The story of G W North is a story worth telling and a story worth hearing. His life and preaching were highly influential in the early days of the charismatic movement in the UK. The effects of his ministry have continued in the decades that have followed both here (in the UK) and in many places around the world. His name is perhaps not as well known as some other names connected with this charismatic era. The reason is probably because his teaching was somewhat distinct from the other main strands of this movement.
The main ‘distinctives’ he taught were undoubtedly of God. However, as is often the case in spiritual realms, the majority of folk are more drawn to the ‘popular thing’ and relatively fewer numbers gravitate toward more meaningful things. That is not to say that his ministry was not far reaching. The churches (or ‘fellowships’ as they are often called) that sprang up, having some form of connection with G W North, were still fairly numerous. According to the book there were some 35 UK-based fellowships plus various others scattered abroad.
Mr North stated that he did not consider himself to be an apostle because he had “never founded a church.” I don’t know why he should have considered ‘founding churches’ to be an essential ‘must’ to qualify as an apostle. The New Testament mentions numerous apostles but does not state that all of them founded churches. Having a ministry that had significant impact beyond the local church IS one of the hallmarks of an apostle. So, as far as I’m concerned, G W North was an apostle and there were many signs of an apostle that were plain to see.
Mr North’s life was marked by authoritative preaching, powerful prayer, casting out of demons, healings, ‘true’ conversions and many more signs of God’s gift and confirmation of his ministry. The Story of G W North, written by one of his daughters, takes the reader through many of these notable spiritual instances in GW’s life. It also fills in the gaps of home and family and tells of the many and varied circumstances in which he lived. Clearly he was a man who knew how to abase and how to abound!
G W North’s central doctrinal distinctive was his teaching on ‘One Baptism’ (his One Baptism study is already published on this website). There are many thousands, who have been either directly, or indirectly, the recipient of God’s blessing (in new birth) and/or enlightenment (in understanding spiritual truths) as a result of this ministry. During GW’s teaching and preaching there was an ongoing outpouring of God’s Spirit in the churches he visited. I have no doubt as to the authenticity of this ‘revival’ and its subsequent effects – or, its “scattered leaves” (ref a prophecy mentioned in the book).
Given that there is mention in the book of ‘New Wine and New Wineskins’ and talk of ‘New Testament Churches’ I am bound to comment on this. Speaking in the context of ‘church practises’ there was, to my mind, only one specific major move back towards NT church principles in this movement. This was that meetings became ‘open’ for all persons present to: pray, prophesy, speak with tongues and interpret or start a song etc. (as per 1 Cor 14:26). This practise was of course in common with all the other charismatic groups of the time too. Otherwise the ‘church model’ was essentially the same as all other mainstream denominations, remaining firmly within the bounds of what I have previously termed ‘system church’ (ref ‘His Church’ Bible Study).
Mr North once said, “first you have a man, then you have a movement, then you have a monument!” I am not completely sure who or what he had in mind at the time he said this but cannot help but think that these words were prophetic. He also said, “the vision dies with the man!”
Despite my assessment that the whole movement was, once again, being poured into the ‘Old Wineskin’ I have no doubts that the genuine ‘New Wine’ was being poured out. G W North was an instrument in this outpouring. His life was marked not just by his authoritative teaching on new birth but more importantly he was a vessel through whom God poured out His Spirit of Love, Truth, Power and Holiness. He preached the Word of Life and Life frequently came! Froth and bubble and speaking in an ‘unknown tongue’ was never his yardstick for measuring the value of his ministry but rather he looked for holiness of life – ‘fruit’ as opposed to ‘gifts’. His ministry was indeed fruitful to this end and “Holiness unto The Lord” was always his watchword and song.
Related Reading ~ Bible Study: One Baptism by G.W. North [available as PDF]
Related Reading ~ Book Review: One Baptism by G.W. North