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OVER OUR HEADS [in the River]?
Part One of Two

By Stephen Pratel

INTRODUCTION by Tricia Tillin

This 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" 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 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 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 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 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 (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 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 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 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, 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" 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 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 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 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 Integrity.

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 away either.

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 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 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 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 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 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 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 important!

(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.