When we look at the state of Christianity in the world today, we see a decidedly mixed picture. In many parts of the world, there is incredibly good news: God is authoring a season of multiplication instead of addition in many parts of the world. Across Africa and Asia, millions of people in historically unengaged people groups are now in rapidly growing Disciple Making Movements. In 2000 there were 6 such movements, today there are now 1,035! Almost all of the Pygmy peoples of Africa are seeing dramatic transformation by the Gospel of the Kingdom in the last 12 years. Hundreds of large people groups that had been Muslim for many centuries, are now seeing ordinary people making disciples that transform whole communities.
Across Africa and Asia many thousands of former Muslim clerics have left Islam to become fearless disciples of Christ. Not surprisingly, Christianity’s growth in Africa and Asia is explosive. On average, using data from The Status of Global Christianity, between 2000 to 2020, (7,300 days): Africa had 37,825 new Christ Followers every day over the last 20 years. Latin America had 16,988. Asia had 13,443. North America had 1,999. Oceania had 473 and Europe had 8. Much of the great momentum is coming from Disciple Making Movements. Christian history has seen rapid movements happen when many thousands, or millions of people in a region became Christ Followers.
We are living in a season of the greatest church growth since the 1st century! But half of the world is missing the move of God. How is it possible that the Global South Church is seeing Christian history being made while the Global North church is struggling for answers? God alone provides the increase, but why there and not here? What is it that the churches of the Global South are doing that makes so much difference? Two researchers and Disciple-Making practitioners have spent five years identifying several biblical values that Jesus modelled or mandated in his disciples, and which are embraced in the Global South but not in the Global North church. The Kingdom Unleashed was the result of that research.
1. Abundant, and Bold Prayer
In Africa, it is not unusual for churches to commit 50-100 days per year to fasting and prayer. In American churches, seasons of fasting and prayer are not the norm, and if there are prayer meetings, there may be few participants. Some studies suggest that we do not spend much time in private prayer either. It is easy for us to rely on our many resources rather than on God. As a result we lose the privilege of depending on God every day. In the Global South, people often have no choice but to rely on God to meet their needs, lacking resources to do otherwise. Their awareness of their need drives them to pray not just for their physical needs but for guidance, direction, spiritual power and breakthroughs, healings, deliverances, and identifying people to disciple.
2. Discipling to Conversion
American Evangelicals tend to think about Christianity in terms of conversion, forgiveness of sins and Eternal Life. In the Global South, they focus far less on conversion than on disciple-making. When Jesus called the Twelve, he discipled them for nearly three years before he asked them for a statement of faith, “Who do you say I am?” In other words, he discipled them to conversion rather than converting them and then discipling them. That is the model used in the Global South.
3. Obedience-Based Discipleship
Even the idea of what it means to be a disciple is different. For us, discipleship is knowledge-based. But in the Great Commission, Jesus tells us to make disciples (not converts) and teach them to obey everything he commanded. Biblical discipleship is thus obedience-based, not knowledge-based. Our sins are forgiven by faith alone, but throughout the New Testament we are told to live out our faith by obeying Jesus’ commands to love God and neighbour. So from day one in Discovery Bible Groups, people are encouraged to put into practice what they are learning. This approach results in personal transformation as well as community transformation. As people sink into Scripture, they learn that Jesus is Lord of all, and there is no area of life that is not rightfully his.
4. Empowering Ordinary People for Ministry
This changes fundamentally the way the Global South conceives of ministry. In the US, “going into the ministry” means becoming a pastor or missionary. Pastors are expected to preach, pray, visit the sick, counsel people, disciple church members, evangelize, provide direction for the church, handle or oversee administration, etc. In other words, they are responsible for just about everything the church does. But is all this really the job of pastors? Ephesians 4 tells us that pastors are to equip believers to do ministry, in other words, pastors are to be coaches and teachers, but the actual work of ministry is to be carried out by the people in the congregation, something we see in the churches in the Global South. We talk about every member ministry; they do it.
5. Make Replicating Disciples, not Converts
Members of Discovery Groups are also encouraged to tell others about what they are learning. So, even before they come to faith, they are discipled into sharing what they are learning about God. As a result, when they do come to faith, it is the most natural thing in the world to them to share it with others, to start new Discover Groups, and even to found simple churches. People like carpenters, sports coaches, taxi drivers, school teachers, custodians, farmers, and even politicians are making disciples and planting churches. In some parts of Africa, we can identify movements with more than thirty generations of churches planting churches. That is how the Gospel goes viral in these countries, leading to full-blown Disciple Making Movements (DMM).
6. Never Ending Leadership Training for All
Lay ministry is central in the Global South to finding pastors. In many western churches, to become a pastor requires years of education, a degree from a Bible college and often a Master of Divinity degree. Where Christianity is spreading rapidly, evidence of effective ministry precedes the call to be a pastor. You have to have a track record of making disciples and planting churches before you can become a pastor. Where Christianity is growing, they do things very differently from how we do them, pointing to a totally different ministry paradigm drawn from Jesus’ teaching and example. And that paradigm is based on a very different thinking about the Kingdom, the Gospel, the Church, and the ways the invisible world of the Spirit interacts with the physical world.
What would happen to the church in the west if it revised its ministry paradigms to align with what Jesus himself taught and did? What would happen if we adopted different practices like those of the churches of the Global South? It’s starting to happen: A campus minister at a large state school is reading the Word one hour a day, interceding one hour a day and listening for God’s response one hour a day 5-6 days a week. God has placed a burden on his heart for reaching guys in fraternities and God has been opening doors for him to begin training “insiders” to start Discovery Groups with their fraternity brothers who are lost. A woman in a New England church prayer walked every street in her town, over 700 miles, praying for a Kingdom movement where she lives.
Many Global South ministries are mobilizing thousands of intercessors to pray daily for the Global North churches to be restored to vitality. Some are sending workers to help Global North churches. A Discovery Bible Study in Alabama went viral and impacted multiple countries and a huge number of people. God is no respecter of persons and is the same in the west as He is in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Maybe if we don’t let our theological systems, traditions, and habits stop us from putting into practice the things Jesus taught about making disciples, we might see movements here that would make the great revivals of American history look insignificant by comparison. For more information: www.finalcommand.com and www.kingdomunleashed.org
India: The largest churches in the world are grassroots movements
Korean Pastor Yonggi Cho was long known as the pastor of the largest church in the world. But things have changed. Grassroots church planting movements are growing with a speed and vigor that most would find hard to believe.
What would you say if you learn that with 800,000 members the ‘pastor’ of one of the largest churches in the world lives in North India? Beginning with just 12 people in 1994, Randeep Mathews’ house-church based movement started even before he was a Christian.
Randeep started in one of the most hostile environments you can imagine, the city of Kinnaur in Himachal Pradesdh (India) in the Himalayas. It soon grew to 3,000, then 30,000 followers of Christ in what was once called ‘the graveyard of missions’ because of its historic resistance to the imported gospel from the West. They have now (Aug 2019) reached already 800,000 members in North India (300,000 of that in Himachal) and are poised to grow to 3 million in Himachal Pradesh alone.
This is by far not the only story, there are many more. A close friend of Randeep is Rodrick Gilbert in Delhi who demonstrates that this also works in a megacity. Rodrick reports about 700,000 members in 58,000 house churches. When only 18 years of age, another man started such a movement in Gujarat and Rajastan, North India, just ten years ago. It now has seen 150,000 new members in 11,200 house churches.
Source: Wolfgang Simson
Indonesia: How a mother found her lost son through a prophetic word
These Jesus followers could plant one house church each month in their kitchen.
On a visit to Indonesia German missiologist Wolfgang Simson taught a group of Jesus followers an important insight: “In the Kingdom of God people share a revolutionary lifestyle with each other.”
He elaborated: “Number one: eating as the central element of meeting. Number two: truly sharing, koinonia, so that by the end of the day there is neither rich or poor.” Simson illustrated this with Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler, and the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19. “A rich person is someone who has a surplus and fails to share. As a result his money turns against him. No longer does he have the money, but the money has him, and that is a trap. In this respect the New Testament is different from the Old Testament; Jesus really brought in a revolutionary new perspective. In his view you can be a rich person or a Kingdom citizen, but not both. It’s part of the Kingdom lifestyle that no-one is needy.”
“The third thing,” he explained, “is that they exposed themselves to apostolic teaching, which is equipping people to go out and become a virus of God into this world to plant churches, plant the presence of Christ, start cell groups of the Kingdom into enemy territory that will implode the enemy’s movements. And that’s already happening. Even terrorists are coming to Christ, and become the most ardent church planters in the Kingdom of God.”
“The fourth and last thing is to pray,” Simson said. “We send messages to God and God sends messages to us. It’s called prophecy. So when you have people over to your premises, the question is not if you should prophesy over them, but what you should prophesy. After all, we are called to share a word of the Lord with them.”
How that teaching worked out, he discovered one year later when he revisited Indonesia. He was invited by a Chinese family in Jakarta for lunch. They had taken four months to digest his teaching, as it was so different from church as they had known it. But then they decided to simply apply the lessons and see what would happen. They opened up their house, prepared a buffet, and invited strangers to come under the pretense: ‘We had a wedding planned, but the bridegroom is late. [pun intended] So we have food over and invite you to help us finish it.’
The first person to arrive was a lady. The prophets in the group immediately received a word for her: ‘This is the word from the Lord: you have lost your son.’ The lady started to cry, broke down and said: ‘This is true! Eight years ago I lost my son Dave in the market in Jakarta, never to find him again. He was four years old and since that time I’m like a mad mother searching for her son.’ The prophets assured her: ‘Today God answered your prayer. If you go to the National Monument in Jakarta, you will find your son under a big tree.’
She didn’t know what to think of this, but hopped on a bus straight to the National Monument. When looking around for a boy who had to be 12 years old by now, she found a boy who looked that age and asked: ‘Dave?’ ‘Mum?!’ They found each other!
Merdeka Square in Jakarta with the National Monument
When she came back to the house church and shared her story, this good news spread like a virus. Since that day these Chinese Jesus followers could plant one house church each month in their kitchen. Their kitchen became a church planting center. “How did that happen?” Simson asked rhetorically. “In the Kingdom – open up your house, open up your kitchen, open up your fridge.”
Source: Wolfgang Simson
Source: Joel News International, #1141, September 24, 201
There is an old saying: “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but God alone can count the apples in a seed.”
How true this is in the story you are about to read. To anyone looking on, Vatsa was just an ordinary ‘apple’. No one would have guessed that the Lord had placed the seeds within this ‘apple’ to eventually produce over 3,000 new churches!
