|Title: 1959 to 1989 - Where did the Revival Centres get their 'Gospel'?|
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Date Posted：31/03/2010 8:20 AMCopy HTML
Where did the Revival Centres get their 'Gospel'?
by Troy Waller
This paper is an analysis of two of the major tenets of the Revival Centres International statement of faith, ‘What We Believe’ (Longfield, L: 1997). This analysis will clearly demonstrate the influence of the early National Revival Crusade on these statements of faith, document the evolution of these doctrines and finally how they are presented by the modern Revival Centres International.
In the early 1940s, a small group of former Assemblies of God pastors and members led by Leo C. Harris, convinced of British Israelism and it’s historicist view of Biblical prophecy, formed the National Revival Crusade. The Crusade was largely a typical Pentecostal group but emphasised both national and individual revival in that nations of British descent needed to realise their ‘Israelite identity’ whilst individuals needed to believe in Jesus for personal salvation. The Crusade also emphasised the Pentecostal experience of being baptised in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues and the complete autonomy of local congregations, purposefully distancing themselves from centralised church government structures. (Cooper: 27, 36). By 1948 two young men, Lloyd Longfield and Noel Hollins joined the Crusade, becoming convinced of the British Israel, salvation and Pentecostal messages presented by the Crusade (Cooper: 63). Although neither Longfield or Hollins had any formal ministerial or theological training, their zeal and passion for pastoral work did not go unnoticed and both were inducted into the ministry within the Crusade by 1951 (Cooper: 72, 73).
The history of the Crusade is tumultuous to say the least. One early split in 1952 forced them to change their name from the ‘National Revival Crusade’ to the ‘Commonwealth Revival Crusade’ (Cooper: 80). The Crusade eventually changed its name to the ‘Christian Revival Crusade’ and is now Australia’s third largest Pentecostal denomination after the Assemblies of God and Christian Outreach Centres (Humphreys: 187, 190, 191). Prior to the final name change another split took place in 1958, this time directed by Longfield and Hollins. This split led to the formation of the ‘Revival Centres’ (Cooper: 97). Continuing the tradition of schism, Longfield and Hollins split from one another in 1972 and those assemblies that remained with Longfield came to be known as the ‘Revival Centres of Australia’ and later the ‘Revival Centres International.’ Numerous groups have since split from Longfield.
Perhaps the Revival Centre's greatest departure from historical Christianity is their doctrine that one must be baptised in water by full immersion and speak in tongues before one can claim to be a Christian. This teaching, similar to that of the United Pentecostal Church, has caused the Revival Centres International to separate themselves from all other mainline, evangelical and Pentecostal churches and label all others apostate.
We Believe the Gospel of His, death, resurrection, and the directive to repent, be baptised and receive the Holy Spirit.
The Crusade Position
As the founder of the Commonwealth Revival Crusade, Leo C. Harris, was an ordained Assemblies of God minister prior to forming the National Revival Crusade (Cooper: 15), he always adhered to a traditional Protestant salvation teaching. The Crusade always preached and taught the traditional Protestant doctrine of ‘salvation by faith alone’ (Chant: 185) which was that salvation comes to an individual at the point of true belief and reliance upon Jesus Christ (Harris: L,: 1957). Both Lloyd Longfield and Noel Hollins were definitely taught, and adhered to, this doctrine of salvation when they were converted into the Crusade in the late 1940s (Cooper: 63).
The dominant view on water baptism within the Crusade was typically Pentecostal in that it was a symbolic step of obedience that, somehow identifying the convert with Christ’s death and resurrection, but played no direct part in initial conversion. Whilst still members of the CRC, both Lloyd Longfield and Noel Hollins seemed to advocate this view of water baptism. Longfield wrote, ‘Water baptism carries the beautiful symbolism of our burial with Christ’ (Longfield, L: 1953) and Noel Hollins asserted that, ‘water baptism is an outward confession of the stand you have taken in believing and receiving the Lord’ (Hollins, N: 1954).
According to Crusade teaching, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit was given for the equipping of the believer with power for Christian service and witness (Harris, L: 1956). Like water baptism, this was an important step of one’s Christian walk but played no part in initial conversion (Harris, L: 1956). The Crusade, like most other Pentecostal groups, taught that the initial evidence of the Holy Spirit baptism was speaking in tongues (National Revival Crusade: 1952). If one did not speak in tongues, then one could conclude they had not been baptised or filled with the Holy Spirit and thus should seek to be.
Evolution of a Doctrine
Just prior to the separation from the Crusade, a progressive change began to take place amongst those who were later to be recognised as the key leaders of the Revival Centres. Barry Chant, Crusade pastor and author, asserts that prior to the split in 1958, Longfield told Leo Harris that Harris was not firm enough with his emphasis on the baptism in the Holy Spirit (Chant: 207). Chant also asserts that the leaders of the soon to be formed Revival Centres began to advocate that although one came to salvation by faith and repentance, if one refused water baptism or a speaking in tongues experience then that person ‘fell away’ and their initial salvation was forfeit (Chant: 207).
