In January 1989 I began as minister of a thirty-five year old church at Beaumont in Adelaide that had suffered numerical decline. It had followed the typical pattern of an inner suburban church with its complex of buildings, a Sunday School of 350 children, and two packed morning services in its heyday of the boom years of Methodism in the fifties and sixties.
In those years the church was a buzz of activity. Its youth group grew as children entered their teens. Membership figures increased as the teenagers took confirmation classes. Church growth was natural and expected. It required no specific strategies. People looked for a neighbourhood church which provided worship, a Sunday School, youth program, and the accepted activities associated with church life at the time.
Gradually the neighbourhood became prime real estate. When the young people married they had to move out to newer suburban areas where land was cheaper. Predicably the congregation declined and grew older. By 1989 an average of 85 people attended the one service on Sunday and a handful of children attended the Sunday School. Many were concerned about the future of this single congregation parish, and the parish leaders had begun discussions with nearby congregations regarding amalgamation.
Regreening in the Spirit’s power
This became for me an experiment in turning a church around. Was it possible to arrest the decline and begin to build again? Would the church have a significant and effective future as well as a dynamic ministry in the name of Jesus Christ?
Early in my first year at this church I found I was also involved emotionally and could not separate my personal feelings from what I discovered and what I believed God had in store for us. Could I lead this church to new life and growth? I personally was most aware of my own need of God’s help and of my need to grow spiritually as the leader of this church.
I was fortunate to be nearing the end of doctoral studies in church growth and renewal. I had also been a consultant in the related area of evangelism for eight years. Hence I came with some knowledge and experience that I believed would help my leadership of this church. However, my experience of working at length with a declining congregation was minimal. I knew that I and they would be very dependent upon the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit.
In the interview before my appointment the nominating committee indicated they were seeking someone of my age and experience. They also emphasized their desire to be more effective evangelistically and to reach the neighbourhood for Christ. I intimated my bias for evangelism and sought to know whether they would be open to change and to embrace new directions I might initiate. They agreed, not knowing exactly what would occur in the years to follow.
New goals and direction
I began by getting to know the people and by learning their corporate history. Some had been in the church since its inception. Most had been there for ten or twenty years or more. Very few, if any, were new to the church in recent years. They considered themselves a friendly church but did not have in place ways of welcoming and assimilating new people.
Obviously pastoral work was important. I was led by the Spirit to visit people in their homes. In the first year I listened considerably. I also realized that the people were ready for change and much could happen in the first year. Indeed, some significant developments needed to occur as symbols of hope and as signs of God doing a new thing.
We were to engage in a stewardship program in June of my first year. Planning for this two year stewardship cycle had to begin early. So I talked with my parish council and elders about their aspirations and yearnings for the church. It was obvious there were no common goals, no specific direction, no vision to fire the imagination and to prompt people to give freely. Therefore in the April of 1989 we gathered forty people, key leaders and interested people for a seven hour session of reflection, evaluation, waiting on the Lord and goal setting.
We met on a Sunday afternoon and evening with a shared tea. At the end of the time we had established ten specific goals that we could work towards in 1989-1990. These became strategic in the life of the church and did much to harmonize people around a common direction. It gave purpose to the stewardship program which was successful and assured the church of financial resources for the ensuing years.
In the weeks preceding the goal setting I preached on the nature of the church using New Testament imagery such as the Body of Christ, the vine and the branches, and the picture of living stones given in 1 Peter 2:410. This supported the truth that theology is the basis of renewal.
Although there are simple practical strategies that are easily overlooked, true growth is biblically and theologically founded. It occurs through the Spirit of God renewing both people’s lives and the structures that enable us to live in community.
Theology of renewal
Theology became for us the very essence of renewal. How we understood and experienced God and the covenant determined our attitudes, expectations and actions. The term ‘the body of Christ’ became important as a description of who we were. It affirmed three main truths about the church:
1. There is to be corporate growth in unity and maturity.
2. Growth occurs as the variety of gifts of the people, given by the Spirit, are used in complementary fashion.
3. The church is a living organism with Jesus Christ in authority as the supreme head of the body.
Emphasizing a gift theology, inherent in the Uniting Church Basis of Union, we held a gift workshop in the spring of my first year. This examined the teaching of 1 Corinthians 12, Romans 12, and Ephesians
4. It had practical application and included a process by which the participants could begin to identify their special gifts for ministry.
In Ephesians, Paul describes a church in which all the members are to be equipped for the work of ministry. He does not envisage a church where only a few are engaged in ministry or where most are consumers rather than participants. Ministry is done by the whole church, by Christians working in concert. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Harmonious cooperation and the complementary use of gifts far surpasses the results of individual Christians working alone and independently. One of the priority tasks of church leaders is to help the members discover their gifts for ministry, to develop such gifts, and to channel them into effective areas of service.
Equipping people for ministry
To enhance the pastoral ministry of the congregation a Caring Committee was appointed by the elders council. This group believed that the ministry should be according to one’s spiritual gifts and not by virtue of the office one might hold.
We identified over thirty people gifted in pastoral ministry and called them together to discuss the ministry model we had in mind and to provide instruction on how to make effective pastoral visits. An eight week care workers course followed in the next year. The result is that we now have a team of people who visit members and others associated with the church. This provides a network of care in which no one need be overlooked. The visitors meet about three times a year to discuss their ministry and to review their list of people.
Another person, gifted in administration and with deep compassion, coordinates a special caring program whereby practical help is given to those with special needs.
In our church we no longer allocate each elder to a group of members. Some elders are not gifted pastorally but have other excellent gifts. Any elder is available to anyone according to need and relationships that are established. We work on the principle that the elders are responsible to see that visiting occurs and are there to release the gifts of those who can do it well.
Other gifts have emerged under this theology. We appointed an honorary administrator who retired from the business world but who obviously brought a wonderful gift in administration. His work of about ten hours a week has involved two mornings a week at the church office. I arranged to be at the office on those mornings as that increased efficiency and communication. Opening the church office on these two days improved the church’s profile and made its leaders more accessible.
Many music gifts lay dormant in our worship. We had a very good choir and a couple of proficient organists. The piano in the sanctuary, however, was rarely used. To cater for increasing numbers at worship we added an additional morning service in August 1989. This provided more options. The 9 am service became family oriented and only on occasions is the pipe organ used at this service. Instead, an orchestra sometimes numbering seven or eight has provided the music.
Introducing new songs and installing a screen for use with overheads enlivened the worship and provided greater variety. Our work with musicians includes workshops for worship leaders. We have many unused gifts in this area that we wish to employ. The commencement of a regular 7 pm service has created other opportunities for lay leadership, especially by youth. By 1992 the aggregate number at worship had grown to about 200 and the average age is much less than it was in 1989.
We had demographic data available to us on that first planning day and we discovered that the surrounding community contained more younger people than was reflected in the church. Fifty per cent of the population in the parish area is under forty years of age. With this in mind, and trusting in God, we set about embracing the future with confidence. Now our Sunday School is growing, we operate a creche, and we have a growing youth movement.
Believing prayer is central to the renewal that is occurring. A prayer chain has operated in the church for many years. Its members, all ladies, meet over lunch once a month. Here prayer needs are shared. Another early morning prayer group has begun as a spin off from 7 am services on Wednesdays during Lent. A number decided to meet every Wednesday at that time and so a group of ten, including men, have gathered faithfully to pray for people and for the church. A focus of our prayer is the renewal of the church and for effective evangelistic ministry. Our church also offers prayer for healing, primarily during ministry time following services of worship.
Group life has also received attention. New home groups and Bible study groups have commenced to provide opportunities for people to engage in study, to offer and receive ministry, and to enhance fellowship. These meet according to needs and availability. They very from weekly to monthly gatherings.
At the heart of what is occurring in our church is our belief that God is continuing the renew us and, while giving ministry in the present, is preparing us to embrace God’s unfolding future. We understand that renewal is the ongoing renewing by God of the church. It is dynamic, never static. It is not an achieved state. It is not the end but the way. To be in renewal is to be journeying with God in the presence of believers.
The primary theological ground for renewal is the kingdom of God. Renewal is not the result of human effort although we are able to respond to God’s renewing activity in ways which appropriate such activity. Renewal is the work of God that points to the coming reign of God in the lives of persons and community.
The kingdom of God is neither entirely present nor entirely future. It is here now, is coming, and will come. This gives perspective to renewal. It enables the church to be a community of hope. This orientation points to what is to be as a reality greater than what has been. As such it is a very powerful motivator for Christian living and ministry. It creates vision which fosters hope and incentive.
Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit we have been led to preach that the church is a community premised on the promise of what is to be. We are not simply to adjust to present reality, nor only to patch up here and there or even seek to recover what was. Renewal points to transformation, embracing the new. Hence we pray ‘Your kingdom come’ (Matthew 6:10).
We believe that the ultimate purpose of the church is to glorify God and to be an agent of God in establishing the unity and wholeness of all things in Christ (Ephesians 1:910). The church is a servant of the kingdom of God.
In witnessing to the wholeness of God’s kingdom we seek to demonstrate unity, forgiveness, reconciliation and new relationships. One of the most important factors in our witness is the quality of our corporate life in Christ lest our words be empty and our theology barren. We endeavour to be spiritually renewed, our motivation enlivened by the Holy Spirit. We seek a genuine growth in holiness that releases the power of the Holy Spirit.
Our church is on the way. In some quarters we struggle with conservatism but we endeavour to listen to one another, recognizing the Spirit of Christ in us all. We also use appropriate practical strategies that can be learned from church analysis and church growth. We are down-to-earth and pragmatic. But we endeavour to place God at the centre knowing that unless the Lord builds the house we labour in vain. Renewed in the power of the Spirit we wish to be living stones, built into a spiritual house of God (1 Peter 2:5).
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 35-42.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
Now available in updated book form (republished 2011)
Evangelism can lead to renewal and on to revival of the church. I have seen this in my experience in ministry in the last sixteen years as someone committed to the renewal of people and churches.
We need to release the dedicated and already discipled people of our parishes and churches into sharing their faith with those outside the church. This is a strategy for renewal that will lead to the revival of the church in the 1990’s.
Time and time again new converts begin the process of renewing the church and individuals in it. Their fresh approach to religion, their radical testimonies to the faith, and their enthusiasm to share the gospel and to live in its power, affect many others.
Does it work? Let’s look at one parish I know really well where I served for seven years.
Evangelism leads to revival
Margaret Matthews, a nurse and an elder in the Cobden Uniting Church Parish, gave this account at the Conference on Conversion Growth in Launceston, Tasmania, 1012 March, 1988. It describes her experiences of both personal and parish-wide renewal that started with evangelism.
Cobden is in the heart of a dairying district in Western Victoria, and a recent decision to expand the local factory has assured the future viability of the town. Our population of 1,450 is stable. We all know our neighbours. Our parish has two churches, both of which now have active Sunday Schools, youth groups and fellowship groups. Bible studies are an integral part of our life, catering for all levels of faith from 13 to 84 year olds. All participate in the leadership of worship. We started evening services with a more relaxed, informal worship style where newcomers felt more at ease.
Our growth story really began many years ago, when during a prolonged time of ministerial vacancy we were visited by an evangelist who challenged us to pray for revival in our church. A small group gathered together following the lines suggested: that we share the leadership, pray for the church and each other, and bring a name before the group and pray that God would prepare their hearts as we approached them and shared his Word.
We saw our prayers answered and we saw our fellowship grow to 2030 people who met under our first minister after the formation of the Uniting Church in 1977.
Like most of our generation, we clung to the concepts we had grown up with: preaching the gospel was the minister’s job and bringing newcomers to the church was no longer our responsibility. We lost our sense of purpose and our direction for several years. Our numbers began to dwindle and although we continued to pray that others might come to know the Lord, we were almost back to the original six or seven of us.
A new minister arrived. Hearing our prayer for revival and seeing us do nothing actively to bring it about, she organized an evangelism workshop for our Presbytery and persuaded eight of us to go to it. For myself, it was a real step of faith. I had forgotten how easy it had been, with the Lord’s help, to share my faith with friends, and now we were being asked to knock on stranger’s doors a terrifying thought!
It became our ministry to make those strangers into friends: getting to know people, listening and ministering to their needs, sharing their stories, sharing our story and God’s story, depending on God to do the rest.
We all came home from the workshop inspired to put what we had learned, into practice. We set aside one night each week to go visiting on a regular basis. We first met for prayer to ask the Lord to prepare the way and to go with us, and those of our group who did not go out joined together to pray for those who did. After our visit we returned to the church to talk it over, to learn from each other’s experiences, to get any hurts or knockbacks off our chests, and to share any blessings with those who stayed behind to pray.
To our surprise, after a few weeks, we realized we were enjoying this experience and started looking forward to it. We found that our little team of eight just couldn’t keep up with all the people who would like us to return for a visit. There was a great thirst out there beyond our church of people wanting to know more about the Lord, about the church, or wanting to share the hurt that took them away from the faith in the past.
About twelve months later, a second evangelism workshop was organized by our own and neighbouring parishes. Now many others in the church could see the importance of evangelism and most of our elders and several of our converts attended it. By then, I had begun a Bible Study home cell for some of the new converts who had no background of Christianity, but a wonderful new faith which was to change their lives, and lead me into a deeper faith commitment.
I didn’t start out to be an evangelist. I didn’t have that burning desire to share my faith with everyone I met, which I found among our converts. My visiting was an act of obedience to God’s will for us to share the gospel with all people. It was a stepping out in faith on the road that takes you from `What can God do for me?’ to `What can I do for God?’
Margaret, through the witness of her converts, later sought the infilling of the Holy Spirit and today not only continues to share her faith but is a mighty preacher and dynamic Bible Study teacher. From the witness of these early evangelists and those who were converted to the faith, the parish grew by 135% on their adherents roll and by 26% in four years (198387) in their confirmed members’ roll. In 1988, the 241 regular Sunday worshippers included 121 of the people who had faith for longer than ten years and 119 (49%) of the people having come to faith in the last five years (between 198388). In 1989, 94% of those converted to the faith were still regular attenders at worship (some now 6 years old in their faith).
Revival first started in this parish because an evangelist came and proclaimed the gospel. That gave others a hunger to do the same. It almost failed when a minister arrived during a prolonged vacancy and the people abdicated their responsibility to him, but it was later revived by another minister. As the converts grew in faith and hungered for a deeper expression of their faith, they sought, received and began to use their spiritual gifts. It led them into a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. This influenced the established church to reevaluate itself and to also grow in renewal.
Renewal that brings revival
Our strategies in the church for bringing renewal have at times been wrought with force, causing judgment, mistrust and resistance. This resistance in the church can gravely hurt those in the renewal movement. So they have at times left the churches that would not accept their way or stayed in their church and developed a ghetto mentality of `we-they’ that made it harder for others to see renewal as an option for their lives.
In past years, the renewal movement often concentrated on changing worship to allow all the spiritual gifts to be prevalent and seen by sceptics and nonbelievers alike, thinking that this would aid in renewing others. Signs and wonders, although reaching some and exciting them to seek renewal, also frightened many more and turned them right off renewal.
A strategy for the renewal of the church needs to be more than just a change of worship where signs and wonders can be evident. Renewal demands a more radical lifestyle and call to ministry than this. When this change is seen in others, the people in the church do respond.
Here is an anatomy of renewal that I believe leads to revival:
1. Evangelists proclaim the message of salvation and people are converted to faith.
2. The converts grow in faith and hunger for a deeper expression of their faith. They seek, receive and use the spiritual gifts leading them into a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit which influences the established church to reevaluate itself and to also grow in the area of renewal.
3. The church then needs to understand and standardize the use of the spiritual gifts from good biblical teaching moving the people away from experience as the authority for the use of spiritual gifts to good theology about their use.
4. Converts and those who grew up in the faith examine their lives in light of God’s Word,
showing a desire for deeper service to the Lord and a hunger for righteous and holy living.
Evangelism renewal revival
The Reformation revivals of the 1500’s, the Great Awakening of the 1700’s, or the South Australian revivals in the mines at Wallaroo, Moonta and Burra at the turn of this century, follow this common pattern: evangelism renewal revival (in that order).
First, evangelists went out and proclaimed the gospel. The gospel they proclaimed emphasiszd a personal encounter with Jesus Christ and an individual religious experience rather than the doctrines of the church. Many people fell under the conviction of these evangelists’ proclamation of the gospel and received salvation.
As these converts grew in faith, they began to hunger for a deeper expression of their faith and began seeking, receiving and using the spiritual gifts God uses to build the church. That led them into a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit. This greatly influenced the preaching of the evangelists and their message.
When revival got to this second stage evangelists like John and Charles Wesley shifted from their basic salvation message of the early days of revival to sermons on a deeper discipleship and on walking in the power of the Spirit of God. This led to them establishing Bible studies, encouraging lay people to take up leadership roles in every giftedness of the Spirit, and it eventually led to the established church of their day reevaluating itself and growing in renewal.
This process also happened in the Reformation revival where the reformers shifted from the basic salvation message of their earlier days to deeper discipleship which led to the established church (the Catholic Church) reevaluating itself and having a revival itself influenced by such people as St. John of the Cross and Theresa of Avila, some 40 years after the Reformation.
This leads to the third phase of revival. In every succeeding generation when renewal comes, the church all over again, needs to learn how to understand and use the spiritual gifts given to them by God. So, the next phase of revival seems to be standardizing the use of the spiritual gifts and how they are to be ordered and used in the life of the church. Every new generation of revivalists find themselves in unchartered waters. So it takes time to sort out problems with the use of spiritual gifts and ensure that there is sound Biblical teaching on them.
Often those in the renewal movements, excited to experience the power of their faith, rush into using the gifts (and having `the experience’) rather than doing serious biblical study in order to bring others with them in good understanding. The `experience’ is not enough. We need good renewal theology that is strong enough to be debated.
The last phase of revival seems to be an inner desire of both converts and those who grew up in the faith to examine their lives in light of God’s Word, a desire for deeper service to the Lord and a hunger for righteous and holy living. This was very evident in the Great Awakening revival where evangelists later in the revival clearly shifted their proclamation of the salvation message to the preaching on holiness and righteous living (such as the sermons of the American revivalist of the early 1700’s, Jonathan Edwards).
The history of the church, shows long periods (which sadly follow great revivals) where the gospel is reduced by many in the church to narrow relativism. Pragmatism is rife. This leads to a suspicion of the supernatural, and for a while the church loses the power of its faith from lack of belief in the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s gifts. The church in this condition seldom goes out to do evangelism but is content with social work and political statements.
Therefore, for renewal of the church to be effective today and for it to issue out into revival, we must first start with evangelism.
Revival involves mission and ministry
The following comments show how the personal encounter of the Holy Spirit by converts led the church to reevaluate its life, moving them into renewal. It caused them to explore the use of spiritual gifts by good Biblical teaching and discipleship. That moved people away from experience as the only authority for the use of spiritual gifts to good theology about their use.
These quotes are from talks that Cobden people gave at the Launceston 1988 Conversion Growth Workshop sponsored by the Uniting Church Assembly’s National Mission and Evangelism Committee.
Barbara Cowley, the Cobden Parish treasurer and a mother of two, says, “I have always believed in God and have attended Sunday School and church most of my life. In our courting days, my husband used to come to church with me, but after we were married he always found himself too busy to come. Our two children were baptized and attended Sunday School regularly, our daughter especially so, and our son until the age of 10 when he rebelled about going.
“When my daughter finished Sunday School and didn’t want to attend church anymore, I went to church by myself but my attendance started to drop off. At about that time my husband started exploring his faith. This encouraged me and we started attending church as a family. Since then, both our children have made decisions for the Lord at different times.
“Since being baptized in the Holy Spirit, my eyes have been opened to the workings of the Lord. Even though I had been involved in attending church all my life, it’s only in the last couple of years that my faith has come alive in attending our Bible Study group, which has helped me grow in my walk with the Lord.”
Hazel and the late Norm Maskell, dairy farmers, church elders, and Cobden Parish’s original evangelists in their mid70’s, led cell groups. Hazel and Norm said, “Why did we form study or cell groups? We believed that the church would not or could not grow until our people came together to study God’s Word, understand his gifts and to build each other up in faith. Those we brought to faith needed nurturing and encouraging. So our study groups came into existence one by one.
“These converts were more teachable than some of the older folk in the faith. Being eager to learn, they were wide open to Bible teaching and getting to know the Lord in a real way. Their growth was astounding, causing our growth too! We have seen miracles happen and now we see many of these new Christians taking leading roles in our church life alongside of us. I have found that new Christians pray out loud, share faith, and learn far more easily than we who have been in the church for some time, because they have no preconceived ideas. Almost any Bible Study member in our church will pray on the spot publicly. They thank God for various things, confess their own shortcomings, and pray for others. Now almost half the congregation will participate in prayer or the leading of worship whenever asked to do so. The result of these Bible Study groups is that our church has not only grown in numbers, but more importantly, we understand the Holy Spirit so much better and know the Spirit to be working in our church. We older folk have learned so much and grown closer to the Lord.”
