"Over Our
Heads?" (2)

In The River

 

OVER OUR HEADS?
Part Two of Two

By Stephen Pratel

INTRODUCTION by Tricia Tillin

This well-researched and balanced enquiry into the "revival" movement was sent to me by S. Pratel, who is a minister within the Assemblies of God. He is not a "hostile witness" against the revival. Indeed, to begin with you may think he has too much symapthy with it. However, his eye-witness accounts of events in the revival churches are rivetting, and essential reading for anybody still in doubt about the spirit behind this new move.

Contents (Part One):

The Danger of Numbness
Do You Know what is Happening?
An "Unusual" Experience.
The Great Masquerade
Testing...Testing.
We Need Leaders
A Dose of Integrity.

Contents (Part Two):

Areas of Concern in the River Revival:

  1. The Word of God Often Takes Secondary Status.
  2. Jesus Christ is Not Proclaimed as Lord
  3. Empty Minds and Mouth in Order to Receive
  4. A Transferable anointing
  5. Confusion, Manipulation and Intimidation
  6. Ordering the Holy Spirit.
  7. Strident Attitudes
  8. Hidden links.
  9. One Must Experience or Attend This Revival
  10. Repentance is Not Necessary for Blessing

Final Points


Areas of Concern in the "River" Revival

#1 The Word of God often takes secondary Status - In many of the new Revival/River Revival services, the Word of God is not expounded or proclaimed. In some cases, it is never even opened. While it is referred to and spoken about, the scriptures are rarely read, or clearly proclaimed. What we find in the place of Bible preaching is a myriad of stories, examples, powerful visual illustrations, allegory, loosely quoted scripture, and out of context applications. All of these are skewed for the purpose of engaging the listener to believe in, and seek this new experience. Some Revival leaders have even said "The Word of God is not enough"... "We have had enough preaching"... "The church has become fat, People need a demonstration of power"...

Bible-less preaching, Story Telling, and talking about the Bible is a growing trend. If you step back and look at this trend over the last sixty years, it seems that the church has been primed for this to take place. Slowly, and progressively, churches that were once founded on the scriptures have been lead away. Historically, an absence of the preached Word has always lead to spiritual darkness. In Main Line Denominations, the Word of God is demeaned, and its verbal inspiration openly questioned. In a word, it has been marginalized.

Likewise, in many of the new revivals, the Word of God is marginalized by neglect. It is not denied or questioned as in the main line denominations, but it has been replaced by spontaneous utterances, manifestations, and experiences. When statements such as "Not everything God has done, or will do, or said, or has to say, is in the Bible" are made, instead of the church rising up and saying "WHAT??? THIS IS HERESY!" people are saying, "WOW! THAT IS REVELATION!" Brethren, this is disastrous. You may have not noticed this trend, or been aware that such things were happening, but I encourage you to keep an open eye for this. You may be surprised at how common it has become. This leads us to a number of important questions: Has the church yet scratched the surface of Godís Word?? Have we yet to mine the riches of its depths? Have we worn the Scriptures out? Is the Bible no longer sufficient? Have we really had too much of the Word?

The answer to the above questions is obviously a resounding NO! Why then are so many abandoning the Word of God? Or even more sinister, why are so many in the River Revival Movement marginalizing it and trivializing its precepts? More and more churches are regularly "skipping" the preaching because the worship and prayer times are so powerful. Many churches have eliminated direct Bible preaching in favor of illustrated messages, and highly paraphrased "readings" of scripture. The church needs more of the Word, NOT less. Why are some looking to spontaneous sources (also known as fresh or "new" revelation)? Why is allegorical preaching and storytelling so popular? Why are Old Testament passages taken completely out of context and applied to current situations and settings as original truth? Why is the scripture not expounded on and correctly taught with authority? Could it be that in order for a lie to be believed, the truth must be removed or marginalized?

Some boast that they no longer have or need preaching. The worship and altar time is all that is needed. They think it is wonderful. True, this can occur and be a positive thing on occasion. But, when it is habitual, a churchís stability and spiritual integrity will be undermined. These experiences feed the senses, but starve stability, and open a door to deception. 2 Timothy 3:16&17 says: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, :17 that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." It is the Word of God that makes the individual Christian and entire church complete, not spiritual experiences.

Well-constructed and highly motivating messages, laced with scriptural tributes must not take the place of the clear preaching and solid teaching of the Word of God. Some use the Bible only to illustrate and support a spiritual truth or idea they are presenting. This is backwards. We do not use the bible to support what we teach. We are to support what the Bible teaches, and submit our illustrations to it. We must return to the cry of our Fellowships (the Assemblies of God), founding fathers "SHOW IT TO ME IN THE WORD." Unless we do this, we are doomed in the long run for apostasy and destruction.

#2 Jesus Christ is not Consistently Proclaimed as Lord - Having viewed hours of videotape, attended services and seminars, and read many books and articles from these new revivalists, one question that has often come to mind is: "Where is our blessed Savior?" During many River Revival meetings (with the exception of some Awake America Crusades sponsored by the Brownsville A/G Ministry team), you will not hear the phrase, "Jesus Christ is Lord." Neither do we find much mentioning or stressing of the Lordship of Christ and His centrality. It is true that "Jesus" is mentioned, but it is the HOLY SPIRIT and the experiences and manifestations from Him that garners most of the attention.

This practice is clearly out of balance with scripture. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would "Testify of me (Christ)." It has been said confidently and boldly by some that, "The Old Testament was the Fathers time, The New Testament was the Sons time, and now it is the Holy Spiritís time" Some preachers boldly declare, "God has called me to preach the message of Revival and the Holy Ghost." If the Gospel of Jesus Christ was good enough for the Apostle Paul, writer of scriptures, and pillar of the early church, it should be good enough for us. Revival experiences are secondary however to the one who was pierced for us. HE is the Beginning and the End of all we say and do. He is the central figure of all our efforts. If all things were created by and for and through Him, I would say that we must make sure we follow the same pattern.