Stop and think of that for a minute. When they cross the threshold of heaven, how many people in history will have disciples from 3,000 churches run up to them and say, “I am here because of you!” Now think of how the crowd swells when all the disciples those 3,000 churches brought with them join the throng. It becomes overwhelming! For those who choose to obey the command, “to make disciples” (Mt. 28:18-19), God doesn’t see apples, he sees orchards!
New Generations is a ministry whose passion is to mobilize disciples that make disciples, resulting in churches that plant churches. Vatsa is one of their workers in Asia.
‘Sir, are you a Christian? Will you please talk to my father?’
When one day two young women came to Vatsa’s door, he expected them to ask about one of the rooms he and wife rent out to students. But these girls didn’t ask about rooms. One of them asked: “Sir, are you a Christian?” Because his town had some very anti-Christian elements, Vatsa was surprised and alarmed. “Yes, we are Christian,” he replied. She quickly got to the point. “Sir, for years my parents have been wanting to know about Jesus. Will you please talk to my father?”
She called her father who eagerly invited Vatsa to visit their village. A week later, Vatsa and his wife took the 120 kilometer (75 mile) drive and found a group of the family gathered, ready to learn about Jesus. Neighbors soon joined in, for a total of sixteen people.
It was a remarkable open door for sharing the gospel. How would they handle this? Where would it lead? In this very first encounter, Vatsa demonstrated to the family how they could make discoveries about God for themselves, right from the Bible. He read Psalm 25:8-9 – ‘Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.’
Vatsa asked: “What do you learn in this scripture about God, and what do you learn about man?” “I learn,” said the father, “that God is good, and he teaches sinners. And that man has to humble himself to learn from God.” “And what does it say to you personally?” Vatsa asked. Very quietly, the father replied: “I am a man, and I am a sinner. I need to learn from God, to become humble and to follow God’s way.”
‘We will start a Bible study right here in your home. God will teach you and lead you.’
The father was responsive, and eager to learn more, but he had questions about the next steps. “Where will we go to church?” he asked. “Who will be our pastor?” Vatsa’s answer was a surprise. “We will start a Bible study right here in your home. God will teach you and lead you to start a church with your family members and relatives.” Since that day, not only have six of the family members turned to Jesus, but two more Bible studies have started in other homes.
For those who choose to obey the command ‘to make disciples’, God doesn’t see apples – he sees orchards!
What did Vatsa do that was different?
First of all, he made the effort to visit the family in their own home. This meant taking a full day to do so. He realized the encounter was not about reaching one man or even one family, but about how this man, with such obvious fervor to know Jesus, could be an instrument of God to reach a community.
Secondly, he showed the family how they could learn about God right from the Bible and encouraged them to do that regularly. He then coached the father, through phone calls and further visits, to facilitate the family time together in the Word. Vatsa also taught him to release others to do the same thing in new groups.
“In the past,” Vatsa says, “I would not have bothered to visit this man but would have simply invited him to my church. And I never would have allowed him to become a facilitator and leader.” Since he started implementing this new way of doing ministry, Vatsa has seen 3,304 small churches started, and he’s never going back. “I have seen a great change in our achievements,” he says, “and me and my team have moved to a higher level of personal obedience to the risen Lord Jesus Christ.”
‘I’ve learned that making disciples is not about bringing people to church.’
“I’ve learned,” he adds, “that making disciples is not about bringing people to church. It’s about starting church at anybody’s home or any place. It’s about finding a man of peace and releasing him for making disciples. It’s about a lifestyle of following Jesus’ model and having Jesus’ attitude toward the lost.”
As of the end of September 2019, New Generations teams along with their partners have seen God raise up 70,921 new churches, 1,695,692 New Christ-followers, of whom, 471,813 (28%) are Muslim background. New Generations has now seen God launch 126 Disciple Making Movements (DMM) – 113 in Sub-Saharan Africa and 13 in South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a people group of eastern Congo reached the DMM threshold with 108 churches to the 9th generation!
Source: New Generations
Joel News International, # 1158, February 10, 2020
Iran: The country where Christianity is growing fastest
This may come as a surprise to many, but Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country in the world. Tens of thousands of Muslims are abandoning their faith and are beginning to follow Jesus.
Experts say the ongoing political crisis and economic challenges are fueling widespread anger against the regime. Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani is promising to resolve the country’s economic, social and political problems after days of protests gripped the Islamic nation last month. At least 21 people died in clashes with police, and over 1,000 were arrested.
Mike Ansari says political turmoil is creating unique opportunities to share the love of Christ. “Many Iranian Christians have turned to us asking what it is they need to do,” Ansari wrote in an email. Ansari is the president of Heart4Iran Ministries, which is bringing 86 different ministries together with the goal of serving and blessing the people of Iran. He says with all the negative news about Iran, it is easy to miss the big and often untold story of what is really happening inside the Islamic nation. “God is at work in Iran. Jesus is building His church, the Spirit is transforming lives and the gospel is on the move.”
Today 4 satellite TV channels are broadcasting continuous Christian broadcasting into Iran.
Mohabat TV is the media arm of Heart4Iran Ministries. In 2006, Mohabat TV became the first 24-hour Farsi Christian satellite TV channel to beam gospel programs into Iran. Today, it is one of 4 satellite TV channels broadcasting continuous Christian programming. “Christian satellite TV broadcasts into Iran have played a vital role in the success of the underground house church movement,” Ansari wrote. “The significance of media strategy is that it by-passes security measures set by the government and reaches the people of Iran through their TV set or on their smart devices. According to World Mission, the house church movement in Iran is one of the fastest-growing churches in the world. It is the lifeline of Christianity inside this country.”
Recently 20 Iranians, many of whom accepted Christ watching Mohabat TV, traveled to an undisclosed location to get baptized. CBN News was granted exclusive access to the celebrations.
Recently 20 Iranians, many of whom accepted Christ watching Mohabat TV, traveled to an undisclosed location to get baptized. CBN News was granted exclusive access to the celebrations.
Ansari, an Iranian by birth, sat down with CBN News correspondent George Thomas for an exclusive look at the church inside Iran.
Why is the house church movement in Iran growing so fast?
“The church is growing because the people of Iran are disillusioned with Islam and they are looking for answers to life. They are not finding answers in the traditional forms of state religion or the faith of their ancestors. They are looking for new answers, they are not happy and satisfied where they are spiritually. It seems that a large number of these people are actually having dreams and visions about a shining man dressed in white far before we are out there telling them about Jesus.”
Is there a specific area of Iranian society that Jesus is touching more than others?
“The demographic that is responding to the gospel the most is the younger generation, who are very tech-savvy. These are people, anywhere from 18 to 30 years of age. They are online, they are following the world’s pop culture, they are very much plugged in and they are looking for answers. They want to belong to a larger purpose and meaning in life, and they are finding that in Jesus.”
The 1979 Islamic Revolution was supposed to usher in this great Islamic revival. Did that ever materialize?
“After almost 40 years of the Islamic regime, the average Iranian is realizing that Islam is bankrupt and Islam is not able to answer to their social, daily lives and the dilemmas they are dealing with. Iran is facing a host of crises, from drug addiction to depression to suicide to sexually transmitted diseases to human trafficking.”
Almost 40 years into the Islamic Revolution the average Iranian is realizing that Islam is bankrupt.
How bad is persecution against those who decide to abandon Islam and embrace Christianity?
“Iran is listed in Open Doors’ top 10 of most persecuted countries. The reality of Iranian Christians is that they cannot go out on the street and share their new faith with people. They cannot celebrate anywhere publicly, and they are constantly in fear of retaliation from the authorities. Becoming a Christian in Iran, especially if you are from an Islamic background, is illegal and is punishable by the legal code in the country. This is why we want people around the world to continue lifting up the persecuted church in Iran.”
You recently commissioned an extensive survey inside the country to find out how many people are watching programs on Mohabat TV. What did the survey results show?
“We had no idea that so many Iranian youth are following our programs. It appears that roughly about 16 million Iranians within the last 12 months have viewed one or more of our programs on satellite TV and also on their mobile devices. That roughly translates to about 20 percent of Iran’s population and that is an overwhelming number.”
Mohabat TV produced a map showing all the locations Iranians are calling the show from.
How many people call in to your channel and how many have accepted Christ since you launched the network?
“It is a rough estimate that within the last 11 years we’ve been able to connect with over one million Iranians through our call center. These are people who have contacted us wanting to know more about Christianity. These are people who have either become Christians or have had dreams or visions, and wanted to find out more about Jesus. Or people who have become Christians and they want to find out how to grow in their new faith and how to be discipled or how to start a house church in the country. In 2016, our call center processed about 700 contacts per day, which resulted in about 93 decisions for Christ per day. That’s roughly about three people every hour that confessed their faith in Jesus.”
Is satellite TV still the most important evangelism tool to reach Iranians with the gospel or is social media becoming even more important?
“In 2013 and 2014 when the Iranian Green Revolution took place, we realized the importance of Twitter. That was a glimpse into what was coming. In 2017, we realized that social media has fully arrived in the Middle East, especially in a country like Iran where especially the youth are actively using social media on their mobile devices. In addition, the numbers we’ve been getting through our survey is additional validation that this is a sound strategy for ministries to start focusing on.”
Source: George Thomas, CBN
Source: Joel News International – # 1067 | January 26, 2018
Iran: Fastest-growing church has no buildings
For the last few years, researchers have credited the underground church in Iran as the fastest-growing Christian church in the world.
It has unique characteristics that defy comparison with churches in America and Europe, and in the opinion of some who know it well, the church in the West could learn by studying it.
The fastest-growing church in the world has taken root in one of the most unexpected and radicalized nations on earth, according to ‘Sheep Among Wolves’, an outstanding two-hour documentary about the revival that has taken place inside Iran. The Iranian awakening is a rapidly reproducing discipleship movement that owns no property or buildings, has no central leadership, and is predominantly led by women.
‘The movement is predominantly led by women’
The documentary was produced by Frontier Alliance International (FAI), which supports disciple-making teams targeting the ‘unreached’ and ‘unengaged’ within the 10/40 Window. There is a mass exodus leaving Islam for Christianity within Iran, according to FAI.
“What if I told you Islam is dead?” one unidentified Iranian church leader says in the film. “Many of the ruling class still follow Islam because that’s where the high paying jobs are, but the majority of the ordinary people love God and recognize that Islam is the problem. What if I told you the best evangelist for Jesus was the Ayatollah Khomeini? The ayatollahs brought the true face of Islam to light and people discovered it was a lie, a deception.”
Efforts by the ayatollahs to destroy Christianity have backfired, but have served to refine and purify the church. “What persecution did was destroy the churches that were only about converts,” the Iranian church leader noted. “Converts run away from persecution, but disciples are willing to die for the Lord in persecution.”
‘What if I told you Islam is dead?’
