Just over a decade ago there was much hype in the media about the Toronto Blessing, a phenomenon that began at Toronto Airport Church and subsequently spread from there. What is it? Is it still happening?
The Toronto Blessing is described as a "Revival". The term "revival" means different things to different denominations, and can even mean the different things within a denomination.
In this case, the term describes an outpouring of the Holy Spirit from a Charismatic point of view. The Toronto Blessing consisted of signs accepted by Charismatics as evidence of the Holy Spirit's blessing, including:
These events drew controversy, of course, centered around the usual arguments over the Charismatic definition of "Gifts of the Spirit" with one side claiming that this was clear evidence of God's hand at work, and others claiming that it's self-centered, emotionalism, demonic, and all of the other charges that Churches that don't believe in these charismatic gifts.
The Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship claims that this continues, and Churches across the globe claim similar events to this day. The Toronto Airport Christian fellowship changed their name, and of course, they have a website (apparently with video of these events), so that you can see it from their perspective.
I was exposed to the 'Toronto Blessing,' before I was baptized with The Holy Spirit. I came from a Methodist background, so, although I had heard about the baptism of The Holy Spirit, and the GOD GIVEN (as John the baptist said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from Heaven." JOHN 3 v 27 - it is very important we remember that; John was not baptizing with The Holy Spirit, he was not able to, for The Holy Spirit had not yet come, as GRACE had not yet be won for us by Jesus, as He had not yet given His Life. Also, as an aside, if we recall what God did at Babel - GENESIS 11. what we call 'the gift of tongues,' and correctly so, is very similar to the signs and wonders that God has used for His purpose, from the beginning. At Babel, the confusion caused by the establishment of many different languages, was itself a sign of God's miraculous involvement, and intervention, within His creation - God is not far off, as The Holy Spirit of God moved over the waters, to create this World, of which we are a part, God has never forsaken His creation, we have forsaken Him, God needs no revival, His vigour, and purpose, is the same as it always has been, but we have pulled away from Him, so any 'revival' will simply be our loving return to God, not something innately different from God Himself, God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow - the effect of the 'Toronto Blessing,' has been an innate difference in the character of the Church, an innate change in the hearts and minds of people who would claim to love, and obey, God, and it is accompanied by signs and wonders that God has never used, which are founded, and established, upon false doctrines of falling - all those who are recorded as falling before God in Scripture, made a choice to fall to the ground, or in other words, get down on their knees, or prostrate themselves before God, in fearful respect of Him, not free-falling as a supposed influence of The Holy Spirit of God - baptism with God's Own Holy Spirit, that He may dwell within us, is critical for salvation - critical for salvation - ROMANS 8 v 1 to 17. Take a very serious look at LUKE 12 v 50. Jesus was NOT talking about a baptism for Himself, He was talking about winning GRACE for us, that we may be baptized, anointed, indwelt, by The Holy Spirit of God, born-again by The indwelling Power of God's Own Spirit "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that The Spirit of God dwells in you?" 1 COR 3 v 16. also see, 2 CORINTHIANS 13 v 5. "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? - unless indeed you are disqualified." see:
MATTHEW 3 v all. JOHN 3 v 1 to 21. John 3 v 16 is one the most corrupted pieces of Scripture of all time - people are led to believe they are Christians if they "believe," as opposed to obey - if you "believe" in God, and Jesus, you are a Christian, on the other hand, Satan has stood in the presence of both God and Jesus, He knows they are real, but he doesn't love them, or obey them, but does Satan "believe" God and Jesus are real, you bet he does. - "faith without actions is dead." - "You must be born again," - we must be correctly baptized, of our OWN FREE WILL AND CHOICE hence, NOT Christening, Christening is a man made tradition, that deceives people, leading them to believe they have a relationship with God, that they do not, the parable of the ten virgins depicts such a situation. JOHN 14 all - "At that day (Pentecost - in the upper room - verse 29 - also, Paul, used the words, "In Christ," "Christ in us," "If a man is in Christ, he is a new creation," "If Christ is not in you..." etc, as a direct result of Jesus' teaching - JOHN 14.) ACTS 1 v 4 to 5. ACTS 2 all. - JOHN 14 v 29. ACTS 10 all. 11 v 1 to 17. ACTS 19 v 1 to 6. ACTS 8 v 12 to 21. LUKE 12 v 49 to 53. the baptism of The Holy Spirit, and the gift of tongues, does cause division within families, as many people, even church attending people, mock the gift of tongues, even call it evil, and assume they have The Holy Spirit of God dwelling within them, even though they refuse baptism.
