This is a guest post by Kate, a regular commenter from the UK.
The topic might seem tangential but indulge me….To a casual reader of this blog, or someone that comes from a different background to what I’m about to describe, it can be very difficult to understand why people are attracted to SCOAN in the first place. What I’d like to do is examine the Evangelical Church in England in the 1990s and its similarities to T B Joshua’s ministry. It might just explain why seemingly “normal” people were drawn into this church.
It all started with the “Toronto Blessing”. In 1994, in the Airport Vineyard Church Toronto strange things started happening. Whilst being prayed for, people started falling over, laughing hysterically, crying and various other manifestations of the Spirit. English Christians travelled to Toronto to “Catch the Fire” and came home to spread the blessing to their own congregations. Suddenly, it was all about the Holy Spirit. Entire meetings would go by without mention of the name “Jesus”. The cross was rarely mentioned and if you didn’t fall over or have some kind of physical reaction to prayer, then something had gone wrong. It was an exhilarating but exhausting time to be a Christian. But there was a growing feeling of unease….
Nevertheless, following swiftly on was the “Brownsville Revival”, which started at the Brownsville Assembly of God Church in Pensacola, Florida. Again, Christians travelled there to “Catch the Fire”. Again, English Christians gathered to watch videos of meetings from the other side of the world. Again, we tried to recreate what we had seen. There was a strong sense of God’s presence being on Earth, but it was in North America. We could get it here in the South of England too, but only if we copy what they do over there. More prayer meetings! More falling over! More manifestations! The more manifestations, the better.
So, what’s the relevance to TB Joshua’s ministry? Well, observant readers may have noticed similarities between these two movements – Toronto and Pensacola – and SCOAN , which I’ve listed here for clarity’s sake..
1) The emphasis on the Holy Spirit above other aspects of the Trinity
2) The importance of manifestations of the Spirit
3) The public showcasing of healings and other “big” testimonies
4)The belief that prayer meetings needed to start early in the morning or go on late into the night (early morning prayer meetings were a feature in Pensacola, I believe)
Little wonder then, that as these two movements were trailing off in the late 90s, someone else stepped up to attract the attention of these spirit-hungry Christians. After years of teaching that the Holy Spirit came from abroad and manifested itself through large assemblies of people, English Christians were only too happy to welcome T B Joshua as the next big thing. I can’t emphasise enough just how desperate people were to keep this “move of the Spirit” going. When SCOAN emerged, doing similar things to Toronto and Pensacola, no-one waited to test the ministry or to look at things objectively. It was just a natural next step.
But at the same time, this ministry demanded more. It wasn’t enough to visit and bring the blessing back – in order to really be absorbed in the Spirit, you needed to give everything up and move to Lagos. It didn’t matter if you had responsibilities – kids, mortgage, steady job – the blessing was everything. The Toronto/Pensacola years had taught us this – what is going on in your own church is not good enough. You need to latch onto someone’s else’s ministry in order to receive the blessing. And your family – who have all been subjected to this “Revival” ministry for a long time – will probably support you, at least at first.
Of course, at the time it’s difficult to be objective. When you are caught up in this wave of the Spirit but also – let’s be honest – a wave of hysteria, it’s easy to get swept away. And that’s why I believe that seemingly rational Christians became enthralled by T B Joshua. Because he demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit and that’s what mattered. As you can see from the rest of this site, T B Joshua’s ministry would turn out to have a far darker side than anyone would have predicted when we first heard of it. It greatly saddens me to think about people I care about being involved in this but I’m hoping that this article goes some way to explaining why it happened in the first place.