Another commonly seen teaching in these meetings seems to emphasize the Humanity of Christ, stating that he was an "Anointed Man." Some say things such as "Jesus was able to perform miracles only because He was anointed by the Holy Spirit." In some cases, the new Revivalists, have said that they believe that it was possible for Jesus to sin. They say that if it were not for the Holy Spirit helping Him, Jesus would have sinned. Others claim that the reason Jesus did not sin was that He chose not to. It was possible they say, but they do say that it did not happen.

These insinuations and suggestions take away from Jesus Christ being fully Divine. They pull Him down to our level, and reduce Him to a mere "anointed man." This is not a paper on Christology, and I am not a theologian, but to say that Jesus could have sinned is to say that God Can Sin. True, Jesus, while on earth was tempted, and experienced temptation as we do, but as God incarnate, it was impossible for Him to Sin. Jesus could be tempted because he was fully man, but He could not sin because He was also fully God. To say that He could sin would make Him less than fully God. This comes dangerously close to denying Christ. So I ask you, do you believe it was possible for Jesus to have sinned? My brother or Sister, I hope you have a high regard for our Savior.

Although not the case in all River Revival meetings, the over emphasis and almost worship of the Holy Spirit and the lowering or questioning of the Lordship and GodHead (Divinity) of Christ happens often. We should be aware of these mixed teachings and be on guard against them. Jesus warned that many false prophets and teachers would come in His name, but would not truly be from Him. More than ever, the church needs to be discerning, calm, and watchful as we see the end of time approaching. We MUST test every Spirit, and compare every teaching, practice, and doctrine to the Word of God. Whatever does not proclaim and keep central the fact that "Jesus Christ is Lord," and the teaching of sound doctrine should be corrected and/or rejected.

#3 Empty Minds and Mouths in order to receive - One of the strangest, practices and teachings in this revival is the concept that "In order to drink in the river anointing (or any anointing associated with it, such as the sword or warrior anointing), you must be silent and completely open." This statement has been made or implied by many, if not all, of the leaders of this movement. Without question, this teaching/doctrine/ practice is HERESY. When, or how, did God ever seek to restrain His people from praising Him? When has God ever encouraged His people not to reason and think? Even in a deep state of sin, the call goes out in the book of Isaiah "Come let us reason."

Yet, our walk is not one of human understanding and reason. Our relationship with God is based on faith. The Bible says that faith comes as a response to hearing the Word of God. The Word is heard by our ears, and translated into thoughts by our brain. Somehow, in the mystery of all mysteries, God causes faith to spring forth in our hearts (our thinking mind or will), and we respond in the affirmative to His love. What follows this belief and faith is the confession of our mouths. My point is that belief and unbelief begins in the brain. Every true experience with God will require thought. The experience of every great person in the Bible proves this point. Why should these principles be any different today? Without thought, faith is impossible.

Furthermore, Praise and Worship is ALWAYS seen as vocal in the Bible. It puts Satan on the RUN and exalts God Almighty. It frees man. God Inhabits, or as some translations put it, is enthroned on the Praise of His people. Heaven, the very dwelling place of God, is continually filled with praise and verbal adoration. When Jesus entered Jerusalem before his crucifixion, He was greeted with thunderous vocal praise. This was such a powerful moment in Godís dealing with man, that if the people were silent, the ROCKS would have cried out. The greatest events in church history have involved vocal expressions of praise and thanksgiving.

Is it possible that praise from our mouths can inhibit God from filling our spirit? Can the physical act of worship limit God? The answer is clearly NO! When we are baptized in the Holy Spirit; When we are saved; When we commune with God in prayer and praise, the scriptures overwhelmingly endorse and urge us to be vocal. "If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart.... you shall be saved" the scriptures declare.

The answer that we often hear from these revivals in response to this question is "I donít know how it limits the impartation, but it doesÖ. You have to experience it to understand it." This is not a good enough answer.

In some ways, I do not doubt that praise/prayer/thought may inhibit this new impartation. I have personally experienced and observed this strange doctrine or practice. I have stood at an altar at these revival services, praising, and been told to be silent and stop making noise and just receive. I have also seen this direction given to seekers numerous times, and have heard many reports of something similar. Christian, hear me...... SATAN wants the church to be quiet.

Any experience that demands, or requires verbal silence, and says that to say, "Hallelujah" or, "Thank you Jesus," will limit the blessing, or any experience that requires we shut off our mind and will in order to experience it, cannot be from God. Still, some will ignore these scriptural violations and point to their, or another personís experience. Ultimately, it comes to this question.... "Experience or the Word of God, which will you choose?"

# 4 A Transferable Anointing - Common to almost every outlet of this revival is the belief that the blessing or anointing of revival can, or needs to be imparted from person to person. In other words, many in this new revival believe that an anointing or blessing can be transferred from one person to another. This is done primarily through touch, but can also be transferred by being in an anointed personís presence. Sometimes when we see the "anointed" person praying for others, they will wave their hands in circles over and around a personís head and hands, or body, to pass the anointing to them, or they may tap them on the forehead or chest while they say "Fire, Touch, or More".

Consider these questions in relation to this practice: Will the third person of the Trinity submit Himself to be dispensed? How can one Holy Spirit indwelt person transfer more of the Holy Spirit to another? If the believer is the Temple (dwelling place) of the Holy Spirit, what more can someone else give to them? The answer to the above questions is a clear, resounding NO. Are those who endorse and employ this practice saying that this impartation is now the only way to be filled or refilled with the Spirit? It is also interesting that speaking in tongues has fallen strangely silent in this new revival.

