The Pathway to Renewal
Way back in 1994, rumors of revival taking place in a small church in Toronto, Canada began to circulate in the UK.
I received a phone call from David Campbell as I was making my way conducting renewal meetings from Scotland, down through Sunderland and some other places in the North of England. David, a fellow Elim Pentecostal minister, told me he was going to Canada, because he wanted to experience what God was doing there. My curiosity was immediately aroused.
There was a tremendous hunger in the UK at the time, and soon many people from this side of the pond streamed over to Canada and came back with testimonies of the Holy Spirit’s power and blessing. Soon many on the National Leadership team of Elim also went and came back changed and refreshed in the Lord.
Many of us could see that this was a genuine experience of God and a wonderful, new and fresh outpouring of the Spirit. Soon prominent churches in the UK such as Holy Trinity Brompton, were opening doors to the revival flow of the Spirit. Over the summer of 1994, queues were forming outside some of these churches as people wanted to experience what God was doing.
There was also a fresh flow of the Spirit at Kensington Temple.
We had a visit from Rodney Howard Browne and Charles and Frances Hunter. No strangers to the move of the Spirit, we in KT, nevertheless, found God’s presence strongly manifesting upon the whole church and within a year, we held a series of revival meetings and saw many from the city come into the church and get filled and touched. There were so many examples of God’s touch upon lives, but one incident stands out in my memory.
During one meeting, I saw one of our staff members go out into the foyer of the church to talk to some of the people who had not been able to get inside the church because of the crowds. Two of them were young girls who asked him what kind of party was going on inside. They were not Christians and had been standing outside at the bus stop when they heard what sounded like a fun party happening inside the church.
The staff member told them that this was a “Holy Spirit” party, and they were welcome to enjoy it. “Do you want it?” he asked, and they both said, “Yes!” in unison. He then laid his hands on them. They immediately fell to the ground and got up saved and speaking in tongues.
Some months later a new phenomena broke out in the church. Manifestations of what looked like oil came spontaneously upon people’s hands, heads and even upon the furniture of their homes. This phenomenon was present in every service for two years. During that period the Holy Spirit released many new calls and gifts among us. On the last day of a particular semester in our Bible School, while I was giving the students an end-of-term address, oil began to fall upon people.
One trainee, a Ghanaian pastor, experienced something really special. Right there at the front in the prayer line, oil appeared like a shower over his head and settled upon him. Both his thumbs were also covered in thick oil. It was like a priestly anointing and a very sacred moment for us all. From that time on, Allswell, the Ghanaian pastor, began to be used in extraordinary healings and miracles. He later started a church in France.
Together with the blessing came the inevitable criticism. Campaigns were conducted against the so called ‘Toronto Blessing.’ The major bone of contention was the presence of the strange phenomena that people were experiencing: the laughing, the falling, and of course the ‘strange noises’ which some onlookers identified as animal sounds. Doubtless there were some excesses, but during this season, historians reminded us of the Welsh Revival of 1904 in which everything we were experiencing and more was also present in that move of God.
In my book, entitled REVIVAL PHENOMENA, I pointed out that God can do many strange things in times of revival. God can do what he wants to, where he wants to and through whom he wants to, and all that without asking for our permission! It seems that God was prepared to “offend the mind to reveal the heart.”
As the revival progressed, we emphasized both the Word and the Spirit, and RT Kendall and Paul Cain hosted a conference in London with that title. The refreshing gave us a greater hunger than ever before for God and his Word, and also to make an impact upon our society for Jesus.
FRESH PENTECOSTAL REVELATION
Perhaps the greatest blessing of all was a fresh revelation of the Father heart of God. While British press spoke of it as “The Toronto Blessing,” John and Carol Arnott called it “The Father’s Blessing.” Coming from a Pentecostal background, we were no strangers to the Holy Spirit but we learned two major things from this fresh, new move of God. As Charismatic Christians we had long since emphasized the power of the Spirit. Other, more conservative evangelicals often spoke of the purity that the Spirit brings as he sanctifies our lives. But we were learning that the definitive word to describe what God was doing among us was not “power” or “purity” as such, but “presence.” The Holy Spirit came to mediate the presence of Christ and the Father; and of course, the power and purity of God flows from His presence.
