OVER OUR HEADS?
Part One of Two
By Stephen Pratel
by Cross + Word
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
We Need Leaders
A Dose of Integrity.
Contents (Part Two):
Areas of Concern in the River Revival:
The Word of God Often Takes Secondary Status.
Jesus Christ is Not Proclaimed as Lord
Empty Minds and Mouth in Order to Receive
A Transferable anointing
Confusion, Manipulation and Intimidation
Ordering the Holy Spirit.
One Must Experience or Attend This Revival
Repentance is Not Necessary for Blessing
The Danger of Numbness
Numbness can be deadly. Some years ago, I came across a story that illustrates
this vividly. The story tells of one way that an Alaskan Eskimo would kill
a wolf that had invaded his territory. Wolves can be troublesome, dangerous,
and even deadly to those living in the wilderness. Once he discovered a
wolf was near his camp, an Eskimo would select a goat from his small herd.
After killing it, he would cut its throat and allow its blood to drain
and drip onto the blade of a sharp hunting knife. As the blood dripped
over the blade, it would freeze in the arctic temperatures, eventually
covering it, and forming a type of blood "icicle." After the blade was
covered, the Eskimo would then fix the knife "blade up" in the snow outside
As the sun sets, and wolves venture out for the night, the smell of
fresh frozen blood attracts them to the hidden blade. Eventually, a wolf
(or wolves) will approach the knife and begin to cautiously sniff and lick
the frozen blood. After believing it is safe, the wolf will lick more aggressively.
Soon, the blade of the knife becomes exposed, and it begins to nick the
wolfís tongue. Because its tongue has been numbed by the cold of the frozen
blood, the wolf is unaware that he is being cut, and the blood it now tastes
is its own. Excited at the prospect of fresh, warm blood, the wolf will
hungrily lick the blade all the more. In a short time, the wolf will grow
dizzy, tired, and disoriented. In a matter of hours, it will die from blood
loss, literally drinking itself to death. As horrible as this picture is,
it illustrates an important truth. The question is, "will we see
This is an open letter to anyone who has, or is, considering visiting
a church or meeting that is in the current "River" Revival movement. Although
you will find a series of objections and concerns, this book is not
intended as a critique of the River Revival Movement. I would also
ask that although an specific church or location may come to mind, I am
speaking in wider, more general terms than the events and teachings at
one specific church. I hope that as a result of reading this book that
you will have a broader view of what is happening in the church today.
This book is intended to be a series of questions, and observations that
every Christian should consider in light of this movement. I view
this as a lengthy personal letter. There are amazing things happening in
our day. Revival seems to have come upon the globe in an unprecedented
way. There is a deepened hunger for God in the church, and there seems
to be a tremendous response from heaven.
I am appealing that in the midst of these awesome things that the church
will test everything we see and hear by the Word of God. 1 Thessalonians
5:19-21 gives us a wonderful balance in addressing the prophetic, and keeping
it in line with the Word of God. I encourage you to read it now, before
you read any further in this booklet. These verses communicate my position
in this issue. After reading 1 Thessalonians 5, please pray before you
read any further, and ask for the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
There is an immense hunger for a revival experience within the church
today. People are searching for a refreshing, and something "More" of God.
Too many Christians find themselves frustrated, disillusioned and desperate,
acting as though they are starving for God. Consequently, some are lunging
blindly into new and untested experiences, placing themselves, and ultimately
the church on perilous ground. These people are like the wolf in our illustration
in that their hunger drives them, clouds their judgment, and causes them
to be numb to the reality of their situation. If something looks, sounds,
and "feels" good, it is accepted and "ingested" without hesitation.
The excitement found in revival, coupled with desperateness seems to
numb many to the truth. The result is that thousands, if not millions are
abandoning the command of the Bible to test every experience, teaching,
and Spirit by the Word of God. They are so convinced they need an ecstatic
experience with God that the first experience that comes along is gobbled
up with fervor, numb to what they taste, be it good or bad.
Can the lack of testing and a "revival at any cost" attitude
really be healthy? Where will this lead the church? Should the Lord tarry,
what will its results be in ten, fifteen, or twenty years? We must consider
these questions. The landscape of history is scattered with the remains
of those who have figuratively and literally died following untested, tainted
spiritual paths. God forbid that we should get carried into deception because
of our hunger and desperateness. The blessing true of revival brings life,
health, and stability to the church and individual believer. Not only in
feeling, but also in fact. The danger in an untested experience is that
if it is not Revival sent from God, it is deception, and deception can
only come from one of two sources: The flesh, or our adversary, the devil.
Make no mistake, this is serious business.
Spiritual Deception of any form is a type of numbness. Once someone
becomes immersed in a deception, his/her ability, and will to discern is
numbed. The initial feelings of the experiences are overwhelming and exquisitely
good. As a result, those immersed in such experiences find that their desire
to consider the validity of what is happening is absent. The bottom line
is that It feels good, therefore, it is good. However, in
time, "more" of the feeling will become necessary. Soon, nothing familiar
will satisfy. Life begins to pale in comparison to the experience, and
even the excitement of the experience diminishes. The person literally
becomes an addict of the experience. It becomes their reason for life.
Soon the person becomes desperate for more, swinging between depression
and delight, this child of God will press on, in search of a newer experience.