This evolved a step further to where Revivalists taught that if one came to ‘saving faith’ then that person would be compelled by the Lord to go on to be baptised in water and filled with the Holy Ghost (Hollins, K: 1994). Revivalists advocated that if someone refused to be baptised in water or refused to seek to speak in tongues then this proved that they had never possessed ‘saving faith’ at all. Only those who believed in Christ and then followed him obediently by going on to water baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit were truly saved at initial ‘belief’. This was based on the Revivalist interpretation of John 10:27, ‘My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me’ (Hollins, K: 1994). Nonetheless, when the Revival Centres split from the Crusade in 1958 they continued to take an identical position on initial conversion as they had in the Crusade. After the split, frequent articles appeared in the Voice of Revival magazine affirming this clear distinction between salvation, water baptism and receiving the Holy Spirit.
‘Testimonies will be published of individuals who have been saved, baptised and filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Longfield, L: 1959).
‘...you can have eternal life. You are required to do one thing. Believe this with all your heart. It is the only way to safety. It is God’s plan of salvation’ (emphasis his) (Hollins, K: 1959).
‘This is the Gospel, this is Christianity, this is salvation, the creation of a new man within us by the power of the Spirit of Christ when we repent and sincerely receive Christ’ (Hollins, N: 1959).
‘That the new converts had received Christ at Samaria is made obvious in the record of Philip’s evangelical revival (Acts 8:5-12), but they had not immediately received the Holy Ghost with the accompanying power is made equally clear in verses 14-19. So, then, we have evidence that one can be converted and even baptised without having received the Holy Ghost.’ (Longfield, L: 1961c)
By 1963 the Revival Centre position became that one must repent, be baptised and receive the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues before initial conversion takes place. The proof text for their new ‘gospel message’ was Acts 2:38.
‘Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.’
According to the Revival Centre interpretation of Acts 2:38, the first step required is to repent of all sin, especially disobedience to God’s ways (Longfield, L: What Must I do...). True repentance, says Longfield, leads one on to the second step, water baptism (Longfield, L: What Must I do...). The Revival Centres have always believed that water baptism can only be by full immersion. They argue that as the very word ‘baptise’ comes from the Greek word, ‘baptizo’ meaning to ‘immerse’, and is only for those old enough to confess a faith in Christ (Longfield, L: Water Baptism...). All other forms of baptism such as infant baptism or sprinkling is ineffectual and unnecessary (Longfield, L: Water Baptism...). The third and final step is to be baptised or filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues (Longfield, L: What Must I do...). Once you have accomplished all these steps then salvation is initiated and you become a Christian.
Obviously the Revival Centres now have quite a distinct ‘gospel’ from their original message and other Pentecostals. Revivalists claim that their message is the true gospel preached by the first century church and other groups have been deceived by centuries of apostasy via the Roman Catholic Church (Revival Centres International: 1991) or Martin Luther’s Protestant doctrine of justification by faith alone (Longfield L: Salvation and the Holy Spirit). Revivalists also believe that to maintain one’s salvation one must remain in a fellowship where the ‘truth’ is faithfully preached (Longfield L: Salvation and the Holy Spirit). The Revival Centres never claim to be the only true church but offer their members no alternative groups and thus imply that one must remain within their fellowship or one’s salvation is forfeit.
‘We Believe we are baptised into the Body of Christ (the Church) through the Holy Spirit, with the Bible evidence of speaking in tongues.’
Whilst the Revival Centres originally drew a clear distinction between one’s initial conversion and a subsequent baptism in the Holy Spirit, it would be erroneous to assume they ever truly held a traditional Pentecostal view. Typical Pentecostal doctrine states that when one comes to faith, that person is ‘born again’ (John 3:3, 16), immersed or brought into the church by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:13) and the Holy Spirit takes up residence in the believer’s heart (John 20:21; Romans 8:9). Pentecostals also assert that the believer then goes on to receive the baptism in the Holy Spirit wherein they are ‘filled’ with the Holy Spirit as an equipping for service (Acts 1:9; 2:4). However, Revivalists originally believed that although one was ‘born again’ at belief and then brought into the Body of Christ by the Spirit (Revival Centres: 1963), the Spirit did not indwell or take up residence in the believer (Hollins, N: 1959). When one was baptised in the Holy Spirit, the Spirit equipped the believer for service but more importantly took up residence in the believer’s heart (Longfield, L: 1959; 1961c). From this distinct initial position, Revivalist leaders began to see Scriptures that seemed to teach that one must have the Holy Spirit residing in one’s heart to be ‘saved’. Perhaps the most blatant of these was Romans 8:9, ‘Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.’ As their initial position asserted that speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of the Baptism in the Spirit and this was when the Spirit took up residence, Revivalist leaders eventually came to the conclusion that speaking in tongues must be the evidence of one’s salvation (Hollins, K: 1994). They also concluded that the Pentecostal baptism in the Spirit must be synonymous with the baptism into the church mentioned in 1 Cor 12:13 (Revival Centres International: 1995).
