Steve and Sandra Long have been pastors at ...
After the Jewish people crossed the Red Sea, the leader of each tribe was asked to grab a large stone and bring it into the Promised Land. An altar was erected with these ‘spiritual milestones’. As each generation came, the question would arise, "What is that?" It was an opportunity for the parents to tell their kids and grandchildren how God miraculously visited and rescued them.
Let me tell you one of my ‘large stone’ historic moments.
I came with my wife Sandra to a Monday night meeting at Toronto Airport Vineyard Christian Fellowship. It was January 25th, 1994. I came as a tired, frustrated, dry, hurting pastor. I left transformed!
In one night, God changed my destiny!
Sandra and I are like hundreds of thousands of other pastors, leaders and followers of Jesus who made a pilgrimage to the ‘airport’ church. We didn't have to go far, as we were living and pastoring in Mississauga. John Arnott rang me that afternoon, stating that people were being “carried out”, so we came and sat in the back row to watch what was happening.
Everything was different. While our church had a band and worship team, this team had to put up with people manifesting right in front of them. While our church had testimonies, these people couldn't finish their thoughts; they either slumped to the floor or couldn't put a sentence together. While our church had good preaching, Randy Clark had to put up with laughter all the way through his talk.
What was really different was the ministry time. We didn't do anything like that at our church. People were invited to come forward and the team had at them, praying enthusiastically for every person! We watched for over an hour as people were meeting God. Well, we assumed that they were meeting God. They fell to the floor, laughed, rolled, shook, cried, screamed and a half dozen other things.
We had no intention of going forward; we were there to observe. One slight hiccup: the prayer team were starting to come to pray for those in their seats. And there weren't many people in their seats. It was either get out now or succumb to whatever was happening to people.
“I was intent that I wasn’t going to fall to the floor while Randy was praying.”
So we decided it was time to go. We stood up, and since it was January and this was Toronto, it was very cold. We began to put our coats on. That was when Randy Clark spotted us. He quickly came and asked if he could pray for us before we left. Oops, we waited too long!
I don't even remember if we took off our coats. What I do remember is that once Randy began praying he immediately stopped and said, "What's wrong?" I wasn't sure there was anything wrong, but apparently Sandra did, as she said she didn't want to be pushed. Randy replied, "I wasn't touching you." Uh-oh!
I was intent that I wasn’t going to fall to the floor while Randy was praying.
I closed my eyes again and within seconds my legs gave out and I was on the floor. This had never happened to me before and I was intent that it wasn't going to happen to me while Randy was praying. Apparently my legs were not informed of my agenda as they gave up on their role of holding me up. Once on the floor I discovered that Sandra had beaten me there. What was going on?
I don't fully recall how long I was on the ground. Twenty minutes, a half hour? I remember hearing all the conversations taking place. It also wasn't that bad on the floor. In fact it was rather peaceful!
"WOW, I get to help plan Holy Spirit revival meetings!"
Eventually, we got up and had a rather quiet ride home. What does one say after a meeting like that?
The next morning something was different. I felt alive, hopeful, refreshed, reinvigorated! I pulled out my Bible and read the book of Acts. I kept thinking that I had a different translation as there were stories and words here that I didn't recall reading before. The book made total sense to me. The passages of people being filled, laughing and falling down all seemed normal - I knew what Luke was talking about.
I went back on the Wednesday and Friday night for extra meetings. On the Sunday night I got a call at about 11 p.m. from John Freel. John was the senior pastor at the church we were pastoring. He informed me that starting Monday morning I was on loan to John Arnott and the Airport church for as long as needed.
I recall hanging up the phone and thinking, "Don't I get a say?" Then another thought, "I'm actually okay with this." Then another thought; "WOW, I get to help plan Holy Spirit revival meetings!"
So Monday morning on February 1st, 1994 I began to work with John and Carol Arnott and their team. As it turns out, we are still working for John and Carol almost 20 years later. We've never looked back.
“The ‘Toronto Blessing’ as the British media called it, has transformed our lives.”
