I’ve covered plenty of revivals in my time but what happens when one starts at your own church? Most are calling it the “West Coast Rumble” and naturally, it has its own Twitter handle already. Yep: #WestCoastRumble. Two 30-something pastors are key to the events here. The meetings started the last weekend in February and they haven’t stopped yet. First, some background. Last fall, I began attending a charismatic church called Seattle Revival Center that’s in a suburb called Newcastle across Lake Washington from Seattle and about nine miles from where we live. Chelsie, a woman who has special needs kids befriended me and (my daughter) Veeka, which was an enormous inducement to continue attending there.
Starting Feb. 25, the church had a revival weekend – a “declaration” conference they called it – that I didn’t attend, as I had another conference in town that was more important for me to be at. Nashville evangelist Charlie Shamp, the Sunday morning speaker, got such a good reaction that they had a Sunday evening meeting as well. I had listened to Sunday morning online off the church’s website as my daughter wasn’t feeling great. I found the service rather underwhelming, to be honest, but others didn’t and so many people were said to be getting healed of various ailments, they extended meetings to Wednesday. I dropped by briefly that Wednesday night, but Veeka’s early rising hours the next day meant I couldn’t stay.
So I began watching services each night on the live feed from the church’s web site. What’s kind of fun is the chit-chat between those of us watching it (one can log in and leave comments and they have Google translate for non-English speakers) and the folks in the service will actually pray for petitions you email in. Some folks have contacted the church to say they’ve been healed while sitting by their computer watching it all. There’s no way to verify a lot of that but I’ve never heard of revival services incorporating various devices the way this one does.
That Thursday night (March 3), Shamp was being handed cell phones by some of the congregation whose friends had called in asking for prayer. On Friday night, Shamp asked audience members to call people right there and pray for them with their cell phones lifted up. I am sure this evangelist had only planned to stay in Seattle this one weekend and he wasn’t expecting a revival to spring up around his preaching, but as folks kept on showing up at the church, he’s remained in town. I’m not sure whether his wife has had to Fed Ex him a suitcase of clean clothes, but I think he turned 34 while all this was going on.
The pastor of Seattle Revival Center, aka SRC, is called Darren Stott and he too just had a birthday – I think that too was his 34th. He’s a pretty hip dude who gives some profound sermons but I don’t think even he was expecting something to blow up at his church. My grasp on some details is a bit foggy, but beginning in January, there was a revival at another church in San Diego that had the SRC folks all excited. Some even flew down to experience it, as they said there had been prophecies of a revival going up the Interstate-5 corridor from San Diego to Vancouver, BC (which is technically not on I-5 but we won’t argue over details).
Here is this Darren’s explanation of these meetings. One of his better quotes: “It feels like God has flown through the windshield of our bus, knocked us out of our seat, hijacked the bus and taken us to a new place we’ve not been before.”
Another moniker they’re applying to this event is “apple wine;” Washington state being the country’s largest producer of apples, exporting some 125 million boxes a year. So, there’s always an apple sitting by the podium during the service and there’s even a prophecy (from the San Diego folks) about God releasing apple wine over Seattle and the entire state. Which is pretty funny considering how secular a place this is. Politically, it’s bluer than blue. Culturally…let’s just say that when I take my many religion books to Half Price Books, a well-known local used book retail outlet, they just stare at me and explain how there’s no demand for books about God. In terms of religious movements, at least Los Angeles had Azusa Street (a famous 1906 revival that lasted four years) but nothing like that has happened further up the Left Coast.
In one of his taped messages a week or two into these meetings, “I feel like in the Northwest we are giving birth to a baby and it needs to be nurtured,” Darren said. “The Pacific Northwest is one of the most difficult places to be a pastor. Churches are closing down all over the place…(but) this is what I was born for!” That said, he added that he’d had 15 hours of sleep in three days, as people were flooding the place.
It’s sure been interesting to see how SRC has marshaled resources to try to meet the demand. I talked with one couple who said they were experienced at handling revivals and they’d quickly shown up to offer their services at managing things. The church’s website was ramped up to provide some history of the past three weeks plus new graphics have been added plus links to videos of the meetings. Whoever’s doing the camera work for the services is pretty good although I know the church staff is stretched to the max and there’s been announcements asking for members to help out more. Soon after the meetings started, they put a black taped line around the perimeter of the sanctuary as a place for people to stand when they want prayer. It’s an efficient way to manage a lot of people at one time.
Anyway, on Saturday night (the 5th), a guest pastor named Suri came up to do the prayer for the offering. He called up two SRC pastors and then the three of them collapsed to the ground convulsed in laughter. So we watched the three of them roll about on the floor (one holding an apple) as everyone walked up and put money into the collection baskets. There’s a lot of talk about getting “drunk” on this apple wine of the Spirit at these meetings and some take that literally.
