1) The making of a full-fledged Charismatic
Soon after, I started to love reading books. My sister gave me some books to read and this developed my interest in wanting to find out more about Christianity. This was indeed unusual because I never liked reading books before. In fact, my English tuition teacher would always tell me to read more books to improve my English but I seldom did. But by now I just loved reading. Being in a charismatic Church, I started to buy and read a lot of the charismatic books I could find in the Christian bookstores – after all, most popular books were charismatic type books. Authors like Benny Hinn and Kathryn Kuhlman caught my attention. I also loved reading books on prayer, faith, tongues, healing and prophecy. I nearly got into Word of Faith teachings by Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland. Basically, I wouldn’t read much about theology or Church history but what was on my agenda at this time were teachings about the miraculous and signs and wonders. Books by contemporary charismatic authors filled my room, but none by the Christian leaders of the past. I was really a full-fledged charismatic. Traditional Christianity wasn’t for me. Liturgical and non-charismatic services were dead and ritualistic, I was told – and agreed. All my Christian friends were basically charismatic then. I didn’t mix around much with any ‘traditional’ Christians as they were different and I probably looked down upon them. After all, I spent years in non-charismatic Churches and experienced basically nothing. But in just a short time in this Pentecostal Church, God changed me miraculously. It was no wonder that I agreed with what came from the pulpit that charismatism was the way to go. No doubt a sense of pride developed in me.
2) Tongues and the Baptism of the Spirit?
Being in a Pentecostal Church, I was taught that I should seek the baptism of the Spirit, which was meant to be a subsequent experience to conversion. And this would be evidenced by speaking in tongues, I was told. I sought and eventually I received tongues, which I would use very often then whenever I prayed or worshipped God. I never believed that I was ‘baptized in the Spirit’ when I spoke in tongues. I was aware of the debate going on about the Pentecostal distinctive of subsequence and evidence – baptism in the Spirit being a subsequence experience to conversion and tongues being an evidence of such a baptism. Nowadays I still speak in tongues, but more so privately, and not in public, because of Paul’s stipulations on tongues in 1 Corinthians 14.
3) Rodney Howard-Browne: Revival is here!
Rodney Howard-Browne, the self-proclaimed Holy Ghost bartender, came to Singapore during September. His meetings are usually filled with laughter and people falling under the power of God. I attended many of his meetings despite the fact that it was during my examination period. I was very hungry to receive a touch from God and so I went to as many meetings as I could to seek God. Before Rodney came, the Pentecostal Church I attended was heavily into this “Toronto Blessing” revival. The Church leaders had been to the Toronto Airport Vineyard (at that time still a part of the Vineyard movement) and they were all touched from God and testified to the Church about their experiences. And so the manifestations common in this renewal (“holy” laughter, falling under the power of God) slowly became more prominent in that Church. After every Sunday message, there would be altar calls for those who wanted to respond to the message and be prayed for. I remember at that time that I was one of the few youths who would respond always. Very often, I would be at the altars receiving prayer. There would be people praying for me and many times I would be pushed over.
[I write ‘pushed over’ not because I think those who prayed for me intentionally pushed me over, but because it was more of a cultural thing then to fall over. What usually happened was that the prayer exerted a bit of pressure on the prayee’s forehead while praying. There would be a catcher behind the prayee and therefore the occasion was perfect for the person to fall – whether truly genuinely overcome by the presence of God or just a ‘courtesy fall’, in the words of a prominent Christian author who I thought described the situation and motivations behind the whole affair perfectly. By saying all this, I do not wish to be misunderstood as saying that I don’t believe people have been genuinely overcome by the presence of God then and now and that all this falling manifestation is nonsense. On the contrary, I do believe God has come powerfully in the past and still does in the present. Past revivals have shown that when God comes in a powerful way, weird manifestations happen. But I do think we need to be careful about expecting God to come in the same way always. My view of the whole “Toronto Blessing” revival is that God was present then and the evidence is lives being transformed for His glory. That in no way means that all the practices or beliefs that come out of this “revival” is of God or right. God moves despite our wrongs. I would disagree strenuously with a lot of what has come out of this “Toronto Blessing” revival but still believe that God moved then. God doesn’t move when we have got everything right – if He only does that, He will never move powerfully because we’re all sinful and wrong in our beliefs and practices in many ways.]
To continue, I don’t recall having truly being overcome by the presence of God during my time then. Nevertheless, I continued to seek God for a touch from Him but never really experienced anything significant. So when Rodney came, I knew what to expect. The whole Singapore Indoor Stadium of 10,000 people was packed out with charismatic Christians. During ministry times, many people would start to laugh uncontrollably. Rodney would also ‘throw’ the ‘Spirit’ or ‘anointing’ at sections of the crowds and many would fall. On the last day, the 55,000 capacity Singapore National Stadium was about half full and everyone who wanted to be prayed for was prayed for by the pastors. There was much abuse there as many of my friends spoke of being pushed over instead of experiencing a true overpowering presence of God. During the whole conference, I didn’t really experience any manifestation. But people all around me experienced touches from God.
There has always been controversy over this renewal/revival and the manifestations accompanying it. Most, if not all, charismatic Churches here would support this as a move of God. And the conservative Churches here would reject it. There was much division over whether this renewal/revival is a work of God. At this time I strongly believed this is of God even though I never experienced any manifestation. And I would defend it as a move of God to many of my friends who questioned it.