The crime rate fell by 93% within 18 months.
Even the United Nations cannot understand how this happened!
TRANSFORMING YOUR CITY – THE EXAMPLE OF JUAREZ, MEXICO
Recently in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 140 ministry leaders and public officials were electrified to hear the testimony of Pastor Poncho Murguia. Poncho after leading a large and successful mega church for years was instructed by the Lord to “leave everything” and to go to a city park in his native Juarez, Mexico in order to fast and pray for three weeks over the city. During that process, he learned for the first time to really love and understand his city and then to “adopt” the city. Eventually 4000 other believers in Jesus joined him in a movement of transformational prayer and action that has changed Juarez from “the murder capital of the world” with violence 25 times as much as any on other city on earth, to one of the safest of Mexico’s cities.
At the height of the violence that swept the city which had become the site of a prolonged turf battle between drug cartels, 20-30 people were being assassinated by “sicarios”, hit men paid an average of $50 to kill anyone. They killed a young man just as he was being married to his fiancee in a church and freely machine-gunned peace-loving people who were having dinner in restaurants. There were also an average of 10-15 kidnappings per day and if loved ones did not pay the ransom that was demanded, their family member would have his ears or fingers amputated first and if there was still no payment, he or she would be killed and buried under the floor of the “safehouse” that served as their prison.
Twenty percent or 300,000 people left the city; 30% of the businesses closed. The cartels made lists of police officers and systematically assassinated them one by one to terrorize and exact concessions. The smell of blood filled the streets. Such overwhelming violence that the police and even the army could not control finally drove the pastors of the city’s churches together in prayer. They humbled themselves before the Lord, taking responsibility for the situation since they had been occupying themselves with their own congregations and “building their own kingdoms” without a real love and concern for the whole city. As they underwent this process together, God demonstrated His presence and the crime rate fell by 93% within 18 months. Even the United Nations cannot understand how this happened!
Other wonderful transformations happened and as they “adopted” the “sicarios”, many of these vicious hit men came to Christ and were discipled to serve Him back in their own towns across Mexico. Poncho challenged the Church and ministry leaders to tackle problems in our communities that the government and police are not being effective in fixing. The church he said spent too much time studying the Bible when God wants us to “be the Bible” to our needy city. Those who heard Poncho’s testimony were deeply challenged to apply what we learned. Many went home determined to see a transformational movement happen in their communities.
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
By J. D. King, author, speaker and director of the World Revival Network.
Many Middle-Eastern Christians publicly acknowledge the fact that dreams actively facilitated them coming into a saving knowledge of Jesus. For example, Nabeel Qureshi is a former devout Muslim. He became a believer in part through a visionary experience. When recounting his conversion he writes,
“I asked God to reveal himself to me in truth, through dreams and visions. All those things, combined with actually reading the Bible, are what drove me forward to the point of accepting Christ.”
When asked about his conversion to Christianity from Islam, Pastor Naeem Fazal of Mosaic Church in Charlotte, North Carolina, mentioned several things that impacted him. He pointed out things like friendship with a knowledgeable Christian as well as reading the Bible. However, it was a particular supernatural encounter that brought him into a moment of crisis. Having a visionary experience one night, Fazal had an encounter that forever shifted the course of his life.
“It looked like a figure made up with light—solid, yet transparent. It was an experience like no other. The peace I felt from this presence was so powerful, so aggressive … and [He] introduced Himself to me and said, ‘I’m Jesus; your life is not your own.’ The next morning my life changed forever.”
Fazal acknowledges that he is not unique in this experience. He notes that “the majority of the [Muslim] conversion stories I hear seem to involve dreams and visions inspired by the Holy Spirit in which Christ is supernaturally revealed.”
Joel Rosenberg’s Insights Into The Middle-Eastern Revival
More Muslims have committed to follow Christ in the last 10 years than in the last 15 centuries of Islam. In spite of great difficulty and turmoil, Christianity is unquestionably expanding throughout the Islamic world. God is up to something amazing in a region that many have thought was unreachable.
Joel Rosenberg, an Evangelical researcher, author, and resident of Israel has documented the recent upsurge of Christianity in the Middle-East. Through first-hand reconnaissance, coupled with reports from Arabic nationals, Rosenberg demonstrates that Christianity is rising rapidly in the world of Islam.
Some of the particulars can certainly be debated, but in many of the Mediterranean nations, Christianity is making extraordinary inroads. Though the subsequent conversion figures are impossible to confirm, even in their imprecision, they provide a snapshot of what’s transpiring in the Middle East.
A number of reports suggest that increasing numbers of Christ-followers are emerging in the brutal, war-torn nation of Sudan. Here, in the Nile river valley – along the Islamic strongholds of Northern Africa – It is being noted that
“One million Sudanese have turned to Christ since the year 2000—not in spite of persecution, war, and genocide, but because of them…the estimated total number of believers in the country is more than 5.5 million.”
Many are convinced that the great brutalities that this nation has encountered are becoming a catalyst for the expansion and growth of Christianity. Rather than inhibiting the Church, the war is actually propelling it.
Pakistan is typically not identified as a nation experiencing a move of God, but apparently they’re beginning to see one spark within their contentious borders.Christianity’s Middle-Eastern expansion is particularly evident in this unexpected place. Rosenberg acknowledges that,
“Senior Pakistani Christian leaders tell me there is a ‘conversion explosion’ going on in their country.There are now an estimated 2.5 million to 3 million born-again Pakistani believers worshiping Jesus Christ. Whole towns and villages along the Afghan-Pakistani border are…converting to Christianity.”
This Islamic country is not alone, many others in this region are having similar things take place.
Reliable reports suggest that there is also a great revival erupting in the land of Egypt. Rosenberg declares that, “Ministry leaders in Egypt estimate there are more than 2.5 million followers of Jesus Christ in their country. Many of these are Muslim converts.”
Undoubtedly, the severe persecutions and disruptions related to the “Arab Spring” have affected the lives of Christians throughout this nation, but the faithful have remained strong. Martyrdom invites outsiders to examine the claims of those willing to die for Jesus. It is believed that many amazing things are taking place in Egypt.
Surprisingly, the contentious nation of Iran is also beginning to encounter the rising flames of awakening. Violent Islamic Fundamentalism has not been able to impede the advancement of the Gospel in this fierce Persian nation. Reflecting on this reality, Rosenberg writes,
“At the time of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, there were only about five hundred known Muslim converts to Jesus inside the country. By 2000, a survey of Christian demographic trends reported that there were two hundred twenty thousand Christians inside Iran, of which between four and twenty thousand were Muslim converts. And according to Iranian Christian leaders I interviewed, the number of Christ-followers inside their country shot dramatically higher between 2000 and 2008.”
Yes, you read that right. Christianity went from 500 people to 220,000 in 21 years. Contrary to what many Americans think, Christianity is quietly advancing behind the scenes in some of the most unlikely places around the globe.
Reports continue to come in. A strikingly similar stirring is also taking place in Saudi Arabia – unquestionably the epicenter of world Islam. One wouldn’t expect the growth of Christianity in Mecca, but it is happening. Summarizing some of what he has heard, Joel Rosenberg reports that “Arab Christian leaders estimated there were more than one hundred thousand Saudi Muslim background believers in 2005, and they believe the numbers are even higher today.” Saudi Arabia is being quickened by the Spirit of the Lord. It seems to be positioned to experience significant growth in the decades to come.
Christianity is also quietly advancing in the turbulent nation of Iraq. Again, it needs to be noted that these numbers precede the vicious emergence of Isis and the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Multitudes of Christians have been martyred since these figures were originally reported. Yet, even the fact that Muslims felt compelled to quell its advancement suggests that Christianity’s influence has been growing.
“Before 2003, senior Iraqi Christian leaders tell me, there were only about four to six hundred known born-again followers of Jesus Christ in the entire country, despite an estimated seven hundred fifty thousand nominal Christians in historic Iraqi churches. By the end of 2008, Iraqi Christian leaders estimated that there were more than seventy thousand born-again Iraqi believers.”
As many are aware, the expansion of Christianity has been greatly hindered more recently in Iraq. Don’t be mistaken, this martyrdom and brutality will ultimately give way to more Christians in the land once known as Babylon.
The whole Islamic world is currently shaking. We have already discussed some of the amazing advancements that are taking place in several of Arabic nations. These are where the greatest signs of revival are evident. Nevertheless, on a lesser level, other Islamic nations are also experiencing a tremendous stirring within their borders. One of these is Algeria. Rosenberg recounts the recent upsurge in Algeria, noting that:
“more than eighty thousand Muslims have become followers of Christ in recent years…The surge of Christianity has become so alarming to Islamic clerics that in March of 2006, Algerian officials passed a law banning Muslims from becoming Christians or even learning about Christianity, and forbidding Christians from meeting together without a license from the government.”
Algeria is beginning to come alive with the gospel like much of Northern Africa.
Another ancient Middle-Eastern locale where Christianity is beginning to take root is along the borders the eastern bank of the Jordan River. The Islamic land of Jordan is also experiencing the grace and wonder of Jesus. Reflecting on what is transpiring in this nation, Rosenberg noted the following:
“God has been reviving the Jordanian Church in the last four decades, and particularly in the past few years. Conservative estimates say the number of believers in the country is now between five and ten thousand. The head of one major Jordanian ministry, however, believes there may be as many as fifty thousand believers in the country.”
Jordan is also experiencing the salvation of Jesus Christ.
Other Islamic Nations
Almost every Islamic nation has been experiencing a significant upsurge of Christianity over the last twenty years. Though the numbers aren’t equally high, all are experiencing the impact on some level. Here are some of the other reports.
While in the nation of Morocco it has been claimed that “between 20,000 and 40,000 Muslims have become Christ-followers.” Rosenberg suggests that, “The number of Afghan believers is now between 20,000 and 30,000.” In Kazakhstan “there are more than fifteen thousand Kazakh Christians, and more than one hundred thousand Christians of all ethnicities.” Reflecting on Lebanon, Rosenberg suggests that, “there are about ten thousand truly born-again followers of Jesus Christ today.” Reports suggest there were no Muslim background Christians in Syria fifty years ago, but today “there are between four and five thousand born-again believers in the country.”
Rosenberg’s figures suggest that there are over 13 million Christians in Islamic countries and a majority of them are from a Muslim background.
There are other evidences of a notable transformation taking place. For example, Journalist George Thomas notes that,
“A Christian revival is touching the northernmost reaches of Africa. In a region once hostile to the gospel, now tens of thousands of Muslims are following Jesus. As the sun sets over the Mediterranean Sea, Muslims across Northern Africa are converting to faith in Jesus Christ in record numbers… What experts say is that there is a profound move of God in the predominantly Muslim nations of Mauritania, Western Sahara, Morocco, Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia.”
Tino Qahoush, a researcher and filmmaker, has been traveling to various parts of this region to document the Christian revival that has been taking place. Reflecting on what he observed, he noted the following,
“What God is doing in North Africa, all the way from actually Mauritanian to Libya is unprecedented in the history of missions. I have the privilege of recording testimonies and listening to firsthand stories of men and women, of all ages.”
Jayson Casper, a journalist with Christianity Today, also pointed out some astounding growth that’s taking place in the Arabian Peninsula. He writes,
“Today the Pew Research Center numbers Christians in the Arabian Peninsula at 2.3 million – more Christians than nearly 100 countries can claim. The Gulf Christian Fellowship, an umbrella group, estimates 3.5 million…United Arab Emirates Christian population…[is] 13 percent, according to Pew. Among other Gulf states, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Qatar each about 14 percent Christian, while Oman is about 6 percent. Even Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest cities (Mecca and Medina), is 4 percent Christian…”
One of the best examples of the expansion of Christianity within Muslim lands is through the work of Heidi and Roland Baker. Along with their church plants and trained workers from Iris Ministries, the Bakers have made an extraordinary impact on the brutal nation of Mozambique. The province that they currently operate in was entirely Muslim before their arrival, but a little over ten years later those figures have changed drastically. Kelly Head from Christ For The Nations writes,
“The Bakers are now based full-time in Pemba, Mozambique, in an area where Heidi says was once called a ‘graveyard to missionaries.’ But recently the government announced publicly that it’s no longer a Muslim providence; now it’s a Christian providence.”
The abrupt changes to the once Muslim Africa are something even the Islamic clerics are beginning to acknowledge. In December 2001, Sheikh Ahmad al Qataani, the president of The Companions Lighthouse for the Science of Islamic Law in Libya, appeared on a live interview on Al-Jazeera satellite television. He declared the following:
“Islam used to represent, as you previously mentioned, Africa’s main religion and there were 30 African languages that used to be written in Arabic script. The number of Muslims in Africa has diminished to 316 million, half of whom are Arabs in North Africa. So in the section of Africa that we are talking about, the non Arab section, the number of Muslims does not exceed 150 million people. When we realize that the entire population of Africa is one billion people, we see that the number of Muslims has diminished greatly from what it was in the beginning of the last century…As to how that happened, well, there are now 1.5 million churches whose congregations account for 46 million people. In every hour, 667 Muslims convert to Christianity. Everyday, 16,000 Muslims convert to Christianity. Ever year, 6 million Muslims convert to Christianity. These numbers are very large indeed.”
It is obvious from these and other reports that Christianity is advancing.
Revival Breaks Out In China’s Government Approved Churches
“Last Christmas, I was speaking at a Three-Self Church in Yuhuan and I was amazed there were 12,000 people.”In Shenzhen, there is usually an average of 500 people being baptized each Sunday!CHINA — You’re about to hear first-hand testimony of an unprecedented Christian revival happening in parts of China. What is unique about this story is how God is moving among communist-controlled government churches.
CBN News traveled to southern China and obtained exclusive, never-before-seen images, from inside these churches.
When God Shows Up in a Communist Church
It’s Thursday evening in Fujian Province, southeast China. Scores of men and women are dancing, waving flags, blowing shofars, singing and worshipping God.
You might think these images come from a charismatic service in the United States. But they’re not. This is communist, and officially still atheist China.
And what Duan Huilai says is remarkable about this scene is that it’s happening in an officially government-controlled congregation known as Three-Self Church.
Duan and his wife have witnessed this move first-hand. Both are evangelists and have for several years criss-crossed the Chinese countryside documenting the Holy Spirit’s move among Three-Self Churches.
“Dramatic changes are happening,” Duan told CBN News. “God is moving in a powerful way inside these Three-Self Churches.”
“The most amazing thing is that the Lord is raising up God-loving people in these churches — so many brothers and sisters who love God deeply and want to serve Him,” Duan said.
Signs and Wonders Now Allowed
Pastor Duan says what is happening today in Beijing and in other parts of China as it relates to the powerful move of God amongst the Three-Self Churches is quite remarkable considering where the church has been in the last 30 years.
“Every sermon that the pastor preached back then had to be vetted by the government authorities. Young people were never allowed to attend these churches so you’d only see old people, mostly women,” Duan said. “Preaching about the power of the Holy Spirit was forbidden. You couldn’t talk about end times or preach repentance.”
Topics on healings, miracles, signs and wonders were out of the question. Not anymore.
“Nowadays people have accepted these topics,” Duan said.
Two main types of churches exist in China: registered and unregistered. Registered congregations, also known as Three-Self Churches, are government-approved.
Unregistered, sometimes called underground or house churches, operate outside government control, and for decades faced intense persecution. And with that persecution came tremendous growth.
Three-Self Churches on the other hand never experienced that kind of explosive growth. Until now.
“Now there’s big revivals happening in the Three-Self Churches,” Dr. Zhao Xiao told CBN News from his offices on the outskirts of China’s capital city.
Communist Encounters Christ
Zhao is one of China’s foremost experts on Christianity. A former Communist Party member and atheist, Zhao converted after reading the Bible.
“If you go to Haidian Church, you’ll find yourself in a more than 100-meter line trying to get inside and worship. In Shenzhen, there is usually an average of 500 people being baptized each Sunday!” he shared.
Decades ago, the Chinese government had a law that said that young men and women below the age of 18 could not attend Three-Self Churches. Zhao says those rules have been loosened in recent years.
“There’s an increasing proportion of them in churches now — more young male believers, professionals, mainstream celebrities, especially in the big cities, that are attending the church unlike the past when it was mainly the elderly who attended.”
Back at the Thursday night meeting in Fujian Province, folks have gathered for a four-day event affectionately called “Love Camp”
“Love Camp aims to help the believer grow in their faith walk and get closer to God,” Sun Rengui told CBN News one evening.
Sun is a pastor and leads the camp. He says the idea came 12 years ago when he says the Holy Spirit one day showed up while he was preaching at the Three-Self Church he pastors here.
“We were in the middle of the service; suddenly everyone at the church felt the Holy Spirit anointing fall. Some couldn’t stand straight, others fell down. Some were dizzy and nauseous. When the worship began, people started crying. After the service, some were being healed. I saw demons being chased away from people’s bodies.”
Pastor Sun says his church had never experienced anything like it.
“We were seeing something unprecedented. We had no theological training in the move of the Holy Spirit. This was completely new for us,” he said.
Word quickly spread.