The truly funny moment (to me) was when Jeannette Wuhrman, the female half of the couple that helps out with revivals, got up to say announcements. She gave instructions on leaving one’s email near the back so they could be updated by the church on what’s going on “as soon as we know what that is.” That doesn’t sound funny but it actually was, because of course the church doesn’t have a clue what the end result of these meetings will be and they seem to be making it up as they go. Which lends an endearing quality, actually, as nothing is worse than something that’s obviously produced.
Most of the meetings are centered around Shamp calling out healings that he believes are happening among people there, or among those listening online or even among folks who know nothing of these meetings but have some connection with those attending or listening in. The church has posted one set of X-rays by someone claiming healing from cancer. There was one woman who got up at a service to say she was healed and then I saw her a few days later back in her wheelchair. Hmmm. There’s been echoes of 1990s Toronto revival stuff at these meetings; people claiming that God has given them gold fillings in their teeth (SRC has actually posted a photo of one such person’s mouth) plus reports of feathers drifting through the air. I’ve not seen any of the latter.
I finally did get to attend an entire meeting on Saturday the 5th on a rainy night. I’d say the sanctuary was about two-thirds full but not packed by a long shot. My daughter came with me and soon after we arrived, we went to the front and were prayed over briefly by the evangelist but nothing seemingly happened, so we repaired to a seat near the back. Next, there were several baptisms. I was noticing that the worship team had been playing pretty continuously since 7 pm and they had to be exhausted. There’s been a different worship team each night. This group came from elsewhere in the state, so apparently someone’s been calling around to bring in reinforcements or bands are calling the church to volunteer their services.
At around 10:30 p.m., everyone who wanted prayer lined up on the aforementioned border of black tape that had been placed around the sanctuary. Easily 70 or so folks lined up. As the evangelist and other ministers moved around the perimeter of the room, most of those being prayed for – like 99% – fell back to the ground in a faint-like trance known as being ‘slain in the Spirit.’ When they prayed for Veeka, she dropped to the ground and said later that she felt faint and overwhelmed, albeit in a good way. Unlike nearly everyone else, I did not fall. Believe me, I’ve been prayed over by the best of them – from Rodney Howard Browne (here’s my essay on what that was like) to the folks at the Toronto Airport Vineyard – and it simply doesn’t happen to me and I’ve stopped stressing over it. Veeka felt convinced that something deep had happened to her during the service and she had great hopes of being healed.
We returned the following Wednesday night (the 9th) where they were having a special prayer time for kids. Veeka went up for prayer, but felt nothing and didn’t drop to the ground as she had before. Plus, she was distraught over having prayed for healing on Saturday and then Wednesday night, only to have nothing happen. Kids don’t process too well not being healed when the preacher is stating that folks are getting delivered of everything from bladder problems to cancer via their cell phones, so I’ve not taken her to any nightly services since. Adults can better handle such disappointment, but kids don’t. I will say she likes listening to the nightly services on her iPad at home, so you never know.
I went back last night (the 16th) briefly. There were about 100 people there when the service started and maybe 125 when I had to leave to pick up Veeka from the Awana meeting, then went home to listen to the rest of the service online. Shamp was calling out specific healings, ie a woman listening in online who was hooked up to a breathing apparatus and a man with the last name of MacDonald. When people come up to the front to be prayed over, he places a hand on their forehead, blows on them and 9 out of 10 will crumple to the ground.
“Wheat God reveals, He heals,” he said – or maybe it was Darren who said that – can’t remember. “How many of you know it’s a done deal?”
It got very weird at one point last night when Shamp was asking everyone to say “Yum, yum” (in reference to the apple wine, I guess) and believing the Spirit would fall on them if they did so. “Less thinking, more drinking,” he would tell folks as a number of them were strewn about on the floor. I’m guessing SRC has had to requisition every able-bodied male they can find on the church rolls to be “catchers” for all the falling bodies.
So, what do I think? I’ve reported on and attended a bunch of these revivals, ranging from Toronto to Brownsville, many of which had petered out or ended badly. I remember interviewing the two pastors at the head of the Brownsville meetings and I asked them what was the most unexpected thing about having such an event at their church.
“Toilet paper,” they said. When the crowds show up, you can’t get enough of it. God knows that folks here in the Northwest have felt at the periphery of spiritual renewal. Other than pioneers like Dennis Bennett, this area is not a place known for its great spiritual life although the meteoric rise (and fall) of Mars Hill Church showed that the local populace will attend a house of worship if they find it engaging enough.
I’m certainly not on any inside track at this church, so I don’t know what sort of discussions are going on about the coming weeks. Judging from the online comments during the service, people are tuning in from around the world and there is a procession of local pastors visiting the place. One of them there tonight was a Nazarene, which amazed me, considering that his denomination is not known for being open to charismatic phenomena.