Sometimes there may be difficulties for the church when it tries to assimilate not only new people into the life and especially the leadership structure of the church, but also starts reevaluating itself in light of the testimonies of these new converts and their walk with the Lord.
Most people within our church will say ‘we need new blood, some fresh faces and especially we need more younger folk to keep us going.’ However, once there is new blood, fresh faces, and younger folk coming into our churches, many old-timers may feel that the ‘new folk have taken us over and have made so many changes that we don’t know what’s going on anymore, so we will just stay at home and let them run it!’
Church growth in evangelism and renewal means that we, too, as individuals have to grow and be renewed. Many people resist this. Sometimes, church growth can only happen by berthing a new church that’s separate from the established church. This happened both in the Reformation and Great Awakening Revivals and it did most recently in the 1970’s and 1980’s. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.
Although the Cobden Parish had some battles and upheavals from its evangelism and renewal, division was averted by hospitality fellowship, Bible Study and shared worship. The leadership shared in hospitality fellowship, that is, intentionally inviting old-timers in the church to meals and gatherings with converts and helping them to get to know and to interpret their faith journey to each other.
The Bible Studies started out to disciple converts. Then, as people in the church started to reevaluate their faith journey through their contacts with the converts and hungered to know more, Bible Studies were set up for them too. Later, converts and those of long standing in the church merged many of their separate Bible Studies together where they learned to pray and care for one another.
Another important aspect of the Bible Studies, was the curriculum the Parish wrote to train people about the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the proper use of the spiritual gifts. When members discovered their own spiritual gifts, they were encouraged to take up their ministry roles within the life of the church. For converts this usually occurred by the end of their first year in the faith.
Shared worship took the form of setting up eight worship teams of six people each, chosen across generations and from each of the worshipping congregations. Each member of the team had a designated area of leadership: prayers, music, administration of the team, children’s sermon, the sermon, the organisation of the service sheet, announcements and the Bible readings. They had to listen to each other’s needs and they developed a style of worship that all were happy with and that was open enough to be able to evolve, as the parish needs changed.
We see that evangelism starts the process of renewal which brings revival. Renewal leads to a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit as the converts of the church’s evangelistic outreach grow in faith and hunger for the power of their faith, seeking, receiving and using the Spiritual gifts. This renewal leads to the established church reevaluating itself and either blockading and resisting renewal, or growing in it.
Renewal leads to discipleship training in and standardizing the use of the spiritual gifts with good Biblical teaching and the development of an articulate theology that can be debated. Discipleship leads to a radical lifestyle where one has a desire for a deeper service to the Lord, a greater knowledge of God’s Word and a hunger for righteous and holy living.
When the church misses one of these parts revival doesn’t happen. For instance, in studying several charismatic churches, I have discovered that if a church tries to bring in renewal before it does evangelism, it often gets a huge amount of transfer growth from other churches which leads to divisions and it eventually goes into decline.
If renewal doesn’t follow on into good discipleship, the church folk often get stuck on the experiences of the Holy Spirit and cannot articulate a clear enough theology so that they can take others into the experience with them in good understanding. Often these churches can become quite ingrown and in a denominational structure be quite divisive.
If discipleship does not produce a radical lifestyle, the church does not benefit others. Then it runs the risk of not only privatizing a person’s faith journey, but also of making one’s experience the only test of the validity of other people’s faith. It also means that the church remains at the level of signs and wonders instead of moving into a deeper discipleship with Jesus where one is sold out to him in complete sacrifice in holy living.
Jesus said to the doubting Thomas, ‘Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe’ (John 20:29). Signs and wonders are for nonbelievers (1 Corinthians 14) but a radical lifestyle of a disciple is for the mature Christian.
Many church leaders spend so much effort in renewing a congregation from within. I firmly believe that a congregation should be renewed from without, through evangelism and the converts that receive their message.
Then evangelism will lead to renewal and revival in the land.
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 23-33.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
Now available in updated book form (republished 2011)
Reproduced from the Asian Journal of Pentecostal Studies No. 4, 2001, pages 99-107, from Dr Chin Khua Khai’s research for his Ph.D. degree.
Although small and often unnoticed, Myanma (Burma) has had its share of great leaders. The late Reverend Hau Lian Kham, often referred to as the “John Wesley” of Zomi (Chin) because of the similar characters and patterns seen in his leadership, is a noted pastor-evangelist and teacher among the evangelical Pentecostal believers in Myanmar. From the early 1970s until his death in 1995, he was the key figure and leader of a renewal movement among the Zomis. The renewal began on a small scale in the early 1970s and has spread throughout the region to many parts of the country through evangelism and cross-cultural mission efforts (1). It has resulted in the planting of new churches in both rural and urban regions and to the establishment of leadership training schools. Kham has left his legacy as a revivalist, equipper, and transformer.
A Brief Story of His Life
Kham’s legacy in Zomiss began against the backdrop of a predominantly nominal Christian atmosphere (2). The Zomi is a major ethnic group in Myanmar occupying the north-western region. They were 2.2% of countries estimated population of 49 million in the year 2000 (3). Christianity has been a dominant religious practice among the Zomis for half a century.
The Zomis received Christian faith through the efforts of missionaries. American Baptist missionaries first introduced the Christian faith to them early in the 1900s (4). Other missions such as the Methodists (1925), Catholics (1934), Anglicans (1934), Seventh-Day Adventists (1954), Presbyterians (1956), and Pentecostals (that is, Assemblies of God, 1960s) arrived as well. When missionaries were expelled from the country in the 1960s, more than half of the Zomi population had become professed Christians. At this stage, there existed among the Zomis Christians a moral laxity and a lack of salvation knowledge (5).
Out of this background, Kham arose as a giant of faith who launched the renewal movement in 1973. On November 24, 1944, he was the sixth of eight children born to devout Christian parents in Ngennung-Tedim, Chin State, Myamnar. Upon graduating from high school, he began serving as the headmaster of Zomi Baptist Academy, a primary school, in his native town of Tedim from 1963 to 1965.
Though poverty has always been a roadblock to education for the Zomis, Kham found a way to pursue his secular education as well as theological education. He attended night classes at Workers College on a work-study program, receiving a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) degree in 1968. He then enrolled in Myanmar Institute of Theology, Insein, Yangon, and received a Bachelor of Religious Education (B.R.E.) degree in 1971.
Upon completion of his studies, he decided to return to Tedim to engage in full time ministry. Indeed, temptations prevailed when relatives asserted he was making an undesirable career choice due to the poor income ministers receive. After a strong prayer, he made a lasting decision to serve the Lord alone.
Kham’s ministry went through enormous changes, which better equipped him for kingdom service. He was first installed as the senior pastor of Cope Memorial Baptist Church (April 1971 to 1974) in Tedim receiving his ordination credentials on February 25, 1973. He went on to become a leader of the Evangelical Baptist Conference (EBC) and the senior pastor of Tedim’s Evangelical Baptist Church (1975-1976) when Cope Memorial Baptist Church dismissed him from membership because of his promotion of the renewal movement.
Eventually, he became a Pentecostal minister (1977-1996) because of his new experience with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit and a larger vision of the kingdom’s mission. Regarding his joining the Assemblies of God of Myanmar, he once stated, “We must keep a large vision of the whole country, even the whole world, for the evangelization, while starting the work at the local area” (6). In 1979 Khain became the founding principal of Evangel Bible College in Yangon, the capital city of Myanmar, serving in this capacity as well as teaching until his death on December 29, 1995. During this time, he also held the position of the senior pastor of Grace Assembly of God Church. Kham was the general secretary of the Assemblies of God of Myanmar for a period. This position was relinquished when he was sent to the Philippines for graduate studies in 1987.
Kham received a Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degree from Asia Pacific Theological Seminary (APTS), Baquio, Philippines in 1991, a Master of Theology (Th.M.) degree from Asia Graduate Theological Seminary (AGTS), Manila, Philippines in 1994, and was a candidate for the Doctor of Ministry (D. Min.) degree at AGTS.
Kham’s premature death was a great loss not only to his family, friends and relatives, but also to the body of Christ in Myanmar. He was the prospective leader of the whole evangelical-Pentecostal body in Myanmar. His remaining family members include his wife Mary Hau Lun Cing who also had reached candidate of D.Min. status at AGTS, and three daughters, Cing Lam Dim, Man San Lun, and Cing Lian Ciin. At the writing of tiiis article, with the help of her daughters, Mary carries on the Kham’s ministries as the acting principal of Evangel Bible College and as by serving as the senior pastor of Grace Assembly of God Church.
Early Theological Paradigm Changes
Being raised in a pious family, Kham was a committed Christian since childhood. God-fearing in attitude, obedience, sincerity, friendliness, and humility were revealing marks in his life. He was a Bible lover, active churchgoer, and even a choirmaster. He was a genius in widespread reading, especially of Christian books. More than anything, he had a strong desire to serve the Lord as a full-time minister from his youth.
Two prominent experiences proved revolutionary in Kham’s faith journey. He, like Timothy in the Bible, had a strong faith in Christ though he did not know the exact time of his rebirth. However, a paradigm shift of faith took place in him sometime in 1970 when he accepted the Bible as the infallible word of God. This conviction came by his reading of an article in a Decision magazine in which Billy Graham stated his acceptance by faith of the whole Bible as the word of God. This, in fact, was opposite to the teachings at the theological institute that Kham was attending at the time (7). The theology he had received at the institute led him to confusion, as it questioned the authority and inspiration of the scripture. He attributed his overcoming the theological dilemma to the work of the Holy Spirit (8). As a result, he asserted the authority and sufficiency of the Bible for faith and practice.
Another experience had caused him to pursue renewal. Being a newly ordained minister, he paid home visits to church members once a week. He soon discovered the church members were nominal and weak in their faith, having little knowledge about the salvation of Christ, lacking real commitment. This discovery led to a turning point in his ministry, for he felt compelled to preach and teach the people about the gospel of the salvation of Jesus Christ in order to help bring renewal to the church. This was his prayer, “These people must hear the gospel and repent and come to the cross of Christ. God, help me and use me” (9).
Serving with Multiple Gifts
Kham was a gifted preacher. His preaching was persuasive, forceful, and biblical. When preaching, he always referred to the authority of the word of God, often stating, “The Bible says….” His frequent use of body movement gave him the title, “The Action Preacher.” With all of these qualities, his method was a breakthrough for contemporary preaching.
Kham was gifted in teaching. From the very beginning of his pastoral ministry, he taught the Bible and Bible doctrine from the evangelical perspective which was contrary to contemporary teaching in the vicinity. The people were amazed at his new teachings. Consequently, church attendance doubled for the first time since the death of the former pastor of his church in 1965. News about his ministry spread so quickly that the unchurched in the town and visitors from rural villages were persuaded to attend the worship services and his Bible classes.
Moreover, Kham was gifted in music, art, and literature. He conducted the church choir every Sunday, performed in and directed dramas on special occasions such as Christmas. The “Life of Jesus” attracted not only the town dwellers, but also people from the villages nearby. His first publication was a small handbook, Khasiangtho Ngeina Nam Lite [The Four Spiritual Laws], published and distributed in March 1973. He translated the books of Jeremiah and Jonah into the Tedim language for the Tediin Bible. Another work of his was the book Upna Laigil [The Essence of Faith] which was an evangelical position on Bible doctrine (10). Besides these publications, he wrote several articles and helped revise a local hymnal.
Kham was the pioneer leader of the renewal movement among the Zomis. A “burden for souls’ was his motivating factor. He was convinced that soul winning was the most important task under heaven. Referring to the scripture in Luke 16:25, he asserted that a soul is more precious than the whole universe; to win a soul is more important than to gain the whole universe, and to help a soul being saved is the most precious task in the sight of God (11). Thus, to promote and bring renewal (12) within the church and to seek souls outside the church was the most urgent call of his pastoral ministry.
Kham believed that prayer is a key to renewal (13). He said his supporters learned from historical evidences and personal witnesses that renewal often takes place when the people of God pray and seek him. They soon promoted individual and group prayer meetings for renewal.
Believing an open-air crusade would be the most appropriate strategy to reach the common people, the revivalist and his supporters launched a week-long crusade on April 30, 1973. They raised a bamboo pulpit on a football field where he preached seven nights about the salvation of Christ. This pioneer crusade was characterized by breakthroughs, a charismatic-style singing of revival choruses, a style in preaching the message that had direct implication upon the hearers, the altar call for repentance and acceptance of Christ, and face-to-face discussion of the personal assurance of salvation. These types of events marked a new breakthrough in ministry.
Furthermore, the revivalist learned to trust in the Holy Spirit. He acknowledged the dimension and crucial work of the Holy Spirit in bringing renewal. This factor prevailed as he surrendered himself by kneeling and crying to the Lord for the conversion of sinners, praying all night on the second day of the crusade (14). Preaching aggressively and persuasively for the first two nights did not draw a single sinner to the Lord. However, surrendering and trusting in the Holy Spirit made the difference.
A young man by the name Kham Lian Khup turned and stepped forward in the altar call and accepted Christ as his Saviour and Lord on the third night (15). The bold decision of this young man was a breakthrough that encouraged many to do the same in the days that followed. Converts were added every day.
Eventually, the pioneer crusade was the recognized launching pad of the renewal movement. The word “born again’ became a catchword throughout the renewal movement. The born-again believers spread the gospel by preaching, teaching, and counselling. Repentance for sin confession of Christ as Saviour and Lord, baptism in water as a witness of discipleship, studying the Bible, praying, and sharing the word of God were phenomenon indicative of this renewal.
Kham, along with his itinerant gospel team, continued to make gospel tours throughout the countryside during the years of 1973 to 1979. His motto became, “To bring as many people as possible to Christ in the shortest possible time” (16). He conducted gospel crusades from town to town and from village to village.
Like revivalist John Wesley of England in the eighteenth century (17) he travelled hundreds and thousands of miles on foot to spread the good news of Jesus Christ. His brother Gin Za Lian like Charles Wesley, was a gifted musician throughout this renewal period. The two brothers worked hand in hand preaching and singing. During the next ten years, Kham would also preach the gospel to several other people groups throughout the country.
Not a lone star, Kham trained up other effective leaders for servicing in the Kingdom of God. Teaching Sunday School was a regular ministry. His gospel crusades were two pronged: preaching and teaching the word of God. He also conducted Bible seminars every year, attended by believers from all the countryside.
Kham renovated the pattern of leadership by emphasizing lay witnessing. Like John Wesley, he motivated, challenged, equipped, and mobilized believers to carry out the work of the ministry. Prioritizing the evangelistic mandate, he emphasized witnessing and winning souls as the greatest call of believers. Their greatest accomplishment would come by fulfilling that call.
He often elaborated the urgency of the call, the doom of people who never hear the gospel, the reward of obeying the call, and the consequences of disobedience. He explained agape as God’s kind of love, which meant loving others in the way God loves sinners who are doomed to eternal judgment. He also taught about how to witness, live a righteous and Spirit-filled life, and how to build the body of Christ.
As a result of his efforts, lay witnessing became the most dynamic factor of spreading the renewal throughout the country during the last three decades of his life (1970s-1990s) (18).
As stated earlier, Kham began teaching at the Evangel Bible College, serving as the founding principal as well. In fact this call was not a new challenge for him. He had long acknowledged the need to build armies for the Lord with deeper biblical knowledge.
Sensing the need to multiply himself by training leaders, he decided to take over the teaching role at the Bible school. Today, the school’s graduates are ministering the mission of the kingdom of God in different capacities all over the country.
One final legacy to be noted here is that of the transformational changes within the church and in the culture that resulted from the renewal. Kham’s own rediscovery and subsequent preaching on key issues such as the Bible as the inspired word of God, the lukewarm nature of the church, the dispensation of law and grace, the atoning work of Christ, justification by faith alone, and other teachings laid the foundation of evangelical Pentecostal beliefs and practices. As a result, Evangelicalism (Fundamentalism and Neo-evangelicalism) and Pentecostalism emerged like a strong river among the born-again Zomi Christians. Half the Christian population label themselves Evangelical/Pentecostals today (19). The following figure shows the percentage of their attachments in 2000:
Kham’s pattern of preaching became a favourite model for young preachers. His messages were grounded not in mere knowledge but in sound biblical and theological teaching built upon solid theological terms in which Christ is the subject. He interpreted scripture passages from the root meaning and then adapted it to the local situation. He also drew examples from local contexts and biographical stories to support the message. He was an expert in coining and applying popular words and phrases in his preaching. Most often, he contextualized the husk and kept the kernel of the gospel unchanged. His method is a combination of the “translation model” and “adaptation model” of contextualization (20).
Moreover, the messages have facilitated a Christ-centred worldview among believers. They saw God not only as sovereign and transcendent but also as immanent. They recognized secular things as temporary and spiritual things as eternal. They accepted Christ as Saviour, Lord and King. Therefore, many believers chose to serve Christ rather than the world. Believers also gained positive self-images, liberating them from the low self-images of an inferiority complex.
Furthermore, the renewal has had a great social impact among the Zomis such that transformational changes occurred in the cultural subsystems (21). God was seen as the reservoir of blessings. Therefore thanksgiving celebrations toward God for blessings and success were and still are common phenomena in the communities today. Families give their children Christian names in order to express appreciation and acknowledgment of what He has done in a person’s life. Yet another outcome of the renewal is that the need to take the cultural mandate is more recognized among evangelical Pentecostal believers today than ever before. Churches and individual believers continue to establish orphanages, open private clinics, donate relief funds and take on social responsibilities in their communities.
With all these patterns and characters of the renewal, many believers in Myanmar have regarded Kham as a great revivalist, a great leadership equipper, and a great transformer whose legacy will speak to many generations to come. He could say as Paul did, “I have fought a good fight I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim 4:6 NIV).
(1) Chin Khua Khai, “Myamnar Mission Boards and Agencies,” in Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, ed. A. Scott Moreau (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), pp. 667-69.
(2) The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization describes a nominal Christian as one who would call him/herself a Christian but has no authentic commitment to Christ based on personal faith. See Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, The Thailand Reporton Christian Witness to Nominal Christians Among Protestants, Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 23 (Wheaton, IL: Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 1980), p. 5.
(3) Sein Tin, Central Statistical Year Book of Myanmar 1995 (Yangon, Myanmar: Central Statistical Organization, 1995), pp. 26-7. These statistics do not include the Asho-Chin (plain Chin), Mizos and Zomis in India and Bengaladesh.
(4) Robert G. Johnson has documented in detail the work of the American Baptist missions among the Zomis. Robed G. Johnson, History of American Baptist Chin Mission, 2 vols. (Valley Forge, PA: Robert G. Johnson, 1988).
(5) I briefly discussed in my dissertation mission works among the Zomis and argued why the churches fall into a nominal state. Chin Khua Khai, “Dynamics of Renewal: A Historical Movement among the Zomi (Chin) in Myanmar’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1999), pp. 128-165.
(7) Myanmar Institute of Theology (formerly known as Burma Institute of Theology), Insein, Yangon, is the largest theological school in Myanmar. It has been largely influenced by the teachings of theological liberalism since the 1960’s. “The Church in Myanmar,” in Church in Asia Today: Challenges and Opportunities Today, ed. Saphir Arthyal (Singapore: Asia Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, 1996), pp. 349-60.
(8) Hau L. Kham, ‘My Testimony” (unpublished manuscript, 1994), p. 7.
(9) Hau L. Kham, Personal Diary, June 25, 1971.
(10) Khai, “Dynamics of Renewal” pp. 178, 205.
(11) Chin K. Khai, Personal Sermon Note, 1973.
(12) The term “renewal” has been defined in several ways. What I mean by “renewal” and “renewal movement” here is an inward experience of a spiritual dynamic that involves a new, deeper experience of God’s transcendence and holiness, of grace and forgiveness, coupled with a new dimension in worship and a reaching out in mission (Khai, “Dynamics of Renewal,” p. 4).
(13) Kham, Personal Diary, January 27, 1973. Referred to in Khai, “Dynamics of Renewal,” pp. 180-181.
(14) KhaM, Personal Diary, May 2, 1973.
(15) Publication Committee, EBC Taangthu.. History of the Evangelical Baptist Conference (in Tedim-Chin) (Tedin Myanmar: EBC Church, 1990), p. 29.
(16) Kham, Personal Diary, January 18, 1995.
(17) W H Fitchett, Wesley and His Century: A Study in Spiritual Forces (London, Smith, Elder & Co., 1906), p. 16.
(18) Khai, “Dynamics of Renewal,” pp. 245-46.
(19) Khai, “Dynamics of Renewal,” pp. 92,298.
