Dr Edgar Mayer – Place: Healinglife Church, Adelaide – Date: Sunday 13 September 2015
For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org
Repenting to Pentecostals and Toronto Blessing Churches
From Edgar Mayer: Surprised by the Holy Spirit, Citta Sant’ Angelo: Evangelist Media 2012, p50-53:
In March 2008, I sat down at my desk to write a sermon that was based on my research and notes. However, when I began writing, the sermon took on a life of its own and a completely different message was produced. I had a sense that this was God; therefore, I preached the message that confronted us Lutherans with our persistent opposition to the moves of God.
For instance, I reflected on how we had opposed the coming of Billy Graham to Australia. Church delegates from across the nation had passed the following resolution at the General Synod of 1968:
…We cannot, however, recommend participation or cooperation of our pastors and congregations in Dr Graham’s campaign. Dr Graham does not proclaim the Gospel in its truth and purity … Participation in the preliminary prayer meetings and cooperation in the campaign can hardly avoid compromise of the truth and entanglement in unionism …
This was a mistake; even in our own ranks there are now pastors and other church members who have become Christians through the work of Billy Graham. Then I continued my sermon with our more recent opposition to the Alpha Course. In this case, we did not issue an official warning about the program, but many clergy conversations about the course were negative. We frowned at the perceived flaws of the teaching material. Even the statistics of new life and faith around the globe did not give us reason for joy.
In my preaching, further evidence of a Lutheran culture that had been opposing the moves of God was presented. We Lutherans had kept our distance to Rick Warren’s 40 Days of Purpose program that swept the nation in 2004, and we also maintained a cloud of suspicion over the international Emmaus Walk, despite the joyful testimonies of Lutherans. Furthermore, we remained negative about the worship music of the Hillsong Church in Sydney even though Australian songwriters such as Darlene Zschech kept impacting the world.
With mounting evidence in my sermon, we could see that there was something in our Lutheran culture that had been resisting the moves of God. Maybe we were too proud to acknowledge anything that was not Lutheran. At the end of my sermon, I included one last piece of evidence that made the list, more or less, “by accident.” I had no emotional attachment to the issue, but mentioned our Lutheran judgment of the “Toronto Blessing.”
I believe that without a doubt, what God poured out on the Toronto Airport church in 1994 ranks among the most maligned movements in modern church history—and I had joined the critical voices even though I had never enquired about anything that transpired. However, in the months before I preached the sermon, I came across an audio teaching by the senior pastor of that church. This was not planned but happened as I was browsing the Internet. The teaching was good and surprised me because I had imagined this kind of pastor to be more emotional and over-the-top. Yet he was calm and solid.
This discovery challenged my prejudice, which was further eroded when I read another second-hand book and discovered it was by the same pastor. The title was The Father’s Blessing, and I liked the book. At the very least, it proved to me that this pastor was not a “loose cannon,” but a man of God. He wrote about what was happening in his church, and I learned that the experiences were not so much about the Holy Spirit but an encounter with the love of the Father.
On reflection, I recognized that I knew some of the fruit that was coming out of the Toronto Airport Church. For instance, the Alpha Course had connections to this outpouring of the Holy Spirit because a staff member had brought the “blessing” to the London church, which in time, would produce the Alpha program. Furthermore, I was familiar with American missionaries Rolland and Heidi Baker who were active in Mozambique. They had received healing and prophetic revelation in Toronto and then planted more than six thousand churches in only five years.
Without doing any more research or showing any special interest in the Toronto Blessing, I knew enough to include the phenomenon in my list of God’s moves that we Lutherans kept opposing. After I finished my sermon, I invited the church members to come forward, take the microphone, and lead us in prayers of repentance. One by one, we expressed our sorrow and acknowledged our own sin and the failings of our denomination. There was no finger-pointing or superior attitude, just genuine humility.
The very next week, I went to a church conference at the Gold Coast, which was three hours away. I had no idea where we were going and who the main speaker would be. A Pentecostal friend had arranged everything, and I did not care whether the conference promised to be good or bad. I would use the time as a break and to draw near to God.
However, the worship services at the conference were blessed with an almost tangible presence of God that I had never experienced before. I received an impartation on the second night that had me lying on the carpet for the first time in my life. As I was lying on the carpet, I was further impacted by the tears I was crying. This was the first time in twenty-one years that I was shedding tears. What was happening? I had come to the conference for rest and here I was crying. The tears were also rather specific. I was grieving over our congregation and denomination and, lying on the carpet, I understood that a previous prophetic word was accurate. At a prayer meeting, one of our members had claimed that God was speaking to us the words of Revelation 3:15-20. God accused us of being lukewarm, but also promised His coming.
