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Mid-Twentieth Century Revivals

1971 October 13—Saskatoon, Canada – Bill McCleod

Wilbert (Bill) McLeod, a Baptist minister in his mid-50’s, had often seen many people healed in answer to prayer, as he prayed with a group of deacons. He once anointed a woman with oil and prayed with her when she was dying of cancer. While he prayed, the woman had a vision of Jesus coming to her and touching her. She was healed.

Bill McLeod invited the twin evangelists, Ralph and Lou Sutera, to speak at his church in Saskatoon. Revival broke out with their visit, which began on Wednesday, October 13, 1971. By the weekend an amazing spirit gripped the people. Many confessed their sins publicly. The first to do so were the 12 counselors chosen to pray with inquirers. Numbers grew rapidly until the meetings had to be moved to a larger church building and then to the Civic Auditorium, which seated 2,000.

The meetings lasted many hours. People did not want to leave. Some stayed for a later meeting, called the Afterglow. Here people received prayer and counsel from the group as they continued to worship God and pray together. Humble confession of sin and reconciliations were common. Many were converted.

Taxi drivers became amazed that people were getting cabs home from church late into the night or early into the morning. Others were calling for taxis to take them to church late into the night as they were convicted by the Lord. Young people featured prominently. Almost half those converted were young. They gave testimonies of lives cleaned up by God and of restored relationships with their families. The atmosphere in schools and colleges changed from rebellion and cheating to cooperation, with many Bible study and prayer groups forming in the schools and universities.

Criminals confessed their sins and gave themselves up to the police. Restitution was common. People paid long overdue bills. Some businesses opened new accounts to hold the conscience money being paid to them. Many who cheated at restaurants or hotels returned to pay their full bill. People gave back stolen goods.

Christians found a new radical honesty in their lives. Pride and jealousies were confessed and transformed into humility and love. As people prayed for one another with new tenderness and compassion, many experienced healings and deliverance.

Yet, not all welcomed the revival. Some churches remained untouched by it or hostile to it. This seems common to all revivals.

Sherwood Wirt, then editor of the Billy Graham Association’s magazine, Decision, reported:

One day late in 1971 I read a strange report from Canada. Curious things were taking place in some congregations in the western provinces. Brothers and sisters, it was said, had been reconciled to each other; shop-lifted articles had been returned; crimes were being reported by the culprits; church feuds were being resolved; pastors were confessing their pride.

But then I heard this word: “We’re walking knee-deep in love up here” (Wirt 1975, 23).

In November a team went to Winnepeg and told of the revival at a meeting for ministers. The Holy Spirit moved powerfully, and many broke down confessing their sins. Rivalries and jealousies were confessed and forgiven. Many went home to put things right with their families. The ministers took this fire back into their churches, and the revival spread there also with meetings going late into the night as numbers grew and hundreds were converted or restored.

Sherwood Wirt reported on Bill McLeod’s preaching at Winnepeg: I confess that what I saw amazed me. This man preached for only fifteen minutes, and he didn’t even give an invitation! He announced the closing hymn, whereupon a hundred people came out of their seats and knelt at the front of the church. All he said was, “That’s right, keep coming!”

Many were young. Many were in tears. All were from the Canadian Midwest, which is not known for its euphoria. It could be said that what I was witnessing was revival. I believe it was (Wirt 1975, 46).

Bill McLeod and a team of six brought the revival to eastern Canada when they were invited to speak at the Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto. The meeting there began at 10 a.m. and went through until 1:15 a.m. Dinner was canceled, as no one wanted to leave. They did stop for supper, then went on again. When the Sutera brothers commenced meetings in Vancouver on the Canadian West Coast on Sunday, May 5, 1972, revival broke out in the Ebenezer Baptist Church with 2,000 attending that first Sunday. The next Sunday 3,000 people attended in two churches. After a few weeks, five churches were filled.

The revival spread in many churches across Canada and into the northern United States, especially in Oregon. Everywhere, the marks of the revival included honesty before God and others with confession of sin and an outpouring of the love of God in those who repented. The German-speaking churches were also touched by the revival, and by May 1972 they chartered a flight to Germany for teams to minister there.

The Afterglow meetings were common everywhere in the revival. After a meeting had finished, those who wanted to stay on for prayer did so. Usually people desiring prayer knelt at a chair, and others laid hands on them and prayed for them. Many repented and were filled with the Spirit in the Afterglow meetings, which often went to midnight or later.

Sherwood Wirt reports on his experience of an Afterglow. As he sat in a chair, people came to pray for him. They told him to:

“Ask God to crucify you.”

Crucify me? I wasn’t even sure the idea was theologically sound.

“To do what?” I stammered.

“Nail you to the cross” was the reply….

“Now ask God to fill you with his Spirit and thank him for it….”

“You probably don’t have much of a sensation of blessing now…. Don’t worry. The feeling will come later— and how!” She was right. It came. And it has never left….

The Holy Spirit used a divine solvent…to dissolve the bitterness in my heart…. In his own time and at his own pleasure he sent a divine solvent into this troubled heart. It was like the warmth of the sun burning off the layers of fog.

I don’t know just how the love came in, but I know that all the bitterness I held against others—including those near to me—disappeared. Resentment—hostility—hurt feelings—you name it. They all dissolved. Evaporated. Went (Wirt 1975, 11–15).

He commented on this laying hands on people for prayer, which was normal in Afterglows: “Call it revival, renewal, a fresh touch, an anointing, times of refreshing, or what you will. I needed it” (Wirt 1975, 127).

That deep work of the Spirit continues now across the world. Its expressions vary with different cultures and denominational traditions. However, the divine Spirit deeply impacts those who continue to seek the Lord.

© Geoff Waugh. Used by permission.