If the leaders of this revival are not saying that this is now the ONLY way to receive from the Holy Spirit, then why do they chastise, intimidate, and criticize those who are cautious, or question, or say no thank-you to what they are offering? Why must they resort to high-pressure tactics and intimidation to get people to submit to this? Why must the church come to revival centers, or have a revived or anointed person come to them to get "More of God?" Some say the answer to these questions can only be found in the experience of the revival. They say it is unexplainable, but real.

How can it be said that a person who prays daily, studies the Word, walks in the spirit, has a love relationship with the Lord, and keeps themselves pure in their walk, is rejecting God by questioning this experience? It does not add up. A.W. Tozer said something to the effect of: "I am a Bible Christian, and if an archangel with a wingspread as broad as a constellation shining like the sun were to come and offer me some new truth, Iíd ask him for a reference. If he could not show me where it is found in the Bible, I would bow him out and say, Iím awfully sorry, you donít bring any references with you" I donít know about you, but Iíd say itís time to "bow a few things out."

Surely, no one fully understands the nature, character, and workings of God, but the teaching of impartation in this context has NO biblical basis. It was not a practice in the New Testament, especially among believers, and should not be today. There may be some precedent for this when dealing with the unsaved, as you have one person indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and another who is not. An example of this would be Peter and John with the cripple at the gate to the temple. This (evidently unsaved) man was instantly healed as a result of Peterís touch, then he went about walking and leaping and praising God. But even this circumstance is not clearly seen as normal and repeated event in the New Testament. Some may point to Timothy as an example of "transference". Careful examination of Timothyís experience reveals something different from what is being practiced in this modern movement of impartation. In Timothyís case, they did not lay hands on him to impart a gift. Rather, the Holy Spirit bestowed gifts on Timothy when Paul and the Elders laid hands upon Him. This became known by prophecy (1 Timothy 4, 2 Timothy 1).

There is a significant difference between:

  1. Laying hands on someone and asking for Godís blessing, provision, and help, with the expectation that the Holy Spirit will fill and empower the individual and;
  2. Laying hands on someone and praying for the express purpose of imparting something specific with an expected manifestation.

The first is Biblical, and has been practiced throughout church history. It allows God to be God, and follows the understanding that He is able to do exceedingly above all we could ask or imagine. The second practice seeks to dispense a specific blessing or experience with an expected outcome. It is unbiblical and dangerous. In my opinion, it borders on BLASPHEMY.

Some will also mention Elisha receiving an anointing from Elijah in double portion. In their case, NEITHER were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, neither were sanctified and made Temples of the Holy Spirit by the blood of Christ, nor were they born again, never mind baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Biblical "anointing" is a setting apart and empowering by God for a specific purpose. It was a special gifting from God for specific purposes BEFORE Calvary. The Holy Spirit that empowered Elijah and Elisha NOW DWELLS IN EVERY BELIEVER.

Jesus said THE anointing was upon Him, and we know that it is also on all that believe in His name. It is the presence of the Holy Spirit that enables a believer to do great things. Jesus said that we would do greater things than He did. Not because a person on earth imparted a blessing to us, but because we believe in His name, and are filled with, and indwelt by His Spirit. In order to work mighty exploits, Elijah and Elisha needed a special anointing from God. As believers in Christ, we do not. All we need to do is believe in His name (Mark 16:7). This of course does not take the place of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit or the Gifts of the Spirit, but it is faith in Christ that gives the believer access to the Anointing of the Holy Spirit. Jesus clearly stated... "These signs will accompany those who believe in my name..." Believing in and on Him is enough to see the miraculous.

It is also interesting that Elijah did not touch Elisha in order to "transfer" anything. God did the transformation and empowering of Elisha's life, NOT Elijah. This naturally leads us to a discussion of Elishaís bones. Some point to the occurrence in 2 Kings 13 of the dead man that touched Elishaís bones coming to life as evidence of a resident anointing that can be transferred. We do not know the full details of this event, as the scripture is silent about it with the exception of this one brief account.

Was it "latent and leftover power and anointing" in Elisha's bones? Or did God choose to revive the man for a specific purpose? As this is a totally isolated and unique experience in scripture, and there is no other reference to Elishaís or anyone elseís bones having such power, we can safely say that God purposely chose to do this incredible thing at that time for a specific purpose. We can also say that before and after the event, Elishaís bones were no different than any others in the grave. Even if there was such an anointing, Godís Word does not say so, and as the late great Bible teacher, J. Vernon McGee often said, "Where the Bible is Silent, we must also be silent."

It has been emphasized repeatedly, that a "Transference" is REAL and NECESSARY FOR THIS REVIVAL TO TAKE PLACE. Many preachers in this movement say that this impartation is real, whether we want to accept it or not. There is no doubt that it is REAL. What we should question is; is it "Of God?" The thought that a special "transference" is necessary to the next move of God is contrary to a belief in an Omnipotent, Omniscient, and Omnipresent God. As you hear of "revivals," explore whether or not someone in that church or ministry has received an impartation or blessing. If they have, you will more than likely find many of these concerns I list here. These similarities are more than a coincidence.

THIS REVIVAL SPREADS LIKE A VIRUS! A horrible statement you say?? Even one of the most prominent leaders of this movement has said so, but his statement was obviously made with a positive connotation. Spend a little time researching this modern "river" revival, and one will find that they link together like a chain, one following another, and all, ultimately, traceable back to a starting point. It is passed on from person to person, church to church, ministry to ministry. THIS REVIVAL PREYS ON THE DESPERATE and broken. For the most part, the desperate we speak of are desperate for a touch, or feeling, or experience. They do not seem to be desperate for forgiveness, and Grace, broken in humility over sin, and their fallen state. Jesus told His disciples to wait for the promise of the Father. Jesus also said we should not rush to and fro looking for Him. When will we take his words seriously?