Often a disciple-making movement begins the first moment someone comes into contact with an unbeliever. “Everything is founded on prayer. We find people of peace through prayer. We even find locations through prayer,” the Iranian church leader noted. “Jesus has gone faster than us. He has come in their dreams or he’s come miraculously in their lives. When we hear this, we know that Jesus has gone ahead of us.”
Their emphasis is not planting churches; it is making disciples. “If you plant churches, you might make disciples. But if you make disciples, you will plant churches,” the Iranian church leader said. “It is obedience-based discipleship based on the authority of Scripture. Every time you read the Scripture, you must obey it. This is how people become conformed to the image of Christ and sanctified. They are not just reading the Bible for information. They are reading the Bible to get transformed.”
About 55% of the disciple-makers are women, according to the film.
These Study Guides are adapted from former Distance Education materials produced by Citipointe Ministry College, the School of Ministries of Christian Heritage College in Brisbane, Australia. Now they are adapted into these books for your benefit. The current courses use different and updated materials as part of internet resources for students.
For information about current courses, contact the Principal,
Welcome to this Study Guide on Holy Spirit Movements throughout History.
Topic 1 Introduction
Topic 2 Movements of the Spirit in the Old Testament
Topic 3 Movements of the Spirit and Renewal in the New Testament
Topic 4 The Ante-Nicene Church and early charismatic renewal; Monasticism and renewal in the Middle Ages
Topic 5 The Reformation, Pietism and the Moravian revival
Topic 6 The Great Awakening and eighteenth-century evangelical revivals
Topic 7 The Second Great Awakening in America and England
Topic 8 The Third Great Awakening – mid-Nineteenth Century
Topic 9 The Pentecostal Revivals and Healing Evangelism – early mid-Twentieth Century Revivals
Topic 10 Charismatic Renewal in the Churches
Topic 11 Late twentieth-century revival movements
Topic 12 Revival movements in Australia
Topic 13 Twenty-first century Spirit movements
The concept of renewal and restoration as the process whereby God renews the spiritual vitality of the church and restores neglected truths to a central place in its life is foundational to Evangelical and Charismatic perspectives on church life. An examination of the movements of the Spirit through history gives students a sense of the history of theological and renewal movements, and locates particular issues in relation to a larger conceptualization of the development of the church. This places a renewal theology of the Spirit in the context of the historical moment in which it arises.
Students preparing to minister today need to be aware of the historical movements of the Spirit which lead to renewal and reformation and how this applies to ministry practice and contemporary contexts.
This subject builds on the biblical principles addressed in The Holy Spirit in Ministry and further identifies historical contexts in which the Spirit operated within the church. These understandings provide the student with an opportunity to develop an awareness of the movements of the Spirit for contemporary ministry situations.
We all can learn more together about effective ministry. That learning is enhanced and expanded rapidly when we share our experiences and learning together. The ‘teacher’ usually shares from his or her experiences, but others can do also. So the more that our ministry education fosters mutuality, the more we can learn from one another.
We call this open education, or open ministry education. It is open to everyone and everyone can be involved. It is not just for leaders. Our leaders can help us, but their main job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12). We can do these things in classes, small groups, seminars, training courses and home or church groups.
This issue of the Renewal Journal looks at some Australian books.
Heart of Fire by Barry Chant
Adelaide: House of Tabor, 1984, 382 pages.
Dr Barry Chant has written the only comprehensive history of Pentecostalism in Australia. The 1973 edition, updated and expanded in 1984, makes fascinating reading. Every college and Christian education centre should have one. Every minister and leader in renewal needs to be aware of its story and heed its advice.
The revised edition includes twelve sermons by Pentecostal pioneers and has twenty pages of historical photographs. It also tells of the beginnings of charismatic renewal in denominational churches and in inter-church activities.
Subsequent printing and the revised edition enabled the author to correct any errors in the account and add valuable information. He wrote, ‘Not everyone apprecaited the ‘warts and all’ approach. To those who have complained that I have been too ‘honest’, I can only answer that I know of no other way to write. On the other hand, there have been widespread comments of appreciation, including many from outside the Pentecostal movement, for ‘telling it like it is’.
It tells the story of failure as well as success, of God’s grace and power amid human weakness and faithfulness. Pentecostalism has been and continues to be controversial. It must be. Wherever God’s Spirit moves in power the evil in us and in society is confronted. Pentecostalism itself is confronted, for like every movement it can lose its heart of fire and needs constant renewal (GW).
Dr Andrew Evans, General superintendent of the Assemblies of God writes, Barry Chant is one of the leading Pentecostal ministers in Australia. … This book, I would consider as being one of the best that he has written. It is a unique record in which he has set down in accurate detail the history of the Pentecostal movement in Australia from its beginnings until now. It is the only one of its kind in print. I find it to be inspiring and filled with many interesting anecdotes. It also has an element of teaching in it; if the Pentecostal churches were to study it in depth it would help them in the future from making some of the mistakes of the past. I have been personally blessed as I have read this outstanding account and it is my special joy to commend this book to those who are intereted in what God has done and is continuing to do through the Pentecostal movement.
The Spirit in the Church by Adrian Commadeur
East Keilor: Comsoda Communications, 1992, 143 pages.
A book about Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Australia reviewed by John Wilson, in Jesus is Alive, February 1993.
What? Another book on the Renewal? Aren’t our prayer groups’ tables already overladen with books? But hold on a minute. How many are locally produced and with the common touch as we know it? How many leave us with the feeling, ‘Wow, we really have got something here!’
The author of The Spirit in the Church outlines the story of the Renewal in Australia with special reference to his involvement in Melbourne following his eight years as a Redemptorist student. He takes us back to the 1970’s when the ‘new thing the Lord was doing’ was like new fire among us. This is a timely reminder of our younger and fervent days.
The reader is taken on the spiritual journey with Adrian the young man and ‘New Australian’ who makes discoveries about the Lord, about the Church, about Scripture, about himself. It is also the story of many of us who have been around since those days. This reader knows personally many of the circumstances and personalities mentioned. This gives the book authenticity. Adrian explains the workings of the Holy Spirit and the consequent happenings in the prayer groups and beyond. He explains with precision and sensitivity.
We may read here of the authoritative backing given to the Renewal by recent Popes and National Bishops Conferences. We read of Covenant Communities, of miracles and above all of joy in the midst of a Church otherwise in turmoil.
My question after reading the book was: ‘What other section of the Church in our day has contributed as much as the Charismatic Renewal to the Church?’ What a treasure we have, is my final reaction to reading this book. And perhaps the challenge to each of us is to appreciate ever more the treasure of Charismatic Renewal as we have it now, lest we say with shame later on, ‘Surely Yahweh was in this place and I never knew.’ I am referring to the fact that the Lord has done marvellous things already for those prepared to see. What might He do in the future?
Available from the author, 15 Holly Green Court, East Keilor, Vic 3033, Phone/Fax (03) 337 2051. Cost $12.50 posted.
Streams of Renewal, edited by Robert Bruce
Sydney: Uniting Church Board of Mission, 1991, 92 pages.
Here is a book of inspiration and encouragement concerning charismatic renewal in the Uniting Church, especially in New South Wales.
Part I, the first 22 pages, includes a summary of the developments of the healing and charismatic streams in the Uniting Church, written jointly by Don Evans, Don Drury and Robert Bruce. It is an invaluable historical record of these significant developments.
Part II gives the personal journeys of twenty people (photographs included) whose lives have been deeply transformed by these streams of renewal. Some of these people have become well known nationally, including Sue Armstrong, Don Evans, Harry Westcott, Audrey Drury, Con Stamos, Alan Robinson and Peter Savage.
Are you looking for a book to give your friends about the significance of charismatic renewal in Australia? Here’s one. It’s available at $6 ($8 including postage) from the Uniting Church Board of Mission, PO Box E178, St James, NSW 2000. Ph (02) 285 4584.
Word and Spirit by Alison J Sherington
Published in Brisbane by the author, 1992, 38 pages Republished by Renewal Journal Publications, 2011.
Reviewed by James Brecknell, in Journey, November 1992:
Alison Sherington’s Word and Spirit has the potential to bring healing to Christian disunity concerning the role of the Holy Spirit. The booklet is subtitled Coming to Terms with the Charismatic Movement, ‘and is intended as an encouragement to be both faithful to the Word and open to the Spirit.’
Word and Spirit addresses many of the questions produced by confusion about the Word of God. Confusion seems so unnecessary in the light of Alison Sherrington’s writing. She shows that the truth of God is clear.
Her booklet clarifies topics such as the role of experiences of the Holy Spirit, problems of terminology, the desire to be baptized and filled with the Spirit, and the modern position on spiritual gifts.
The author reinforces the need for the people of God to have the right attitude to the Holy Spirit. She writes that we need to be open to God, and this means being ready to change, ready to understand the empowering of the Holy Spirit as a means for glorifying God. We should seek the Giver more than the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts are for his glory. Openness enables a living knowledge of the unity of Word and Spirit.
These reviews of the first issue of the Renewal Journal are written by Rev Dr Lewis Born, a former Director of the Department of Christian Education and Moderator in the Uniting Church in Queensland, and the Rev Prof. James Haire, Principal of Trinity Theological College and Dean of the Brisbane College of Theology.
Lewis Born wrote:
Renewal is no longer a matter of speculation. It will be recorded as one of the most significant faith history phenomena of all time. The Global Village factor makes this revival the most comprehensive international social and religious phenomena ever known.
To those who remain untouched or unexposed to renewal theology and events may I suggest that Geoff Waugh’s editorship of the Renewal Journal is a good step towards being more informed and possibly persuaded to the point of being involved, even to being a corrector of its course.
Future students of both social and church history will be surprised, both at the facts and at those who slept through them. Professor Walter Hollenweger (Missiology, Birmingham) has stated, ‘a movement which represents more or at least as many members as all other Protestant denominations taken together can no longer be considered a fringe topic in church history, missiology and systematic theology.’
Among those who still sleep are members, clergy and leaders of orthodoxy who see themselves as defenders of the faith against this threat of enthusiasm and ‘unnecessary extremes’ to traditional faith, practice and theology. Tradition and orthodoxy need to be re-defined. If New Testament Christianity is the orthodox, then what claims to be twentieth century orthodoxy may be labelled by future theological historians as in fact deviant.
No doubt some of the renewal theological emphasis runs into error, if not enthusiastic heresy. Some of its worship forms and practice are too subjective and unbalanced for my limited taste. There are many charlatans. But who would claim that contemporary ‘orthodox’ faith and practice were free of phonies and heresy?
Contemporary renewal is one of the most significant events in the history of Christianity. Don’t do a ‘Rip Van Winkle’.
James Haire wrote:
Dr Geoff Waugh, an expert in Renewal Studies over many years, has begun editing an important Australian Journal which is unique in that it gathers together renewal material from the many church groups throughout Australia and overseas.