I was very thankful for the experience because God had touched me and spoken to me. Then I processed another piece of information. The little church that had organized the conference was in fact connected and submitted to the Toronto Airport Church. I did not even know that such a church existed in Australia but, at the conference, I began to realize that, as soon as we repented of our Lutheran judgment of the Toronto Blessing, God allowed me to step into the very stream of blessings that were flowing out of Toronto.
Before the morning service the next day, I had a “chance encounter” with the pastor who was organizing the conference. I shared with him how our Lutheran congregation repented the previous Sunday of judging the Toronto Blessing, and this week, by coming to the conference, I had already received from the outpouring that happened first at Toronto. He immediately invited me to share this testimony with the conference, and I had the chance to repent again publicly in this setting. I was not an official representative of our denomination, but I love our church and spoke as one of the pastors.
However, this was not the end of God’s provisions. One month later, Pastor Peter Steicke, a Lutheran colleague and friend, was to conduct a “Father’s Heart Weekend” at Living Grace. It dawned on me that this weekend was also connected to Toronto because Peter, on his return from a mission trip to Uganda, was prayed for in a church in Amsterdam, Holland. A former staff member of the Toronto Airport Church prayed for him and what Peter received was an impartation of the fatherly heart of God, which was the essence of the Toronto Blessing. As he was twice going down under the Spirit’s power, he received a download of the Father’s heart of love. He said that, in an instant, God impressed on him all of the Scripture passages that taught on this theme and the revelation became the seminar he would teach among us.
Thus, one Sunday we repented of opposing the moves of God and more or less “by accident” also mentioned the Toronto Blessing. Yet the Holy Spirit knew what He was doing. We needed to humble ourselves and acknowledge the truth because repentance is the gateway for receiving more from the Holy Spirit. It was not hard for us but important to Him.
We had repented of opposing the “Toronto Blessing” by accident but recognized clearly that for God this was important. However, the Toronto Airport church did not become our “model church” which we sought to copy. We neither ordered resources from that church nor were trying to imitate their style or culture. On reflection, we did come into the stream of those that were walking in partnership with the Toronto Airport Church – Bill Johnson and Bethel Church, Rolland and Heidi Baker and Randy Clark – but the Toronto Airport Church itself – John and Carol Arnott – was not foremost on our minds.
For a few years, God had us hidden and was maturing us (with a bit of pain) but, in 2013, he suddenly opened the door and we had a continuous stream of invitations which took us to QLD, NSW, VIC and SA, and also overseas. Before we had a trickle of invitations with amazing results (powerful Holy Spirit meetings) but, in 2013 (until now), God raised our profiled especially in the Lutheran Church of Australia and it also began with repentance.
An invitation came to be one of the guest-speakers at a meeting of the NSW Lutheran District. I was not really known to those that invited me and the meeting itself was unique in the sense that the Bishop, the pastors and leading church men and women (maybe 110 people in attendance) were acknowledging the pain of decline and problems in the church. I had never been in a Lutheran meeting like this before – at least an official one. It was a meeting of crying out to God, humbling themselves and looking for answers. There was a surrendering of pride which opened the door for something new from God and I, with a certain degree of nervousness (feeling the pressure of the moment), ended up being the only guest-speaker on the weekend of the meeting at Warrambui Camp (outside Canberra).
The Gathering, NSW
(18-20 October 2013)
Under the leadership of some pastors and key church members (Fred Veerhuis, Tanya Cunningham, Fred & Inta Gollash, Russell Veerhuis, Joel Cramer, James & Judy Doecke) – with the blessing of the NSW Bishop Mark Lieschke and funding from the Lutheran Laypeople’s League – the NSW district of the Lutheran Church of Australia organized a weekend gathering (“The Gathering”) at Warrambui Camp to address the pain of decline in their churches.
I quote from the Contact Article:
In a time of declining numbers, financial pressure, damaged morale, and a crisis of confidence, the weekend is intended give impetus to fresh thinking and direction, and renewal of hope and courage. It will be the Holy Spirit equivalent to a Work Camp.
