John and Carol Arnott are the Founding Pastors and Presidents of Catch the Fire (formerly known as the Toronto...
If anyone had told me in 1993 that our church would be in the forefront of a sustained revival holding meetings practically every night each week for eight years, I would have been more incredulous than I am now. Yet it still continues powerfully through ebbs and flows, and is now increasing. Multitudes have already been touched worldwide with a total attendance here in Toronto of about 3.5 million. Many of those touched continue to enjoy the River like we do while scores of churches around the world have regular renewal meetings, and itinerant evangelists travel the world spreading the fire they are experiencing.
Sadly, others have returned to their former ways of doing things. Their revival seems to have died out. Many others have watched all this from the sidelines with fearful or even critical hearts still not having the revival they are looking for! Regardless of your reaction to the current outpouring, don’t you think it’s time to ask God for more of His presence? Go on. Risk it. Ask your loving Heavenly Father in childlike faith for more of the precious Holy Spirit. He won’t trick you with something else instead.
I love all the symbols of revival: wind, river, rain, oil, fire, and even the words “renewal” and “revival,” but let’s not get hung up on terminology. I use the terms “revival,” which means “ life again,” and “renewal,” which means “new again,” interchangeably. They are necessary precursors to large-scale harvest. When Christians are renewed, they fall in love with Jesus all over again and are revived to share the good news.
Some have commented “I don’t want renewal, I want revival!” What they don’t realize is that they are saying that they don’t want the intimate, refreshing times of soaking in the Holy Spirit’s renewing presence. They want to get involved with evangelism and the harvesting of souls. It sounds so noble, but what they are actually saying is, “No thanks, God. I don’t personally need any more of your love. I’m eager to work for You, but I really don’t want to be with You.” It is as though taking time to be a son rather than just a servant is some kind of unhealthy form of self-indulgence.
However, the deep work that the Holy Spirit does in the heart causes a paradigm shift in our motivation. The person who is truly in love will far outperform the worker. Why? Because love is a stronger motivation than duty.
How many times I’ve had to reread the greatest commandment of Jesus (Matt. 22:37), “Love the Lord with all your heart and soul, mind and strength.” Let’s get that part down first before we try to fulfill the great commission of Matt. 28:19. If we don’t, we will make disciples who love the “task” more than the Lord, and we will force new Christians into religious striving, devoid of the undergirding emotional love for God that they so desperately need to stay spiritually healthy.
One of the very best uses of our time, then, is soaking for an hour or two every day in His presence. This lightens the yoke, and we will accomplish much more for the Kingdom when we serve Him refreshed rather than “burned out.”
Why do some say that there is a difference between renewal and revival? Because they look, sometimes inaccurately, at the current outpouring through the lens of past revivals. A closer look reveals that revivals have different faces. The Reformation was about salvation through faith alone. The revivals of Wesley, Whitfield, and Finney were definitely about salvation, but they added holiness. That was the focus for that time.
Only thirteen thousand attended the Azusa Street Revival during its 3 1⁄2 years, and most of them were Christian leaders from the US and all over the world. They came and were revived and empowered by the baptism and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, but there was no mass evangelism that took place, at least not then. Because they didn’t have a sufficient tally of souls saved, the Azusa Street Revival is often left out of the list of historical revivals. However, it has turned out to be the greatest revival of all time. Throughout the last 100 years, the Pentecostal / Charismatic revival now has over 500 million adherents and has resulted in the salvation of millions of lost souls. Not bad growth for less than 100 years. Sounds like a Holy Spirit authored revival to me! I believe it is wrong to always insist on having large numbers converted from the beginning when God may want to do something else first.
The Toronto Revival also has a different face. It is primarily about restoring intimate love with the Father and drawing the Bride of Christ into a sanctifying love relationship with her heavenly Bridegroom. He is also going after things like bitterness and pride which can stop the bride from making herself ready for her Husband.
We are still going six nights a week in Toronto, every night except Monday. Thousands of believers have been refreshed and thousands more have been saved. We are seeing an increase in significant physical healings, which are leading to even more conversions. The River is deepening. In churches in places like Bath, England we are seeing powerful healings and conversions making an impact on the community. Underneath it all is a foundation of the Father’s love and grace that has come through renewal.
Our plan next year is to strengthen the hands of local churches that have been faithfully flowing in the River and have grasped the essential truth of the Father’s heart. It is truly a revelation of grace, God’s unearned favor.
It has always been the Father’s heart to heal the sick, save the lost and set the captives free. I see the River going deeper with those who have grasped the grace that comes through intimacy with the Father. I see them becoming very effective in their respective ministries such as worship, intercession, preaching, prophesying and teaching. I also see a company of healing evangelists who are secure in the Father’s love effectively bringing in the harvest at hundreds of local churches around the globe.
I often wonder if the Lord is well pleased with the Western church particularly in North America. I believe we more closely resemble the lukewarm church of Revelation 3:14, rather than a bride on fire with enough love for Him to die for Him. It’s all about love folks. Read I Corinthians 13 and hurry up and figure it out. The Bride is making herself ready. If the Bridegroom is coming, I don’t want to be running low or out of oil (Matt 25:1-13) I want to be filled with my first love passion for Jesus and for that reality to be my motivation for ministry and harvest. I don’t want to be lukewarm for another single day of my life. I know that it is the Holy Spirit that keeps that reality of revival fire burning.
So the Revival continues in the midst of theologians arguing over what is and what isn’t God. Hundreds now are being saved, healed and brought into God’s intimate love by the Holy Spirit. He is the precious key to Revival, the one who causes revivals to look different depending on what He wants to do. This one is about experiencing the Father’s gracious love and restoring our heart felt passion for Jesus. The promise is to the thirsty, (John 7:37) not to those thirsty for head knowledge only but for those who are thirsty to experience Him.
And it’s not over; it has only begun. Regardless of what you call this outpouring of the Spirit, the real issue is that we not be content to be students of revival only but become whole-hearted participators, ones who experience revival.
Revival is not just a phenomenon to be theologically dissected. Too often we analyze revivals of the past in the hope of isolating and identifying their principles so we can reproduce them elsewhere through our own efforts. What we really need to do is welcome a visitation of the Holy Spirit by catching its fire ourselves.
Why not just take the Holy Spirit the way He comes with His agenda instead of yours. I think we can really trust Him, don’t you? I am absolutely positive about one thing. You will not have revival in your life, church or city without a powerful, sovereign move of the Holy Spirit.
I just finished writing the foreword for Melinda Fish’s soon-to-be released new book entitled KEEP COMING, HOLY SPIRIT: LIVING IN THE HEART OF REVIVAL. She reminded me what a treasure His presence really is. He’s the only treasure worth keeping, and He’s here among us now. I want to welcome Him, value Him and keep Him at all costs and never ever grieve Him away. After all, He is revival.
This archived article was written by John Arnott for release in Sep, 2001. Circumstances and situations may have changed regarding the author, locations and ministries. This content may therefore be outdated or misinformed.
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