Often, they are totally unaware that they have unknowingly embraced tainted,
and even false doctrine. This process can take years. The end however,
is always the same: Discouragement, Confusion, and Destruction. This is
not speculation on my part. As a Pastor, and a Christian, I have seen and
experienced this myself. Through the patience of the scriptures, and faithful
witnesses, God protected and delivered me from this deception. I pray this
book will help you if you are trapped in this cycle.
I believe in Revival. More importantly, I believe in the one
who brings and sustains Revival, the one who walks among and tends His
Church. He is Jesus Christ our Lord, Great God, and Savior. Unless you
are a new Christian, no one needs to tell you that Revival is a complex
matter. I am not an expert on revival, nor do I care to be. I am not obsessed
with finding "revival," or in identifying false ones. I have no advanced
degrees, titles, or doctorates. I am an average pastor with a number of
serious concerns. My desire is to love and serve Christ with all
my heart, soul, mind and strength. I hope this paper will encourage you
along the same path.
THE Church needs to return to the place where it is satisfied with
Christ and Christ alone. This does not mean we should be satisfied
with how the church has progressed. Far from it! We have not given our
all, nor have we used all He has given us. To put it plainly, the American
church has been coasting for many years. The Church must return to the
place of being secure in Christ, and content in Him. There is an old song
that says: "In Christ alone, I place my trust, and find my glory in
the power of the Cross. In every victory, let it be said of me, my source
of strength... my source of hope... Is Christ alone!" If this were
so, most of the problems the church is facing today would evaporate. Instead
of people crying out for something more, they would be standing on the
Words of the Bread of Life, when HE said in John 6 "I am the bread of
life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me
shall never thirst."
Too many believers are looking for, and depending on an experience to
validate their relationship with God. Experiences will come and Go. There
will be seasons of great reaping and blessing, astounding miracles, and
incredible experiences. Christianity, however, is not built on such things.
Faith is the foundation we stand upon, not experience. To make experiences
a part of ones foundation is self-defeating. It is in Christ alone that
the Christian can find total satisfaction. Have you come to the bread of
life? Do you believe in Him? Or rather I should ask, are you hungry? Are
As we seek the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness, we will have many
experiences. We need to remember in the midst of them, that our speech,
conduct, and doctrine must be compatible with and supported by the truths
of Godís Word. The Bible alone is our "Rule for Faith and Conduct." It
is the "Bedrock" that lines the bottom and banks of every True River of
Revival. If an experience makes touching that bedrock impossible, it should
be questioned, if not outrightly rejected.
Love for God, His Word, and the church compels me to ask these questions.
Each of us must examine what our part must be in dealing with the challenges
this new revival has brought. Where are you? Are you in the River? Are
you seeking the River? Are you spiritually Dead? Satisfied in your Religion?
Or are you happy in Jesus? Feasting on His presence, saved, sanctified,
and satisfied, walking with the savior in a love relationship? In the midst
of all the excitement and activity of life and pursuit of "revival," I
hope this small book will help you to keep your perspective. I pray you
will keep your thumb between the pages, and your Eyes on Christ. Be faithful
to the Word God. Examine what is happening, and decide for yourself. Be
open to the moving of the Holy Spirit, but Test EVERYTHING. Hold on to
what is Good. It is important that you are prepared to do these things.
If this revival and its controversies have not come to where you are yet,
prepare yourself. It is coming. Are you ready? You need to be.
Do you know what is Happening?
You may be reading this, and asking yourself; "Whatís the big deal?
So, some people are getting carried away," or "Itís another fad,
it will pass just like the others." I ask you to please read this,
and then look at this revival movement again. This is more than a passing
fad. There is something more happening.
To speak plainly, There is reason to be seriously concerned that
the phenomenon known as the River Revival has a number of serious and possibly
fatal flaws. Now before you throw this paper away, dismissing
it and me as just "another critic of revival," I ask you to give what is
written here a chance. I am in the trenches just like you. I do not speak
from a lofty scholarly tower or mountain top experience. This is real life.
What is written here may just make you think. Although there are wonderful
testimonies flowing from the various outlets of revival, there is also
that which warrants questioning. What I am asking is, what can the "something
else" be attributed to? Is it "personalities" and human frailties; is it
a counterfeit from satan? Or is it a true move of God? Is it something
else? Is it a mixture of all the above?
It is fair to say that personality always plays a factor in any meeting.
Moreover, personality is not necessarily a bad thing. It would be impossible
to count the number of meetings that are motivated solely by emotion and
personality. It is one of the by-products of our fallen nature. Personality,
emotionalism, and our shortcomings as humans only become a problem when
they violate the Word of God, or detract from Christ. I think we can also
agree that much of what we have seen happen in the church over the years
has been seasoned with these things (mostly well intended). We could
call these things the working of the flesh.
When you think about it, it is amazing that God still works in our midst!
That is, we are amazed until we remember that this is what the Paul means
when he says "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power
of God for salvation." It is the Gospel that changes lives and
sets sinners free! The fact that people are Born Again, and come into the
Kingdom however, does not give a free pass to the ministries or persons
successfully declaring it. No matter how appealing a revival or ministry
or minister seems to be, they are never exempt from 1 John 4:1.
That said, a careful look at many river revival type meetings will reveal
that there is something more than emotion, personality and flesh involved.
