Chapter 15 - Be Filled With The Spirit
Series: Our Fathers Saw His Mighty Works
As has been recounted in the previous chapters, the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement was one of God’s mighty tools for revival during the post World War II years and a witness to many of His wonderful works. Yet the LEM was not, of course, without its problems and disappointments. Strange to say, many of those things seemed to surface especially during the years of revival in the early 1950’s. In fact, the LEM suffered a sharp decline near the middle of that decade about the same time that revival on the national scene was beginning to fade. Whether the problems and disappointments encountered by the LEM were contributing factors to its decline or merely symptoms of a decline whose roots lay much deeper is uncertain. An analysis in that regard seems impossible since thorough research for this book yielded strong evidence that the incidents of most negative impact to the LEM often occurred behind the scenes and were omitted from official records. However, a candid presentation of at least the difficulties and imperfections of the LEM which were recorded seems valuable both as an in-depth portrayal of the waning of one segment of the larger national movement and as an example “written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” (I Corinthians 10:11 NKJV) If there are any answers at all as to why the mid-century revival ceased (and a most significant story to that effect from the national scene is told later in this chapter), God has left them for the benefit of His people today that we might learn from the past, seek Him anew, and be ready to receive a fresh stirring from Him in our own hearts.
Criticisms, Contentions, and Crisis in the LEM
As early as 1952, the LEM began publishing criticisms of the national revival. Although much of this writing was an accurate analysis of the weaker aspects of the larger-scale movement, it also contained hyperbolic inaccuracies made for the sake of emphasis. It seems strange that the LEM, having generally avoided criticizing the church prior to the revival years, would now begin doing so while simultaneously seeing the greatest signs of true revival ever in its own ministry. But a sampling from the pages of Evangelize reveals that this was so.
“When we met for our first conference in 1937, we sensed we were living in critical times. There were rumors of wars . . . depression . . . sin in high places and
low . . . It looked dark indeed.“ “Since then, we have fought one world war and are on the brink of another. Things look even darker [now in 1952] than in 1936.”1
“We have heard much about revival in the last five years [since 1948]. Its need has been stressed by nearly all the major denominations . . . Great city-wide evangelistic efforts have been promoted in many cities in hopes that revival would come. But revival on a national scale has not come to the Christian Church. There has been an increase in church membership and attendance, but there has been no revival except in a few churches and colleges.”2
“The Christian Church in America boasts that there are more members in the church today than at any other time in history. It also claims that a larger percentage of the population than ever before is in the church fold . . . Yet the Christian Church has never made such a small impact on the community and the life of the nation as it does now. Gambling, drunkenness, dishonesty, corruption, immorality, divorce are on the increase. Our prisons are filled to capacity. Juvenile delinquency is appalling. Lawlessness, atheistic Communism, and materialism are making their inroads into the life of the nation.”3
“We thank God for such movements as the Billy Graham campaigns and the synodical evangelistic programs. Some think of these as revivals. They are blessings and stirrings but not revival. In real deep, community-wide revivals, wickedness will be checked.“ “Prayer meetings and Sunday night meetings are not growing. When God begins to move in our midst, there will be a seating problem in our churches on Sunday night.”4
Regarding a college president’s 1953 report that across the nation campus chapels and other nearby churches were crowded with students every Sunday, “It would be well when people talk of revival in our day, and great home missions gains, to recognize that there is a popularity of religion today unrelated to whether the religion preached is true or false.”5
While it is very true that much of the national religious movement was quite shallow, numbers of the LEM’s foregoing claims contradict statistics. For example, the national divorce rate actually dropped until by the late 1950’s it was approximately half of what it had been ten years earlier.6 The comprehensive national rate of crime (murder/non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny, and motor vehicle theft) remained nearly level between 1945 and 1955, never exceeding the rate of the early Depression years.7 The comprehensive state prison population, after dropping during the peak World War II draft years, increased only slightly from 1945 onward and did not even regain its prewar level until about 1955.8 That revivals nationwide were few it is doubtful the LEM could claim with any authority for denominations besides Lutheran or regions outside the upper Midwest. Might there not have been similar movements elsewhere of which the national religious press was unaware as they were of the LEM? If LEM Bible Conferences frequently saw churches packed to capacity three times on Sundays, might there not have been similar goings-on far outside of the LEM’s ken?