(20) Dean S. Gilliland, “Contextualization Models,” in The Word Among Us: Contextualizing Theology for Mission Today, ed. Dean S. Gilliland (Dallas, TX Word, 1989), pp. 313-17.
The task Jesus gave us is still the same.
The context of that task keeps changing.
Accelerating change is changing us and the church. Already the one hour (11 am to noon) hymn-sandwich church service held in a ‘typical’ church building with wooden pews and an organ which stands empty most of the time, is looking like ancient history – and very bad stewardship. It may not be wrong (and God can use anything), but it’s not in the Bible, and it’s fading into history.
Nearly 2000 years ago Jesus gave us our job: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth, so go and make people my disciples … and I am with you all the way even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).
His final promise told us how we would do that: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be my witnesses … to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
That’s still our job, and we can only do it by the power of the Holy Spirit – as Jesus did. However, the context and the way of doing the job changes constantly.
There’s nothing there about buildings, pews, spires, bells, organs, clerical garb, status (except witnessing servants.
Change has changed. It is speeding up. We live in accelerating change. Change changes our ministry, and us. We think, feel and act differently from all previous generations. We perceive each day in new ways now. We plan and do more. Cars, phones, microwaves, TV and the internet have changed us.
Church has changed. Church people walked to the services and socialised together on Sundays for most of history; now millions drive cars, and fill Sunday with many other activities. Church life for most of history involved time with extended families; now families are widely scattered.
1. Accelerating social change
Alvin Toffler wrote about the Third Wave in sociology. He could find no word adequate to encompass this current wave we live in, rejecting his own earlier term, ‘super-industrial’, as too narrow. He wrote:
In attempting so large-scale a synthesis, it has become necessary to simplify, generalise, and compress. . . (so) this book divides civilisation into only three parts – a First Wave agricultural phase, a Second Wave industrial phase, and a Third Wave phase now beginning.
Humanity faces a quantum leap forward. It faces the deepest social upheaval and creative restructuring of all time. Without clearly recognising it, we are engaged in building a remarkable new civilisation from the ground up. This is the meaning of the Third Wave.
Put differently … we are the final generation of an old civilisation and the first generation of a new one … [living] between the dying Second Wave civilisation and the emergent Third Wave civilisation that is thundering in to take its place.
Think of church life during those three waves.
1. Churches for most of 2000 years of the First Wave agricultural phase were the village church with the village priest (taught in a monastery) teaching the Bible to mostly illiterate people, using Latin Bible parchments copied by hand for 1500 years. Worship involved chants without books or music. These churches reflected rural life, with feudal lords and peasants.
2. Churches in 500 years of the Second Wave industrial phase (co-existing with the First Wave) became denominational with many different churches in the towns as new denominations emerged. Generations of families belonged there all their life and read the printed Authorised (1511) version of the Bible. They have been taught by ministers trained in denominational theological colleges. Worship has involved organs used with hymns and hymn books. These churches reflected industrial town life, with bureaucracies such as denominations.
3. Churches in 50 years of the Third Wave technological phase (co-existing with the Second Wave) are becoming networks of independent churches and movements, among which people move freely. They tend to be led by charismatic, anointed, gifted, ‘apostolic’ servant-leaders, usually trained on the job through local mentoring using part time courses in distance education. Their people have a wide range of Bible translations and use Bible tools in print, on CDs and on the internet. Worship involves ministry teams using instruments with overhead projection for songs and choruses. These churches reflect third wave technological city life.
Some churches, of course, mix these phases, especially now with the second wave receding and the third wave swelling. For example, some denominational churches, especially those ‘in renewal’, may have a gifted ‘lay’ senior pastor not trained in theological college. Some independent churches have theologically trained pastors with doctoral degrees in ministry. Some denominational churches function like independent churches in their leadership and worship styles.
The huge changes we live through now can be compared to a clock face representing the last 3,000 years, since people recorded history, so each minute represents 50 years. On that scale the printing press came into use about 10 minutes ago. About three minutes ago, the telegraph, photograph and locomotive arrived. Two minutes ago the telephone, rotary press, motion pictures, automobile, aeroplane, radio and emerged. Less than one minute ago television appeared. Less than half a minute ago the computer and then communication satellites became widely used, and the laser beam seconds ago.
A former General Secretary of the United Nations, U Thant, noted that “it is no longer resources that limit decisions. It is the decision that makes the resources.” He saw this as the fundamental revolutionary change, the most revolutionary social change we have ever known.
Other writers focus on the problems involved in accelerating change.
We live through problems never experienced before. No nation and no aspect of life can escape their pressure. These include: the expansion of population, the burst of technology, the discovery of new forms of energy, the extension of knowledge, the rise of new nations, and the world-wide rivalry of ideologies.
Accelerating change produces uprooting which causes rootlessness in society through:
1. the repeated moves of so many families (e.g. scattered relatives);
2. the disruption of communities through urban sprawl (e.g. moving to new churches) ;
3. the increasing anonymity of urban life (e.g. the lonely crowd);
4. the disruption of shift work (e.g. longer hours); and
5. the fragmentation of the family (e.g. divorce now common).
We live and minister in this revolutionary ‘post-modern’ era of rootlessness and changing values. This context gives us increasing opportunities for loving, powerful witness and revival.
2. Accelerating church growth
Not only is the world population exploding. So is the church. By 1960 the world population had passed 2.5 billion and in 30 years from then doubled to 5 billion. By 2000 it passed 6 billion. However, in most non-Western countries the growth of the church already outstrips the population growth.
About 10% of Africa was Christian in 1900. By 2000 it was about 50% Christian in Africa south of the Sahara. In 1900 Korea had few Christians. Now over 40% of South Korea is Christian. By 1950 about 1 million in China were committed Christians. Now estimates range around 100 million.
Every week approximately one thousand new churches are established in Asia and Africa alone. Places such as Korea, Ethiopia, China, Central America, Indonesia and the Philippines are dramatic flash points of growth.
What kind of church is emerging? Over 500 million Christians are pentecostal/charismatic.
The movement of the Holy Spirit across the world in the twentieth century has far eclipsed the marvellous beginning of that same movement in the early church. It continues to spread. Churches change and grow in power – along with persecution.
Modern developments provide the church with amazing resources. Already reports of radio ministry into China and Russia tell how God uses this medium powerfully, along with spontaneous expansion of the church through signs and wonders. Preachers now reach into the homes of people through television. Millions are being won to Christ through The Jesus Film now translated into over 500 languages. Similarly, cassettes and video tapes proliferate, much of all this being closely related to dynamic ministry in the power of the Spirit.
Some fundamental principles now change how we function as a church. These dynamic changes recapture basic biblical principles. They include:
Divine Headship – from figurehead to functional head.
Servant Leadership – from management to equipping
Church Membership – from institutional to organic
Dynamic Networks – from bureaucracy to relationships
Body Ministry – from some to all
Spiritual Gifts – from few to many
Obedient Mission – from making decisions to making disciples
Power Evangelism – from programs to lifestyle
Kingdom Authority – from words to deeds
Divine Headship – from figurehead to functional Head.
A Catholic prayer group in Texas realised that none of them had ever obeyed Luke 14:12-14. They had not fed and clothed the poor who could never repay them. A loving prophetic word from the Lord through a charismatically gifted Sister called them to do that. They all agreed it was from the Lord. So they took enough food for 120 people working everyday (including Christmas day) at the city garbage dump just over the river in Mexico, and they all had Christmas dinner together there in the dump where the people were working. Over 300 people turned up to eat. The food multiplied. People brought relatives and everyone ate. The eight carloads from the prayer group ate. They had enough left over to take food to three orphanages.
Now a lively church exists there. The sick are healed. Everyone at the dump had TB originally. Within four years no one had it. Charismatic doctors see people healed through medicine, prayer and miracles. At regular meetings, not just on Sundays, people have more fun dancing in church than in any dance hall. Their worship involves everyone in singing, dancing, and praying for one another.
If Jesus is really the functional head of his church, not just the figurehead, how does that work? Basically we listen to him, and just do what he says, in any group, anywhere.
The disciples found it almost impossible to conceive of the kingdom of God without equating it with the world’s kingdoms. So do we. We also find it almost impossible to conceive of the church without equating it with our human societies.
We tend to run the church according to social patterns. Church structures look like social structures. The word ‘church’ often refers to some social expression of the church, or to a building, neither of which are biblical. So we have great difficulty with the apparent lack of interest in the New Testament for institutional models of the church.
The New Testament church grew, rapidly. It could be counted: 3,000; 5,000; and great multitudes. This was undoubtedly the church of Jesus Christ, with all its faults. He lived in the midst of his body.
The written and living word express the Lord’s headship in his church.
1. The Written Word
All scripture is the inspired word of God; God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16,17). Scripture communicates the word of Christ to his church.
The headship of Christ in his church is eroded or denied when scripture loses its authority. Conservative churches including Charismatic and Pentecostal churches believe the Bible. They believe in miracles, then and now. They believe God answers prayers, then and now. That does not make all they do or say right, but it does preserve what’s right – God’s Word.
Although church structures and traditions vary, the Word of God provides an anchor and an objective measure of faithfulness or aberration. Jesus was very clear in what he said!
Always there is the unexpected. God’s purposes may be known, and yet are unknowable. We continually discover that we have missed large slabs of the total picture. We have the scriptures, as did the theologians of Jesus’ day, and like them we often fail to see what is there. It must be divinely revealed and illuminated to be known.
2. The Living Word
Scripture and prayer provide a means of communication with Christ our head. Yet, like all means, they are a vehicle of communication, not the communication itself.
Speak to Him thou, for He hears, and Spirit with Spirit can meet –
Closer is He than breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.
The body of Christ is a living body, just as the Head is a living head.
Institutional forms and organisational expressions should yield to that. The living body of the living Christ must give substance to that reality. Then the inward union with Christ finds expression in the outward dimensions of church life.
Unless we grasp this, we will continue to secularise all we do, including ministry. A secularised church functions like any other secular society: voting, electing leaders, keeping minutes, and running a bureaucracy. That can easily bypass the Holy Spirit.
Jesus Christ, the living Head changes all that!
For example, obedience to the Great Commission comes not from mere outward observance of the written word, but naturally from the dynamic life in Christ.
The Living Word transforms the letter into life. “The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life,” said Jesus (John 6:63), and Paul added, “the letter of the law kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6).
Then the Bible comes alive, anointed and empowered by the Spirit who inspired it. Preaching becomes prophetic words from God as we wield the sharp two-edged sword of the Spirit. Teaching lights fires in minds, hearts and wills. Serving gives Christ’s love and healing through his responsive body, the church. Prayer is transformed into intimate communion and sensitive response to the Lord, our Head. Faith grows bold and strong. The church grows with unleashed power when Christ is no longer the figurehead or absentee land-lord but sovereign Lord with kingdom authority.
Carl Lawrence gives an outstanding example of this in his book The Coming Influence of China.A full account is reproduced in Renewal Journal No. 12: Harvest.Two teenage girls ‘just prayed and obeyed’ as they were led by the Lord. They established 30 churches in two years on Hainan Island in China. The smallest had 220 people, and the largest nearly 5,000 people.
That kind of radical obedience to Christ the Head of his church produces a radical biblical kind of leadership in the church.
Servant Leadership– from management to equipping
Leadership in the body of Christ, as in the kingdom of God, is very different from all other leadership in human society. Authentic Christian leadership is Spirit-filled, Spirit-led and Spirit-empowered, hidden and charismatic, yet manifested in power and visible institutionally.
Bishop Stephen Neill notes:
There has been a great deal of talk in recent years about the development of leadership … But is the idea of “leadership” biblical and Christian, and can we make use of it without doing grave injury to the very cause that we wish to serve? . . .
How far is the conception of “leadership” really one which we ought to encourage? It is so hard to use it without being misled by the non-Christian conception of leadership. It has been truly said that our need is not for leaders, but for saints and servants. Unless this fact is held steadily in the foreground, the whole idea of leadership training becomes dangerous.
Jesus raised these issues also. They touch on the fundamental dimensions of servanthood and equipping for ministry.
The radical nature of Jesus’ leadership, what he demanded of his followers, is best expressed in his words:
In Matthew 20:25-28, in response to the request of James and John for leadership or prominence in the coming kingdom and in answer to the other disciples’ reaction to this request, Jesus said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant – and whoever wants to be first must be your slave – just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
Jesus insists that the world’s concept of leadership must not operate in his church: “Not so with you.” Leadership is not about position or hierarchy or authority; it is a question of function and of service. The greatness of a Christian is not in status but in servanthood.
Jesus underscored his revolutionary teaching: greatness comes not through being served, but through serving. In God’s kingdom the standard of achievement is found not in exercising power over others, but in ministering to them and empowering them.
Jesus dramatically illustrated this teaching by washing his disciples’ feet. Then he told them to do just what he had done: “If I, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, so you must also wash one another’s feet” (John 13:14). That lesson was so important that he gave it to them a final act of love just before he died.
Jesus rejected both political and religious authority. He established Kingdom authority – serving others. His rejection of earthly power is so revolutionary that his disciples continually missed it. So do we.
What pain we could save ‘the church’ and what awful church-split sins we could avoid if we understood and obeyed this basic biblical principle! Church splits don’t happen where people love, serve, and truly forgive one another. You may be ‘right’ (in theology or practice) but if you split the church then you are very wrong.
Where would Jesus fit in our traditional church patterns today? Would he savagely attack the political power plays and status seeking leadership? Would he call our divisions sin? Would he denounce in scathing terms the religious pomp and ceremony? Would he absolutely reject hierarchical positions, titles, and garb. Once he did.
Even more fundamental to the nature of the kingdom and the ministry of the church are other questions. Would he disturb the meetings? Would he cast out demons? Would he heal? Would his preaching so provoke his hearers that they would oppose him? Would he be more at home outside our religious systems than within them? Would he so threaten our systems that we would denounce, expel or ignore him?
Leaders in many persecuted churches, where the church grows powerfully, face all that now. That’s where you see servant leadership most clearly!
“Who serves?” is a very different question from “Who leads?”
Does this do away with leadership? Yes and no. It does away with the world’s kind of leadership. It requires the Kingdom’s kind of leadership, which is servant leadership led by the Spirit of God.
Terry Fulham (in Miracle at Darien) demonstrated that kind of Kingdom leadership in an Episcopal church in America. He accepted ‘leadership’ on the basis that no decision would ever be made by the elders (or board) until they were in total unity in the Spirit. No vote would ever be needed. They believed Jesus could lead his church. So they required unity. If unity could not be attained, they waited and prayed till it was.
The New Testament regards all Christians as ministers and servants. Body ministry must be servant ministry. If leadership is a legitimate term for kingdom life and body ministry, it must be servant leadership.
It is both a radical leadership style among other styles and also the life-style of every Christian. It is the ministry of every member of Christ’s body. The great leaders in the Kingdom may be the least obvious – humbly and courageously serving others, unnoticed.
2. Equipping for Ministry
Some servant leaders are called and anointed to equip others for ministry.
In one sense we are all called and anointed to do that. Some as parents, raising children. Some as carers, showing others how to care. Some as team leaders, serving and inspiring the team and empowering them for service also.
Among spiritual gifts there are different ministries including leadership and administration. Our problem is that those words carry so much political and hierarchical freight that we can hardly use them without distorting them.
Leadership in Christ’s body means service, ministry, and being least or last, not greatest or first. The first shall be last, and the last first, Jesus said. Leadership is a spiritual function of serving and empowering, dependent on spiritual giftedness, not just on human ability.
Jesus Christ, not personality or achievement, makes leaders. The Ephesians 4 passage is a clear statement of that kind of giftedness. He appoints some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in his body to equip (by serving) the members of that body for their ministry.
Michael Harper summarises their function as:
Let my people go – the apostolic function of the Church
Let my people hear – the prophetic function of the Church
Let my people grow – the evangelistic function of the Church
Let my people care – the pastoral function of the Church
Let my people know – the teaching function of the Church
Go to my people
Speak to my people
Reach my people
Care for my people
Teach my people.
Leadership gifts in the body of Christ equip that body for ministry. Again, using such loaded terms, it needs to be stressed that this is quite different from mere human ability to lead; it is spiritual giftedness. Like other spiritual gifts, it may find expression in and through natural ability, but it is then natural ability anointed in Spirit-led power.
The amazingly diverse, flexible nature of spiritual leadership needs emphasis. No one model has it all, even though we all are called to be servant leaders.
Paul’s way of developing leaders was to recognise and encourage the special gift and role of each person, especially elders. Paul was undoubtedly a leader, a servant leader in the strong sense of the term. He served with his apostolic gifts. He equipped the body for ministry.
The term servant leader recaptures essential dimensions of the equipping ministry. So long as ‘leader’ is understood charismatically as spiritual giftedness, it becomes stronger than ever. Christ, head of his body, gives that kind of equipping leadership to members of his body. Enormous authority is vested in that understanding of servant leadership, precisely because those leaders serve others, and equip others for ministry.
This specific equipping ministry in the body applies especially to leadership of large churches. As a church grows larger, it is vital that the pastor be an equipper. The ministry will be done by the whole body, not just the ‘leader’. No one person can do it all.
Body ministry requires leadership which is both humble and powerful, leading by serving. All spiritual gifts need to function this way, especially leadership gifts. Powerful leadership grows from humble service.
Church Membership– from institutional to organic
We are members of Christ’s church; that sounds institutional.
We are members of Christ’s body; that sounds organic.
In fact, the two can be one!
The church must find its expression in human society, so it must have institutional characteristics. They may be as simple as a home group gathering regularly together, or as complex as a multi-million dollar denominational agency. As the institutional forms grow more complex, their vested interests become more binding and conformity to the world usually increases.
The Holy Spirit cannot be confined by institutionalisation. He never has been. He continually breaks free of human limitations and blows where he will. Christ, by the power of his Spirit is building his church.
Instead of a dictatorship or a democracy, God has chosen to make the Body of Christ an organism with Christ as the head and each member functioning with spiritual gifts. Understanding spiritual gifts, then is the key to understanding the true organisation of the church.
The charismatic nature of the church as Christ’s body will be expressed through the spiritual gifts of its members. So both the charismatic dimension and the institutional dimension co-exist in the church; the former being its essence, the latter its cultural or social expression.
1. The Organism
The body of Christ is an organism, a community, with interpersonal relationships, mutuality and interdependence. It is flexible and leaves room for a high degree of spontaneity. The Bible gives us this model for the church: the human body (1 Corinthians 12).
The charismatic dimension in both ministry and organisation does not do away with professional abilities and functions but fills them with the active, powerful presence of Christ by his Spirit and so transforms them from being merely professional to being charismatically gifted as well as professionally competent.
For example, a professional counsellor may be less effective than a non-professional friend who ministers love and care in the power of the Spirit of God. The dynamic power of charismatic ministry lies in the active presence of God’s Spirit filling that ministry or at least guiding it. However, a Spirit-filled, Spirit-led professional counsellor draws powerfully on both gifting and training.
Implications for church organisation are enormous. Although the professional tasks and organisations will probably continue, the ministry of the whole body will require very flexible forms which allow and intentionally foster body ministry. Counselling, teaching, preaching, social care and evangelism are all transformed by the Holy Spirit guiding and empowering those activities.
Charismatic Anglican David Watson gives an example of this from his own experience. As the church he pastored in York grew into fuller expressions of charismatic life it needed restructuring to provide adequate pastoral care through elders who were charismatically gifted as pastors not just elected to fill an institutional role of leadership. They cared for area groups, especially mentoring the group leaders.
Watson emphasises that where Christ is central and head of his body, he will provide charismatic leadership through gifted elders who in turn lead or care for the whole body, especially through pastoring and teaching gifts in the small groups or cells of the body. An organic model of the church expresses the real headship of Christ in his body and his ministry through the spiritual gifts of his people in body ministry.
Revival in Bogotá (see article in this issue) tells that kind of story dramatically in 2001.
Paul was clear on this. Within the body of Christ apostles, prophets, evangelists and pastor- teachers equip the body for ministry so that the body members, using their spiritual gifts, can do the work of ministry (Ephesians 4).
Paul’s three main passages on the church as the body of Christ give basic lists of spiritual gifts for charismatic ministry. Others could be added. The Ephesians 4:11-12 list refers specifically to charismatic leadership in the church, given by Christ, the risen and ascended conqueror, to equip the members of his body for the work of ministry. Aspects of that equipment are included in the various lists of spiritual gifts. Each passage emphasises the importance of ministering in love and unity.
2. The Organisation
In times of accelerating change and exploding church growth, the institutional model of the church needs to be flexible and responsive to its environment. Further, if it is to allow a truly charismatic ministry to function with strong spiritual gifts, it must be sensitive and responsive to the Holy Spirit, all the time.