There is clearly a powerful spiritual dynamic and spirit at work
in these meetings. Anyone who attempts to attribute the results, happenings,
and errors or questionable manifestations of these meetings simply to emotion
and personality has not looked closely enough. The question we must ask
is: "What spirit is at work?" This is at the center of my
concerns. If there is a deception, I do not believe that it is a "human"
deception, but one that is the result of the devices of our eternal enemy,
satan (2 Cor. 2:11).
Without doubt, there are the markings of true revival, or what we think
revival should look like in some revival centers. One that stands out above
all others is the Revival in Pensacola Florida, at the Brownsville Assembly
of God. This church has been having almost non-stop revival services since
June of 1995. Thousands wait in line every day to get into services. Many
come to the services as repeat visitors, some traveling thousands of miles
to return to the church. There are testimonies of lives miraculously changed
and delivered from sin, and over 130,000 people recorded as accepting Christ
as Savior. The revival at the Brownsville Assembly of God is know to take
a very strong stand against sin, and stresses the need for salvation. Many
These are truly impressive signs of revival. But looking beyond the
headlines and fruit in revival centers will reveal a number of disturbing
signs as well. Many will say at this point, now Steve, "Donít throw
the baby out with the bath water, We have to eat the meat, and spit out
the bones" or, "Better a little wild fire than no fire".
In response to these types of statements, I must ask: "Where has
God ever endorsed such reasoning?" Where in the scriptures does
God approve of, or accept bad and good fruit from the same tree. Or where
false prophecy was accepted along side of, and mixed with true, or when
God tolerated strange fire mixed in with Holy fire. The answer to the above
is, nowhere, never, and, not even once.
Stop and think about it. Have we really come to the point where we will
accept and overlook errors for the sake of "Revival?" Has the church adopted
situational ethics (In a Biblical Sense)? Can we sacrifice Biblical Integrity
for a revival experience? True, every ministry makes mistakes. But those
charged with preaching and teaching the Word have a responsibility to keep
their teachings in line with the whole counsel of Godís Word. When an error
is made, it should be corrected and retracted. Either the Word of God is
the sole source for faith and conduct, or it is not. We MUST strive for
Biblical Correctness and Integrity in the midst of Revival. It has been
said that Godís Spirit NEVER goes where His Word does not. I believe it
is time we put those words into action. In the midst of this, we must also
avoid the Ephesian trap of leaving our first love. Jesus must be our first
love. Let us not allow anything else overshadow it.
I must tell you that God has never made His people pick through His
revelation to find the truth. Did Israel have to sort through the commandments
given to Moses? Did they have to pick around bones when listening to the
prophecies of Isaiah or Elijah? Did the Apostles have to pick and choose
from the Words of Jesus Christ? Did the early church have to tolerate dirty
water or wild fire when considering the teachings of the Apostles? Of course
not! These phrases (donít throw the baby out with the bathwater, etcÖ)
and others like them can seem acceptable in the midst of an emotionally
charged service, or when we are in the middle of a revival experience,
or discussion on the topic. They are however, not of God. Rather, they
are "secular reasoning" and have no right place in the household
of Faith. The fact that there is a little leaven scattered throughout the
revival should be evidence enough that something may be seriously wrong.
Jesus warned that as the end approached, there would be an abundance
of False Teachers. He spoke about False Christís, who would sneak into
the church and be able to perform many signs and wonders. He also said
they would be so convincing, that even the elect could be deceived (Matthew
24). It is interesting that the Pentecostal, Charismatic, and in some
places, even the Evangelical Church finds it nearly impossible to have
the courage or will to identify false teachers and teachings within the
church. Ridiculous you say? Try to list 5 known and identified false teachers
or prophets in the church today. Not those identified or labeled by individual
Christians or isolated pastors in a "local church," but false teachers/prophets/teachings
that have been identified and labeled as such by National Leadership. Not
very easy is it........
We must have clear, discerning hearts and minds. NO ONE is immune to
deception. This is why the Apostle John instructed us to "Test Every Spirit"
(1 John 4). The Gnostics nearly destroyed the early church. Their
"special knowledge" turned out to be heresy, and wrought havoc on the church.
This is one of the reasons why the New Testament is primarily a teaching
testament, and much of it is given to correction and warnings about false
teachers, anointings and teachings. Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John warned
the church about their activity. It is foolish to ignore the repeated warnings
of scripture in this regard.
It has been said that the Azusa street Revival also had many strange
and questionable events. Do these strange events and manifestations and
teachings legitimize the errors and extremes found within todayís revival?
We must remember that the Assemblies of God were formed at Hot Springs
Arkansas, NOT Azuza St. We should also note that many of the erroneous
things in Azuza, were corrected and rejected by the Founding Fathers of
the Assemblies of God. We also have Decades of Pentecostal Biblical scholarship,
and experience to better discern between truth and error. Could I suggest
that the ministry of Jesus Christ, who the scriptures declare was anointed
with the Spirit without measure, and Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost,
balanced with the rest of the Word of God provide a better mirror in which
to compare the current "revival?" My numbness is wearing off, and I have
realized all is not well. What about you? Do you know what is happening?
An "Unusual" Experience
In November of 1997, a Minister was invited to speak with local Assembly
of God pastors about revival. This minister was presented as a central
figure in the revival/renewal movement. The format was a seminar for pastors
and church leaders during the day, and a service open to all each evening.