The Holy Spirit of God once dwelt with mankind, well, the Israelite Nation, within the Ark of The Covenant, in the Holy of Holy; it was deadly for men to be in the presence of God's Holy Spirit, just to touch the Ark could lead to death, and yet now, The very same Holy Spirit of God, that moved over the waters, to create the World God desired, that led the Israelites, defeated nations, healed the sick, raised the dead, fed the hungry, and of course, caused Mary to conceive The Son of God Himself, can dwell within us, via baptism, attested to by God's Own signs and wonders, though we may mock them, just as they were mocked all those years ago.
Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 14 v 4 "He who speaks in tongues edifies himself...." Why, why is it edifying? see 2 Corinthians 13 v 5 for the answer. - ACTS 10 all.
Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 14 v 5 "I wish you all spoke with tongues...." Why, why would Paul have said that? Well because there would have been people coming to and from the church at Corinth, curious about this new message from God, about repentance, and baptism, unto salvation; people who were curious, but as yet had made no decision, just like Nicodemus, in JOHN 3, who questioned Jesus, but did not respond to His message upon hearing it, as promptly as the eunuch did in ACTS 8 v 26 to 40. There would have been baptized members of the church at Corinth, some at least, whom we know would have been vying with each other, including vying with each other when it came to the gift of tongues, which would mean using tone and volume of speech to try and dominate the environment, people still do it today; but there would also have been the visitors to the church, those curious about God's message, not yet baptized, not able to speak in tongues - Paul would have said "I wish you all spoke in tongues," in a hope that they too choose to be baptized, and born-again, as would be attested to by the God GIVEN GIFT of tongues - Paul, and the disciples, put huge importance upon the witness of the gift of tongues, because of what it bore witness to - it is the starting point, but it is the correct starting point, it is the least of the gifts, in as much as it is the first of the gifts, but it is witness to the most amazing, most incredible event, and apart from this first witness of tongues, no other gift of The Holy Spirit, can exist as it should, for the power of The Holy Spirit coming upon a person to dwell within them, The POWER of God, of which Jesus said "...The Father Who dwells in Me does the works." JOHN 14 v 10. see also JOHN 14 v 11 to 14. ACTS 1 v 4 to 8. MARK 16 v 14 to 20. ("take up serpents" simply means to contend with false teachers/prophets, "drink anything deadly" simply means to hear/be taught false doctrine - "You brood of vipers." "The poison of asps is upon their lips.")
LUKE 12 v 49 to 53.
"I have a baptism to be baptized with," for us to be baptized with - "and how distressed I am till it is accomplished." - Jesus knew full well the importance of what He was doing, He also knew the suffering He had to go through, and we know what distress He suffered in the garden of Gethsemane. MATTHEW 26 v 26 to 46. LUKE 22 v 40 to 44. JOHN 16 v 1 to 33.
Satan is the ruler of this World, and that includes any and all false 'christian' churches: Satan is the author of all false doctrine, and his motive is simply to corrupt, and destroy, the Word of God that leads to the way of salvation, as we are told in the book of Joel. Narrow is the way that leads to life, and few are they that find it. Judgement begins with the church, and the lawless, those who have ignored God's commandments, will be destroyed, removed from His Kingdom, His place of rule, and authority, power - the baptized church - MATTHEW 13 v 37 to 52. JOHN 3 v 1 to 5. ACTS 1 v 4 to 8. MARK 16 v 15 to 20. JOHN 14 v 6 to 12. JOHN chs 14, 15, 16, 17.