When referring to His Second Coming, Jesus warned us explicitly that if we heard to go out to this place or that, or He is over here, or in the wilderness that we could be sure it wasnít Him, and should not go. That principle can be applied to this situation. God is a local God. He always brings what we need where we are. His Spirit is like water under the ground. Every church can find its wellspring of Life right where they are. Godís people do not need to import water! The church needs to heed His advice. No one should be intimidated and herded to receive an impartation from man. This issue, and its impact on the church is too important to ignore.

# 5 Confusion, Manipulation and Intimidation Ė Confusion, manipulation and intimidation are common elements in many of the "River Revival" meetings. (*The examples given can be commonly found throughout the movement, but happen most frequently when the revival is first introduced to a congregation. Once the "River" has begun to flow, these actions lessen considerably). There are continuous swipes taken at anything traditional or established. Those who question the "revival" are often belittled, reviled, and castigated. More recently, a "Pity the opposition" approach which adopts an arrogant yet "sympathetic" attitude toward those who are not "In the River" can be seen as well.

Please hear this.... I believe that most leaders are honest in their attempts to see revival in the church. Still, such tactics are wrong, as they leave the weak, tired, and desperate desiring what is being offered. Faith is transformed from solid assurance in Christ, "the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen," to an experience received from those who are in, and have themselves received this new anointing. Yet, honest mistakes do not erase error.

As people sit in these services, they hear the testimonies of what God did in the service of church preceding theirs. They are challenged to see the same happen in their own lives. They hear derogatory remarks that are directed at the "heresy hunters and doubters." They see people fall as though they were electrocuted. They see strange sights and hear strange noises; but they are in church, so it must be OK. "It must be revival." It looks strange, but feels good. You are told "If you are open, you will get the blessing." If you hold back, or doubt the experience in even the slightest manner, you will "grieve the Holy Spirit and miss the blessing." The manipulations go on and on.

When it comes time for "Ministry" (what the new revivals call the blessing or impartation altar call), a personís mind is a jumble. They love God, but something does not seem right. They ask themselves; "Am I religious? Do I really love God?" They are in confusion. "Look at all the people, listen to the reports... I know, it must be me... I must really be far from the Lord... Should I go up?" Does the above description sound familiar to you? If you have ever attended one of these meetings, and have had questions, you know exactly how this feels.

People are petrified of being labeled as a Pharisee, or Revival Critic. NO one wants to resist or blaspheme the Holy Spirit. However, the pressure to accept without question is tremendous. It becomes vividly clear that if you test the spirit, raise a question, or hesitate to go with the flow of the river, you will be frowned upon, and considered spiritually dead. The repeated admonition from the pulpits of these revivals is: "Get into the flow of the River, abandon yourself, and let it take you wherever it wants to go." This sounds appealing to a church or Christian that is spiritually young, weak, immature, or insecure. Hungry, beaten, and weary, many are being drawn in to these experiences. We are also in a time when the average Christian does not know the Bible. I believe we are in a dangerous time.

In secular culture, saying something remotely negative about a homosexual person, or someone of another ethnicity will immediately get you branded as a "homophobe, or racist." The fear of such labeling and ostracizing keeps most decent, honest, and sincere people silent. This silence has brought social disaster to our country. Any time the decent, civil examination of an issue is stifled, and issues are kept in the dark, evil will be allowed to triumph. If something is going to be resolved, all issues must be brought out openly, and totally into the light.

It seems the same stifling of discussion is happening in the church when we address the topic of this "revival." It is a "hot potato" that few seem to want to discuss. When there is discussion, it always seems to escalate to anger and judgementalism. The angry line both sides of the debate. Name-calling is frequent, and personal attacks abound. I pray we can overcome this problem and press toward the truth in love. Intimidation and judgementalism of all forms must be overcome if we hope to retain Biblical and Spiritual Integrity. The church must rise above such carnal behavior. We must keep criticisms and examinations focused on fruits, teachings, practices and doctrines. The right to judge manís heart motivation belongs to God alone.

# 6 Ordering the Holy Spirit -This is one of the most troubling aspects of this movement, and can be commonly seen in some revival circles. Two specific statements that cause concern are made:

#1 - "Holy Spirit Come" and #2 - "More Lord"

At the end of the normal service, the statement or prayer statement that often follows the praise, preaching, and sometimes altar call for salvation is, "HOLY SPIRIT COME." This is done just before people are invited to come forward to receive an anointing or blessing.

Consider these questions: Why is this pronouncement/prayer made and the congregation urged to repeat it after there has already been prayer, praise, worship and preaching? If God inhabits the praise of His people, if Jesus promised to be present whenever two or three were gathered in His name, if the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Christ, if Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and if it is the Gospel that leads to life, why is it necessary to invite the Holy Spirit into a meeting as if He was not yet present? If He was not there during the service, what spirit was there during the praise, prayer, and preaching?

There are three possible conclusions to these questions. First, is that the pastors and church leaders are innocently parroting what they have seen others do, without considering what they are really saying or doing. Second, is that the only way for God to now move in a sovereign way in our services is to make this special invitation, and that the leaders in these meetings really believe it is necessary. Third, is the possibility that the "spirit" being invited at this point is "another" spirit. If this is true, then we need to note that this "new" spirit is being invited specifically to enter what is called "Ministry Time," or as one revival evangelist has called it, the "Good Stuff." This, by the way, is when most of the impartation, and strange manifestations are seen and done.

If this is true, it would follow that this second spirit is the source of the various strange manifestations, prophesies, doctrines, and demonstrations of power common to these meetings. Furthermore, it is possible that the spirit being invited at this time is one that cannot be present, or operate freely while there is Praise and Prayer (hence the emphasis of silence in order to receive), or when the Word is preached. Believe me, I know that this is controversial and sounds way out. I am not saying I know that it is true as a fact. But this question has been kept silent for too long. I refuse to stay so any longer. SOMETHING IS WRONG.

