Yes, I went to the Toronto Airport Vineyard to see for myself! I attended several "renewal" services from start to finish, and interviewed as many participants as I could, especially pastors. It was a great experience for me, coming into the services, listening to the beautiful worship music, the teaching and watching the ministry teams work. I could relate to so many involved, because it was soon evident that many involved are quite sincere and truly believe they are involved in God's "new thing!" I could also relate to many on the basis that we had similar backgrounds in our Pentecostal Christian experience. Many who came to the "renewal" were fellow pastors, concerned about the dryness of the church, the apathy, prayerlessness, and lack of love. I could definitely relate to them. What am I trying to say? Simply this, even though I am raising questions about the validity of the Toronto Experience, or Rodney Howard Browne, I don't believe for one minute that the people who are following this "wave" are bad people. In most cases, I found these people to be sincere, dedicated Christians who simply are hungry and thirsty for God to move. So am I! I was touched late one night in the meetings when a team was called out of the service to go to downtown Toronto to feed the homeless. Keep in mind also that this chapter is pretty subjective, it is my personal impression of what I saw and felt at Airport Vineyard in Toronto. A Typical Service Walking into a worship service at the Airport Vineyard one Thursday night in December, 1994, I was struck first of all by the crowd. There were a couple thousand people there, of all ages, and social standings, lifting their hands in praise and worshipping, using many of the choruses that I am familiar with. It is a beautiful sight to see, a congregation in one accord, eyes closed, hands lifted, singing praises to God. This is what we all long for and it appeared to be what was happening here. One is struck by the young, actually rough looking kids, long hair, leather jackets, assorted ear and nose jewelry, yet lifting hands and singing of their love for Jesus. Every once in a while, you would notice people twitching and jerking, some completely flailing their arms, a few laughing uproariously. Scattered throughout the congregation there were already many laying on their faces, oblivious to what was going on around them. I saw one lady who seemed to be trying to get up from a prostrate position, but was "stuck" in place! I've been around Pentecost all of my Christian life, so I was neither surprised nor dismayed by the "activity." Testimony Time After quite an extensive worship time and the offering, it was testimony time. The leader of the meeting repeatedly stressed that the manifestations are meaningless unless accompanied by a changed life. There were several called up to testify to the renewed spiritual life they had experienced since being touched in one of the services. One young man, who was a lawyer, told us that at first he felt out of place. He had expected the normal, dignified, suit and tie style church services. (In these services the mood is "laid back," frequently speakers have been known to be in jeans and t-shirts. There's nothing wrong with that!) This young lawyer told us that he was skeptical until he too had been touched and went out under the power of the Spirit. He encouraged us to "soak," which means to repeatedly receive prayer and allow God to touch you. At the previous night's service, he testified that he had been healed of an asthmatic condition. After each testimony the one leading the service would pray for the one who testified, laying hands on that one and saying, "More Lord, more...more power Lord!" In almost every case I noticed, the one prayed for would manifest. This young lawyer went down and lay on the ground twitching, through the whole service. Another couple of testimonies, in this case, two Norwegian pastors, were brought forward. Marc DuPont, the "prophetic minister" who was to speak, introduced the pastors to the congregation. The crowd was delighted when DuPont put his hand on one of the Norwegian's shoulders, causing him to be bowed over "under the power." This young Norwegian pastor was bowed halfway over, (forward, face down) and could not straighten himself up to testify. The crowd roared with laughter as this half bowed over Norwegian walked back and forth on the stage trying to stand erect, but unable to! He had to be helped to his seat, but on the way down to it, he fell over and jerked violently on the floor for much of the remaining service. One thing I noticed, was that the manifestations that a person up front would come into, seemed to touch a nerve with people through the crowd. As one person would "receive ministry" up front and manifest, people all over the crowd would jerk, twitch, laugh, moan, and convulse in response. A "Prophetic" Message After the testimony time, we were subjected to a message by Marc DuPont, an associate pastor at the Airport Vineyard, as well as a widely recognized travelling "prophetic" minster. DuPont opened up by telling us that the message he was about to deliver was so potent that God had told him to quit giving it for a while, unless specifically directed to, too much happened. This message was primarily about knowing Jesus as the Lion of Judah and not merely as the Lamb. It was a revealing sermon, considering that DuPont is recognized as one of the leaders of the Toronto Revival. As far as I'm concerned, the tone of the sermon was one of spite and contempt for the church as it is today. DuPont went so far as to tell us that God is bored with the church! He then quipped (joked) that the angels appointed to watch over us are so bored they went back to heaven and are now in counseling! (This is what I have seen and heard a