Revivalists have always believed that the Holy Spirit, not water baptism, brings believers into the church (Revival Centres: 1963; Longfield, L: 1972). In the early 1960s, when the Revival Centres began to include water baptism as part of their salvation formula, they began to re-evaluate the doctrine all together. Evidences of varying views on water baptism are present right throughout Revivalist literature. A form of baptismal regeneration was, and still is, held by many Revivalists. One Revivalist wrote of the ‘reality of water baptism with its associated miraculous regeneration’ and that the ‘idea of water baptism in Scripture was that sin might be remitted and the candidate thus cleansed to receive the Holy Ghost’ (Revival Centres: 1961). Through water baptism, wrote Longfield, ‘you pass from death into life’ and it is ‘a burial service, during which time the “old Adamic self” is buried in a voluntary act of the confessed sinner’ (Longfield, L: Water Baptism...). Water baptism, wrote other Revivalists, ‘is able to separate us from our old life’ (E.J.F.: 1962) and ‘is for “remission of sin”...an integral step in Bible salvation (I Peter 3:21)’ (Revival Centres: 1962), and that a,
‘repentance which refuses water baptism is unknown in the Bible...True repentance must lead a person to the waters of baptism. Thus we see the saving importance of a believer’s baptism’ (Hollins, N: 1962).
Longfield made the necessity of water baptism clear in 1974 when he wrote,
We are taught so specifically that God is particular, and demands our obedience. Jesus did say “Except a man be born (brought forth) of water and of the Spirit he CANNOT see or enter the kingdom of God,” (John 3.) You should be baptised to obtain the promised result. (VOR: 1974:1: p2)
However, whilst noting the importance of water baptism as part of their salvation formula, Revivalists advocated that water baptism was a ‘means to an end’ which, by remitting sin, prepared one to receive the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, speaking in tongues (Longfield, L: 1972) and thus a completed conversion experience.
It appears that by 1979, Lloyd Longfield became aware of the problems that his earlier view of water baptism presented to the teaching that one must be baptised in the Holy Spirit to be saved. If water baptism somehow remitted sin then why would one need to be baptised in the Holy Spirit? Doesn’t the remission of sin constitute salvation? In 1979 an article appeared in the Voice of Revival which read,
‘Peter...commanded the onlookers...“Repent and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ” and then added “FOR THE REMISSION OF SINS and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy ghost”. (Acts 2:38). The remission here was not of water but by the Spirit that would follow this prescribed act of obedience. ...It is NOT water baptism that remits sin and brings one the “new birth” into the Church but rather HOLY SPIRIT BAPTISM’ (emphasis theirs) (Revival Centres of Australia: 1979).
This different slightly different view of water baptism was affirmed and expanded upon in a 1989 edition of Voice of Revival.
‘We are not baptised into the body of Christ (the Church) but on the contrary we are baptised into his death. It is the deliverance from sin and death by the Holy Spirit baptism that confirms the transaction that places the repentant candidate into the specified new relationship with God. ...Remission from sin is not a result of water baptism but occurs as the candidate is filled with the Holy Spirit as the result of a repentant, obedient attitude to the word of God’ (Revival Centres International: 1989).
Former Revival Centre pastor, Fred Needham claims that in December, 1990, Longfield issued an official statement requiring leaders to stop using phrases like ‘Come and have your sins washed away in the waters of baptism’ (Needham: 1991: 1). Needham claims that in this statement Longfield wrote,
‘This point is of paramount importance to the RCI as our beliefs are that it is the Holy ghost baptism that cleanses and that the death to the old is essentially qualified and identified by the receiving of the new. (Holy Spirit).’ (cited in Needham: 1991: 1)
Needham also claimed upon discussing this issue, Longfield,
‘became adamant that a person is saved when they receive the Holy Spirit WITHOUT WATER BAPTISM. If they refuse water baptism it is then a “backslide” He said many times that if people received the Spirit first and we told them their salvation was not complete, we were saying their experience was “meaningless”. (Needham: 1991: 2)
This brings the official Revival Centres International position on water baptism closer to the original Crusade position but places a much greater emphasis on the baptism in the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues as necessary for entry into the ‘body of Christ’.
It is certainly clear that the Crusade had an enormous impact on the key beliefs of the Revival Centres International. It is also clear that although the Revival centres have utilised these original Crusade teachings as a basis, their modern doctrines bear little resemblance to those of the Crusade. Their emphasis on the necessity of baptism in water by full immersion and speaking in tongues has also given them a distinct position in Australian Pentecostalism. Whilst labelling all other groups as apostate, the Revival Centres have indirectly labelled themselves as possessing the only acceptable Christian teaching.
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