Another issue which became of special concern to the LEM during the mid 1950’s was “church union” - the mergers being proposed by the various Lutheran synods. In spite of the synods’ claims “that a church made strong and mighty through the consolidation of its forces will have a mighty impact upon the nation and the world,” the LEM felt that inherent in large organizations was the “danger of increased regimentation and dictatorship” which “often stifles and smothers spiritual life and expression” so that “the free and spontaneous movements inspired by the Holy Spirit are hindered and discouraged.”9 How church union will “affect free and independent movements, like the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement . . . is a question which concerns us much.”10 “Will there be opportunities for the present free movements in the Church to continue to function and serve . . . ?”11 In reality, no mergers took place until 1960, a full five years after the LEM had sharply declined.
There were also contentions of various types in which the LEM was involved during the revival years. In 1953, they called a meeting with other camp groups “to organize [a] protest on conditions at Mission Farms,” particularly regarding cleanliness and insufficient toilet facilities.12 Mission Farms complied by installing fourteen new toilets and lavatories, but the nature of their response indicated mutual tension: “The condition of the toilet facilities should be, and is, partially your responsibility. The crowds that come from the city, the picnickers, and your Tabernacle attendance use these facilities, for which the Mission has received no compensation for repairs or upkeep. In the Inn and in the Chapel this non-resident group outnumber the campers living on the grounds.”13 To a complaint about lime discoloration on drinking glasses, Mission Farms replied that, if required, they would wash glasses by hand although that was a less sanitary process. A more serious contention was that brought against the LEM in 1955 by the local Eagle Grove committee which claimed that the LEM’s annual Bible Conference there had become a gathering place for cantankerous, negative Christians who belittled the local churches and were strengthened in doing so by the LEM’s usual program.14 The LEM responded with the assurance that in the future they would work closely with the local committee to select subjects and speakers which did not foster such dissension.15 Sad to say, there were even some contentions during the early 1950’s among the LEM’s leaders themselves as evidenced by verbal reports which surfaced years later, but neither the amount or nature of such contentions is clear.
By far the strongest signals of the LEM’s decline were the cuts and contractions of various sorts which began marking the ministry from 1953 onward. It was in June of that year that Executive Secretary Orloue Gisselquist resigned effective October 1st.16 This was not the first recent major life change for the young man. Just two months earlier, his 31-year-old wife had died after several years of poor health.17 Orloue now planned to return to the University of Minnesota for graduate work. This was a significant blow to the LEM. Over the previous ten years, the efficient and capable Orloue had become an integral part of the organization, serving as managing editor of Evangelize, arranging many conferences including Midwinter and Deeper Life, arranging and announcing the radio program, keeping track of the finances, leading the book store work, handling correspondence, hosting visitors to headquarters, and even speaking at several conferences.18 But even worse news was yet to come for the LEM. In May 1954, Rev. Evald J. Conrad resigned as director effective September 1st in order to accept a call back to Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls which he believed, after prayer, to be the Lord’s will for him.19 Expressing his joy at the privilege of having served as director for nearly six years, Conrad pledged to do everything possible to continue supporting the LEM’s ministry.20 Though he certainly did just that as chairman and acting director in the years ahead, the resignation of the leader whom many thought of as “Mr. Lutheran Evangelistic Movement”21 was nonetheless a tremendous blow to the LEM.