The weekend will include: Joyful worship … A time for expression of our frustrations, pains, disappointments and grief over the situations which confront us, and together casting all those cares on Him. Straightforward New Testament teaching about Christians using their Spirit-bestowed gifts and capacities in their local settings …
Failure and decline are not inevitable. We do not have to be on a path to death from which resurrection is impossible. For those “In Christ Jesus” faith and hope can always be renewed and rebuilt. To continue on without review and reflection about who we are, and where we are going, without at least asking questions and searching the scriptures, would be sad, and even bitter, to contemplate. Our conviction is that Jesus is Lord, and “In Him” the Heavenly Father is always for us and the Holy Spirit is always within us. As Paul wrote to the Corinthian church … Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. (I Corinthians 2:24) …
From the outset, therefore, this gathering was honest and humble and open for new directions from God. About one hundred and ten people came – fourteen of which were pastors. I was the guest-speaker and the organizing team gave me three sessions on Saturday. This was quite a “scary” proposition because the weight of expectation seemed to be too high and the content of my sharing might be too unsettling in this Lutheran context.
On Friday evening, the attendees shared their stories of grief and breakdown and received encouragement and healing from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. On Saturday morning, I began with my testimony and the story of Living Grace. Then, I debriefed the testimony with a theological reflection on Christian experience. (I challenged the LCA misconception that our “Theology of the Cross” excludes positive experiences of God.)
After these two talks, there were afternoon electives. Originally, my third talk was scheduled for late afternoon but the organizers changed it to the evening session and invited me to do ministry after the talk (prayer with the laying on of hands). This had been on my heart from the beginning. Thus, I modified my talk and sought to prepare everyone for the prayer time.
I acknowledged that our testimony and theological teachings on the Holy Spirit was probably a little overwhelming for some. It took us years to process all of the information and make changes in our thinking, not just one day. However, God gave grace and the third talk – like the other two talks (especially the first) – was light, clear, full of humour and laughter and relaxed everyone. In the end, there was trust and peace to receive prayer and God ministered to his people:
When I shared how demons began manifesting in our ministry (especially the Jesus Tent), a demon stirred in a man that was chairman of a congregation. As I was sharing, thoughts of blasphemy kept bothering him. He approached his pastor and he brought him to me. After the chairman became free, he returned to the others.
There were many people who were “slain in the Spirit” for the first time. One man confessed to me that he had always struggled with letting go of control and was surprised when he also fell down.
One pastor had been suffering from deep depression but, on Saturday evening, God gave him supernatural joy and he was laughing on the floor. Everyone was happy for him.
When John Borchert prayed for me, I also went down under the power of the Holy Spirit and received lying on the carpet.
This was wonderful. I felt like a person coming “from another planet” but the gathering received my teaching and ministry and, in a relaxed atmosphere, processed the paradigm shifts which I introduced to them (e.g.: the need for the word to be combined with the Spirit, the value of Christian experience, the promise of power by the Spirit of God).
As this door opened – at this strategic meeting which represented a new beginning in the NSW District but also (possibly) in the Lutheran Church of Australia (LCA) – other doors began to open as well and suddenly our church and I were in a new season of reaching out and travelling:
· Toowoomba, QLD (18-20 April): Jesus Tent @ Easterfest.
· Canberra, ACT (9-11 May): Follow-up meeting after “The Gathering” (2013) @ Tuggeranong with Pastor Greg Fowler and his congregation and others that wanted to come. Many of the attenders ended up lying on the floor under the power of the Spirit and they were lying in a circle around the seats in the church.
· Portland, VIC (16-18 May): The invitation came from the Lutheran woman that ran the Christian bookshop in Portland. The majority of attenders (maybe 150) were Lutherans but all the other clergy of the town also attended (except the Pentecostal pastor) and, if I am not mistaken, absolutely everyone that came forward for prayer went down under the power of God. There were healings, new spiritual gifts (e.g.: the gift of tongues), deliverance from unclean spirits, repentance, breakthroughs in faith and, late on Saturday night (with only a few people left in the auditorium), we saw again the glory cloud of God (a fine mist).
· Warrambui Camp, NSW (6-9 June); I was invited to run an elective and preach at the Saturday Communion Service @ the Better Blokes Men’s camp. On Saturday night, the service began @ 7pm and I prayed for people until mid-night.
· Victor Harbor, SA (8-10 August): Ten people from Living Grace, and further team support from Portland and Victor Harbor, ministered to about three hundred and twenty attenders – mostly Lutherans – many of whom had travelled to be at the Holy Spirit conference.
· Warwick, QLD (23 August): Another team from Living Grace went to Warwick and ministered in the local Assemblies of God Church.