The second statement that brings concern is the continual repeating of the words "More Lord." The Idea, that at this time of prayer or ministry, the words More Lord, are all that is needed is highly questionable. The waving of hands and fingers over the palms and head, and the repetitive words "more, more, more", "fire, fire fire," are extremely new age in their appearance, not to mention being vain (empty) repetitions. It is also important to note that these methods are viewed by those in the movement as necessary tools, and can be found EVERYWHERE this "revival" spreads.

The practice of "MORE LORD" literally boils down to an ordering of the Holy Spirit. The words are repeatedly spoken over a person until the desired results are seen. There are exceptions, but if we are going to be honest we must acknowledge that this practice is happening a majority of the time and places. Is it wrong to cry out for "MORE?" Absolutely not! We all want more of the Lord. But who are we to stand over a person, and wave our hands at them and say "MORE?" Itís like standing over Moms shoulder ordering her to give your brother or sister more of those potatoes. I donít know about you, but my Mom knows when to stop! Now, if you were the one receiving, those delicious potatoes and you wanted more, all you have to do is ask and say "More potatoes momÖPlease." I know this is a weak illustration, but I hope it communicates my point that we have the right to ask for more of ourselves, not to determine more for others.

There are accounts from deacons, members, and leaders of local churches, prayer team leaders, that the prayer teams at some of these revivals have been instructed to not pray in Jesusí name, but to only say "More Lord." I heard these claims over a year ago, but dismissed these accounts as disgruntled people until last November, when this guest minister, a man who spoke at Sacred Assembly 1997, a man who claims the endorsement of the executive leaders of the Assemblies of God, and who claims to be a central figure in this movement exhibited and demonstrated both of these unbiblical practices. (More Lord and Holy Spirit Come). It was then that I realized that these errors may have crept into the Assemblies of God, and I decided to give the Revival movement in the Assemblies of God a closer look.

Is this what the church or more directly, the Assemblies of God now believes? God forbid it! When we look at all of this, our hearts should cry out JESUS. Not more. Do you know what we believe? Have any of us used up all God has already given? Have we exhausted His Love, worn out His Grace, expended His promises and blessings? Have we put to use the message of the Gospel, and used up its power?? Shouldnít God be saying to us "GIVE ME MORE OF YOU"? It smacks of disrespect and arrogance to say, "Is this all there is? God give me more, give me something fresh, I need something new" when we have tragically abandoned and neglected what He has already given.

On a personal note, I first encountered these strange practices in 1992, when of my longest and most trusted friends in ministry was sent out of his church (non A/G) to "spread this new move of God." This occurred years before the currently known revivals. It troubled me then, and does today as well. Anyhow, over the last six years, I have seen these practices spread through the Charismatic Church, but I had never seen or heard of them in the Assemblies of God until late 1997. (It is interesting that Kathryn Kuhlman practiced something similar to this. She used to say, "And now I want to introduce you to my friend," where upon she would invite the Holy Spirit to "Come". She would also encourage her audience to do the same.)

#7 Strident Attitudes - The attitude expressed by leaders and members of this movement is often arrogant, smug, condescending, impatient, and even threatening towards those who question it. Most leaders, many local pastors and evangelists in this movement have made scandalous statements in this regard. They range from declaring that all churches who reject or question the revival as being "spiritual wastelands," to personal attacks, public disgracing and intimidation. One Evangelist in a "Thus saith the Lord" prophecy given in April of 1997, clearly stated that "anyone who questions this revival, or rejects it, that they will be cut off, their ministries dried up, that they should be considered as falling away, from Christ, and that they shouldnít be restored unless they become white hot for what God is doing." In all fairness, part of the reason for their attitude, is a result of the horrible attacks they have suffered from those opposed to the revival.

To my knowledge, in all of the angry words that have been thrown about, only John Kilpatrick has recanted or apologized for his controversial "false prophecy" against one revival critic by the name of Hank Hanegraaff. On the whole, there is little civil conversation.

Local pastors have publicly ridiculed deacons and long time faithful members when they have questioned this new move. They are almost exclusively characterized as religious, dead, demon possessed, or severely backslidden. Never are they presented as sincere God fearing and loving believers. Many examples of these type of attacks could be given here (on both sides), but that would detract from the more important issues. If you wish to know more about this, I suggest you purchase Dr. Michael Browns book "Let No One Deceive You", and also Hank Hanegraaff's book, "Counterfeit Revival." I have not read Hanegraaff's book, but I understand it is considered the "standard" in speaking against this revival and itís leaders. I do not endorse either book, but both do give a clear picture of each side.

The attitude of intolerance toward those who question this "paradigm shift," (as they call it), and the implication that to reject these experiences is to reject Christ is just plain wrong. In case you do not know, what is meant by a Paradigm Shift is that the basic foundations of what the scripture said, and what the church has traditionally understood to be true is no longer adequate. There is now a new way for the church to experience and see it all. Everything is the same, yet different. This is best seen in what is commonly called "Prophetic Interpretation of Scripture." In other Words, God is revealing to modern prophets new truths in the old scripture. It is a paradigm shift as they put it. It is interesting to note that the New Age Movement, Wicca, and various elements of the Occult have been looking for and talking about a paradigm shift for years.

Some say there is NO OTHER move of God in our day. It is boldly declared that "This is the final move of God." If you are not in the river, you are not with God. "Reject it at your peril." Question the revival, and you are in danger of loosing your salvation. Truthfully, these positions do not make sense! We often hear the phrase: "God is coming out of the box Religious Traditions put Him in." By saying that this movement is the "ONLY and LAST move of God," THEY HAVE CREATED A NEW BOX!!! But in reality, is there a box that can hold Him? How foolish to even think such a thing.