The first issue was published in the summer of 1993 and has articles ranging from an historical view of revival movements throughout history by Geoff Waugh himself to more specific accounts or revival experiences in Arnhem Land among the Aboriginal people of Australia by Dr Djiniyini Gondarra.
There are also significant articles by Stuart Robinson, J Edwin Orr, and material from John Greenfield. In this issue all of them are centred on the theme of revival. In addition, there is material on Renewal Studies in Australia and reviews of recent books on Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.
The Journal is breaking important new ground by linking renewal with ecumenical fellowship primarily throughout Australia. For that reason it is quite a new contribution in this area.
I warmly commend this fresh and ground-breaking enterprise. It looks as if it will play an important part in the Christian Church throughout this country.
Living in the Spirit, by Geoff Waugh
Melbourne: Joint Board of Christian Education, 1987, 80 pages. 2nd revised and enlarged edition 2009, Renewal Journal Publications
Review by Bishop Owen Dowling.
Many Australian Christians have experienced renewal in the Holy Spirit. Yet it would be true to say that those church members enthusiastic about renewal are often a small group within a parish, frustrated because the parish, in its overall life and direction, does not seem to be renewed.
The Joint Board of Christian Education has produced a book of eight studies on the Holy Spirit and the Christian life called Living in the Spirit. The author is Geoff Waugh, Director of Distance Education at the U.C.A.’s Trinity Theological College in Brisbane.
The assumption is that each study will take two hours, but the suggestion is made in the excellent guidelines at the beginning of the book that the course may be spread over sixteen sessions with only half the material in each chapter being attempted at each study session.
I find the study material to be balanced in theological emphasis and exceptionally well orgasnized and presented. A relavitely large group, say a parish camp as a whole, or a group meeting in the parish centre, could handle the studies, with small group activity taken as part of the operation of the whole to allow closer interaction. On the other hand I can see that the handbook would work well in a smaller home group, though I would recommend the sixteen study approach in this case.
There is a balanced approach to the controversial matter of the gifts of the Spirit. I find myself opposed to that kind of teaching which treats the list of gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 as an exhaustive list – the 9 gifts – because Paul alters the list when he gives it again in verse 28 of the same chapter. Living in the Spirit takes a wider perspective on the gifts, following Robert Hillman and his list of 27 Spiritual Gifts (see his book of that title also published by the J. B. C. E.). Hillman finds biblical evidence for 27 spiritual gifts which we should expect to see operative in the church, and rightly divides them (following 1 Peter 4:10-11) into Speaking Gifts and Serving Gifts.
The study techniques used in the book are specific and helpful. There is a good understanding of group dynamics, and exercises provided where possible answers are listed so that group members have something to start with. Bald questions without any suggested answers are often daunting; the method here seems to be one of easing people in to dealing with biblical material, and sharing their own experience along with this. Some study books go one way or the other – all on biblical references, or all experiential; this book combines both.
One feature I like of the studies is that in each one there is a ‘Voices from History’ section, with apt quotes from members of the Body of Christ from such writers as Tertullian, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Francis of Assissi, Charles Finney and David du Plessis. The studies thus connect into the wider life, thought and practice of the church family, and are the richer as a result.
Those seeking to lead their parishes down a path of spiritual renewal with strong practical overtones and outcomes should look carefully at Living in the Spirit.
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 7-14.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
_____________________________ more people are praying and more people are being reached for Jesus Christ than ever before _____________________________
The last decade of the twentieth century was seen as a decade of evangelism and harvest. It capped a century of astounding church growth.
We can thank the Lord for it, and pray all the more earnestly for over two-thirds of the world yet to be won to Christ. Praying makes a huge difference. We co‑operate with God in prayer as the Spirit of the Lord moves in mighty power in the earth.
More people are praying now for revival than ever before. You can be one. So can your prayer group and your church.
Mission statistician David Barrett, researched the magnitude of the prayer movement, noted that be the end of the twentieth century more than 170 million Christians were committed to praying every day for spiritual awakening and world evangelization. In addition, more than 10 million prayer groups focus on those priorities. Over 20 million Christians worldwide believe their primary ministry calling is to pray daily for revival and for fulfilment of the Great Commission.
Such massive praying, including yours, is linked with incredible church growth around the world.
Peter Wagner’s research described Latin American Evangelicals growing from 50,000 in 1900 to over 5 million in the 1950s, over 10 million in the 1960s, over 20 million in the 1970s, around 50 million by the end of the eighties and 137 million by 2000. Over 100 new churches begin every week. Now the church in Latin America grows at over 10,000 every day, or 3.5 million a year.
Africa saw church growth from 10 million in 1900 to over 200 million by the early eighties, with 400 by 2000. Christians grew from 9% to 50% of Africa in the twentieth century. Around 25,000 to 30,000 are added to the church daily in Africa, an estimated 10 million a year.
China, with 1 million evangelicals in 1950, has seen growth to an estimated 100 million. In 1992 the State Statistical Bureau of China indicated that there were 75 million Christians in China (Asian Report 197, Oct/Nov 1992, p. 9). David Yonggi Cho now estimates 100 million Christians in China’s 960 million population amid incredible persecution. Current growth rates are estimated at 35,000 a day or over 12 million a year.
South Korea, a Buddhist country in 1900, had 20% Christian by 1980 and 30% by 1990 with estimates of 50% by 2000. David Yonggi Cho heads a church of over 800,000 members with over 25,000 home groups and over 12,000 new members every month. They have sent out 10,000 missionaries and commenced many other huge churches.
An official report of the former Soviet Union in 1990 acknowledged that 90 million of its 290 million inhabitants confessed allegiance to a church or religious community (Worldwide Photos Limited, Renewing Australia, June 1990, p. 38). Christians estimate that over 97 million are converted in Russia, that is one third of the population (Pratney 1984:273).
One quarter of Indonesia is now reported to be Christian. These islands have seen many revivals and people movements such as in 1965 amid political turmoil when over 100,000 animistic Muslims became Christian on the island of Java alone. Revival continues there.
Reports indicate that more Muslims have come to Christ in the past decade than in the previous thousand years. ‘New believers are immediately tested to a degree incomprehensible to us. Many are imprisoned and some have been martyred by governments or relatives. Yet the persecution seems only to strengthen their determination and boldness. In one country, where all Christian meetings are illegal, believers rented a soccer stadium and 5,000 people gathered. Police came to disperse the meeting and left in confusion when the Christians refused to leave’ (United Prayer Track News, No. 1, Brisbane, 1993).
1700 unevangelized people groups worldwide in the mid-seventies had been reduced to 1200 by 1990, and further reduced to 5,500 in 1993. David Wang of Asian Outreach estimates that these unreached people groups can all be reached by 1997.
The ‘Jesus’ Film, based on Luke’s gospel, has been seen by an estimated 503 million people in 197 countries, and 33 million or more have indicated decisions for Christ as a result. It has more than 6,300 prints in circulation and around 356,000 video copies. The world’s most widely translated film, Jesus, has been dubbed into more than 240 languages, with 100 more in progress (National & International Religion Report, May 3, 1993, p.1).
The CBNTV (Christian Broadcasting Network) 700 Club with Pat Robertson reported 6 million conversions in their work worldwide in 1990, which was more than the previous 30 years of results combined.
John Naisbitt, secular sociologist and author of ‘Megatrends’ (1982), has coauthored ‘Megatrends 2000’ (1990) in which one chapter forecasts religious revivals in the nineties including widespread charismatic renewal. He notes that one fifth, or 10 million, of America’s 53.5 million Catholics then called themselves charismatics, emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
David Barrett research has uncovered the massive growth of the number of Pentecostal/charismatic Christians. His figures indicate growth from its beginnings in 1900 to 550 million by 2000. Pentecostal/charismatic Christians are now more than one third of all practicing Christians in the world today, just one indication of how the Spirit of God is moving.
The Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal group in the world, grew from 4.5 million in 1975 to over 13 million by 1985 and 16 million by 1990. By the decade of the nineties it was the largest or second largest Protestant denomination in 30 countries.
Much of the amazing church growth results from visitations or outpourings of the Spirit of God. Leaders, pastors or evangelists are surprised and often overwhelmed. Rapid church growth has happened before, but never on such a large scale as now.
Such amazing growth is accompanied by fervent prayer, and usually grows out of earnest praying. People repent and turn to God. Lives are changed in large numbers. It makes a significant impact on society. Signs and wonders are common, as in the New Testament.
Revival and church growth
Church history and current revivals include times when God moves in great power. Revivals often result in rapid church growth.
* The early church saw it. Read Acts! At Pentecost 3,000 were won in one day. Soon after that there were 5,000 more. Then great multitudes of men and women. They had the reputation of turning their world upside down (Acts 17:6).
* Missionary expansion continued to see it. For example, Patrick in Ireland and Augustine in England saw strong moves of God and thousands converted with many signs and wonders reported.
* The Moravians saw it. On Wednesday 13 August 1727 the Moravian colony in Germany was filled with the Spirit at their communion service. Their leader, 27 year old Count Nicholas Zinzendorf, said it was like being in heaven. Within 25 years they sent out 100 missionaries, more than all the Protestants had done in two centuries.
* The American colonies saw it. 50,000 were converted in 17345. Jonathan Edwards described the characteristics of that move as, first, an extraordinary sense of the awful majesty, greatness and holiness of God, and second, a great longing for humility before God and adoration of God.
* 1739 saw astonishing moves of God in England. On 1st January the Wesleys and Whitefield and 60 others, Methodists and Moravians, met in London for prayer and a love feast. The Spirit of God moved powerfully on them all. Many fell to the ground, resting in the Spirit. In February 1739 Whitefield started preaching to the Kingswood coal miners in the open fields with about 200 attending. By March 20,000 attended. Whitefield invited Wesley to take over then and so in April Wesley began his famous open air preaching (which continued for 50 years).
* John Hunt, a pioneering Methodist missionary in Fiji, wrote in his journal about revival there in October 1845. The Spirit fell on the people in meetings and in their homes. There were loud cries of repentance, confession, long meetings, simultaneous praying aloud, and some being overwhelmed. ‘Many cases of conversion were as remarkable as any we have heard or read of: many of the penitents had no command whatever of themselves for hours together, but were completely under the influence of their feelings. … During the first week of the revival nearly 100 persons professed to obtain the forgiveness of sins, through faith in Jesus Christ. Some were exceedingly clear, others not so clear’ (Birtwhistle 1954:133).
* Jeremiah Lanphier, a city missioner, began a weekly noon prayer meeting in New York in September 1857. By October it grew into a daily prayer meeting attended by many businessmen. By March 1858 newspapers carried front page reports of over 6,000 attending daily prayer meetings in New York and Pittsburgh, and daily prayer meetings were held in Washington at five different times to accommodate the crowds. By May 1859, 50,000 of New York’s 800,000 people were new converts. New England was profoundly changed by the revival and in several towns no unconverted adults could be found! Charles Finney preached in those days.
