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.