In July 1954, the National Board voted to discontinue the LEM’s radio ministry until a new director could be found.22 From mid 1953 onward, attendance at some LEM conferences began being noticeably lower and was blamed on such things as “much rain,”23 “the lateness of the spring [planting] season,”24 “the extreme heat,“25 or snow and ice making it “difficult to get around.”26 After two years of considerably lower attendance during the first of three weeks of Deeper Life, the National Board decided to return to the two-week program in 1955.27 By 1957, the LEM’s annual report read, “If our Deeper Life Conference could be promoted and publicized more effectively, so that Lutherans throughout the land would know about it, [we are] confident that we would have a much larger attendance.” Also, “We had hoped . . . for larger crowds at the evening [Midwinter] services. We feel there is much more that can be done in enlisting local churches in this area to promote the Midwinter Conference.”28 Such comments stand in sharp contrast to that following a packed Deeper Life Conference just six years earlier: “We are very limited when it comes to promotional agencies, so we feel it was the Lord who moved people to come.”29 During 1955, the number of LEM Bible Conferences fell to 24 as opposed to 37, 41, and 38 in 1952-1954 respectively. One factor cited was the overlap of Bible Conference ministry by the Preaching-Teaching-Reaching (PTR) Missions which had become so popular within several Lutheran synods.30 Two years later, the number of LEM Bible Conferences had plummeted to a mere nine and Evangelize subscriptions had dropped to 5,000 compared with over 7,000 just five years previously.31
For the first time in its eighteen years, the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement was in crisis. In a July 1955 letter to members of the National Board, Paul Lindell stated, “Many people are concerned about the future work and ministry of the LEM. The present pause in the LEM’s advance may very well be a time when the Lord has some new word of direction for us.”32 The man who had led the work since its beginning, however, seemed somewhat less optimistic. Addressing the National Board as LEM Chairman just two weeks later, Rev. Conrad declared, The “LEM has come to a time of crisis. In view of the increased interest in evangelism in all the Lutheran Synods it is time to ask if the LEM should consider its mission fulfilled and, if not, what further mission does it have in the present day?” Furthermore, “the LEM cannot go on indefinitely without a Director.“33 Though the decades ahead would prove Lindell’s words to have been more accurate than Conrad’s - for God did indeed see fit both to revitalize and to partially redirect the LEM’s ministry (see Appendix 3) - that outcome was uncertain in 1955 and seemed less and less plausible as the next few years passed.
The Forgotten Message of the Forgotten Revival
As mentioned earlier, the LEM’s sharp decline coincided with the ebb of the national revival. The general state of heightened religious interest, so prominent across the country during the ten or twelve years following World War II, disappeared entirely before 1960. Causes at play in its downfall have been variously observed. Garth Rosell, historian and son of mid-century evangelist Mervin Rosell, has pointed out that the evangelical community, generally united before 1955, became increasingly divided from that time onward. The watershed event which solidified separation between fundamentalists and evangelicals was Billy Graham’s summer-long 1957 New York City Crusade in which Graham stirred up controversy by openly cooperating with religious liberals for the sake of proclaiming the gospel to as many people as possible.34 It was the 1958 observation of a young Martin Marty, later to gain fame as an interpreter of religious history, that few of Graham’s listeners seriously thought he was talking about them when he preached, “You are out of the will of God.” “. . . While Graham was crusading against a lost community, with a specific doctrine of God and view of man in mind,” said Marty, “most of his hearers by first and second hand were performing a casual if intricate act of translation. No one was ready to read himself out of the religionized community. All of them accepted Graham’s God, allowing him a few eccentricities of expression. No one felt judged.”35
Whereas the mid-century movement has often been called the revival of the 1950’s or the revival of the Eisenhower years (president from 1953-1961) and has frequently been criticized for its shallow religiosity during the mid to latter half of the decade, it has rarely been noted that the much deeper movement had already ceased years earlier and had been largely forgotten in the wake of its more superficial successor. This was certainly the analysis of contemporary revival historian Dr. J. Edwin Orr. Writing in 1953, he remarked,
“The Mid-Century Awakening appears to be in a state of pause . . . the Twentieth Century Revival, has by no means reached the pitch of the effectiveness of either its predecessors in the Eighteenth Century or the Nineteenth.”
“It is still tragically possible that American Christians may become satisfied with the partial awakening they have experienced. It is still possible that the tide which is apparently coming in may recede again.”36
And that was precisely what happened. This raises the point that, since the deepest part of the revival seems to have ended almost before it got started, perhaps the root of the true revival’s ending was to be found in its beginnings. In this regard, Billy Graham himself related a fascinating account to one of his early biographers.37 Following the unexpected Boston revival in January 1950 (recounted earlier in Chapter 13), Graham headed west by train for a previously-arranged engagement in Toronto in spite of countless invitations to remain in New England. Twice in Massachusetts and once more before exiting New York and the country, Graham felt mightily impelled to get off the train and phone Boston that he would return for an indefinite amount of time. Many times the feeling had come to him that, if he stayed in New England, God might spread a powerful revival from there across all of America. But exhausted, afraid of saying something wrong to the press, and unwilling to abandon longstanding future engagements, Graham let those feelings pass. Looking back sixteen years later, he believed that he had unknowingly disobeyed God’s voice.
