If you’ve not been reading my series on my personal testimony, it’d help you if you started from the beginning. However, it’s not completely necessary and you can jump in right now if you wish. A significant turning point happened around my last year in high school and is worth writing its own entry about it. It begins in the summer before the school year started in 1999. That was when I heard of the city called Pensacola for the first time, and a school there. No, I’m not talking about Pensacola Christian College!
The Revival Videos
One of the closest friends I made that summer, Cara, her friend Matt, and a few others of us would hang out a lot at the old local Youth For Christ/Youth Unlimited chapter—which would go on to become “The Bridge Youth Centre.” Matt had gone off to some Bible school for the summer months in Pensacola, Florida. Back then, Cara, others we knew from these circles were also volunteering at Hope Valley Day Camp, and we all were also praying in the mornings at YFC until camp sessions started that year. In August, Matt came back, and a bunch of us all got together at Cara’s house the next Saturday night for what I was under the impression would be a Bible study. It turned out that Matt had a video of Ken Gott from England preaching at the church he was just attending in Florida… and I had never heard preaching like this before.
“The “power” of God? You mean the stuff in the Bible happens today, not just back then in Bible days? That’s not what I’d been taught to believe!”
The preacher had all these wild testimonies he shared as he preached.
Then, what we watched next really rocked me–permanently. It was a video from a youth conference, and Michael Rowan was the preacher. He shared a lot of hard-hitting stuff, one being the story of how Marilyn Manson was a nerdy young teenager who attended this one man’s youth group but nobody liked him and they all alienated him.
Afterward, Rowan showed a video of footage of Manson’s career, and how he got that way, and clips of interviews with him. Later on in the message, the preacher had someone in make-up and burnt-looking clothing come on stage and scream at him, depicting someone who had just come from hell. The friend was offended with Michael for never having shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ with him, and holding him responsible for his eternal torment. He screamed him out before being dragged back where he came from by other actors dressed in hideous demon-like outfits.
People in the stadium as well as in Cara’s living room were weeping and crying real tears as we watched this. It was truly powerful, and I think that night was when something was deposited in me. Those two components of Rowan’s message burdened me to step out of my comfort zone with the Gospel and share it with everybody because I never know who will need to hear it.
I had never heard such powerful preaching before, and after it was over, we spent considerable time in prayer, and Matt patiently and Scripturally explained some things to me about the revival in Pensacola and just what a ‘revival’ was. It sounded awesome, and made me wonder how come we don’t have something like that everywhere that there are Christians?
Would this revival ever end?
What is different about down there where those Christians are that God is doing this down there and not up in my hometown, Peterborough?
My theology at the time–cessationism—that the gifts of the Spirit don’t happen today–and the ‘hyper-sovereignty of God’ I’ve been nicknaming Calvinism really didn’t know how to grasp a “move of God” like that—because it contradicted MY views of how God worked, but I couldn’t deny some of the things that began happening in my life in the coming months.
The Fatal Car Accident and a Wake-up Call
Something I need to mention here: during my first semester of the twelfth grade, I sat in front of this guy named Dean in my entrepreneurship studies class. We argued about the Gospel the whole semester, and sometimes I’d be preaching to the entire back of the room since I knew they were all eavesdropping on us. I never knew it at the time, but in another class, Dean sat with my friend Paul in some kind of history class, and was always getting into the Gospel with him there too.
When we returned to school that fall, on the first day during the morning announcements I learned of something I had not found out until that first day of school; we had a moment of silence for Dean who, during the summer was in a car accident and lost his life.
I was shocked because I had no idea this happened. I’ve been told conflicting accounts of what happened, and some say he was saved and is with the Lord, others say far from it and that he flipped his car on a dirt road while high on drugs. I’m not sure what the truth is, but I know for a fact my hands are washed of his blood if he never had made a decision about Christ, because I was faithful to share the clear Gospel with him almost day in and day out for a whole semester, answering his questions and objections and presenting the message clearly. And if I know Paul, he was too. Whether he went home to be with the Lord or is separated for eternity from God, only the Lord really knows, but it still made an impact on me with sharing the Gospel to people because of how frail human life is.