* During September 1857, the same month the prayer meetings began in New York, four young Irishmen commenced a weekly prayer meeting in a village school near Kells. That is generally seen as the start of the Ulster revival of 1859 which brought 100,000 converts into the churches of Ireland.
* Throughout 1859 the same deep conviction and lasting conversions revived thousands of people in Wales, England and Scotland. One tenth of Wales became new converts. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Baptist prince of preachers, saw 1859 as the high water mark although he had already been preaching in London for five years with great blessing and huge crowds in a church where people prayed continually and had seen continual growth.
Twentieth Century Awakenings
* From October 1904 Evan Roberts in his twenties, formerly a miner and blacksmith, saw God move powerfully in answer to his and others’ persistent prayers. 100,000 were converted in Wales during 19045. Churches filled from 10 am till after midnight every day for two years, bringing profound social change to Wales.
* William Seymour began a Mission at Azusa Street in Los Angeles on Easter Saturday, 14 April 1906 with about 100 attending, both blacks and whites. It grew out of a cottage prayer meeting. Revival there drew people from around the nation and overseas and launched Pentecostalism as a world wide movement.
* Revival in Korea swept the nation in 1907. Presbyterian missionaries, hearing of revival in Wales, prayed earnestly for the same in Korea. 1500 representatives gathered for the annual New Year Bible studies in which a spirit of prayer broke out. The leaders allowed everyone to pray aloud simultaneously as so many were wanting to pray. That became a characteristic of Korean prayer meetings. Revival continues there now.
* The famous cricketer and missionary, C T Studd reported on revival in the Belgian Congo in 1914: ‘The whole place was charged as if with an electric current. Men were falling, jumping, laughing, crying, singing, confessing and some shaking terribly. … This particular one can best be described as a spiritual tornado. People were literally flung to the floor or over the forms, yet no one was hurt. … As I led in prayer the Spirit came down in mighty power sweeping the congregation. My whole body trembled with the power. We saw a marvellous sight, people literally filled and drunk with the Spirit’ (W.E.C. 1954:1215; Pratney 1984:267).
* The famous East African revival began in Rwanda in June 1936 and rapidly spread to the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Uganda and the Congo (now Zaire), then further around. The Holy Spirit moved upon mission schools, spread to churches and to whole communities, producing deep repentance and changed lives. Anglican Archdeacon Arthur Pitt-Pitts wrote in September, ‘I have been to all the stations where this Revival is going on, and they all have the same story to tell. The fire was alight in all of them before the middle of June, but during the last week in June, it burst into a wild flame which, like the African grass fire before the wind, cannot be put out’ (Osborn 1991:21).
* God moved upon the mountain town of Soe in Timor on Sunday 26 September 1965. That night people heard the sound of a tornado wind and flames above the Reformed Church building prompted police to set off the fire alarm. Healings and evangelism increased dramatically. Hundreds of thousands were converted. About 90 evangelistic teams were formed which functioned powerfully with spiritual gifts. The first team saw 9,000 people converted in two weeks in one town alone. In the first three years of this revival 200,000 became Christians in Timor, and on another small island where few had been Christians 20,000 became believers.
* God’s power visited Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, on Tuesday 3 February 1970 at the regular morning chapel commencing at 10 o’clock. The auditorium filled with over 1,000 people. Few left for meals. By midnight over 500 still remained praying and worshipping. Several hundred committed their lives to Christ that day. Teams of students visited 16 states and saw several thousand conversions through their witnessing in one week. Over 1,000 teams went out in the first six weeks.
* The Jesus Movement exploded in 1971 among hippie and counter culture youth in America in the early seventies. Thousands were baptized in the ocean. Vital new groups like Calvary Chapel led by Chuck Smith emerged and multiplied rapidly. Newspapers of the movement included the Hollywood Free Paper which grew from a circulation of 10,000 to over 150,000 in two years; Truth merged with Agape and printed 100,000. Right On! grew from 20,000 to 100,000 circulation (Pratney 1984:231).
* In 1971 Bill McLeod, a Canadian Baptist pastor, invited the twin evangelists Ralph and Lou Sutera to speak at his church in Saskatoon. Revival broke out with their visit which began on Wednesday 13 October. By the weekend an amazing spirit gripped the people. Many confessed their sins publicly. Meetings had to be moved to the Civic Auditorium seating 2000. This spread to other churches as well.
* In September 1973 Todd Burke arrived in Cambodia on a one week visitor’s visa, later extended. Just 23 years old, he felt a strong call from God to minister there. By the end of September he had seen hundreds healed and saved. A virile church grew rapidly, later buried after the communist coup of 1975. By 1978 a million Cambodians had been killed. Still the decimated church survives, and is growing again.
* In 1977 John Wimber began pastoring a fellowship which his wife Carol had begun in their home. Their Vineyard Fellowship grew rapidly with their prayerful worship, powerful evangelism and a growing healing ministry. On Mother’s Day in May, 1981, a young man gave his testimony at the evening service and called on the Holy Spirit to come in power. Revival broke out at that service as hundreds were dramatically filled with the Spirit. In the next four months they baptized 700 new converts. The church grew to 5,000 in a decade and commenced many other Vineyard fellowships.
* The church in China continues to see God’s strong move amid great persecution, torture and killing which still continues. David Wang tells of a pastor imprisoned for over 22 years who left behind a church of 150 people scattered through the hill villages in northern China. On his release in the 1980s he discovered the church in that area had grown to 5,000. Three years later it had trebled to 15,000. Evangelists who saw 3040 converted in each village they visited in the eighties now report 300400 or more being converted in their visits. Some villages are experiencing a visitation of God where the whole village becomes Christian.
* Nagaland, a state in the NorthEast of India, began to experience revival in the 1960s and has continued in revival. By the early 1980s 85% of the population had become Christians (Mills 1990:40).
* Missionaries were expelled from Burma in the 1960s but the church continues to grow. A baptismal service at the Kachin Baptist Centenial Convention in 1977 saw 6,000 people baptised in one day.
* During the 1980s the 200 missionaries of the Philippine Missionary Fellowship each organised daily prayer group meetings at 7.00 pm to pray for the growth of the church. They report that within a couple of years this directly resulted in the formation of 310 new churches (Robinson 1992:13).
* Revival has been spreading in the Pacific islands, especially in the Solomons since JulyAugust 1970 when God moved powerfully in the nation, especially in meetings with Muri Thompson a Maori evangelist. The Spirit came in power, producing deep and loud repentance, much confession, signs and wonders, and transformed churches. Teams have gone from the Solomons to many other countries, sparking many other revivals.
* Engas in the Baptist mission area of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea had a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Sunday 16 September 1973, as the village pastors preached in their services after attending meetings during the previous week led by visitors from the Solomon Islands. Many were saved. Many were delivered from evil spirits. Many were healed. The church grew rapidly.
* The Huli speaking people of the United Church in Tari in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea also experienced revival from August 1974, with much confession, many tears, and deliverance from spirit powers. That revival spread to surrounding areas also.
* On Thurdsay afternoon 10 March, 1977 at Duranmin near the West Irian border of Papua New Guinea, Diyos Wapnok the principal of the Baptist Bible College spoke to about 50 people. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and great joy. Keith and Joan Bennet of Gateway were there. 3,000 were converted in the next three years. They had daily prayer meetings in the villages and many healings and miracles.
* Aborigines in Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, in northern Australia, experienced revival from Wednesday 14 March 1979. Djiniyini Gondarra had returned from holidays that day and people met in his manse for prayer that night where the Spirit fell on them, as at Pentecost. They met all night and many were filled with the Spirit and many healed. The movement spread rapidly from there throughout Arnhem Land.
* In the Sepik lowlands of northern Papua New Guinea a visitation of God burst on the churches at Easter 1984, sparked again by Solomon Island pastors. There was repentance, confession, weeping and great joy. Stolen goods were returned or replaced, and wrongs made right.
* Jobson Misang, an indigenous youth worker in the United Church reported on a move of God in the North Solomons Province of Papua New Guinea in 1988. For 8 weekends straight he led camps where 3,500 took part and 2,000 were converted.
* The Evangelist Training Centre of the Lutheran church in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea had a visitation of God on Thursday night 4 August 1988. Crowds stayed up most of the night as the Spirit touched people deeply, many resting in the Spirit, others praying in tongues. Students went out on powerful mission igniting fires of the Spirit in the villages.
* On Saturday 6 May 1989 the Spirit of God fell on Waritzian village in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands. For three days the people were drunk in the Spirit. Healing and miracles occurred. On the Monday they burned their magic and witchcraft fetishes. The area had been a stronghold of spirit worship. Students from the Lutheran Training Centre were involved that weekend.
Harvest in the 1990s
* In the 1980s Christians in East Germany started to form small prayer groups of ten to twelve persons to pray for peace. By October 1989, 50,000 people were involved in Monday night prayer meetings. In 1990, when these praying people moved quietly into the streets, their numbers swelled to 300,000 and the wall came down (Robinson 1992:14).
* In the former U.S.S.R. there were 640 registered Pentecostal churches and many more unregistered. By the eighties 30,000 young people were meeting together in Poland to seek for the power of the Holy Spirit (Pratney 1984:273). Those numbers continue to expand in the nineties.
* Pastor Giedrius Saulytis of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, tells how after his conversion in 1987 he commenced a church which had 15 people in 1989. In 1993 that church has 60 home cells with 1,500 attending services, 800 being registered members. They have started three other churches, one of which now has 1,000 attending. Every week preachers from their church preach 20 times in 12 different cities in Lithuania (Church Growth, Spring 1993, p. 19).
* In a 1991 crusade in Leningrad 70,000 out of 90,000 attending made commitments to Christ. Russian delegates to the July, 1991, charismatic leaders conference in Brighton, England, reported on the amazing growth of the church in Russia (ARMA Brisbane Newsletter, Sept/Oct 1991).
* A Moscow conference with Pastor Cho of Seoul, Korea, held in June, 1992, at the Kremlin and a plaza nearby, attracted over 40,000 participants. Among them were 15,000 new converts (Church Growth, Winter 1992, p. 12).
* Chaplains in the Gulf War told of thousands of conversions and baptisms among the American troops from September 1990 to January 1991. 10,000 conversions were reported.
* Christians in Iran have recently grown in number from 2,700 to over 12,000 according to Abe Ghaffari of Iranian Christians International. An additional 12,000 Iranian Christians live in Western nations. Disillusionment with harsh Islamic law has opened Iran to the Gospel (United Prayer Track News, No. 1., Brisbane, 1993).
