HOW I STUMBLED INTO A THIN PLACE
I was a replacement for Loren Cunningham—which clearly did not please the congregation. It was my first time to be the preacher for a Sunday service. Even though it was a small church in a farming town of no more than five thousand people, I was nervous!
Loren had invited me to travel to a few churches in the Midwest of the USA, but after little more than a week, he informed me that he had two commitments for the next Sunday, one in Chicago and one in a small town in Iowa. He suggested that I should go to Iowa and then “see what opens up after that”. So that was the end of my travels with Loren!
AN APPARENT FAILURE
I did my best to preach a good sermon that morning, but with no training and no previous experience, I knew it did not go well. After that one Sunday meeting, I had no place to go and no money to travel, so on Monday morning, I asked the pastor if I could stay awhile. Though he was not that thrilled about the idea, he agreed, and suggested that we have an evening meeting for the youth of his church and the Methodist church the following evening.
What followed was way beyond what I could have imagined. Towards the end of that youth evening, the Holy Spirit gently fell on the dozen young people who remained, and they all came to a recognition that they needed a saviour. That was followed by individual repentance and then a joyful awareness that they had been forgiven and that they were “clean” in God’s sight.
The next day, those young people returned to the small house where we had been the night before, and they brought friends. The same thing happened again! And so, a pattern emerged. They would come at lunch time and again after school and then again in the evenings and each time God’s presence would apprehend them and especially the friends they brought. The ministers of the town met with me and asked that the evening meetings be held in the churches, rotating from one to the next each evening. So, that’s what we did, but the Holy Spirit would come on the youth when they came back to the little house after the church meetings.
Over a period of three weeks, several hundred young people came to faith. They were driving in from towns around the region as the news spread by word of mouth and through the local newspaper.
I had stumbled upon a “thin place”, a specific location where the veil between heaven and earth has become “thin”.
I had heard about this happening before because Duncan Campbell, who was the catalyst preacher for the Hebrides Islands revival, had been a teacher in my School of Evangelism a few months earlier. From his teaching, and subsequent reading about revivals, I knew that somewhere, someone must have prayed until the veil was thinned out. But I never met that person.
WHAT A COINCIDENCE!
About 25 years later, I was reading a book on Spiritual Gifts, by C. Peter Wagner and he listed “intercessory prayer” as one of the manifestations of the Holy Spirit. He gave an example of a person who exercised that gift and mentioned that she lived in that same little Iowa town! I was amazed at the coincidence, but also delighted to fill out the picture of what had happened there, because I knew I got to reap a harvest that I had not prepared.
FRUIT THAT REMAINED
After another 15 years, and with the development of social media, I received an inquiry. “Are you the Lynn Green who was in this Iowa town 40 years ago? If you are, would you come back for the 40-year anniversary of that move of God?”
Marti and I did make the journey back to Iowa and met some of the “young people”, now in their 50s and 60s. They were people whose lives were turned right side up four decades earlier. It was thrilling to hear the stories of those who had gone on to pioneer new Christian ministries or had been serving in local government or education or some other sphere of society.
I don’t think “thin places” develop in some arbitrary manner. For example, prior to the Hebrides revival, two elderly ladies engaged in sacrificial prayer until they received assurance from heaven that a breakthrough had been secured. Then Duncan Campbell arrived, and the presence of God grew powerful and people were spontaneously converted. It was reported that fishermen coming into port experienced conviction of sin as they neared the island.
CHANGING THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF HER TOWN FROM A NURSING HOME
On that fortieth anniversary trip to Iowa, we discovered that the intercessor was a lady in a nursing home. She suffered from multiple sclerosis, but the young people in the town knew her because she was unrelentingly encouraging and welcoming to all who would visit her. The light of Jesus shone from her. They told us that she instructed the nursing staff to wake her early each day so she could get through her daily prayer list. She was the lady that Peter Wagner wrote about in his passage on intercessory prayer.
IT CAN HAPPEN AGAIN AND AGAIN!
Surely, we all love the idea of a “thin place”, a place where God’s presence is so strong that people’s lives are changed just by being there. But I remain convinced that these things do not occur because of some arbitrary and mysterious divine decision. Jesus instructed us again and again in the Gospels to keep on praying; to not give up; to cry out day and night; to fast and pray until our prayers are answered.
Jesus instructed us to pray, “Thy kingdom come…” and what could be a clearer expression of the Kingdom than the multiplication of “thin places”? Is it possible that some who read this article could be called to prepare the way of the Lord through sacrificial prayer until His presence saturates their town, or church, or nation? Could that be you?