Dean’s death cemented in me that we as believers can’t fear sharing the Gospel for fear it won’t be accepted or listened to. I’d rather have someone mad at me in this life for preaching a “narrow-minded ideology” than to have them enter into hell for eternity mad that I never shared with them the way to God through Jesus Christ as depicted in the preaching message of Michael Rowan’s we watched that summer night.
Better to make people offended with me now, than offended with me for eternity.
Youth Group Hopping and Speaking in Tongues
During my last year of high school, my buddy Trevor–also a leader in the previously mentioned Christian high school group, disillusioned with his church’s youth group like I was with mine, started accompanying me to the Selwyn Outreach Centre on Friday nights where Matt went. I was convinced if that’s where he went, I wanted to see what they’ve got that I’m missing, because he was of a different spirit/character than the other Christians I knew, and without knowing exactly what it was, I knew it had everything to do with the whole Pentecostal/Charismatic distinction. I shared my heart with my youth pastor at my home fellowship, and he basically tried talking me out of it, putting an emphasis on the idea I was in rebellion by going to another youth group instead of “growing where I was planted”, and I know him well enough to know he was sincere and looking out for my interests and not being manipulative.
However, I’m glad I didn’t listen to him because I never would have experienced things I went on to experience, and never would have met some of the people I met—and quite frankly, the youth at my home church would look at me like a deer looking at oncoming headlights on the road whenever I talked about evangelizing and sharing our faith; whenever I talked about living HOLY lives and watching what we listen to, or watch, and what we do, etc… and I just plain wasn’t fitting in there anymore—and a few people made certain that I knew I wasn’t welcome!
Of course not all of that was based on my zeal, but on obnoxiousness as well, as I was still immature back then. Seasons change, and I felt that the time I spent in that youth group came to a close, and a new chapter began. All the while still visiting the youth pastor in his office on my way home from school regularly, and having him take me for driving lessons in his van every week or two, and still attending this fellowship on Sunday mornings for the years to follow.
Those Crazy Charismatics!
So, my first night at Selwyn the worship time was amazing—and I felt so much freer to express myself than I ever did in any other church setting—besides Acquire The Fire weekends. There was this one moment my first night there, where they all started to sing in tongues.
“That is what it sounds like when people speak in tongues?”
It sounded like the most beautiful thing I ever heard. I immediately dismissed what different local Bible college students I knew had said to me about Selwyn–which made me realize none of these students had probably even visited this church (or any charismatic church) or they wouldn’t have been able to slander that congregation to me like they did. Regardless, none of what was told me was true. It was not a “hypnotic” atmosphere where they “brainwashed me”—like I’d been told to believe would happen if I went!
It was evident these people at Selwyn had something I didn’t, and the only reason I didn’t know how to handle the charismatic stuff that took place there is that instead of just reading the Bible for myself, I was conditioned against the charismata by well-meaning people in my life. But the presence of God was clearly in their midst in a way I was not experientially familiar with prior to that.
At this point in my life, I took a specific colored pen, and started going through my New Living Translation with it, and looking for everything I could find dealing with some of these things and marking it up. Then Matt, who didn’t like the NLT, bought me a New King James Version, so I read through it and marked it up as well.
In about six months total, I had read through the Bible 3 times. I know, you don’t believe me or think it’s possible, and maybe even know what a slacker I was in high school with my studies. But I had an advanced reading level during all my public schooling and had read novels at an early age. I was reading Stephen King at the age of ten for crying out loud! So, what the devil had used in my reading skills to twist and pervert in me at an early age, the Lord used to get me grounded in His Word and devour it with as much voracity as I used to read horror and science fiction novels in my adolescence.