lot in their doctrine, a sarcastic discontentment, a cynicism). Because these leaders are humorous, laid back, "humble," and seemingly concerned, this sarcasm can be quite effective, particularly with the young or irreverent. It looks like we have here a radical, iconoclastic, prophetic reformer! DuPont also referred to Aslan, the lion character in C. S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. Aslan the Lion, is Lewis' archetype of Jesus Christ. Using the story as a text, DuPont majored on one particular line from the story, where one character says to another, "Remember, Aslan is not a tame lion." DuPont sees in that a prophetic message to the church that Jesus is not tame, controlled, nor predictable. DuPont told how an unbelieving (in Aslan) dwarf in the story was surprised by the lion, thrown up in the air (loosing everything from his pockets) clothes and hair disheveled and ultimately held still by Aslan, who looked him in the eyes and said, "Can we be friends now?" Supposedly, this is what God is doing in the pandemonium that people are calling the "Toronto Experience." DuPont has tagged 1994, "The Year of the Lion." Another memorable aspect of DuPont's "prophetic teaching" was his alternately criticizing or defending sound doctrine. On the one hand, he would say, "Did God say, "My house shall be a house of Bible study?" " (as opposed to a "house of prayer") to which he would follow up, "I'm not saying we don't need doctrine and theology, we do!" DuPont would also stress the foolishness of seeking manifestations, but then offer countless examples of manifestation. In fact, he ended his sermon with a story of a visiting group of Japanese pastors, who at first were put off by the excesses of the Toronto meetings, but were persuaded to stay for a while and soak. Toward the end of their stay, one of the leaders of the meeting felt compelled to ask a certain Japanese pastor to pray for him. Neither spoke the other's language, so finally the Japanese pastor stood back about five feet, grabbed out of thin air an imaginary ball of "power" and pitched it at the American pastor! This "ball" hit him in the stomach and knocked him over, intoxicating him with the "Spirit." The crowd loved the story for some reason and applauded it for a few minutes. As far as I'm concerned, that is as clear a demonstration as any of the occultic nature of many of these manifestations. Is God's blessing a force we can pull out of air at will and throw at someone? If so, why not just have a "save the world" snowball fight? Before I close this section on DuPont's message, I will bring up one other aspect of it, for it was most disarming to the discernment of the people. DuPont put forth the idea that, "Most Christians have more confidence in Satan's ability to deceive us, then in the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us into the truth." Whoever would question or discern, evidently is "bound by fear" or worse yet, is just a Pharisee. Doesn't that sound good? "Just let down your guard and trust God!" I do trust God, according to the Word. I trust the God who told us that in the latter times there would be a massive deception on a scale never known before! This theme comes out over and over in the leadership of the "Mystical Revival," "Quit being paranoid and jump into it! Turn off your mind, quit giving credit to the devil," etc. I hear the hiss of the serpent in it, "Let down your discernment." Ministry Time: Come Holy Spirit After the sermon, the chairs were stacked and removed for ministry time. You could feel the sense of expectation, something was about to happen. The ground rules were announced, "No one can pray for people who doesn't have an approved ministry team badge," also, "You are here to receive, so when you are getting prayed for, don't pray, in tongues or English for you are here to receive and that can hinder your reception." Hmmm. After the rules of engagement were announced, DuPont calmly invoked the Holy Spirit, "Come, Holy Spirit," and immediately people all over began to twitch, tremble, compulsively bend over face forward, and straighten up, over and over. Knees would give, arms would thrash, and some people would violently shake and quake. A few would become intensely cold and others feverishly hot! I saw a woman in her 50's laying on her back, suddenly convulse into a form of a sit up, rapidly and repetitively. Each time she would come up, out of her mouth would come a "cuckoo!" One older man, who looked Asian, was violently thrown to the floor by a spirit and flopped and thrashed, letting out a deep moan, (evidently a demon possession), oblivious to his surroundings. Just about every manifestation that I have described in this book, broke out in that one service as the people yielded to "the Spirit." Laughter, screams, moans and roars mingled together into an otherworldly cacophony. The ministry team, (a group of about 30 specially trained people) was released to begin praying for people. They would usually work in teams of two, one to stand behind the person to "catch" them, the other actually ministering in front of the person. These teams, by virtue of the number of them, could give as much time as needed to each seeker. They would pray for them, laying hands on forehead and belly, in some cases, fanning the "wind of the Spirit" or "splashing" the waves of the Spirit, onto the seeker. Usually, they would stay with the person till there was some kind of manifestation. I had noticed a gentleman with shoulder length grey hair thrashing about the stage area on his back, even at times beating his head on the floor and side of the stage. He had commenced this even before the Spirit was invoked, and remained in that state for quite some time. I was amazed to find out the following three services, he was the main