A Fresh Wave
Dr Andrew Evans is the General Superintendent of the Assemblies of God in Australia and Senior Pastor of the Assemblies of God Church in Paradise, Adelaide.
A fresh wave of the Holy Spirit
is transforming the lives of
people and churches
Right across our nation, many of our churches are enjoying a fresh touch which is renewing their love for Jesus and his Word and inspiring the congregation to glorify and magnify him and reach out to others. This is a sign that what is happening is a move of God.
The New Wave
Over the last 12 months or so, thousands of churches have reported a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit which is transforming the lives of their people and churches. This, in particular, seems to be occurring in England where, we are told, there are around 5,000 churches of all Protestant denominations being mightily touched.
What has marked this new wave has been the unusual manifestations, such as falling, shaking, 'drunkenness' in the Spirit, weeping and laughter. Perhaps the latter has caused the most concern among traditional Pentecostals.
Many are saying, and rightly so, 'Are these manifestations biblical?' Without presenting an exhaustive study, I suggest the following Scriptures for you to meditate on.
* Saul fell when meeting the risen Christ (Acts 9:4).
* John fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17). Ezekiel had a similar experience (Ezekiel 1:28), and so did Daniel (Daniel 8:17-18, 10:9).
* A whole company were once overcome by Jesus and fell back (John 18:6).
* The disciples evidently needed Jesus to 'touch them' after they fell down on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:6-7).
Shaking and 'Drunkenness'
* When the Holy Spirit came on a praying company, the whole building began to move (Acts 4:31 cf 2:2; 16:26).
* The Old Testament speaks of trembling in God's presence (Dan. 10:7; Ps. 99;1 Jer. 5:22).
* The prophets experienced such shaking (Hab. 3:16; Jer 23:9).
* Jeremiah, in the presence of the Lord and overwhelmed by his holy words, expresses that he is like a drunken man, overcome by wine (Jer. 23:9).
* Paul exhorts ex-drunkards to drink instead of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
* When the Holy Spirit fell in an incredible way on the Day of Pentecost, observers initially thought 120 disciples were drunk. Peter pointed out that it was a work of the Spirit and the church was born with 3,000 souls saved (Acts 2:13-18, 40-41).
* In the Old Testament, the people wept at God's Word (Neh. 8:9)
* In the New Testament, listeners to Peter at Pentecost were 'cut to the heart' (Acts 2:37) - an emotional response.
* Weeping is a needful, natural and a normal response to the movement of the Spirit.
* In the Old Testament, the freed captives' mouths were filled with laughter (Ps.1 26:1, see also Ecc. 3:4).
* Jesus promised the disciples he would make their joy full (Jn. 17:13).
* The word 'rejoice' used by Jesus in Luke 10:20-21 of both the disciples and himself literally means 'to leap for joy'. You can't do that soberly!
As you read the history of revival, you will discover that all of the above manifestations have occurred in the past. I would like to highlight a few excerpts from a revival in Tennessee in 1886 where God moved mightily and the record of that revival was placed in the archives in Washington by an act of Congress:
'The laughing exercise was frequent, confined solely to the religious. It was a loud hearty laughter, but it excited solemnity in saints and sinners.'
Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, a famous British preacher, in his book on revival, confirmed from his study of revival movements that this kind of manifestation occurred, although he himself would take a rather conservative view in his approach to the moving of the Holy Spirit:
'...always in a revival, there is what somebody once called a divine disorder. Some are groaning and agonising under conviction, others praising God for the great salvation. And all this leads to crowded and prolonged meetings. Time seems to be forgotten. People seem to have entered into eternity. A meeting may start at 6.30 in the evening, and it may not end until daybreak the next morning with nobody aware of the passing of the hours.'
One of the prominent personalities in this revival move is the 33 year old South African, Rodney Howard-Browne. There has been much misinformation circularised about this young man, so I submit the following from my own research, having talked to Assemblies of God leaders in the United States, including AOG pastors on his Advisory Board and other prominent charismatic and Pentecostal leaders.
Rodney Howard-Browne was brought up in a traditional Pentecostal home. He was saved at the age of five and baptised in the Holy Spirit at the age of eight. His uncle was for some years the moderator of a movement in South Africa which originated from the ministry of John G. Lake and was an offshoot from the Apostolic Faith Mission, the largest Pentecostal movement in that country, with 600,000 members and adherents.
At the age of 18, at a non-Pentecostal camp, he cried out to God in desperation that he would use him. He had an unusual visitation where he felt the power of God and, for the next four days, was immersed in that fire, alternatively crying and laughing as he enjoyed a touch from God.
He then began ministry as both an evangelist and a pioneer pastor, in South Africa, but never saw any particularly powerful results, but laboured faithfully to follow through the call that Christ had placed on his life.
For two years, he was associated with Ray McCauley in his great church of 15,000 in Johannesburg. Part of Rodney's role was to teach in the Bible school.
In 1987, he felt a call to the United States and was sponsored, through immigration, to that country by an AOG pastor in Florida, called Bob Rogers. I spoke to Bob regarding Rodney and he told me of his early endeavours in USA as an evangelist.
For a couple of years, there was not a great deal of fruit for his labour, but approximately five years ago, while holding a crusade in a church of 200, he experienced an unusual move of the Spirit where people fell off their seats, some began crying and others were laughing. He was rather taken aback by this, but felt that it was of the Holy Spirit, and thus allowed it to continue.
The fruit of that move was that the church grew, lives were changed and people experienced a fresh touch which gave them a new love for the Lord Jesus. From that time on, his meetings have grown and his name has become known around the world as being synonymous with this new wave and, perhaps , reached its peak when he ministered in an AOG church, pastored by Karl Strader, where last year he held a nine week revival resulting in 6,000 people being baptised in water.