· Indonesia (5-15 September): Six from Living Grace ministered in the Spirit at two conferences in Indonesia and also explored our support of mission among unreached people groups. A few in the team expelled demons from people for the first time in their lives.
· Oakey, QLD (24-28 September): Jesus Tent @ Oakey.
· Toowoomba, QLD (30 September – 3 October): YWAM (Youth With A Mission) invited me to teach the module on the Holy Spirit at their local Discipleship Training School.
· Pittsworth, QLD (29 October – 2 November): Jesus Tent @ Pittsworth
Fast forward to 2015 – this year God has already taken us to Murwillumbah in Qld and Vietnam and, God-willing, we will go to New Zealand and have another tent outreach in Pittsworth, Qld. But there has also been opposition – solid resistance from our denomination. Without charging or convicting me of any false teaching, our College of Bishops have decided to resist any more of our ministry and the climax came when the Lutheran Bishop of Qld forbade the Lutheran congregation in Rockhampton to host the Jesus Tent, our mission tent where we preach Jesus and pray for people (with healings and miracles happening).
I will not go into any details but God used this climax of confrontation to make us relaunch Lutheran Renewal, a national movement of renewal which had already existed in 1970s-1990s and left a good heritage among us. And – in the midst of the conflict – God again highlighted the spiritual importance of the “Toronto Blessing”. Again, it was not on my radar but – reading the signals right – it was on God’s.
On Monday 9 February 2015, I received an email from the Lutheran pastor in Rockhampton, informing me that the Qld Bishop had forbidden him to have the Jesus Tent in Rockhampton. He was the host who had invited us to come and he had also invited other churches to join the effort but now the Qld Bishop forbade him and his congregation to receive ministry from me.
I was very upset but I was also delighted. I was upset because I was scheduled to present the Jesus Tent to the pastors of Rockhampton that very week – on Saturday – and now I would have to go and tell them that my Bishop (the Qld Bishop) had no confidence in me. On the other hand, however, I was delighted because it put the General Bishop on alert (encouraging him to treat the conflict more seriously than he would have done otherwise) and I just knew that the devil had overplayed his hand. (I am not saying not that the Qld Bishop is of the devil.) There was nothing of God in the way that the Jesus Tent was shut down in Rockhampton. It makes discernment really easy. There was no process and no right for the Bishop to do so. No congregation has to get permission from the Bishop to run a ministry program and, within the LCA, we are all in “altar and pulpit fellowship” with one another. The Bishop has no right to interfere unless there is false teaching and practice and then he has to prove his case. He clearly overstepped his authority.
Pastor Rob Edwards, the Lutheran Pastor of Rockhampton, informed me that, in his weekend conversations with the Bishop, the Qld Bishop attacked me especially over the “Toronto Blessing”. I was surprised because I am not really talking about the “Toronto Blessing” or thinking that much about “Toronto”. However, I pricked up my ears because whatever is being attacked is probably important (otherwise the devil would not attack it) and I remembered the history of Living Grace of repenting of our opposition to the “Toronto Blessing” and then stepping into the stream of grace that God released through Toronto (see my book “Surprised by the Holy Spirit”).
As it happened, on the day that Rob Edwards called me, I had discovered the HD quality videos of the 20th anniversary of the Toronto Outpouring (2014) on YouTube and was excited and blessed by them and it was clearly wrong to speak out against what God had done and was doing there. [I had just been watching Randy Clark’s testimony of how he ended up in Toronto and I knew that this testimony was holy and it filled me with holy fear: “I’m not going to touch this.”] Maybe it was no coincidence that I was watching those videos just when I was being attacked over “Toronto”.
Then – another “coincidence” – one day later (on Tuesday 10 Feb), I received an invitation to preach in an Adelaide inner-city church (your church), after the outreach with Suzette Hattingh (where I have also been preaching), and the church is actually a PIH (Partners in Harvest) church (a member of the Toronto Airport Church denomination) – one of only six in Australia, two in Adelaide. Would you believe it?
Taking note of all these coincidences, I realized again how important it was that we had repented of opposing and slandering the “Toronto Blessing” in 2008 and, picking up on the latest developments and recognizing that another layer of repentance was on the cards, I led Lutherans into the same kind of repentance at Salisbury in Adelaide (South Australia) on Sunday 1 March 2015. With eight pastors and seven College students taking the lead, we repented of the Lutheran attitude toward Pentecostals and also the “Toronto Blessing”.