The early church gives a startlingly clear picture of such a flexible institutional model. They were constantly led and empowered by the Spirit. They were very human, with typical faults and problems. The New Testament authors wrote mostly to fix those problems, especially in the epistles.
They met in many house churches, still as the one church in one place, inter-related. It was extremely flexible, needed everyone’s involvement, and could multiply anywhere. The church in China today, and in African villages, and in Latin American communities, uses this same organisation.
The institutional model of the church then was a house church model. That model has been repeated all through history, and in many parts of the world today is the means of flexible rapid church growth. Most large churches use this model in home groups.
Organisational membership often involves attending the meetings, paying the dues, abiding by the rules, and possibly being elected or appointed to office. Any society can do that. Most do.
Organic membership of the body, however, functions by living in Christ and ministering in spiritual gifts.
These two kinds of membership need to be differentiated when discussing church membership. Usually “church membership” means club membership; it is an institutional expression of the church. Usually “body membership” means the organic functioning of the members of Christ’s body, and its members being united by the Spirit of God in the one body, the church.
Organisational habits can reverse their meaning over years. Calvin in Geneva, for example, refused to identify with clerical pomp and wore the poor man’s cloak when preaching, but in time that turned into the Geneva gown, a clerical institution. Francis of Assisi also wore a poor man’s cloak, which has now become a religious uniform quite unrelated to what the poor now wear.
Those quirks are minor compared with the massive maintenance programs of large religious institutions. Denominations which came into being for mission, often breaking away from hardened institutional forms, in turn become maintenance-oriented and lose the very vision which gave them birth.
The organisational form of the church needs to be continually responsive to the Head of the church, or it becomes secularised and the Spirit of God is quenched. Leadership in the church must be especially responsive to the Spirit to avoid this.
Organisational life in the church can remain flexible and responsive to the Head of the church as it keeps its organic life alive in the power of the Spirit.
Dynamic Networks-from bureaucracy to relational groups
Networks of groups increasingly replace bureaucracy. Short term task groups replace committees. Networks of independent churches and groups are replacing historic denominations.
Spirit-filled groups or communities give one simple example, now affecting multiplied millions of people. People relate in home groups, house churches, mission groups, independent churches, and renewal or revival movements everywhere. So your home group may have people who were Catholic, or Anglican, or Methodist, or Baptist, or Hindu, or New Age.
Second Wave churches, for example, in earlier days could insist on loyalty to the denominational bureaucracy and policy lines. Now people choose from networks of the ecclesiastical smorgasbord. Television, mobility and education all shift our consciousness and increase our awareness and choices, including church life. That is how renewal and revival have been spreading.
A current example is the grassroots spread of charismatic renewal and revival.
In First Wave rural villages with little outside influence, little change occurred – “We’ve always done it this way.”
In Second Wave town churches ‘renewal’ could be kept outside the denomination by being banished to another bureaucracy, and therefore ignored – “Join the pentecostals and don’t rock the boat.”
Third Wave society opens new networks of information and experience. Our increasing mobility brings us into contact with renewal and revival. Our extended education opens our minds to these new insights. Our television portrays the power of God in healing and our worldview begins to shift. Our friends give us paperbacks to read or cassettes to hear and videos to see, and conviction or hope grows within us. Our visitors or home group leaders tell of their experiences and we seek what they’ve found. Our friends pray for us and God releases his Spirit more fully in our lives. Yet all of this happens outside the denominational bureaucracy; or it may do so.
So Wagner’s “third wave” of renewal is carried on Toffler’s Third Wave of social change into all church structures. Our friendship networks become ‘the bridges of God’ into our churches and out into the lives of others. Significantly, no pastor or minister may be involved. People witness to people. People now have the Bible tools, education, and friendships to check it out.
Those changes catapult us into new expressions of ministry.
Body Ministry– from some to all.
Body Ministry involves the biblical pattern of ministry in the church, the body of Christ.
Body Ministry is the ministry of the whole body of Christ. It functions through the use of spiritual gifts in all the members of the body. The unity of the Spirit of God finds expression in the incredible diversity of spiritual gifts and ministries.
The Reformation rediscovered the authority of the Bible and the wonderful gift of God’s grace in providing salvation by faith in Jesus. Unfortunately it failed to free the church from the rule of the priest or pastor, so carried that form of leadership into the Protestant church, producing a drastic clergy-laity division. Spiritual gifts in the whole body of Christ were largely ignored.
Body ministry, then, is not limited to church meetings, although the meetings need to express body life as well. That ministry is total. It finds expression in all of life.
Ray Stedman popularised the term “body life” in his book by that name thirty years ago. He used body life services in which people could share needs or testimonies. Bodylife becomes body ministry as people apply their spiritual gifts to those needs in the church and in society in ministry.
Body Life teaching opened the way for a fuller apprehension and use of spiritual gifts in shared life and ministry. That in turn has opened the way for a fuller discovery of the dynamic power of body ministry in Kingdom authority.
Spiritual Gifts– from few to many
Body ministry requires spiritual gifts. The body of Christ ministers charismatically. There is no other way it can minister as the living body of the living Christ. He ministers in and through his body, by the gifts of his Spirit.
Charismatic gifts of the Spirit differ from natural talents. We can do much through dedicated human talent, but that is not body ministry through spiritual gifts. Natural talents do need to be committed to God and used for his glory. They can be channels of spiritual gifts, but may not be.
Spiritual gifts constantly surprise us. God uses whom he chooses, and chooses whom he will. Spiritual gifts often show up with great power in unlikely people and in unlikely ways.
A common misunderstanding, for instance, is that those with an effective healing ministry must be especially holy people. They may not be. Gifts of the Spirit are given by grace, not earned by consecration. Young, immature Christians may have powerful spiritual ministries, as they discover and use their spiritual gifts. Many do. That is no proof of consecration or maturity, even though to please God we need to offer ourselves to him in full commitment.
Romans Chapter 12 gives a surprising example of this. The well known first two verses challenge us to offer ourselves fully to God and so discover his will for our lives. Paul then explains that knowing God’s will involves being realistic about ourselves and our gifts. If we know and use our God-given gifts, we fulfil God’s will for our lives.
Body ministry, then, depends on the use of spiritual gifts, not just the use of natural talents dedicated to God. Both are vital for committed Christian living, and both will be present in the church. However, the church is not built on committed natural talent, even though churches often seem to operate that way. Body ministry involves the use of spiritual gifts.
For example two people may have the talent of beautiful singing voices. Both will sing in worship and even on the platform in ministry. One, however, may be anointed with a prophetic gift in song, and the other may not be. That gifting will move hearts and wills in the power of God’s Spirit. Christ gives those gifts – we don’t create them. Some of these gifts of God’s Spirit, received for ministry, will be blessed in ministry in and through natural talent as well, but the key to body ministry is not the talent. It is the spiritual gift.
Similarly, spiritual gifts are not Christian roles or tasks. All Christians witness, but only some are gifted in evangelism. Every Christian has faith, but some have a gift of faith as well. All must exercise hospitality, but some are gifted in hospitality. Prayer is for all of us, but some are gifted in intercession.
Spiritual gifts operate in unity with diversity.
Paul’s passages on spiritual gifts all emphasise unity expressed in diversity (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4).
Without that unity expressed in love, the diversity destroys the body’s ministry causing chaos, division, sectarianism, and impotence. This is Paul’s theme in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
The Corinthians did not need teaching on the reality of spiritual gifts nor on their diversity. They knew that. In fact, they abused that. So Paul had to correct the fault by emphasizing the unity of the body, bound together in love. Gifts are not to be a source of division and strife, but an expression of unity and love. Unless rooted and grounded in love, the gifts are counter-productive.
Unity in the body of Christ allows that body to function well, not be crippled. No one has all the gifts. We all need one another. No one should be conceited about any gift that God has given. No one must think his or her gift the most important, and magnify and exalt it at the expense of others. All gifts must used in humility and service. We do not compete. We minister in harmony and co-operation.
Paul’s great theme, “in Christ,” expresses the unity essential for body ministry. In Christ we are one body. In Christ we live and serve. Love lies at the heart of body ministry. The body is one, bound in love. The body builds itself up in love (Eph. 4:16). That is why 1 Corinthians 13 is central to Paul’s passage on spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. “Make love your aim,” he insists, “and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1).
Jesus insisted on love. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all mean will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).
Our unity is not based on doctrine, or methods. Our unity comes from who we are, the body of Christ. Paul states this as a fact, not a hope. We are one in Christ. We are one in the Spirit. God has made us one. That unity is expressed in body ministry.
It shows in our attitude – in humility, kingdom thinking, and love. It smashes competition and critical spirits, especially between different people and groups with different gifts.
Breathtaking community transformations are now happening around the world where we live this truth in united ministry. See articles in this issue of this Journal!
That unity is expressed in the diversity of gifts. There is one Spirit; his gifts are incredibly diverse.
The point is developed in all the body passages of Paul. Diversity is to be celebrated, not squashed; encouraged, not smothered; developed, not ignored.
The church may be two or three, or two or three hundred, or two or three thousand. Different sizes will have different ministries or functions, such as cell, congregation or celebration, but all are the church. Christ is present in his body. So are his gifts. Again, different gifts will be appropriate for different expressions of that body’s ministry, but it in one body.
Body ministry will use these gifts. God’s Spirit moves among his people in power to meet needs and minister effectively. Those gifts need to be identified and used, and in the process, as in Jesus’ ministries, special anointings will come.
Preaching, for example, will often become prophecy as it is anointed by the Spirit of God. That prophetic ministry may happen unexpectedly in the process of a sermon. It may also be given in preparation as a word directly from the Lord.
Compassionate service and healing administrations will at times be anointed powerfully by God’s presence in signs and wonders to heal. Role, gift and anointing then merge into strongly focused spiritual ministry.
So role, spiritual gift, and anointings cannot be clearly divided. Indeed, as the Spirit of God moves in still greater power among all members of the body of Christ, the ministry of that body will be increasingly anointed.
Then the professional is swallowed up in the spiritual; natural ability is suffused and flooded with supernatural life; the human is filled with the divine.
Jesus lived this way. No one need envy another’s gifts or ministry. All are needed.
Obedient Mission– from making decisions to making disciples
Christ himself, head of his church, clearly stated the church’s mission. He did so on many occasions between his resurrection and ascension. The powerful dimension of the Great Commission has often been overlooked. Jesus himself emphasised our mission couldn’t be done without the power of his Spirit. That is the point of all the power promises in the Great Commission:
Matthew records it: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me . . . and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).
Mark records it: “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mark 16:17-18).
Luke records it: “I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49).
John records it: “He breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit …’ (John 20:22).
Acts records it: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8).
When empowered and led by the Holy Spirit (who is the Spirit of Jesus and the Spirit of God, Gal. 4:6), mission is powerful. Then we do not make plans and execute them in human wisdom and strength, but seek divine wisdom and strength.
Empowering by the Spirit of God and being led by the Spirit of God are central to obedient mission. We cannot claim obedience to the Great Commission when we do God’s work in our strength or our own ways and wisdom.
The Great Commission is not merely an external command to hard to obey. It is an internal compulsion, ignited in us by the Spirit of God. The Spirit has been given to the Church because it is her essence and nature to be a witnessing body.
Consequently, a church which is not evangelistic, nor missionary, nor empowered, is an apostate church. We begin to see the magnitude of our apostasy when we compare our churches with the biblical norm. We only need an evangelical movement or a missionary movement or a charismatic movement because we have fallen so far.
Body ministry, then, will obey the Head of the body, move in his authority, filled with the power of his Spirit. The Great Commission begins with the absolute authority of Christ in his church and all the cosmos; it issues in obedient mission, exercised within that authority, and exercising that authority in powerful ministry.
Powerful body ministry flows from obedient disciples, who, individually and as a body, obey their Lord.
The Great Commission calls for this total task of ‘making disciples’ in terms of becoming disciples in the body of Christ and growing in discipleship. It is one process. The kind of evangelism required for church growth and stated in the Great Commission is evangelism which makes disciples, not merely gets people to make decisions. Those decisions may be inadequate and fail to make disciples.
Wholistic evangelism and conversion can be summarised as involving:
Priority One: Commitment to Christ.
Priority Two: Commitment to the body of Christ.
Priority Three: Commitment to the work of Christ in the world.
Jesus would not turn aside from his redemptive mission. He lived fully in the kingdom realm. He did only his Father’s will, not his own. So everything he did was mission. Within that mission, his evangelism was not meetings or a program. He saved. Those he touched were made whole when there was faith. He said, “Follow me.” That was his program. He still calls us to follow him in obedient mission.
Power Evangelism– from programs to lifestyle
Spiritual gifts can release body ministry for effective power evangelism. The New Testament pattern of evangelism is always Kingdom words combined with Kingdom deeds.
A major shift in evangelism always evident in revivals, and increasingly evident now moves from program evangelism to power evangelism as a lifestyle of all members of the body of Christ, as John Wimber reminded us.
1. Program Evangelism
Programs of evangelism can be effective. Crusade evangelism has won thousands to Christ. Saturation evangelism, especially in Latin America, has reached every home in target communities with the gospel message. Personal evangelism such as door-to-door programs have reached many people. Some churches have focused on seeker services or outreach services aimed at reaching the unsaved, and often done so effectively.
All of these programs and many more have been significant means of evangelism. So, we thank God for so much evangelism which has won thousands to Christ.
However, we must also recognize that thousands and even millions of dollars spent on evangelism programs and all the time and work involved do not always bear abundant fruit.
Wagner, for example, noted that ‘Key 73’ in America touched over 100,000 congregations without any noticeable change in patterns of growth across the board.
Win Arn reported on ‘Here’s Life America’ noting that only 3.3% of those who recorded decisions became active members of any church, and 42% of them came by transfer. After polling over 4,000 converts Win Arn discovered that 70% – 80% of them came into the church through relatives and friends, whereas less than 1% came as direct result of city-wide evangelism campaigns.
Lyle Schaller similarly discovered that 60 – 90% of people involved in the church were brought by some friend or relative.
Programs are not as effective as body evangelism through the local church. Body evangelism involves more people in the church than many programs do, is the natural way most people are brought into the church, and can be the focus of church life in a lifestyle of evangelism.
Program evangelism may be useful, but it needs to link strongly with the local church and be a natural expression of that church’s life and witness. Program evangelism, however, falls short of the biblical model. It is needed because the church fails to be what the church should be! Body evangelism calls for more. It requires the involvement of the whole body of Christ in the power of his Spirit.
2. Power Evangelism
The biblical model goes beyond program evangelism. It is depth centred in Jesus’ promise: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses …” (Acts 1:8).
John Wimber emphasized the importance of power evangelism:
Power Evangelism … transcends the rational. It happens with the demonstration of God’s power in Signs and Wonders, and introduces the numinous of God. This presupposes a presentation accompanied with the manifest presence of God. Power Evangelism is spontaneous and is directed by the Holy Spirit. The result is often explosive church growth. …
The issue is not what the church is doing. The issue is what the church is leaving out! Where is the promised power of Acts 1:8? Where are the demonstrations of the manifest presence of God that we see illustrated throughout the book of Acts? Were they only for that day? Do they occur today? If so, can we get in on it? Is it possible for you and me to work the works of Jesus?
Power Evangelism is still God’s way of explosively growing His church.
In one area where there were 4,000 Christians before the revolution, the number has now increased to 90,000 with a thousand meeting places. Christians in the region give three reasons for the rapid increase: The faithful witness of Christians in the midst of suffering, the power of God seen in healing the sick, and the influence of Christian radio broadcast from outside.
(b) John Hurston, associated with the world’s largest church, Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea, where David Yonggi Cho is pastor, attributed the phenomenal growth of that church to “the constant flow of God’s miracle power” from the beginning.
(c) A third example is from Wagner’s observations:
In Latin America I saw God at work. I saw exploding churches. I saw preaching so powerful that hardened sinners broke and yielded to Jesus’ love. I saw miraculous healings. I met with people who had spoken to God in visions and dreams. I saw Christians multiplying themselves time and again. I saw broken families reunited. I saw poverty and destitution overcome by God’s living Word. I saw hate turn to love.
Power evangelism fulfils the biblical pattern of body ministry and evangelism. It goes beyond programs to the mighty acts of God in the midst of his people. Christ is alive in his church by the power of His Spirit.
The church is true to the kingdom of God when, like Jesus, the signs of the kingdom are manifest in powerful ministry.
The church spontaneously expands through power evangelism. It is one facet of dynamic body ministry; a natural result of a healthy body, filled with the life of God. That transformed body will explodes in mission. It is already in many countries.
The emerging church in the 21st century is increasingly involved in power evangelism under the Kingdom authority of Jesus himself.
Kingdom Authority– from words to deeds
Christ is king. In Paul’s later writings he emphasises this dimension in relationship to the church as Christ’s body. He reigns in and through his body, the church. Yet that rule is also cosmic, of which the church is now a part and therefore directly involved in cosmic principalities and powers. Kingdom authority is integrally part of the church’s life and mission as the body of Christ.
In Colossians 1, Paul explains that Christ alone is ‘the image of the invisible God’ and is pre-eminent over everything and everyone (v. 15). This includes being ‘the head the body, the church’ (v. 18). He is not just another divine being but in him alone ‘all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell’ (v.19). In his death and resurrection he triumphed not merely over sin and death but over the cosmic powers also (v. 20).
In Ephesians 1, Paul emphasises that Christ is pre-eminent over the cosmic powers. He is ‘far above all rule and authority and power and dominion’ (v. 21) and ‘head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all’ (vs. 22-23). Paul then explains how this applies to the church which is his one body, not many different bodies (4:4). The ascended Head of the church gives spiritual gifts to his church, all of which come from Christ (vs 7-8). These include spiritually gifted leaders to equip us all ‘for the work of ministry’ and to build up the body of Christ (v. 12).
These passages from Paul lift the concept of the church as the body of Christ way beyond a cosy club of personal support and encouragement. Support and encouragement must be in the body, but any human society could give that if it’s members care for one another.
The body of Christ is something more. It is the body of Christ the King. Like the kingdom of God, Christ’s rule has been established and is yet to be realised fully. So the ministry of the body of Christ is his powerful ministry.
The ascended, victorious, all powerful Christ, having conquered sin and death and hell now reigns supreme. He is the head of his body, the church. He gives gifts to his church, specifically those called under his authority to exercise authority in the church as leaders so that all God’s people may be equipped by him for his ministry in and through us. That is body ministry.
Signs, wonders and fantastic church growth characterised the early church as normal Kingdom life burst out in the powerful ministry of the body of Christ. Body ministry demonstrated kingdom authority. As in Jesus’ ministry, the early church ministered in signs and wonders (Acts 2:43), prayed for signs and wonders, and expected more signs and wonders (Acts 4:30; 5:12-16).
Granted, the church is often weak. Kingdom life often lies untapped. Christians, and the church, corrupted and weakened by disobedience or faithlessness (the lack of faith which results in sin), may fail to manifest kingdom Life.
However, accelerating church growth in the power of the Spirit of God point to the greatest demonstration of kingdom life and power the world has even known. Yet, as in the life of Jesus, it can remain hidden from those who, seeing, will not see, and hearing, will not hear (Isa. 6:9-10 Mt. l3:14-15; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; Jn.12: 40; Acts 28: 26-27).
The kingdom is manifest, yet hidden; revealed, yet concealed. Those who ask, receive it; whose who seek, find it; to those who knock, the door of the kingdom is opened. And the church has the keys!
The Kingdom of God was the central message of Jesus. That message was in powerful words and deeds. Christ, the Messianic King, incarnate in his human body, proclaimed the kingdom of God as immanent. He called for response in repentance and faith Mk.l:15). His parables described the mysteries of the Kingdom. His miracles displayed its power and authority (Mt. 12:28). You cannot separate, in the evangelistic ministry of Jesus, proclamation and demonstration, preaching and acting, saying and doing.
Similarly, Jesus gave that authority and power to his disciples: “preach as you go, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons” (Mt. 10: 7,8).
This same message and powerful ministry were normal in the early church. Throughout the whole of Acts, in almost every chapter a demonstration of the Kingdom accompanies the proclamation of the gospel.
The clash of kingdoms emerges as a strong theme in the epistles also. The church contends against the principalities and the powers, the world rulers of this dark age, the spiritual hosts of wickedness (Eph.6:12). Each member of Christ’s body, then, has been redeemed from captivity and set free by Christ to serve the King.
The body of Christ must be seen as the agent of the kingdom of God, where Christ rules in power and still proclaims that reality through his church, both in living word and dynamic deed.
The kingdom of God is much more than an evangelical ‘born again’ experience, or a concern for social justice, or a communal interest in loving relationships, or a charismatic quest for personal victory. It is all these and much more. It is the cosmic clash of kingdoms. It is the church smashing the gates of hell to release the captives. It is the spreading reign of God in Christ upon the earth. It is the eternal purpose of God being fulfilled in restoring and reconciling all things in the universe to himself.
God reigns. Christ is King. His Spirit endues his church with kingdom life and power. Jesus himself declared the kingdom charter, quoting from Isaiah 61:1-2: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord (Luke 4:18-19).
Body ministry, then is powerful ministry by the body of Christ. It must include the signs of the kingdom as well as the words of the kingdom. Spiritual gifts, imparted by the victorious Christ through his Spirit, empower Christ’s body for authentic mission in the world.
 Toffler, A. 1980. The Third Wave. London: Collins, pp. 20, 25, 28.
 Adapted from Postman N. & Weingartner, C. 1969. Teaching as a Subversive Activity. London: Penguin, pp. 22-23.
 Toffler, A. 1970. Future Shock. London: Pan, p. 23.
 Trump J. & Baynham, D. 1961. Focus on Change. Chicago: Rand McNally, p. 3.
 Schaller, L. 1975. Hey, That’s our Church. Nashville: Abingdon, p. 23.
 Laurentin, R. 1986. Viva Christo Rey! Waco: Word.
 Barclay, W. 1958. The Mind of St. Paul. New York: Harper & Row, p. 122.
 Lawrence, C. 1996. The Coming Influence of China. Gresham: Vision, pp. 186-192.
 Neill, S. 1957. The Unfinished Task. London: Edinburgh House, p. 132.
 Harper. M. 1977. Let My People Grow. Plainfield: Logos, pp. 44-45, adapted.
 Watson, D. 1978. I Believe in the Church. London: Hodder & Stoughton, pp. 292- 293.
 Wagner, C. P. 1976. Your Church Can Grow. Glendale: Regal, p. 159, from Ray Ortland.
Geoff Waugh co-ordinates Distance Education and the Bachelor of Ministry course at the Brisbane Christian Outreach Centre School of Ministries.
Scene 1: A large pentecostal or charismatic church in any Australian city in 2000
They allocate trained full time and part time staff with modern resources to run their two year government accredited pentecostal or charismatic Bible College diploma, bachelor and post-graduate courses. Austudy and Abstudy cover fees for their full time student workers. They train their own leadership on the job and for the future through Spirit-filled study and ministry, especially learning to move in their personal and corporate giftings and anointing. Many people in the church study subjects there part-time for their own enjoyment and development.
Scene 2: A small pentecostal or charismatic church in any Australian town in 2000
They run small study groups led by volunteeers such as teachers or home group leaders for their people enrolled in accredited distance education courses in ministry. They have people enrolled in diploma, bachelor and post-graduate courses in pentecostal or charismatic studies. Austudy and Abstudy cover fees for their full time student workers. They train their own leadership on the job and for the future through Spirit-filled study and ministry, especially learning to move in their personal and corporate giftings and anointing. Many people in the church study subjects part-time for their own enjoyment and development.
In other words, you can now study pentecostal or charismatic courses at diploma, bachelor and post-graduate levels at home, or in a study group in your church, or in your home group. Individual subjects are available to you right now.
This is new for many Pentecostal and charismatic Christians. In the past, they were often suspicious of study because it seemed to put out the fire through liberal teachings full of doubt and unbelief. Now churches and Christians are rediscovering that Spirit-filled study can fan the flame and set people on fire!
Our ministry is the ministry of Jesus Christ in his church and in the world. He was certainly filled with the fire of the Spirit and has set people on fire for 2000 years. This is the vital starting point and the most radical. Jesus ministered in the power of the Spirit of the Lord. So must we.
Consequently, our ministry is charismatic by definition, nature and function. The Holy Spirit is given to the church so that we can minister in the power of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit, the charismata, enable that ministry. Urban Holmes (1971:248) notes:
The heart of the Christian ministry is its charismatic liminal quality. Without question there is a place for professional capacities in ministry but it is the charismatic character of the church that lends strength to professions such as counselling, teaching, and community organization that they cannot possess otherwise.
Hendrick Kraemer (1958:180) emphasized the issue:
The point we can’t evade is that, true as it may be that for many important historical reasons the Church has become from a charismatic fellowship an institutional Church, she must acknowledge that, as to her nature, she is always charismatic, for she is the working field of the Holy Spirit. Her being an institution is a human necessity, but not the nature of the Church.
Ministry education gets caught in that institutional bind, even while seeking to respond to the Spirit. One powerful means of freeing us from that institutional bind is to open education for ministry to everyone.
The challenge facing theological [and ministry] education today is
* to take an open attitude to structures and methods and to design programs that will be open to the whole people of God,
* to take an open attitude toward curriculum design so as to build on the students’ interests and needs and motivation,
* to take an open attitude toward the role of the student and the role of the teacher so that both can become fully involved in determining and developing the learning experiences,
* to take an open attitude toward evaluation and to discover more relevant, more human, more Christian ways to validate our program (Kinsler 1981: 86).
Not only do modern delivery systems provide us with resources to transform our educational task, but the organisational shift from bureaucratic structures towards networking offers new possibilities for effective open education for ministry.
In other words, you can train for any pentecostal or charismatic ministry anywhere now.
1. Third Wave Megatrends
The emerging social and cultural context in which we now live has been called the Third Wave (by Alvin Toffler) and its major characteristics described as Megatrends (by John Naisbitt). These are not to be confused with Peter Wagner’s “third wave” of renewal (first the pentecostal wave, second the charismatic wave, and the third wave in all churches). Those waves of pentecostal renewal in the twentieth century penetrated all the current social/cultural waves of tribal life (as in Africa now), town life (as in country towns now), and technological life (as in huge cities now).
The Industrial Revolution saw a shift from a tribal, agricultural society to the emergence of the town with its mine or factory, printed media and supporting bureaucracies including schools and suburban churches. Professional ministry gradually shifted from the village priest for all the people to denominational ministers educated in theological schools of the classroom model.
We now experience a radical social restructuring ushered in by the accelerating changes of a technological revolution. No terms fully describe it. Alvin Toffler writes of three waves: agricultural, industrial and what he used to call super‑industrial (1970) but changed to “third wave” (1980), arguing that most terms narrow rather than expand our understanding because they focus on a single aspect rather than describe the whole. “Post-modern” has become the current term used to label these profound changes.
Other phrases describing this emerging era include:
Harvey Cox’s technopolitan society (following tribal and town);
Marshall McLuhan’s electric era and global village;
Daniel Bell’s post‑industrial society; and
John Naisbitt’s information society.
John Naisbitt (1982, 1990) examines megatrends shaping this new era, many of which apply directly to education for ministry. He describes American cultural changes but these trends also apply to all societies experiencing the global technological revolution. I comment briefly on five of his first list of megatrends (1982:1) and two from his megatrends 2000 list (1990:276, 248) which seem particularly relevant to education for ministry.
In other words, you can now be involved in a huge range of world-class opportunities for study and ministry right where you are, in your home group, cell group, study group, or mission group or in your own home alone.
1.1. From an Industrial Society to an Information Society:
Although we continue to think we live in an industrial society, we have in fact changed to an economy based on the creation and distribution of information.
Education for ministry now benefits from educational processes and resources common to society including the proliferation of media which liberate education from confinement in classrooms and make it available in ‘schools without walls’. Britain’s Open University is an example. External Christian degree studies is another.
Teachers and students can engage in mutually enriching interaction and research at the interface of context and content, facilitated by educational and communications technology. For example, the computer is replacing the typewriter, the photocopier has overtaken the duplicator, the video is taking over from the audio cassette, the resource centre is assimilating the library and going electronic, the modem connects us with the Internet, and mail is increasingly by fax or e-mail.
An internet copy of this paper is now more useful than a printed copy! It reaches more people, anywhere in the world. Anyone can download it and use it. Quotes can be immediately woven into other tasks, including more articles! The material can be used and re-used in multi-media, including adapted to OHT for study groups or adapted and printed in Study Guides and Readings.
In other words, you can download this article from the Renewal Journal web page, reproduce it for your home group, study group, church paper, or tertiary study. You can adapt it, and turn a summary of it into a hand-out or an OHT sheet. I’ve done all that with this article and many other articles – often.
1.2. From Centralisation to Decentralisation:
We have rediscovered the ability to act innovatively and achieve results ‑ from the bottom up.
We are familiar with this trend and encourage it in many of our church structures. It also applies to education for ministry. We choose resources and studies from a widening range of possibilities.
At the personal level, increasing numbers of people study for theological or ministry degrees, often by open education or distance education. At the church level, innovative congregations or creative people in churches find ways to enrich the ministry education of their people, and this may include external studies in education for ministry which was once available only to full time college students. At the college level, many colleges now offer external studies or distance education with decentralised programs related specifically to local contexts and guided by local tutors.
In other words, you are no longer dependent on other people to chart your course or even your beliefs. You do that, led by the Spirit in fellowship with God’s people.
1.3. From Institutional to Self‑Help:
We are shifting from institutional help to more self‑reliance in all aspects of our lives.
Institutional Christianity is big business, but many traditional churches decline while home groups multiply and house churches proliferate. Independent churches attract increasing numbers, and some denominational congregations experiencing rapid growth sit rather loosely or uncomfortably within traditional structures, often challenging those structures prophetically. Large numbers of educated and committed Christians join or form study groups, renewal groups, charismatic congregations or covenant communities.
Continuing theological education is another example of self‑help programs. Institutional help or direction is often by‑passed in favour of a wide range of personal interests including study for various degrees now increasingly accessible from colleges around the world. This self-help option is increasingly taken where external study is available.
In other words, you can chart your own course in study and ministry according to your personal calling, gifting and anointing. That course can fan the flame in you and set you on fire for powerful ministry if you choose your study well.
1.4. From Either/Or to Multiple Options:
From a narrow either/or society with a limited range of personal choices we are exploding into a free‑wheeling multiple‑option society.
Demarcation lines along denominational or doctrinal differences once characterised churches, theological colleges, and even Bible colleges. These increasingly blur and merge within the unity of the Spirit and in the ecumenical landscape.
Renewed Baptists, for example, may identify more deeply with Catholic Charismatic spirituality than with their own historical distinctives. ‘Rebaptism’ is a burning pastoral issue as increasing numbers choose to move freely among differing groups. Multiplying home groups discover authentic unity and raise eucharistic problems. Traditional understandings of ordination and ministry are increasingly challenged, as this statements nearly half a century ago:
The question we are now considering is that of the possible ordination of the ordinary farmer or merchant or lawyer, who is prepared to give freely to the Church the time that he can spare from the ordinary occupation in which most of his time must be spent.
The proposal seems to us strange only because, from the point of view of the Early Church, we have got things thoroughly turned upside down. … It is hardly too much to say that in those days almost anyone could celebrate the Holy Communion, and hardly anyone except the bishop could preach; whereas now almost anyone can preach (or, rather is allowed to preach!) and hardly anyone can celebrate Holy Communion. Lack of balance in either direction is to be deplored (Neill 1957:65).
Local churches as well as Bible colleges need to take our multiple option context seriously and offer a wide range of options adapted to people’s calling, giftings, anointings, ministries and learning styles. An example of this is the learning contract or agreement and the importance of practicum or field education learning and ministry experiences.
In other words, you will probably be ordained to your ministry in your lifetime, if you want to be, whether you are male or female, employee or boss, working in the church or in the world. Many churches in Australia are already doing this.
1.5. From Hierarchies to Networking:
We are giving up our dependence on hierarchical structures in favour of informal networks.
Naisbitt (1982:197) identifies three fundamental reasons making networks a crucial social form now:
(1) the death of traditional structures,
(2) the din of information overload, and
(3) the past failures of hierarchies.
The vertical to horizontal power shift that networks bring about will be enormously liberating for individuals. Hierarchies promote moving up and getting ahead, producing stress, tension, and anxiety. Networking empowers the individual, and people in networks tend to nurture one another.
In the network environment, rewards come by empowering others, not by climbing over them (1982:197, 204).
That is crucial. It fits with Christian commitment to love and serve one another. And it helps to overcome the flaws of bureaucratic Christianity, such as the Peter Principle: ‘In a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence’ (Peter 1969:22). Where that happens in churches, people now tend to choose a better option, often going elsewhere.
Toffler describes the shift toward networking this way:
We are, in fact, witnessing the arrival of a new organizational system that will increasingly challenge and ultimately supplant bureaucracy. This is the organisation of the future. … Shortcuts that by‑pass the hierarchy are increasingly employed. … The cumulative result of such small changes is a massive shift from vertical to lateral communication systems (1970:120, 133).
The impact of networking is reflected in our growing use of short term task groups (instead of long term committees) and the supportive, nurturing home group or cell group structures (instead of formal mid-week prayer meetings in pews).
Contextual education for ministry will help to prepare ministry which can function well in a networking environment. Not only do ministers and leaders need to know how to facilitate task groups, study groups and home fellowships (rather than be threatened by them), but the shape of ministry can be transformed in this context as task group specialists and cell group leaders minister and enable ministry, disciple others and are discipled in mutuality.
Further, Bible Colleges can provide essential resources for use in the learning and ministering networking groups as well as for individuals.
In other words, you will get your rewards and fulfil your ministry “by empowering others, not by climbing over them.”
1.6. The triumph of the individual
The great unifying theme at the conclusion of the 20th century is the triumph of the individual.
Networking frees people from bureaucratic restrictions. New relationships emerge in voluntary associations including the church and its activities. Technology empowers the emerging freedom of the individual. The motorcar, then the aircraft, dramatically increased individual mobility. Millions now communicate freely within the electronic village.
The freedom of the individual under God within committed community is an increasing reality of church life and education for ministry. Individual giftings and callings are openly pursued, encouraged and channelled into effective ministry within the body of Christ.
Gifted ministries emerge in ordinary people, fuelled and trained by the best teachers and leaders in the world through video, casettes, TV programs, internet articles which now include video and audio preaching and teaching.
In other words, you can use any or all of these resources as you serve God in the power of His Spirit, doing what He leads you to do, such as in personal networks, home groups or house churches.
1.7. Religious revival
At the dawn of the third millennium there are unmistakable signs of a worldwide multidenominational religious revival.
Naisbitt notes widespread religious revival including charismatic renewal, such as one-fifth, or 10 million, of America’s 53.5 million Catholics in 1990 were charismatic. Now one third of practising Christians worldwide are pentecostal/charismatic. Traditional, doctrinal, cognitive Christianity is increasingly challenged by transforming experience of God.
This has immediate application to education for ministry. An urgent task for us all is to make our ministry education in renewal as widely available as possible to meet this rapidly expanding revival.
Open education for ministry can flow anywhere through networking Christian ministries to inform and inspire, to liberate and equip leadership and multiply ministry.
In other words, you will be increasingly relating to others in revival – from all kinds of denominations, or none, and with all kinds of theologies (where Jesus is Lord). That’s one reason why good Spirit-filled study can help you see more clearly and serve more fervently.
2. Open Education Possibilities
Adult education, continuing education and ministry education now offer wide scope for self-directed learning, which Malcolm Knowles calls andragogy (1980).
Malcolm Knowles developed the concept of andragogy to describe self-directed learning in contrast to pedagogy viewed as mainly teacher-directed learning.
In its broadest meaning, self-directed learning describes a process in which individuals take the initiative, with or without the help of others, in diagnosing their learning needs, formulating learning goals, identifying human and material resources for learning, choosing and implementing appropriate learning strategies, and evaluating learning outcomes … Self-directed learning usually takes place in association with various kinds of helpers, such as teachers, tutors, mentors, resource people, and peers. There is a lot of mutuality among a group of self-directed learners (Knowles 1975:18).
Many people seek out these possibilities for self-directed education, especially in extension or distance education modes. Illich’s de-schooling proposals (and similar expressions of schools without walls) describe networking systems which apply to education in general but also to open education for ministry. Instead of fitting educational resources to the educator’s curricula goals, he proposes four different approaches which enable students to gain access to educational resources which may help to define and achieve their goals (Illich 1971:81). These are:
2.1. Reference Services to Educational Objects ‑ which facilitate access to things or processes used for formal learning.
Educational objects can include resources found in most churches such as libraries, resource centres, book shops, study notes, CDs, audio and video cassettes, TV (e.g. open university), ands study groups using overhead projectors, whiteboards, and a range of resources.
In other words, you can now offer video nights or seminars for a huge range of training including counselling, worship, evangelism, home group leadership and youth and children’s ministries. Leaders from around the world come into your home or group by video.
2.2. Skill Exchanges ‑ which permit persons to list their skills, the conditions under which they are willing to serve and the addresses at which they can be reached.
Skill exchanges can include activities such as tutoring or people who can teach or disciple others, musicians, ministry task groups, and educational or service specialists. Most informal church programs use these skill exchanges – musicians train musicians; home group and study group leaders train other cell or study group leaders. We call it discipling.
In other words, you can be in a group where someone disciples you (choose well!) and also in a group where you disciple others. One great way to learn something is to also teach it to others. Use your gifts and skills, don’t bury them! Many people use their distance education study materials for study groups, teaching or preaching.
2.3. Peer‑Matching ‑ a communications network which permits persons to describe the learning activity in which they wish to engage, in the hope of finding a partner for the inquiry.
Peer matches can include persons interested in learning skills or forming study groups, including a wide range of ministry education activities. Some church directories now list areas of interest, and people can easily establish common interest groups.
In other words, you can help people in your home group or church to identify their interests from a list (there are plenty around, or make up your own in the group), and then to match them. It happens informally anyway – people who like surfing go surfing together; intercessors love to pray together.
2.4. Reference Services to Educators‑at‑Large ‑ who can be listed in a directory giving the addresses and self‑descriptions of professionals, para‑professionals, and freelancers, along with conditions of access to their services.
Educational leaders in churches can assist in exploratory activities and in helping students achieve specific goals. Practicum and field education studies often link students with mentors and role models in ministry such as in music, youth or children’s work, counselling, evangelism and other significant ministries.
Open education for ministry can explore these networking facilities. Networks, along with the other megatrends, both require and enable contextually appropriate models of education for ministry, and help to open the theologising process to the whole church in an intentional and integrative way.
In other words, you can mix life and ministry with continuing education such as in distance education, learning with others, or on your own, how to live for God and minister in the power of His Spirit.
3. Implications and Directions
Open education for ministry can intentionally address these contextual issues of accelerating change and integrate traditional classroom procedures with open education processes.
Significant implications and directions include equipping the church for ministry, contextualising education for ministry, providing resources for the church, and renewing the church.
3.1. Equipping the Church for Ministry.
Open education for ministry not only equips pastors or leaders for ministry but opens that process to the whole church.
Ralph Winter, an extension pioneer through the Presbyterian Seminary in Guatemala, observed that their extension program cost less per student, allowed a smaller faculty to deal with a large number of students (by using seminar tutors), stressed independent study and reflection, attracted more candidates to the ministry, reached more mature students, enabled teaching on several levels more easily, and allowed students to work in the context of their ministry.
He emphasized that extension was not primarily a new method of teaching but that its greatest significance was as a new method of selection and equipping for ministry, since the underlining purpose for working by extension is in fact more important than any of the kaleidoscopic varieties of extension as a method ‑ it is the simple goal of enlisting and equipping for ministry precisely those who are best suited to it (Kinsler 1978:x).
Opening ministry education to the whole church helps to reach the real leaders and equip them. Missionary Roland Allen severely criticised western styles of education for ministry for failing to do this. His points include these (Mulholland 1976:16‑18):
(1) The apostles required maturity and experience with Spirit‑filled giftedness for leadership; we ordain young, inexperienced graduates.
(2) The apostles say nothing about full time employment in the church; we require it.
(3) The apostles selected the real leaders; we emphasise a subjective, internal call.
(4) The early church valued spiritual and practical formation in life and ministry; we value academic credentials.
(5) The early church allowed full ministry including the sacraments; we deny this to many groups.
Open education for ministry gives the real leaders access to theology in a ministry context. These spiritually gifted and pastorally experienced leaders may, or may not, be officially ordained but they function in significant pastoral ministry not only with individuals but also as task group leaders, home group pastors, or worship leaders and preachers.
In other words, you can run your own ministry training centre, as in your home group or study group or ministry group or mission group.
3.2. Contextualising Education for ministry.
Opening ministry education shifts the focus from the classroom to the context of ministry, from preparation for ministry to formation in ministry.
Classrooms will undoubtedly continue to provide an essential means of serious theologising, especially when students’ ministries, gifts and contexts are taken seriously.
Open education for ministry can broaden this approach. Ross Kinsler emphasised the role of extension in that process:
The full significance of theological education by extension will be perceived when local people discover that they are being invited to become primary agents of both ministry and theology. For theology itself is the interplay of Christian life/ministry and reflection, of Gospel and context, of God and history. …
Theological education by extension can be treated as a stop gap for those who can’t go to seminary, a partial, pragmatic substitute for the ‘real thing’. Or it can become a new and powerful attempt to return ministry and theology to the people, where they really belong (Kinsler 1983:3, 21).
Committed Christians often challenge entrenched structures with spiritual sensitivity, prophetic insight, pastoral concern and intellectual integrity. The prophetic and teaching role of Bible College staff can be increasingly exercised by informed people who may never sit in college classrooms but who now have greater access to theological resources. This is closer to the New Testament pattern for ministry formation and education.
The principal model for ministerial formation is Jesus himself, who continues to call his followers into his ministry and mission, and the classic text is Mark 10:42‑45, which speaks of service and self‑giving. One of the enigmas we face is that theological education … leads to privilege and power, whereas ministry is fundamentally concerned with servanthood (Kinsler 1983:6).
Open education for ministry can fulfil a significant servant role in the church by providing ministry education for the whole church, not just the elite few.
In other words, you can minister as Jesus did, serve as Jesus did, disciple others as Jesus did – without desks in a classroom, but in life, in homes, in relationships.
3.3. Providing Resources for the Church.
Open education for ministry provides resources for the whole church which can be used anywhere. Many churches now make these resources available, and produce their own. Resource centres in churches supply audio and video cassettes as well as books and magazines including periodicals or journals.
Guest speakers are now recorded on cassettes (audio and video) and copies can be widely distributed. The same applies to lecturing or teaching. Distance education uses these facilities extensively. Resource directories and publicity through church papers provide the church with access to these.
Many resources, simply produced and widely distributed, facilitate group sharing as well as provide significant input. Taped lectures or sermons, for example, can easily include discussion questions or tasks for discussion and action.
External students value these resources. Cassettes (easily used with accompanying material) become not only formal study tools, but also provide up‑dated resources for continuing education, for personal enquiry, and for seminar or tutorial groups.
More sophisticated distance education models can be developed also. University external studies departments offer many examples.
Clive Lawless, a lecturer in Educational Technology at the Open University in London comments on how Britain’s largest university teaches at a distance using a wide range of media including audio and video cassettes available for personal use as well as broadcast through educational radio and television. Most of their courses involve regular seminars as well as providing personal study resources.
Lawless (1974:8) notes three important implications of the Open University for ministry education:
(1) Open education for ministry methods can be used on a large scale and at the highest educational levels;
(2) Open education for ministry needs personnel and resources to concentrate on it; and
(3) Open education for ministry needs to use a wide range of media and materials.
He says that we need to ask two questions concerning the range of media and materials available: whether all possible media and materials are being used, and whether they are being used in an effectively integrated way.
In other words, you can have world leaders such Billy Graham, Oral Roberts, Benny Hinn, Yonggi Cho and many others in your home or home group via video or cassette, leading to lively discussion and mutual ministry. Current educational media provide resources for the church and in the process opens the classroom to the whole church. This in turn helps to further equip the church for its ministry.
3.4. Renewing the Church.
Ministerial formation is committed to renewing the church but often frustrated and bound by entrenched traditions. Those limiting structures are increasingly by‑passed in the shift to lateral networking fuelled by creative open ministry education resources.
The concern of theological educators in many places is to liberate our institutions and churches from dysfunctional structures in order to respond in new ways to the Spirit of God in our age and in our many diverse contexts. Theological education by extension is a tremendously versatile and flexible approach to ministerial training; it is also now a spreading, deepening movement for change, subversion and renewal (Kinsler 1981:101).
Rigid or traditional structures may be made more flexible with new developments which emerge out of creative and courageous responses to the Spirit of God.
Renewal ministries in the church function naturally and powerfully along flexible networks of committed groups. Some of these fit within denominational structures, though uncomfortably at times. Others emerge as new structures, mixing formerly separated Christians into various expressions of “the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. Networks of committed and creative groupings continue to multiply.
Larger congregations also need networks of small groups for personal fellowship, effective ministry and service to others. These congregations usually provide significant ministry education resources in paperbacks, magazines, audio and video cassettes, and also produce their own resources.
One common example of such resources in ministry education made widely available are external studies units in degree courses. These often include:
(1) A study guide, including administrative, content, resource and assessment information;
(2) Notes and/or essential text(s);
(3) A reader containing significant articles or book chapters;
(4) Resource materials, such as disks, and audio and/or video cassettes.
These become available not only for individual or tutorial study, but also for use in ministry.
Bible College staff have abundant resources to make their teaching available anywhere as resources for open education for ministry, including overseas. This includes accredited diploma and degree programs.
Open education for ministry uses these emerging opportunities to creatively involve the church in contextual theological reflection. It is a significant force to equip the church for its mission in the world.
In other words, you are a theologian (you have significant thoughts about God and are continually learning), a teacher (by example, modelling, dsicipling and serving – both informally and formally), a minister (for to serve is to minister), and a disciple of Jesus who by his Spirit within us ministers through us to others, and through others to us.
Illich, Ivan (1971) Celebration of Awareness. Penguin.
Kinsler, Ross (1981) The Extension Movement in Theological Education. Pasadena: William Carey Library.
Kinsler, Ross (1983) “Theology by the People.” Manuscript prepared for Pacific Basin Conference, Fuller Seminary Library.
Kinsler, Ross, ed. (1983) Ministry by the People. Orbis.
Comment by Rev. John Davies, the Minister at the Anglican Church in Northbridge, Sydney and editor of the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia Sydney Newsletter (November 1994):
A deepened sense of the presence of Jesus,
a heightened expectancy for the power of the Spirit
to work through me, and a refreshment in my spirit
Earlier this year rumours began to reach our shores that some strange things were happening in one of the Vineyard churches in Toronto, Canada. It was reported that God was moving with new power and blessing. A particular feature was the outbreak of ‘holy laughter’ in their services.
Those who attended the Wimber conference in Brisbane in April reported something of this phenomenon happening there, where many were blessed. There seemed to be a new level of spiritual power.
Tri Robinson, from the Vineyard church in Boise, Idaho, who spoke at the Melbourne Pentecost Rally, and the Port Macquarie Conference in June, mentioned that he had been to the Toronto church. He told how he had been rather sceptical of the reported happenings, but had been convinced that it was God when he found himself on his face on the floor, unable to move for an hour.
At the end of May the phenomenon spread to several churches in London, UK, including the rather prestigious Anglican church, Holy Trinity, Brompton, just down the road from Harrods. Within weeks the London newspapers were beginning to take notice, and headlines in the daily papers proclaimed outbreaks of ‘Holy Laughter’.
The religious press in England was also quick to comment. The Church of England Newspaper of June 17 had the headline ‘Revival breaks out in London churches’ and reported that ‘Church leaders admit bewilderment as manifestations affect business and staff meetings as well as church services’. The Church Times of June 24 spoke of ‘a mighty wind from Toronto which blew through Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB), laid flat a staff meeting, and then set a whole congregation laughing hysterically, crying and falling repeatedly on the floor’. There was a brief note of this report in the Australian Church Scene of July 1, but not much other mention in Australia…
The English Renewal magazine for July had a brief report under the heading ‘Spreading Like Wildfire’. This was essentially a summary of the report to HTB by Eleanor Mumford, the wife of the pastor of the Southwest London Vineyard, on her visit to Toronto. She told how she saw the ‘power of God poured out in incredible measure’. She said: ‘I saw many very weary pastors who turned up with their even wearier wives, and they were so anointed by the Lord.’
Mrs Mumford also spoke of the personal effect on her: ‘For myself, there is a greater love for Jesus than I’ve ever known, a greater excitement about the Kingdom than I ever thought possible. I haven’t had such an appetite for ministry for years. Jesus is restoring his joy, and his laughter is like medicine to my soul.’
Further reports of what was happening at HTB, and at other churches in England, appeared in the August and September issues of Renewal. There was even an article in Time Magazine for August 10.
Rosemary and I managed to hear about this just before we left on 3 months Long Service Leave in July. And, by a series of small miracles, we were able to change our itinerary to include six days in Toronto, and visits to HTB and Chorleywood in England. What we saw, and what we received, has had a dramatic effect on our lives. And, since our return, has begun to affect members of our church.
From what we have seen and experienced we have no doubt that at the heart of what is happening there is a genuine movement of the Spirit of God. Although some of the outward manifestations are unusual, and sometimes bizarre, the fruit that is being produced bears all the marks of true godliness.
There is, especially in Toronto, a strong emphasis on the centrality of Jesus, and the need for true repentance and faith. Many have shared of the deepening of their love for Jesus, and their increased desire to serve him. There has been a greater enthusiasm for sharing the gospel, and a steady stream of new converts. Numbers have been physically healed, including a girl with chronic ME and a ten year old boy, whom we saw, with severe asthma.
My own experience has been a deepened sense of the presence of Jesus, a heightened expectancy for the power of the Spirit to work through me, and a refreshment in my spirit.
The so-called ‘Toronto Blessing’ did not, in fact, originate in Toronto. It began with a South African evangelist ministering in the USA by the name of Rodney Howard-Browne. During the early part of 1993 the Spirit of God began to move powerfully in his meetings and many were blessed.
A Vineyard pastor from St Louis, Missouri, Randy Clarke, was feeling very dry and weary after 10 years in the ministry and determined to get to a Howard-Browne meeting. As a result of the blessing he received, his whole church came alive. In September of ’93 he shared what was happening in a Vineyard leaders’ meeting and, as a result, John Arnott, from the Airport Vineyard in Toronto invited him to come for a series of meetings.
The Toronto ‘fountain’
Randy Clarke came to Toronto for a 4-day mission on 20th January 1994. The Spirit of God moved so powerfully that the meetings were extended again and again for forty days.
Originally the church met every night of the week, with meetings going often until 2 a.m.! Eventually they decided to have Mondays off. They have continued to meet six nights per week, plus Sunday mornings, until the present time, and meetings still continue until 2 a.m.
The church is situated in a small office/industrial block beside the runway of Toronto airport. Although it only seats 400, with an overflow of 200, it regularly has congregations of over 700 as visitors flood in from all over the world. Just recently they have decided to ban visitors from their Sunday Morning Service so that they can care for their own congregation.
From the beginning the Toronto leadership realised that God was calling them to give away what they had received. A number of local Baptist, Presbyterian and other pastors were invited to come together for lunch on a Wednesday. Not only were the pastors blessed, but they took the blessing back to their churches.
Word soon began to spread, and pastors from further afield expressed an interest. The Wednesday pastors’ meetings became a regular feature. When we were there, there were pastors from many parts of the USA and Canada, from Great Britain, Europe, South Africa, Cambodia, and South America.
It is as though the church in Toronto is a fountain to which the weary and thirsty from around the world might come and be refreshed. Those who come are encouraged to keep seeking after God for all that he has to give. The most common expression is ‘More, Lord!’ (The other is: ‘It’s a party!’) While some have been overwhelmed by God’s blessing on the first contact, the more common experience is that there is a progressive deepening of the blessing as people keep coming back for more.
Revival or refreshment?
The phrase ‘Revival’ was often used in the early stages, but more mature reflection has led to the conclusion that it is not fully ‘Revival’ yet. Wimber and others believe that this is, at present, essentially a refreshment for Christians. It may well be the preparation for the revival that many believe is coming soon. Or, it may be a preparation for coming persecution, or both! However, for the present, the streams of refreshment are flowing, and the invitation stands: ‘Come all you who are thirsty, come to the waters’.
While many of the physical manifestations associated with this phenomenon have been seen before in previous movements of the Holy Spirit, the widespread distribution of phenomena such as laughter that has occurred this time has led some Charismatic and Pentecostal leaders to confess to some scepticism. However, most have come away convinced that this is truly a work of God.
As in previous moves of the Hoy Spirit, there are some ‘fleshly’ excesses, but the leadership maintains a careful oversight. Their attitude is that even if there is 70% flesh, they do not want to crush the 30% Spirit.
While laughter was the chief characteristic in the early days, more recently there have been instances of people roaring like lions (e.g. David Pytches) … Probably the most widespread manifestation is some kind of shaking or jerking.
It is quite common, though not universal, for people to fall to the floor under the power of the Spirit. ‘Spending carpet time’ is a common Toronto expression. In my observation, God often does a much deeper work once people are on the ground. It may be that in the surrender to his power there is an opening up of one’s life to new levels of his ministry. The ministry team are encouraged to keep praying for those who are on the ground.
While falling down, jerking, laughing, etc., may not be normal Christian experience, especially in Anglican churches, they are not unknown in the Bible. Certainly, the history of revivals such as that in New England in the 18th Century, recorded by Jonathan Edwards, showed similar phenomena. …
Spread of the blessing
The blessing has spread like wildfire in many places. When we were in Toronto in August it was reported that 800 English churches had been affected. Many more have been touched since then. At the evening service at HTB there was a queue of 200 outside the doors an hour before the service. A recent report said that it is now necessary to get a ticket to get into the church which seats 1200! 700 clergy and leaders turned up to a special day at St Andrew’s, Chorleywood in August to hear an assistant pastor from Toronto.
Many have wondered why it is necessary to travel across the world to catch the blessing. All I can say is, that is how it is so often with the gospel. Only very few are converted without personal contact with someone who knows Jesus. God has chosen to work through personal contact to spread the blessing and it is not for us to argue.
Certainly, it is those who make the commitment of time and money to seek from God who generally go away filled (Jeremiah 29:13).
Spirit Life, the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia (ARMA) Victoria Newsletter, reported in its October issue: ‘Two Anglican Clergy from Melbourne have just returned from Toronto … I am led to believe that the blessing has now flowed to a number of other churches in Melbourne.’
There is news in the past few weeks of the ‘blessing’ having broken out in a number of churches in Sydney. Hills CLC, Sutherland Growth Centre, North Shore CLC and Randwick Baptist all report powerful moves of the Holy Spirit, particularly in their evening services.
In our own small church in Northbridge, God has powerfully touched a number of people. Some have been refreshed, others have been changed, and there is a new sense of expectancy in our meetings. While we are learning afresh what it means to keep coming back to our Father for more and more of his unlimited grace, we are also seeking to give away everything he has given us.
No one knows just how long this blessing will last, or whether it will lead to widespread revival. Certainly it fits with a number of prophetic words, some going back to 1984, that 1993/’94 would see a great outpouring of blessing. In the end we can only tap into what God is doing in the present, and be very careful that we do not miss out because it does not fit our preconceptions.
The Blessing is spreading
Comment by Rev. Phil Ashton, the Associate Minister at Christ Church Anglican, Dingley in Melbourne (December 1994):
people in quiet and in dramatic ways
were touched by God’s Spirit
The October edition of Spirit Life (the Victoria and Tasmania Newsletter of Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia) noted that the ‘Tronoto blessing’ was being spread as the result of the Holy Spirit and a couple of Anglican clergy from Melbourne having visited Tronoto. I have to confess to being one of them!
The trip to Toronto for my wife Maryann and I was a miracle in itself. What with church commitments here at Dingley, four children to be looked after in our absence, a dog and a recently acquired mortgage, there was no way we could afford to go to Toronto, either commitment-wise or financially. Yet within ten days of seeking God’s will in all this, every problem had been blown away. Three people offered to have the children, someone paid the airfare, – even the dog was looked after! There was no longer any reason why we could not go!
After the trip
Our time at the Airport Vineyard was challenging, refreshing, faith stretching and a real party! But the fun didn’t stop there. Upon our return, in response to the question, ‘What happened?’, we decided to hold a testimony evening to share our story. At the end of the evening, being a safe, conservative sort of person, it would have been easier for me simply to pronounce the final blessing and send everyone home.
However, I felt God was calling us to move in faith; to stand on the edge of the cliff with him – and jump! We offered prayer to folk, and God’s Spirit came in power. There were those who laughed, those who cried, those who rested in the Spirit. Talking to people in the days that followed, we realised however, that God was changing people’s hearts. There was a desire for a second meeting following the Monday, to which about 60 people came, with similar results. A few visitors had come this time as well.
It was then decided to take, what for us was a huge leap of faith – to hold meetings on Mondays and Tuesdays for the whole month of October. We did not advertise in any formal sense, and our intention was that these meetings were for our own church folk as together we explored what God was doing in our midst.
The results, however, took us by surprise! The agenda for the meetings was kept very simple: some worship, a short teaching or encouraging word, some testimony from folk who had been touched by God previously, some practical issues were addressed (such as falling and not falling, and that people would not be pushed by the pray-ers, etc.), and then we went into a time of prayer with individuals.
The number of visitors increased as word got around, as people in quiet and in dramatic ways were touched by God’s lovely Spirit. One boy who had lost his brother in a traffic accident and had not cried since then, sobbed for a long time, before the crying turned to a gentle laugh or giggle. The change in him has been dramatic. Others have had their love for Jesus renewed and restored, and have captured again that first love that John speaks of in Revelation chapter 2.
Where are we now?
At this point in time we have moved into the larger hall; last week there were 240 people at the Monday meeting and 200 on Tuesday. A recent development from some parishioners has meant that the ministry will continue. Cumulatively over 2,000 people have been to the meetings from more than 110 churches of many different denominations. We praise God for the breaking down of denominational barriers.
Leaders and people together are coming to God for a fresh touch, a renewing and refreshing touch of his Holy Spirit. The testimonies are often simple and real:
* ‘Laid on the floor for one hour. Felt God’s love and peace, smelt the fragrance of the Spirit. Next day had amazing breakthroughs in marriage relationship and real healing.‘
* ‘God released me from anger and a feeling of unworthiness.’
* ‘Last night Jesus healed me from past memories of three people on different occasions molesting me. Praise Jesus.’
Some people ‘rest in the Spirit’ on the floor for a while, and God meets them there. One or two have spoken of being held down on the floor, as if God has put a great weight on their limbs and they are unable to get up until he has finished with them. Not everyone goes down. One man stood for quite a long time as the power of God came upon him. Those around sensed what almost seemed like a strong electrical current flowing into him. Sometimes the pray-ers and the catcher are touched as the Spirit manifests himself.
God is certainly at work. Whether people stand of fall is not the point. As John White has written in his book When the spirit comes with power,
manifestations, while they may be a blessing, are no guarantee of anything. Their outcome depends on the mysterious traffic between God and our spirits. Your fall and your shaking may be a genuine expression of the power of the Spirit resting on you. But the Spirit may not benefit you in the least if God does not have his way with you, while someone who neither trembles nor falls may profit greatly.
Of one thing we are sure. This is no new work of the Holy Spirit. As we read church history we note that the same things were seen and experienced by George Fox (1624-1691), by Jonathan Edwards during the Great Awakening (1740-1742), and by Charles Finney (1792-1875), as people came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and were drawn by God’s love for them.
Our cry to God today is: ‘Lord, do it again’.
Toronto in Melbourne? Really?
The Rev. Geoff Glass, Anglican Minister at Beaumaris in Melbourne comments (December 1994):
all have found a real spiritual refreshment,
a deepened awareness of God,
a bubbling joy and a deep peace
Some of us have heard stories of some remarkable happenings in a Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada, and at Holy Trinity, Brompton, in England. Some of us have thought how good it would be to receive the blessings that are being poured out on people there.
On October 4 my wife Jan and I went to a clergy meeting over at Christ Church, Dingley, and found that their Vicar, Rob Isaachsen, and also his curate, Phil Ashton, had just returned from Toronto and Rob shared with us what had happened. It was obvious he had been profoundly touched by God and when he offered to pray for us I was first in. It wasn’t long before I found myself on the floor for the first time in the 21 years I have been in renewal. I lay there for some time as the Holy Spirit continued to minister to me. When I got up I felt remarkably alive and peaceful and had a new sense of freedom. Jan was prayed for soon after and she too ended up on the floor for the first time ever. When she got up she too felt the same as I did.
Later that day I was speaking to one of my church wardens on the phone and mentioned what had happened to us. He asked if he and his wife could come and see us that evening. They did, and as we prayed for them they too ended up on the floor and were profoundly blessed. Both Jan and I had a sense of the Holy Spirit releasing enormous power as we prayed for them.
As I reflected on this the next morning the Lord kept bringing to mind the phrase ‘times of refreshing’. It seemed familiar and I found a Bible reference using this phrase in Acts 3:19 that seemed to make sense of what had happened.
As we have shared this experience of the Holy Spirit with our congregations a number of people have asked for prayer. Nearly all ended up on the floor, but all have found a real spiritual refreshment, a deepened awareness of God, a bubbling joy and a deep peace. We are praying for the Holy Spirit to extend his blessing of refreshment to all of our congregation.
The Blessing reaches Mulgrave
Mr Tony Stevens, editor of ‘Spirit Life’ the Victoria and Tasmania Newsletter of the Anglican Renewal Ministries of Australia, comments (December 1994):
Let us all pray that the Lord
will keep his blessing flowing
to the churches and people
St Matthew’s, Mulgrave, has been experiencing a mighty move of the Spirit this year. This all started around the time of Pentecost and has been heightened by the ministry of Tri Robinson and Lamar Junkins from the Vineyard.