We enter inter into the Kingdom of God, the realm of God's Spiritual Power, and Authority, through baptism (remember what some demons once said - "Jesus i know, and Paul i know; but who are you?" ACTS 19 v 15); but if we do not remain true to God, we will be removed, for any lawlessness within the church, will corrupt it, will corrupt God's people, a people God is trying to save - he who endures to the end, shall be saved - if you think you stand, be careful, lest you fall - people talk about being saved already, by their faith, but Scripture doesn't, we need to endure, in loving obedience towards God, that we may win the prize of salvation - endure what - if we love God, we will be hated by the world, Satan is the ruler of this world, and our loving obedience towards God, makes us a target for Satan.
I have written all that, to try and identify what we first of all need to identify - the true church, the baptized church, baptized in water, and baptized with The Holy Spirit, attested to with the God given gift of tongues, revealing our claim to be true.
God is looking for a people who love Him, and so will obey Him, and so turn away from sin, all wrong doing being sin; our obedience to be baptized, is the very first test of our sincerity, our humility, our love for God, in exactly the same way as the bronze serpent was raised by Moses in the wilderness, that those who humbled themselves, and in faith to God's commandment, looked at the serpent, should live, the stiff necked, and proud, that mocked, and denied God, grumbling against Him, would refuse to look, just as people refuse baptism today, and they would have died. - no-one comes to The Father, except through The Son, and The Son gave His Life, that we may renew the relationship we once had with God, before the fall of Adam - "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of The Holy Spirit." TITUS 3 v 5.
I do not know how to make it clearer - faith without actions is dead, no man can receive anything unless it is given to him from Heaven, therefore, to receive the gift of tongues is edifying, as it bears witness to the truth and reality of an event - The coming of The indwelling Holy Spirit, to dwell within a person, meaning we are born again, a new creation "in Christ Jesus," - Christ - The Anointed One - Christian - an anointed one. Jesus is The Firstborn of many, we are to be the many, if we will believe His message, obey, and be baptized.
As I began to say, I was brought up in the Methodist church, which also met with the local Baptist church. The Methodist church neither baptized in water, or with The Holy Spirit - they christened babies only. The Baptist church baptized in water, correctly, but didn't baptize with The Holy Spirit, and both churches assumed they had the indwelling Holy Spirit of God, yet treated the baptism with The Holy Spirit, and the attesting sign of tongues, with suspicion, and accusation.
I was christened as a child, and baptized in water, at my own request, within the Baptist church, at the age of 23 years old. The Baptist minister, tried hard to dissuade me from being baptized, as he feared my baptism would offend the Methodist church, as they believed christening to be baptism. I had to insist on being baptized properly, in accordance with Scripture, I longed to be baptized, and seek God's forgiveness for my sins - how could I make such a plea as a baby?
The issue of baptism, with water, and with The Holy Spirit, became a very uncomfortable issue within the two churches - those who took baptism seriously were made to feel uncomfortable by those who didn't, which resulted in myself, and two others, leaving those two churches.
The other two people, two friends of mine, one of which was baptized in water, and with The Holy Spirit, attested to with the gift of tongues, invited me to attend a small local fellowship, that began as a house church. There were only about 14 people in the fellowship, some of them were people I had met before, from the local Methodist churches, who had left those churches. Everyone within the fellowship was baptized with The Holy Spirit, all of them spoke in tongues, some were baptized in water.
I had never heard people speaking in tongues before, I knew it was Scriptural, but that was all I knew. I had never seen anybody 'slain in the spirit,' either, I knew nothing about the phenomenon at all, only what I was told by my new found friends. It was 1992 when I first met with the 'Toronto Blessing,' and speaking in tongues. When it comes to the 'Toronto Blessing,' MATTHEW 26 v 39 may help people understand what is meant - I remember within the fellowship, some people saying "We should be falling forwards, not backwards," I think the minister's reply was "backwards is good enough for me/use." Overhearing such a conversation, was concerning, for I felt we should know exactly why we behaved the way we did; I think I once asked, in fact, I am sure I once asked the minister to show me from Scripture, where being 'slain in the spirit' was mentioned, he told me that it is not in Scripture, but was a new move of God. I was being asked to trust my new friends, and I did trust them, but I never felt any of us were beyond making mistakes, or being misled, or deliberately fooled, so I always kept my guard up, sought to find answers to our actions, and doctrine, with Scripture as my Sovereign Teacher, willing to learn from others, but testing all things, and establishing Truth, from Scripture alone - this didn't endear me to some people, who demanded that I "just accept" what they told me, but when someone says such a thing, and will not allow me to put Scripture first, I just become even more guarded, and cautious. As much as I loved the people I was with, they were my dearest friends, I still felt we were not beyond error, and needed to establish every word, within Scripture itself, we always have to do that.