* Harvest has begun among the Kurds who have been hounded into refugee camps where Christians have helped and comforted them. The first Kurdish church in history has resulted. Many Kurds are open to the Gospel (United Prayer Track News, No. 1, Brisbane, 1993).
* In 1990 a bloodless revolution freed Mongolia from Russian rule. Within two years more than 500 people became Christian in that formerly resistant nation. A young girl was the first in her area to accept Christ. Now she reports that 70 others are meeting every week with her.
* The church in the Sudan is suffering under Islamic edicts. Missionaries are expelled, pastors imprisoned, and Christians persecuted. Despite the persecution there has been phenomenal church growth reported, especially in the south and the Nuba mountains region.
* A church leader wrote from Asaba, Nigeria, in 1992, telling how their church had increased from 700 to 3,200 within 6 months. A team of just over 100 went on outreach, first in Sokoto State where they started 5 churches involving 1,225 converts within 3 months. Then they went to Bomu State where 3 branches were planted with over 1,000 converts in all. Many Moslems were converted. He added,
When we reached Kano which is a Moslem state, we were able to preach for 2 weeks. Suddenly, the 3rd week, we were attacked, beaten and our property looted including our Bibles. Out of the 105 persons with me, 85 of them were killed, 17 mercilessly maimed (hands cut off). Only three escaped unharmed. I was beaten to unconsciousness, and imprisoned for 6 months without a hearing. After returning home, I was sued by some of the families of those who died in the outreach. Finally, I am particularly grateful to God that the Church of God is marvellously marching on in these three states. Praise the Lord! (Church Growth, Autumn 1992, p. 23).
* The church in previously resistant Nepal in the Himalayas is growing steadily. David Wang tells of a former Lama priest nicknamed Black Bravery, who has been an illiterate pastor for 15 years. By the nineties he led 43 fellowships with a total of 32,000 people. Another pastor in a remote area has 40,000 Christians in his region. Most conversions in Nepal involve casting out demons to set people free (Asian Report, May/June 1991).
* In October-November 1990, one small island in Indonesia saw 30,000 converted and 45,000 were baptized in another region in January-February 1991. This growth is among former animistic Muslims.
* Ruth Rongo from Vanuatu told of three months of evangelism ministry in 1991 where the power of God touched many villages and shocked the villagers with miracles just as in the New Testament. The church grew rapidly. Ruth was then involved in a prayer group which met after the Sunday night service. They began at 10.30 pm and prayed every week to 1 or 3.30 am
* John and Barbara Hutton were missionaries with the Huli people of Tari in Papua New Guinea. In April, 1993, Barbara wrote, ‘We have recently been to P.N.G. again. We were blessed to be part of a Youth Camp. I have never seen such exuberant and joyous worship among the Huli people before. There is a fresh move of the Spirit occurring. The highlight of the trip was the baptism of 100 young people in Tari when the Holy Spirit fell on the group before they even stepped into the water. A youth group of 6 there just last December was about 400 strong before we left late January. God moved through Huli university students home on holidays.’
* Eric Alexander of the Bible Society in India wrote in 1993, ‘I was in Amedabad in the month of February and was delighted to see a great revival in the Church there. I was surprised to hear that 30,000 people have accepted the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour in the Diocese of Gujarat (Church of North India). Thousands of new converts are in the Methodist, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and Pentecostal churches. There are thousands and thousands!’ (Sharing Australia, SOMA Newsletter, March 1993, p. 2).
* Fresh touches of God’s Spirit have been felt in Australia in 1993. It is only a beginning, but thank God for every touch of the Lord.
During May and June the Christian Outreach Centres experienced a strong move of the Spirit, with much repenting, and many resting in the Spirit or drunk in the Spirit for hours, or days. Many have received visions and prophetic insights, including young people and children in the schools. Beginning at their headquarters in Brisbane it spread to their churches. It brought a new zeal for evangelism and outreach.
Gateway Baptist Church moved into its new 1500 seat auditorium in 1993 (the former Queensland Expo Pavilion from Expo 1988), with around 1200 attending and more involved in their 4050 prayer groups, cell groups and outreach groups than ever before.
Networks of small home churches are also forming now. Perth, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane all have clusters of house churches or emerging networks which are linked for fellowship and accountability. These too are increasing in Australia.
Informal prayer groups as well as organized prayer groups of churches and Christian organisations continue to multiply as never before. This is true in Australia also. Much of this prayer involves a new commitment to repentance and revival.
Every revival move is born in prayer personal prayer, prayer cells, prayer groups, prayer meetings, prayer in church, prayer in the car (with your eyes open!), prayer in bed, prayer with friends, prayer on the phone, prayer with people of other churches, pastors of different churches praying together, combined churches prayer meetings.
David Bryant, founder president of Concerts of Prayer International, suggests practical steps we can take in response to the phenomenal developments around the world (National & International Religion Report, May 1992, pp. 78):
1. Believe that God wants revival. Pray with faith and vision.
2. Join a small prayer group. Share the vision. Set the pace.
3. Work at integrating the prayer movement. Consider four ‘C’ areas: closet prayer personal prayer life; cluster prayer in small group settings; congregational prayer when an entire church meets to pray; concerts of prayer inter-church prayer meetings and rallies.
4. Seek out ‘pools of renewal’ in churches and organizations in your area, especially those praying for revival. Find ways to flow together and encourage one another.
5. Be equipped in your prayer life. Many resources are available (including this journal!). Share these resources together.
6. Get involved in a communication network. That will keep you informed. Note the renewal resources listed in this journal.
7. Visit places where prayer is flourishing. Talk to the leaders and bring reports to your own group.
8. Most importantly, don’t give up. We inherit the promises by faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12).
* Peter Wagner reported an example of prayer in Latin America. Arturo Arias, the pastor of an 800member church Centro Misionero El Sembrador in El Salvador, spoke at a meeting of church leaders in Guatamala. Wagner writes:
He told us how his church has received an unusual burden from God for extended prayer and that they responded by scheduling a 24 hour prayer meeting. They received such a blessing from God that they then attempted a 48hour meeting. God continued to pour out His presence and power.
Could they extend it and keep the church open for 7 days and nights of continuous prayer? They did, and the anointing increased. The day before Pastor Arturo left for our meeting his church had concluded a 10day continuous prayer meeting!
As he finished his address he said, half in jest, that his people were so enthusiastic about prayer that they were asking, ‘Can we have a month long prayer meeting?’ I immediately approached him privately and said, ‘How about challenging the Centro Misionero El Sembrador to become the first church to commit to an all month24 hour a day prayer meeting through October 1993?’
Arturo Arias replied, ‘I can easily speak for my church on this matter. Consider it done! We are committed to 31 days of continuous prayer next October!
What a challenge to the rest of us! (Prayer Track News, Sept-Dec, 1992)
So, pray without ceasing. We live in a time when more people are praying and more people are being reached for Jesus Christ than ever before. May God find us responsive as we watch and pray.
Birtwhistle, A (1954) In His Armour. London: Cargate
Burke, T & D (1977) Anointed for Burial. Seattle: Frontline.
Koch, K (n.d.) The Revival in Indonesia. Evangelization Publishers.
Mills, B (1990) Preparing for Revival. Eastbourne: Kingsway.
Osborn, H H (1991) Fire in the Hills. Crowborough: Highland.
Pratney, W (1984) Revival. Springdale: Whitaker House.
Richardson, D (1981) Eternity in Their Hearts. Ventura: Regal.
Robinson, S (1992) ‘Praying the Price’. Melbourne: ABMS
Tari, M (1971) Like a Mighty Wind. Carol Springs: Creation House.
Tari, M & N (1974) The Gentle Breeze of Jesus. Carol Springs:
Wagner, C P (1983) On the Crest of the Wave. Glendale: Regal
Wagner, C P (1986) Spiritual Power and Church Growth. London: Hodder & Stoughton.
Wagner, C P (1992) Prayer Shield. Ventura: Regal.
Watt, E S (n.d.) Floods on Dry Ground. Marshall, Morgan & Scott.
W.E.C. (1954) This is That. Christian Literature Crusade.
Further details of some of the revivals mentioned in this article are given in the article on ‘Revival Fire’ in the first issue of this Renewal Journal.
The Rev Jack Frewen-Lord, a Uniting Church minister was the founding pastor at Praise Chapel, Townsville, and former Associate Director of the Methodist Young People’s Department and Department of Christian Education in Queensland.
May our Lord stir us into courageous ministry
through the power of his Spirit
in his church and in our lives
‘Attempt something so big that unless God intervenes it is bound to fail’ says Jamie Buckingham. That challenge is one of the texts on the office wall in Praise Chapel.
I’d like to think that was the kind of goal I set for the Townsville West Parish in 1976 when I found myself there as pastor after serving for 12 years as Associate Director of the Methodist Young People’s Department and then the Department of Christian Education in Queensland.
I didn’t set such a goal. In fact, I concluded that the parish was not viable with its average age of 65 and a membership of 40 in an industrial area of decreasing population. Yet ten years later we had 450 people and had helped establish an aboriginal church as well.
My initial realistic agenda was to give the parish a decent burial, acknowledging its faithfulness over almost a century. My hidden agendas were more like fantasy than dreams and visions. As the Christian Education officer for the area, I saw an opportunity to experiment. I wanted to have a go at the different programs that I had tried for years to get other parishes to do, and I wanted to prove that team ministries can really work.
So I proposed that we amalgamate the parish work and the Christian Education ministry for the North Queensland Presbytery with one office and support base. Remarkably, this idea was totally accepted by all concerned. A creative team of ministers, education officer and secretary went to work on Townsville West.
Those poor parishioners could be forgiven for wondering what had hit them. Every service had something different. Each monthly Family Service was something else again from 8 metre plastic blowup whales that swallowed up all the Sunday School when the lesson was on Jonah, to moving back all the heavy wooden pews to accommodate a menagerie of huge stuffed animals with children wrestling them on the floor. I wondered whether the aged spinster ladies’ eyebrows would ever come down again.
We survived that first year. The team worked beautifully, sharing parish work and regional Christian Education activities together, including many camps. About then, we made some bold decisions such as focusing on the family. This seemed unrealistic as we had about four families of Dad, Mum, and children. Nevertheless we decided that church and Sunday School were for the family.
So the decree went out that no child would be accepted in the Sunday School unless accompanied by a parent. That raised more eyebrows. It quickly reduced the Sunday School to a third of its former handful.
At the same time, however, I made a commitment to introduce a cooperative Religious Education program which catered weekly for almost all the 900 pupils of four primary schools. We did this in cooperation with other churches and the school principals. It was a more useful Christian Education program than Sunday School. I believe it was a ministry which God honoured as Catholic, Anglican, Uniting, Salvation Army and Pentecostal people worked together in beautiful harmony. That program is still working after 14 years.