speaker! Calling All Bereans We stayed till about 12:30 am. The ministry time was only beginning to wane at that point. On the way out of the auditorium, we struck up a conversation with two gentlemen, both of whom are ministers and both quite well known in certain circles. One of them was the author of a book on revivals that I had read. [Me] "What do you think of all this? [Him] "This is fresh, it's really needed." [Me] "Don't you have any reservations?" [Him] "Well, some of this is flesh and some of this is God, but at least something's happening." [Me] "Don't you allow for the possibility of the "Delusion" spoken of in II Thess 2?" [Him] "I never even think about that kind of stuff, it doesn't interest me and we aren't to be paralyzed by fear. All I'm concerned about is riding the next wave." Then he really surprised me by continuing: [Him] "Haven't you heard that when Rodney Howard Browne came to Oral Roberts University, Oral Roberts "Hit the deck?" [Was slain in the Spirit] I can see Richard going for something like this, but old Oral doesn't hit the deck for anyone." [Me] "So that's how you confirm it?" [Him] "Well, when Rodney Howard Browne came to Rhema, old man Hagin just sat there and wept and said, "This is God!" " I guess that settles it! Isn't that sad? There is a huge parting of the ways coming for the Pentecostals. For there are those who exercise no discernment other than their own subjective feelings. If a Charismatic media hero ok's it, it's all right. We weren't talking to a fresh faced young Christian convert, this was an author and an itinerant evangelist! By the way, I am not saying that Roberts or Hagin endorsed this phenomena, I am merely saying that this was the conversation we had, and this is the level of "discernment" that many have sunk to. "If Oral and Ken like it, it must be ok." Heaven help us! Are you beginning to see what Paul meant when he talked about people, Who received not the love for the truth, therefore were sent strong delusion that they should believe the lie and be damned? That an alarming lack of discernment has become increasingly commonplace among Pentecostals became evident to me with great force up in Toronto. Many of the meetings I went to were still at the older facility the church had used, on Dixie Road. For these meetings you had to arrive two hours early, if you hoped to get a decent seat, and you had to stand in line and wait. This gave me a chance to talk to quite a number of people, notably, pastors from all over the USA. One young pastor was boasting about the fact that he hadn't preached a sermon in three weeks. The others around him praised God! Why hadn't he preached? He wasn't preaching because he was turning the service completely over "to the Spirit." There is coming an abandonment of all that smacks of order, tradition, and logic and reason. Service Characterized by Drunkenness At another service I attended, spiritual drunkenness seemed to be the predominant manifestation. After the invocation, "Come, Holy Spirit," the wide opened congregation began to stagger and sway. Loud, raucous laughter rolled over portions of the congregation, like a wave. I was deeply concerned about one young family I met. It seems that they had been one of the founding families of a People of Destiny Church (Larry Tomczak) in Ohio, 14 years ago, but had grown disillusioned and left. Now, they had found "it" and were ready to take "it" back with them to Ohio. Such a lovely family, who obviously had come to the Lord and served Him. They were shocked that night after I had told them I didn't "buy it." I asked the dad, "Didn't you have any reservations at all, coming into this wave?" He emphatically replied, "No way, this is God! Two years of not feeling God is long enough!" At this time in the service the drunkenness has taken over the congregation! People are stumbling and falling over each other by the dozens. Most are flat on their backs with a silly dazed grin on their faces or trying to get up and unable to. One man was yelling at the top of his voice, another laying on the ground, feet straight up in the air, laughing and trying to get his feet down. The ministry team is going around "swishing" the wave on people, getting intoxicated themselves. I suppose in one sense this was "fun." It reminded me of my old days, high school "keg" parties, only wilder yet. The whole time this is going on, the young man from Ohio is telling me, "This is God," his eyes are bloodshot, he is swaying as he stands there, and he's breathing heavily, just about to fall over! Another man I met there, was a young (middle aged) pastor who had left the Assemblies of God to "catch the wave." "Do you have any reservations?" I asked. His face broke into a "knowing" grin, "None whatsoever," he replied, "this is about shedding your inhibitions and removing your clothes, so to speak. At home I can take off my shirt and be who I really am and no one will criticize me. The Father is calling His kids home! Aren't you tired of being someone you are not? If we can't be who we really are with each other, then how are we ever going to reach the lost? So God seems to be breaking people down, making fools of them, and setting them free of their inhibitions, you know, removing their fig leaves." OH! Who said inhibitions are bad? I don't want to plop down on my sofa wearing a t-shirt and my underwear! Inhibitions, in most cases, are God given! But, he did pick up on one of the major themes there, the shedding of inhibition. David dancing in the ephod, or the people removing their garments to make a way for Jesus on Palm Sunday, are pointed to as examples of the openness that God wants to bring us into. I am not implying that a physical immodesty is being promoted there, for I don't think that by any means. But, the inhibitions that are being