Riding Revival's Wave
Our spiritual journey began in the Jesus Movement of the late sixties. By the early nineties, however, it seemed all our “power encounters” with the Lord were just memories of long past days. Even though my wife Patricia and I were senior pastors of a large influential church, we had become religiously formalized and critically in need of personal spiritual renewal. Our plight deepened when our church movement was plunged into crisis through the moral failure of its founder. Spiritually dry, disillusioned with church life as we knew it, and desperate for a fresh encounter with God, we resigned from our responsibilities. Seeking new directions from the Lord, and determining not to become spiritual dropouts, we moved instead to Queensland, Australia’s Sunshine Coast.
I daily walked the long sandy beaches crying out to God for a fresh encounter with Him.
During those days Isaiah 9:1 became a scripture we held on to. “There will be no more gloom for her who was in anguish...later on He shall make it glorious, by the Way of the Sea...” (NAS). For the first time in twenty years we had no ministry responsibilities, no church, and not even a job, just a promise of “glory” by the sea! Knowing my background as a surfer, some I’m sure, doubted my motive for moving to the coast. With a lot of time on my hands, I daily walked the long sandy beaches crying out to God for a fresh encounter with Him. Admittedly I also went surfing a lot too, and found myself in meaningful interaction with the world outside of “church” in ways that I hadn’t done for many years.
As Patricia and I shared our vision for “glory by the sea” with others, people began meeting in our home to pray and seek God to do something new, and for salvation to come in the surfing community among whom we lived. This was the beginnings of a church we eventually called “Way of the Sea” Christian City Church. Much of the way we did “church” was unconventional, meeting in surf clubs, cafes, and bars, on patios with barbecues, and jamming to contemporary worship music. Although we were casual and “surfie” in style, we were passionate about reaching out for lost souls, and very desperate to experience God.
On one occasion, during our Sunday worship, a woman burst out in prophecy, “Batten down the hatches, a mighty wind of God is coming like a cyclone.” Another person prophesied, “Turn your face into the wind...” To a surfer on Australia’s East Coast, an oncoming cyclone meant days of huge, endless, adrenaline pumping, ocean swells! We suspected we were in for the ride of our lives. None of us were quite sure what the Lord was warning us about, but it sounded like good news to us!
It made me laugh, uncontrollably, as I realized that this was the awesome “heavy” glory of God.
Later that week Patricia and I had lunch with a pastor from another church. He began to share about an “outbreak of the Holy Spirit” in his meetings characterized by great joy and laughter. People were falling and becoming so “drunk” that they needed assistance to be taken out to their cars afterward. To be truthful, I can’t remember too much more about what he said, except that the more he spoke, the more I felt I was about to do the same. Was this “the Glory” we had come to the Coast for?
Our friend prayed for us and instantly both Patricia and I fell to the floor. Embarrassed at the suddenness of it all, I tried to roll over to hide my face in the carpet. To my dismay I found I couldn’t even lift my shoulders off the floor. It was as if a weight was pressing me down. It wasn’t uncomfortable; in fact it made me laugh, uncontrollably, as I realized that this was the awesome “heavy” glory of God. (The literal meaning of “glory” in Hebrew is “weightiness.”) In order to “update” my experience with Him, God literally sat on me. When I finally managed to stand up, I felt an overwhelming joy, and I sprang across the room shouting repeatedly, “New wine for the nations!” before expiring again onto the floor.
I had no idea how to explain to our congregation what had happened to us during the week, so I didn’t try. Actually I didn’t need to. The next Sunday, at the end of our worship, the Holy Spirit suddenly fell. People dropped left, right, and center, some bursting into laughter, some crying out, and many becoming very overcome like drunken people. The big iron framed pulpit with solid oak panels somehow toppled and flipped sideways, narrowly missing a few people as it crashed down to the floor. A cyclone had indeed hit the place. Everything not battened down got blown over. Later on, someone drew significance out of the fallen pulpit: this anointing was not only for the person in the pulpit but it would be upon the congregation, too.
We heard teaching and testimony on how to steward this anointing.
From that Sunday on things were never the same. We became accustomed to sudden outbreaks of the Glory falling during the worship, during the offering, during communion, during the preaching! Our two-hour services frequently turned into four-hour services. We “turned our faces into the wind.” Although I didn’t understand everything, I knew the fruit of it was good, and that most of us were sure it was God.
In those wildfire days we had no models to follow until we began to hear news of amazing things happening at a church in Toronto, Canada. When John and Carol Arnott and their team held their first “Catch the Fire” meetings “down under,” we gathered a team of our own and flew over to Auckland, New Zealand to hear them. In those extraordinary meetings we saw much of what we had become accustomed to in our own meetings, but more importantly for us, we also heard teaching and testimony on how to steward this anointing. We were deeply impressed by the humility, gentleness, and lack of striving in the folks from Toronto.
There we learned about “soaking” in God’s presence, just spending time under the Spirit’s influence, drawing Him into the deeper recesses of our lives. We saw the need to make our church a “safe place” for people to come and receive the Spirit’s Fire, so we trained ministry teams, and taught them how to impart. Since then I have made an annual pilgrimage to TACF, sometimes to major conferences, sometimes as a guest speaker, and other times in anonymity during one of the quieter weeks, just to sit and soak in the presence of the Lord.
People often ask me how we’ve managed to sustain the release of the Spirit for so long in our church. I am sure it has a lot to do with how we value the anointing in this marvelous outpouring. Associating with the ministers at TACF has taught me much about respecting the person of the Holy Spirit, and being “receiver based” rather than “achievement based” in my approach to my own ministry. Our church also learned that “to know God’s love and to give it away” is another key to ongoing renewal. Consequently, we developed our weekly “Coastfire” revival meetings, and the “More Fire Ministry” where we take teams into outback country towns, to run weekend revival events and seminars to bless local churches, giving away to them what God has given to us.
By Biblical definition the Spirit moves as a “the River of God.” A river is not an intermittent stream like many of our dry riverbeds in the Australian outback. Neither is it static, but it increases in volume, and it has direction. The first mention in scripture of the River’s direction is flowing “out of Eden” to the nations. (Genesis 1:10) Later Ezekiel saw the River flowing “out of the temple toward the east...” to yield a great harvest of fish. (Ezekiel 47:8) Then Jesus saw the River flowing “out of our innermost being” (John 7:39) and John saw the River in Revelation flowing out “from the Throne of God” to bring healing to the nations (Rev 22:1). I believe as we flow with God’s River, that it will eventually reach a lost and needy world.
We have found our place in a wonderful international movement in the Church that is being significantly affected by ongoing revival and committed to bringing lost people to Christ. Countless numbers of people have been saved, healed, and delivered in dramatic encounters with the Holy Spirit over the last seven years. I recognize now that there are certain manifestations of the Spirit’s power “in the House” (the Church), and other manifestations of His power for “outside of the House.” In the house, the River is causing us to be refreshed, revived, empowered, and anointed, by “upper room” type experiences. Outside of the house we use that anointing to preach Christ, heal the sick, and cast out demons, among unchurched people we know! So I'm still riding this new wave of revival! Are you?