I attended the afternoon seminar both days, and one evening service. I
would like to share two events of these meetings with you. I share them
only to illustrate one of the errors at the center of the River Revival
movement. It should be noted that this speaker specifically stated that
whether it was England, Pensacola, Toronto, or Kentucky, he believed it
was the same move of God, and same spirit of revival, regardless of its
location. He also said that the leaders of the major revivals were "United
The First Event: During the Thursday service, this minister
made a number of comments to the effect that "there was a new anointing"
on the people, and that pastors were going to have to accept it and basically
get out of the way. He then proceeded to tell about how those surrounding
blind Bartimaeus told him to be quiet when he called out for Jesus. After
a few more comments, he invited the people to begin to praise the Lord.
All in the building did. What followed was loud victorious praise. In many
ways, it was glorious. Then in the background, I heard what sounded like
fighting. I opened my eyes and saw nothing. When I heard it again, I could
not make out the words, but they sounded angry, and were coming from the
platform. I looked, but again saw nothing. Then a few seconds later, I
distinctly heard the words "SHUT UP!" I opened my eyes and saw the guest
minister shouting for us (the ministers on the platform) to "Shut up."
At first, I thought we were being told to be quiet, in order to allow
only the congregation to praise. (Thinking of his comment that this
"new" anointing was on the people). However, he then walked away and
began shouting at the congregation. When I realized that this was not a
single statement, and he had no intention of stopping, I looked at my watch.
The shouting of "Shut Up! You donít need God! You donít need to worship!"
continued for nearly 3 minutes. Throughout this time, most of the congregation
continued in praise. After he stopped shouting, and the people stopped
praising, (I am not sure which was first), the minister did not
clarify, explain, or shed any light on why he shouted in such an ungodly
manner for nearly 3 minutes. This left me with three conclusions. 1st
- He was trying to make the point that you cannot let anything inhibit
you from pursuing God. 2nd - He was playing head games, wrestling
for emotional control with the people, and 3rd - He was a knowing
or unknowing tool of Satan designed to distract and derail people from
Praise, and bring mockery and confusion into Godís House.
Those who heard this shouting were distracted from true praise, were
confused, and maybe annoyed, but in every case, were left looking to the
speaker for what to do next. After all, wasnít this a man in the "real"
river of revival, didnít he have what we needed? (This was repeatedly
mentioned and implied before and after the incident, and throughout both
seminars). It was distracting and confusing, certainly not edifying
or constructive. At worst, this was Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit,
akin to a prophet or priest storming into the Temple during the time of
sacrifice or praise and shouting SHUT UP! At best, it was an extremely
foolish stunt. To my knowledge, he has not been questioned or asked
to explain this. Nothing was said to him during the service, and this was
allowed to continue. Not for 3 or 30 seconds, but for 3 minutes. But
itís OK, itís revival... Isnít it?
The Second Event: About 20 minutes after he stopped shouting,
"shut up," the minister proceeded that he was going to teach us something
important, and to pay careful attention. He called the Worship leader from
the church to the platform, and told him to close his eyes and act as if
he was praising God. The worship leader complied, and as he began to praise,
the guest minister proceeded to pour a little water into his mouth. The
worship leader of course, choked and gagged slightly, as well as spit a
little water out. Most people laughed, and the speaker proceeded
to say, "now tell me what happened." The worship leader responded,
"I couldnít praise God and Drink at the same time." The guest minister
responded, "Thatís right, and how do you expect to drink in this new
thing of God if you have words and sound coming out of your mouth?"
It sounds surreal, but what is written above is not an exaggeration. It
is what happened. These types of actions keep people "off balance" mentally,
and are subtle, but effective forms of manipulation. Theatrics are not
the issue here. They are what they are, "Sensationalism." Sometimes theatrics
and dramatizations, and illustrations are good, sometimes they are bad.
The church can be creative in how it presents the Gospel, especially
when attempting to reach the unsaved. Paul, for example, made it clear
in 1 Corinthians 9:22 "...I have become all things to all men,
that I might Ö. save some." Methodology is never perfect and rarely
inspired, but the teaching or doctrine that is presented in any methodology
MUST be Biblical. What was presented in the second example is HERESY. If
this were an isolated incident, it would not have made an impression. More
than likely, it would have slipped right over my head. However, it is not
an isolated incident. It is essential that you understand what is being
said here. If you are aware of it, you will notice this teaching being
applied in many places where the "river" is flowing.
Many leaders and proponents in the "River" Revival movement have
proclaimed or insinuated what this speaker said and did. This is basically
what is said: "Drink it in, there is no need to praise, no need to pray,
no need to think, no need to examine, no need to say "Jesus" or "Hallelujah,"
some even say not to speak in tongues. Just be silent or say more,
more, more, fire, fire, and fire, anointing... and drink it in. Do not
question, do not examine, do not test the Spirit, "Just feel" Jesus,
and "Receive." As crazy as it sounds, some have even gone so far
as to say, "Praise and prayer can actually limit the impartation, anointing,
and blessing". To this theology, to this practice, the response of
the church should be an unequivocal: "Sorry, none for me thanks."
Unusual practices and behavior within the River Revival movement are
increasingly put under the banner of "God is doing a new thing."
From the perspective of those "In the River," it is about a paradigm
shift. Therefore, nearly EVERYTHING said and done is to be accepted
without question. If you question or resist, even honestly and sincerely,
you are considered a Pharisee, religious, unspiritual, and probably so
bound by sin that your fear of it being exposed is causing your rejection.
