I was one of those people who made the trip to Toronto back in the 1990’s. I remember when the renewal was underway and people were praying “More, Lord!” I have always been thankful for the times that people like John Arnott, Rolland Baker and Randy Clark prayed over me. It became known as the Toronto Blessing.
This is a movement that was somewhat hard to understand. It was not a Pentecostal movement but a charismatic one and it has some very different core values than say, the Brownsville Revival did. To understand the values of the renewal, you would have to understand the history of the Vineyard movement and its’ leader, John Wimber.
The basic history is that a pastor from St. Louis named Randy Clark went to Toronto for a short series of meetings after being prayed for by Rodney Howard-Browne in Tulsa. One meetings became months of meetings and the pastor of the local Vineyard church was transformed. John Arnott was completely a new type of pastor because of the renewal that broke out. It would go on and on for several years.
i was in the meetings for the 10th year of renewal and it was in my opinion, the tail end of the renewal. It might even have been a memorial service for the renewal to be frank. It started to die down around 2000. However, no one back then would have ever admitted that!
Toronto Blessing was the Father Heart
While I could focus on many things that came out of the meetings; I would say the most important is the teaching of the heart of the Father. People understand that Jesus loves us but few Christians believed (many still don’t) that the Father loves us. I do not remember who said it but in one meeting, I heard that we are so busy being men of God, we forgot to be children of God.
One of the best teaching I have ever heard on this subject was by James Jordan of Father Heart Ministries based down in New Zealand. That is not to say that people like Floyd McClung and Jack Frost didn’t have some amazing teaching on the subject as well.
I remember sitting up in the upper room above the meeting area before Catch the Fire back in 2004 and listen to James talk about the passion that the Father has for his children. This was something that we rarely hear. We know Jesus loves us but we hardly talk about the love of the Father and His heart for us.
In anything, it is much harder for us to receive the love of the Father than it is the love of the Son. We love the Holy Spirit; He comes with miracles and baptism by fire! We love Jesus as He is the redeemer and Savior. However, when it comes to understand the Father; the ball gets dropped.
The main reason that I believe this is the case is our picture of what an earthly father should be like is very much model after John Wayne; not God’s nature.
The Vineyard/Toronto Split
One of the biggest questions when you hear the words Toronto Blessing will be about the split between the church and the Vineyard movement. It was led by none other than its’ founder, John Wimber. Alot of people have alot of different ideas of what happened and who was wrong. I am not really that interested in pointing a finger saying “they were right and they were wrong.”
My take on whole thing is just that, my take. I think it was more Wimber knew he had limited time on the earth left and that the Vineyard movement could not move toward with part of it being in renewal and the other part being against it. Vineyard has never been fully in one direction. They are a loose network of churches that believed in miracles at best. In fact, most pastors in the movement are not Pentecostal.
As the story goes, Wimber was getting ill and he was taking alot of heat for the renewal on top of that; he just basically came to Toronto and gave them a choice: make John’s life easier with the critics or go on their way. John Arnott and others sit down and considered the options and made the choice to walk away from the Vineyard movement.
I do not believe it was this ugly hateful drama that alot of people over the years have made it out to be. I am sure there was some hurt in people over the whole thing but I think it is better for the renewal and better for the Vineyard looking back.
The fruit that remains
In the end, what matters is that “fruit remains.” What is the lasting impact of the Toronto Blessing? I can tell you that I was transformed in the meetings in the 1990’s and so was about a million other people. Alot of people have been called to the ministry in those meetings as well. Darren Wilson, (Finger of God guy) was called to do the film while in a meeting there. Just an example.
A better example would be Heidi Baker who was ready to quit the mission field and move back to California. She was sick and as an act of desperation when to Toronto to receive from the Holy Spirit. In the meeting, Randy Clark asked her if he wanted to win the nation of Mozambique? She returned to Africa and revival broke loose. Thousands of churches have been planted and dozens of networks have been established since then.
Bill Johnson, the pastor of a small Assemblies of God church in Northern California went to the meetings as well. He prayed to God that if the Holy Spirit would fall in his church like it did in Toronto, he would never change the subject. Johnson went on to take the pastoral duties at his father’s church, Bethel Assmebly of God in Redding. Today, Bill Johnson is a well known leader and still pastors at Bethel Church. (No longer Assemblies of God).
The stories from the Toronto Blessing are many… what is your Catch the Fire story?