I was 'slain in the spirit,' falling and shaking on the ground, probably a year before I was baptized in The Holy Spirit, with the gift of speaking in tongues.
Did the minister ever push us? In a very subtle way, yes, perhaps he did at the beginning, until we had become more accustomed to falling, more trusting of the phenomenon, in which case it would have become unnecessary to. Was it an obvious push, no, just a steady increase in pressure upon our foreheads, which, when a person is standing with their eyes closed, is enough to cause someone to feel off balance, in the beginning, I would take a pace backwards, and stay standing, but we would be told to let ourselves go - the expectation of the minister that people would fall, and the expectation of people that they would fall, worked together to deceive both; to the minister, 'slaying' people was an indication of his relationship with God, and to the person 'slain,' it was meant to be a 'blessing,' encouragement, and again, an indication of the person's relationship with God. As we see today, with the likes of Benny Hinn, and others, people's expectations of the 'Toronto Blessing,' has developed so much, that people fall at the slightest hint that they should - one wave of the hand, is enough to cause people to behave in the way they have been conditioned to - overhearing two people saying that we should be falling forwards, was enough to cause me to do exactly that, whilst at a meeting in Norwich.
But is there more to it than just the power of suggestion? Is there something spiritual behind it, or is it just nonsense that we should just ignore?
Well, the power of suggestion, is exactly what temptation is - all temptation is, the power of suggestion, and the tempter, the one who makes those suggestions to us, is Satan, and he has numerous ways available to him - directly, from his spiritual presence, or that of evil spirits, to our minds, our thinking being our spiritual/Spiritual hearing, or through the influence of other people - bad company corrupts good character - or through the written word, and today we have TV and radio as well, which I have often wondered if it could be what is described in Joel as climbing the walls, and entering through the windows - GOD TV and alike. This is an incredibly important point: we are told we need to renew our minds in Christ Jesus, to repent, to have a change of heart and mind, and a corresponding change of behaviour - our behaviour is everything, our character, beliefs, opinions, desires, is what it is all about; God wants us to repent, regret our sins, turn away from them, and behave in a manner that will see our character, reflecting The Righteous Character of our God, our Lord and Saviour, that we become like Him, rejecting the character, and will, of Satan. Remember what Jesus said to a group of religious people "Your father is the Devil, for you seek to do his will..."
"Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance."
The fruits of The Spirit - or the fruit of God's influence.
The fruits of the flesh - or the fruits of Satan's influence.
It still leaves the question, of whether there is more to the 'Toronto Blessing,' than just the power of suggestion, which is the process of temptation if the suggestion is unrighteous, which is the presence and influence, of evil, which ever form the influence comes in. Remember what Jesus said to Peter, "Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offence to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men." MATTHEW 16 v 15 to 28. Peter meant no harm, though we do know he rebuked Jesus, sternly disagreed with, and reproved Him. My friend meant me no harm, when I was told to "just accept," what a person called Gwen Shaw was saying about Joel's army; she saw herself as being obedient to an American minister, that they had recently returned to England from listening to Gwen Shaw's ministry in America - the problem was, that to accept Gwen Shaw's doctrine, we had to deny Scripture, and I would not do so.
Our 'thinking,' our beliefs, opinions, behaviour, character, reveals which spirit/Spirit, has got our attention, either briefly, or for the longer term; that is why preaching/teaching is so very, very important - "The Truth shall set you free." "Did you receive The Holy Spirit when you first believed? We have not so much as heard whether there is a Holy Spirit." ACTS 19 v 1 to 6.
We cannot do, what we do not know we are required to do - that is why Satan strives to steal away The Word of God, that we may never get to know the way of salvation.