broken down are spiritual inhibitions. After all, how are you going to "go back" to orthodox Christianity, after you have prophesied in a lion's voice or "swam" in the River of Life on the floor in front of 3000 Christians? After the shedding of inhibitions like these, "coming back" becomes a more remote possibility then ever. Furthermore, you are more vulnerable (naked) to even more outrageous manifestations, after all, that little voice that says, "Don't go into this, it's improper," has been effectively silenced. In Toronto, I saw the evidences for a massive delusion that I believe is already here. People are being mystically initiated into a "new thing" and in many cases, they have been so conditioned to reject the past, tradition or "head knowledge," critical thinking, they have been stripped bare of the last shreds of discernment that they had! Saying the Right Things This can be such a confusing phenomena to discern, for those involved say all of the right things at the right time. As I said earlier, the leadership will stress over and over again that this renewal is not about manifestations, or they will affirm that it isn't about "The Vineyard." But, then they will turn around and call for testimony of the strangest manifestations, or they themselves will relate some strange story. I'm thinking for example, of a story Marc DuPont told on his tape, "Lion of Judah" about one of the associate pastors at Wes Campbell's church, who collected doves. One young girl at the church asked him for a baby dove. He was so drunk in the spirit for 2-3 days, that it took him a half hour of attempts, trying to clip the baby dove's wings, (it usually takes about five minutes). After a half hour, he noticed his hands were covered with his own blood! Evidently, in his state of spiritual drunkenness, he had taken a full male dove and attempted to clip its wings and it had viciously bitten and ripped his hands. The crowd loved this story! DuPont says there is a prophetic word in this story, "We think the Holy Spirit is tame and gentle, but there's a whole new dimension we are about to see." Unbelievable! Another thing that is stressed, which seems so right, is the theme of love and romance with the Lord. "The Lord is going to come to us as a lover," and by that they aren't referring to His physical return. After being "touched" or manifesting the power, people are reporting a new "passion for Jesus." But what does it mean to love Jesus? Is having a passion for Jesus the same as loving Jesus? We love Him because He loved us first. If you love me, keep my commandments. DuPont opened one of his messages this way, "I want to speak this morning on the heart of God...God a radical and jealous or zealous lover." Passion and romance, abandonment. I think that the ultimate theme however, is the whole idea that "those of you who want your doctrine in order, God is going to turn over the tables." Typical and oft repeated lines like DuPont's in his message "Lion of Judah," where he states, "Most Christians have more confidence in Satan and the Antichrist to deceive us, than they do in the Holy Spirit to lead us and guide us into the truth." John Arnott, in his comments on this trend, assures us that, The church is in reaction to fear right now, there have been books written about seduction and more seduction and people have read these books...I read those books for about three days and said, "What's the use?" People are always saying, "Be careful, be careful about going to Vineyard, I've heard they get really emotional." There is a fear of emotion, a fear of deception. Now, let's see, hands up, all those who want to be deceived...[crowd laughter]...No, we don't want to be deceived, but neither do you want to live your life in reaction, living under a fear of deception...It's time that the church had more faith in God's ability to bless us than Satan's ability to deceive us... (from his tape, "Receiving the Spirit's Power). I think it's time to offer an answer to this above mentioned concept. Does it have to be fear, when people have a healthy respect for the warnings Jesus gave us? Matt 24:4, 10-11 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. Doesn't the Bible also teach us that the heart itself can deceive you? These people aren't necessarily "bound by a spirit of fear," they just believe the Bible. Jer 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Of course we are so aware of the possibility of deception!! I am very alarmed when leaders like Arnott would ridicule the concept, get the crowd laughing about it, and chide the church for having a healthy respect for Jesus' warnings, not to mention the warnings of the apostles. One of the surest guarantees of deception is the assurance that you can't possibly ever be deceived. Final observation, was the overall irreverence exhibited at the meetings. People felt the liberty at times to interrupt testimonies, with humorous (?) comments. At a very solemn appeal for salvation, one Sunday morning, uncontrollable and uproarious laughter seemed to grip some in the congregation. A pastor went forward for prayer and his parishioner (evidently) stood up and waved at him and said, "Bye bye, Pastor," implying that he would soon be going down under the power. Overall, there was a lighthearted, carnival atmosphere. Even ministry teams would pray for one person who erupted in laughter, then would "come after" those who amusedly looked on. The overall feeling was "party time." Indeed, many involved would tell you, "We are partying with the Lord." Of course, young people are attracted to it! As I said at the beginning, this chapter is my experience and impression of what is called the Toronto Renewal. The next chapter is written to take a closer look at some of the prominent leaders and influences, and what they are saying.