* I have heard all of the above said.. The spiritual elitism, and sometimes
even contempt shown to those who are not committed to being "in the River"
falls far short of the attitude Godís people should have toward one another.
To equate a person who questions or rejects Toronto, Pensacola, or a similar
river revival experience as a Pharisee and spiritually dead is arrogant,
offensive, and wrong. Sadly, this type of behavior is not an exception
in this "revival," It is the rule. Yes, there are those who
may be classified as Pharisees, but to label and categorize all who would
even remotely question the movement is to create a very powerful intimidation.
We have the responsibility to point out the error in someoneís teachings
and actions. At the same time, we never have the right to judge a personís
heart or motivations, never-mind attach such a horrible tag to them. Name
calling on both sides has to stop.
From large Revival settings to the many spin-offs in local churches,
and even in spousal relationships, resisters and questioners are isolated,
intimidated, and treated as enemies. How is it possible that the church
can so easily overlook such behavior? Galatians 5 vividly contrasts
the fruit of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. Read it, and ask yourself
what fruit is being produced in these types of actions. When discussing
out of the ordinary experiences, we must remember that God has asked His
people to do unusual things in the past. For example, Ezekiel was told
to lie on his side for 390 days (Ezekiel 4). I am sure that God
will ask odd things of His servants in the future as well. We must also
remember that these unusual or extreme things have always been the exception,
not the rule. They are not "normative," as George Wood has put it. Also,
in scripture, we see that these types of experiences are almost exclusively
limited to individuals, not masses of people.
Please note that in relating the events of these meetings with this
minister, I did not mention things such as the speaker having two assistant
pastors play leapfrog across the front of the sanctuary to prove a point.
Neither am I dwelling on the other extremes observed during these or any
River Revival meetings. They are exactly that, Reactions... Manifestations...
Illustrations... Sensationalism. Our concern must focus on the message,
the substance, and ultimately, the motivating spirit behind the actions.
In all the excitement, we cannot become pre-occupied with "odd experiences
or manifestations". We must look past them to the "meat" of what is being
said. It is difficult; to look away from "ODD" things, but it is necessary.
In reality, if there is a problem, it is not the manifestations, they are
Jesus' account of the Judgment seat in Matthew 7:22 illustrates
that there will be many that think they are serving God, but from His
standpoint, are not. Jesus did not say that a "few" would be deceived enough
to find themselves in this position. He said there would be many. This
should speak powerfully to you if you are a Charismatic or Pentecostal
Christian. Even if you are familiar with this passage, read it again; ask
the Holy Spirit to show you how it applies to you and your life, as well
as your church. We must look clearly at these new "Revivals." Be sensitive
to what is being said, implied, and practiced. Study the scripture to see
if what they say and do is "true to the Word."
Whether you have waded in the "river" or you have never heard of it,
whether you believe this movement is of God or not, we should all be Bereans
in some measure. No one in the church today has an excuse not to know what
the Word of God says. This book is the result of my concerns, based on
what I see in the Word of God. Let me make this clear. I do not want, or
expect one person to simply take my word for it. Each one of us must find
out for ourselves. I hope you will consider and test what is written
here. Hold it up to the Word. Also, PLEASE do the same with every revival,
movement and experience. A personís or a "revivals" reported good works
and reputation are important, but no person, move of God, or revival should
ever be exempt from the straight edge of Godís Word. It is the ONLY measure
we have. Let us make sure we use it.
The Great Masquerade
There have been many articles and corrections written about this revival.
For the most part, any errors or excesses in these movements have been
attributed to "Well meant but misplaced enthusiasm, and emotional excess."
We may want to consider another possible conclusion. If the messages
about false prophets and spirits given by Jesus, Paul, Peter, and John
are true, if we look at church history and what is happening today, if
we believe that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but principalities
and powers, if we believe that Satan hates the church, and will appear
as an angel of light to deceive and destroy it, we must ask... "Is a
counterfeit revival possible?" The answer, if we are going to be honest,
will be "yes." But do not take my word for it. Read what Jesus said about
this, and decide for yourself.
The River Revival movement seems to operate at the level of the soul
and body, rather than the Spirit. It completely envelops, and in many cases,
overcomes an individualís emotions and body. The experiences seem to appeal
to the base drives and desires, enabling the flesh to take much pleasure.
Even those whose bodies are bent, bounced, jerked, sprawled, or unnaturally
animated without any reservation, have no regrets, concerns, or complaints.
So powerful is the euphoria that decorum, honor, and decency are not even
after thoughts. Can God be in such strange things? Quite possibly, yes!
Just as it is possible for Satan to infiltrate the church and copy the
Work of the Holy Spirit, it is possible that God will interact with His
people in an unconventional manner. Possibility, however, cannot
be our deciding factor. This is why we must test. We dare not
repeat the mistake that Israel made when they failed to see the hour of
their visitation. Their blindness was a tragic point in history, and we
must not allow religious sensibilities and traditions to keep us from Godís
blessings. God is God. He is able to do what, how, and when
He wants. This does not mean however, that everything that claims to be
of God should be accepted without question. We are to test all things
by the Word. If something is of God, it will stand. If it is not, Satanís
masquerade will be seen and hopefully, destroyed.
There are those who will say, "Why would Satan want people to get saved?
