Inside the Toronto Blessing
“So, what do you think?” It was Jim Lavin on the phone. Bizarre, I thought and ducked his question. “Let me get Rick and we’ll talk about it.” I had just finished reviewing a stack of video and audio tapes belonging to Jim for a potential new television project. It was May ’96. At that time I was an ordinary Christian businessman doing marketing, and an assistant pastor at a local charismatic church in Canton, Ohio. We didn’t have a clue that God was about to turn our lives upside down.
Jim Lavin, owner of a marketing company, and his associate, television film producer Warren Marcus, had bought the tapes at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in June ’95. The Toronto Blessing had been making the news and they were considering producing a television documentary about it for commercial reasons. Rick Suarez, my associate with Fresh Start Marketing, and I had had reservations. We had heard critics say that what was happening was not of God. But when we reviewed the tapes, bizarre as they seemed, a hunger and a desperation awoke in us for more of God. We began to sense how destitute our spirits were. Clearly God was up to something.
An Unlikely Team
Warren Marcus, a Messianic Jewish believer and award winning film maker involved with religious broadcasting for more than 18 years, had become convinced of the Toronto Blessing’s authenticity. So convinced he was that he brought his teenage daughter, Tara, whom he had tried to reach with the gospel for many years, to Toronto with him. Tara was profoundly touched by God, and as a result forsook a planned career in theatre and the secular film industry, choosing instead the mission field. For Warren this was uncontestable evidence that the Toronto Blessing was genuinely of God.
Jim invited us to join them in producing the video. Cautiously we agreed, partly driven by our own desire for more of God. Looking back, it seems as if God was playing a divine joke on us. We had all, at one time, dismissed the Toronto Blessing as mere emotional hysteria. As we got to know each other, it became obvious that the Father was rounding up four unsuspecting men for a divine assignment.
A Business Trip Pilgrimage
Before we made a final decision, we wanted to see things for ourselves. In June ’96, all four of us arrived on what was supposed to be a business trip. We had all been in marketing for years taping meetings and producing programs for some of the greatest ministries in God’s kingdom, but none of us had ever experienced God’s touch in the course of our work. We didn’t even remotely expect that anything might happen during this assignment either. As it turned out, God had other business on the agenda.
We were completely annihilated by the Holy Spirit and returned home charged. Everything in our lives changed. My children got a new dad—one who was patient and loving. My wife got a new husband and our church got a new associate pastor. Most important, our relationship with Jesus changed. His love overwhelmed us and plugged us back into God’s heart and purposes. The following Sunday when I shared my Toronto experience with the congregation, the same thing happened to them. The floor was littered with bodies, and the meeting went on for hours as I prayed for everyone.
Prayer is the Key
As we recovered our bearings, we sought God’s will, timing, protection, and direction for the project. We also asked John Arnott if TACF’s intercessory prayer group could pray for us, sensing that without intercession the project could fail.
We felt impressed by the Lord that the video would bring results far beyond anything we could ask or imagine, if we would intercede consistently for viewers to be touched by God’s anointing. As we did, God showed us that television is a window through which hundreds of thousands would see and be touched by what He is doing. At TACF’s pastors’ conference in January ’97, Gerald Coates of England, head of the Pioneer Network of churches, prophesied to Warren and Rick that the video will be viewed by more that 100 million people around the world. This dramatically confirmed what we believed God had spoken to us.
A Project for God
We decided to film during the October ’96 Catch The Fire conference. Our mission was to take an honest, candid look at what was happening in the lives of people touched by this amazing revival.
The project developed into a nine-month labour of love. From the footage we created a one hour version available for purchase through the TACF bookstore, and a 30 minute television special to be aired on both religious and secular stations in the United States and Canada.
With the help of TACF we arranged to include many powerful testimonies. We combined these with live worship footage, and included a segment where John Arnott invites viewers to give their lives to the Lord and then prays with people, inviting them to receive God’s blessing.
We filmed in true, documentary style. Warren hired two of the continent’s best documentary style cameramen, and chose to use motion picture film. It allowed us to approach worshippers without disturbing them with bright lights, and gave us the ability to capture their unhindered and natural expression of intimacy with the Father.
People testified to emotional and physical healing, restored marriages and changed lives. A New York state supreme court judge shares how God transformed his life and marriage; a doctor describes her son’s healing from a permanent hearing loss; and a sociologist speaks of changed lives.
The power of God actually fell on a couple during their interview. They began to laugh and sway, completely unable to answer the questions Warren posed, and as cameras rolled, they slumped to the floor where God ministered to them. Later they shared how God had radically healed their marriage through the renewal. The segment constitutes one of the video’s highlights because it represents rare film footage that captures the live drama of what the Holy Spirit is doing. It convinced us that God was truly orchestrating the filming.
Video ‘Spreads The Fire’
We knew we had captured powerful images on film, but I don’t think we really understood the video’s potential until we heard reports from viewers. Judging from their reactions, the Holy Spirit has chosen to anoint it with His presence.
When Rick and I, received our first copy of the completed video called Inside the Toronto Blessing, we showed it to everyone in our office. One woman reported that God would not let her move while she watched it and wept as waves of God’s presence washed over her.
Pastors whose congregations have viewed segments during church services say that God touches people as powerfully through the video as he does during personal ministry time at renewal meetings. The video is a powerful tool for sharing both Jesus and God's Blessing with others as well as a great way to receive more of God in your own life. Now that it’s done, what next?
Our goal is to continue chronicling this move of God, and bringing it to the world’s attention via television. No longer is this just a commercial venture. God has transformed and blessed our lives, and our desire is to see this life transforming power invade living rooms of millions across the country. The project cost in the vicinity of $250,000, and the costs of placing it on air must be covered by donations. For every dollar donated, 20 people will hear, see, and possibly experience, God’s love over the airwaves. Their lives will never be the same again!