Many people have been blessed by the ministry of the Rev. Brian Thewlis (whose home base is Christ Church, Dingley) who has been ministering here over the last couple of months. Many people from the 10.30 a.m. congregation have been freed, blessed and healed. Many of the congregation have also been to Dingley and received a blessing from the Lord there.
The church is praying for mighty things to happen next year. Praise the Lord for what is happening now!
Let us all pray that the Lord will keep his blessing flowing to the churches and people during 1995. Let us all have open minds to what he is doing at this time in history.
Selections edited from the November 1994 ARMA Sydney Newsletter (17 Trunks Street, Northbridge, NSW 2063) and Spirit Life the December 1994 Victoria and Tasmania ARMA Newsletter (PO Box 1134, Glen Waverley, Victoria 3150).
Many books help us understand the current blessing. They include these.
Signs of Revival by Patrick Dixon (Kingsway, 1994),
Prepare for Revival by Rob Warner (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995),
Catch the Fire and Pray with Fire by Guy Chevreau (Marshall Pickering 1994, 1995)
place the current blessing in the context of revival phenomena especially in the last 300 years.
A Breath of Fresh Air by Mike Fearon (Eagle 1994),
The Toronto Blessing by Dave Roberts (Kingsway, 1994),
The Impact of Toronto edited by Wallace Boulton (Monarch, 1995), and
Keep the Fire by John Arnott (Harper/Collins, 1995)
all describe the Toronto version of this blessing in detail and discuss its impact and significance.
Something Extraordinary is Happening by Andy and Jane FitzGibbon (Monarch, 1995) and
The Sunderland Refreshing by Ken and Lois Gott (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995)
both detail the impact of this blessing in Sunderland in the north of England.
Rumours of Revival is probably the best video around describing ‘The Toronto Blessing’. Leaders in England and America comment from various perpectives, including some negative ones. However the overall concensus is that God is moving in powerful ways in the earth through this blessing.
Let the Fire Burn offers an Australian pentecostal perspective by Jeff Beecham (AOG) with testimony and description of the impact of this blessing in churches today.
Discerning what is of God, and what arises for other reasons is no easy task. We may all see the same things but our interpretations will differ. Objectively, all we have to go on is the observation of behaviour. But we also draw on experience, background, context and spiritual discernment to refine these observations. Behind all that we may carry some deeply-held convictions, both theological and psychological, which tell us what to expect as normal.
History and Scripture combine to tell us certain things are to be expected when the Spirit of God is at work, and this information can help us to some degree to discern the authentic from the counterfeit. Yet we then have to qualify that, since if something unexpected occurs, fitting no known pattern, we have to choose between saying ‘This must be counterfeit’ or ‘The Spirit blows where he will and we must not presume to limit God’. With guidelines like that, practically anything can be identified as the Spirit’s work, or demonic counterfeit, or neither.
So far, I have not been very helpful. In part I think this arises because our dilemma may arise from asking the wrong questions, or the right questions in the wrong way.
Come with me and observe a scene. I see a large number of men and women, some sitting, some standing, some silent, others singing, others again talking apparently to themselves, and on coming closer we can make no sense of what they say. Some sway, others rock to and fro. Some put their hands in the air and leave them there for some time. Others lie on the ground and roll around. I try to engage them in conversation but they seem to be in a private world of their own, quite unresponsive to conversation.
What is it?
What are we to make of these unusual kinds of behaviour? Is this sick, is it demonic, is it theatrical pretence, is it ecstatic? Is God being honoured, and if so how can we know?
My picture is in fact a collage from experiences over the years. This description could well fit my time working in the chronic back wards of a psychiatric hospital before the new anti-psychotic drugs arrived – the snake-pit days, still within living memory for some. The picture might be of a Balinese festival, with extended ceremonies, prayers and fire-walking. In this case we can also add a good deal of colour and music and flowers. The fire-walkers are impressive, whether due to trance or the help of some drugs, I cannot tell.
The picture might also be that of a camp meeting with Rodney Howard-Browne, or the Toronto Blessing, but there, in addition to colour and music I would see many people falling on the ground and laughing uncontrollably. With these additions, we might also have been spectators in a large presentation of stage hypnosis by a skilled performer – a theatrical event in which these as well as other bizarre and unusual behaviours could be observed, strictly for entertainment.
My point in bringing these four together is that if we merely observe what is happening in a detached way, without a context, we shall witness a remarkable degree of similarity, but this will not answer the underlying questions of meaning. Seeking to sort experiences into the emotional or the psychotic or the spiritual by no means exhausts the categories of relevance. Emotional may be the product of something physiological, like a natural biochemistry imbalance, or a drug trip. It may be more the product of inter-personal influences, such as openness to suggestion, persuasion and imitation. Spiritual can, of course, also be sub-divided to ask whether we are responding to a movement of the spirit or some demonic influence.
Even when we have identified all the categories, a sound answer will still elude us because interactions between all the categories can and do occur. To ask about ‘either/or’ when it is both – and is to set ourselves up for confusion. This has been a recurring problem for pentecostals since the days of the Azusa Street revival to the Toronto Blessing, as many commentators have noted 1.
In particular, Harvey Cox makes some interesting comments about the confluence of thinking from faith and science when he remarks,
A rush of research has appeared in scientific journals on the significance of the so-called placebo effect, as the recognition dawns that the improvement patients frequently experience after they have had ‘nothing but a sugar pill may stem from the trust they place in the doctor. New research points to the possibility that certain ritual acts might actually trigger human endocrine and immune systems, and evidence has revealed the vital importance of a patient s perception of being loved and cared for in his or her recovery. A few medical researchers have begun to ask whether what they call ‘altered states of consciousness or trances (which the pentecostals called being ‘slain in the Lord ) can help release the body s inner healing mechanisms (1995:109).
You might want to argue that we can only discern the true nature of the events by abandoning the objective stance and being involved as participators. That argument is attractive at a Christian Convention, but I prefer not to adopt the strategy for understanding the alternatives – like becoming psychotic to understand psychosis. Nor should we risk demonic involvement in order to discern. An objective position based on Biblical wisdom should suffice. I prefer, therefore, to confront such questions by asking some strategic questions.
1. Does it matter if the behaviour looks remarkably similar in these quite different settings?
I sense that some are bothered by the parallels, but for me the answer is ‘no’. I observe the Balinese at prayer and worship and know that they are not worshipping Jesus Christ, but that does not invalidate prayer and worship as human activities. I can observe someone raise a hand in the air – it may be to worship, but it may be for many other reasons too. Stage hypnotists love to demonstrate the phenomena of hand levitation- they are simply using naturally occurring phenomena.
In the past I might have raised the question whether the behaviour was voluntary or involuntary, favouring actions undertaken by choice and expressing concern over what might be beyond personal control. I now know that the distinctions between voluntary and involuntary are meaningless, as we have learned that it is possible to gain control over apparently involuntary behaviour 2.
I might also have asked whether the behaviour was undertaken consciously or unconsciously, but here too the convenient separation we grew up with (due largely to Freud’s influence) has broken down3, so that today we speak of various states of consciousness – alert, asleep, drowsy, preoccupied, dissociated, anaethetised, hypervigilant, etc. We can track the changes through monitoring brain function and find that some tasks are undertaken better by one part of the brain than another. The psychotic’s behaviour is modified by drugs which affect specific pathways and linkages, sometimes with striking results. Listening to me now, you need your left brain to be active, to follow the logic of an argument strung together in sentences in linear fashion. However as we sing and worship together, we engage our right brains more fully, enlarging our experience to be open to beauty, spontaneity and creativity. Logic and reasoning become less important at such times, and we become more open to suggestion and group influence. Here we engage in rational thought, there we access our emotional world more readily.
2. Is one of these states more spiritual than another?
All those four settings I mentioned involve states of awareness that are different from our usual experience. Whether it be the escape from reality of the psychotic, the temporary collusion of the hypnotist and subject to dissociate, the frenzy of the religious festival, or the ecstatic response to word and music at a camp meeting, we can all recognise that an alteration occurs. Disinhibition, openness to suggestion , altered physiological states and a profound sense of things being ‘different’ are typical. The possibility of powerful change in response to an acceptable suggestion is such that many later report amazing benefits. In the Pentecostal context these benefits are attributed to the work of the Holy Spirit.
I repeat the question – is one state more spiritual than another? Is the highly right-brain focussed experience of tongues and slaying in the Spirit more scriptural than the left-brained activity of reading scripture or listening to a sermon? Are the left brained advocates of propositional truth more spiritual than those who expect signs and wonders?
I hope the answer to that set of questions is ‘no’. When we try to box in that which is spiritual, and separate it from the intellectual, or the physical, or the emotional parts of ourselves, we cultivate the kind of dualism that has confused us for centuries. Just as our conventional categories of body, mind and spirit do not reflect the Hebrew view of mankind found in scripture, so too if we try to label one experience more spiritual than another, we risk similar problems. Evangelicals look down on charismatic phenomena because they are emotional and non-rational, while prizing purity of teaching and doctrine. Pentecostals meantime rejoice in a different kind of knowing which is experientially based, and sufficiently convincing of the presence of God that sound doctrine can afford to follow on behind.
3. If the behaviour is so similar, what questions should we be asking?
The really important questions relate not to the behaviour we observe, but the meaning of this behaviour, and its purpose. In the psychiatric hospital, bizarre behaviour occurs as deeply troubled people, who feel powerless, seek to escape from reality and the demands placed on them. They enter a private altered world where they make their own rules, regardless of the wider world. Some cults do the same, collectively of course. It is not useful to ask whether this escape is chosen voluntarily, as I have already indicated that this is a problematic category. We can understand the escape behaviour a little better if we follow the view of illness that argues that the psychosis is not the problem, but it is the solution to the problem.
The stage hypnotist encourages people to explore experiences in a new way, thereby creating a form of entertainment which rewards the hypnotist not only financially, but also with a great sense of personal power. Stage hypnosis is something I stand firmly against,not because it is intrinsically evil, but because it is open to abuse of trusting people, and it carries hazards which are not justified for the sake of entertainment. The hypnotic state, or trance, is one powerful example of an altered state of consciousness, and one which is readily entered in a group setting without any formal induction being needed.
Patrick Dickson in Signs of Revival writes as a medical practitioner and one who has had a positive experience of the Toronto Blessing in England. He raises as cautions the possibilities of auto-suggestion, hysteria, group pressure of the crowd, and the disinhibition that suggestible people show in such settings4. I am fully persuaded that these concerns are well-founded, but they are no reason to reject the reality of spiritual blessing that also occurs. The dangers of group hypnosis have been expressed with regard to Billy Graham crusades also, even though the overt behavioural expression is less obvious5. What matters is not that this happens, but that we recognise and understand this so that false claims are avoided. This cannot be achieved if we simply deny that powerful suggestion is at work, and certainly not if we follow the view that hypnosis is intrinsically demonic6.
Nor do we need to fear these altered states. Not only can good clinical work be done using them, but scripture is clear that God speaks when people are in trance states. Peter’s vision which occurred in a trance state at Joppa7 is a fine example of an experience that proved to be a major cross-roads for the early church. Some of the Jews might well have supposed that such a radical message of taking the gospel to the Gentiles could only be demonic in origin, as the traditional barriers and categories were shattered8.
Apart from the two uses of the word (trance) in Acts 10 relating to Peter’s experience, the other usage is in Paul’s experience (Acts 22:17) when he reports ‘as I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw Jesus…..’ The terminology is from the physician Luke in each case, and might suggest a technical sense of the term. Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible suggests that
As other elements and forms of the prophetic work were revived in ‘the Apostles and Prophets’ of the N.T., so also was this…..Though different in form, it belongs to the same class of phenomena as the gift of tongues, and is connected with ‘visions and revelations of the Lord’. In some cases, it is the chosen channel for such revelations. To the ‘trance’ of Peter in the city….we owe the indelible truth stamped upon the heart of Christendom, that God is ‘no respecter of persons’, that we may not call any man ‘common or unclean’.9
Money, Sex and Power
Just ten years ago, I was called to travel from Adelaide to Houston, Texas, to testify to the U.S. Attorney-General’s Commission on pornography. As I left the hearings and walked back to my hotel, I paused at a secular bookshop, struck by the title in the centre of the window, Money, Sex and Power, by Richard Foster. They were actually the three temptations we had been addressing at the commission, as we discussed the pornography industry.
They are the three great temptations we always need to check out when we see something new and growing. In 1994, Harvey Cox delivered a lecture at Fuller Seminary based on his book Fire From Heaven10, his history of Pentecostalism from Azusa St to the present. These are among the cautions he raises as he sympathetically documents the phenomenal growth of Pentecostalism in recent years – he also mentions the oft-repeated charge that there is a demonic element at work.
While expressing cautions, he analyses the powerful positive reasons why there has been such a tremendous positive response around the world. He identifies some of the unmet needs of the urban society, such as loneliness, powerlessness, loss of meaning, a loss of transcendental spirituality, showing how these themes are addressed in pentecostal theology. These appear to be equally powerful in Australia in understanding the response of many to the Toronto Blessing meetings.
So let us get behind the questions like ‘Is this demonic or of God?’ ‘Is this real or counterfeit?’, ‘Is this spiritual or hypnotic?’ As I have thought these issues through, the more have I realised that the questions are presented in the language of traditional pentecostal theology, which is not my tradition, so my own bias emerges as I advocate caution over such dualism.
The divine, the natural, the demonic
I am much more comfortable with a world view that embraces not only the divine and the demonic, but also allows space for the natural – our humanness, created by God, but distorted by sin. I confess my sympathy for the comments of Andrew Walker, who, in writing about Demonology and the Charismatic Movement, says throughout the Middle Ages, a sound psychology of the spiritual life developed that distinguished between God’s acts, the devil’s ploys, and the normal processes of the natural world.
A Christian world view that is divided into the tripartite arenas of the divine, the natural, and the demonic is unlikely to fall prey to a paranoia that dissects the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’. Charismatic theologies and methodologies that do tend to divide the cosmos into God’s kingdom of light and Satan’s kingdom of darkness are in constant danger of first adopting a paranoid world view, and then becoming entrapped and socialized into the paranoid universe.11
Discernment will not create artificial separations, but it can offer wisdom in knowing the balance of forces at work. Even the question of separating the godly from the demonic is not clear-cut since we should expect to find a mixture, like wheat and tares. The fruit will help us discern in due course, but it is risky to pre-judge the balance.
The fact is that God made us complex beings, innately spiritual so that we may relate to Him. If these unfamiliar experiences bring people into a more intimate relationship with God, then we should welcome them. At the same time there will be people attracted to the phenomena ,seeking not God but the experience. Others will be attracted by the temptations of money, sex and power. To the extent these overshadow the Godly purpose of the experience, they will compromise the gospel, yet without extinguishing it.
The most common question I hear is ‘Are we dealing with something spiritual, or something psychological, and how can we know the difference?’ The question is impossible to answer because it comes from false assumptions. The dualism in the question, spiritual or psychological, comes from Greek thought, in contrast to the unified view of mankind expressed in Hebrew thought –
Plato had made a clear-cut distinction between mind and matter. Although Aristotle had recognised they were interdependent, he still insisted mind and matter were unlike. Even Descartes, who marks the beginning of modern psychology, held to a dualism…12
Wholeness and integration
Hebrew thought emphasises that wholeness or healing can only occur when the spiritual and the emotional come together as a total entity – the self.
Religious experiences are spiritual. They are also emotional, or should be. A response to the gospel is profoundly emotional in its significance. Worship, laughter, joy all bring changes which affect the emotions well as the endocrine system such that illnesses may be reduced or even cured. There is now a respectable literature on the effects of laughter in assisting cancer sufferers13.
We cannot automatically attribute the benefits of sustained laughter to the work of the Holy Spirit. Such phenomena are also seen in other religious contexts as well as totally secular ones. Nor should we dismiss benefits because they seem unusual, or because we find them hard to understand.
I believe in a God who cares as much about my emotional health and physical well-being as he does about my spiritual condition. And I believe that all these are inextricably entwined as one entity, the person, so that benefits to one affect all the rest, just as harm to one area also impacts the rest. I have found it helpful personally to follow these questions of interaction through with David Benner, who in his book Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest14 develops a strong argument for embracing the Hebraic understanding of human nature, favouring the term psychospirituality as a challenge to our dualist categories.
The either-or question is the wrong one, so the question about how to discern which is which becomes moot. Graham Twelftree, writing on the demonic, remarks helpfully on the difficulty when he says
An increasing number of psychologists and therapists employ a multiple-causation approach, recognising that mental illness and the demonic are not mutually exclusive but that either, both or neither may be the cause of illness. However, there are those represented by John White, who consider that science is helpless in diagnosing the presence of the demonic: ‘I can conceive of no demonic state which cannot be explained by a non-demonic hypothesis’. Therefore, because of the subtle, incoherent and devious nature of the demonic, the pastor or healer requires a God-given facility to discern the possible demonic dimensions of an illness.15
Although this paper was invited to have a primary focus on the current manifestations of the Toronto Blessing, it it clear that the question of discernment goes much wider than this. Quite apart from efforts to discern what is of God in major movements, there is also the personal question that presents when individuals show unusual signs of activity which may have similar ambiguity. Here too a broad range of opinions exists, from those who deny the demonic, to those who percieve this to be a very common phenomenon, all too often missed by secular and even Christian counsellors.
A ministry of discernment
Here too I would offer similar cautions to those above. While I have personally no doubt about the presence of the demonic in the experience of some who come for help, I could not be certain of this or more than a handful of cases in thirty years of practice. On those occasions, a time of prayer has been helpful but I have valued being able to call on those with specific gifts who have used their deliverance ministry to bring release.
On the other hand, I have met dozens who had been reported by their pastors as being possessed or demonized, whose condition had not improved with spiritual ministry, but who were benefitted by conventional psychological treatments. This suggests that a broader knowledge of alternative explanations would be helpful among those who exercise a ministry of discernment.
The most important area these days in which great care should be exercised lest people are actually made worse is in the area of what used to be called multiple personality disorder (now dissociative identity disorder)16. It is a common pattern for such persons to reject unacceptable parts of themselves as a key part of the disorder, even calling such parts evil or demonic, as their mode of trying to understand what is happening to them. This is particularly the case where Christians are struggling to understand the splitting which has occurred in their experience. Some are also able to recognise parts which are distinct or non-self, and not just unacceptable parts of the self. It is essential to distinguish between these two aspects, since the former parts need to be acknowledged and re-integrated into the whole person if healing is to be achived, while the latter parts may be understood as evil influences needing deliverance.
Concerning discernment, the important questions are ‘What is the outcome? ‘What is the fruit?’ ‘Is God glorified?’ ‘Are his works manifest?’ ‘Is there personal spiritual growth?’ ‘Is the body of Christ blessed?’ This is not just a ‘means justifies the end’ argument. We need great sensitivity and respect for one another when altered states of consciousness occur. There is vulnerability and trust at stake, so manipulation of any kind in order to promote signs and wonders cannot be ethically justified. We all know that short term ‘cures’ can remit later and engender bitterness and disillusionment against God.
In some contexts, powerful effects lead people away from God – to seek power, or money, or self-aggrandisement or occultic involvement or, as with the psychotic, an escape from reality. Where we see real and lasting change,with maturity of spirituality and a desire to know God more, then I believe God is at work, even though we recognise that human failings complicate that truth.
1.e.g. The most obvious either-or polemical tract is Henry Sheppard’s A New Wave of the Spirit? Revival or Satanic Substitute? Paradise, SA 1995.. For a solid historical commentary see Chap 2 of Harvey Cox Fire from Heaven. Addison Wesley, 1995. Specifically addressing the Toronto Blessing and RHB, see ‘Is it Revival?’ Mainstream, Summer 1994; Nigel Copsey, ‘Touched by the Spirit’, Baptist Times, Sept 15, 1994; Harry Westcott’s Vision Newsletter No. 64; Toronto Blessing-true or false? PWM Trust, 1994; Geoff Strelan, ‘Toronto Blessing: The Facts’, New Day, Feb. 1995.
2. In the clinical area, the use of biofeedback, which grew out of psychological research in the sixties, especially through the work of Neal Miller, has been developed as a way of gaining control over functions such as heart rate, pulse and body temperature with tremendous health benefits. Pain management, muscle re-education and migraine treatment are among the striking benefits.This approach relies on technology. Other religions have taught such control, using meditation and relaxation techniques, for centuries, especially in Asia.
