throw the whole thing out just because the Corinthians needed some guidelines.

What do YOU think?

comments

Comments

  1. nisa1969 says:

    Thank you John.

    The animal noises were symptomatic of every church that had sent people to Toronto or had teams from Toronto come to them and ‘pass on’ what they called the blessing.

    Animal noises were not the worst behaviours either. Some hitched up skirts and made bearing-down noises and actions of labouring and justified it with labels such as the ‘new birth’.

    The Word and The Spirit work together. Where the Spirit is at work the Word will also be preached.

    • michael says:

      Hi Nisa,

      I was in Romania at the time the Toronto type move was going on. I even went to Toronto in 1997 to check it out after a couple of years while I was in North America. I never heard any animal noises whatsoever. Mind you, Toronto was pretty quiet by then. They had a huge building but not many people coming on the weekdays. To be able to say “animal noises were symptomatic of every church that had sent people to Toronto” you would have to visit a LOT of churches. I can assure you that this was not the case. A single counter-example is sufficient to disprove the statement. If it is truth that you value, then please be open to correction on this point.

      I never saw animal noises in any church. I don’t think I saw as pure an expression of this movement as John has seen. Actually, I know John personally – have done so since the early 1990s – and while we have slightly different perspectives on some issues, I know him to be a man of sincere faith and genuine love for the Lord who would not lie to impress you or me.

      Having said that, I do think the Toronto proponents DID massively undervalue the Word of God and the preaching of the Word. But perhaps there is something to be said for the idea that God intended to correct an imbalance. In many places there is preaching with zero expectation of any extra-ordinary operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to follow. I don’t believe this honors God either.

      The whole issue is to me not as simple as most would see. I believe we should major on pursuing God and the application of His truth and not spend too much energy on rebuking things which are neither anti-Bible nor explicitly endorsed in the Bible. But neither should we just trust men and “big ministries”. The Bible says to “test all things” – we do that and we also want to “hold fast to the good” where we can.

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