But there is a story predating even Graham’s story above which contains the most significant answer of all as to why the deepest part of the revival ended almost as soon as it had begun. It is a little-known story about the origins of the mid-century revival, origins which for the most part were quickly discarded and replaced. It might aptly be called “The Forgotten Message of the Forgotten Revival.”
In 1933 God called a 21-year-old Christian Irishman to leave his secular job and, with the equivalent of only half a dollar, begin traveling around the world to urge believers everywhere to pray and prepare for a coming revival. For three years this young man lived by faith from miracle to miracle as God provided his every daily need from food and lodging to transportation and speaking engagements. He spoke in churches, chapels, colleges, and any other Christian venue that was open to him. The message God had given him was summarized in the titles of his talks: “Full Surrender,” “Prayer and the Coming Revival,” “Hindrances to Revival,” “The Price of Revival,” and “The Filling of the Holy Spirit.” Occasionally he was privileged to witness localized revivals of great intensity under his ministry.
After traveling about 40,000 miles throughout Europe and Canada, this young man arrived in the United States in late 1935 (about one year before the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement was born). As usual, he had no prearranged speaking engagements; but in a mighty stamp of approval from God upon his ministry, his first three invitations came unsolicited from three of the largest and most esteemed churches in the nation: Dr. H.A. Ironside’s Moody Church in Chicago, Dr. Paul Rood’s Church of the Open Door in Los Angeles, and Dr. W.B. Riley’s First Baptist Church in Minneapolis. In a miraculous whirlwind tour, this young man visited all 48 states in just 100 days, traveling 15,000 miles by train, bus, car, and plane and preaching 200 times. Quite obviously, God was intent upon calling the nation to revival and to that end had sent a messenger to deliver His word. The young man’s name was J. Edwin Orr.38
Following his U.S. tour, Orr carried the revival message throughout New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.39 Ninety percent of his ministry was to Christians and ninety percent of the results he saw were among Christians, though the ten percent of his ministry to the unsaved resulted in 10,000 professed conversions in one year alone. With no specific leading from the Lord after his South African travels, Orr rested briefly and then “set out systematically to become a great evangelist” by taking a team to Australia where he had seen so many conversions just the year before. “During this time,” said Orr,
“I neglected the ministry to which God had called me - Revival, collective and individual - and concentrated on direct evangelism . . . the Lord was not with me in power . . . [my] warmth of interest in the work of the Spirit in reviving the Church and quickening believers certainly declined. This continued for a couple of years, during which I had limited blessing by repeating the tactics and ministry of earlier days, but without their power.”
After several years of more preaching and traveling interspersed with university studies, Orr served as an Air Force Chaplain during World War II in the Pacific theater. There on an island one night early in 1945, having just survived an air raid, he began to wonder if he would ever get out of the war alive and see his family again.40 “Sitting there in meditation,” Orr said, “I had a strange feeling about the future . . . I felt, in an intense spiritual conviction, that the good Lord would spare my life to let me become an historian of the great religious awakenings of the Nineteenth Century, and an eye-witness of the beginnings of the awakenings of the Twentieth Century.”
Following the war, to fulfill the first part of that vision, Orr took up residence at Oxford, England, where he spent several years researching and writing about the 1859 revival in Britain, ultimately earning a doctorate for his work.41 It was during his time at Oxford, he said, that “the interest in worldwide revival grew in my heart as I read the stories of God’s wondrous doings in the past.” By 1949, his burden had fully returned “not only for revival, but for the Filling of the Spirit.“42 Having finished at Oxford, he relocated to southern California and began sharing his message from the Lord particularly with pastors and evangelists. Sometimes this was done individually and other times in larger assemblies such as the ministerial retreats described in Chapter 12.