On another occasion, he ministered to 4,000 students in the Oral Roberts University, where the majority of them were slain in the Spirit. Many went outside and then, after prayer, literally hundreds were laying on the grass prostrate under the power of God.
I felt led to invite Rodney to Adelaide, after a great deal of prayer and research into his ministry, and we had a very successful crusade with him. Over 8,500 people, many from interstate, attended the meetings. We were forced to move out of our church and into the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
There were over 500 decisions and reconsecration. Pastors from all over Australia were touched with the fire of God and our own church has been wonderfully revolutionised.
How to Handle the New Wave
Some of these manifestations have been in other churches of other fellowships and have resulted in decline, rather than growth. Some good people have left other churches feeling that there has been too much wildfire, without any order or control.
Due to our desire to channel this move and not lose by it, I questioned a number of people who were doing that successfully. Here are some responses.
1. Mike Rose
Mike is an AOG pastor in the largest city in Alaska, who had Rodney Howard-Browne minister in his church four years ago. At that time, they had a congregation of 200, but over the last 4 years, they have seen it grow to 600 in a community of 35,000.
The format that Mike uses is one which gives a balanced approach to church life, allowing for worship and the Word, ministry to the unsaved as well as impartation of the Holy Spirit.
To do this, he has followed a fairly traditional Sunday morning worship service with worship, communion and preaching of the Word, as well as all the other activities which occur in our morning services, such as dedications and so on.
If there are two or three people who are perhaps crying or laughing uncontrollably, the ushers will gently lead them into the prayer room where they can continue to enjoy the presence of Jesus without affecting those around them.
However, he is also open to the possible occasions when the Holy Spirit will just sweep over the service and the majority of the people will be either laughing, crying or worshipping at one time.
His Sunday evening service generally lasts for three to four hours, compared to the morning one of around two hours. At the conclusion of the evening evangelistic endeavour, people are invited to open up their hearts and hunger for a fresh touch of the Spirit. It was during these times that the powerful manifestations will take place and, having observed what has been happening in our Adelaide meetings over the last few weeks, these times have a great similarity to the old time Pentecostal camp meeting or tarrying services where people received a fresh touch of God.
Mike encourages his people to hunger and has taught them along that line. He helped them to understand and develop a new sensitivity to the ways of the Holy Spirit. His observations were:
* You cannot sustain a move of the Spirit without hunger.
* Corrections need to be made from time to time.
* Don't just get fascinated by the move of God, but rather keep your eyes on Jesus.
* Mission giving and outreach evangelism should be a prominent part of this move and the churches which don't reach out soon dry up.
He encourages us not to hype it up and that there needs to be a continual emphasis on holiness and that only qualified people should lay hands on those who have come for prayer.
Mike is also an adviser on Rodney Howard-Browne's Revival Ministries committee, along with three or four other AOG pastors in the USA. He informed me that he had sat in over 110 of Rodney's meetings and been impressed by the lack of pressure and hype, but by the powerful anointing of the Spirit which accompanies this young man.
2. John Lewis and Others
Our brother, John, who has been experiencing this move for some months now, has followed a similar format as Mike, and I have similar testimonies from Geoff Holdway (Brisbane), Brian Houston (Sydney) and Steve Penny (Melbourne).
The result has been that their churches have experienced the blessing without experiencing fallout from extremes. May the Lord help us to be wise master builders.
The following are a few tips from leaders around the world which may help you:
1. Do not seek to develop a ministry of manifestations out of what is a move of the Holy Spirit.
2. Create an atmosphere of faith, by giving opportunity for the Spirit to move. Rule out any manifestations of the flesh.
3. Be careful to maintain the focus on God himself and don't transfer people's faith to a man, place or a method.
4. Continue in both the Word and the Spirit and don't be caught in the trap of alternating between the two.
5. The best setting for people to receive from God is for them to come before him in the way the Scripture entreats us: 'Enter in his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.' Testimonies can also prove an encouragement to others to respond to the Lord.
6. Remind people that Jesus invites us to come and drink, promising not only to quench our thirst, but also to release rivers of living water to flow out from us to others.
7. When people fall over, be open to keep praying for them. Encourage them to stay down and continue to receive from God. It is not unusual for people to stay down for several hours.
8. Have capable people available to catch those falling over. This removes the fear of falling and also avoids unnecessary collisions.
9. There is no need to cause people to fall to the floor by forcing them. The Holy Spirit is perfectly able to overwhelm people without your effort.
10. Allow God time to work with people. If some are not ready to respond, simply encourage them to remain open and in prayer to God. Return again to them when you have prayed for others.
11. Instruct the people while God is moving. Explain any unusual manifestations and try to settle unnecessary fears by giving understanding about what God is doing.
12. Deal with any carnal behaviour and do not allow it to hijack what God is doing. Take advantage of the opportunity that this can present to instruct people more fully on how to respond to God.
13. Be open yourself, as it should be a time of refreshing for you too.
Don't Miss This Hour of Visitation!
One of the saddest verses in the Bible records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and saying, 'You did not know the hour of your visitation.' This failure to discern the seasons of God, resulted in the sombre declaration of Jesus' words, where he said, 'Your house will be left desolate.'
My cry to God is, 'Help me not to miss what you are doing. Give me wisdom to lead my church into the blessing. Help me, Lord, not to force it or make it happen and may I not just seek some formula, but out of a relationship with Jesus, guide my assembly into the fulness of the Spirit.'
(c) 'Minister's Bulletin', April 1995, pages 2-5, the quarterly comunication of the General Superintendant to Assemblies of God in Australia Ministers, PO Box 336, Mitcham, Victoria 3132. Used with permission.
Renewal Journal #7 (1996:1), Brisbane, Australia, pp. 37-42.
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