It was January 1994 and we had just finished the Christmas season at the Atlanta Vineyard. We were still talking about our trip to England and all the weird manifestations we had seen. It seemed that the Holy Spirit was beginning to move in ways that we hadn’t seen before. We had been overwhelmed by the response and the “fruit” of what had happened in England. Many of the people were saved for the first time. Those who had been saved were renewed and had a new passion for Jesus. The testimonies we had heard from the people who spent time “on the floor” were incredible. It had to be God, although we had no grid to measure what had happened. Then we heard about what was going on at the Toronto Airport Vineyard. This little church of about 4oo was experiencing all that we had seen and even more.
John Arnott, the pastor had asked Randy Clark, a Vineyard pastor from St Louis, to come do a series of meetings for the youth. Then John and Carol, his wife, went out of town for a few days. Randy Clark had been in a lot of Rodney Howard Brown’s meetings and was seeking more of God, but he had not seen any increase of power or anointing. Anyway, the Holy Spirit fell during the youth meetings. It fell so strongly that everyone was on the floor laughing. People were doing weird things. People were shaking like they were getting electrocuted. If you believed that the Holy Spirit was a gentleman and wouldn’t do anything you didn’t want, then your belief system was shattered. Randy called John and asked him if he wanted the meetings to continue or if they should be stopped. John and Carol said to continue them and they came back to Toronto immediately. Then the meetings were opened to the adults and to the public. They were meeting every night and the crowds started growing.
We found out about the meetings because John Arnott wanted help in understanding what was going on. He had many Vineyard pastors and other theologians attend and give input as to what they thought. We in leadership were getting regular reports about what was going on although most of our people didn’t know yet. Everybody wondered what was happening and where this was going. Was it God? Yes, most definitely. Many of the same things that we had seen in England were taking place, and the testimonies of the people were so strong. It had to be God. Was there flesh involved? Of course there was. I’m sure that as God began to move and manifest, there were people who tried to imitate the manifestations to get attention. That always happens. What about the demonic, was that involved? Sure, in the manner that demons have to flee in the presence of so much power. So how do you pastor something like that? Do you shut it down to preserve “order”? What is God’s order anyway? Is it like man’s order? All these questions were floating around. I will always admire John and Carol Arnott because they risk all that they had by allowing this move to continue. They chose to release freedom and allow the manifestations to continue, and even increase. They couldn’t proof text everything that happened in the Bible, but they did have researchers begin to go back and check out historical revivals of the past. There they began to see many of the things that were going on had happened before.
John wanted the Holy Spirit to move freely. His main fear was to quench what God was doing and then stop this move. If he erred, he chose to do it on the side of freedom. I’ll never forget one of his quotes. He said what if three people were all lying side by side on the floor, shaking and screaming. To look at them, they looked exactly the same. But the first one was being sovereignty touched by God. The second was screaming because everybody else was doing it. Finally the last one was screaming because they were being delivered from the enemy. What would you do? If you stopped the first, you would be quenching a move of God. If you stopped the third one you would be stopping someone from gaining freedom. If you stopped the second, you would be stopping someone from doing something for no reason. But how would you know which was which? That is the real key.
I guess my prayer is that when we really see God come in power, we as leaders will be willing to err on the side of freedom like John Arnott did. Because of his leadership, the Toronto meetings continued. Julia and I wanted to go check it out. Our time to go up there would soon come.