Back in the 1970s, Amazing Grace Tabernacle left the windows open on warm Sunday evenings.
On those Sundays, the singing was louder than usual; everyone hoped the families who lived in neighboring homes would hear and want to join in.
Amazing Grace was a little church on the north side of Ottawa. If I tried, I could not find a church more different than the one in which I grew up. I attended there with my sister and a high school friend.
We sang a lot of choruses. Services were allowed to be “led by the Spirit.” When the singing was good, which was often, the pastor didn’t give a sermon. That was fine with us teenagers.
Each service ended with an altar call, when everyone went forward to pray. We stood in a huddle, eyes closed, hands raised and gave ourselves to God, Sunday after Sunday.
I remember a revival meeting. The visiting preacher was a big man. He had dark hair and a loud voice. I don’t remember his sermon, but I do remember the altar call.
Everyone went up to the altar. I stood in the first row of a group about three people deep. I could hear the preacher getting nearer and nearer to me as he prayed over the parishioners. Finally, he stood right in front of me, said a prayer, and pushed me so hard on my forehead I fell to the floor. Everyone thought I had been slain in the Spirit.
I remember laying on the floor, eyes still closed, wondering how long I should wait before getting up. People were so happy for me; being slain in the Spirit was considered a real blessing. I didn’t dare tell them the big man knocked me down.
My sister and I liked going to Amazing Grace Tabernacle; it felt good. The singing. The praying. The people. It was wonderful. We experienced an emotional high every time we went. But those feelings didn’t last long.
I’ve been thinking about the church service at Asbury University in Wilmore, Kentucky. It began on Feb. 8 and lasted almost two weeks. People are calling it a revival. But I wonder if it’s merely what I experienced years ago – an emotional high brought on by stimuli that had little to do with a genuine revival. Only time will tell.
Sean Michael Lucas, in his 2016 article for Ligonier Ministries, titled “True Revival and False Revival,” offers five false signs of genuine spiritual revival:
1. Simply because someone has powerful impressions of God’s love or overwhelming feelings of sadness over sin doesn’t mean a conversion has occurred. Our emotions might have been raised, but did they produce lasting fruit?
2. Individuals with counterfeit religious experiences are much more prone to talk about them because they are motivated by a desire to be seen and known.
3. Quoting Scripture isn’t evidence of a changed heart. The devil himself can bring texts of Scripture to mind.
4. The Bible nowhere teaches having a strong feeling of deliverance provides evidence of genuine revival.
5. Simply because there are large crowds in worship services, and the people are highly participatory, doesn’t mean revival has come.
John MacArthur in his article, “A Look at the Great Awakening” said “The Great Awakening was a dramatic revival that began in New England in the mid-18th century which swept the colonies. It was marked by strong preaching, a resurgence of sound doctrine, a distinct emphasis on justification by faith, powerful conviction of sin, immediate conversions, and dramatically changed lives.”
Now that’s the kind of revival for which I pray!
Kathy Hardee is a wife, mother, grandmother, children’s church teacher and God worshiper. You can contact her at email@example.com.