So,is there more to the 'Toronto Blessing,' than just the power of suggestion - deception - "God sends (allows/permits) a POWERFUL DECEPTION." The sole purpose of the deception, is to mislead, to corrupt, corrupt what? to corrupt what God seeks to promote within us, which is what? Love for Himself, and for others - love for God Himself means what? it means keeping His commandments, keeping His commandments, means a change of heart, a change of character, a change of mind, a change of behaviour - "If we do not love, we do not know God, for God is LOVE." And LOVE is - 1 CORINTHIANS 13 all. And the fruits of God's Own Spirit leading us through God's Word are - GALATIANS 5 all.
I think it is fair to say that, the 'Toronto Blessing,' did cause a kind of fuzzy feeling in your head, or a very mild headache, something that I would now identify as the same sensation in your head, as you would experience when under the emotional stress of worry, torment, fear, at the hands of abusive, bullying, or threatening people, or situations, or even when fighting temptation - that is the best way I can think of describing it now - and yet, the event of being 'slain in the spirit,' was welcomed as a blessing, there was no fear, or stress, once the phenomenon had become welcomed - I was eventually expelled from the fellowship, as a result of my expressing concerns about the doctrine of Gwen Shaw, and asking the minister and his family, and the church as a whole, myself included, to stop hurting each other, with cruel, offensive, and belittling teasing, that had led to the minister's own daughter having a nervous breakdown. "You will recognize them by their fruits," the fruits we produce really matter to God! - they reveal which spirit/Spirit we are obeying.
I only ever shook when on the ground, why I shook, I do not know, but it hurt at times, probably as a result of the intensity, and duration, and the uncomfortable position you could be in at times. Most of the time, within the fellowship, there was little more than a mild shake, or rolling for myself - others would laugh hysterically when 'slain,' but there was nothing of the animal sounds, and exaggerated actions.
There was never any explanation from our minister, or anyone else, as to why this phenomenon took place - we were told it was an act of God, and that was all - though much later, I heard someone say it was God dealing with issues in the lives of those people 'slain,' though I cannot remember where I heard that.
In the same way as our minister said "backwards is good enough for me/us," and his saying there is nothing in Scripture about the 'Toronto Blessing,' for it was a "new move of God," and his word for word rendition of Gwen Shaw's account of Joel's army, which I was told to "just accept" (by his daughter also, who was about to join Gwen Shaw's ETHM), and when I expressed my concerns about the doctrine concerning Joel's army, the minister said "Well that is what they are saying in America, but I haven't studied it." The entire preaching that Sunday, had simply been the minister's repetition of what he had heard preached in America, by Gwen Shaw - he had checked none of it with Scripture, yet had stood and taught the fellowship a message that he had not even attributed to what he had heard in America, but was presented to us, as if it was his own study, and understanding of Scripture, delivered with great zeal. None of what he said stood as true, and inline with Scripture, and I wasn't the only one to notice it - but people were expected to agree with Gwen Shaw, and others, and place them above Scripture, but I would not do so, and said I could not accept it, when asked if I would - a matter of weeks later, I was expelled from the fellowship. I wrote a letter to the minister's daughter, a dear, dear friend of mine, expressing my concerns about Gwen Shaw, and the ETHM that she was preparing to take 33 vows to join - MATTHEW 5 v 33 to 37. Sadly, I had a reply from her, saying she had the leading of The Holy Spirit in the matter, and didn't need my concerns. I understand she went ahead and joined.
Bearing in mind how the minister behaved - "They steal My Word (what they present to us as God's Word) one from another." JEREMIAH 23 v 30.
Being 'slain in the spirit,' had raised questions among the two friends of mine that first invited me to the fellowship; they were/are husband and wife, and we had known each other for many years. The wife, had been baptized in water at her baptist church I think it was, and baptized with The Holy Spirit, with the attesting sign of tongues, in Oxford University, where she was training to be a teacher. They invited me to their home one day, where they began to express their concerns about the 'Toronto Blessing,' and she expressed her concerns about the minister's behaviour also, the often cruel teasing, and the minister's love of money. It was I who said we must be careful what we say; the minister himself, had just recently said to the fellowship, that "If anyone says anything against me, God will let me know."
The Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to see if what Paul said was true - this was, in principal, encouraged within the fellowship, but if anybody did ever express concerns about doctrine, you would be treated with great suspicion, made to feel very uncomfortable, and still expected to agree with the minister, or Kenneth Copeland, or Gwen Shaw, or Benny Hinn, David Hathaway etc; Scripture was kept very much in the background, on the bases that such people had a greater understanding of Scripture than others, and, of course, they preached what the minister, and some others, wanted to hear. It turns out that the fellowship was a 'word of faith' fellowship, something I had no understanding of until recently, and which goes a long way to explaining a lot that I found difficult to understand, concerning the minister's behaviour.
The young lady that had expressed concerns about the 'Toronto Blessing,' and other behaviour within the fellowship, my friend, was I believe, manipulated by the minister, to stop her questioning the minister and his behaviour. She was very good friends with the minister's daughter, and had shared some of her concerns with the minister's daughter; I had begun working for the minister on his farm, and sat and had meals with him and his family, which meant I was privy to conversations; as the minister was being rude to his daughter one day, she told him that her friend, the other young lady, "doesn't know what to make of you sometimes dad." This comment caused him some concern, and some time later, publicly, whilst in a meeting at the church, the minister said from the pulpit, "I have a message for someone from God, xxxxxx (the young woman), it is for you - 'Why do you not believe?'"
This shocked the young woman I think, and certainly embarrassed her, and when I tried to speak to her about my concerns about the fellowship, over the telephone, after I had been expelled from the fellowship, she had changed beyond all recognition - she would now accept nothing at all being said to question the behaviour, or doctrine of the minister, and accepted the 'Toronto Blessing,' as an unquestionable work of God, a most wonderful blessing, and she was not very pleasant, or fair, to talk to, which was very unlike her.
The young lady in question, was very much a 'Berean,' Scripture was at the center of her faith; she was correctly baptized in water, as a result of her own choice, and she was baptized with The indwelling Holy Spirit, attested to with the gift of tongues, and she promoted both baptisms among other people, at our Bible study, for which she, along with myself, were not well liked, along with our desire to take the way we behaved seriously - it all culminated in us leaving the Methodist and Baptist fellowships, as I said earlier. The young lady cared about the way we behaved towards others, and often quoted Scripture, and what God said about how we should behave.
A lot of 'Christians' forget about the importance of our behaviour, our beliefs and opinions, our character, and simplify their faith, down to the very minimum, a simple claim of 'belief,' - "Who so ever believes in Me," not believing Jesus witness, or seeking to obey His commandments, but rather, simply 'believing' He exists, and this 'belief' of God's, and Jesus', existence, they perceive as 'faith.' - "Even the demons believe, and tremble." How can we claim to believe, and love, if we do not obey - "They worship me with their lips, but their hearts are far from Me," "Why do you call Me 'Lord, Lord,' and do not what I tell you." "The one who loves Me, is the one that keeps My commandments."
BEHAVIOUR - it matters enormously to God!
It was our behaviour that was corrupted by Satan in the beginning, nothing mystical, just our every day behaviour, and it is our behaviour that Satan continues to try and corrupt, to set us against God, to cause us to sin.
So, here is a very important question - is there anything within the doctrine of those churches that take part in, and promote, the 'Toronto Blessing,' that corrupts our behaviour? This is a critically important question, forget the phenomenon for a moment, and focus on the behaviour that is encouraged by the doctrine taught, for any deceiving phenomenon, is there purely to cause us to accept false doctrine, that we may otherwise have rejected, the deception is there to trick us, to mislead us, it teaches nothing in itself, it is the doctrine that accompanies the phenomenon that corrupts us, and has the potential to destroy us.
The work of Satan and his demons, is to corrupt our behaviour, nothing more complicated than that, and included within that behaviour, is our obedience to be baptized, as we are commanded to be, that we might enter into the Kingdom of God, entering into the realms of His POWER and Authority - ACTS 1 v 4 to 8. JOHN 14 v 5 to 12. MATTHEW 13 v 37 to 43. JOEL all. MATTHEW 7 v 13 to 27. ACTS 19 v 15. MATTHEW 16 v 1 to 19.
JOHN 3 all. "Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance." "Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness."