In 1938, the English evangelist, Smith Wigglesworth, received a prophetic word while in South Africa that the Holy Spirit was going to invade modern, main-line churches. Mr. Wigglesworth understood what that meant. The same "signs and wonders" that occurred in the Book of Acts and his own ministry, were going to take place again on a much greater scale. After giving the prophecy, Wigglesworth went back to England. There was no revival; instead, Hitler invaded Poland and Europe was engulfed in horrific War. In 1945 the War ended, more decades passed, and then, significantly, in 1964, God’s invasion began in a very unexpected way.

That year, Fr. Dennis Bennett, Rector at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California, experienced the baptism of the Spirit and spoke in tongues. When he shared that fact with his congregation, a bolt of holy lightening hit modern Christendom. The reaction was twofold: Fr. Bennett’s announcement brought a violent attack from the congregation. People began shouting angrily, demanding his ouster and within hours he was banished from the church. But, exactly as Wigglesworth had prophesied, main-line churches began changing–forcibly bending their knee to the power of God and their hearts to the authority of Scripture. That was a long time ago and in the fifty years since Fr. Bennett’s baptism in the Spirit, multiplied thousands of other churches world-wide have experienced the same wonderful change. 

In 1990 I was in Brighton, England, for a Christian event at which the Archbishop of Canterbury was the key-note speaker. That year he gave the "thumbs up" endorsement for the charismatic renewal in the 70,000,000 member Anglican Church. I sat there astounded. What had begun at the bottom of the Church of England’s power-scale–a priest with no influence–had reached the top of their authority-ladder. A few years later I was back in England and went to Holy Trinity Anglican Church–Brompton–where the Holy Spirit had fallen in astonishing power. Several thousand sophisticated worshipers had been "slain in the spirit" and ended prostrate on that historic floor. Can God humble highbrow-upper-crust Brits in such an undignified way? Yes!

When my traveling partner, R.T. Kendall, who was then pastor at London’s Westminster Chapel, heard about Holy Trinity, he announced to his congregation that what was happening there was not God. He urged them to stay away. By the time of my arrival at Westminster Chapel his attitude had radically changed. R.T., Jack Taylor, and I have stood shoulder-to-shoulder in many ministry lines, laid-hands on the people, and seen them crash to the floor under the power of God. Is it real? Yes! What does it accomplish? In that state, under the power of God, people receive everything from physical healing to mental cleansing, messages of wisdom to joyous encouragement.

At this point in my ministry, I have literally seen thousands experience God’s awesome presence. One of them was an angry Lutheran pastor who was upset with members of his congregation because they were attending my services. He half-yelled at them, "I will go and prove to you it is phoney!" The night he came I did not know the stranger sitting with Lutherans across the rear of the building. When I gave opportunity for hands-on ministry he leaped to his feet and rushed down the aisle. As he neared I reached toward him and he was instantly slapped to the floor. No one caught him. When he went down, all the Lutherans leaped to their feet. Many of them never went back to their old church. They had experienced the power of God and wanted to live in the glory of it.

These people were not "faking" this manifestation of the Spirit--nor was I. What happened to them was very real and very wonderful. Some were healed, others delivered from depression, addictions, unclean spirits, etc., or filled with the Holy Spirit. Many only knew that God had touched them. Understandably, the sight of scores of people falling to the church floor is difficult for some people to understand. Perhaps this scriptural explanation will be helpful:

1.Acts 10:9,10: "The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance." "Fell" in this case is translated from the Greek word, epipipto.

2.Vs. 25: "As Peter was coming in, Cornelius fell down at his feet and worshiped him." Here, "fell" is translated from the word pipto. The difference is this: Pipto means to "fall." Epipipto means to "fall upon." The implication is to fall upon in the sense of embracing.

3.Vs. 44: "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word." "Fell", again, is translated from epipipto. In the first quotation, when Peter fell into the trance, falling is spiritual.

4. In the second, when Cornelius fell before the Apostle Peter, the word has no spiritual significance, it simply means to fall in the usual sense. That is not true however, in the instance of Peter "falling into a trance" or the Holy Spirit "falling upon all those who heard the word." The word here is translated to mean "being embraced with affection." In numerous other New Testament instances this distinction carefully follows. When you see people falling under the power of God, rejoice! They are being embraced with holy affection.

I write about these "falling events" for a special reason. In 1741, the Dean of Yale University, the Rev. Samuel Johnson, became alarmed at the effect George Whitefield’s preaching was having on the students at the University. Whitefield, who was contemporary with John and Charles Wesley and a personal friend of Benjamin Franklin, experienced "miraculous signs" in his ministry. The Dean wrote a friend in England about these strange physical manifestations affecting those who heard Whitefield preach. Not only the students, he lamented, but whole congregations were being seized with some kind of bizarre power. Dean Johnson, in criticizing Mr. Whitefield and other revivalists, described their preaching as "hideous outcries," but failed to mention that a wave of God-fearing morality, intense prayer, and love for Jesus, was also gripping the campus. His letter said:

"But this new enthusiasm, in consequence of Whitefield’s preaching through the country and his disciples’, has got great footing in the college (Yale) ... Many of the scholars have been possessed of it, and two of this year’s candidates were denied their degrees for their disorderly and restless endeavors to propagate it ... We have now prevailing among us the most odd and unaccountable enthusiasm than perhaps observed in any age or nation. For not only are the minds of many people at once struck with prodigious distresses upon their hearing the hideous outcries of our itinerant preachers, but even their bodies are frequently in a moment affected with the strangest convulsions and involuntary agitations and cramps, which also have sometimes happened to those who came as mere spectators ..."