As Pentecostals, we were also familiar with the understanding of being “baptized” in the Spirit, but what we needed to learn was to spend longer in God’s presence, and learn how to “soak” in the Spirit. This was about an on-going, and indeed, daily experience of being filled and impacted by God. While not all in our denomination were convinced that what we were experiencing was of God, nevertheless the leaders of Elim came behind the move of God and officially promoted it. As a result, many of our churches came into the refreshing.
THE FRUIT OF GOD’S RENEWING PRESENCE
Over the past 10 years, we have grown from strength to strength seeking to allow the Holy Spirit free course in our lives and in our church. Kensington Temple has many different nations represented in our network of churches, cells and Sunday congregations and so the nations are always on our mind. A new wave of missions was started as we planned a strategy to reach the nations, especially the Arab world.
There was also a fresh flow of evangelistic fervor among the people with street teams taking the gospel onto the streets of London. We saw literally thousands over the course of the years come to Christ through street outreach with about 50% of serious conversations about Jesus leading to a commitment.
During this season we also felt led of the Spirit to look for the “new wineskins” that were flexible enough to carry the anointing through the entire body. We had tried many different models of cell church as we believed that such structures were necessary to ensure that people had an outlet for the blessing they had received.
We dreamed of a fully-mobilized church reaching out with the new anointing they were receiving.
In the year 2000 I visited the International Charismatic Mission in Bogota, Colombia which had grown through the G12 cell vision to a church of many thousands. Convinced that the principle of 12 was a key for us in London, we spent the next 5 years working with the Bogota model being carefully tutored by Cesar Castellanos and other leaders from Colombia. Then in the year 2005, we branched out on our own taking the principle of 12 and adapting it to the needs of our church and shaping it into our own culture. Now, 76% of our church is in cells. We find that the cell vision gives us a perfect structure with which to carry the anointing at a practical level and a great way to make sure every member of the church can minister and serve Christ both in the church and in the wider community.
We have also adopted the dictum of Bishop David Pytches of England who says that “the meeting place is the learning place for the market place.” And as a result, we have started to look at how we can tackle the giants of our society out in the market place. This has been a powerful Spirit-led initiative as we have begun to equip our members to reach out in their chosen field of influence in the world. Our own dictum now is, “your occupation is the location of your vocation.” Convinced that we are all called to make, mature and to mobilize disciples for Christ, we send our members out to plant cells close to their place of work and encourage them to make disciples there.
The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of influence, and we have seen our members equipped and empowered to make a difference in the realm of the media and arts, science and technology, medicine and health, sports and recreation, law and jurisprudence as well as other areas in the market place.
We are also seeking to influence the political arena, not by adopting an aggressive stance against “liberalism” but simply acting as salt and light. Recently, we joined a coalition of churches and ministries to oppose a government measure called “the incitement to religious hatred bill.” The bill was well-meaning, but the form in which it was presented in parliament could have had serious repercussions for the freedom to preach the gospel in Britain. Through prayer, protest and careful lobbying, we were able to see the bill defeated by a one vote margin in parliament. Instead, the bill that was passed gives us back our freedom of speech and religion.
All these things, we believe, flow from a God conditioned awareness of the need to engage sensitively and graciously with our society. The Holy Spirit broods like a giant dove over our nations and any genuine encounter with him will lead us to look outward and to act with both the compassion and the is a real prophetic manifestation of the Spirit. When you yield to Him, He takes us beyond the laughter or joy, the falling, the shaking, and even the experience of being filled.
At lot happens when you do “carpet time,” whether in TACF or anywhere else.
Your heart is healed, your dreams are born and you get up ready to take on the world. My two times in Toronto proved that. When I attended the Pastors and Leaders Conference in 2004 and 2006, I saw the church there in the river still alive and still active and still seeking more of God. Some said it would all fade and prove to have been a temporary excursion into Holy Spirit excess. But a phrase I heard at TACF, “There are no toxic levels of the Spirit,” shows that you can never max out on the Spirit.
During my personal ‘carpet time’ in TACF I found myself refilled, renewed and re-commissioned to take the gospel to the nations. I was freshly equipped to lead our great church in London into new levels in the Holy Spirit, and to take our people into the real purpose of the Spirit to touch lives as we ourselves have been touched with the blessings of the Father’s House.