Orr’s miraculously-sustained travels as a young man, his war-time conviction that he would see a 20th Century revival, and his 1949 foretelling of revival in Minneapolis (recounted in Chapter 12) are evidences enough that God had made him a prophet of revival to his generation. Although this humble man would hardly have referred to himself as a prophet, the above facts and the timing of God’s giving him the revival message make that message inestimably significant to the mid-century movement. What were the specifics of Orr‘s message? It is not difficult to find out. So many of the Christian leaders with whom Orr shared it asked for further details and documentation that he determined, “. . . If, humanly speaking, I had only a month to live, I would spend it writing down my message.”43 This he did and published it in 1951 as a book entitled Full Surrender.
After beginning his book with a discussion of sin in the life of a Christian, Orr moved next to cleansing and sanctification and then into the heart of his burden which concerned surrender and the filling of the Spirit. A sampling from his latter chapters clearly delineates the word which he had received from the Lord.
“The appeal . . . in the opening verse of Romans 12 is for a full surrender, the surrender of the intellect, will and emotions to God at a given moment . . . the second verse urges the continual yielding of the personality day by day.”
“ . . . The moment the believer resists the work of the Spirit in lifting him to still higher ground, he is in need of renewal of surrender . . . .”44
“The Apostle Paul tells us: ‘Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). In alcoholic intoxication, a man is possessed by an alien spirit . . . and folks excuse him by saying that he is not himself, he is intoxicated. The filling of the Holy Spirit is God-intoxication; not fanaticism, but the possession of a man’s faculties by the Holy Spirit of God, whereby his acts resemble acts of a Divine Being, who possesses him.”45
Citing numerous examples from the book of Acts, Orr explained that the purpose of the filling of the Spirit is power for service unto God.46 (In other words, the filling is not for self-gratification but for God’s glory whether the means of serving Him is full-time Christian ministry or regular daily tasks.) Evidences of the Spirit’s filling include supernatural power in Christian ministry, the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, and the gifts of the Spirit listed in I Corinthians 12:4-11.47
“An asking, seeking, knocking Christian will soon find out for himself what stands in the way of the filling of his vessel with the Holy Spirit, the clean and righteous and convincing Spirit who hates sin and unrighteousness and compromise. The Holy Spirit will lead him to seek forgiveness of his shortcomings through the cleansing blood of Christ, and to accept by faith His provision for a victorious life, fully surrendering himself to God. Then, by faith, and only by faith, the seeker may act upon the promise of God and receive into his must unworthy vessel the mighty power of the Spirit.”48
“This is individual revival. Multiply it in faith, and there develops congregational revival, community revival, national revival and worldwide revival of Christians, with resultant soul winning and missionary endeavor.”49
This was God’s message to the mid-century church and, as the following paragraphs demonstrate, it was ultimately this message that sparked the first major outbreak of revival on a national level.
One of the numerous gatherings at which Orr shared his revival message was the late summer 1949 Forest Home College Briefing Conference described briefly near the end of Chapter 12. Orr had been invited as the evening speaker, and his topics for the week “were, in sequence: God and Students; Revival, the Work of God; How God Forgives Sins; the Searchlight of God; Sanctification, Imputed, Critical and Progressive; the Filling of the Spirit; [and] the Impact of Revival.”50 One of the conference’s morning speakers was the still-relatively-unknown Billy Graham who testified later that Orr’s evening messages “were of tremendous blessing in my own life. His logical development of the whole subject of full surrender and the outpouring of the Spirit stirred the entire conference, evening by evening.”51 This was certainly not Orr’s and Graham’s first interaction. They had met about a decade earlier, and their acquaintance had “ripened into warm friendship,” to quote Graham.52 They had frequently been in touch with each other, Graham having even visited Orr at Oxford in 1947.
Graham had come to Forest Home with inner struggles over his own ministry in general, including deep apprehensions about his upcoming Los Angeles campaign. By the midpoint of the week-long conference, he had reached the height of his personal conflict. Late on the night of Wednesday, August 31, he came to Orr’s cabin to talk.53 He told Orr of “his desire for a renewal of his consecration and an anointing of the Holy Spirit”54 but that he had reached an impasse in his quest for those things. Then he revealed quite frankly why he had come specifically to Orr.55 “Why do you say that I am not a surrendered Christian, Edwin?” Orr protested. “I didn’t say you weren’t a surrendered Christian, Billy! In fact I thought of you as an example of one.” “No,” admitted Graham, “you didn’t say it. But your message hit me that way. Yet I don’t know of anything in particular that I’m keeping back from the Lord.” It seems that the Holy Spirit had indicated to Graham that the hindrance to his filling was a failure in the prerequisite area of full surrender.