Some further questions: What is really being said by the river revivalists? What is the new truth and experience that must be accepted? Is it fundamental and essential to salvation? Is this experience and movement to be compared with, and viewed on the same level as salvation, synonymous with faith or the commandments, or equally as revolutionary as our Lords first coming? Is this a new Pentecost? Or Advent of the Holy Spirit? Or are we witnessing another extreme experience fueled by the flesh or Satan, destined to diminish or destroy the long-term effectiveness of the church by causing deep divisions? I ask you, does one truly reject Christ if he/she rejects or questions, or keeps themselves from the River Revival?

There are many reasons to be concerned about what is happening, but in no way, shape, or form, should anyone judge or condemn those who believe this movement to be of God. Likewise, those who believe this movement to be of God have no right to judge or condemn those who do not. We may not agree, and we must point out error in doctrine, but we cannot judge someone else, or assume what is in their hearts. It is Godís business to judge the heart.

On the Day of Pentecost, Peter stood up and declared that the Prophecy of Joel was being fulfilled. I believe the scriptures declare that we are still in the last days, and Jesus is still baptizing with the Holy Spirit. I reject the notion that we are in a different phase or outpouring of the Spirit than on the day of Pentecost. There is nothing less, and nothing more. The harvest that began on that day will continue along the same program until the bridegroom returns. I encourage you to read the full context of Acts 2. You will notice an apocalyptic sounding statement being made by Peter. The scripture is showing us that what began on the day of Pentecost nearly 2000 years ago would continue until the great and Glorious day of the Lord, when Jesus returns to earth and every eye shall see him. I see no indication that a "third wave" or new dispensation would take place. Or was Peter mistaken?

God spoke to man in various ways and times before Christ, but now all things are for, and through Christ. His Message, His Atonement, His Gospel, His Spirit is all we need. There are no other levels in God. Christ is the heir and creator of all things. The next level, if we must describe one, will be the catching away of the church, and Second Coming of Christ. The church can only rediscover what it has allowed to fall into disuse or neglect. It is not "NEW". The new thing came 2000 years ago, His name is Jesus!

Anything that claims to be "new," or yet to be revealed, practiced, or taught can be safely rejected. The person and work of the Holy Spirit is no different today than He/it(relating to the WORK) was on the day of Pentecost two thousand years ago. To teach or imply that there are "levels" to God is plain error. It is in fact extra Biblical and occultic in its origin. But please do not take my word for it. Look in the scriptures for yourself. If you can point to clear statements relating to levels of God, new or special revelation outside of the Word, or an end time revival that is on an equal level with the declaration of end time apostasy, please share them.

#8 Hidden Links? - Although this book is not specifically about the Brownsville Revival, this particular concern is directed at it. You may not see this as important, but I believe it is significant. When the revival at Brownsville first happened, the church at large, and specifically the Assemblies of God as a whole was told in no uncertain terms that there was NO connection or similarity between its revival, and the Revival at the Toronto Airport Fellowship or Rodney Howard Brown type meetings. We were told, "There is no connection or relation to Toronto, or any other revival. It is a completely spontaneous sovereign move of God." The facts have shown that this statement was not entirely accurate.

If you do not know, the pastorís wife from the Brownsville Assembly of God visited Toronto twice before Fathers Day, 1995. The worship leader visited & was blessed at Toronto before taking his position at Brownsville, and groups from the church visited Toronto before Fathers Day, 1995. Finally, Steve Hill, the Evangelist at the Brownsville Revival received his impartation from a minister in a church in England who received his impartation and blessing from Toronto. This is all closely related to the Argentina Revival, and Rodney Howard Browne Crusades as well.

Why is this important? Because at the time Brownsville had its initial outpouring, there was much concern about the validity of what was happening in the Toronto Airport Vineyard Fellowship and Rodney Howard Brown Crusades. The happenings, doctrines, and manifestations in Toronto lead up to that church being dismissed from the Vineyard Fellowship. The primary charge and reason for the dismissal (ultimately as a withdrawal) was that the leadership in Toronto refused to test what was happening in their services. They had basically adopted a "receive it all, without question" mentality.

When the Brownsville revival first burst onto the scene, the first question asked by local church pastors was "Is it connected to Toronto?" The answer was always No. No connection whatsoever. This was a sovereign SEPARATE move of God, which resulted from a church spending two and one half years in fasting and prayer. They say it was also a "fulfillment of a prophecy" that David Cho gave a short time before. Toronto was, for the most part rejected, or at least questioned by a majority of the Pentecostal Church at that time, and in many places, still is. However, over the last year or so, the line between the two has been blurred significantly. *Interestingly, at a recent Awake America Crusade in Niagara Falls, New York (October 98), there was not one mention of Toronto, or its revival. This is notable only because Toronto is geographically close to Niagara Falls.

While the statements "This is a separate move of God, having nothing to do with Toronto" may be "technically correct" when applied to the pastoral staff, at Brownsville, they are not entirely true for the revival as a whole. There may not be an official connection or affiliation between the two churches, but there is a significant spiritual connection. This has been expressed by both the leadership in the Toronto church, and also by members and leaders of the Brownsville Assembly of God, as well as other revival proponents. What is most important is the seeming withholding or downplaying of this information until Brownsville was firmly accepted by many in the Assemblies of God. Now what was once denied is mentioned casually. Additionally, as recently as January 1999, the pastors wife from Toronto, and a leading River Church in England were keynote speakers at the Arise Deborah womenís conference at the Brownsville A/G. The pastors wife from Brownsville clearly said she had received her blessing and anointing at Toronto, and the God was Joining the three streams (Brownsville/Toronto/England) into one mighty river of revival destined to sweep the world. I have viewed this service on video tape. I cannot bring myself to describe to you what I saw on that tape. The unity of Spirit between Brownsville/Toronto/England and other River movements is very solid and real. Whats the problem with this??? It is the fact that the general consensus of pastors and leaders (District and National) in the Assemblies of God is that there is no connection between the revivals. Even to this day, most Assembly of God pastors will respond as far as they know there is "no connection." Did you know about this connection? Does it matter to you? If it does, please look into the situation yourself, and draw your own conclusions. One thing I am sure of, is that GOD NEVER OPERATES IN DECEPTION. Letís press on for the truth.