“We were one of the first churches to experience this in the area. Soon, leaders from other churches came to us and were eager to receive the Holy Spirit. Later they also started witnessing the Holy Spirit’s move as well,” Pastor Sun said.
But it wasn’t without controversy.
“People doubted if this was real. There was even conflict among my church staff,” Sun said. “But as time passed, more people accepted the power of the Holy Spirit.”
Twelve years later, Pastor Sun says the impact of the Holy Spirit’s move is seen in the transformed lives of church members.
“Our cell groups are expanding, more people are attending church, and more people are going outside the church walls into society to share the Gospel.”
The church runs two orphanages and two elderly care centers, and twice a year puts on the Love Camp.
“We have four goals in this camp: to evangelize people, strengthen the family, disciple believers and encourage other Three-Self Churches to embrace the power of the Holy Spirit.”
For Pastor Duan and his wife, this is evidence that God is doing something special in the world’s most populous nation.
“I was speaking in Shandong, Henan and Zhejiang recently. Around 8,000 people joined the meeting. Last Christmas, I was speaking at a Three-Self Church in Yuhuan and I was amazed there were 12,000 people,” Duan exclaimed with joy.
They, Dr. Zhao and countless others say they feel honored to play a part in helping more Chinese turn to Jesus Christ.
“The number of Christians in China is growing rapidly. It means Christ is starting to play an active role in China’s society and that’s good in many ways,” Zhao said.
As author Adrian Wooldridge travelled the world researching the impact religion is having. It struck him that religious observance is increasing worldwide, with the exception only of Europe.
“Something happened from the 1970s and now the world is again moving towards a faith revival” he said. The Jesus movement and Pentecostal/charismatic revivals of the 1960s and ’70s, may have had something to do with that. Pentecostalism, he concluded, will be the major form of 21st century Christianity. China, Guatemala, Nigeria, Kenya and various Latin American countries were the biggest hotspots.
“The sort of religion that is on the rise is the emotive, assertive charismatic religion,” he said. “It’s compelling Catholicism in Latin America to change. There’s a physical surprise when you go to Guatemala and see how vibrant the charismatic and Pentecostal movements are. It is the same thing in Lagos and Nairobi. I went into my research underestimating the power and vitality of religion.”
What also struck him were the 443,000 full-time Christian missionaries worldwide plus 1.6 million Christians a year who go on short-term missions. Wooldridge sees Christianity remaining the world’s largest religion.
Wooldridge a confessing atheist, said that he now had more respect, and felt more warmth towards religion.” This was partly because of the people I came across who were doing such amazing work to help the poor. But where are the atheists doing anything like that?”
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.
Cho, Paul (now David) Yonggi. 1984. Prayer: Key to Revival. Waco: Word, 158 pages.
Prayer: Key to Revival, by Paul Yonggi Cho, describes many ways to pray effectively. Coming out of the Korean church scene where early morning prayer meetings, nights of prayer, and prayer mountains set apart for continual prayer and fasting are common, it reflects a strong commitment to prayer still rare in the West.
Sections in the book cover motivation to pray, types of prayer (petition, devotion, intercession), different forms of prayer, and methods of prayer. It has chapters on personal devotional life, family devotions, church meetings, cell groups, prayer retreats, all-night prayer meetings, fasting, waiting on the Lord, persistence, prayer in the Holy Spirit, faith, listening to God, group prayer and powerful prayer.
This is essential reading for anyone serious about Christian living, discipleship and leadership. It is one of the best handbooks on prayer available today. Paul Yonggi Cho spends five hours a day in prayer. He requires that all his leaders and staff in their church of over 800,000 people pray for at least three hours a day. No wonder they’re experiencing revival with around 12,000 converts every month.
Filled with personal examples it is fascinating and timely. It challenges us to believe God and act on that belief as we pray. Read it for enjoyment. Study it for key insights. Apply it for effective ministry (G.W.).
Burgess, S. M. and McGee, G. B. 1990. Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements.Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988; with corrections 1990, 914 pages.
Every church and college library should have this comprehensive single-volume encyclopedia. The 800 articles written by 65 contributors make it the best reference work on Pentecostalism and charismatic renewal available.
Both a strength and a weakness is its focus on North America with some reference to Europe. Other volumes are needed for South America, Africa, Asia and the Pacific. At least the limitations make it a manageable size.
The 300 historical and contemporary photographs enhance the text. Informative articles discuss baptism in the Spirit, Bible institutes and colleges, Catholic-Pentecostal dialogue, the charismatic movement, Elim, Episcopal renewal, eschatology, evangelism, glossolalia, healing, Holy Spirit doctrine, the Jesus Movement, missions, prophecy, statistics, and many more issues. Failures are well documented as well as the amazing spread of Pentecostalism and charismatic renewal.
Statistics cover the growth of the movement since 1900. Growth continues to accelerate with over 400 million, or one-quarter of all Christians, involved by 1992. By 1990, figures were: First wave: Pentecostalism over 193 million; Second wave: Charismatic Movement over 140 million; Third wave: Mainstream Church Renewal over 33 million.
Concise biographies include those of David Barrett, Reinhard Bonnke, Don Basham, John Bertollucci, Jamie Buckingham, Yonggi Cho, Larry Christenson, Andrae Crouch, Nicky Cruz, John Alexander Dowie, David du Plessis, Tom Forrest, Terry Fullam, Kenneth Hagin, Michael Harper, Jack Hayford, Tommy Hicks, Peter Hocken, Melvin Hodges, Walter Hollenweger, George and Stephen Jeffreys, Kathryn Kuhlman, Killian McDonnell, Francis McNutt, Aimee Semple McPherson, Ralph Martin, Bob Mumford, Edward O’Connor, T L and Daisy Osborn, Agnes Ozman, Charles Parham, David Pytches, Kevin and Dorothy Ranaghan, Oral Roberts, Pat Robertson, Michael Scanlan, William Seymour, Chuck Smith, Russell Spittler, Cardinal Suenens, Peter Wagner, David Watson, David Wilkerson, Rodman Williams, John Wimber, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Thomas Zimmerman and others.
It needs an index. That would make these topics more accessible! This well written, comprehensive volume will be a major reference book for years to come (G.W.).
Jan Jongenell, ed. 1990. Experiences of the Spirit. Frankfurt am Main (also New York): Peter Lang, 280 pages.
In 1989 the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands hosted the fifth Conference on Pentecostal and Charismatic Research in Europe. The 50 participants came from ten European countries, the United States and South Africa. Experiences of the Spirit, edited by Jan Jongeneel the Professor of Missions at Utrecht, gathers 17 papers from the conference in six parts including contributions from well known charismatic authors such as Walter Hollenweger (Reformed) and Peter Hocken (Roman Catholic).
Part 1, The Search for a Pneumatology, discusses doctrines and experiences of the Holy Spirit. For example, Jan Jongeneel shows how ‘The right doctrine leads the church to doxology and the right experience leads the church to go out into the world in mission.’ Walter Hollenweger writes about priorities in Pentecostal research noting that ‘A movement which represents more or at least as many members as all the other protestant denominations taken together can no longer be considered a fringe topic in church history, missiology, and systematic theology.’ This section discusses Spirit baptism, the charisms, and the contribution of charismatic theology to ecclesiology.
Part 2, The Message of Healing, explores theological links between vibrant revivalistic or Pentecostal spirituality and engagement for social justice and liberation. Articles cover faith healing in the Netherlands, the importance of Spirit-baptism and spiritual gifts in bringing balance to limited perspectives, and the importance of spiritual healing in the therapeutic supermarket.
Part 3, Black Spirituality, discusses South African Pentecostalism in the struggle against apartheid ideology, and argues for the significance of British Black Theologies within the African Diaspora in North America, the Caribbean, and Britain.
Part 4, The Dialogue with the Churches, notes that ‘bilingual men and women are needed, who are able to interpret both the academic rational language of western theology and the oral expression of Pentecostalism.’ Articles trace charismatic and ecumenical developments in France, and comment on Roman Catholic/Pentecostal dialogue. Peter Hocken argues for ‘the operation of the full range of New Testament gifts and ministries. To the extent they are not given scope in the historic churches, they will appear outside, and are thereby themselves reduced.’
Part 5, Short Reports, survey developments in Czechoslovakia and in Latin America.
Part 6, Epilogue, evaluates the conference from ecumenical and missiological perspectives in papers written by staff members of the Faculty of Theology of Utrecht University. It includes suggestions for improving ecumenical commitment and communication in the interface between charismatic renewal, ecumenical developments and social engagement.
The book explores significant missiological and ecumenical issues positively, identifies unresolved problems, and indicates areas needing further research. Most papers are written by scholars involved in Pentecostal and charismatic ministry and teaching. The book strongly emphasizes the mission of the church in the world.
It is a welcome contribution to current dialogue on the global rise and growth of this significant movement which is radically influencing the nature of contemporary Christianity. It should find a place in every church and theological college library (G.W.).
Jan Jongeneel, et. al. eds. 1992. Pentecost, Mission and Ecumenism: Essays on Intercultural Theology. Festschrift in Honour of Professor Walter J. Hollenweger. Frankfurt am Main (also New York): Peter Lang, 380 pages.
These 26 articles were written by students and colleagues of Walter Hollenweger to honour his work. He retired in 1989 from his position as Professor of Mission at the University of Birmingham, where he had been appointed in 1971 as the first Professor of Mission in an English university. A Swiss theologian, he is well known for his pioneering work in Pentecostal studies, especially his book The Pentecostals (1972; 2nd ed. 1976; 3rd ed. 1988) based on his doctoral research at Zurich.
His Ph.D. students included Arnold Bittlinger, Peter Hocken and James Haire. Part of a tribute from James Haire is included (p. 37):
Research students came before everyone else. Work was corrected and returned within days. Criticisms and suggestions were precise and for the aid of the researcher… Most of all, I remember those moments when tears came to his eyes, whether in interviews or in teaching… when the magnitude and indescribable depth of the Grace of God became apparent to him. Here was a person beyond denomination or cultural background for whom God’s action was quite overwhelming.
The book is arranged in three parts.
Part 1 covers the biography of Professor Walter Hollenweger, with six articles describing the wide range of his interests and abilities. For example, his doctoral study of Pentecostalism ran to ten volumes, and he learned twenty foreign languages in those six years of research in order to read the sources in their original tongue! His study of this movement throughout the world increased his appreciation of oral and narrative theology.
Part 2 deals with historical case studies and statistics on Pentecostalism and charismatic renewal in missiological and ecumenical perspective. Articles range from the beginnings of Pentecostalism to its world wide influence, including an article by Martin Robinson on the work of David du Plessis, one by James Haire on Indonesia, and one by David Barrett on signs, wonders and statistics in the world today.
Part 3 gives missiological and ecumenical reflections on inculturation and encounter. Writers include Jan Jongeneel, Charles Kraft, Peter Staples and Peter Hocken. The various articles discuss the impact of Pentecostalism and charismatic renewal on mission and liturgy, on ecumenical theology and the ecumenical movement (G.W.)
Geoff Waugh, ed. 1991. Church on Fire.Melbourne: Joint Board of Christian Education, 176 pages.
Over the last 30 years, the face of the church in Australia has changed dramatically. Hundreds of ministers and churches have been transformed and radically redirected by their experience of charismatic renewal.
In both city and country, among Catholics and Protestants, in large churches and small churches, there has been a renewed baptism of fire.
In Church on Fire, Geoff Waugh, Director of Distance Education at the Uniting Church’s Trinity Theological College in Brisbane, has brought together stories from all over Australia of what the Holy Spirit has been doing.
The book begins with the exciting record of the revival among aborigines in the Northern Territory in 1979 and the years that followed. This is followed by numerous personal testimonies and then examples of renewal and revival in local churches.
The final section includes a number of observations on charismatic renewal by a wide range of people including such well known names as Hamish Jamieson, Arthur Jackson, Rowland Croucher and Dan Armstrong.
For anyone who wants some insight into the charismatic movement, this is a valuable resource. (Barry Chant).
This review is reprinted by permission from New Day, September 1992, PO Box 564, Plympton SA 5038.
Additional note: Contributors to Church on Fire are Aboriginal Renewal: Djiniyini Gondarra, John Blacket Personal Renewal: JohnCharles Vockler, Owen Dowling, Charles Ringma, Dorothy Harris, Gregory Blaxland, David Todd, Barry Manuel, Ruth Lord Church Renewal – Examples: Barry Schofield, John Lewis, Vincent Hobbs, Phil Audemard, Brain Francis, David Blackmore, Bob Dakers, Geoff Waugh Church Renewal Observations: Barry Chant, Hamish Jamieson, Tom White, Lazarus Moore, Glen Heidenreich, Rowland Croucher, Arthur Jackson, Don Drury, Don Evans, Peter Moonie, Dan Armstrong
Making God Known into the 21st Century. Youth With A Mission.
This 14 minute, lively and well-edited promotional video describes the activities of Youth With a Mission (YWAM) in Australia, including the outreaches. Loren Cunningham, the International Director and Steve Aherne the Australian Director comment briefly. The video shows the wide range of YWAM training and ministries including Discipleship Training Schools, church planting, worship, street evangelism, drama, mime and dance, and modules of study available from their University of the Nations through bases around the world, including Australia. Copies may be borrowed from YWAM bases or purchased from Australian Religious Films, 258 Sailors Bay Road, Northbridge N.S.W. 2063.
Global Perspectives. Youth With A Mission.
Youth With A Mission (YWAM) produces a bimonthly international news video describing their work around the world. The 30-minute video, produced in America, is a professionally produced bulletin, interesting and informative. It gives clips of YWAM teams in many different countries, medical and mercy missions to war-torn and famine areas, outreaches at international events such as the Olympics and World Expo, and a summary of major YWAM outreaches around the world. Contact your nearest YWAM base for this valuable current resource (G.W.)
(c) Renewal Journal 1: Revival (1993, 2011), pages 7-18
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
Now available in updated book form (republished 2011)
_______________ We can believe for it pray for it, and prepare for it __________________
God moves in awesome power at times. Signs everywhere point to that again now. Many people report a burden for and expectation of revival. We can believe for it, pray for it, and prepare for it.
Selwyn Hughes, author of the popular Every Day with Jesus writes,
In all the years that I have been a Christian I have never witnessed such a burden and expectancy for revival as I do at this moment among the true people of God. Wherever I go I meet prayerful Christians whose spirit witnesses with my own that a mighty Holy Spirit revival is on the way. The 1960’s and 1070’s were characterized by the word ‘renewal’. Then in the eighties, the word began slowly losing currency, and another appeared to take its place revival. And why? Because great and wonderful though renewal is, many are beginning to see that there are greater things in our Father’s storehouse, and slowly but surely their faith is rising to a flash point (Hughes 1990:7).
Revival may not be wanted because it involves humility, awareness of our unworthiness, confession of sin, repentance, restitution, seeking and offering forgiveness, and following Christ wholeheartedly. It then impacts society with conviction, godliness, justice, peace and righteousness. This is not always welcome.
What is revival?
As individuals and churches are renewed they prepare the way for revival in the land. A spiritual awakening touches the community when God’s Spirit moves in power. Often this awakening begins in people earnestly praying for and expecting revival.
Arthur Wallis (1956:20,23) observes:
Numerous writings … confirm that revival is Divine intervention in the normal course of spiritual things. It is God revealing Himself to man in awesome holiness and irresistible power. It is such a manifest working of God that human personalities are overshadowed and human programs abandoned. It is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is the Lord … working in extraordinary power on saint and sinner. … Revival must of necessity make an impact on the community and this is one means by which we may distinguish it from the more usual operations of the Holy Spirit.
Edwin Orr’s research indicated that A spiritual awakening is a movement of the Holy Spirit bringing about a revival of New Testament Christianity in the Church of Christ and its related community. … It accomplishes the reviving of the Church, the awakening of the masses and the movements of uninstructed people toward the Christian faith; the revived church by many or few is moved to engage in evangelism, teaching and social action (1975: viiviii).
Roy Hession (1973:11,23) noted that the outward forms of revivals do, of course, differ considerably, but the inward and permanent content of them is always the same: a new experience of conviction of sin among the saints; a new vision of the Cross and of Jesus and of redemption; a new willingness on man’s part for brokenness, repentance, confession, and restitution; a joyful experience of the power of the blood of Jesus to cleanse fully from sin and restore and heal all that sin has lost and broken; a new entering into the fullness of the Holy Spirit and of His power to do His own work through His people; and a new gathering in of the lost ones to Jesus. … Revival is just the life of the Lord Jesus poured into human hearts.
Scripture gives a constant call for individual and communal repentance issuing in righteousness and justice.
Wilbur Smith notes seven revivals in the Old Testament in addition to the one with Jonah. These revivals involved:
1. Jacob’s household (Genesis 35:115),
2. Asa (2 Chronicles 15:115),
3. Joash (2 Kings 1112; 2 Chronicles 2324),
4. Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:18; 2 Chronicles 2931),
5. Josiah (2 Kings 2223; 2 Chronicles 3435),
6. Haggai and Zechariah with Zerubbabel (Ezra 56)
7. Ezra with Nehemiah (Nehemiah 9:16; 12:4447).
He noted nine characteristics of these revivals:
1. They occurred in times of moral darkness and national depression;
2. Each began in the heart of a consecrated servant of God who became the energising power behind it;
3. Each revival rested on the Word of God, and most were the result of proclaiming God’s Word with power;
4. All resulted in a return to the worship of God;
5. Each witnessed the destruction of idols where they existed;
6. In each revival, there was a recorded separation from sin;
7. In every revival the people returned to obeying God’s laws;
8. There was a restoration of great joy and gladness;
9. Each revival was followed by a period of national prosperity.
The early church lived in continuous revival. It saw rapid growth in the power of the Holy Spirit from the initial outburst at Pentecost. Multitudes joined the church. At Pentecost 3,000 were won in one day (2:41). Soon after that there were 5,000 involved (4:4). Then great multitudes (5:14; 6:7; 9:31; 11:21, 24; 12:24 and 16:5).
Those Christians were dynamic. Not faultless, as the epistles indicate, but on fire. They were accused before the civil authorities as ‘these people who have been turning the world upside down’ (Acts 17:6).
Revival makes that kind of an impact in the community.
Various renewal and revival movements stirred the church and the community throughout history. The eighteenth century saw the first great awakening, and powerful revivals have spread world wide since then until the astounding developments now.
The Moravians, a refugee colony from Bohemia on the estates of Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf at the village of Herrnhut in Germany, experienced a visitation of God in 1727 which launched revival with 100 years of continuous prayer and 100 missionaries sent out within 25 years.
On May 12th, 1727, they entered into a covenant together ‘to dedicate their lives to the service of the Lord Jesus.’ … A period of extraordinary prayer followed, which both preceded and followed the outpouring. It started in early July of that year, but already, for the best part of two years, there had been prayer and praise gatherings in the homes of the people. In July they started to meet together more frequently… Some spent whole nights in prayer. …
At about noon on Sunday August 10th, 1727, the preacher at the morning service felt himself overwhelmed by a wonderful and irresistible power of the Lord. He sank down in the dust before God, and the whole congregation joined him ‘in an ecstasy of feeling’. They continued until midnight engaged in prayer, singing, weeping and supplication.
On Wednesday August 13th the church came together for a specially called communion service. They were all dissatisfied with themselves. ‘They had quit judging each other because they had become convinced, each one, of his lack of worth in the sight of God and each felt himself at this communion to be in view of the Saviour.’
They left that communion at noon, hardly knowing whether they belonged to earth or had already gone to heaven. It was a day of outpouring of the Holy Spirit. ‘We saw the hand of God and were all baptized with his Holy Spirit … The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst.
Scarcely a day passed from then on when they did not witness God’s almighty workings among them. A great hunger for God’s word took hold of them. They started meeting three times daily at 5 am, 7.30 am, and 9 pm. Self-love and self-will and all disobedience disappeared, as everyone sought to let the Holy Spirit have full control.
Two weeks later, they entered into the twenty-four hour prayer covenant which was to become such a feature of their life for over 100 years… ‘The spirit of prayer and supplication at that time poured out upon the children was so powerful and efficacious that it is impossible to give an adequate description of it.’
Supernatural knowledge and power was given to them. Previously timid people became flaming evangelists (Mills 1990:2045).
Jonathan Edwards (17031764), the preacher and scholar who later became a President of Princeton University, was a prominent leader in a revival movement which came to be called the Great Awakening as it spread through the communities of New England and the pioneering settlements in America. Converts to Christianity reached 50,000 out of a total of 250,000 colonists. The years of 173435 saw an unusually powerful move of God’s Spirit in thousands of people. Edwards described the characteristics of the revival 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.
Edwards published the journal of David Brainerd, a missionary to the North American Indians from 1743 to his death at 29 in 1747. Brainerd tells of revival breaking out among Indians in October 1745 when the power of God seemed to come like a rushing mighty wind. The Indians were overwhelmed by God. The revival had greatest impact when Brainerd emphasised the compassion of the Saviour, the provisions of the gospel, and the free offer of divine grace. Idolatry was abandoned, marriages repaired, drunkenness practically disappeared, honesty and repayments of debts prevailed. Money once wasted on excessive drinking was used for family and communal needs. Their communities were filled with love.
The power of God seemed to descend on the assembly ‘like a rushing mighty wind’ and with an astonishing energy bore all down before it. I stood amazed at the influence that seized the audience almost universally and could compare it to nothing more aptly than the irresistible force of a mighty torrent… Almost all persons of all ages were bowed down with concern together and scarce was able to withstand the shock of astonishing operation (Pratney 1984: 15).
On November 20, he described the revival at Crossweeksung in his general comments about that year, which had involved horse riding over 3,000 miles to reach Indian tribes in New England:
He notes that revivals have been criticized as scaring people with hell and damnation, but this great awakening, this surprising concern, was never excited by any harangues of terror, but always appeared most remarkable when I insisted upon the compassions of a dying Saviour, the plentiful provisions of the gospel, and the free offers of divine grace to needy distressed sinners.
The effects of this work have likewise been very remarkable. … Their pagan notions and idolatrous practices seem to be entirely abandoned in these parts. They are regulated and appear regularly disposed in the affairs of marriage. They seem generally divorced from drunkenness … although before it was common for some or other of them to be drunk almost every day… A principle of honesty and justice appears in many of them, and they seem concerned to discharge their old debts… Their manner of living is much more decent and comfortable than formerly, having now the benefit of that money which they used to consume upon strong drink. Love seems to reign among them, especially those who have given evidence of a saving change (Howard 1949, 239251).
In 1735, when the New England revival was strongest, George Whitefield in England and Howell Harris in Wales were converted. Both were 21 and both ignited revival fires, seeing thousands converted and communities changed. By 1736 Harris began forming his converts into societies and by 1739 there were nearly thirty such societies. Whitefield travelled extensively, visiting John Wesley in Georgia in 1738, then ministering powerfully with Howell Harris in Wales 1739 and with Jonathan Edwards in New England in 1740, all in his early twenties.
Also in 1735, John Wesley went to Georgia. Whitefield sailed to Georgia at Wesley’s invitation early in 1738, but they returned to England because Wesley was frustrated in his work. Then in May that year both John and Charles Wesley were converted, Charles first, and three days later on 24th May John found his heart strangely warmed in the meeting in Aldersgate Street when he listened to a reading of the preface to Luther’s commentary on Romans.
1739 saw astonishing expansion of revival in England. On 1st January the Wesleys and Whitefield and four others from their former Holy Club at Oxford in their students days, along with 60 others of whom many were Moravians, met at Fetter Lane 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. The meeting went all night and they realized they had been empowered in a fresh visitation from God.
On 1 January 1739 a remarkable love feast was held at Fetter Lane in London. There the leaders of the Revival were welded into a fellowship of the Spirit in a way similar to what had happened at Herrnhut in 1727. The Wesleys were present, along with Whitefield and Benjamin Ingham, who was to become an outstanding evangelist among the Moravians. ‘About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer,’ John Wesley recorded in his Journal, ‘the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.’ This Pentecost on New Year’s Day confirmed that the Awakening had come and launched the campaign of extensive evangelization which sprang from it (Wood 1990:449).
Revival fire spread rapidly. In February 1739 Whitefield started preaching to the Kingswood coal miners in the open fields with about 200 attending in the south west of England near the Welsh border. 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) with those crowds at Kingswood. He returned to London in June reporting on the amazing move of God’s Spirit with many conversions and many people falling prostrate under God’s power a phenomenon which he never encouraged! Features of this revival were enthusiastic singing, powerful preaching, and the gathering of converts into small societies called weekly Class Meetings.
Revival caught fire in Scotland also. After returning from America in 1741, Whitefield visited Glasgow. Two ministers in villages nearby invited him to return in 1742 because revival had already begun in their area. Conversions and prayer groups multiplied. Whitefield preached there at Cambuslang about four miles from Glasgow.
The opening meetings on a Sunday saw the great crowds on the hill side gripped with conviction, repentance and weeping more than he had seen elsewhere. The next weekend 20,000 gathered on the Saturday and up to 50,000 on the Sunday for the quarterly communion. The visit was charged with Pentecostal power which even amazed Whitefield.
That Great Awakening in Great Britain and America, established the Methodists with 140,000 members by the end of the century, and other churches and Christians were renewed and empowered. It impacted the nation with social change and created the climate for political reform.
Toward the end of the century revival fires burst again in England through prayer groups spreading everywhere. On Christmas day 1781 in Cornwall intercessors met to sing and pray from 3 am and God’s Spirit moved on them. They prayed until 9 am and regathered that Christmas evening. Throughout January and February, the movement continued. By March 1782 they were praying until midnight. The movement spread. Churches filled and denominations doubled, tripled and quadrupled (Robinson 1992:9). By 1792, the year after John Wesley died, this second great awakening swept Great Britain and was stirring America and other countries.
In New England, Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian denomination in the United States in 1794. The churches adopted the plan until America, like Britain, was interlaced with a network of prayer meetings. They met on the first Monday of each month to pray. It was not long before revival came.
James McGready, a Presbyterian minister in Kentucky, promoted the concert of prayer every first Monday of the month, and urged his people to pray for him at sunset on Saturday evening and sunrise Sunday morning. Revival swept Kentucky in the summer of 1800. Eleven thousand people came to a communion service.
That second great awakening produced the modern missionary movement and it’s societies, engendered support for Bible societies, saw the abolition of slavery, and resulted in many social reforms.
Various revival movements influenced society in the 1800s, but 1858 in America and 1859 in Britain were outstanding.
Typically, it followed a low ebb of spiritual life. Concerned Christians began praying earnestly and anticipating a new move of God’s Spirit.
Revival broke out at evangelistic meetings in Hamilton, Ontario in Canada during October 1857 with attendances at meetings reaching 6,000, and three or four hundred converted including many civic leaders. It was widely reported.
Jeremiah Lanphier, a city missioner, began a weekly noon prayer meeting in New York in September that year. By October it grew into a daily prayer meeting attended by many businessmen. Anticipation of revival grew, especially with the financial collapse that October after a year of depression. Materialism was shaken.
At the beginning of 1858 that Fulton Street prayer meeting had grown so much they were holding three simultaneous prayer meetings in the building and other prayer groups were starting in the city. By March newspapers carried front page reports of over 6,000 attending daily prayer meetings in New York, 6,000 attending them in Pittsburgh, and daily prayer meetings were held in Washington at five different times to accommodate the crowds.
Other cities followed the pattern. Soon a common midday sign on businesses read, ‘Will reopen at the close of the prayer meeting.’
By May, 50,000 of New York’s 800,000 people were new converts. A newspaper reported that New England was profoundly changed by the revival and in several towns no unconverted adults could be found!
In 1858 a leading Methodist paper reported these features of the revival: few sermons were needed, lay people witnessed, seekers flocked to the altar, nearly all seekers were blessed, experiences remained clear, converts had holy boldness, religion became a social topic, family altars were strengthened, testimony given nightly was abundant, and conversations were marked with seriousness.
Edwin Orr’s research revealed that in 185859 a million Americans were converted in a population of thirty million and at least a million Christians were renewed, with lasting results in church attendances and moral reform in society.
Charles Finney (17921875) became one of the most famous preachers of that era. A keen sportsman and young lawyer, he had a mighty empowering by God’s Spirit on the night of his conversion including a vision of Jesus. During the height of the revival he often saw the awesome holiness of God come upon people, not only in meetings but also in the community, bringing multitudes to repentance and conversion. Wherever he travelled, instead of bringing a song leader he brought a someone to pray, especially Father Nash. Finney taught theology at Oberlin College which pioneered coeducation and enrolled both blacks and whites. His ‘Lectures on Revival’ were widely read and helped to fan revival fire in America and England.
Revival swept Great Britain also. During September 1857, the same month the Fulton Street meetings began, 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. Through 1858 innumerable prayer meetings started, and revival was a common theme of preachers. God’s Spirit moved powerfully in small and large gatherings bringing great conviction of sin, deep repentance, and lasting moral change. Prostrations were common people lying prostrate in conviction and repentance, unable to rise for some time. By 1860 crime was reduced, judges in Ulster several times had no cases to try. At one time in County Antrim no crime was reported to the police and no prisoners were held in police custody.
Edwin Orr noted that this revival made a greater impact on Ireland than anything known since Patrick brought Christianity there. By the end of 1860 the effects of the Ulster revival were listed as thronged services, unprecedented numbers of communicants, abundant prayer meetings, increased family prayers, unmatched Scripture reading, prosperous Sunday Schools, converts remaining steadfast, increased giving, vice abated, and crime reduced.
Revival fire ignites fire. Throughout 1859 the same deep conviction and lasting conversions revived thousands of people in Wales, Scotland and England.
Revival in Wales found expression in glorious praise including harmonies unique to the Welsh which involved preacher and people in turn. There too, 100,000 converts (one tenth of the total population) were added to the church and crime was greatly reduced. Scotland and England were similarly visited with revival. Again, prayer increased enormously and preaching caught fire with many anointed evangelists seeing thousands converted. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, that 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.
The early twentieth century Evangelical Awakening was a worldwide
movement. It did not begin with the phenomenal Welsh Revival of 190405. Rather its sources were in the springs of little prayer meetings which seemed to arise spontaneously all over the world, combining into streams of expectation which became a river of blessing in which the Welsh Revival became the greatest cataract (Orr 1975:192).
The Welsh Revival was the farthest reaching of the movements of the general Awakening, for it affected the whole of the Evangelical cause in India, Korea and China, renewed revival in Japan and South Africa, and sent a wave of awakening over Africa, Latin America, and the South Seas.
The story of the Welsh Revival is astounding. Begun with prayer meetings of less than a score of intercessors, when it burst its bounds the churches of Wales were crowded for more than two years.
A hundred thousand outsiders were converted and added to the churches, the vast majority remaining true to the end. Drunkenness was immediately cut in half, and many taverns went bankrupt.
Crime was so diminished that judges were presented with white gloves signifying that there were no cases of murder, assault, rape or robbery or the like to consider. The police became ‘unemployed’ in many districts. Stoppages occurred in coal mines, not due to unpleasantness between management and workers, but because so many foulmouthed miners became converted and stopped using foul language that the horses which hauled the coal trucks in the mines could no longer understand what was being said to them, and transportation ground to a halt (Orr 1975:193).
Touches of revival had stirred New Quay, Cardiganshire, where Joseph Jenkins was minister of a church in which he led teams of revived young people in conducting testimony meetings throughout the area. The Presbyterian evangelist, Seth Joshua, arrived there in September 1904 to find remarkable moves of the Spirit in his meetings.
On Sunday 18th, he reported that he had ‘never seen the power of the Holy Spirit so powerfully manifested among the people as at this place just now.’ His meetings lasted far into the night.
19th. Revival is breaking out here in greater power… the young people receiving the greatest measure of blessing. They break out into prayer, praise, testimony and exhortation.
20th … I cannot leave the building until 12 and even 1 o’clock in the morning I closed the service several times and yet it would break out again quite beyond control of human power.
21st. Yes, several souls … they are not drunkards or open sinners, but are members of the visible church not grafted into the true Vine … the joy is intense.
22nd. We held another remarkable meeting tonight. Group after group came out to the front, seeking the ‘full assurance of faith.’
23rd. I am of the opinion that forty conversions took place this week. I also think that those seeking assurance may be fairly counted as converts, for they had never received Jesus as personal Saviour before (Orr 1975c:3).
Seth Joshua then held meetings at Newcastle Emlyn at which students from the Methodist Academy attended, among them was Sidney Evans a room mate of Evan Roberts. The students, including Evan Roberts, attended the next Joshua meetings in Blaenannerch. There Seth Joshua closed his ministry on the Thursday morning crying out in Welsh, ‘Lord … bend us’ Evan Roberts went to the front, kneeling and fervently praying ‘Lord, bend me.’
Evan Roberts in his twenties was one of God’s agents in that national and worldwide revival.
‘For ten or eleven years I have prayed for revival,’ he wrote to a friend. ‘I could sit up all night to read or talk about revivals… It was the Spirit that moved me to think about a revival’ (Orr 1975:4).
This young miner who then became a blacksmith had attended church as a teenager on Sunday, prayer meeting Monday, youth meeting Tuesday, congregational meeting Wednesday, temperance meeting Thursday, and class meeting Friday. Saturday night was free, probably as bath night in preparation for Sunday!
He offered for the ministry in 1903. Before entering the Academy he had a deep encounter with God and had a vision of all Wales being lifted up to heaven. After this he regularly slept lightly till 1 am, woke for hours of communion with God, and then returned to sleep. He was convinced revival would touch all Wales and eventually led a small band all over the country praying and preaching.
In October 1904 in his first year at the Academy, after the impact of the Spirit on him at Seth Joshua’s meetings, he took leave to return home to challenge his friends, especially the young people.
The Spirit of God convicted people as Evan Roberts insisted:
1. You must put away any unconfessed sin.
2. You must put away any doubtful habit.
3. You must obey the Spirit promptly.
4. You must confess Christ publicly.
He believed that a baptism in the Spirit was the essence of revival and that the primary condition of revival is that individuals should experience such a baptism in the Spirit.
Evan Roberts travelled the Welsh valleys, often never preaching but sitting head-in-hands earnestly praying. In Neath he spent a week in prayer without leaving his rooms. The revival packed the churches out, but no one saw him all that week. He paid a price in prayer and tears.
Churches filled. The revival spread. Meetings continued all day as well as each night, often late into the night or through to morning. Crowds were getting right with God and with one another in confession, repentance and restitution of wrongs done. People prayed fervently and worshipped God with great joy. Police had so little to do they joined the crowds in the churches, sometimes forming singing groups. Cursing and profanity diminished so much it caused slowdowns in the mines because the pit ponies could no longer understand their instructions and stood still, confused.
Oswald Smith described it this way:
It was 1904. All Wales was aflame. The nation had drifted far from God. The spiritual conditions were low indeed. Church attendance was poor and sin abounded on every side. Suddenly, like an unexpected tornado, the Spirit of God swept over the land. The churches were crowded so that multitudes were unable to get in. Meetings lasted from ten in the morning until twelve at night. Three definite services were held each day.
Evan Roberts was the human instrument, but there was very little preaching. Singing, testimony and prayer were the chief features. There were no hymn books, they had learned the hymns in childhood; no choir, for everybody sang; no collection, and no advertising.
Nothing had ever come over Wales with such far reaching results. Infidels were converted; drunkards, thieves and gamblers saved; and thousands reclaimed to respectability. Confessions of awful sins were heard on every side. Old debts were paid. The theatre had to leave for want of patronage. Mules in coal mines refused to work, being unused to kindness! In five weeks, twenty thousand people joined the churches (Olford 1968:67).
News of that revival, and many people who had been involved, soon spread around the world. ‘The Welsh Revival was the farthest reaching of the movements of the general Awakening, for it affected the whole of the Evangelical cause in India, Korea and China, renewed revival in Japan and South Africa, and sent a wave of awakening over Africa, Latin America, and the South Seas’ (Orr 1975:193).
Half a century later a similar move of God, but on a smaller scale, was stirring the Hebrides.
Following the trauma of World War II, spiritual life was at a low ebb in the Scottish Hebrides. By 1949 Peggy and Christine Smith (84 and 82) had prayed constantly for revival in their cottage near Barvas village on the Isle of Lewis, the largest of the Hebrides Islands in the bleak north west of Scotland. God showed Peggy in a dream that revival was coming. Months later, early one winter’s morning as the sisters were praying, God give them an unshakeable conviction that revival was near.
Peggy asked her minister James Murray Mackay to call the church leaders to prayer. Three nights a week the leaders prayed together for months. One night, having begun to pray at 10 pm, a young deacon from the Free Church read Psalm 24 and challenged everyone to be clean before God. As they waited on God his awesome presence swept over them in the barn at 4 am
Mackay invited Duncan Campbell to come and lead meetings. Within two weeks he came. God had intervened and changed Duncan’s plans and commitments. At the close of his first meeting in the Presbyterian church in Barvas the travel weary preacher was invited to join an all night prayer meeting! Thirty people gathered for prayer in a nearby cottage. Duncan Campbell described it:
God was beginning to move, the heavens were opening, we were there on our faces before God. Three o’clock in the morning came, and GOD SWEPT IN. About a dozen men and women lay prostrate on the floor, speechless. Something had happened; we knew that the forces of darkness were going to be driven back, and men were going to be delivered. We left the cottage at 3 am to discover men and women seeking God. I walked along a country road, and found three men on their faces, crying to God for mercy. There was a light in every home, no one seemed to think of sleep (Whittaker 1984:159).
When Duncan and his friends arrived at the church that morning it was already crowded. People had gathered from all over the island, some coming in buses and vans. No one discovered who told them to come. God led them. Large numbers were converted as God’s Spirit convicted multitudes of sin, many lying prostrate, many weeping. After that amazing day in the church, Duncan pronounced the benediction, but then a young man began to pray aloud. He prayed for 45 minutes. Again the church filled with people repenting and the service continued till 4 am the next morning before Duncan could pronounce the benediction again.
Even then he was unable to go home to bed. As he was leaving the church a messenger told him, ‘Mr. Campbell, people are gathered at the police station, from the other end of the parish; they are in great spiritual distress.
Can anyone here come along and pray with them?’ Campbell went and what a sight met him. Under the still starlit sky he found men and women on the road, others by the side of a cottage, and some behind a peat stack all crying to God for mercy. The revival had come.
That went on for five weeks with services from early morning until late at night or into the early hours of the morning.
Then it spread to the neighbouring parishes. What had happened in Barvas was repeated over and over again. Duncan Campbell said that a feature of the revival was the overwhelming sense of the presence of God. His sacred presence was everywhere. (Whittaker 1984:160).
That move of God in answer to prevailing prayer continued in the area into the fifties and peaked again on the previously resistant island of North Uist in 1957. Meetings were again crowded and night after night people cried out to God for salvation.
Similar revivals have catapulted the church into amazing growth throughout this century. The story is too vast to tell. A few highlights indicate something of this miraculous work of God.
Many visitations of God have touched North America this century. Some, such as the following, have been widely reported.
Azusa Street, 19061913
William J. Seymour, a Negro, studied in Charles Parham’s Bible School in Topeka, Kansas where on 1 January 1901 Agnes Ozman had spoken in tongues as did half of the 34 students. Those events have been seen as the beginning of Pentecostalism in America.
Elder William Seymour began The Apostolic Faith Mission located at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles on Easter Saturday, 14 April 1906 with about 100 attending including blacks and whites. It grew out of a cottage prayer meeting.
At Azusa, services were long, and on the whole they were spontaneous. In its early days music was a cappella, although one or two instruments were included at times. There were songs, testimonies given by visitors or read from those who wrote in, prayer, altar calls for salvation or sanctification or for baptism in the Holy Spirit. And there was preaching. Sermons were generally not prepared in advance but were typically spontaneous.
W. J. Seymour was clearly in charge, but much freedom was given to visiting preachers. There was also prayer for the sick. Many shouted. Others were ‘slain in the Spirit’ or fell under the power. There were periods of extended silence and of singing in tongues. No offerings were collected, but there was a receptacle near the door for gifts. …
Growth was quick and substantial. Most sources indicate the presence of about 300350 worshippers inside the forty-by-sixty-foot whitewashed woodframe structure, with others mingling outside… At times it may have been double that. … The significance of Azusa was centrifugal as those who were touched by it took their experiences elsewhere and touched the lives of others. Coupled with the theological threads of personal salvation, holiness, divine healing, baptism in the Spirit with power for ministry, and an anticipation of the imminent return of Jesus Christ, ample motivation was provided to assure the revival a long term impact’ (Burgess & McGee 1988:3136).
Asbury College, 1970
A revival broke out in Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, on Tuesday 3 February 1970. The regular morning chapel commencing at 10 o’clock saw God move on the students in such a way that many came weeping to the front to kneel in repentance, others gave testimonies including confession of sin, and all this was mixed with spontaneous singing. Lectures were cancelled for the day as 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. By 6 am next morning 75 students were still praying in the hall, and through the Wednesday it filled again as all lectures were again cancelled for the day. The time was filled with praying, singing, confessions and testimonies.
As they continued in prayer that week many students felt called to share what was happening with other colleges and churches. Invitations were coming from around the country as news of the revival spread. So teams went out from the next weekend to tell the story and give their testimonies. Almost half the student body of 1000 was involved in the teams witnessing about the revival.
In the first week after the revival began teams of students visited 16 states by invitation and saw several thousand conversions through their witnessing. After six weeks over 1,000 teams had gone from the college to witness, some of these into Latin America with finance provided by the home churches of the students. In addition, the neighbouring Theological Seminary sent out several hundred teams of their students who had also been caught up in this revival.
Those remaining at the college prayed for the teams and heard their reports on their return. Wherever teams went the revival spread. The college remained a centre of the revival with meetings continuing at night and weekends there along with spontaneous prayer groups meeting every day. Hundreds of people kept coming to the college to see this revival and participate in it. They took reports and their own testimonies of changed lives back to their churches or colleges. So the revival spread.
The Jesus People, 1971
By June 1971 revival movements had spilled over into the society with thousands of young people gathering in halls and theatres to sing, witness and repent, quitting drugs and immorality. The pendulum had swung from the permissive hippie dropouts of the sixties to a new wave of conversion and cleansing in the seventies. Time magazine carried a cover article on the Jesus Movement.
Such national attention also attracted cultic followers of the movement, but amid the extremes a powerful revival movement kept spreading. Mass baptisms were held in the ocean with outdoor meetings and teams witnessing on the beaches and in the city streets. New church groups such as Calvary Chapel and its many offshoots emerged which did not fit traditional denominations. People turned up to these churches in bare feet and old clothes as well as more traditional attire. Witnessing and evangelism burst spontaneously from lives changed by the love and power of God.
Wilbert (Bill) McLeod, a Baptist minister in his mid-fifties, had seen many people healed in answer to prayer, often praying with a group of deacons. Bill 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 1971. By the weekend an amazing spirit gripped the people. Many confessed their sins publicly. The first to do so were the twelve counsellors chosen to pray with inquirers. Numbers grew rapidly till the meetings had to be moved to a larger church building and then to the Civic Auditorium seating 2000. The movement spread to other churches.
The meetings lasted many hours. People did not want to leave. Some stayed on for a later meeting called the Afterglow. Here people received prayer and counsel from the group as they continued to worship God and pray together. Humble confession of sin and reconciliations were common. Many were converted.
Taxi drivers became amazed that people were getting cabs home from church late into the night or early into the morning. Others were calling for taxis to take them to church late into the night as they were convicted by the Lord.
Young people featured prominently. Almost half those converted were young. They gave testimonies of lives that had been cleaned up by God and how relationships with their families were restored. The atmosphere in schools and colleges changed from rebellion and cheating to cooperation with many Bible study and prayer groups forming in the schools and universities.
Criminals were also confessing their sins and giving themselves up to the police. Restitution was common. People payed long overdue bills. Some businesses opened new accounts to account for the conscience money being paid to them. Those who cheated at restaurants or hotels returned to pay their full bill. Stolen goods were returned.
In November a team went to Winnepeg and told of the revival at a meeting for ministers. The Holy Spirit moved powerfully and many broke down confessing their sins. Rivalries and jealousies were confessed and forgiven. Many went home to put things right with their families. The ministers took this fire back into their churches and the revival spread there also with meetings going late into the night as numbers grew and hundreds were converted or restored.
Sherwood Wirt (1975:46) reported on Bill McLeod preaching at Winnepeg on 15 December 1971:
I confess that what I saw amazed me. This man preached for only fifteen minutes, and he didn’t even give an invitation! He announced the closing hymn, whereupon a hundred people came out of their seats and knelt at the front of the church. All he said was, That’s right, keep coming!
Many were young. Many were in tears. All were from the Canadian Midwest, which is not known for its euphoria.
It could be said that what I was witnessing was revival.
I believe it was.
Bill McLeod and a team of six brought the revival to the eastern Canada when they were invited to speak at the Central Baptist Seminary in Toronto. The meeting there began at 10 am and went through till 1.15 am next morning. Dinner was cancelled as no one wanted to leave. They did stop for supper, then went on again.
When the Sutera brothers commenced meetings in Vancouver on the West Coast on Sunday 5 May 1972 revival broke out there also in the Ebenezer Baptist Church with 2,000 attending that first Sunday. The next Sunday 3,000 people attended in two churches. After a few weeks five churches were filled.
The revival spread in many churches across Canada and into northern U S A especially in Oregon. Everywhere the marks of the revival included honesty before God and others, with confession of sin and an outpouring of the love of God in those who repented.
The German speaking churches were also touched by the revival and by May 1972 they chartered a flight to Germany for teams to minister there.
The Afterglow meetings were common everywhere in the revival. After a meeting had finished those who wanted to stay on for prayer did so. Usually each person desiring prayer knelt at a chair and others laid hands on them and prayed for them. Many repented and were filled with the Spirit in the Afterglow meetings which often went to midnight or later.
In 1977 John Wimber began pastoring the fellowship of about 40 people which had been commenced by his wife, Carol. It later became the headquarters of the Vineyard Christian Fellowships. John preached from Luke’s gospel and began to pray for healings with no visible results for nine months although the worship and evangelism attracted many people. Then healings began to happen and became a regular part of Vineyard ministry.
In 1980 the congregation had an experience of corporate renewal. On the evening of Mothers’ Day a young man who had been attending the church gave a testimony and asked those under twenty-five to come forward. He then invoked the Holy Spirit and the young people about 400 of them fell to the floor, weeping, wailing and speaking in tongues.
Wimber and the rest of the congregation had never experienced anything like that before (Gunstone 1989:11).
A revival had begun. In the next four months they baptized 700 new converts. They began ministering in the Spirit’s power in new ways and healings became a regular part of their church’s life and their international teaching ministry. The church grew to 6,000 in a decade and commenced many other Vineyard fellowships.
Peter Wagner’s research describes Latin American Protestants 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 a projected 137 million by 2000. Over 100 new churches begin every week.
Pentecostals are the biggest proportion of this growth. One quarter of the Protestants were Pentecostal by the 1950s; three quarters by the 1980s. By then 90% of Protestants in Chile were Pentecostal (Wagner 1986:27).
Edward Miller tells of revival breaking out in Argentina from 1948. After he prayed earnestly for months, God told him to call his little church of 8 people to prayer every night from 8 pm to midnight. On the fourth night as they obeyed God the Holy Spirit fell on them. They heard the sound of strong wind. The church soon filled. There was much weeping, confessing and praying. By Saturday teams were going out and ministering in the Spirit’s power.
* Two teenage girls wept as they walked down the street and met two doctors who mocked, but listened to their testimonies, were convicted, and knelt asking for prayer.
* Two young people visited a lady whose mother was paralyzed and had been in bed for 5 years. They prayed for her, and she got up and drank tea with them.
* Two elderly people visited man in coma, a cripple with his liver damaged from drink. They prayed for him and he was healed.
A young rebel, Alexander and his band came to mock at one of the services aiming to disrupt it. God convicted him and he repented, so the other rebels rose to leave but fell under the Spirit’s power on the way out. All were converted. Two went to the Bible Training Institute.
Later, when Edward Miller was teaching at the Bible Training Institute in the small town of City Bell near Buenos Aires, he was led to cancel teaching there and call the school to prayer.
The move of God in that Institute began in an unusual way on 4 June 1951. Alexander, now in Bible School, was still in prayer outside in fields long after midnight when he sensed a strange feeling of something pressing down upon him, an great light surrounding him and a heavenly being enfolding him. The boy was terrified and fled back to the Institute.
The heavenly visitor entered the Institute with him, and in a few moments all the students were awake with the fear of God upon them. They began to cry out in repentance as God by his Spirit dealt with them. The next day the Spirit of God came again upon Alexander as he was given prophecies of God’s moving in far off countries. The following day Alexander again saw the Lord in the Spirit, but this time he began to speak slowly and distinctly the words he heard from the angel of God. No one could understand what he was saying, however, until another lad named Celsio (with even less education than Alexander), overcome with the Spirit of God markedly upon him, began to interpret. These communications (written because he choked up when he tried to talk) were a challenge from God to pray and indeed the Institute became a centre of prayer till the vacation time, when teams went out to preach the kingdom. It was the beginning of new stirrings of the Spirit across the land (Pytches 1989:4951).
The Bible Institute continued in prayer for 4 months, 810 hours a day, weeping. Bricks became saturated; one young man prayed against the wall daily, weeping. After 6 hours the tear stains reached the floor, and after 8 hours had formed a puddle on floor. The Lord gave them prophecies of revival in Argentina and around the world. They were told the largest auditoriums would be filled, and this happened with the visit of Tommy Hicks to Argentina.
Tommy Hicks was involved in revival in Latin America. In 1952 he was conducting a series of meetings in California when God showed him a vision. While he was praying he saw a map of South America covered with a vast field of golden wheat ripe for harvesting. The wheat turned into human beings calling him to come and help them.
He wrote in his Bible a prophecy he received about going by air to that land before two summers passed. Three months later, after an evangelistic crusade, a pastor’s wife in California gave that same prophecy to him that he had written down. Cash began to arrive till he had enough to buy a one way air ticket to Buenos Aires. On his way there after meetings in Chile, the word Peron came to his mind. He asked the air stewardess if she knew what it meant. She told him Peron was the President of Argentina. After he made an appointment with the Minister of Religion, wanting to see the President, he prayed for the Minister’s secretary who was limping. He was healed. So the Minister made an appointment for Hicks to see the President. Through prayer the President was healed of an ugly eczema and gave Hicks the use of a stadium and free access to the state radio and press. The crusade was a spiritual breakthrough.
Brazil also had revival. Edwin Orr visited each of the 25 states and territories in Brazil in 1952 seeing powerful moves of the spirit in his meetings which were supported by all denominations. The evangelical church council declared that the year of 1952 saw the first of such a general spiritual awakening in the country’s history. Many meetings had to be moved into soccer stadiums, some churches increased in numbers by 50% in one week, and the revival movement continued in local churches in Brazil.
Many congregations in Latin America now are huge. By the eighties the Brazil for Christ Church in Sao Paulo seated 25,000 on a mile and a half of benches. The Jotabeche Methodist Pentecostal Church of Santiago in Chile has over 90,000 members. One of the largest fellowships in Argentina is the Vision of the Future church pastored by Omar and Marfa Cabrera and a committed team of leaders. They had 30,000 in 1979. That grew to over 145,000 by 1988. The Cabreras have a powerful personal and mass deliverance ministry, taking authority over demons in areas and in people.
Small rural churches spring up across the continent far outstripping the provision of trained leadership. By the 1960s the Presbyterians of Guatemala had initiated Theological Education by Extension, including weekly local seminars for onthejob leadership development. This pattern is spreading worldwide in distance education programs.
1988 saw astounding revival in Cuba. The Pentecostals, Baptists, independent evangelical churches and some Methodist and Nazarene churches experienced powerful revival. One Assemblies of God church had around 100,000 visit it in six months, many coming in bus loads. One weekend they had 8,000 visitors, and on one day the four pastors (including two youth pastors) prayed with over 300 people.
In central Cuba, a miraculous healing took place at a 150 seat chapel at the beginning of a nine-day mission. The repercussions were so astounding that at one time 5,000 people crowded into the chapel. During those nine days, 1,200 people became Christians, and there were further healings. The two pastors were put in prison, but Cuban believers commented, ‘Although the authorities stopped this crusade, they cannot stop the Holy Spirit.’ Revival spread to the rest of Cuba (Mills 1990:18).
In many Pentecostal churches the lame walked, the blind saw, the deaf heard, and people’s teeth were filled. Often 2,000 to 3,000 attended meetings. In one evangelical church over 15,000 people accepted Christ in three months. A Baptist pastor reported signs and wonders occurring continuously with many former atheists and communists testifying to God’s power. So many have been converted that churches cannot hold them so they must met in house churches.
In Cuba in 1990, an Assemblies of God pastor whose congregation never exceeded 100 people meeting once a week suddenly found himself conducting 12 services per day for 7,000 people. They started queuing at 2.00 am and even broke down doors just to get into the prayer meetings (Robinson 1992:14).
The church in Africa has grown from around 10 million in 1900 to over 200 million in the 1980s and over 300 million now. By 2000 that number is expected reach 400 million, half the population. In the early 1900s one out of every 13,000 were Christians; now one out of three are reported as being Christians.
Africa has seen many powerful revivals, such as the Belgian Congo outpouring with C T Studd 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,’ he reported. ‘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.’
Between 1946 and 1949 the Belgian Congo experienced a further visitation of God. It followed much prayer and fasting. Visions were common. Multitudes repented. Witch doctors burned their charms and became Christian.
Following independence in 1960 that country, then called Zaire, experienced a blood bath at the hands of rebels. Over 30 missionaries were martyred in Zaire in 19601965 as were hundreds of pastors and thousands of their members. Whole congregations were wiped out. In one place the Christians were driven into a church building and all burned alive. Yet the persecuted church of Zaire saw a remarkable revival. Born in agonizing prayer and fanned by supernatural visitations of God, it grew in a powerful underground movement. The people, appalled at the killings, turned to God in thousands.
As the troubles subsided there was an extraordinary revival.
More than one rebel said, ‘The more we kill these Christians the more they multiply. They have got a power we haven’t got.’
Disillusioned with politics, there was a sudden wholesale turning to God among the people. A Congolese pastor revealed, ‘During the long period when we were cut off from the missionaries we had a remarkable visitation of the Spirit of God. The pastors of our district had been fasting and praying because of the bloodshed and persecutions. As we were praying the Spirit descended on us in a wonderful way and His gifts operated among us. He told us many things in prophecy which have all come true. The Holy Spirit began to convict of sin as we went back to our churches to preach, and streams of men and women believed on the Lord Jesus and confessed their sins exactly as in Acts 19:1720, bringing their heathen charms. This revival lasted eight months.’ This was repeated throughout the great area of the Zaire Evangelical Mission; revival broke out everywhere and thousands upon thousands were converted and added to the churches (Whittaker 1984:117).
Similarly, persecution in Uganda for eight terrible years following Idi Amin’s coup in 1971, saw the church refined and aflame. In those years the Christians increased from 52% to around 70% of the twelve million population.
Many African revivals experience supernatural manifestations, visions, prophecies, and healings. For 40 years there has been continuous revival in East Africa. Revivals include a powerful move of God in Ethiopia in 1978. Revived Christians survived the Mau Mau massacres in Kenya and the church continued to grow. For example, 700 new churches began in Kenya in 1980 alone, a rate of about two a day. Nigeria experienced revivals in 19831984, accelerating church growth there (Pratney 1984:2678).
Outstanding leaders have emerged including men such as the Zulu Nicholas Bhengu. Fluent in Zulu, Xhosa, English and Afrikaans, this dynamic leader of the Back to God Crusade moved across southern Africa for 40 years and started over 1,000 churches through the mighty outpourings of the Holy Spirit.
Reinhard Bonnke, a German evangelist called to Africa, has led amazing crusades filled with the power of God in which thousands are converted, healed and delivered of evil spirits. His multiracial team in Christ For All Nations crusades ministered in a 10,000 seat tent which was often too small. In 1980 alone 100,000 people made commitments to Christ in his crusades, and those huge numbers have continued and increased each year since. In 1983 he erected a tent which seats 30,000 with which he plans to lead missions from Cape Town to Cairo.
The New Life for All movement challenges Christians to pray daily for ten people until each becomes a Christian. They tell those people of their daily prayers for them. As each is converted a new name is added to the list to keep it at ten. The new convert does the same, praying daily for ten others. That simple commitment has fuelled revival in Africa.
The turn of the century prepared the way for revival movements in India. From 1895 the first Saturday of each month was set aside in Bombay for prayer for revival, and other centres followed this pattern. Revival came in 1905, again linked with world wide outpourings as in Wales.
Distress caused by famine in 1904 also caused Christians to pray all over India. As news of revival in Wales reached India, and returning missionaries told of God’s move there, expectation and prayer grew across India.
Revival moved in groups across Eastern India especially among the tribal people. Revival swept through the Khasi hills and among the Garos to their west and into the Naga Hills. It turned the hills people from head hunters into predominantly Christian within a generation. Bengal was also touched by the revival as news from the north motivated Christians to pray, repent and believe.
Any Carmichael wrote of revival in Dohnavur, especially among the young people. They experienced deep repentance and conversion in large numbers.
The awakening in Kerala among Anglicans and Mar Thoma Christians produced simultaneous audible prayer, alien to their normal traditions. At one convention 17,000 broke into simultaneous audible prayer.
Pandita Ramabai heard of revivals and commenced special prayer circles with hundreds of her helpers and friends at Mukti from the beginning of 1905. This movement spread first among the girls and women, touching thousands. It spilled over into the community. It spread with teams visiting Poona 40 miles away. Churches in Bombay were revived and filled with new vigour.
Revival affected India most strongly in the South and East, but North India also saw God’s power change lives. John Hyde, known as Praying Hyde, spent days and nights in prayer with friends for revival in India. In schools, a seminary and then in conventions among the resistant Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus of North East India the revival spread. The Sialkot annual conventions grew in numbers and impact. A young Sikh named Sundar Singh had a vision of Jesus on 18 December 1904 and was converted. He became a Christian Sadhu mystic and evangelist in India and Tibet.
Orr (1975:156) notes that ‘in the 1905 Revival, independence of the national Church was stressed, for, in the aftermath of revival, new men were ready for new work in new fields, men who had formerly been agents and employees of the Missions now were carrying revival and evangelism to the villages.’
The first Protestant missionaries went to Korea in the 1880s. By the 1980s one quarter of South Koreans were Christian. In 1980 Here’s Life Korea crusade drew 2,700,000, the largest single Christian meetings in history.
Revival in Korea broke out in the nation in 1907. Presbyterian missionaries, hearing of revival in Wales, and of a similar revival among Welsh Presbyterian work in Assam, 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, and that became a characteristic of Korean prayer meetings.
The meetings carried on day after day, with confessions of sins, weeping and trembling. The heathen were astounded. The delegates of the New Year gathering returned to their churches taking with them this spirit of prayer which strongly impacted the churches of the nation with revival. Everywhere conviction of sin, confession and restitution were common.
Brutal persecution at the hands of the Japanese and then the Russian and Chinese communists saw thousands killed, but still the church grew in fervent prayer. Prior to the Russian invasion thousands of North Koreans gathered every morning at 5 am Sometimes 10,000 were gathered in one place for prayer each morning.
Early morning daily prayer meetings became common, as did nights of prayer especially on Friday nights, and this emphasis on prayer has continued as a feature of church life in Korea. Over a million gather every morning around 5 am for prayer in the churches. Prayer and fasting is normal. Churches have over 100 prayer retreats in the hills called Prayer Mountains to which thousands go to pray, often with fasting. Healings and supernatural manifestations continue.
Now the city of Seoul has 6,000 churches, many huge. Koreans have sent over 10,000 missionaries into other Asian countries.
David Yonggi Cho has amazing growth in Seoul where he is senior pastor of a Full Gospel church of 800,000 with over 25,000 home cell groups, and 12,000 conversion every month. During the week over 3,000 a day and over 5,000 at weekends pray at their prayer mountain.
In 1950, missionaries expelled from China left behind one million evangelical Christians, and three million Catholics. Conservative figures run from 50 to 80 million Christians in China now and some Asian researchers report 100 million Christians estimated out of 960 million population. This underground revival spread through thousands of house churches. Miracles, healings, visions and supernatural interventions of God marked this outpouring of the Spirit.
Many suffered and died in persecution. 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.
Mama Kwong, exiled in Japan because of her virile Christian leadership, tells how over 30 years she helped to lead one million to the Lord through preaching and home cell meetings. She was imprisoned three times. Such leaders often faced long imprisonment or martyrdom, and her own son and others were nailed alive to church walls. The blood of the martyrs is still the seed of the church in China.
Mama Kwong says that during those days [1960s], God chose three hundred dedicated Christians to start a new church. As they gathered at 3 am one morning, they saw a vision of the Lord and clearly heard His voice saying, ‘Although Communism is evil, I will open the door and no one will shut it.’ As the three hundred went out and shared the gospel, tremendous miracles began to happen. Whole towns and villages turned to Christ’ (Whittaker 1984:153).
A Hong Kong and China Report of March 1991 produced by the Revival Christian Church tells of continuing opposition and imprisonment, but also of astounding church growth.
In 1989 preachers from Henan province visited North Anhul province and found several thousand believers in care of an older pastor from Shanghai. On the first night of their meetings that winter with 1,000 present 30 people were baptized. First was a lady who had convulsions if she went into cold water. She was healed of that and other ills and found the water warm. A twelve year old boy, deaf and dumb, was baptized and spoke, ‘Mother, Father, the water is not cold the water is not cold.’ A lady nearly 90, disabled after an accident in her twenties, was completely healed in the water. By the third and fourth night over 1,000 were baptized.
A young man who has been leading teams since he was 17, reported in 1990 at the age of 20: ‘When the church first sent us out to preach the Gospel, after two to three months of ministering we usually saw 2030 converts. But now it is not 20. It is 200, 300, and often 600 or more will be converted.’
In 12 March 1991, the South China Morning Post, acknowledged there were one million Christians in central Henan province, many having made the previously unheard of decision to voluntarily withdraw from the party. ‘While political activities are cold-shouldered, religious ones are drawing large crowds.’
Asia Outreach reported that Outer Mongolia had four known Christians by the beginning of 1991. That grew to over 70 by August, and many churches and a Bible school have been established since then.
In 1990, the Soviet Union acknowledged before its demise that 90 million of its 290 million inhabitants confess allegiance to a church or religious community. Christians have estimated over 97 million were Christian (Pratney 1984:273).
Sergie Kordakov, a teenage thug leader of tough marines, worked for the KGB including breaking up house churches or Christian home groups, arresting the pastors and beating the Christians, especially any young people found there. He was eventually converted through the witness of a young girl Natasha who kept coming to home groups in spite of being bashed. He noted how a secret revival was sweeping Russia involving many young people as well as older Christians.
Another young man, Vanya saw God’s miraculous protection and intervention in his military service where he unashamedly witnessed to his faith in God, before his mysterious death..
The earnest prayers of suffering Christians through most of this century has been a significant part in more recent freedom to worship God experienced in Russia and its neighbours. Reports from Russia have included huge numbers turning to Christ recently. In 1991, for example, 70,000 out of 90,000 made commitments to Christ in an evangelism rally in Leningrad. Churches are packed. All available Bibles are sold.
Nepal has been traditionally resistant to Christianity. That is changing. David Wang (Asian Report, May/June 1991) tells of a former Lama priest, illiterate, who has been a pastor for 13 years and pastors 43 fellowships with total of 32,000 people. Another pastor oversees 40,000 people. Most conversions in Nepal involve casting out demons.
Missionaries were expelled from Burma in the 1960s but the church continues to grow. The largest known baptismal service in the world happened there at the Kachin Baptist Centenial Convention in 1977 with 6,000 baptized in one day.
In September 1973 Todd Burke arrived in Cambodia on a one week visitor’s visa. Just 23 years old, he felt a strong call from God to minister there, the only charismatic missionary in the country. Beginning with two English classes a day, conducted through an interpreter, he taught from the Good News Bible. Those interested in knowing more about Jesus stayed after class and he saw daily conversions and people filled with the Spirit and healed. Revival broke out in the war torn capital of Phnom Penh and rapidly spread to surrounding areas.
During that September Todd’s wife DeAnn joined him, they received permission to stay in the country, and mounted a three day crusade in a stadium where thousands attended and hundreds were saved and healed supernaturally. A powerful church spread through a network of small house churches. Todd met with the leaders of these groups at early morning prayer meetings every day at 6 am Most pastors were voluntary workers holding normal jobs. Some cycled in from the country and returned for work each morning. Healings, miracles and deliverance from demonic powers were regular events, attracting new converts who in turn were filled with the power of the Spirit and soon began witnessing and praying for others.
When the country fell to the communists in 1975 the Burkes had to leave. They left behind an amazing church anointed by the power of God before it was buried by going underground to survive. They recorded their story of those two years of revival in Anointed for Burial (1977).
The Spirit of God brought revival to Indonesia during the troubled and politically uncertain times there in the sixties. Much of it happened outside the established church, with a later acceptance of it in some churches. Thousands of Moslems were converted, the biggest Christian impact on Islam in history.
A Bible School in East Java experienced revival with deep repentance, confession, renunciation of occult practices, burnings of fetishes and amulets and a new humility and unity among staff and students. The Lord led individual students and teams in powerful evangelism in many islands.
A team visited Timor and saw evidences of revival beginning which burst into unprecedented power in September 1965. This revival spread in the uncertain days following the attempted army coup on 30 September, 1965 in Indonesia. Four days previously a visitation from God had begun in Timor.
A rebellious young man had received a vision of the Lord who commanded him to repent, burn his fetishes, and confess his sins in church. He did. He attended the Reformed Church in Soe, a mountain town of about 5,000 people, where the revival broke out at that service on Sunday 26 September 1965. People heard the sound of a tornado wind. Flames on the church building prompted police to set off the fire alarm to summon the volunteer fire fighters. Many people were converted that night. Many were filled with the Spirit including speaking in tongues, some in English. By midnight teams of lay people had been organized to begin spreading the gospel the next day. They gave themselves full time to visiting churches and villages and saw thousands converted with multitudes healed and delivered. In one town alone they saw 9,000 people converted in two weeks.
Another young man, Mel Tari witnessed this visitation of God and later became part of Team 42. Eventually, about 90 evangelistic teams were formed which functioned powerfully with spiritual gifts. Healings and evangelism increased dramatically. Specific directions from the Lord led the teams into powerful ministry with thousands becoming Christians. They saw many healings, miracles such as water being turned to nonalcoholic wine for communion, some instantaneous healings, deliverance from witchcraft and demonic powers, and some people raised from death through prayer.
The teams were often guided supernaturally including provision of light at night on jungle trails, angelic guides and protection, meagre supplies of food multiplied in pastors’ homes when a team ate together there during famines, and witch doctors being converted after they saw power encounters when the teams’ prayers banished demons rendering the witch doctors powerless.
The teams learned to listen to the Lord and obey him. His leadings came in many biblical ways:
1. God spoke audibly as with Samuel or Saul of Tarsus,
2. many had visions as did Mary or Cornelius,
3. there were inspired dreams such as Jacob, Joseph or Paul saw,
4. prophecies as in Israel and the early church occurred,
5. the Spirit led many as with Elijah or Paul’s missionary team,
6. the Lord often spoke through specific Bible verses,
7. circumstances proved to be God incidences not just coincidences,
8. often when leadings were checked with the group or the church the Lord gave confirmations and unity.
Mel Tari, Kurt Koch and others have told of the amazing revival in Indonesia. The Reformed Church Presbytery on Timor, for example, recorded 80,000 conversions from the first year of the revival there, half of those being former communists. They noted that some 15,000 people had been permanently healed in that year. After three years the number of converts had grown to over 200,000. On another island where there had been very few Christians 20,000 became believers in the first three years of the revival.
So often in times of great tribulation, political upheaval and bloodshed, the Spirit of the Lord moves most powerfully and the church grows most rapidly, as happens in many countries today.
Revival has been spreading in Pacific islands, especially in the Solomons. Teams have gone from there to other countries such as Papua New Guinea and helped to light revival fires around the Pacific.
Solomon Islands, 1970
Muri Thompson, a Maori evangelist from New Zealand, visited the Solomons in July and August 1970 where the church had already experienced significant renewal and was praying for revival. Many of these Christians were former warriors and cannibals gradually won to Christ in spite of initial hostility and the martyrdom of early missionaries and indigenous evangelists.
Beginning at Honiara, the capital, Muri spent two months visiting churches and centres on the islands. Initially the national leaders and missionaries experienced deep conviction and repentance, publicly acknowledging their wrong attitudes. It was very humbling. A new unity and harmony transformed their relationships, and little things which destroyed that unity were openly confessed with forgiveness sought and given.
Then in the last two weeks of these meetings the Spirit of God moved even more powerfully in the meetings with more deep repentance and weeping, sometimes even before the visiting team arrived. At one meeting the Spirit of God came upon everyone after the message in a time of silent prayer when the sound of a gale came above the gathering of 2000 people.
Multitudes were broken, melted and cleansed, including people who had been strongly opposed to the Lord. Weeping turned to joyful singing. Everywhere people were talking about what the Lord had done to them. Many received healings and deliverance from bondage to evil spirits. Marriages were restored and young rebels transformed.
Everywhere people were praying together every day. They had a new hunger for God’s Word. People were sensitive to the Spirit and wanted to be transparently honest and open with God and one another.
Normal lectures in the South Seas Evangelical Church Bible School were constantly abandoned as the Spirit took over the whole school with times of confession, prayer and praise.
Teams from these areas visited other islands, and the revival caught fire there also. Eventually pastors from the Solomons were visiting other Pacific countries and seeing similar moves of God there.
Western Highlands, Papua New Guinea, 1973
Prayer meetings began among pastors, missionaries and Bible College students in the Baptist mission area among Engas of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea in the early 1970s owing to the low spiritual state in the churches. This prayer movement spread to the villages. In some villages people agreed to pray together everyday until God sent new life to the church.
During September 1973 pastors from the Solomon Islands and Enga students who were studying at the Christian Leaders Training College visited the Enga churches. Revival broke out in many villages on Sunday 16 September. Many hundreds of people, deeply convicted of sin, repented and were reconciled to God and others with great joy.
Pastors in one area held a retreat from Monday to Wednesday in a forest which previously had been sacred for animistic spirit worship. Others joined the pastors there. Healings reported included a lame man able to walk, a deaf mute who spoke and heard, and a mentally deranged girl restored.
Normal work stopped as people in their thousands hurried to special meetings. Prayer groups met daily, morning and evening. In the following months thousands of Christians were restored and thousands of pagans converted. The church grew in size and maturity (Vision magazine, 1973:46).
Duranmin, Papua New Guinea, 1977
Pastors from the Solomon Islands spoke about their revival at a pastors and leaders conference in the highlands of Papua New Guinea. Diyos Wapnok attended from the Baptist Mission area at Telefolmin. He heard God call his name three times in the night there and realised that the Lord was drawing his attention to some special challenge.
Later, on Thurdsay afternoon 10 March, 1977 at Duranmin in the rugged western highlands, where Diyos was the principal of the Sepik Baptist Bible College, while he spoke to about 50 people they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and great joy. Revival had begun. It spread through the area with vibrant new enthusiasm. Conversions, Bible studies, prayer and healings of many kinds were common. 3,000 were added to the church in 3 years. The church grew and was strengthened. This revival movement spread to other areas as Diyos and others told of what God was doing.
Sepik, Papua New Guinea, 1984
In the Sepik lowlands of northern Papua New Guinea a new visitation of God burst on the churches at Easter 1984, again sparked by Solomon Island pastors. It too was characterised by repentance, confession, weeping and great joy. Stolen goods were returned or replaced, and wrongs made right.
Ray Overend reports (1985:910):
I was preaching to an Easter convention at a place called Walahuta during the recent Sepik revival in Papua New Guinea. The words the Lord gave us were from Isaiah 6 …
After the last word of the message the whole church rose to its feet and clapped loudly something completely new to me! I knew they were not applauding me. They were acknowledging to God in praise the truth of his Word… Then I sat down in the only spare little space in the overcrowded church and the whole congregation began to sing one song after another…
Many faces were lifted to Heaven and many hands raised in humble adoration. The faces looked like the faces of angels. They were radiating light and joy. And then I noticed something.
Right beside me was a man who had heard the Word and now he just watched those radiant faces lost in praise. Then he hung his head and began to sob like a child. He was ministered to. Demons were cast out. And he received the Lord Jesus right into his heart.
Then he too began to clap in gentle joy.
But who was he? A pastor came over to tell me that he had been until this moment the leader of the Tambaran cult in the Walahuta area that Satanic cult of which the whole village lived in mortal fear and traditionally the whole of the Sepik
The man who was second in charge of the Tambaran cult in that area was also converted that day while he was listening to the worship from a distance as God’s love and power overcame him.
I will never forget June 14th, 1984. Revival had broken out in many churches around but Brugam itself [the headquarters], with many station staff and many Bible College and Secondary School students, was untouched. … Then early on Thursday night, the 14th, Judah Akesi, the Church Superintendent, invited some of us to his office for prayer. During that prayer time God gave him a vision. In the vision he saw many people bowed down in the front of the church building in the midst of a big light falling down from above just like rain.
So after the ministry of the Word that night Judah invited those who wanted to bring their whole heart and mind and life under the authority of Christ to come forward so that hands might be laid on them for prayer.
About 200 people surged forward. Many fell flat on their faces on the ground sobbing aloud. Some were shaking as spiritual battles raged within. There was quite some noise…
The spiritual battles and cries of contrition continued for a long time. Then one after another in a space of about 3 minutes everybody rose to their feet, singing spontaneously as they rose.
They were free. The battle was won. Satan was bound. They had made Christ their King! Their faces looked to Heaven as they sang. They were like the faces of angels. The singing was like the singing of Heaven. Deafening, but sweet and reverent (Overend 1986:3637).
The whole curriculum and approach at the Bible School for the area changed. Instead of traditional classes and courses, teachers would work with the school all day from prayer times early in the morning through Bible teaching followed by discussion and sharing times during the day to evening worship and ministry. The school became a community, seeking the Lord together.
Churches which have maintained a strong Biblical witness continue to stay vital and strong in evangelism and ministry, filled with the Spirit’s power. Christians learn to witness and minister in spiritual gifts, praying and responding to the leading of the Spirit.
Many received spiritual gifts they never had before. One such gift was the ‘gift of knowledge’ whereby the Lord would show Christians exactly where fetishes of ‘sanguma’ men were hidden.
Now in Papua New Guinea sanguma men (who subject themselves to indescribable ritual to be in fellowship with Satan) are able to kill by black magic… In fact the power of sanguma in the East Sepik province has been broken (Overend 1986:2324).
In 1986 a senior pastor from Manus Island came to the Sepik to attend a one year’s pastors’ course. He was filled with the Spirit.
Shortly afterwards he went to Ambunti with a team of students on outreach. There they were asked to pray for an injured child who couldn’t walk and later in the morning he saw her walking around the town. He came back to his course and said: ‘In my 35 years as a pastor on Manus I had never seen the power of God like this!’ (Overend 1986:38).
North Solomons, 1988
Jobson Misang, an indigenous youth worker in the United Church, wrote a letter reporting on a further revival movement in the North Solomons Province of Papua New Guinea in 1988:
Over the last eight weekends I have been fully booked to conduct weekend camps. So far about 3,500 have taken part in the studies of the ‘Living in the Spirit’ book. Over 2,000 have given their lives to Jesus Christ and are committed to live by the directions of the Spirit. This is living the Pentecost experience today!
These are some of the experiences taking place:
1. During small group encounters, under the directions of Spirit-filled leadership, people are for the first time identifying their spiritual gifts, and are changing the traditional ministry to body ministry.
2. Under constant prayers, visions and dreams are becoming a day to day experience which are being shared during meetings and prayed about.
3. Local congregations are meeting at 4 am and 6 am three days a week to pray, and studying the Scriptures is becoming a day to day routine. This makes Christians strong and alert.
4. Miracles and healings are taking place when believers lay hands on the sick and pray over them.
5. The financial giving of the Christians is being doubled. All pastors’ wages are supported by the tithe.
6. Rascal activities (crimes) are becoming past time events and some drinking clubs are being overgrown by bushes.
7. The worship life is being renewed tremendously. The traditional order of service is being replaced by a much more lively and participatory one. During praise and worship we celebrate by clapping, dancing, raising our hands to the King of kings, and we meditate and pray. When a word of knowledge is received we pray about the message from the Lord and encourage one another to act on it with sensitivity and love.
Problems encountered include division taking place within the church because of believers baptism, fault finding, tongues, objections to new ways of worship, resistance to testimonies, loss of local customs such as smoking or chewing beetlenut or no longer killing animals for sacrifices, believers spending so many hours in prayer and fasting and Bible studies, marriages where only one partner is involved and the other blames the church for causing divisions, pride creeping in when gifts are not used sensitively or wisely, and some worship being too unbalanced.
Eastern Highlands, Papua New Guinea, 1988
Johan van Bruggen, principal of a Lutheran Evangelist Training Centre near Kainantu in the Papua New Guinea highlands reported in newsletters on the beginnings of revival in their area:
There came Thursday 4 August, a miserable day weather wise, although we had great joy during our studies. Evening devotions not all students came, actually a rather small group. I too needed some inner encouragement to go as it was more comfortable near the fire.
We sang a few quiet worship songs. … Samson was leading the devotions. We had sung the last song and were waiting for him to start. Starting he did, but in an unusual way. He cried, trembled all over! … Then it spread. When I looked up again I saw the head prefect flat on the floor under his desk. I was praying in tongues off and on. It became quite noisy. Students were shouting! Should I stop it? Don’t hold back! It went on and one, with students praying and laughing and crying not quite following our planned program! We finally stood around the table, about twelve of us, holding hands. Some were absolutely like drunk, staggering and laughing! I heard a few students starting off in tongues and I praised the Lord. The rain had stopped, not so the noise. So more and more people came in and watched!
Not much sleeping that night! They talked and talked! And that was not the end. Of course the school has changed completely.
Lessons were always great, I thought, but have become greater still. Full of joy most of the time, but also with a tremendous burden. A burden to witness.
What were the highlights of 1988?
No doubt the actual outpouring of the Holy Spirit must come first.
It happened on August 4 when the Spirit fell on a group of students and staff, with individuals receiving the baptism of the Holy spirit on several occasions later on in the year. The school has never been the same again. As direct results we noticed a desire for holiness, a hunger for God’s Word which was insatiable right up till the end of the school year, and also a tremendous urge to go out and witness. Whenever they had a chance many of our students were in the villages with studies and to lead Sunday services. Prayer life deepened, and during worship services we really felt ourselves to be on holy ground.
[In 1989] Our 35 new students were again fascinated by the new life they discovered among the second year students. The Word of God did the rest. During the month of March real repentance took place. One week before Easter the Holy Spirit moved mightily among the students and staff. There was a lot of crying during that week. Each night the students met in small prayer groups.
The aim was to get them prepared to go out to seven small Easter camps that were planned for the Gazup area our area here around the school.
God’s Spirit really prepared them well! I have never seen and heard so much crying. Many students had listed all their sins. I must confess that some of these lists really shook me. There was witchcraft, magic, adultery, stealing, drunkenness. It once again showed me how deep and far the world has invaded the church today. There was tremendous relief as students were assured of forgiveness and were filled with the Holy Spirit.’
An example of how God used these students is the account of a young man, David, Markham Valley of the Eastern Highlands in Papua New Guinea who was studying at the Training School. He had a growing burden for his village of Waritzian which was known and feared as the centre of pagan occult practices.
During his studies he was concerned for his people who were not ready for the Lord’s return. He prayed much. As part of an outreach team he visited nearby villages and then went to his own people in May, 1989. They had already written to the Training School asking for him to come to teach them. He was concerned about the low spiritual life of the church. He spent a couple of days alone praying for them.
Then as he was teaching them they heard the sound of an approaching wind which filled the place. Many were weeping, confessing their sins. They burnt their fetishes used in sorcery. This had been a stronghold of those sanguma practices. Many people received various spiritual gifts including unusual abilities such as speaking English in tongues and being able to read the Bible. People met for prayer, worship and study every day and at night. These daily meetings continued.
Vanuatu, 196162, 199192
Paul Grant was involved in the early stirrings of revival in Vanuatu during 199612. He writes:
It is important to note the following components in the lead up to later visitation and reviving:
1. A shared concern of missionaries for revival.
2. A significantly developed interest in the quickening power of the Spirit among west Ambai church members and leaders through teaching of the Scriptures and news of revival and the power-works of the Spirit in other parts of the world, e.g. a series of talks on the East Africa revival, the Welsh revival, signs and wonders and healings as reported from the Apostolic Church in Papua New Guinea, and inspiring records in other magazines.
3. An emphasis on prayer meetings, both between missionaries and in local churches.
4. Regular and frequent prayers for a visitation of God’s Spirit by Apostolic Churches around the world. The first Monday night of each month was observed as a prayer night for worldwide missions.
5. Concentrated, sustained Scripture teaching in the classrooms of the primary school where students later would experience the power of God. …
Beginning in the Santo church on August 15th 1962 and continuing there and in churches on Ambae (commencing in Tafala village in October) over a period of about 12 weeks the power of God moved upon young people. There were many instances of glossolalia, healings, prophetic utterances, excitation, loud acclamations to God in public services, incidents of deep conviction of sin, conversions, restitutions, and other manifestations of holiness of life… This visitation resulted in a liveliness not known before.
Initially it was mainly among young people. In later months and years it spread among all age groups and to my present knowledge was the first such visitation in the history of the Christian Church in Vanuatu. My gratification centred upon the following particulars:
1. The Holy Spirit had animated and empowered a people who were well taught in the Scriptures. Records show a lift in spiritual vitality in all the village churches.
2. It brought the church as a whole into a more expressive, dynamic dimension and also a charismatic gift function. They were much more able to gain victory over spirit forces so familiar to them.
3. It began to hasten the maturation processes in developing leadership.
4. The reality matched the doctrinal stand of the church. There was now no longer a disparity.
5. It confirmed to me the very great importance of being ‘steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord forasmuch as you know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord’ (1 Corinthians 15:58 AV).
6. It led to significant outreach in evangelism, both personal and group. …
In the following years some of the young men and women served God in evangelistic teams, school teaching, urban witness, government appointments, and as pastors and elders to their own people. One of them has with his wife been an effective missionary… in Papua New Guinea (Grant 1986:710).
More recent revival movements in Vanuatu have stirred parts of the church there, such as described in this letter from Ruth Rongo of Tongoa Island written on 28 August 1991:
I’ve just come back from an evangelism ministry. It lasted for three months. God has done many miracles. Many people were shocked by the power of the Holy Spirit. The blind received their sight, the lame walk, the sick were healed. All these were done during this evangelism ministry. We see how God’s promise came into action. The prophet Joel had said it. We people of Vanuatu say ‘The spirit of the Lord God is upon us because he has anointed us to preach the Gospel to the poor people of Vanuatu.’ Praise God for what he has done.
In where I live, my poor home, I also started a home cell prayer group. We’re aiming or our goal is that the revival must come in the church where I am. Please pray for me and also for the group.
Our prayer group usually meets on Sunday night, after the night meeting. We start at 10.30 pm and go to 1 or 3.30 am. If we come closer to God He will also come close to us. We spend time in listening and responding to God.
These revival movements continue to increase in the Pacific, especially as indigenous teams minister in other areas with the Spirit’s fire. The church grows stronger, even through opposition. Indigenous Christians live and minister in New Testament patterns from house to house, from village to village.
Powerful moves of God’s Spirit in Australia have included the Sunshine Revival in Melbourne from February 1925 and the aboriginal revival beginning in Galiwinku (Elcho Island) from March 1979.
Two young men in their twenties led the Sunshine Revival. Charles Greenwood began prayer meetings in his home in 1916 and the group completed building the Sunshine Gospel Hall in February 1925. A. C. Valdez, recently arrived from America, joined the group and became its leader that year. At first meetings were held on a Saturday and Sunday. Then they had a two week campaign. The hall was packed.
Charles Greenwood reported:
During this campaign the power of God was manifested in a mighty way sinners were converted; many believers were baptized in the Holy Spirit and healed. Soon the news spread that the Lord was pouring out His Spirit at Sunshine, and people came from near and far. Over 200 Christians from all denominations were baptized in the Holy Spirit in this blessed outpouring of the ‘Latter Rain’ (Chant 1984:9091).
They established the Pentecostal Church of Australia following that campaign and public meetings were then held in the Prahran Town Hall because of the crowds. Later that year they moved into Richmond Theatre which became Richmond Temple. It could seat 1200 and had shops at the front which became their Bible and Tract Department. In 1926 A. C. Valdez believed his work there was completed and he returned to the States. Kelso Glover, also in his twenties, arrived from the States and led meetings for three weeks in a revival atmosphere. He was invited to stay on as pastor. Richmond Temple became the headquarters of the Pentecostal Church of Australia and from July 1926 they produced their national paper the Australian Evangel.
Galiwinku, Elcho Island, 1979
Revival among aborigines commenced in Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island in the north of Australia from 1979. Djiniyini Gondarra ministered there where half the island became involved in the church and the whole community was affected. The pattern is similar to other revivals prayer and expectation, the Spirit of God moving in new and powerful ways, repentance and confession on a wide scale, restitution of stolen goods and money, forgiveness and reconciliation between people, crime and drunkenness greatly diminished, renewed concern for justice and righteousness in the community, churches filled with Christians alive in the Spirit.
Here too, teams have travelled to other areas bringing some of the fire of revival to ignite churches and communities with a vital Christian commitment and a strong impact on society.
What is our response to these modern day accounts so similar to the Book of Acts? Will we humble ourselves, and pray, and seek God’s face, and turn from our sin, so that God will forgive us and heal the land (2 Chronicles 7:14)?
We can do that. We must. Alone. In prayer clusters. In home groups. In meetings. In constant prayer and repentance.
‘Lord, engulf us in your holy fire. Burn our dross. Refine us. Ignite us, and multitudes in the land, for your glory, setting your church on fire.’
Burke, T & D (1977) Anointed for Burial. Seattle: Frontline.
Burgess, S M & McGee, G B eds. (1988) Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Chant, B (1984) Heart of Fire. Adelaide: Tabor.
Grant, P E (1986) ‘Visitation and Vivifying in Vanuatu’, unpublished article.
Greenfield, J (1927) Power from on High. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott.
The Rev John Greenfield, an American Moravian evangelist, published his book Power from on High in 1927 on the 200th anniversary of the Moravian revival. The information in this article is from that book, now out of print. The Moravians, a refugee colony from Bohemia, settled on the estates of Count Nicholas Zinzendorf in Herrnhut, Germany, where a powerful revival began in 1727. It launched 100 years of continuous prayer and within 25 years 100 Moravians were missionaries, more than the rest of the Protestant church had sent out in two centuries.
The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days
great signs and wonders took place in our midst.
From that time scarcely a day passed but what
we beheld His almighty workings amongst us.
A modern Pentecost
A Moravian historian wrote that Church history abounds in records of special outpourings of the Holy Ghost,and verily the thirteenth of August, 1727, was a day of theoutpouring of the Holy Spirit. We saw the hand of God and His wonders, and we were all under the cloud of our fathersbaptized with their Spirit. The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst.
From that time scarcely a day passed but what we beheld His almighty workings amongst us. A great hunger after the Word of God took possession of us so that we had to have three services every day, viz. 5.0 and 7.30 a.m. and 9.0 p.m. Everyone desired above everything else that the Holy Spirit might have full control. Self-love and self-will, as well as all disobedience, disappeared and an overwhelming flood of grace swept us all out into the great ocean of Divine Love (1927:14).
No one present could tell exactly what happened on that Wednesday morning, 13 August 1727 at the specially called Communion service. They hardly knew if they had been on earth or in heaven. Count Nicholas Zinzendorf, the young leader of that community, gave this account many years later:
We needed to come to the Communion with a sense of the loving nearness of the Saviour. This was the great comfort which has made this day a generation ago to be a festival, because on this day twenty-seven years ago the Congregation of Herrnhut, assembled for communion (at the Berthelsdorf church) were all dissatisfied with themselves. They had quit judging each other because they had become convinced, each one, of his lack of worth in the sight of God and each felt himself at this Communion to be in view of the noble countenance of the Saviour.
O head so full of bruises, So full of pain and scorn.
In this view of the man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, their hearts told them that He would be their patron and their priest who was at once changing their tears into oilof gladness and their misery into happiness. This firm confidence changed them in a single moment into a happy people which they are to this day, and into their happiness they have since led many thousands of others through the memory and help which the heavenly grace once given to themselves, so many thousand times confirmed to them since then (1927:15).
Zinzendorf described it as ‘a sense of the nearness of Christ’ given to everyone present, and also to others of their community who were working elsewhere at the time.
The congregation was young. Zinzendorf, the human leader, was 27, which was about the average age of the group.
The Moravian brethren had sprung from the labours and martyrdom of the Bohemian Reformer, John Hus. They had experienced centuries of persecution. Many had been killed, imprisoned, tortured or banished from their homeland. This group had fled for refuge to Germany where the young Christian nobleman, Count Zinzendorf, offered them asylum on his estates in Saxony. They named their new home Herrnhut, ‘the Lord’s Watch’. From there, after their baptism in the Holy Spirit, they became evangelists and missionaries.
Fifty years before the beginning of modern Foreign Missions by William Carey, the Moravian Church had sent out over 100 missionaries. Their English missionary magazine, Periodical Accounts, inspired William Carey. He threw a copy of the paper on a table at a Baptist meeting, saying, ‘See what the Moravians have done! Cannot we follow their example and in obedience to our Heavenly Master go out into the world, and preach the Gospel to the heathen?’ (1927:19).
That missionary zeal began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Count Zinzendorf observed: ‘The Saviour permitted to come upon us a Spirit of whom we had hitherto not had any experience or knowledge. … Hitherto we had been the leaders and helpers. Now the Holy Spirit Himself took full control of everything and everybody’ (1927:21).
When the Spirit came
Prayer precedes Pentecost. The disgruntled community at Herrnhut early in 1727 was deeply divided and critical of one another. Heated controversies threatened to disrupt the community. The majority were from the ancient Moravian Church of the Brethren. Other believers attracted to Herrnhut included Lutherans, Reformed, and Baptists. They argued about predestination, holiness, and baptism.
The young German nobleman, Count Zinzendorf, pleaded for unity, love and repentance.
Converted in early childhood, at four years of age he composed and signed a covenant: ‘Dear Saviour, do Thou be mine, and I will be Thine.’ His life motto was, ‘I have one passion: it is Jesus, Jesus only.’
Count Zinzendorf learned the secret of prevailing prayer. He actively established prayer groups as a teenager, and on leaving the college at Halle at sixteen he gave the famous Professor Francke a list of seven praying societies he had established.
After he finished university his education was furthered by travel to foreign countries.
Everywhere he went, his passion for Jesus controlled him. In the Dusseldorf Gallery of paintings he was deeply moved by a painting of the crucifixion over which were the words:
Hoc feci pro te; Quid facis pro me?
This have I done for thee; What hast thou done for me?
At Herrnhut, Zinzendorf visited all the adult members of the deeply divided community. He drew up a covenant calling upon them ‘to seek out and emphasize the points in which they agreed’ rather than stressing their differences. On 12 May 1727 they all signed an agreement to dedicate their lives, as he dedicated his, to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Moravian revival of 1727 was thus preceded and then sustained by extraordinary praying. A spirit of grace, unity and supplications grew among them.
On 16 July the Count poured out his soul in a prayer accompanied with a flood of tears. This prayer produced an extraordinary effect. The whole community began praying as never before.
On 22 July many of the community covenanted together on their own accord to meet often to pour out their hearts in prayer and hymns.
On 5 August the Count spent the whole night in prayer with about twelve or fourteen others following a large meeting for prayer at midnight where great emotion prevailed.
On Sunday, 10 August, Pastor Rothe, while leading the service at Herrnhut, was overwhelmed by the power of the Lord about noon. He sank down into the dust before God. So did the whole congregation. They continued till midnight in prayer and singing, weeping and praying.
On Wednesday, 13 August, the Holy Spirit was poured out on them all. Their prayers were answered in ways far beyond anyone’s expectations. Many of them decided to set aside certain times for continued earnest prayer.
On 26 August, twenty-four men and twenty-four women covenanted together to continue praying in intervals of one hour each, day and night, each hour allocated by lots to different people.
On 27 August, this new regulation began. Others joined the intercessors and the number involved increased to seventy-seven. They all carefully observed the hour which had been appointed for them. The intercessors had a weekly meeting where prayer needs were given to them.
The children, also touched powerfully by God, began a similar plan among themselves. Those who heard their infant supplications were deeply moved. The children’s prayers and supplications had a powerful effect on the whole community.
That astonishing prayer meeting beginning in 1727 went on for one hundred years. It was unique. Known as the Hourly Intercession, it involved relays of men and women in prayer without ceasing made to God. That prayer also led to action, especially evangelism. More than one hundred missionaries left that village community in the next twenty-five years, all constantly supported in prayer.
The Spirit’s witness
One result of their baptism in the Holy Spirit was a joyful assurance of their pardon and salvation. This made a strong impact on people in many countries, including the Wesleys.
In 1736 John and Charles Wesley sailed to America as Anglican missionaries. A company of Moravian immigrants were also on the vessel. During a terrible storm they all faced the danger of shipwreck. John Wesley wrote in his journal:
At seven I went to the Germans. I had long before observed the great seriousness of their behaviour. Of their humility they had given a continual proof by performing those servile offices for the other passengers which none of the English would undertake; for which they desired and would receive no pay, saying, ‘It was good for their proud hearts,’ and ‘their loving Saviour had done more for them.’ And every day had given them occasion of showing a meekness, which no injury could move. If they were pushed, struck or thrown down, they rose again and went away; but no complaint was found in their mouth. Here was now an opportunity of trying whether they were delivered from the spirit of fear, as well as from that of pride, anger and revenge. In the midst of the Psalm wherewith their service began, the sea broke over, split the mainsail in pieces, covered the ship and poured in between the decks, as if the great deep had already swallowed us up.
A terrible screaming began among the English. The Germans calmly sung on. I asked one of them afterwards: ‘Were you not afraid?’ He answered, ‘I thank God, no.’ I asked: ‘But were not your women and children afraid?’ He replied mildly: ‘No, our women and children are not afraid to die’ (1927:35-36).
In Georgia, John Wesley sought spiritual counsel from the Moravian Bishop, A. G. Spangenberg. Back in England in 1738 the Wesley brothers became intimately acquainted with the Moravians, especially Peter Boehler who later became a leading Moravian bishop.
On 4 March, 1738, Wesley wrote in his diary:
I found my brother at Oxford recovering from his pleurisy; and with him Peter Boehler: by whom (in the hand of the great God) I was, on Sunday, the 5th, clearly convicted of unbelief; of the want of that faith whereby alone we are saved. Immediately it struck into my mind, ‘Leave off preaching. How can you preach to others who have not faith yourself?’ I asked Boehler whether he thought I should leave it off, or not.
He answered, ‘By no means.’
I asked: ‘But what can I preach?
He said: ‘Preach faith till you have faith.’
Accordingly, Monday, 6, I began preaching this new doctrine, though my soul started back from the work. The first person to whom I offered salvation by faith alone, was a prisoner under sentence of death (1927:37).
Eventually John Wesley came to assurance of salvation. His own testimony reads:
Wednesday, May 3, 1738. My brother had a long and particular conversation with Peter Boehler. And it now pleased God to open his eyes; so that he also saw clearly, what was the nature of that one true living faith, whereby alone ‘through grace’ we are saved.
Wednesday, May 24. In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me, that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
Friday, May 26. My soul continued in peace, but yet in heaviness, because of manifold temptations. I asked Mr. Telchig, the Moravian, what to do. He said: ‘You must not fight with them as you did before, but flee from them the moment they appear, and take shelter in the wounds of Jesus (1927:38).
The Methodists and Moravians often met together then for Bible study and prayer. George Whitefield’s biographer wrote:
Whitefield began the New Year (1739) as gloriously as he ended that which had just expired. He received Sacrament, preached twice, expounded twice, attended a Moravian love feast in Fetter Lane, where he spent the whole night in prayer to God, psalms and thanksgivings; and then pronounced ‘this to be the happiest New Year’s Day he had ever seen.’
This love feast at Fetter Lane was a memorable one. Besides about sixty Moravians, there were present not fewer than seven of the Oxford Methodists, namely John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Wesley Hall, Benjamin Ingham, Charles Kinchin and Richards Hitchins, all of them ordained clergymen of the Church of England. Wesley writes:
‘About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His Majesty, we broke out with one voice ‘We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord!’ (1927:38-39).
What the Moravians imparted to John Wesley is summarized by one of his biographers, W. H. Fitchett:
In substance it was three things which lie in the very alphabet of Christianity, but which somehow the teachings of a godly home, of a great University, and of an ancient Church, and of famous books, had not taught Wesley. These are that salvation is through Christ’s Atonement alone, and not through our own works; that its sole condition is faith; and that it is attested to the spiritual consciousness by the Holy Spirit. These truths today are platitudes; to Wesley they were, at this stage of his life, discoveries (1927:40).
Wesley’s estimate of the Moravian revival which resulted in his own conversion was prophetic. When Peter Boehler, nine years his junior, left England for America after several months, Wesley recorded in his journal:
Peter Boehler left London to embark for Carolina. Oh what a work hath God begun since his coming into England! Such an one as shall never come to an end, till Heaven and earth pass away! (1927:40).
Peter Boehler wrote to Count Zinzendorf, saying ‘The English people made a wonderful to do about me; and though I could not speak much English they were always wanting me to tell them about the Saviour, His blood and wounds, and the forgiveness of sins’ (1927:4041).
Witnesses unto Me
Zinzendorf’s speaking, preaching and letters were full of Christ. Everywhere the Moravians went they spoke of their Lord, sang of him, and witnessed naturally. The Holy Spirit had filled them, as in the early church, with great love for their Lord.
Their Bishop Spangenberg, for example, told how Johannes, an Indian chief who had been a very wicked man, was converted. The chief said that once a preacher came to their tribe and proved to them that there was a God. They informed him that they were not ignorant of that and told him to go away. Another preacher came and told them not to steal, drink too much, or lie. They regarded him as a fool because they already knew that, and they sent him off to preach to his own people who were worse than the Indians in those vices.
Then Christian Henry Rauch, one of the Moravian Brethren, came to his hut, sat with him and told him about Jesus. Then fatigued from his journey, Christian Henry lay down and slept, unafraid of the chief. Johannes could not get the Moravian’s words out of his mind. He drempt of the cross. He told his tribe about Jesus and they repented as the Holy Spirit moved their hearts. Johannes said to the bishop, ‘Thus, through the grace of God, the awakening among us took place. I tell you therefore, brethren, preach to the heathen Christ and His blood and death, if you would wish to produce a blessing among them.’ (1927:53).
In Europe, a Countess with close friends among kings, emperors and princes, famous for her brilliant gifts and witty conversation, found that none of her amusements and recreations satisfied her any longer. A humble Moravian shoemaker came into her presence and she was struck with his remarkable cheerfulness. She asked him why he was so happy and he replied that ‘Jesus has forgiven my sins. He forgives me every day and He loves me and that makes me happy through all the hours.’ The Countess thought about that and began to pray. Conviction led her into the same joyful faith and she became a great witness for Christ among titled people, especially in the court of the Emperor of Russia, Alexander I, her close friend.
A new song
Then, as now, the baptism in the Holy Spirit upon the Moravians and then the Methodists, produced a flood sacred song. Many of the best hymns may be traced to this outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Moravian hymns were filled with praise to Christ, adoration of him as God, and proclamation of His virtues and work.
Moravian hymns were generally prayers to Christ. It was a Moravian characteristic that their prayers were generally addressed to their Saviour. Honouring the Son they honoured the Father who had sent him as well as the Holy Spirit who glorified Christ.
A truly converted Catholic or Protestant, Calvanist or Lutheran, Moravian or Arminian, Baptist or Quaker, when baptised in the Holy Spirit and with fire often breaks out into sacred song that is prayer or praise addressed to Jesus.
This was so in Herrnhut. The chief singer then was the godly young nobleman Count Zinzendorf. He became the prince of German hymn writers.
England saw similar developments. One of the many spiritual children of Peter Boehler was John Gambold, a young clergyman of the Church of England, an Oxford graduate and a friend of the Wesleys. He joined the Moravian Church and became its first English Bishop. Some of his hymns and sacred songs became well known.
Another of Peter Boehler’s English converts was James Hutton, a famous book seller. He also wrote some precious hymns.
The best known English Moravian hymn writer during the Great Revival was John Cennick. At one of Cennick’s famous open air meetings a young Scottish labourer, John Montgomery, was converted. He joined the Moravian Church and John and Mary Montgomery become Moravian missionaries in the West Indies where they died and were buried. Their son James was educated in the Moravian school at Fulneck. James Montgomery ranks with great hymn writers of that era.
Charles Wesley had more than 6,000 hymns published after his conversion in 1738 through the witness and prayers of Peter Boehler.
The majority of his hymns testify to his great experience of salvation. Peter Boehler had told him: ‘If I had a thousand tongues I would praise Jesus with every one of them.’ This prompted Wesley shortly after his conversion to write the immortal lines:
Oh for a thousand tongues to sing My dear Redeemer’s praise The glories of my God and King The triumphs of His grace.
He breaks the power of cancelled sin, He sets the prisoner free; His blood can make the foulest clean, His blood availed for me (1927:84).
Fruit that abides
A traveller of that period wrote this striking testimony, ‘In all my journeys I have found only three objects that exceeded my expectations, viz.: the ocean, Count Zinzendorf and the Herrnhut congregation’ (1927:67). Herrnhut had become a spiritual centre visited by people from all parts of Europe seeking to be saved or to be baptised in the Holy Spirit and with fire.
John Wesley’s visit to Herrnhut was typical of thousands of others. ‘God has given me at length,’ he wrote to his brother Samuel, ‘the desire of my heart. I am with a Church whose conversation is in Heaven; in whom is the mind that was in Christ, and who so walk as He walked’. In his journal he wrote, ‘I would gladly have spent my life here; but my Master called me to labour in another part of His vineyard. O when shall this Christianity cover the earth, as the waters cover the sea?’ (1927:67).
At the end of his life Count Zinzendorf could triumphantly say: I am going to my Saviour. I am ready. There is nothing to hinder me now. I cannot say how much I love you all. Who would have believed that the prayer of Christ, ‘that they all may be one,’ could have been so strikingly fulfilled among us! I only asked for first-fruits among the heathen, and thousands have been given me. Are we not as in Heaven! Do we not live together like the angels! The Lord and His servants understand each other. I am ready (1927:68).
Over four thousand people followed his body to its resting place on the Hutberg, including Moravian ministers from Holland, England, Ireland, North America and Greenland. His tombstone bore this inscription: Here lie the remains of the immortal man of God, Nicholas Lewis, Count and Lord of Zinzendorf and Pattendorf; who through the grace of God and his own unwearied service, became the ordinary of the Brethren’s Church, renewed in this eighteenth century. He was born in Dresden on May 26, 1700, and entered into the joy of his Lord at Herrnhut on May 9, 1760. He was appointed to bring forth fruit, and that his fruit should abide (1927:69).
Renew our days
The renewal of the Moravian Church can stir our hearts to pray, ‘Renew our days as of old.’
In 1927, 200 years after the revival in of the Moravian Church, the editor of The Biblical Review, New York, wrote: No matter whether one is sympathetic toward the idea of revivals or not, if he wants to study the question thoroughly, he cannot afford to overlook the history and teachings of the Moravians. Theirs has been from the beginning a great Revival Church, and its service to the general cause of Christianity, and to foreign missions in particular, is deserving of wide recognition. The story of their spiritual development and its influence is one of the most inspiring in the annals of Christianity (1927:80).
Their first great experience which gave the Moravians such spiritual power was a personal experience of salvation.
The second great experience which gave them such spiritual power and leadership was the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Dr. J. Kenneth Pfohl, a Moravian pastor, wrote in The Moravian in 1927: The great Moravian Pentecost was not a shower of blessing out of a cloudless sky. It did come suddenly, as suddenly as the blessing of its great predecessor in Jerusalem, when the Christian Church was born. Yet, for long there had been signs of abundance of rain, though many recognized them not. In short, the blessing of the 13th of August, 1727, was diligently and earnestly prepared for. We know of no annals of Church history which evidence greater desire for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit and more patient and persistent effort in that direction than those of our own Church between the years 1725 and 1727. Two distinct lines of preparation and spiritual effort for the blessing are evident. One was prayer; the other was individual work with individuals. We are told that ‘men and women met for prayer and praise at one another’s homes and the Church of Berthelsdorf was crowded out.’ Then the Spirit came in great power. Then the entire company experienced the blessing at one and the same time (1927:86).
In another article in The Moravian, Dr E. S. Hagen declared: The great revival in 1727 in Herrnhut was the normal and logical result of prayer and the preaching of the Word of the Cross. ‘Christ and Him Crucified’ was our brethren’s confession of faith, and ‘the inward witness of remission of sins through faith in His blood’ their blessed and quickening experience. Lecky in his History of Morals says of John Wesley’s conversion, May 24, 1738, in the prayer meeting of Moravian Brethren in Aldersgate Street: ‘What happened in that little room was of more importance to England than all the victories of Pitt by land or sea.’ …
A renewal of our days as of old involves a return to fervent prayer and to the earnest and effectual preaching of the remission of sins through the vicarious sacrifice and the shedding of the blood of Jesus Christ the Son of God. Revival time is coming. We cherish a high expectancy of it. Sooner than we dream of, to God’s people, who give themselves to earnest, persevering prayer, and the Scriptural testimony concerning the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, the windows of Heaven will be opened (1927:90-91).
The day of revivals is not past. The Holy Spirit still waits to fill believers with power from on high.
Dr J. Edwin Orr was a leading scholar of revivals who published detailed books about evangelical awakenings. His research discovered major spiritual awakenings about every fifty years following the great awakening from the mid-eighteenth century in which John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield and Jonathan Edwards featured prominently. This article, based on one of Edwin Orr’s messages, is adapted from articles reproduced in the National Fellowship for Revival newsletters in New Zealand and Australia.
There has never been a spiritual awakening
in any country or locality
that did not begin in united prayer.
Dr A. T. Pierson once said, ‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer.’ Let me recount what God has done through concerted, united, sustained prayer.
Not many people realize that in the wake of the American Revolution (following 17761781) there was a moral slump. Drunkenness became epidemic. Out of a population of five million, 300,000 were confirmed drunkards; they were burying fifteen thousand of them each year. Profanity was of the most shocking kind. For the first time in the history of the American settlement, women were afraid to go out at night for fear of assault. Bank robberies were a daily occurrence.
What about the churches? The Methodists were losing more members than they were gaining. The Baptists said that they had their most wintry season. The Presbyterians in general assembly deplored the nation’s ungodliness. In a typical Congregational church, the Rev. Samuel Shepherd of Lennos, Massachusetts, in sixteen years had not taken one young person into fellowship. The Lutherans were so languishing that they discussed uniting with Episcopalians who were even worse off. The Protestant Episcopal Bishop of New York, Bishop Samuel Provost, quit functioning; he had confirmed no one for so long that he decided he was out of work, so he took up other employment.
The Chief Justice of the United States, John Marshall, wrote to the Bishop of Virginia, James Madison, that the Church ‘was too far gone ever to be redeemed.’ Voltaire averred and Tom Paine echoed, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in thirty years.
Take the liberal arts colleges at that time. A poll taken at Harvard had discovered not one
believer in the whole student body. They took a poll at Princeton, a much more evangelical place, where they discovered only two believers in the student body, and only five that did not belong to the filthy speech movement of that day. Students rioted. They held a mock communion at Williams College, and they put on antiChristian plays at Dartmouth. They burned down the Nassau Hall at Princeton. They forced the resignation of the president of Harvard. They took a Bible out of a local Presbyterian church in New Jersey, and they burnt it in a public bonfire. Christians were so few on campus in the 1790’s that they met in secret, like a communist cell, and kept their minutes in code so that no one would know.
How did the situation change? It came through a concert of prayer.
There was a Scottish Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh named John Erskine, who published a Memorial (as he called it) pleading with the people of Scotland and elsewhere to unite in prayer for the revival of religion. He sent one copy of this little book to Jonathan Edwards in New England. The great theologian was so moved he wrote a response which grew longer than a letter, so that finally he published it is a book entitled ‘A Humble Attempt to Promote Explicit Agreement and Visible Union of all God’s People in Extraordinary Prayer for the Revival of Religion and the Advancement of Christ’s Kingdom on Earth, pursuant to Scripture Promises and Prophecies…‘
Is not this what is missing so much from all our evangelistic efforts: explicit agreement, visible unity, unusual prayer?
This movement had started in Britain through William Carey, Andrew Fuller and John Sutcliffe and other leaders who began what the British called the Union of Prayer. Hence, the year after John Wesley died (he died in 1791), the second great awakening began and swept Great Britain.
In New England, there was a man of prayer named Isaac Backus, a Baptist pastor, who in 1794, when conditions were at their worst, addressed an urgent plea for prayer for revival to pastors of every Christian denomination in the United States.
Churches knew that their backs were to the wall. All the churches adopted the plan until America, like Britain was interlaced with a network of prayer meetings, which set aside the first Monday of each month to pray. It was not long before revival came.
When the revival reached the frontier in Kentucky, it encountered a people really wild and
irreligious. Congress had discovered that in Kentucky there had not been more than one court of justice held in five years. Peter Cartwright, Methodist evangelist, wrote that when his father had settled in Logan County, it was known as Rogue’s Harbour. The decent people in Kentucky formed regiments of vigilantes to fight for law and order, then fought a pitched battle with outlaws and lost.
There was a Scotch-Irish Presbyterian minister named James McGready whose chief claim to fame was that he was so ugly that he attracted attention. McGready settled in Logan County, pastor of three little churches. He wrote in his diary that the winter of 1799 for the most part was ‘weeping and mourning with the people of God.’ Lawlessness prevailed everywhere.
McGready was such a man of prayer that not only did he promote the concert of prayer every first Monday of the month, but he got his people to pray for him at sunset on Saturday evening and sunrise Sunday morning. Then in the summer of 1800 come the great Kentucky revival. Eleven thousand people came to a communion service. McGready hollered for help, regardless of denomination.
Out of that second great awakening, came the whole modern missionary movement and it’s
societies. Out of it came the abolition of slavery, popular education, Bible Societies, Sunday Schools, and many social benefits accompanying the evangelistic drive.
Following the second great awakening, which began in 1792 just after the death of John Wesley and continued into the turn of the century, conditions again deteriorated. This is illustrated from the United States.
The country was seriously divided over the issue of slavery, and second, people were making money lavishly.
In September 1857, a man of prayer, Jeremiah Lanphier, started a businessmen’s prayer meeting in the upper room of the Dutch Reformed Church Consistory Building in Manhattan. In response to his advertisement, only six people out of a population of a million showed up. But the following week there were fourteen, and then twenty-three when it was decided to meet everyday for prayer. By late winter they were filling the Dutch Reformed Church, then the Methodist Church on John Street, then Trinity Episcopal Church on Broadway at Wall Street. In February and March of 1858, every church and public hall in down town New York was filled.
Horace Greeley, the famous editor, sent a reporter with horse and buggy racing round the prayer meetings to see how many men were praying. In one hour he could get to only twelve meetings, but he counted 6,100 men attending.
Then a landslide of prayer began, which overflowed to the churches in the evenings. People began to be converted, ten thousand a week in New York City alone. The movement spread throughout New England, the church bells bringing people to prayer at eight in the morning, twelve noon, and six in the evening. The revival raced up the Hudson and down the Mohawk, where the Baptists, for example, had so many people to baptize that they went down to the river, cut a big hole in the ice, and baptized them in the cold water. When Baptists do that they are really on fire!
When the revival reached Chicago, a young shoe salesman went to the superintendent of the Plymouth Congregational Church, and asked if he might teach Sunday School. The
superintendent said, ‘I am sorry, young fellow. I have sixteen teachers too many, but I will put you on the waiting list.’
The young man insisted, ‘I want to do something just now.’
‘Well, start a class.’
‘How do I start a class?’
‘Get some boys off the street but don’t bring them here. Take them out into the country and after a month you will have control of them, so bring them in. They will be your class.’
He took them to a beach on Lake Michigan and he taught them Bible verses and Bible games. Then he took them to the Plymouth Congregational Church. The name of that young man was Dwight Lyman Moody, and that was the beginning of a ministry that lasted forty years.
Trinity Episcopal Church in Chicago had a hundred and twentyone members in 1857; fourteen hundred in 1860. That was typical of the churches. More than a million people were converted to God in one year out of a population of thirty million.
Then that same revival jumped the Atlantic, appeared in Ulster, Scotland and Wales, then
England, parts of Europe, South Africa and South India anywhere there was an evangelical cause. It sent mission pioneers to many countries. Effects were felt for forty years. Having begun in a movement of prayer, it was sustained by a movement of prayer.
That movement lasted for a generation, but at the turn of the century there was need of awakening again. A general movement of prayer began, with special prayer meetings at Moody Bible Institute, at Keswick Conventions in England, and places as far apart as Melbourne, Wonsan in Korea, and the Nilgiri Hills of India. So all around the world believers were praying that there might be another great awakening in the twentieth century.
* * *
In the revival of 1905, I read of a young man who became a famous professor, Kenneth Scott Latourette. He reported that, at Yale in 1905, 25% of the student body were enrolled in prayer meetings and in Bible study.
As far as churches were concerned, the ministers of Atlantic City reported that of a population of fifty thousand there were only fifty adults left unconverted.
Take Portland in Oregon: two hundred and forty major stores closed from 11 to 2 each day to enable people to attend prayer meetings, signing an agreement so that no one would cheat and stay open.
Take First Baptist Church of Paducah in Kentucky: the pastor, an old man, Dr J. J. Cheek, took a thousand members in two months and died of overwork, the Southern Baptists saying, ‘a glorious ending to a devoted ministry.’
That is what was happening in the United States in 1905. But how did it begin?
* * *
Most people have heard of the Welsh Revival which started in 1904. It began as a movement of prayer.
Seth Joshua, the Presbyterian evangelist, came to Newcastle Emlyn College where a former coal miner, Evan Roberts aged 26, was studying for the ministry. The students were so moved that they asked if they could attend Joshua’s next campaign nearby. So they cancelled classes to go to Blaenanerch where Seth Joshua prayed publicly, ‘O God, bend us.’
Evan Roberts went forward where he prayed with great agony, ‘O God, bend me.’
Upon his return he could not concentrate on his studies. He went to the principal of his college and explained, ‘I keep hearing a voice that tells me I must go home and speak to our young people in my home church. Principal Phillips, is that the voice of the devil or the voice of the Spirit?’
Principal Phillips answered wisely, ‘The devil never gives orders like that. You can have a week off.’
So he went back home to Loughor and announced to the pastor, ‘I’ve come to preach.’
The pastor was not at all convinced, but asked, ‘How about speaking at the prayer meeting on Monday?’
He did not even let him speak to the prayer meeting, but told the praying people, ‘Our young brother, Evan Roberts, feels he has a message for you if you care to wait.’
Seventeen people waited behind, and were impressed with the directness of the young man’s words.
Evan Roberts told his fellow members, ‘I have a message for you from God.
* You must confess any known sin to God and put any wrong done to others right.
* Second, you must put away any doubtful habit.
* Third, you must obey the Spirit promptly.
* Finally, you must confess your faith in Christ publicly.’
By ten o’clock all seventeen had responded. The pastor was so pleased that he asked, ‘How about your speaking at the mission service tomorrow night? Midweek service Wednesday night?’
He preached all week, and was asked to stay another week. Then the break came.
Suddenly the dull ecclesiastical columns in the Welsh papers changed:
‘Great crowds of people drawn to Loughor.’
The main road between Llanelly and Swansea on which the church was situated was packed with people trying to get into the church. Shopkeepers closed early to find a place in the big church.
Now the news was out. A reporter was sent down and he described vividly what he saw: a
strange meeting which closed at 4.25 in the morning, and even then people did not seem willing to go home. There was a very British summary: ‘I felt that this was no ordinary gathering.’
Next day, every grocery shop in that industrial valley was emptied of groceries by people
attending the meetings, and on Sunday every church was filled.
The movement went like a tidal wave over Wales, in five months there being a hundred thousand people converted throughout the country. Five years later, Dr J. V. Morgan wrote a book to debunk the revival, his main criticism being that, of a hundred thousand joining the churches in five months of excitement, after five years only seventy-five thousand still stood in the membership of those churches!
The social impact was astounding. For example, judges were presented with white gloves, not a case to try; no robberies, no burglaries, no rapes, no murders, and no embezzlements, nothing. District councils held emergency meetings to discuss what to do with the police now that they were unemployed.
In one place the Sergeant of police was sent for and asked, ‘What do you do with your time?’
He replied, ‘Before the revival, we had two main jobs, to prevent crime and to control crowds, as at football games. Since the revival started there is practically no crime. So we just go with the crowds.’
A Councillor asked, ‘What does that mean?’
The Sergeant replied, ‘You know where the crowds are. They are packing out the churches.’
‘But how does that affect the police?’
He was told, ‘We have seventeen police in our station, but we have three quartets, and if any church wants a quartet to sing, they simply call the police station.’
As the revival swept Wales, drunkenness was cut in half. There was a wave of bankruptcies, but nearly all taverns. There was even a slowdown in the mines, for so many Welsh coal miners were converted and stopped using bad language that the horses that dragged the coal trucks in the mines could not understand what was being said to them.
That revival also affected sexual moral standards. I had discovered through the figures given by British government experts that in Radnorshire and Merionethshire the illegitimate birth rate had dropped 44% within a year of the beginning of the revival.
The revival swept Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, North America, Australasia, Africa, Brazil, Mexico, Chile.
As always, it began through a movement of prayer.
What do we mean by extraordinary prayer? We share ordinary prayer in regular worship services, before meals, and the like. But when people are found getting up at six in the morning to pray, or having a half night of prayer until midnight, or giving up their lunch time to pray at noonday prayer meetings, that is extraordinary prayer. It must be united and concerted.