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Baseball and the Toronto Blessing

June 1999 | by Kent Philpott

If someone told me that in a particular game of baseball there were six bases and ten short-stops, the balls were as large as basketballs, the bats looked like tennis rackets and the game lasted four quarters, I would be quick to say that was not baseball. Though I am not an expert, I do know something about the game. I would not get confused about huge baseballs and bats shaped like tennis rackets.

The Toronto Blessing is no more of a revival than the game described above is a baseball game. We can tell the difference and state that difference clearly. And, we have plenty to base an opinion on. Revivals have gone on throughout the history of the church, and many are documented. Certainly, there is no resemblance between the five outpourings of the Holy Spirit recorded in the Book of Acts and the Toronto Blessing. None. And there is no recognised historic awakening in our church history that corresponds with the Toronto Blessing either.

Good sermon

I heard Randy Clark preach at Bethel Church in Redding, California, the night of 23 April. He carries the torch for the Toronto Blessing, having ‘caught the fire’ from Rodney Howard-Brown and taken the ‘blessing’ to the Vineyard churches. He is actively engaged in bringing the ‘fire’ to churches around the world.

Reverend Clark’s sermon on the prodigal son was excellent. His verse by verse exposition spoke to many a need. Though he preached for nearly an hour, the time passed quickly. At the end he pleaded for prodigals to come to the Father, and, judging by the response, some did. It seems there is a shift in direction by the proponents of the Toronto Blessing. There is now an express emphasis on evangelism and this is good news indeed.

Only one thing bothered me about the sermon and that was his equating of the elder son with those who oppose the ‘revival’. The elder son, remember, remained outside and would not join the celebration being given by the father for the younger, prodigal son.

So, must I conclude that the Toronto ‘revival’ is the real thing?

Unable to rejoice

In contrast to the sermon, the ninety minutes prior to Reverend Clark’s message were anything but hopeful. Vintage ‘Laughing Revival’ behaviour raged the entire time. I tried my best to be accepting, hoping to find a silver lining in the dark cloud before and all around me. But, I found none. To me and for me, it was grievous. I wanted to rejoice with other Christians and celebrate our faith. I could not.

And I was not the only one. Many pastors from surrounding churches were there and, though they went forward to receive a ‘double portion’ of the Spirit, several did not fall down when Randy Clark laid hands on them.

I watched them carefully. One pastor, who sat directly behind me with his wife, was prayed for several times by Randy Clark, Bill Johnson, pastor of Bethel Church, and other men I did not know. He never went down though it was plain it was expected he would. He stood, unmoved, for about half an hour, submitting to one praying group after another. When he regained his seat behind me, I could see he was greatly discouraged. What that meant and what he felt, I have no idea.

One further point – the musician at the synthesizer attempted to imitate the ‘sound of a mighty rushing wind’. The worship leader responded to the metallic sound as though he was experiencing a powerful and awesome force, and the hundreds of people around me became as animated and excited as any group of people I have ever seen (including those watching championship games with the San Francisco Giants or 49ers). Seated close to the front, my senses were bombarded by the shrill sounds coming from the electronic keyboard. The fraud being perpetrated on the congregation made me angry. I guess the people knew it was fake; then again, maybe they did not.

Wild fire

What bothers me most is that the ‘revival’ is declared to be the great move of God in the last days. The leaders plainly declare that it is the last great revival before Jesus returns. But it is unlike any revival I have ever read about or personally experienced. I see no great outpouring of the Holy Spirit that brings conviction of sin and produces saving faith in unbelievers. Rather, I see people singing ‘praise’ songs for long periods, accompanied by what can only be described as rock-and-roll bands; grotesque, high-pitched laughter, jerking and screaming; I see people falling down into what looks like a coma, sometimes for long periods; I see spiritual leaders ‘zapping’ people with the ‘Holy Spirit’, often over long distances, and other strange phenomena. I do not see this in the New Testament and in the history of genuine awakenings, where such behaviour is usually regarded as ‘wild fire revival’ and discouraged.

False revival

It is a sad thing when Christians are not of one accord. What shall we do? Ignore it, speak only kind things, jump on board, exhort those involved to beware – just what should we do? This is not an easy question to answer. I have chosen to be plain and clear about my opposition. If I am wrong, then that is my problem. However, if I am right, and this is not the great and final revival just before Jesus returns and is, in fact, a false revival, then it is imperative to speak out against it.

Eventually it will all become clear. I opposed the Shepherding Movement of the 1970s and 1980s led by the ‘Fort Lauderdale Five’, and was greatly criticised for doing so. Later, when the movement collapsed, one of the leaders actually thanked me for my opposition. He said it helped bring him to his senses. If the leaders of the Toronto Blessing are headed in the wrong direction, it is incumbent on their brothers and sisters to bring correction. Is not this part of what it means to ‘love one another’?