Speaking of families, I give credit to the tremendous backing of my own family with a very capable wife (who had seven leadership positions in the church at first) and four committed and musically talented children. Their charisma and music began to draw other young people. Many came in off the street bikie leathers, sun glasses and all.
The spinster ladies did not find it easy to accept some of the tattooed, tanktop, bare foot people who began to fill the seats at church. We encouraged the young people to love them as a real ministry. Soon these older ladies were clapping and praising as much as anyone.
It became obvious that we would not have a burial. The Body was coming alive. I can’t say we were very much aware of the Holy Spirit at this time, but we knew we had received the kiss of life.
So it was time to set some goals realistic ones for rebuilding a church. Our first was a five year plan to establish a biblical base through the Bethel Bible Series and to preach the Word in association with this. By the end of that five years the congregation had quadrupled with 80% involved in serious Bible study. We had many new converts.
We hosted a number of visiting ministries from within and outside Australia. One of the strangest things was that we did not invite these ourselves. They either asked if they might come, or other interstate churches asked if we could accommodate them. We did so with open arms, and were greatly blessed by the variety of ministries that kept moving us on to renewal. I believe it was a gracious provision of the Holy Spirit preparing us for his personal visitation at the right time.
When renewal begins to hit a church there tends to be hurts and divisions and walkouts. Some people find it hard to live with the new enthusiasm. We lost only one family for this reason.
One of the interesting factors holding the church family together was the overflowing offering plates. Instead of the meagre offering easily absorbed in the bottom of the huge offering plates, now the stewards found someone following down the aisle picking up the notes overflowing and falling off. That was manna to the hungry for those faithful members who had struggled to keep a church alive with cake stalls and endless fetes.
Now we were able to consider worth while missionary gifts. We set a new goal to establish an aboriginal church, beginning as a part of our congregation and then gradually working to independence. That was achieved in 1981 when the Rev. Charles Harris, our aboriginal pastor, was added to the team. The aboriginal church became independent in 1984, well within the five year plan, and the buildings at West End were handed over to this church.
I would say that 1981 was the time of the Holy Spirit’s visitation. Again, this was totally unplanned by us. A neighbouring parish, Hermit Park, had invited the Rev. Harry Westcott with a team of elders from O’Connor Uniting Church to hold a tent mission in their church grounds. We decided to support this mission totally. We did so, to our blessing. Many of our leaders, including myself, were baptized in the Holy Spirit. That mission gave a good watering to the seeds of renewal which had been planted by our various conscious and unconscious choices.
This was a major turning point for our parish. Instead of sticking to our nicely ordered, time prescribed worship, we allowed the Spirit to do what he wanted in the services. These were exciting days with further growth in numbers. We saw many healing miracles and the release of gifts of the Spirit.
We discovered again that the church is truly the body of Christ. Jesus Christ moves in his church, his body, by his Spirit. Our identity can only lie in Christ Jesus, not in buildings or places or communities. This is strongly seen in the underground churches overseas and especially in the vibrant house church movement throughout Asia.
Home cell groups
Our next phase of goal setting was to explore church growth principles. Our leaders attended seminars and visited other churches in renewal to catch the wind of the Spirit where it blew strongest.
We added another person to our staff. In biblical language, it seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit to separate Bruce, a young Bible College graduate, to the ministry of establishing home cell groups. I believe we were led by the Holy Spirit to make this a total program for the whole church.
Our members were commuting to West End from all over the city of Townsville. So we had a vision of the church in the neighbourhood meeting midweek in cell groups, evangelizing in the neighbourhood, then gathering for corporate fellowship, worship, teaching and the sacraments on Sundays.
We trained and dedicated home cell leaders. Our church in the neighbourhood was launched, with 80% of the congregation meeting in home groups which we named home church. They met for worship, prayer, pastoral care, teaching and fellowship. The church continued to grow.
Our lovely brick building on the corner became inadequate. We regularly squeezed 180 into the sanctuary built to hold 120. For a while we had two congregations there. So we decided to move to a kindergarten hall which was a converted warehouse that could hold 250. We wanted to make one congregation out of two and commit all our operation to one centre, leaving the West End property for the use of the aboriginal church.
With this extra space the church continued to grow. We decided to rename our church Praise Chapel Uniting Church Family Fellowship.
One of our early decisions in setting missionary goals was to spend as little as possible on buildings and to concentrate on people. We added a youth pastor to the team. A number of ministries were added to the weekly program, including counselling with prayer for deliverance.
Despite our good intentions not to spend money on buildings, it soon became obvious that we would need larger premises and car park facilities. We searched for a larger warehouse, unsuccessfully. So we finally decided that we should look for land to build on. After many weeks of earnest prayer, miraculously a five hectare block became available within the parish.
We held a dedication service in tents on the land with a commitment to build a centre to accommodate 1,000 people.
It was a daunting prospect. We faced a cost of half a million dollars with a bank balance of nothing. I must admit that my faith was severely tested. My heart is that of a pastor and I knew that almost every family in the church had a mortgage on their home.
Where was the money to come from? ‘There must be some financial Christians around who would be willing to invest in Praise Chapel,’ I reasoned.
So I took the project to a number of my friends and acquaintances who would be worth at least a million. The money of every single one was tied up, and unavailable. So we were back to basics!
God supplied through his faithful people in this low income congregation. Almost overnight they made $100,000 available in gifts and another $100,000 in interest free loans. Nine months later we opened the new Praise Chapel at a cost of $600,000. ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts’ (Zechariah 4:6).
Since that time, again and again, the faithful with their meagre income have shown that the Holy Spirit has taught them to give. Those who are faithfully committed to the principle of tithing have fully supported all our commitments.
Church growth principles
Someone studying the growth of our parish from a congregation of 40 in 1977 to 450 in 1987 would probably say we stumbled on church growth principles by accident. I prefer to believe it was openness to the Holy Spirit that led us to make right decisions at the right time. We were also able to learn from churches of various denominations that were moving in renewal.
The church growth movement of the 70’s and 80’s has had a marked effect on many churches in this nation. We did study church growth principles and organized seminars with international speakers. These had some influence on our thinking. Perhaps Kennon Callahan’s 12 Keys to an effective church encouraged us most. That enabled us to systematise our situation and helped us set mission objectives and a realistic five-year plan.
However, my own feeling is that we can over-emphasize organisation. The church is not primarily an organisation, but an organism, a body of believers. Unless its moves are God-breathed by the Holy Spirit, and unless there is utter dependence on the Holy Spirit, it will not move in truth and life.
By the early ’90s this church had plateaued at a membership of 450. Some of the cause of this is mere organisation. We constantly need a fresh move of the Holy Spirit.
A further observation is that only a handful of members remain who were here at the first move of the Spirit among us. The turnover of population in Townsville is 80% every three years. So we have almost a new congregation every three years. That makes heavy demands to continually train new leaders.
It is easy to slacken off and go soft on the need for fresh infillings of the Holy Spirit. We are always tempted to stay in a comfort zone. We can spend a lot of time comforting the afflicted in counselling and deliverance, when there may be a greater need to afflict the comfortable.
I know Jesus said he would send another Comforter to be with us, but that does not mean he makes us comfortable. None of Jesus’ leading or teaching has the remotest resemblance to being comfortable. I have found him to be the stirrer of the church, and we surely need a stirrer in every age and generation.
May our Lord stir us into courageous ministry through the power of his Spirit in his church and in our lives.
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 15-22.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
Dr Andrew Evans wrote as the senior pastor of the Assemblies of God church in Paradise, Adelaide, Australia, and national President of the Assemblies of God in Australia. The Paradise church has grown to over 3,500 people.
The Paradise church was one of the largest Assemblies of God churches in Australia with 200 attending when they called me to be the pastor in 1970. They had tried to get a pastor from Australia, New Zealand, and elsewhere, but had failed. As a last resort they asked me.
For seven years I had been a missionary in Papua New Guinea. The area where I worked had a population in which about 10 per cent could read and write. Similarly, in the churches that I oversaw 90 percent of the congregations were illiterate. Therefore my preaching had to be simple Bible stories, or in simple language.
Through a series of crises God led me back to Australia. It was a difficult struggle for my family and me. While in Papua New Guinea my wife contracted hepatitis and nearly died. I remember standing by her bedside praying to God to keep her alive. At times I would wake during the night and listen to see if she was still breathing.
There were other complications for her at that time including the trauma resulting from a python slithering into the bedroom where she lay sick in our native material house. At her scream I ran in to find the snake above the door. I didn’t know what to do, but with all my strength I hit it with a chair, demolishing the chair and killing the snake.
When we returned to Australia my wife became a little better but was still taking all kinds of drugs. This was my situation when Paradise church asked me to become their pastor. Some of the board members of Paradise church knew me before I became a missionary so were influential in my coming there.
Suddenly I had to minister to educated Australians after seven years of working with primitive people. Besides this, some people thought the church was headed towards failure as the attendance was gradually declining.
‘What am I going to do now?’ I wondered. ‘I have been in Papua New Guinea all these years and do not know how to preach to educated people.’ I worked hard work on every sermon. After one year the church attendance had decreased from 200 people to 150. I became very concerned.
When I began as the pastor of Paradise church I read a book called ‘How to have a Soul-winning Church’. The author started his church with 17 people and it grew to 2,000 through a door knocking program. Encouraged, I tried this program. Our church people were mobilized and went everywhere knocking on doors and inviting people to church. We had special literature printed to distribute. We knocked on one thousand doors, and talked to people personally, but not one person came to church as a result of this campaign.
Another thought occurred to me. We would have a healing crusade using a world renowned minister with a healing ministry. So we invited a famous evangelist. Our church advertised efficiently and distributed brochures. The brochures contained testimonies of people jumping out of wheelchairs and blind eyes opening. A banner outside the front of our church declared, ‘Come and see blind eyes opened, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the dumb speak.’ We were all ready for a revival.
Through this expensive crusade we received 12 converts. Not one of them stood publicly. They just signed decision cards. I regarded this method as a failure also.
Later I thought of another idea to make our church grow. I reasoned that I was just a pastor, an ordinary shepherd, not an evangelist. If I could find an associate minister who was a real evangelist then our church would surely grow. We invited an evangelist friend of mine to be my associate. He declined. So that idea failed.
Meanwhile the church kept growing smaller. Nothing we tried seemed to work. I was greatly discouraged.
Another problem for me was that the previous pastor at Paradise church was a ‘ten talent’ pastor. He could do anything. He could play the guitar and sing, was a really good preacher, and always had a word of knowledge for the people. The people all loved him. When he resigned they cried.
Picture the situation! This talented man left the church and I came to be their pastor. I tried all the gimmicks possible to get the church to grow, but nothing worked.
