I started attending Toronto Airport Vineyard Christian Fellowship in 1995. I will never forget what it was like back then. We arrived early. To our astonishment, there was a considerable amount of people lined up waiting to get in the church!
We waited for what seemed like an hour. During this time spontaneous worship broke out. People starting singing and worshipping the Lord spontaneously. It was wonderful.
Finally, the doors opened and everyone raced into the auditorium to claim their seats.
The service began with contemporary Christian worship music. But the most of the music was foreign to me. All they sang was old-school Vineyard music. At the time, I listened to a lot of Christian music, but I wasn’t familiar with Vineyard music. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed it!
The sermons could not be heard, because of the enormity of yelling, screaming, laughing, and other such noises that people were making as they reacted to the awesome presence of God. Needless to say, the hallmark of the church was what they called “manifestations”.
People would shake, fall, laugh, yell, roll, crunch, and jerk as they felt the presence of God on them. It was quite an experience to attend this church during this time.
Before long I was attending the church nearly 6 nights a week, every week. Although the frequency of my attendance gradually diminished over time, I still attended faithfully for 12 years. Most of that duration I was a home-group leader.
Home group leaders were secondary to associate pastors, and many times they would call home group leaders to come forward to minister to the people.
I eventually stopped attending only because of the enormous commute. It took me about an hour and a half to travel to the church on a good day!
But starting in around 1997 the intensity of the “Airport Church” experience began to wane, and attendance began to drop. By this time, you would no longer see a line up of people waiting to get into the church.
By the time 2000 came, the “fire” had become smouldering cinders, compared to what it used to be. And as the first decade of the twenty-first century unfolded, things got more and more structured, and less and less “hot”, spiritually speaking.
There are a number of things that I witnessed first-hand that deeply disturbed me. I cannot get into to everything here, but one of those things was the redefinition of revival.
In June of 1996 the Brownsville Revival broke out in Florida. T.A.C.F. and Brownsville had a long-distance relationship, so to speak. It was understood that these two locations were the “hotspots” in North America.
But the Brownsville Revival was regarded as a revival, whereas T.A.C.F was regarded as “renewal“, short for Charismatic Renewal.
Revival vs. Renewal
Brownsville was considered a revival because thousands of people regularly streamed forward in a Billy Graham-style altar call to give their lives to Jesus. Many lives were completely, and totally changed. It even got to the point where the police brought law offenders to church, instead of taking them to jail. The knew the power of the Spirit of God to set a person free from sin. And indeed many people experienced freedom from a host of sinful addictions, and lifestyles.
On the other hand, T.A.C.F. was considered a [charismatic] renewal because the Spirit of God was moving in an unusual way, but they did not see the enormous amount of changed lives in the form of people publicly turning from sin and coming to Jesus as Brownsville did.
Always Praying for Revival to Replace Renewal
During the 1990s, when things at T.A.C.F. were blazing hot, church leaders regularly, and publicly prayed for revival. Although they had thousands of visitors, they never experienced what they wanted to experience – thousands of people coming forward to give their lives to Jesus, getting set free from sin and depravity. They always saw a few every service, but nothing compared to what was happening at Brownsville.
The common prayer of the church was, “turn this renewal into revival”. I have audio recordings of this to prove it. And anyone who attended the church at this time could witness this. The idea was that there was never “that” many people who came forward to give their lives to Jesus. There wasn’t “that” many people who experienced a total and complete lifestyle change. There was not many people who could testify to being set free from the grip of sin.
Therefore, the prayers continued… “Lord, we pray that You would turn this renewal into revival!”
There were also prophecies that the day would come when the renewal would be turned into revival. These kind of prophecies would always be extravagant. Something to the tune of “Toronto will be saved”, or “Thousands will be added to the church”, or “This church will become the world’s most influential church.”.
Please understand, these were not the “exact” words that was prophesied, but it is close.
The point is for years prayers, and prophecies went forward for a true revival that would rock the city and/or the nation, and turn millions to Jesus.
Something Strange Happened
Somehow, in the mid 2000’s, the church leaders started saying that the whole thing from 1994 – present was a revival. They spoke as if they were in revival all along.
My first thought was, what? … when?
As the years went by, I heard this more and more. But, as if that were not enough, they started saying that they “are” in a revival!
Keep in mind, when they said that they are in a revival the movement was already stagnant. The attendance had already diminished substantially. And the amount of people who came forward for salvation as few as they were before, were even fewer!
The whole thing became a head-shaker. What happened? Why all of a sudden redefine revival? Why did they lower the standard?
Let’s recap: When things were “hot” at that church… When attendance was exploding… they openly admitted it wasn’t revival, only renewal based upon the fact that not many people were giving their lives to Jesus. Not many people were experiencing the sin-smashing, lifestyle-changing power of God as compared to Brownsville, and other revivals recorded in history. Thus, they constantly prayed for revival.
When things cooled off, and died down, and attendance waned, and less people were coming forward to give their lives to Jesus – then they said they were in revival.
What’s wrong with this picture?
Did they redefine “revival” to make themselves look good?
Did they redefine “revival” because they got tired of praying for it?
The truth is that there was a loophole in their doctrine all along, and the Lord just eventually got tired of it. That loophole was the absence of a pure call for repentance. They would regularly liken themselves to revivalists such as Jonathan Edwards, referencing the mighty manifestations that people experienced at Jonathan Edwards’ meetings. But they failed to preach the life-changing, sin-smashing, God-fearing message that Edwards preached. Perhaps they think they are better. Perhaps Satan is, or has pulled the wool over their eyes as he has on most churches.