Holy Laughter and the Toronto Legacy: a few thoughts

I can’t really comment on what happened at the beginning of the Toronto thing. I was distanced from it by almost a decade. I’ve only seen the fruit that came out of it many years later.

What could have started with a genuine experience of God moved on to something that clearly wasn’t of God. Man has a tendency to take things into his own hands and try to control them; to make them work at will, turning relationship into procedure, hoping to bring about an expected outcome on demand.

Laughter in a church context was around long before Toronto (there are several historical examples). It also happened in a church that I used to attend. I was there from the late 70s and most of the 80s. The laughing happened before I had joined them and it wasn’t widespread. It affected a small number of people and it was seen as a spontaneous outpouring of joy from young, new believers. No one tried to make it into something that ought to be experienced by all.

Things may have worked out differently if the church leadership had turned their focus onto the laughter and had encouraged everyone else to join in. Maybe the “Toronto blessing” would have come two decades earlier (in the 70s) and be known as the “Wollongong Blessing”.

But I think there were some big changes over the next two decades that made the Pentecostal/charismatic church more open to exaggerating those experiences beyond any initial Divine involvement. It probably couldn’t have gone to the same extremes (and so widespread) in the 1970s or before.

These days NOTHING done by “Christians” and claimed as the work of the Holy Spirit would surprise me. While Toronto itself may no longer have the same prominent profile, it spawned several influential descendants who continue to spread a  gospel different to the one preached by Jesus and the apostles. Those churches accept and promote all manner of new and not so wonderful things, attributing them to the Holy Spirit even when those thing are at odds with His character – note: there’s a clue to His character in His name.


3 thoughts on “Holy Laughter and the Toronto Legacy: a few thoughts

  1. I remember those days. I was attending a Pentecostal church when the Toronto “blessing” started making news in our area. One charismatic Baptist church set up a tent and brought in a “holy laughter” prophet. It was, sorry the pun, a joke. The guy appeared “drunk in the Spirit” and people would run around doing bizarre manifestations such as barking like dogs, flapping their arms as if flying like an eagle (so they said based poorly on Isaiah 40:31). The “revival” did one good thing for me, it caused me to study the Word of God deeper as I begin to question the manifestations. I begin to ask theological questions about the movements and why they did what they did. The “revival” forced me to become a man of the Word and for that, I am thankful. My studies led me to reject the movement.

  2. Hi Roy, as your recent post shows, sometimes the work of the Holy Spirit CAN have an effect on the believer during worship resulting in reactions that may be out of the ordinary.
    However, when it comes to acting like animals – there is clearly something VERY wrong.
    It is also very clear that anything can be “justified” if we make very loose use of scripture. But doing that shows a serious disrespect of scripture, as if it’s a tool to be used for whatever purpose WE desire, instead of it being given to us for GOD’s purposes – to give us a revelation of Himself.

    The way that “revival” affected you is very much like the effect the later fruits of that revival had on me. After spending a few months with a church influenced by Toronto, I was made aware of the dangers of pushing God’s word aside – of favouring the “spirit” above the Word. Without a secure foundation of the Word, people will fall for all kinds of “spiritual” experiences –as they did in Toronto and its various spin-off movements.

  3. I agree. Experiences should not be sought after as the foundation for our faith nor should they be expected as the norm in my estimation. I hold that experiences may come since we serve a living and active God but the foundation for our faith must always be the Word of God and experiences should not be our desire nor our ambition in seeking our God.

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