Early in 1994, a small church in a strip mall near Toronto Pearson International Airport had thousands of people waiting at its doors night after night—50,000 unique visitors, as we'd say today, in the first six months of the year, enough to make it "Toronto's top tourist attraction of 1994," according to Toronto Life magazine. The Toronto Blessing was falling.
Laughing, falling over, shaking, roaring like a lion, and being "drunk in the Holy Spirit"—the Toronto Blessing was a charismatic revival featuring manifestations of spiritual power more commonly associated with the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th centuries. Thousands registered first-time conversions to Christianity at the services. Every evening people lined up to stand or fall under shouts of "More, Lord!" while hands were laid on them in prayer.
The atmosphere felt just the same as it did 20 years ago as I made my way through a crowd that had turned up two hours early to celebrate the revival's anniversary on January 20, 2014. The services were held at Catch the Fire, formerly known as the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, which was the Toronto Airport Vineyard at the revival's inception. The church has grown from its storefront to a 3,200-seat auditorium, 8 satellite campuses, 23 church plants, and a global Catch the Fire church network.
I hadn't been back to the church for a long while, but I was drawn to this celebration. I was grateful for what I had received there 20 years before. As a side task, I had taken CT up on its invitation to write about my reunion experience.
A Mixed Blessing?
In 1994, I was a young reporter assigned to cover the Toronto Blessing. I was significantly ...