#9 One must experience or attend this new revival - The idea that "one must visit one of these revivals in order to have a valid objection" is regularly expressed by the supporters of the movement. While this seems to be a reasonable and powerful argument, a little reflection shows the fallacy in this secular reasoning. Let us apply it to a number of other situations. For example, should we, or could we, say the same about the Jehovahís Witnesses or Mormons? What about Islam? or Drugs? or the New Age Movement, or the K.K.K.? The idea of needing to attend a Mosque, or take drugs in order to have a valid objection against them is ridiculous. Although the churches and ministries in question have no similarities to the above mentioned groups, with reliable information, one can easily dismiss and summarily reject an activity or organization based on what the group says and does.

The objections and concerns written here are a result of what I have personally observed, heard, seen, and experienced. The opinions are mine. I have not copied them from someone else, nor am I parroting anotherís position or experience. The Word of God is our rule of faith and practice, PERIOD. All one needs to do is watch, listen, and test what is seen and heard by the Word of God. As a result, we will know what is and is not of God. Is it wrong to test? Do you grieve the Holy Spirit when you do so? Are you causing Jesus Christ to become angry with you when you examine a movement or experience in light of the Word of God? Read what 1 Corinthians 14:29-33 says. After reading it, you decide. Whether or not someone has visited any church that is "In the River" is not that important. To make it an issue is a distraction from the real issues. If you have gone to a river revival, or are presently in the river, I urge you in the Name of our Lord and by His Grace to test the doctrines and practices, and your experiences by the Word. If you choose to not go, then watch the videos, and read the books and interviews. Do not depend on someone elseís opinion. If you go to one of these revivals, be open to God, yet committed to testing everything by the Word.

Do not check your mind at the door. Submit it to the Word of God, and Faith. Go prepared to test. If you say, "Iím just going to go, I donít have the time to find these things out.....Iíll just go and experience it for myself" I would say to you then, "If you donít have the time to know, or your not willing to test it by the Word you shouldnít go." The experience is that powerful, and engaging. If you go unprepared, you very well could be swept away by it. My goal is to encourage you to be a Berean, to know the Word, to know the Truth, to be confident in Christ, and looking to Him for all you need. He has what we all need, and is able and willing to meet us where we are.

#10 Repentance is not necessary for blessing - It seems in most cases, that this revival can be poured out on anyone, regardless of how they have been living before or after their attendance at a "River Revival" meeting. As long as they are open, they can experience. Sin or no sin, believer or non-believer, all you need to do is be open. No one with an open heart is denied or untouchable. Only those with questions and doubts seem to be left "untouched."

There are many unbelievers being "slain" touched, etc. at these meetings. If these people came out of the experience "believers in Christ", or transformed by the power of God, I would have nothing to say. The truth is, many unbelievers experiencing this revival are not converted, repentant, or transformed. They are certainly "touched," but often unchanged. The concept of refreshing if we stay rooted to the scripture, is that refreshing follows repentance from sin and turning to God (Acts 3:19). Repentance is a strong theme at a few of the revival centers. But we must admit that it is the exception, not the rule.

The theology often practiced, which is rampant in the church today teaches: "What matters is the experience.... "Donít tell right from wrong, Donít be legalistic and expect people to live sanctified Holy lives. Just get the experienceÖ. get the anointing." As long as you can have the experience, and get the impartation, as long as you get something "Fresh", and can get that "word", NOTHING else matters. This behavior has lead to potential disaster in the church today. The story related above is not an indictment on the entire movement, but what I believe to be an example of what happens at many revival settings. Are such examples "PROOF" that a "revival is bad? I donít think we could say so. Yes, they factor in the whole picture, but just as manifestations are secondary, so to are these "fruit examples"(both good and bad). The real issue we must stick to is "What does the Word of God say about these things?"

Final Points

In closing, I would like to say that I am not a traditionalist, nor am I unfamiliar with, or closed to the moving of the Holy Spirit. I have no great "Pentecostal" heritage to defend. I AM FOR REVIVAL. Yet, I cannot stand by silently and let possible deception take hold in my Fellowship. I will say it again. The issues I raise are not about the strange manifestations. They are Secondary. This is about Doctrine, the Word of God, the Truth, and motivating Spirit behind a movement, not its manifestations. (goodness, I feel like a republican, "Itís not about S _ X" )

You may say, "Iíve been in the river, my church is in renewal, Iíve been to Pensacola or Toronto, or been to other services that are in the river. Iíve read the books, and I see nothing wrong". If this describes you, I ask you after reading this, to PLEASE look again. If you still see nothing I mention, PRAISE GOD! Also, If you have yet to experience or witness the "River Revival," I ask that, when you do, you will test the Spirit, be sensitive to the truth, confident in Christ, and dependent on the Word of God. I believe in most cases that you will see many of the things I have outlined.

When the book "Embraced by the Light" was first released, it proved to be a powerful, moving, and engaging book about the after-life. Many Christians read it and were totally engrossed in its pages. However, a careful reading reveals its errors, heresy, and false doctrine. Many were deceived by it. Only after having the errors pointed out, and reading the book again were many Christians eyes opened to the Mormon/New Age teachings woven throughout its pages. Satan is not dumb. He is intelligent and crafty.