Wouldnít that be bad for his business?" Before asking and answering this
question, letís look a bit deeper into the issue. 2 Corinthians 11:4
says: For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than
the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one
you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted... and
Mark 13:22&23 says: For false Christís and false prophets
will appear and perform signs and miracles to deceive the elect--if that
were possible. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of
Based on these scriptures it certainly seems possible that Satan will
masquerade himself by preaching a false Gospel, manifesting a counterfeit
spirit, creating false miracles, and presenting a false Christ. It follows
that part of this masquerade would certainly include false conversions.
From the viewpoint of scripture then, it is not a stretch to believe that
people could believe a false Gospel and put their faith in a false Christ.
This must mean a conversion of some sort. Jesus said, "Be on your guard."
It is time we take His words seriously. For years, there have been allegations
that certain ministries were operating under a "false anointing." Though
many agree with the assessment of these ministries, they generally dismiss
the ultimate allegation. Few give thought to the issue of "false prophets"
or "false teachings" beyond the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, or the Cults.
We often attribute errors to honest excesses, or phony charlatans with
nothing in between. This, in itself, should be suspicious. It seems that
we cannot even entertain the idea that there could be a counterfeit within
in the church. We must wake up. As a result of what is now being seen and
heard in this movement, we must wonder if the allegations of a "counterfeit
spirit or anointing" have merit. Can it be that we have allowed Satan such
a stronghold in the church? Do we have the courage to face this possibility?
Will we truly test; and approve or reject respectively?
Are you aware of any of these things? Have you closed your eyes to the
errors because some of what comes from these movements is good? By the
Grace of God... Examine what the Word of God says about true and false
prophets and teachings and act upon it. Some may say, "If the church
follows that standard, all ministries would be considered false or need
serious correction." If that is what is necessary, so be it. What else
can we do? Close our eyes and hope for the best? Continue to eat the meat
and spit out the bones? Let the wild fires burn out of control? Should
we allow the baby to lay in dirty bath water? To fail to act is to allow
these things to continue. It is time to face the Word, make whatever corrections
and changes are necessary, and call others to do the same.
For many years the test for what is good and of God has been left to
personal subjective experience, not a faith based on and firmly rooted
in the WORD OF GOD. The Pentecostal, Charismatic, and Evangelical church
if not the world have slowly been moved in the direction of testing truth
by experience. This trend cannot continue if we are to retain Biblical
You may have heard that the only sure way to know a counterfeit is to
know the original inside and out. This is how bank tellers and money handlersí
spot counterfeit money. They are so well trained in the originals, that
anything counterfeit is easily seen. The reason the original is studied
is that studying the counterfeit is an endless task, as no two counterfeits
are exactly alike. The original, however, is always the same. Yet, knowing
there are counterfeits is essential.
If banks were unaware that counterfeit bills were in circulation, they
could find themselves with a real problem. Before long, they would be flooded
with counterfeit money. Money that is worthless except to be burned. The
same is true when it comes to the genuine and counterfeit teachings and
spirits in the Kingdom of God.
False Prophets were prevalent during the Old Testament, and clearly
a real problem in the first century church. The repeated corrections and
warnings throughout scripture make this very clear. Additionally, Jesus
said that as the end approached, the problem would become worse. Does
the church still believe that? Do you believe that? If
so, why then does it seem no one is exposing the false teachers or teachings
of today? Furthermore, why does the Pentecostal and Charismatic church,
ignore or reject those few who stand up to point out false teachers, gospels
Was Jesus mistaken when He warned that these problems would increase?
If there is a masquerade in the church today, and there is a counterfeit
gospel or spirit within the church, then Satan is having a ball. It is
time for the church to stop dancing. At this point there may be those who
will remind us of Gamaliels words, "If it is of God, it will last, if
not, it will fade away." This statement has a certain rational, but
its wisdom must be questioned. After all, the Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses,
and Islam are not of God, yet they thrive. In fact, the "Oneness, or
Jesus Only" movement (an early error in Pentecost) has not gone away
We must remember that Gamaliel was not a believer. He was certainly
a devout Jew and honorable man, but not a believer. The scripture records
his words; it does not endorse them. We must make that distinction. Let
us look at a few examples of this. Consider Satanís words found in the
Gospels when he tempted Jesus, or the serpents found in the book of Genesis,
or Balaam in the book of Numbers. No one would contend for the truth of
their statements. They are recorded, but not endorsed. It is the same for
It is not wise to sit back and allow unbiblical teachings and practices
to go uncorrected. We must stand up humbly, yet confidently, in the authority
of Gods Word to "cast down every vain imagination and high thing that
would exhault itself against the knowledge of God." It is time for
the masquerade to end and the church to begin to test again. If that ruins
your party or causes you to be concerned, think about this: It is far better
for leaders to stand before the throne of God, answering for being sincerely
cautious and slow to adopt new doctrines and experiences, than to be responsible
for leading Godís people into deception. God will always honor honest searching
While we often attribute errors and excesses in the church to well meant
but misplaced enthusiasm, it must be said that to allow these errors to
go un-addressed is foolish. We must correct even well meant errors. Leaving
them uncorrected only paves the way for future errors. Every error is like
a seed. Untested and uncorrected, it grows, and produces other errors.
Bad doctrine always leads to bad actions.