Not only has my job changed dramatically, but Sandra and I are now massively different than we were then. I had deep anger issues and a very critical spirit. Sandra was insecure and fearful. We were distant from the love of the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. We didn’t know the grace of the Lord. Now we have all three!
Most of you reading this article have your own story. You have ‘large stone’ moments when God touched you, when you met Him intimately, intensely, perhaps even frightfully! Some of your stories are more dramatic than mine. The "Toronto Blessing" as the British media called it, has transformed our lives.
Fast forward to today. There is simply no time to review all that God has done because of the outpouring of His Spirit on January 20th, 1994. I can’t say everything that has happened in this one article. But here’s a taste.
Our church is now called Catch The Fire. Somewhere between 4-5 million people come have to at least one Holy Spirit revival meeting. Our team and friends have started Catch The Fire churches in Toronto, Halifax and Calgary in Canada, in the USA, in Iceland, in Norway and in the UK. Catch The Fire churches in Australia and Brazil are about to start soon.
We have Schools of Ministry connected to Catch The Fire in Toronto in the USA, the UK, South Africa, Brazil and Norway. New schools are being established in Montreal, Canada and Houston, Texas.
We are a part of a network of churches called Partners in Harvest which numbers in the thousands. We are also in partnership with people like Iris led by Rolland and Heidi Baker, Bethel led by Bill and Beni Johnson and HIM led by Che and Sue Ahn.
We have led one week International Leaders Schools of Ministry (ILSOMs) in Canada, the USA, Brazil, Iceland, all over the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Norway, Netherlands, Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Russia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, India (including 10 cities at one time), Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Japan, and many other nations. We have touched tens of thousands of pastors and leaders who had no formal theological training!
“The insights and experiences that others have had is crucial for us to be confident in a good God.”
We want to celebrate all that has happened over the last two decades. We have chosen the theme for our church to be Transforming Lives. We are going to take a whole year to reflect and look ahead at what God wants to do and where He wants to take us. We are doing this for two purposes: to look back and say thank you to the Lord, but also so that we can look ahead and believe for more!
Hope is a very inspirational thing. When God tweaks our thoughts with a vision, a revelation, an idea, all of a sudden we are empowered. By looking back we can get those "Aha!” moments for our future. What has happened to others in the past gives us confidence that God can do the same for us today, next week, next month. The insights and experiences that others have had is crucial for us to be confident in a good God.
As part of the theme of Transforming Lives our Toronto church is planning a number of special events. Worship is often where lives are transformed and we are planning one Friday each month where a band or worship leader from our past will be back. Brian and Jenn Johnson, Martin Smith formerly of Delirious, and Noel Richards will be back again. We are also hoping to have past Toronto worship leaders along with current worship leaders Jeremy Sinnott, Jonathan Clarke and Ben Jackson.
This September is our 20th Catch The Fire conference. We have back most of the original speakers from our very first Holy Spirit conference. Mike Bickle, Guy Chevreau and Randy Clark are with us and David Ruis is coming to lead worship. It should be spectacular!
Anointed speakers have helped to fan the flames for 19 years. Over the course of the year we will have special weekends featuring men and women who have sparked the flames of revival. Our grand finale so to speak will be a 20th Anniversary conference in January 2014. Heidi Baker, Bill Johnson, Che Ahn, Randy Clark and Georgian Banov will all be with us. It’s going to be great!
More than all the special events, the most valuable thing to happen in the last 20 years is that God has radically changed people’s lives through encounters with Him. All the time we hear stories of how people are impacted by the move of God. We don’t want to forget these, but we want to build a huge archive of these amazing true stories!
We want to hear your ‘large stone’ story. I've told you mine and Sandra's. Now we’d love to know yours. How has God transformed you? You can share your testimony by writing or creating a short video. You can do that easily by clicking here. Just go to the website and follow the instructions.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what you share. Let’s gather together to inspire each other to believe for more, just like the Lord taught the Israelites to do.
This archived article was written by Steve Long for release in Jan, 2013. Circumstances and situations may have changed regarding the author, locations and ministries. This content may therefore be outdated or misinformed.
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