Now, I may be denser than most people, but I needed to read "Embraced by the Light" three times before I could sift through the emotion and soul engaging content to discover its falsehoods. Some things so affect our emotions and soul (being) that they require a second or third look. I believe that this revival is one of them.

Satan knows what we want to see, hear, and feel. He may have even planted seeds of desire for these "revival" experiences. He is a roaring lion, appearing as an angel of light, searching across the face of the earth for those he can devour with his deceptions and lies. The Word of God teaches that Satan will try to bring deception everywhere, he can. NO church, minister or movement on earth is immune from the possibility of deception. If it could happen to Adam and Eve, the Galatians, and one third of the angels, it can happen to you and me. That is why 1 John 4:1 says "do not believe every spirit." At a minimum, we must be sensitive, wise, and alert. We must avoid numbness... It is a killer. Something my taste, and feel good, but if it is deception, we will end up like the wolf in our opening illustration.

One of the most bizarre experiences in my Christian life happened while I was an Assistant Pastor. Please allow me to share it briefly with you. The church I was serving had ties with the Regional Training Center for a para-church evangelistic association. The head of this Training Center was a member of our church. Sometime during 1988, a group that turned out to be a quasi-Christian cult infiltrated the groupís leadership and began working its way through those at the center as well as a number of surrounding churches, including the church in which I served. Soon, a plan was hatched to infiltrate every facility and local church through this ministries cross-denominational reach. This cult organization believed the church was apostate and dead, and they could silently "Revive" the church from the inside out. They had a retreat facility in a neighboring state and would invite church leaders to attend this lavish retreat weekend free of charge.

I can not go into a full description, but what happened in this situation was, that without the knowledge of the mother organization, the training center, and all of its property was transferred into the name of this "Revival" organization. The leadership, and many of those on staff (students included) at the training center had silently "changed their doctrine and allegiance." They retained the name of the ministry externally, but were really something else. The ultimate plan of this organization was to infiltrate every church and ministry they could with the same plan. One of the most bone chilling things in all of this was that there were detailed plans listing people, and their contacts, with planned infiltrations. The story is very complex, but suffice it to say that this was a true demonic counterfeit deception, accompanied by powerful spiritual experiences. This group believed they were in a true move of God, and were the sole possessors of what could rescue the church. It ended in much heartache, and destruction to the work of God. We must understand that the possibility of a counterfeit spirit in the church is VERY REAL.

If you question my contention that a counterfeit spirit can exist in the church today, you need to know I am not alone. John Kilpatrick, the Pastor of Brownsville A/G in his book, "When the Heavens are Brass," relates an event that illustrates how he believes Satan tried to infiltrate his church with a counterfeit. Please read it for yourself.

When discussing this, a phrase we often hear is: "With the genuine, there is always the counterfeit." If that is so, why do we ignore the counterfeit, and act as if it is not important or worthy of correction? Why is it that no one is willing to expose error? Who will point out what is what? How will people tell the difference between the true and the counterfeit? What measure will be used? I say our measure must be the Word of God.

We must submit our desires and experiences to the straight edge of Godís Word. God has set it as a plumline. IT never changes or waivers. Personal Experience, Church Culture, and Religious Traditions MUST NOT be the standards we measure this revival against. Some say to closely examine this move would be to destroy it. I say that any true move of God will not fall apart upon honest examination. It will be a fine diamond impervious to all attacks against it. Those who are a part of it can stand confident, knowing it is the real thing. This being said, an honest evaluation of this "River Revival" brings many questions to the table of examination. Only the Word of God holds the answers to these questions. My prayer is that you will be motivated to study the Word of God and check all you hear, experience, see, say , and do, by it. The Word of God is a lamp to our feet. It is time to shine its light on our path. Use that light with confidence.

To say the excesses and errors found within the River Revival are only the flesh, and they will pass is a cop-out if we do not address and bring them into correction. Check your revival experience by the Word of God. If it strays even the slightest bit, back off until you have full and complete confirmation from the scripture. As 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21 says: Do not put out the Spirit's fire; do not treat prophecies with contempt.<but> Test everything.<and> Hold on to the good.

We are witnessing either the greatest revival in the history of the world, or the greatest deception to ever take hold of the church, possibly even the beginnings of the Great Apostasy. There is no middle ground!! No one wants to believe that we could be in deception. But we must accept that it is possible. It will take great courage, prayer, integrity, and commitment to the Word of God to sort through this issue. If you are a supporter of the revival, and have biblically sound answers to my questions, I would love to hear from you. The issue is not about individual churches or ministries. It is about questionable teachings and practices. It is about testing the actions and spirit of a movement and uncovering and correcting possible deception.

D. Martin Lloyd-Jones in his book entitled REVIVAL says: "The need we say is the need of an outpouring of the Spirit of God. But, clearly, by definition, the Spirit of God can only be outpoured on and can only honor His own truth. The Holy Spirit cannot honor a lie. He cannot honor a negation of truth... So if we want the blessing of the Holy Spirit, clearly, we must make sure that our position conforms to His truth." Better words could not end this expression of my heart. God Bless you as you worship and serve Him who is worthy of all Glory Honor and Praise.

Grace and Peace to you, In the Name of Jesus Christ our Lord, and soon coming King,

Stephen Pratel; November 1998 *Updated May 1999

Those wishing to contact me, or would like further information, may do so by:

MAIL: Rev. Stephen Pratel
C/O East Northport Gospel Church
235 Elwood Road East
Northport NY 11731

EMAIL - spratel@netzero.net

This may be copied and distributed freely. I only ask that when copies are made, if this is not copied in its entirety, that chapters or sections be kept complete and undivided, and none of this material is used for profit. I appreciate your honoring this request, God Bless you.


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