The progression may take two or three generations, or two or three years,
but each successive step of error will take the church further away from
the scripture, and ultimately, God. The church must begin to test all things
by the Word of God again. Who should do the testing and correction? Elders,
Presbyters, Superintendents, Overseers and Pastors, or those in similar
positions. If leaders give up this responsibility, they leave the rank
and file of the church only two options: Apostasy or Revolution. The leadership
of the church, involving themselves in testing, followed by correction
and or approval, is a better option. Wouldnít you agree?
We Need Leaders
Some years back, a former National A/G Leader stated that A/G churches
needed to adopt more charismatic methods. At an open forum during the meetings,
there was much discussion on how quickly charismatic churches grow, compared
to A/G churches in the same towns. The suggestion was made, that the quick
growth, exciting worship, and lively services of charismatic churches indicated
success, and it was time we saw the same in our churches. This has become
more than an isolated opinion in the Assemblies of God. In some cases,
it seems the A/G is abandoning its traditional stand on the Word of God
in favor of new revivals and experiences because we, the "Assemblies of
God," now feel like outcasts and second class citizens in charismatic circles.
We could handle rejection by the Orthodox, Catholic and main line church.
We can handle the rejection of the Baptists and Evangelicals, but can we
handle the rejection and superiority of the Charismatics?
In the early years of the modern Pentecostal movement, there were a
number of excesses and abuses of doctrine. As they came to the surface,
the Assemblies of God fell on the right side of these issues, and rightfully
declared many as heresy. The oneness movement, Signs and Wonders, and Charismatic
movements, as well as the Latter Rain/Manifest Sons of God movement along
with its Gnostic and Amillennial (known in some cases as Kingdom Now,
or Dominion Theology) leanings were all basically rejected by the Assemblies
of God. These movements, their doctrines, practices, and maybe we could
even say "culture," did not disappear. For some reason, in
some way, it seems that the errors in the Charismatic and Latter Rain movements
have crept up on, and in some cases overtaken the Assemblies of God. The
"River Revival" movement seems to be a resurgence of many of these past
errors, re-packaged to be more appealing in our day. If you do some research
on these movements/doctrines I mention, you will see many parallels.
Consider this: Heritage USA, and the PTL Club represented Pentecostalismís
desire to have the best in materialistic extravagance. Itís leaders would
regularly say "Pentecostal Christians are tired of having Junk, meeting
in little old churches on the outskirts of town. They/We deserve the best,
and we are going to build it for them." In its prime, PTL/Heritage
was one of the most beautiful and frequently visited tourist attractions
in the United States It was a place that every Pentecostal Christian could
be proud of. It also represents one of the most notorious and greatest
abuses of the Gospel and ministerial integrity of our century. The River
Revival movement, and its offshoots, could very well represent the same
concept in spiritual experience and notoriety to the Assemblies of God.
The Excitement, Power, and Experiences are enticing. We want to be known
for them again. We want to be on the cutting edge. Could it be that by
obsessing over past experiences, and looking longingly at the Charismatic
movements "seeming" success, the Assemblies of God has opened itself up
to something deadly? Have we somehow been deceived into thinking that this
is what we need? Is life on this cutting edge of revival draining the Blood
of Christ from the Assemblies of God? It is time for the overseers to uncover
the goats and wolves that have crept into the flock. It is time to demand
doctrinal integrity. I am not saying that the "River Revival" is all wrong.
I do not believe any one person has the authority to make such a declaration.
However, there are significant errors and excesses scattered throughout
the movement. It is the errors and excesses that must be addressed.
The River Revival and the errors that preceded it, has brought the Australian
Assemblies of God to the point that they are willing to embrace and accept
"Kingdom Now or Dominion Theology." Specifically, the leadership of the
Australian A/G forwarded that proposed at their General Council in May
of 1999, that the words imminent and pre-millennial be removed from the
doctrinal statement relating to the Second Coming of Christ, and the entire
tenent relating to the millennium be removed from their Constitution. The
Australian Assemblies of God will also be changing their name to the Australian
Christian Churches, as well as a number of other controversial changes.
This change was not being promoted by a small faction within the church,
but from the top leadership. In the end, these doctrinal changes were never
presented to the Fellowship, but the leaders did ask for and get approval
and permission to ordain those who hold differing views on the second coming
of Christ, and the Millenium.
I believe America will be next. It may not occur today, or even next
year, but I believe that if this movement continues unchecked, we will
see similar doctrinal changes here in the USA. Allowing errors and excesses
blow over, or attributing them to the flesh, has been and is a mistake.
We must test everything and hold fast to that which is good. We must correct,
reprove, exhort, and hopefully, restore those who do not teach or subscribe
to sound doctrine. It is time to expose counterfeit or false doctrines,
spirits, and teachers. We need our leaders to do more. We need another
Joseph Flower who will stand and stem the tide. We do not need revolution,
we need leadership. Just one major Pentecostal leader speaking
consistently, with correction and authority would help tremendously. Who
will rise to the task? If you are a leader in the Assemblies of God, please
speak to these issues. If you are a pastor, pray and stand for the truth.
Demand a revival with integrity. The 1993 report of the Spiritual Life
Committee made one of the most memorable statements in regards to revival.
The report stated: "Gods Spirit never goes where His Word does not."
Oh that we could live in the confidence of those words again..
A Dose of Integrity
There is no perfect church. Nevertheless, the reality that there will
not be a perfect church before Christís return is not a license to overlook
what is wrong. We are called and required to rightly divide the Word of
God. The letters to the seven churches found in Revelation are the last
recorded words Christ spoke to the church. In these letters, Jesus outlines
a series of warnings and blessings. While these letters were written to
seven specific churches, their message applies to every Church and Christian,
across all ages.
