Q&A with Steve & Sandra Long: From burnout to outpouring

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Steve and Sandra Long are senior pastors of Catch The Fire Toronto. They’ve been part of the church since Revival broke out in 1994.

I talked to them about their first experiences of Revival as burnt-out Baptist pastors, their journey of healing over the last 25 years, and how they love to minister now.

Q: Did you have any idea that you’d like to become part of John and Carol Arnott’s team, to come to the church, before the revival started?

Steve: Yes, in May of ‘93 they had a prophetic conference. In the afternoon workshop sessions, one of the options was Mark Virkler on Hearing God’s Voice. I took that and I began to hear God’s voice and start to do journalling. Within maybe two to three weeks of journaling my prayers, I heard the Lord say that I was supposed to be part of John Arnott’s team, and specifically that Sandra and I were supposed to serve John and Carol until they pass away.

So I met with John in June of ‘93 to say this. He wasn’t really impressed (laughs). I don’t know what he thought, but it turned out that I said his prayer back to him at the very end. I said, “John, my goal is to help someone of vision accomplish their vision, and you’re that person.”

John and Carol had been praying apparently for a period of time, “Lord send us someone to help us accomplish our vision.” So John then felt that I was it and offered me a job with no salary. I was open to that, Sandra not so much.

Sandra: We had gone through quite a bit of difficult time in our previous church, the one that we were in at that time, and so I think I probably was a little bit more stubborn. I wasn’t going to be easily persuaded to jump into something new because we’d already gone through a lot of pain.

Steve: Then probably about September of ‘93, John invited me to go to Argentina with him and Carol for the meeting where it turns out they got their anointing from Claudio Freidzon. The problem was the date was the exact same week as a Baptist national convention that I was the primary organizer for in Winnipeg so I just could not go.

Afterwards, you hear in early December that John’s come back full of expectation, full of hope. And the next thing you hear, on January 21, on a Monday morning, John phones to say, “Steve, we had the most incredible weekend with Randy Clark, the Holy Spirit came, visited, we’ve held Randy over one more meeting. You have to come.”

So we did go. That’s the meeting where Sandra and I received the Holy Spirit first time, reluctantly.

Q: Why were you reluctant to receive the Holy Spirit?

Steve: It was charismatic and we hadn’t fully entered in yet, that would be number one. Lots of distractions. As soon as we get to the meeting, people are manifesting. All those lies are just going off in my head not to trust this, not to interact.

Sandra: We were in the very back row. The pastor that we were under and his wife were there.

Steve: John and Anne Freel.

Sandra: She got up for ministry and so the first part of the ministry she was crying and crying, but we knew her, we knew that she’d gone through a difficult time.

Steve: We’d just had a church split.

Sandra: Life was very hard on all of us. We knew that she just wouldn’t cry for the sake of crying. Then at one point she stopped crying and started laughing. That was really weird, but we knew her, so we accepted it.

At one point they were praying for people, and everybody was at the very front, and we were at the very back. It was a little weird, we didn’t understand it. All of a sudden when we were getting our coats on, Randy Clark and John Arnott came to the back and they say, “Can we pray for you?”

The funny part was that we were three couples and we were all pastors! When they prayed for us, Randy Clark stopped and he said, “Sandra, what’s wrong?”

I said, “Well, I’m afraid I’m going to faint like all the other people.” I literally thought that they had fainted. I had no grid for going out in the Holy Spirit. He said, “No, no they didn’t faint.

Steve: That made it worse!

Sandra: Yeah! So then when he prayed, my legs all of a sudden got really shaky, and I just collapsed. I didn’t fall back, I just went straight down. I crawled up on a chair and laid out, my eyes were shut and I’m like, “Ok God, I’ve watched other people have an experience, what are you going to do?” I could hear people talking and I’m like, “Ok, nothing’s happening.” So we get up.

Steve: Stuff’s happening but we don’t know what to look for.

Sandra: We got in the car and we shared what we were feeling. We both said we felt peace of the Lord. We had just been through two church splits in our church and it had been like a war zone so we realized the significance of what God gave us.

Steve: It clearly stirred some things because the next morning for me, I woke up zealous to read the Bible, and I read the whole book of Acts in one go. I rarely would read the Bible, other than for sermon prep and Bible study prep. I was very dry.

Steve started working for John and Carol a week later. Two weeks in, Randy Clark led a meeting of other Baptist leaders to explain what had been happening at the revival meetings.

Sandra: That night Randy explained a bunch of stuff, and we all stood up for ministry. It was the most humbling thing for me! I got drunk as a skunk. He called me forward, he prayed for me, I fell on the floor, I was laughing, I was snorting. I don’t know what’s going on. Meanwhile, Stephen’s getting these baptist people coming to him, saying things like...

Steve: “You can never be a baptist again.” “You’re done.” “We’re ashamed of you.” Half of the people there loved it and experienced it, and half hated and theologically decided this was wrong. It was a pivotal day for us. It was basically the day we realized we can’t go back to being Baptists.

Sandra: I was covering my face because I was so embarrassed. Here I am with my Baptist colleagues and I’m drunk on the floor.

Steve: Sandra, in our Baptist church split had had an emotional breakdown, nervous breakdown, was having panic attacks, counselling, she needed a deep deep drink to shake all that stuff.

How are your hearts different, through what God’s done over the years, to how they are now?

Sandra: For me, it was because we had had church splits and there was a lot of betrayal, a lot of hurt and pain. In the Baptist church at that time, there was no such thing as inner healing. So you basically would just move on, you quit that church and go to another church because you just couldn’t handle being there.

So basically my heart was hardened. I had lots of fear. I know in the interview [with John and Carol], I said, “Great, I’ll come to the church, but just don’t expect me to love on people.” The very thing that a pastor should be doing! My focus back then was just to love my children and to make sure that they never got hurt.

Steve: I was very impatient with Sandra and Jonathan and Chris, who would have been nine and six. That’s causing stress in our marriage, Sandra’s crying when she goes to bed many nights and I’m incapable of seeing that this is my issue. That was a fairly dramatic thing for me to just realize that I could take ownership for that. The Holy Spirit just gradually began to deal with my stuff. I still have bad moments today, but it’s no way near as bad as it was before.

We were both very dysfunctional people helping to lead a revival. In hindsight, John and Carol had such grace for people to be on the journey. I think as long as you were on the journey, they made room for you, just because they knew who we were to become.

What is it that you love about what you do now, day to day, week to week?

Steve: I like facilitating the Holy Spirit plan for our church. Being a shaper, the plan to me gives me the most passion. When we feel ‘this is what God’s saying, let’s move the church, let’s move the people, let’s organize so we can do what God’s saying,’ I love that.

Sandra: I love the look on people’s faces when I see the transformation. When transformation happens, they experience the spirit, they experience the heart change, and I look in their eyes and it’s almost like they’re a different person. They’re laughing, they’re crying, and it’s almost like what they’ve been in bondage with has just been taken off of them, and now they’re raring to live.

Written by Alice Clarke

Q&A, LeadershipAnita Wing Lee