OVER OUR HEADS [in the River]?
Part One of Two
By Stephen Pratel
INTRODUCTION by Tricia Tillin
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.
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 his camp.
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 wolf's 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 it?"
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"
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 you thirsty?
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 God's 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; "What's
the big deal? So, some people are getting carried away," or "It's
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
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
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 are responding.
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, "Don't
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 God's 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 God's 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
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 (don't throw the baby
out with the bathwater, etc.) 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 Christ's, 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
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 today's
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 in spirit".
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 don't need God! You don't 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 God's
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, wasn't this a man
in the "real" river of revival, didn't 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 it's OK, it's revival... Isn't 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 couldn't praise God and Drink at the
same time." The guest minister responded, "That's 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 .. 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"
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
God's 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 someone's teachings and actions. At the same
time, we never have the right to judge a person's 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
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 symptoms.
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 person's 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 God's
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 individual's 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 God's 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, Satan's masquerade will be seen and hopefully, destroyed.
There are those who will say, "Why would Satan want people
to get saved? Wouldn't that be bad for his business?" Before asking and
answering this question, let's 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 Christ's
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 time.
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
handlers' 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 and prophets?
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
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 Satan's 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 Gamaliel.
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 God's people into deception. God will
always honor honest searching hearts.
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. Wouldn't you
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 Pentecostalism's desire to have the best in materialistic
extravagance. It's 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
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
A Dose of Integrity
There is no perfect church. Nevertheless, the reality
that there will not be a perfect church before Christ's 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 part of?
Integrity is a word on many people's lips today. It is
defined the following way in the American Heritage Dictionary:
in·teg·ri·ty (¹n-tµg"r¹-t¶). 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. It's 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
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 problems.
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 and manifestations.
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 States.
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
(continues in part two...)
END OF PART ONE: Continue with Part Two HERE
Stephen Pratel; November 1998 *Updated May 1999
Rev. Stephen Pratel
East Northport Gospel Church
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 you.