I’ve been reading a bit into the latest “revival” that has hit the world – the Lakeland Florida Healing Revival. Seeing the videos (through YouTube) of what’s happening reminds me of the Toronto Blessing that occurred in the mid-1990s. That was a really huge revival during that time and I remember it clearly because the Pentecostal church I was attending in Singapore was really into it and had sent some of their staff members go over to Toronto to check it out. In fact, a lot of charismatic churches in Singapore were very into that revival. There was so much excitement in charismatic circles in Singapore and throughout the world then. Rodney Howard-Browne came to Singapore and I attended a lot of his meetings. Yes, I was very excited myself! The most distinctive aspect of the meetings was the holy laughter and if I’m not wrong, I think the distinctive message was about the Father’s love. So many lives were transformed then. But there were also a lot of criticisms of the revival. Even John Wimber (probably the most respected modern day charismatic leader ever and one who is humble, compassionate and balanced) and the Vineyard disassociated themselves from the Revival. I visited the Church in Toronto a few years later and attended the services there, but things kinda died down by then.
A smaller revival that occurred a while later was the Pensacola Outpouring. The focus on this revival was on repentance and holiness. I also managed to visit that Church before I visited Toronto – but again, probably a bit too late by then.
Well, those were pretty exciting times – especially the Toronto one. Weird things happened and so unsurprisingly criticisms abounded of some of the stuff that occurred during the services. At the peak of it all, I was quite caught up and maybe a bit too accepting of everything. I remember defending the Toronto Blessing against some of my friends’ criticisms. This was at a time when I was still thoroughly charismatic and hadn’t encountered the Reformed faith nor come to appreciate the non-charismatic side of Christianity. And so I was caught up with it all – as many charismatics were then.
Anyway, even after encountering and appreciating the non-charismatic side of Christianity years later, I didn’t reject my charismatic roots. Nor did I, after I started to appreciate the non-charismatic Christian world, become critical of all these revivals. Since the Toronto Blessing, many people have reflected upon how one should evaluate such revivals. Many books have been written and a lot of them point to revivals in history and how lots of weird and abnormal manifestations happened as the Spirit moved mightily upon people. Revivals aren’t neat things. They’re messy, not orderly. And lots of abnormal and weird things happen! So it’s not good enough to criticize a revival because of its weird manifestations.
Going back to the healing revival at Florida. I see that the blogsphere is starting to comment more and more on it and the person associated with the revival, Todd Bentley. Adrian Warnock is a respected blogger who has good relations with both Reformed (normally non- or anti-Charismatic) and Charismatic Christians. He recently wrote his thoughts on the revival here. He refers to Terry Virgo, who is the leader of a group of churches called Newfrontiers. Terry has written two posts so far on the revival. His first one was a bit more cautious. His second one, more open. Like Adrian Warnock, Terry and this group could probably be termed Reformed Charismatics too. While I would no longer call myself a Reformed Charismatic (i.e. one who appreciates both the Reformed and Charismatic worlds of Christianity) as I’m not sure how Reformed I still am, I respect such groups and leaders simply because the fact that they can claim to be Reformed in some way or that they have benefited from Reformed theology means that they have a good foundation in theology and are thus different from many flakey charismatics (or charismaniacs).
Here’s Rob Rufus’ thoughts on the revival. He’s a charismatic who is very grace-centered. J. Lee Grady, who I mentioned here, is also a charismatic who I respect. He is the editor of Charisma magazine, which is the most famous magazine for charismatic Christians. And I’ve always considered him to be pretty balanced and not a flakey charismatic. His thoughts on this revival are a bit more cautious.
(By the way, I’ve mentioned flakey charismatics a lot because there are a lot of them around. I’ve been a charismatic long enough to know that. I will always be one but I don’t see the need to defend every charismatic practice because in reality there are lots of weird things going around. I don’t agree with everything and acknowledge the many abuses and excesses. But I’m not going to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are good and bad in Charismatic Christianity just as there are good and bad in non-charismatic Christianity.)
I also came across this article by Storm Harvest. I am not very familiar with this organization. From their website, their vision is to promote the prophetic (in Australia). I think their article is worth reading as it represents a more critical view of the revival from a pretty charismatic-leaning organization.
And lastly, I’d also like to mention some ultra critical websites simply because I think some of what they have to say merits reading and reflection. One is Revival School and the other is The Revival Army. Both these sites view the revival as demonic and dangerous and while at this stage I actually feel much more positive towards the revival, I think some of the stuff they have written are definitely worth reading. That doesn’t mean I agree with their conclusions, of course.
In my next post, I’ll mention some of my thoughts regarding the revival.