As an example of his concern for Yale students, Johnson knew that Samuel Buell, another of their graduates, preached in Jonathan Edwards church in Northampton, Massachusetts. The same peculiar manifestations had occured. The "anointing" on George Whitefield was passing to other Yale evangelists. Fortunately, Edwards described Buell’s preaching in a letter to a friend, the Reverend Thomas Prince of Boston. He said:

"There were some instances of persons lying in a sort of trance, remaining for perhaps a whole twenty-four hours motionless, and with their senses locked up but in the meantime under strong imaginations, as though they went to Heaven, and had there a vision of glorious and delightful objects. But when the people were raised to this height, Satan took the advantage, and his interposition in many instances soon became very apparent; and a great deal of caution and pains were found necessary to keep the people, many of them, from running wild."

Today we wonder if the accusation that the people’s "strong imaginations as though they went to Heaven," and their being "raised to this height," which the clergy thought gave access to Satan, was not a tragic misjudgement by the ministry. Satan does not wilfully glorify Heaven. The "great deal of caution and pains necessary to keep the people from running wild"may have been another religious mistake. In all probability, the people’s behavior was no different from the "drunken" actions on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2. Records of Edwards’ day tell that riotous laughter, jerking, loud shouting, groaning, came upon the people. Thankfully, Acts, chapter two, records no effort by Peter to control those overcome with such manifestations.

Edwards had earlier rebuked a man for his "enthusiastic delusion" that laymen were capable of praying and ministering to others. In Puritan times, such action was reserved for ordained clergy only. Education was frequently given priority over spirituality. Edwards further disagreed with this man that the "gifts of the Spirit" would someday be restored to the church. Though mightily used of God, Edwards was a "cessationist" who believed the charismatic gifts had been withdrawn from the church. In view of this view prevailing among Puritans, it is possible that the clergy’s misunderstanding the people’s joyous, drunken-like condition was partly to blame for the Awakening’s unfortunate end.

Simultaneous to the Spirit’s move in America, Scotland was also affected. In 1742, under the preaching of William McCulloch, the village of Cambuslang, near Glasgow, was suddenly shaken by the power of God. Pastor McCulloch had been carefully observing the American revival, studying Jonathan Edwards’ sermons, and seeking the presence of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly, at a Communion service, the power fell upon the congregation and for two years drew thousands into the revival. People came from all over the British Isles and experienced identical manifestations as were occurring in America. Many fell to the floor, "slain" by the Spirit’s presence, saw visions, laughed riotously; trembled, groaned, and experienced intercessory prayer with convulsing cramps in their mid-section. In the end, many thousands were saved.

Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, William McCullouch, and others, were mightily used of God in the "Great Awakening." Their voices awoke a slumbering church in America, sent revival to Scotland and other parts of the world. More than anyone else, Edwards ably defended the revival’s authenticity against the criticism of many. Charles Chauncy, pastor of First Church, Boston, one of America’s most influential clergymen, scorned Edwards and ridiculed the revival. Nearly three centuries later, Edwards’ opinions are still regarded as the most capably written guide-lines to authentic Holy Spirit revival. Chauncy is all but forgotten--except that his influence doomed evangelical Christianity in New England to the skepticism and unbelief of the Unitarian movement that controls it to this day.

But God does not quit the work of church-revival. Between1994 and 2004, more than 5,500 English Churches were wonderfully impacted by the revival in the Toronto (Canada) Airport Fellowship. I have no statistics for years since. Today the church is known as "Catch The Fire" and God only knows the thousands more in other nations who have been touched by it. The revival at Brownsville Assembly, Pensacola, Florida, similarly affected churches around the world. No denomination is being omitted. From the Greek Orthodox to Southern Baptist, Anglican to Seventh Day Adventist, Roman Catholic to Messianic Jewish Synagogue, denominational leadership is having to face the reality of their own members experiencing unusual--but wonderful--manifestations of God. And the number is continuously increasing. It would probably be hard to find a church in America that does not have some Spirit-filled believer praying for God-empowered revival. Church leadership may deny it, condemn it, fight it with all their strength. All such efforts will be in vain. As determinedly as an in-coming tide, the Holy Spirit is reclaiming His church and will not stop until His healing waters cover every congregation.

Would God that the Dean of Yale University today, and a thousand other schools in America as well, had to write a similar letter to the one in 1741, and say, " ... We have now prevailing among us the most odd and unaccountable enthusiasm than perhaps observed in any age or nation ... Even their bodies are frequently in a moment affected with the strangest convulsions and involuntary agitations and cramps, which also have sometimes happened to those who came as mere spectators ... Many of the scholars have been possessed of it!"

Today, across America, literally thousands of churches and pastors are experiencing the same display of the Holy Spirit’s power as occurred in early America. Amen!

Chas