3. Not only is there greater complexity of thought in relation to conscious/unconscious experiences. In addition, the very negative understanding of the unconscious as the residual location for our evil impulses and secret sinful desires is giving way to recognition that the unconscious can also be the repository of creativity, appreciation of beauty and the capacity for much good that has remained hidden. This more Christian understanding challenges the negative view of the Freudians. See especially, Wanda Poltawska, ‘Objectifying Psychotherapy’, Catholic Medical Quarterly, May 1992, 18-23: and George Matheson’s entry ‘Hypnosis and Spiritual Experience’ in Baker’s Encyclopedia of Psychology (ed. D. Benner) 1985.
4. Quoted in S. A. Baptist News, April, 1995, p.1.
5. A good historical linkage between trance phenomena and religious experience, and with reference to experiences in crusades, see George Matheson, ‘Hypnotic Aspect of Religious Experience’, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 1979, 7, (1), 13-21.
6. This argument was advanced by Nader Mikhaiel, Slaying in the Spirit – The Telling Wonder (self published, 1992). He makes a convincing case for showing that the phenomena of slaying in the Spirit are very similar to those found in hypnotic states, but then goes on to a guilt-by-association argument that hypnosis is intrinsically demonic, and therefore rejects what happens when people are slain in the Spirit. This association with the demonic is illogical and unwarranted. There really is no reason to fear the professional and ethical use of hypnosis for therapeutic purposes. Most of the objections to it arise from false stereotypes, second-hand misinformation and selective quotes from Christian authors. For an alternative view, see Court, J. H., ‘ Hypnosis revisited’, Interchange, 1984, 34, 55-60; Court, J. H., ‘Hypnosis and Inner Healing’, Journal of Christian Healing,,1987, 9,(2), 29-35, and Court J. H. (in preparation) Hypnosis, Healing and the Christian.
7. Acts 10:10
8. Acts 10:28; Gal.3:28
9. Smith, William (1863) A Dictionary of the Bible. London. pp. 1566-68.
10. Cox, Harvey (1995) Fire from Heaven. Addison-Wesley.
11. Walker, A. (1994) ‘Demonology and the Charismatic Movement’, In T. Smail, A. Walker and N. Wright (eds.) The Love of Power and the Power of Love. Minneapolis: Bethany House. p. 56.
12. Whitlock, Glenn (1983) ‘The structure of personality in Hebrew psychology’, in H. N. Malony (ed) Wholeness and Holiness. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. p. 47.
13. The emerging specialisation of psychoneuroimmunology is proving very effective in bringing healing, and conceptually challenging the traditional dualism. Norman Cousins was a pioneer in showing that laughter can be therapeutic.
14. Benner, David. (1989) Psychotherapy and the Spiritual Quest. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.
15. Graham Twelftree, writing an entry ‘The Demonic’, in David J.Atkinson and David H. Field (eds.) New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology. Leicester: InterVarsity Press. 1995. pp. 296-297.
16. Dissociative Identity Disorder is the term now used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association, 1994 (known as DSM-IV).
Right across our nation, many of our churches are enjoying a fresh touch which is renewing their love for Jesus and his Word and inspiring the congregation to glorify and magnify him and reach out to others. This is a sign that what is happening is a move of God.
The New Wave
Over the last 12 months or so, thousands of churches have reported a fresh wave of the Holy Spirit which is transforming the lives of their people and churches. This, in particular, seems to be occurring in England where, we are told, there are around 5,000 churches of all Protestant denominations being mightily touched.
What has marked this new wave has been the unusual manifestations, such as falling, shaking, ‘drunkenness’ in the Spirit, weeping and laughter. Perhaps the latter has caused the most concern among traditional Pentecostals.
Many are saying, and rightly so, ‘Are these manifestations biblical?’ Without presenting an exhaustive study, I suggest the following Scriptures for you to meditate on.
* Saul fell when meeting the risen Christ (Acts 9:4).
* John fell at his feet as though dead (Revelation 1:17). Ezekiel had a similar experience (Ezekiel 1:28), and so did Daniel (Daniel 8:17-18, 10:9).
* A whole company were once overcome by Jesus and fell back (John 18:6).
* The disciples evidently needed Jesus to ‘touch them’ after they fell down on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:6-7).
Shaking and ‘Drunkenness’
* When the Holy Spirit came on a praying company, the whole building began to move (Acts 4:31 cf 2:2; 16:26).
* The Old Testament speaks of trembling in God’s presence (Dan. 10:7; Ps. 99;1 Jer. 5:22).
* The prophets experienced such shaking (Hab. 3:16; Jer 23:9).
* Jeremiah, in the presence of the Lord and overwhelmed by his holy words, expresses that he is like a drunken man, overcome by wine (Jer. 23:9).
* Paul exhorts ex-drunkards to drink instead of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18).
* When the Holy Spirit fell in an incredible way on the Day of Pentecost, observers initially thought 120 disciples were drunk. Peter pointed out that it was a work of the Spirit and the church was born with 3,000 souls saved (Acts 2:13-18, 40-41).
* In the Old Testament, the people wept at God’s Word (Neh. 8:9)
* In the New Testament, listeners to Peter at Pentecost were ‘cut to the heart’ (Acts 2:37) – an emotional response.
* Weeping is a needful, natural and a normal response to the movement of the Spirit.
* In the Old Testament, the freed captives’ mouths were filled with laughter (Ps.1 26:1, see also Ecc. 3:4).
* Jesus promised the disciples he would make their joy full (Jn. 17:13).
* The word ‘rejoice’ used by Jesus in Luke 10:20-21 of both the disciples and himself literally means ‘to leap for joy’. You can’t do that soberly!
As you read the history of revival, you will discover that all of the above manifestations have occurred in the past. I would like to highlight a few excerpts from a revival in Tennessee in 1886 where God moved mightily and the record of that revival was placed in the archives in Washington by an act of Congress:
‘The laughing exercise was frequent, confined solely to the religious. It was a loud hearty laughter, but it excited solemnity in saints and sinners.’
Dr Martin Lloyd Jones, a famous British preacher, in his book on revival, confirmed from his study of revival movements that this kind of manifestation occurred, although he himself would take a rather conservative view in his approach to the moving of the Holy Spirit:
‘…always in a revival, there is what somebody once called a divine disorder. Some are groaning and agonising under conviction, others praising God for the great salvation. And all this leads to crowded and prolonged meetings. Time seems to be forgotten. People seem to have entered into eternity. A meeting may start at 6.30 in the evening, and it may not end until daybreak the next morning with nobody aware of the passing of the hours.’
One of the prominent personalities in this revival move is the 33 year old South African, Rodney Howard-Browne. There has been much misinformation circularised about this young man, so I submit the following from my own research, having talked to Assemblies of God leaders in the United States, including AOG pastors on his Advisory Board and other prominent charismatic and Pentecostal leaders.
Rodney Howard-Browne was brought up in a traditional Pentecostal home. He was saved at the age of five and baptised in the Holy Spirit at the age of eight. His uncle was for some years the moderator of a movement in South Africa which originated from the ministry of John G. Lake and was an offshoot from the Apostolic Faith Mission, the largest Pentecostal movement in that country, with 600,000 members and adherents.
At the age of 18, at a non-Pentecostal camp, he cried out to God in desperation that he would use him. He had an unusual visitation where he felt the power of God and, for the next four days, was immersed in that fire, alternatively crying and laughing as he enjoyed a touch from God.
He then began ministry as both an evangelist and a pioneer pastor, in South Africa, but never saw any particularly powerful results, but laboured faithfully to follow through the call that Christ had placed on his life.
For two years, he was associated with Ray McCauley in his great church of 15,000 in Johannesburg. Part of Rodney’s role was to teach in the Bible school.
In 1987, he felt a call to the United States and was sponsored, through immigration, to that country by an AOG pastor in Florida, called Bob Rogers. I spoke to Bob regarding Rodney and he told me of his early endeavours in USA as an evangelist.
For a couple of years, there was not a great deal of fruit for his labour, but approximately five years ago, while holding a crusade in a church of 200, he experienced an unusual move of the Spirit where people fell off their seats, some began crying and others were laughing. He was rather taken aback by this, but felt that it was of the Holy Spirit, and thus allowed it to continue.
The fruit of that move was that the church grew, lives were changed and people experienced a fresh touch which gave them a new love for the Lord Jesus. From that time on, his meetings have grown and his name has become known around the world as being synonymous with this new wave and, perhaps , reached its peak when he ministered in an AOG church, pastored by Karl Strader, where last year he held a nine week revival resulting in 6,000 people being baptised in water.
On another occasion, he ministered to 4,000 students in the Oral Roberts University, where the majority of them were slain in the Spirit. Many went outside and then, after prayer, literally hundreds were laying on the grass prostrate under the power of God.
I felt led to invite Rodney to Adelaide, after a great deal of prayer and research into his ministry, and we had a very successful crusade with him. Over 8,500 people, many from interstate, attended the meetings. We were forced to move out of our church and into the Adelaide Entertainment Centre.
There were over 500 decisions and reconsecration. Pastors from all over Australia were touched with the fire of God and our own church has been wonderfully revolutionised.
How to Handle the New Wave
Some of these manifestations have been in other churches of other fellowships and have resulted in decline, rather than growth. Some good people have left other churches feeling that there has been too much wildfire, without any order or control.
Due to our desire to channel this move and not lose by it, I questioned a number of people who were doing that successfully. Here are some responses.
Mike is an AOG pastor in the largest city in Alaska, who had Rodney Howard-Browne minister in his church four years ago. At that time, they had a congregation of 200, but over the last 4 years, they have seen it grow to 600 in a community of 35,000.
The format that Mike uses is one which gives a balanced approach to church life, allowing for worship and the Word, ministry to the unsaved as well as impartation of the Holy Spirit.
To do this, he has followed a fairly traditional Sunday morning worship service with worship, communion and preaching of the Word, as well as all the other activities which occur in our morning services, such as dedications and so on.
If there are two or three people who are perhaps crying or laughing uncontrollably, the ushers will gently lead them into the prayer room where they can continue to enjoy the presence of Jesus without affecting those around them.
However, he is also open to the possible occasions when the Holy Spirit will just sweep over the service and the majority of the people will be either laughing, crying or worshipping at one time.
His Sunday evening service generally lasts for three to four hours, compared to the morning one of around two hours. At the conclusion of the evening evangelistic endeavour, people are invited to open up their hearts and hunger for a fresh touch of the Spirit. It was during these times that the powerful manifestations will take place and, having observed what has been happening in our Adelaide meetings over the last few weeks, these times have a great similarity to the old time Pentecostal camp meeting or tarrying services where people received a fresh touch of God.
Mike encourages his people to hunger and has taught them along that line. He helped them to understand and develop a new sensitivity to the ways of the Holy Spirit. His observations were:
* You cannot sustain a move of the Spirit without hunger.
* Corrections need to be made from time to time.
* Don’t just get fascinated by the move of God, but rather keep your eyes on Jesus.
* Mission giving and outreach evangelism should be a prominent part of this move and the churches which don’t reach out soon dry up.
He encourages us not to hype it up and that there needs to be a continual emphasis on holiness and that only qualified people should lay hands on those who have come for prayer.
Mike is also an adviser on Rodney Howard-Browne’s Revival Ministries committee, along with three or four other AOG pastors in the USA. He informed me that he had sat in over 110 of Rodney’s meetings and been impressed by the lack of pressure and hype, but by the powerful anointing of the Spirit which accompanies this young man.
2. John Lewis and Others
Our brother, John, who has been experiencing this move for some months now, has followed a similar format as Mike, and I have similar testimonies from Geoff Holdway (Brisbane), Brian Houston (Sydney) and Steve Penny (Melbourne).
The result has been that their churches have experienced the blessing without experiencing fallout from extremes. May the Lord help us to be wise master builders.
The following are a few tips from leaders around the world which may help you:
1. Do not seek to develop a ministry of manifestations out of what is a move of the Holy Spirit.
2. Create an atmosphere of faith, by giving opportunity for the Spirit to move. Rule out any manifestations of the flesh.
3. Be careful to maintain the focus on God himself and don’t transfer people’s faith to a man, place or a method.
4. Continue in both the Word and the Spirit and don’t be caught in the trap of alternating between the two.
5. The best setting for people to receive from God is for them to come before him in the way the Scripture entreats us: ‘Enter in his gates with thanksgiving and into his courts with praise.’ Testimonies can also prove an encouragement to others to respond to the Lord.
6. Remind people that Jesus invites us to come and drink, promising not only to quench our thirst, but also to release rivers of living water to flow out from us to others.
7. When people fall over, be open to keep praying for them. Encourage them to stay down and continue to receive from God. It is not unusual for people to stay down for several hours.
8. Have capable people available to catch those falling over. This removes the fear of falling and also avoids unnecessary collisions.
9. There is no need to cause people to fall to the floor by forcing them. The Holy Spirit is perfectly able to overwhelm people without your effort.
10. Allow God time to work with people. If some are not ready to respond, simply encourage them to remain open and in prayer to God. Return again to them when you have prayed for others.
11. Instruct the people while God is moving. Explain any unusual manifestations and try to settle unnecessary fears by giving understanding about what God is doing.
12. Deal with any carnal behaviour and do not allow it to hijack what God is doing. Take advantage of the opportunity that this can present to instruct people more fully on how to respond to God.
13. Be open yourself, as it should be a time of refreshing for you too.
Don’t Miss This Hour of Visitation!
One of the saddest verses in the Bible records Jesus weeping over Jerusalem and saying, ‘You did not know the hour of your visitation.’ This failure to discern the seasons of God, resulted in the sombre declaration of Jesus’ words, where he said, ‘Your house will be left desolate.’
My cry to God is, ‘Help me not to miss what you are doing. Give me wisdom to lead my church into the blessing. Help me, Lord, not to force it or make it happen and may I not just seek some formula, but out of a relationship with Jesus, guide my assembly into the fulness of the Spirit.’
(c) ‘Minister’s Bulletin’, April 1995, pages 2-5, the quarterly communication of the General Superintendent to Assemblies of God in Australia Ministers, PO Box 336, Mitcham, Victoria 3132. Used with permission.
For those of us involved in what became to be known as the Charismatic Movement, it’s particular emphasis seemed to be a move of the Holy Spirit to bring renewal to mainline churches. The infilling of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts which resulted were nothing new to those in Pentecostal churches, but they were a bit askance to see God pour this same blessing out upon people they had always considered spiritually dead. We in those mainline churches were then amazed to see the same outpouring on the Holy Spirit taking place among people some of us did not even consider saved, the Roman Catholics.
Radical change of thinking
It was a radical change of thinking, and left many of us incredulous, floundering to rethink our theology, in the light of what we could see happening. The gifts of the Holy Spirit, a renewed love for God, and a desire to serve Him with a passion and total commitment were just some of the fruit which began to emerge.
But, in my memory, perhaps the most outstanding distinctive of the Charismatic Movement, which began in the 1970s was the love they had for each other. Denominational barriers melted away, and people who had experienced the touch of the Holy Spirit in their lives, began to enjoy coming together to praise and worship God.
There was a great emphasis on praise, and a change in the way that praise was expressed. It became more vocal, loud, earthy, and joyous. The traditional hymns, accompanied by the organ were replaced with simple songs of love, sung to guitar music. The words of Scripture became a prime source for these songs, many of them sung TO God, rather than simply about Him. There was also the freedom given to use the gift of tongues, and to sing in the Spirit, during the times of worship.
Naturally, not all within the mainline churches felt comfortable with this. So charismatic groups often met together outside of their regular church times. For some this was enough, and they happily returned to their own denomination on a Sunday while still meeting in interdenominational groups through the week. For others this was not possible, and it was a time of church splits, and new denominations being formed.
During this time there seemed to be an influx of teaching tapes available. The cassette recorder had just appeared on the scene, and this made it possible for those of us in outlying areas to hear the words of some of the great preachers then coming on the scene. David Pawson, David Watson, Bob Mumford, Ern Baxter and Derek Prince were just some of those who fed the hunger we all felt for learning about God.
Also, the availability of paperback books, opened up a new area of learning, and biographical books began to flood the market. Christian book shops opened up in many places, or for those already in existence, the ‘heretic section’ began to be filled with books on the stories of what God was doing all over the world in peoples’ lives. These books were very inspirational and some have since become Christian classics. “The Cross and the Switchblade”, “The Hiding Place”, and “Prison to Praise” were among these.
With the passage of time, some of the groups which had met for charismatic worship grew large enough to become self supporting. The need then to worship with others from different denominations was no longer there. They had reached a point where they did not need to come aside to meet with Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Uniting or whatever. They were now strong enough to set up their own renewal services within their own denomination, alongside the traditional service. My personal opinion is that something wonderful – the emphasis on reconciliation and unity despite our different viewpoints, was lost.
The renewal movement however, kept going under such influences as the Wimber decade. Renewal spread rapidly through the evangelical church. This present blessing, unfortunately labelled ‘Toronto Blessing’, erupted just as suddenly as the charismatic movement, and has caused the same consternation, and Bible searching for a theological base.
From my perception, its distinctive emphasis seems to be more on receiving from God, in the form of an awareness of His love – rather than on doing for God. More of a ‘Mary’ response to God, rather than the ‘Martha’ one in which so many of us have been caught.
Within this blessing there is a desire to just spend time, soaking in the presence of God, and within that soaking, allowing Him to do any repair work on us that is necessary. In other words, ‘His agenda, not mine’.
For me this is quite new, as in the past we have always come to God with our list of requests. Now, we are more aware of allowing Him to show us exactly what is in need of His touch. This has produced some amazing examples of inner healing and restoration. Testimonies abound of people being set free from lifetime struggles, as they “soak in His anointing”. The bottom line seems to be an awareness for each individual of just how precious they are to God.
There is also an evangelical element to this blessing. We have seen unsaved people come to a service where this blessing is flowing. They have been touched by the anointing. They have experienced God’s love and grace as they ‘soaked’ in His presence. Then they have been open to receive teaching on repentance and the need to make a personal commitment to Jesus.
The physical manifestations of this present blessing at first appear very odd, to say the least. Personally, this caused consternation and alarm, and caused me to again search the Scriptures, and to reread of the revival times in church history to see if there were any similarities. There were.
But, just as the beginning of the charismatic movement had shaken our comfortableness and preconceived ideas and set patterns of acceptable Christian behaviour, so this move has caused many of us to seek God. We were caught between not wanting to get carried away with deception and yet not wanting to miss out on anything God was doing.
For me a very strong proof of the pudding has been the change I have witnessed in my own life, and in the lives of those involved. Renewed love for God, commitment to him and an effectiveness in Christian living have manifested.
I have spent many years in Christian counselling and God has blessed that ministry, but it has been time consuming and slow. Now I am seeing similar results, but at a much faster rate, and to many people at the same time, as they simply ‘soak in his anointing’ (with varying degrees of outward physical manifestation).
Even though we are seeing some being saved I believe this is not revival. It is a time of refreshing. It is preparation for something more which is to come. In some ways this is a gentle rebuke to the Christians in the western world who have become so analytical in their Christianity. Our whole world view is so wrapped up in thoughts, concepts and ideas. It is as if God is now saying: ‘It is time for you to experience my love’. To many, this is threatening – concepts seem safer.
This could be a dangerous and foolhardy thing God is doing as there is great potential for misuse and abuse. But I seem to remember thinking the same thing 25 years ago when God began to pour out His Spirit on Roman Catholics.
However I am disturbed by the critical articles which link this move to the ministry of Rodney Howard-Browne, Benny Hinn and others and call the lot the Toronto Blessing. (The Airport Christian Fellowship at Toronto do not like the name and are not seeking the notoriety it brings). What is coming out of Toronto is distinctly different from the ‘super star’ oriented ministry we are seeing from other parts of the world.
The blessing which began in, and has flowed from the Vineyard Airport Church in Toronto, is a church based movement, involving teams of people drawn from many churches in the city of Toronto. The hundreds of people who make up these prayer teams are all involved in personal one-to-one prayer for those who are seeking. There is no emphasis on one particular person as the one who has all the answers, power, or anointing.
One obvious difference between this present move of God and the Charismatic move is the physical manifestations. They can appear very odd! It is often difficult to assess the manifestation by just watching what is going on. Our assumptions of what is decent and in order are often proved to be premature. Later discussion with the one involved in the manifestation will often reveal that they were experiencing a unique and specific touch from God.
In others the manifestation was of demonic origin, or from their own desire to be a part of what was going on. Wisdom is called for. Also we need to not jump in and judge too quickly. It is important to watch for the fruit.
I have also noticed there seems to be a progression in the physical manifestations. Some people seem to go through stages of pain, weeping, shaking, roaring, to joy, peace, laughter. It seems that healing is taking place at a deep level and it is of benefit not to give up too soon by rejecting what is taking place.
In answering this request to write my thoughts I am not seeking for a debate. While many people may disagree with my perceptions, as is their right, we must be careful we do not become like the philosophers on Mars Hill, endlessly discussing concepts and ideas rather than experiencing what God is doing. Let us encourage one another to remain open to whatever He has for us, both to receive and to do.