I came to the Lord at the tail end of two “revivals” (or “renewal movements”). Unbeknown to me at the time, the Toronto Blessing, and the Brownsville Revival, were key movements that would leave a lasting impact upon the Pentecostal and charismatic movements – for better or for worse, depending upon your perspective. Both movements had common characteristics (emphasis on a deep experience of God, physical manifestations including shaking, crying, roaring, and falling down (slain in the Spirit). Yet they also had significant differences. The Toronto Blessing, having emerged in a Vineyard Church, was much more laid-back, all about ‘the Father’s Love’, and an emphasis on inner healing and wholeness for burned out Christians. Brownsville, on the other hand, tended to reflect the characteristics of its main evangelist – Steve Hill, and the conservative, Pentecostal, Assemblies of God church that was ‘hosting’ the revival. This movement was more focused on the holiness of God, repentance, and salvation of the lost
So, what’s all that got to do with anything?
I’m glad you asked.
On the 25th to the 28th April some of the biggest names in the Pentecostal and charismatic movements who were linked to the previous renewal movements, are getting together for a massive event called ‘Light the Fire Again’.
The marketing says it all:
“The waves of revival that swept around the world in the 1990s have left a lasting impact on millions of people around the globe. You may have even witnessed the power of God fall and remember what this revival was like. Have you been praying and fasting for a fresh revival that will spark the next great awakening?
On April 25th– 28th, 2018 at the Attwell Centre (Site of the Toronto Blessing), come and be part of a historic gathering of leaders from the great global moves of God at the close of the last century. We are believing for God to Rekindle the Flames of Revival and see a mighty move of His Holy Spirit sweep across the earth, stirring the hearts of this generation!
Come and join us at the Light The Fire Again Conference in Toronto, Ontario. We are expecting attendees from all around the world to have an encounter with God like never before. You will not want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime gathering!
SEATING IS LIMITED, GET YOUR TICKETS SOON!”
I’m not going say much about the personalities other than the fact that it is a mixed-bag. There are some ministries on that list that I’ve personally benefited from, and there are others of whom I’d be discerningly cautious about.
That aside, I just want to draw attention to a couple of things – important things.
What is the ‘Big-Idea’ that is being pushed through this conference? Well, we don’t need to guess. The website tells us.
“We are believing God to begin anew the mighty move of His Holy Spirit that swept across the earth at the close of the last century.”
What move of God is this referring to? Toronto and Brownsville.
So, on the one hand, this is a conference that seeks to look to God for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit. This is reflected in the conference title: ‘Light the Fire Again.’ However, on the other hand, there is something else going on. The clue is in the sub-title: Passing the Torch. What’s that all about? Well, look at the line-up. Who do we have? For the most part, it’s the movers and shakers of the renewal movement – and most of them are getting on a bit. So what’s the Big Idea? Well, it’s about the men and women of power for the hour (or last several decades) passing on the mantle/anointing to the next generation. One of the Facebook posts makes this clear:
“Join us in Toronto in April of 2018! Fathers and Mothers of revival joining together to pass the torch and contend for revival fire!”
So the first Big-Idea is to gear the church towards an expectation of revival. The second big-idea is that the key to this is to get the older generation of ‘revivalists’ to pass the baton on to the next generation. The message is clear. These leaders are big. And we have them altogether in one place. This is going to be big!
“We are expecting attendees from all around the world to have an encounter with God like never before. You will not want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime gathering!”
So, let’s be clear. The line-up is part of the message. Here is a conference, not simply with a big-gun key note-speaker – this is a conference full of big-gun speakers.
This fact hasn’t been lost on the supporters. One Facebook foll
ower responded by saying,
“Man if you lite no fire with that line up your wood is wet.”
Not only is there an emphasis on personalities there is an emphasis on the place. Notice the location (or rather the description accompanying the location)?
What is the subtext about the location? Why does it say: “site of the Toronto Blessing”? Well, this conference is special. Not only does it have very special speakers it is based in a very special location. Not only do we have the previous carriers of revival, here we have the very location where the last revival took place. How God fail to show up? God has to show up here – c’mon, we have holy men (and women) and a holy place.
Some people reading this will interpret what I’m saying as anti-revival, or even anti-pentecostal. Yet here is the irony, this event itself is anti-revival and even anti-pentecostal. Why? Quite simply, pentecost comes down from above, it doesn’t come from people or places. Revival comes from heaven it doesn’t come from places or personalities – even if those people or places enjoyed God’s presence in the past. In fact, if God did turn up a particular place, or use a particular person, chances are he won’t do that again – he rarely does the same thing the same way twice.
This post is not a dig at pentecostals. I love pentecostals. Some of my best friends are pentecostal. I occasionally minister and preach in charismatic contexts. I also love revival. I too long for the presence of God to flood the global church and the nations. However, this ‘Light the Fire Again’ event – and the philosophy behind it – or at least the marketing, is misguided at best and deceptive at worst. Leave the holy men and holy places to the Catholics – that’s their gig. Veneration of holy saints, and sacred places, is characteristic of Roman Catholicism, it wasn’t characteristic of early pentecostalism. William J. Seymour, that catalyst of the global pentecostal movement knew that if we wanted more of God, we had to get out the way. He was so self-effacing he used to sit with his head buried in a crate – prayerfully looking to God and careful lest he draw attention to himself and grieve the Spirit of God.
This is where modern pentecostalism has gone off-course. It is where revivalists have lost their way. Pentecostalism, in many of its expressions, has become a Christianised Broadway, and revival has become a lucrative industry. I’m not judging the motives of the ministries in this line up. Neither am I condemning them as heretics. However, I am raising the point that the Emperor has no clothes. The marketing has set the stage for what is hoped will be an encounter with the glory of God, but the altar smells of the smoke of human ambition and ego.
I’m all for seeking God for revival. But you don’t need to fly to Toronto to find it. Where then should we look? My suggestion would be the local church. That ordinary, broken, messed up, mundane yet gloriously God-filled community of God’s people. Find a local church where there are people (even one or two) with their hearts set towards heaven, and their hands stretched out to their communities. For the local church is place where heaven meets earth. Whether His presence be like the soft gentle dew, or a mighty downpour – He is there.
A final disclaimer. I’m not saying God won’t use this conference. I’m not saying God won’t use the speakers. I’m not saying that people won’t be blessed. I am saying don’t believe the hype. Look at the marketing, “We are expecting attendees from all around the world to have an encounter with God like never before.” Let’s be realistic. This is not the language of revival, it’s the language of the market. Revival 101 is this – God does not conform to our desires or expectations. He must increase, we must decrease. Only when we take our eyes off of ‘holy’ places and ‘holy’ people and place them on the Holy God will we begin to encounter the purifying fire of revival. There is only one place that we can look to for the power of God, and that is heaven, and there is only one person we should be looking to for an impartation of holy fire – and his name is Jesus.