On October 13, 1971 Ralph and Lou Sutera began an evangelistic crusade at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada (population 140,000 at the time). The crusade was scheduled to last a little over a week, but grew rapidly and ended up lasting seven weeks with participants from around 20 different denominations. It started at a church that seated 300, then moved to a church seating 600, then 800, then 1600, and finally to an auditorium seating 1800. There were meetings every night and two on Sunday along with overflow seating.
From Saskatoon, the revival spread to Regina, SK with similar results over a similar duration of time. From Regina the revival spread to Winnipeg, MB with even greater results. By early 1972, the revival had spread to the interior of British Columbia, and eventually landed in Vancouver, BC. Several smaller cities were also touched by the revival. By December 1971, the revival had generated international attention, with the likes of Christianity Today taking notice.
The key leaders were Bill Mcleod, Cliff Dietrich, Nick Willems, Walter Boldt, and Henry Teichrob. While these leaders (along with the Sutera twins) were in the public eye, more than anything this was a lay-revival. It was ordinary Christians who spread the word of what God had done in their own lives, families, churches, and communities. Less than 1.5 years after the revival started in Saskatoon, over 3000 lay teams had been deployed all over Canada and the U.S.
The Results of Revival
No doubt scores of people came to faith in Jesus Christ and for this we can praise God. But revival is by definition, more about the church coming to life than anything. Stories of love in action, broken relationships being restored, and stolen items being returned were legion, and the media took notice of this. As one author put it, the revival produced “a revolution of love” in the hearts of those who were touched. And as one pastor put it, “The revival has accomplished more than a million hours of pastoral counseling could ever have done.”
Spillover Effect – The Revival Spreads
Along with Western Canada and some parts of Eastern Canada, the revival spread to Oregon, California, Illinois, and most significantly, Ohio and Michigan (the Sutera’s served over a year in Detroit and Grand Rapids in 1972-73. Often, as hundreds of lay teams spread around Canada and the U.S., revival followed in their wake and as the Spirit of God moved.
Canadian Revival Fellowship:
Just as in any revival, eventually the flame fades. However, even years later, few could deny the positive effects this revival had on thousands of people. But perhaps the biggest long-term blessing of the revival was the formation of Canadian Revival Fellowship on September 13, 1972, an organization that is still in existence today.
This was not the Welch revival of 1904 or several other international revivals and it is not even on the radar of many students of revival. However, this story needs to be told and it is clear that what happen in the early 70’s in Western Canada was supernatural – a mighty work of God! All we can say is, Do it again Lord!
Obviously, this is a very brief summary of the Canadian Revival and if you are looking for more, the definitive work on the subject is a book by Erwin Lutzer called Flames of Freedom, which was published in 1976 by Moody Press. Having read the book twice, I can assure you it is well worth a read.
11 thoughts on “The Canadian Revival of 1971”
I can give personal testimony to the power of God at this time. I was brought to great conviction and converted September, 1971. Months later my friends and I drove to Grand Rapids, from Muskegon one night to be a part of the Sutera Twins meetings. We entered the huge church, and found many people already packed in. We were far from the front, and quickly found seats.
Before the meeting was even started and anything happened, someone came to the podium and invited anyone who needed to pray to stand up, move to the side and there were counselors to pray with you.
All my friends got up and left, I never saw them again until after the meeting. But hundreds of others also got up and went. No emotional appeal, no mood setting music, etc. This was simply the convicting power of God.
My friends said soon after they had sat down they fell under such conviction that they were hoping that they would be given a chance to seek God.
Then the meeting started, some basic music and teaching from the Word. At the end again a simple invitation was offered, and again hundreds responded. It was a common experience at that time for God to pierce the hearts and bring repentance and cleansing to people.
May we also qualify as himble and broken hearted, repentant sinners, and now in receipt of your majestic presence and revival!
Thanks Randy. All I can say is, Lord, do it again!
Are Ralph and Lou still alive. We attended one of their revivals in Glovdrsville,NY in the +£€0’s
As far as I know they are still alive and still in ministry. I corresponded with Ralph about 4-5 years ago. May God richly bless you Joan.
“Thanks”, Ralph and Lou, for the revival time that you led in Mesa, AZ in October, 1984. Fond memories still linger. May you keep serving the Lord as He leads.
Jerry Green, aprayer2Him@gmail.com
The Sutera’s came to our church in Benton Harbor MI in 1977 and were there for three weeks of every day meetings which we attended most of them. God broke my heart during this time and called me into the ministry as a result.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That is such a cool story Rich. Thanks for sharing. I had the chance to talk to Ralph several years ago by phone. Great guy and God blessed him and his brother’s ministry. I am hoping to do an updated post on the Canadian revival. Blessings.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Are the Suteras still serving the Lord or their families?
Hi Joan. I sent Ralph an email to see how he was doing but I haven’t heard back yet. It’s possible he no longer uses that email. I will be sure and contact you when I hear how they are doing.