The two men sat in silence for a while as Orr contemplated what he could possibly say next. “Then,” he wrote later, “light came into my mind.” Once again God had revealed something to his messenger regarding a situation about which, as the messenger later found out, he was not fully aware at the time. “Maybe, Billy, it isn’t that there is anything you have to give up to the Lord, but rather something that you must take up.” Orr went on to give the example of a Christian who had been thoroughly converted emotionally and volitionally (in his will) but not intellectually. In his preaching, this man had laid great emphasis upon a certain Biblical doctrine while practically excluding another major doctrine because it did not make complete sense to his current level of finite understanding. When he had become willing to take up and preach all of God’s Word, whether or not every doctrine fully made sense to his intellect, he had been thoroughly converted intellectually and was currently serving God in a fruitful ministry. “That I can understand, Edwin,” said Billy, “but I don’t see how it applies to me. I know that I am converted emotionally, volitionally and intellectually and every other way. How do I know? I preach Conversion . . . I am as sure of the Way of Salvation as of anything in my thinking, and more so.” “How about the Way of Surrender, Billy?” asked Orr. “I mean, God’s provision for the believer to live on a revival plane, with victory over sin in true sanctification and surrender to His Will?” “Well, I’m for it,” replied Graham. “And I am surrendered, I trust, in every way.” “Yes. You’re surrendered emotionally, Billy,” said Orr. “You love the Lord with all your heart. You’re surrendered volitionally, too - you’d [be willing to] quit your job and go and bury yourself in some dirty little village on the borders of China, wouldn’t you? But are you intellectually surrendered?” “What’s the test for that?” queried Graham. “Do you preach the Way [of Surrender]?” replied Orr. “Are you as sure of the Way of Surrender as of anything else in your thinking, and more so? That would be a demonstration of intellectual surrender . . . You’ve got to take it by faith.”
Shortly, Graham left Orr and wandered off to pray alone.56 Orr had given him much to consider. He had suggested, essentially, that Graham’s hindrance to receiving the filling of the Spirit for power in preaching was due to his incomplete surrender to God in the realm of his intellect. Furthermore, Orr had suggested that one specific point on which Graham was intellectually unsurrendered was on the doctrine of full surrender itself. What Orr did not know when he spoke with Graham that night was that “Graham’s intellectual problem involved the question of the authority of Scripture.”57 A few years later Graham wrote,
“In 1949 I had been having a great many doubts concerning the Bible. I thought I saw apparent contradictions in Scripture. Some things I could not reconcile with my restricted concept of God. When I stood up to preach, the authoritative note so characteristic of all great preachers of the past was lacking . . . I was waging the intellectual battle of my life.”58
After leaving Orr’s cabin, Graham walked down a trail and off into the woods, “almost wrestling with God” and “duell[ing] with [his] doubts.” “Finally,” he said,
“in desperation, I surrendered my will to the Living God revealed in Scripture.
“I knelt before the open Bible and said: “Lord, many things in this book I do not understand. But Thou hast said, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ All I have received from Thee, I have taken by faith. Here and now, by faith, I accept the Bible as Thy word. I take it all. I take it without reservations. Where there are things I cannot understand, I will reserve judgment until I receive more light. If this pleases Thee, give me authority as I proclaim Thy word, and through that authority convict me[n] of sin and turn sinners to the Saviour.”59
Having surrendered his intellect to God that night, Graham immediately received full assurance from the Holy Spirit not only that he had now been filled with power for preaching unto the conversion of sinners but also that he would see real revival in his Los Angeles campaign. At 2:00 in the morning, he returned to Orr’s cabin with that joyful news.60
Quite obviously, Graham had also now surrendered intellectually to preaching the doctrines of full surrender and the filling of the Spirit to Christians as Orr had exhorted him. Just three days later, on the closing Sunday morning of the College Briefing Conference, Graham was to give the 11:00 message but found himself with just fifteen minutes remaining to preach after a stirring testimony service had been extended to 12:15. The message he had planned would now be too long. “I didn’t know what to say,” he explained later. “I didn’t know which Scripture to turn to. The Spirit of God had been moving. And so I turned to a passage of Scripture in the Word and brought a message that I’d never prepared, a message that I’d never preached on before, and a message that somehow I believe came from God for that particular hour. And we saw another moving of the Spirit of God.”61 Indeed, Graham’s message was not only for that particular hour at Forest Home but also, much more broadly, for that particular hour in 1949 when the United States lay on the brink of revival. What were Graham’s words that morning? Once again, God has seen fit to well-preserve such a significant message. Graham not only repeated that morning’s message a month later within one of his Los Angeles campaign sermons which was audio recorded but also included a printed version of that Los Angeles sermon in one of his earliest books, Revival in Our Time: The Story of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Campaigns.
