The Ground of Christian Life Fellowship

The local congregation which Emil and Michele pastor, Christian Life Fellowship, is the product of its spiritual roots. Just as a tree doesn't exist apart from its roots, this congregation is the spiritual expression of a historical process reaching back, of course, to the Garden of Eden and even earlier, to the Heart of God.

But we really don't need to go that far back to understand who and why we are what we are!

Our congregation grew out of a plea by local christians back in 1982 for help. They appealed to Jim Durkin, Sr., apostolic head of Gospel Outreach, headquartered in near-by Eureka. People involved in the preceding congregation felt desperate with the often malicious struggles for power over the small group. They asked Jim to come and "govern" the congregation, rescuing it from the carnal agendas of some of its members.

Jim agreed and in short order, sent Emil Swift and his late wife, Janet, up to pastor the congregation. Emil had been raised a Baptist, participated in the Charismatic movement in the early '70s, and drew deeply from the revival of signs and wonders through John Wimber's ministry. In 1982, the Swifts had recently turned over responsibilities to others for directing Gospel Outreach's Christian community, the Lighthouse Ranch, and were thus available to pastor in the Willow Creek area.

Over 20 years later, after the death of his first wife, Emil has married Michele and together they pastor this small but vigorous congregation.

Now -- roots.

Gospel Outreach grew out of the Latter Rain movement. The Jesus People revival catapulted Jim Durkin, Sr. into a place of prominence. Coming from an Assembly of God background, Jim Durkin subsequently ministered throughout the world, helping to bring the ministries of Prophet and Apostle back into normal church life. Ephesians 4 serves as a central passage for the Restoration of the Gift-Ministries to the Church, declaring that Jesus has given "gifts" to the Church: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. This Restoration also includes restoration of the miraculous -- healings, miracles, signs and wonders.

The Latter Rain movement, of course, was rooted in a supernatural revival in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Amongst Baptists, Methodists and others, supernatural ministries of healing and various outbreaks of manifestations such as tongues, falling under the Presence of the Spirit, eventually "broke out" in an ongoing, 3-year revival at a small building in Azusa Street, Los Angeles.

The Methodists, beginning under John and Charles Wesley, are in the roots of this church. The Wesleys restored to the Church a number of truths including the conviction of personal salvation, lives of holiness and a commitment to personal, living relationship in the Spirit with God.

Yet, pressing even further back into history, we can find our spiritual roots -- not in the Reformation, per se -- but a generation earlier. Martin Luther is usually accorded the "honor" of having "started" the Reformation by nailing his 95 Thesis on the Wittenberg church door. Yet even though it may be argued that his "reformation" accomplished some good things, much of what it "accomplished" was destructive. He brought division into the Church -- not just Catholic vs. Protestant, but Catholics and a plethora of fighting, squabbling denominations fighting amongst themselves. He also "struck down" the practice of "buying indulgences" but wound up perpetuating most of the existing church structures under the control and direction of "pseudo-popes" like himself, Calvin, Zwingli and others.

But that's really not part of the history of Christian Life Fellowship!

Another product of the Reformation is that none of the Reformers (Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, etc.) ever challenged the Aquinas-Augustine Synthesis which taught that the "normal" Christian life consisted of right thought and right behavior. Even Luther's "Reformation motto of sola scriptura ("Scripture alone"), has been used through subsequent centuries to deny the necessary dependence we have on spiritual enlightenment, wisdom and discernment. Specifically, this theological framework included an assumption that miracles, tongues, gifted-ministries (such as evangelist and apostle), and evidences of a Spirit-empowered life (such as tongues) all had ceased after the first century. As a result, the "reformed churches" became virulently "cessationist" -- meaning that miracles and other supernatural manifestations had ceased or (if they occurred) were works of the devil.

That's also not part of the history of Christian Life Fellowship.

Here's our actual roots -- not in the Reformation, but a century prior to Luther. Within the framework of the Catholic Church, John Huss led congregations of thousands into close, personal relationships with God.*

After John Huss was burned at the stake by the Catholic Church, his followers in Bohemia began the Moravian Church. During the late fifteenth century, his followers in Moravia and Bohemia totaled close to a quarter of a million but suffered greatly from persecution. By the end of 1648, only a small number of Moravians survived. By the early 1700's, a number of Moravians sought refuge and religious freedom on the estates of the Lutheran Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf and began a village known as Herrnhut, or "The Lord's Watch."

Led by Zinzendorf, this dedicated band began a prayer and mission work which touched almost the entire world. These Believers began a 24/7 prayer meeting that lasted over 100 years. This intercessory prayer extended with them even to the United States when they came to the region now known as Moravian Falls -- a place of extraordinary spiritual activity even until today. Amazingly, John Wesley was spiritually influenced by a group of Moravian missionaries traveling to America on the same ship as he. After his return from evangelizing in America, John experienced a personal conviction of salvation in a Moravian chapel near to where he lived, along with George Whitefield and three other Anglican ministers as well.


Historically, whatever our roots may be in respect to Luther, the Reformers are hardly significant to us spiritually. Our spiritual roots in fact, go back through Latter Rain into early Pentecostalism, into the 1800s through the early healing movement and the Methodist teachings of a personal relationship with God. And Wesley's true, spiritual roots came through the Moravians whose roots lay back 102 years before Luther, in John Huss who in his day led thousands into personal lives of knowing God personally.


* Information drawn from an online article by Geoff Waugh; material adapted from John Greenfield's Power from on High (1927). Edingburgh: Marshall, Morgan and Scott. This article @ Renewal Journal #1 (93:1), Brisbane, Australia. pp. 2432. source --

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