One day a man came to me saying, ‘I have a problem with my wife.’
This couple were wonderful Christians. The wife was previously a drug addict and the husband had been an alcoholic. They both had remarkable conversions and everything went well for several years.
‘My problem is that my wife wants a divorce,’ he continued.
His wife had begun to drift slowly back to her old ways again. I had counselled her for hours and nothing changed. Now her husband was asking, ‘What am I going to do? She is going to leave me.’
This man wanted me to give him a word of knowledge. Instead I just answered, ‘I don’t know. I haven’t a clue.’
Nevertheless I offered to help him if he would fast and pray the next Saturday with me, all day long. He agreed. The following Saturday the two of us came to the church and began to pray.
My method of praying is to walk back and forth across the room and pray aloud. Praying aloud keeps your mind from wandering. It helps concentration. So we were both walking back and forth across the room praying, ‘God help us. We don’t know what to do about this marriage.’
We were desperately calling upon God for help. As we continued praying, the Holy Spirit spoke to me saying, ‘I want you two to do this every Saturday.’
I agreed, saying, ‘I will, but you must tell my friend yourself.’
No sooner had I agreed than my partner spoke to me saying, ‘Pastor, the Holy Spirit has just spoken to me saying that we should fast and pray every Saturday.’
‘Fine. Let’s do it,’ I said.
For the next eight months the two of us fasted and prayed every Saturday. Our prayers were not only for the broken marriage but for the church, for revival, and many other things.
The next day after we made this commitment, God put his seal upon it. As I led the first chorus during the Sunday service I felt a strong urging of the Holy Spirit to give an appeal. This was not on the program so I thought, ‘Let’s sing a few more choruses first until the people get settled, then I will give an appeal.’
But the urging was stronger than ever. I argued with the Lord, ‘Don’t you think it is a bit early in the meeting to give an appeal? We could wait until the end of the service. That is how we always do it.’
As I was mentally arguing with the Lord I saw a man get up from the back seat, walk down the aisle and kneel at the altar. I said, ‘All right, Lord, I get the message.’
I challenged the people, ‘Would anyone else like to join this man?’
More than half the congregation came forward and began to cry and weep. God moved upon us in a powerful way.
The man who had come forward first was an alcoholic. He came to church that morning with a strong desire to drink again. He had been sitting in his seat fighting that desire. God met his need, and many other needs.
Then God spoke to me: ‘If you want church growth, you have to build a powerful prayer base. That is the foundation of church growth.’
The church may have many activities but its growth will not be powerful and effective without a strong prayer base. Our trend is that of tradition. It is hard to change what has been practiced for a long time. However, it is very important to follow God’s direction in the program of your church.
After my friend and I had been praying together for about eight months the Holy Spirit spoke to me: ‘I don’t want you to continue praying every Saturday with this brother alone but go onto the next step. Bring the entire congregation into it.’
I announced to our congregation, ‘Two of us have been praying now for eight months, but God told us not to continue alone. Instead, we are to invite others in the congregation to join us in praying and fasting. You say you are concerned about our nation, our society, our church, but do you really care enough to give one day a month to prayer and fasting for revival?’
Out of our congregation of 150 only 31 people committed themselves to join us in prayer.
Therefore we mobilized one person every day to give a whole day for prayer and fasting. This covered the entire month 31 days. Someone was praying for revival every day.
Immediately we noticed the impact of prayer upon our church. People began to come in. The church began to develop and grow. By the early nineties we had over 3,500 attending and 1600 involved regularly in day and evening home cells. Every year I challenge them anew to give one day a month to prayer and fasting. Whenever the members are slack in their commitment it is felt in the church.
Our church has a group of people called the intercessors. These are special people who give one day every week to prayer and fasting. About 300 members had joined this group by 1992. They pray for me every week. Wherever I go, whatever I am doing, they always pray for me. I meet constantly with the intercessors to relate prayer needs.
This is one department of the church that I oversee myself because I realize the importance of prayer. I have found that it is impossible to see church growth without a tremendous prayer foundation. Our church has grown and is now decentralized. A full time team of 20 pastors join me in pastoring Paradise church.
Dreams and visions
Many Scripture speak of evil abounding in the last days. Another stream of Scripture says that in the last days there is going to be a great revival. Some passages describe a terrible falling away, a decline, and things getting worse and then there are many Scripture that say a revival is going to take place. Both are true, and both are more obvious around us now.
Prayer prepares the way for revival. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit came in great power when the believers were praying. Then Peter spoke of Joel’s prophecy, ‘In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophecy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams’ (Acts 1:27).
It thrills me to see so many young people sold out to God. These promises are very powerful. I am sure God has given many people great visions and dreams for the future. I encourage people, young and old, to hold onto these dreams because they come to pass in your life.
When I was a Bible school student God spoke to me through prophecy and said, ‘One day you are going to preach to multitudes.’ I could hardly believe this. But God planted a vision and dream in my heart.
What about the promise for the old people? They will dream dreams. That does not mean
dreaming of the past, sitting in a rocking chair and dreaming of the good old days. Dreams in the Bible are supernatural and progressive.
My father is a dreamer. When he was 80 years old he came to me and said, ‘Andrew, God has told me to start a church in a town called Katherine.’
There was no Assembly of God church in Katherine. This town in the Northern Territory has a population of about 3,000 people and is about 300 miles from the next town. Many people go to the northern part of Australia to get away from something a bad marriage, a bad job, or some unpleasant experience. Katherine has many people like that.
When my dad told of his dream to start a church in Katherine I said, ‘You’re crazy.’
But my dad had a dream and began saving his pension in order to fulfil that dream God had placed in his heart. After six months my dad said, ‘I am going to Katherine.’
‘Do you know anyone up there?’ I asked.
‘Well I have written to four people, but none of them answered my letters.’
‘Where are you going to stay?’
‘I don’t know.’
My dad got on the plane and flew to Katherine. The airport there is about 25 kilometres from the town and is located in a desert place. Upon arriving my dad stood there looking like a lost sheep. He had no home to go to, no place to stay that night. He was standing at the airport holding his bag.
An aborigine couple approached my dad and asked, ‘Can we help you?’
My dad answered, ‘I want a lift into Katherine.’
‘Oh, come with us,’ they said. So they took him in their car into town.
On the way they asked him, ‘Why are you coming to Katherine?’
‘God sent me to start a church here.’
‘Do you know anyone here?’
‘Do you have a place to stay?’
‘We will see if we can find a place for you,’ they responded.
My dad went to the showground and began meetings. In two weeks his crowds grew to 120, and 37 people made decisions for Christ.
We live in marvellous days. People of all ages are part of the move of God in these last days, young and old alike. God is wanting to do something powerful and dynamic. He is blessing young people, and old, giving them revelations, dreams, visions and gifts. They are going out praying for the sick, ministering in various ways, and souls are being saved all over the world.
18,000 IMAN, MULLAHS AND EMIRS LED TO CHRIST IN WEST AFRICA
In the last 15 years Brother Thomas and his team have led 18,000 imams, mullahs, and emirs to Christ. “We have led several Al Qaeda commanders to Christ, some of whom penetrated our centre as spies.”
Muslim scholar, West Africa
At 19, a leper first introduced him to Christ and a blind man led him to salvation. “His reading braille captivated me,” says Brother Thomas*. “I asked him where I will go when I die.” In response to the young man’s request, the blind man quoted Scripture from the Book of John. The power of God’s Word left a lasting imprint on his heart and propelled his future ministry. “I didn’t understand the cross or what my decision meant, but I went ahead and received Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour.” Raised in a Muslim home and community in West Africa, he experienced hostility, but took it in stride. “Every true believer should experience opposition,” he maintains. “The important thing is the discovery of the life-given Spirit in Christ. I found a new life.”
Two years after his life-changing conversion, he felt an overwhelming desire to share the Good News. “I saw my people were living in darkness,” he says. Although he had little training, he began to travel from village to village for several weeks at a time. “Nobody told me to go. I didn’t know many of the Scriptures,” he admits, “but I wanted to tell people that Jesus can give you eternal life.” Through eventual contact with Sudan Inland Mission (SIM), he received further training. In 1990, he went on staff with Campus Crusade for Christ and served with them for a decade, utilizing the impactful JESUS Film. In 2000, he started his own organization, which targets Muslim leaders throughout West Africa. “They the leaders are sincerely deluded,” he observes. “Satan has blinded their eyes. They cannot see the light of the gospel.”
“They were born into it,” he continues. “Nobody told them anything different. Most people in West Africa are not Muslim by choice. They are born into a community that believes in Islam.” Brother Thomas decided he and his team would have to approach the “custodians” of the community of Islam, something very few are willing to do. “Christians never take the initiative to go to them,” he observes. “The Bible never tells us to wait for them to come to us. The Bible says to go. The lack of going to the Muslims is disobedience.” Brother Thomas and his team develop relational connections with Muslim scholars slowly and privately. It may take weeks or months of meetings before an Islamic scholar will discover the Truth.
“We met with a Shia leader in one country for a year,” he notes. After Islamic services on Friday, this Muslim leader would drive several hours to spend a weekend with Brother Thomas. “I went through the Word teaching him.
The turning point was when he realized that Jesus is God.” Remarkably, this imam actually stayed in the mosque, but his message changed dramatically as a follower of Jesus. The man’s changed perspective did not go unnoticed.
“They took him to a psychiatric hospital and took his wives away. They said he was mad,” Brother Thomas says. After his release from the psychiatric facility, Brother Thomas urged the man to escape. “We don’t know where he is today. Quite a few of these leaders who converted have died.”
Another Muslim leader who met with Brother Thomas made regular appearances on national TV during Ramadan. “He came to Christ because we proved to him the Quran is not the inspired word of God and is not in the program of God for salvation,” he recounts. One Friday evening a mob of other scholars came to kill the recent convert, but were unsuccessful. “He was fearless,” Brother Thomas says. “They gave his wife to his best friend and took his daughter away because he rejected Islam. This year he was poisoned and died.” Brother Thomas believes that in the top ranks of Islamic scholars, many are atheists, because they no longer believe in the inspiration of the Quran.
In the last 15 years Brother Thomas and his team have led 18,000 imams, mullahs, and emirs to Christ. “We have led several Al Qaeda commanders to Christ, some of whom penetrated our centre as spies.” His team of 300 has dwindled to 65, due to the intensity of the fight. “Some have died, some left us, and some became afraid,” he says. He has developed a training program that is bearing fruit wherever it has been employed. Brother Thomas believes the church has been ineffective in reaching Muslims because they have concentrated on methods and strategies. “Christians want to bribe the Muslims to faith through relief and compassion, but those methods do not save. If you give relief to them it will not save them.” For salvation Muslims must discover Christ through His Word.