As he neared the end of his Los Angeles sermon entitled, “How to be Filled with the Holy Spirit,” Graham told his audience, “Now I want you to turn to that passage of Scripture that I used up at Forest Home that time and I want you to see what I saw that day.”62 Reading from Luke 11:24-26, Graham continued.
“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first.”
“Here is the story I want you to get. See this house where the evil spirit has been cast out. The house has been swept clean of all cobwebs and dirt; it is clean.
“When you are yielded [i.e. surrendered] and your sins are confessed, you are in a dangerous position. Do you know why? Because the old evil spirit that left the house is going to get seven others worse than himself, and then he is going to look in the window of your house. If he finds nothing there - the place is still empty - he is going to open the door and come in. Your state will then be far worse than it ever was before. You will have seven demons instead of one; seven sins instead of one; seven troubles instead of one; seven heartaches instead of one; seven tragedies instead of one.
“But if you cleanse your heart of sin and it is then filled with the Holy Spirit, it is an entirely different matter. The evil spirit can’t get in.”63
That was, in essence, the original message from God for the mid-century revival. It was an exhortation to Christians to confess and receive cleansing for their sins, to fully surrender themselves unto God, and to subsequently receive the mighty filling of the Holy Spirit for Christian living and service or, if they refused, to be occupied by something much worse instead. When Graham preached the above sermon in Los Angeles, he was only a week and a half into his campaign and there were still no signs of revival. As of yet, he was displaying no unusual “authority [to] convict men of sin and turn sinners to the Saviour” as he had prayed for at Forest Home. But the strong conviction which he had received from God immediately after surrendering to Him that night - namely that he had been filled with the Spirit’s power for preaching and that he would see real revival in Los Angeles - were undeniably proven true by subsequent events. The revivals under Graham’s ministry in Los Angeles and six weeks later in Boston (both detailed in Chapter 13) were by all accounts the most powerfully concentrated regional movings of God’s Spirit in the United States in the 40 years preceding them or the 60 years following.
Orr’s and Graham’s message from God concerning the filling of the Spirit was quite unconventional for its time, due not to its being a previously unheard-of doctrine but rather to its having oscillated in and out of popularity during the previous 100 years. With each wave of revival in the United States from the mid 1800’s and onward, interest in the filling of the Spirit seemed to mount. It was as if God were impressing this doctrine upon His people with ever-increasing force. But ultimately each time, it was rejected by mainline Christianity and taken to extremes by some of its remaining adherents. History demonstrates these points. Many well-known Christian leaders of the mid to late nineteenth century such as Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army), and Hudson Taylor all gave specific testimony to the Spirit’s filling in their own lives64 and displayed evidences of resultant supernatural power in their ministries. Orr continues this line of thought.
“The end of the period of the nineteenth century revivals, from the Welsh Revival of 1904 to the Korean Revival of 1907, saw the rise of a great emphasis upon the work of the Spirit in what afterwards became the Pentecostal movement . . . The declining [mainline] churches generally rejected the Pentecostal emphasis, driving out and persecuting its advocates. Rejected by the churches generally, the Pentecostalists were driven in upon themselves, and extreme fanaticism developed among some who brought discredit upon the others.”65
“In the forty years of the wilderness experience between 1908 and 1948, when spiritual dearth was common, the teaching that the Filling of the Holy Spirit was only for the early apostolic days gained great popularity, but without either scriptural or historical support.” During those four decades, this doctrine “suffered not only from neglect and contradiction, but from fanatical teaching and practice.”66
Writing in 1951, Orr extended his analysis to the then on-going revival.
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