20 Years on: I'm still waiting for Gerald Coates' 'Diana's Flowers' Revival

I’ve waited for twenty years. Where is it?

Something prompted me to search through my old papers this week. I was looking for some photocopied sheets, distributed twenty years ago at Lancaster Free Methodist. I was then about to set off for university, and these papers, given to everyone that Sunday morning, disturbed me. It was 14th September 1997, and Diana, Princess of Wales, had been killed on the 31st August, just a fortnight before.

The papers were a message from Gerald Coates, a big-shot in the UK charismatic movement. Quoting some woman from Sheffield that May, whom God had allegedly told that He was doing a great work in this country, Coates said a sign had been given to prove it- national mourning and flowers being laid in our cities. Remarkably this is what happened that balmy September.

Then another prophetic word had been received: the Spirit of God would move faster than it took for the flowers to be removed. Coates gleefully quoted a TV report saying the quantity of flowers was so great, that it would take six weeks to complete their removal. ‘So what will God do- through his Spirit and by his word- between 11 September and 23rd October?’ he excitedly asked. He then went on, waxing lyrically about Pentecost, large prayer meetings held at Westminster and dustbins full of masonic jewellery and pornography that these revived brethren had seen fit to surrender.

October came and went, and nothing much happened. That November, Mr Coates came to speak at our university Christian Union. We shook hands, which I recall were rather warm and soft, before I challenged him about this dud prophecy. "Where’s the revival?" I asked. He assured me that he had never prophesied revival would happen by October.

Well, twenty years on, and I’m still waiting. Churches have shut down, and mosques have opened. Street preachers are arrested and Christian bakers are prosecuted. The Red Cross removes Christmas displays and any church that doesn’t support homosexual marriage is condemned as intolerant and hateful by government advisors. All that talk of revival was nothing but the tickling of our ears.

Coates was a part of that movement that proclaimed the great worldwide revival, a 1990s-triumphalism, summed up in Inglis’ song from 1993:

There's gonna be a great awakening

There's gonna be a great revival in our land

There's gonna be a great awakening…

I hoped they were right, I wanted it to happen. But the old-fashioned premillennialists are being proved correct: the world is becoming more wicked and the church more lukewarm, as the coming of Christ draws near.

I’ve previously explained that I don’t believe New Testament prophets ever spoke with the authority of apostles or Old Testament seers. I therefore don’t wish to see false ones stoned or expelled from our churches. But I do think it would be helpful if they now kept quiet, as they are clearly unable to discern their own thoughts from God’s.