It is my firm conviction that today we bring the process of repentance to a head. The elders, intercessors and members of our church – Living Grace in Toowoomba – and Lutherans present here share the conviction that today in Adelaide – the seat and heart of the Lutheran Church of Australia (with the Australian Lutheran College, the National Head office and much history) – we break this curse over our denomination that has come from our pride and blaspheming the Holy Spirit that has worked mightily across the earth through what happened at the Toronto Airport Church, beginning in 1994.
Maybe it is important to say something about my own role in this. Do I have permission to stand in the gap – together with others – for the LCA? At a conference in 2010, and this conference was again hosted by a “Toronto Blessing” church (a member of “Partners in Harvest”), Heidi Baker ministered to me (with my wife next to me and a few of our church members surrounding us) and prophesied over me and the way it happened had the finger print of God all over it:
From a letter that I wrote to Heidi Baker in April 2010: … When you came to the Downpour Conference, what I wanted most in the world was to receive an impartation through you. I even fasted for this purpose. However, on the night that you were ministering everything seemed to conspire against this wish. Dominique (my oldest daughter) arrived late at the Surfers Paradise bus-stop from Brisbane (the bus broke down).
Then, you called the ministers forward for prayer and even though I was the very first pastor kneeling in front of you, you commissioned the under 25s to pray for the pastors and proceeded to pray for the person next to me. The young people were enthusiastic. However, not much later – as I was walking to the side of the stage – I fought my disappointment. I told God that he was always good and praised him nevertheless. As far as I was concerned, I had been bold and had given God every available opportunity to bless me, if he so desired.
At the side of the stage I met up with our Evangelist David Challenor and told him what had happened. The next thing that I remember is that you walked the entire length of the stage and came toward me. Our Evangelist had asked you to come and pray for me and you did.
I called my wife and oldest daughter (Dominique) and then you prayed – in an unhurried manner – with much love for us both. When you kept praying about ministering to our own Lutheran family, I started weeping. My heart is breaking for fellow-Lutherans because they need to hear that there is more. Yet, the doors seemed to be closing more and more. I did not know whether God wanted us to leave the Lutheran denomination or stay.
Then, you saw that God was giving us the key to the Lutherans. [As Heidi Baker was ministering to Tatjana and I we were surrounded by a small group of Living Grace members, our current chair of Living Grace, our chief intercessor, and a few others.] I was undone. In the natural this does not seem possible because our denominational leadership is trying to shut down my traveling ministry before it has even begun.
In the last three years I had a few invitations to other Lutheran congregations in Australia and God blessed the work. Every time traditional Lutherans (young and old) did receive the infilling with the Holy Spirit and also the gift of tongues. However, those Lutherans that did not attend the seminars stirred up opposition …
Now you say that God has given me a key to the Lutherans and so this is bringing forth again what I had resigned myself to bury in view of the continuing circumstances. We are taking this word and are praying this word. Thank you …
From Tatjana’s section of the letter: … We have been in ministry in the Lutheran Church for many years. God has graciously led us to renewal, and we seek more of him and desire to minister in the power of his Spirit to bring healing and lead people to Christ. Our denomination has not always shared our enthusiasm - which I have to admit is somewhat an understatement – and at times, but especially over the last six months, we have wondered, if God still wanted us in the Lutheran Church.
Your prayer has given us an answer as you prayed that we were given a key to access our
Lutheran tribe, bring fresh bread and wine to them and that the harvest would be bigger than we imagined. These words have been such an encouragement and an answer to prayer, especially for my husband who has a heart for his church.
Since 2010, we have been praying into this prophetic word. The whole congregation of Living Grace believes that we have a calling in the LCA. Our conviction is not solely based on Heidi’s prophetic word but she confirmed at the right time what we had felt ourselves. We are not meant to leave our denomination but minister “fresh bread” and “fresh wine” to our fellow Lutherans who – whether they know it or not – are so hungry for more of God. There is a great harvest coming.
Yet, for all those years, it did not only sound presumptuous but also ridiculous to assume that the key to the Lutheran church has been given to me. I am officially not favoured in our denomination but, with everything that has happened (the stream of seminars and conferences since 2013, the rebirthing of Lutheran Renewal, publishing two books, a network building among hungry Lutherans, and what I am sensing in me), I want to receive Heidi’s prophetic word publicly now and use the authority that has been given to me in today’s public repentance of Lutherans opposing and denigrating Pentecostals and especially those that have been touched by Toronto. I want to take they key and unlock the door to the Lutheran church by humbling myself first and inviting all other Lutherans present here to humble themselves also and repent of our pride and judgements against Pentecostals.
We pray …