Read and examine them. As you do, identify and take note of the one,
which received only praise, and blessing with NO warning or rebuke. Look
at what Jesus says about it, and contrast that to the others. Now contrast
all seven to the church today. Which church would you like to be considered
Integrity is a word on many peopleís lips today. It is defined the following
way in the American Heritage Dictionary:
1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code. 2.
The state of being unimpaired; soundness. 3. The quality or condition
of being whole.
As the church has aged, we have let our fires cool. We have grown comfortable
and confident. However, strange fire is NOT what we need!
We need Fire from Heaven. A cleansing, pure, and powerful fire that begins
and ends in truth and integrity. Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit
as being the Spirit of Truth. If there is error in the church, it is not
from the Holy Spirit. It is time we return to the standard of spiritual
and doctrinal INTEGRITY. True, there is some good, but the total package
is lacking, especially in the area of biblical and spiritual integrity.
Read Matthew 7:15-23, and see what Jesus has to say about "throwing
the baby out with the bath water", or "eating the meat and spitting
out the bones". Our modern approach to spiritual and doctrinal discernment
would NEVER pass His test. It is time to rescue the baby from the dirty
bath water, wash her, dump out the basin, clean it, and fill it with
fresh water of the Word again. It is time to pull out the sharp double-edged
fillet knife of the word of God, and separate the bones from the meat.
Itís time to put out the wild fires with the water of the Word. That water
by the way, will never put out the Spirits fire! This is our responsibility
as believers, especially for leaders.
We should be troubled by the commercial, almost political publicity
machines many of the revivals have assembled to promote and defend their
revivals. I want to believe that this current movement is of God, but I
will not close my eyes to errors and abuses and lack of integrity (read
the definition again). Closing our eyes to abuses and hoping for the
best cannot be healthy for the church. The Word of God is unchanging. It
provides examples to judge by, and the wisdom needed for the task of testing.
Satan is a master at causing the truth to be a lie. He will seed ninety-nine
truths, mixed with one lie, for the purpose of deception. He will twist
the truth so that it loses its integrity. He did this in the Garden. He
attempted to do it to Jesus in the wilderness temptation. He certainly
has not changed his tactics today. There is much meaning in Galatians
5:9 "A little leaven leavens the whole lump." Hopefully, this
book will cause you to pause and think... To test... Not with a judgmental
attitude, but with a pure heart, seeking only to honor and Glorify Jesus
Christ, and follow the straight edge of His Word. A Gospel tainted with
errors, and lacks scriptural integrity will only bring deception and apostasy
to the church in the long run.
We may not like the ugly business of pointing out errors, but the facts
are the facts. Examine what is happening around you. Test to see if what
is said and done lines up with the Word. If they do not, search the Word
as to what to do, And do it! If you are not sure what to do, or
where to look, begin by reading these scriptures: 2 Peter 2:1-3, 1 Timothy
6:3-12, 2 Timothy 4:3-5, De 18:20-22, Jeremiah 23:16-18, Ezekiel 13:1-23.
If you do find something out of line, Be gentle and honest in your approach.
We must always speak the TRUTH in LOVE. Failure to do this only strengthens
Is a personal experience enough reason for the church to close its eyes?
Will we allow our own personal experiences to take a higher authority than
the Word in our lives? On what will we build our faith? Will it be on our
personal experiences or the Word of God? We cannot leave questions unanswered,
and errors uncorrected because there are good things happening. The church
needs to find integrity again. If this book communicates anything to
you, let it be an understanding that below the surface, most "River Revivals"
are nearly identical. They employ common methodologies, share a
common source, as well as exhibit common core experiences
These facts cannot be overlooked. The revivals may look different at
first sight due to their outer emphasis, and local leadership and congregation,
but below the surface, most of these "revival" are identical. The number
of Churches that are in the river is growing daily, many more are enamored
by the revival, and are fast pursuing it. In many ways, the Toronto Airport
Fellowship has been the Model for most revivals in the Continental United
Although it has many strong points, I feel that this is the case for
the Brownsville Revival, and its Awake America Crusades. I believe they
are, if you will, "The Toronto Blessing with an Assemblies of God Jacket."
This is not a rejection of the church, but we must acknowledge the truth
in these areas. Looking at the larger picture, the truth is there is little
difference between most of these revivals. This dynamic is even more apparent
when you look at the larger number of churches experiencing this revival.
The similarities are striking. From Doctrines, to phrases, to experiences,
one thing has become very clear to me, most are cut from the same mold.
The following chapter is a list of concerns and problems that I have
observed in the river revival movement. Please note that obviously not
all points are found in every revival setting. These are the things that
I have seen. Also, these concerns do not refer to manifestations or fruit
(good or bad). Manifestations and Fruits are important indicators of the
validity of a movement, but we must put them aside with the understanding
that they are the symptoms, not the source of any problems. As you read
through this section, do not let my observations, or your opinion, do not
allow your personal conscience or experience to be your measuring stick,
use the Word of God alone. After all, what good is the fruit, if what is
supplying it is poison? Make no mistake about it, Doctrine is important!
(continues in part two...)
END OF PART ONE: Continue with Part Two HERE
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 - email@example.com
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