I was hungry for more of God unlike anything since the time I got saved and was initially reading the Bible. I started seeing how a lot of what I had been taught was biased and simply unbiblical. I, like everyone else who wants to be honest with themselves, was interpreting the Bible according to my experience instead of changing my experience to match the Word of God. That’s what it all boils down to. And it didn’t help that most Christians I was surrounded by didn’t believe in the supernatural aspect of God’s character or relegated to a thing in the past that He “doesn’t do anymore”.
I’d consistently go to Selwyn with Matt or Trevor. And then one night in October, 1999 I had that dream, concerning the baptism of fire after having the guy pray over me at Selwyn and prophesy about the calling on my life. If you’ve never read that entry or are unfamiliar with what I’m referring to, please read it here— either before going further or after you’ve read this entry, it’s long and detailed, but provides a decent backdrop for what the Lord showed me and is a key in my direction the Lord is taking my life. That night alone settled it for me that this stuff is real, and I didn’t care anymore what the more conservative evangelical stream of Christianity I was familiar with told me about those “crazy charismatics.” I had never had stuff like this happen to me where I’d dream dreams of the things of the Lord!
Early morning prayer for revival
During this year, I was praying in the mornings at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College (Now called Masters College and Seminary) because YFC was under renovations to become The Bridge; in those days I joined a trio of brothers I knew, a few of the EPBC students, and other people like Matt, Cara, etc… Most had been on at least one road trip to the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola and were hungry for a move of God in our own land.
We prayed from 6 am until about 7:30. I’d borrow more and more videos of evangelist Steve Hill, pastor John Kilpatrick, and Dr. Michael L. Brown preaching at the revival from the brothers who came. Hands down–I’d never heard any preaching and teaching like this and it fueled the fire in me. I decided I was going to stop looking for Bible colleges to go to after high school and apply to the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry.
The prayer meetings went on until sometime in the winter and we gradually dwindled and the meetings stopped or happened with less regularity, but man, I really knew and believed I’d see revival hit Canada. I’d grown even more tired of the normal churchianity, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to sleep in on Sundays at this point, but be up around 5:20 am to head to Eastern before school started—please note I’m a night person! My memory recalls late-night prayer meetings on Friday nights well into the a.m. hours at a certain family’s house. Everything about church where all you do is go to church, hear a sermon, and live your life and you’ll go to heaven or get raptured-whichever came first—no longer appealed to me and I didn’t and still don’t understand others who are satisfied with the spectator sport of pew-warm-ianity.
Needless to say, I never heard back from Brownsville, which is interesting in hindsight, and I wound up rightfully taking a year off after high school and worked full time at Subway, in downtown Peterborough, serving the drunks coming in after the bars had closed. That was character building, and God used it to form me in so many ways. I’ve got a lot of evangelism and prayer stories from that place alone that could take up several other blog entries!
I’d close the store at 2 am on weeknights, and 3 am on bar nights, and walk home, or go for a coffee at Country Style Donuts a block away. I remember the nights when I went home, watching oodles of preaching videos, especially from the Brownsville Revival. I’d read books by Leonard Ravenhill, Charles Finney and other people on revival, as well as contemporary authors like Dr. Brown, Tommy Tenney and John Bevere.
I really had an awesome season in my life for those winter months that year and nothing would satisfy these desires for more of…. something, but I didn’t know what—other than to ask for a revival, not even fully understanding what that would mean if my prayers were answered!
It turns out, the reason I never heard from Brownsville at that time was a computer glitch—or so the letter I got in the mail from Nancy Brown said. It was a good thing too, because then there was the horrific split that happened in December of 2000, and FIRE School of Ministry was formed and I went there instead of Brownsville’s school which, no longer even exists, unfortunately.
The fall of 2001 would be when I started at FIRE and got messed up even more (in mostly good ways, I’d hope!), never to be the same again–not the least of which was influenced by living in the Florida Panhandle during the Sept 11th attacks, but I will end this entry on that note, and hopefully write only one more post on how I felt called to the mission field and devote hopefully only one part to both Holland and Peru, but if not, you’ve been warned there’s at least one more part to this series on my testimony.
Thanks for reading! More to come…