In the first week of May 1993, the Holy Spirit erupted at the Christian Outreach Centre in Brisbane. Some people rocked with laughter, others fell to the floor, others reeled around as if intoxicated. Within days similar phenomena broke out in COC congregations across Australia.
‘I’ve seen the Holy Spirit move like this here and there over the years, but this was different, said Nance Miers, wife of COC International President Neil Miers. ‘In the past it seemed to have affected a few individuals, but this time it was a corporate thing.’
Miers himself commented, ‘It started in New Zealand and then broke out in New Guinea, and now it’s here. If I know the Holy Ghost, it will break out across the world – wherever people are truly seeking revival.’
If the evidence of the last 18 months is anything to go by, Miers does indeed know the Holy Ghost. Excited reports are painting a picture of a global wave of extraordinary phenomena, accompanied by a powerful upsurge of repentance, hunger for God, deep intercession, maturity, boldness, reconciliation in relationships, healing and release from demonic oppression.
In Australia, the ‘Toronto Blessing’, as it has become internationally known, seems to be spreading faster than you can hear about it. From Randwick Baptist in Sydney to Shiloh Faith Centre in Perth, people are falling down, laughing uproariously and reporting a great growth of love for Jesus.
‘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’, says John Davies, rector of St Mark’s Anglican Church in Northbridge, Sydney, and NSW chairman of Anglican Renewal ministries of Australia. ‘Although some of the outward manifestations are unusual, and sometimes bizarre, the fruit that is being produced bears all the marks of true godliness.’
‘Toronto Blessing’ is the name coined by the British media to describe the spiritual renewal as it swept through British churches during 1994. It arose when Christian leaders began visiting the Airport Vineyard church in Toronto, Canada – part of the Vineyard network of churches founded by John Wimber – where these things were happening on an astonishing scale.
But the ‘Toronto Blessing’ did not, in fact, begin in Toronto. Most accounts trace it back to the ministry of a South African evangelist named Rodney Howard-Browne. Resident in the US since 1987, Howard-Browne’s meetings are characterised by what he calls ‘holy joy’ and other unusual phenomena.
When Randy Clark, a Missouri Vineyard pastor who had been profoundly touched by God at a Howard-Browne meting, went to Toronto in January 1994 to conduct four nights of meetings, so extraordinary was the outbreak of the Spirit that the meetings were extended again and again for forty days. Since then the church has been meeting six nights a week until the early hours of the morning as thousands of people from around the world pilgrimage to Toronto to ‘catch the blessing’.
Travelling to Toronto – or to some other place where the same phenomena have appeared – is perhaps the main way in which the ‘Blessing’ is spreading. While hundreds of churches are being affected, some seem to be playing a role as ‘dispersal centres’. London’s Holy Trinity Brompton is one. Another is Christ Church Anglican in Dingley, one of Melbourne’s southern suburbs, which started holding meetings on Monday and Tuesday nights from October 1994 after its senior and associate ministers both visited Toronto.
Sometimes the ‘Blessing’ breaks out when people who have been touched by God visit a church and pass it on. This was the experience of the Hope Valley Uniting Church in South Australia when a ten-strong ministry team from the North Phoenix Vineyard visited in August 1994.
There have also been instances where Toronto-style phenomena have simply started. For example, in September 1993 in Veszprem, Hungary, more than 3,000 people experienced ‘holy laughter’ at a regional conference of Faith Church.
Features of the Renewal
It is more than a year since the ‘Blessing’ started in Toronto, and it is now possible to get a picture of its distinctive qualities.
Unusual physical phenomena. The most common is falling over, usually when prayed for (increasingly referred to as ‘resting in the Spirit’). Laughter, from quiet chuckles to paroxysmal guffaws, is also widespread. Trembling and shaking, ‘drunkenness’ and bouncing up and down like a pogo-stick are among the manifestations. Waves of warmth flow through bodies; people feel wind that isn’t there; they weep in repentance or bellow in triumph.
Some phenomena are stranger than others, including dog barks and rooster crows.
Those involved generally understand these phenomena to be people’s emotional and physical responses to what the Holy Spirit is doing within them. Laughter, for example, is a manifestation in a body that can no longer contain the joy a person is experiencing.
A concern for biblically authentic fruit. Noticeable in scores of reports is the determination of advocates that this movement be judged by its results. Phil Martin, pastor of Waverley Community Church (AOG) in Melbourne, who visited Toronto, commented. ‘Phenomena are always second to fruit. We’re more interested in what God is doing in you than what he is doing on you’.
And what is God doing in people? Airport Vineyard pastor John Arnott put it this way: ‘When I ask them, “What has it done for you?” they always answer, ‘I’m so in love with Jesus”.’
A sense of greater closeness to God is common. Frequently people can’t wait to begin praising him and are reluctant to stop. A sense of being humbled is often described, as is conviction of sin, greater desire to read the bible, more power in prayer, lukewarm commitments turning to zeal, healing of long-standing emotional hurts, restored relationships, increased concern for those who don’t know God . . .
Overall, joy seems to be paramount. West Australian Bible teacher David Boan says, ‘God is doing many kinds of healing and change, but often people come up from prayer reporting an experience of God’s joy. He’s teaching people in their spirits and experience that they’re loved by the Father and secure in him.’
Unity. The cross-denominational character of this renewal is also distinctive. God is showering it on Pentecostals, Anglicans, Baptists, Catholics, charismatics and everyone else besides. Observers estimate that at least 7,000 churches in Britain alone, from across the spectrum, were involved in 1995.
Many church leaders have testified to the fact that God has broken their pride and denominational elitism.
The lack of focus on individuals. If aspects of Rodney Howard-Browne’s theology and practice have come in for some sharp critical attention from evangelical theologians – and they have – his personal self-effacement doesn’t square with the normal stereotype of the Pentecostal revivalist. In late 1994 he dropped his name from the name of his organisation, having earlier told Charisma magazine that he didn’t want his face associated with the new outpouring and that anyone who wanted to could ‘press in and touch the hem of [God’s] garment.’
One mark of this renewal is that it is largely growing independent of major personalities. Low-key and diverse, it has by its very nature been a movement of thousands of excited people taking their experience to others.
An acknowledgment of dangers. The frank acknowledgment that alongside the genuine experiences there are always likely to be the spurious defuses some of the charges that it’s all just fleshly emotionalism or demonic counterfeit.
‘We try to be careful about the physical phenomena,’ explains Marc Dupont of the Airport Vineyard. ‘The roots can be the Holy Spirit, the flesh or the devil. Things are always mixed, you know.’
The emerging consensus is that Christian leaders have a responsibility to give proper and mature biblical shape to what is happening so that people can test their experiences according to truth. To this end, a growing number of churches, including the Vineyard, Holy Trinity Brompton and the UK’s Pioneer network of charismatic churches, are putting out resources to help people be discerning.
What does the ‘Blessing’ mean?
Notwithstanding criticisms, there is a swelling tide of opinion that the ‘Toronto Blessing’ is definitely God’s work. It has received affirmation from evangelical leaders like Michael Harper.
So that leaves us with the question: What is God doing?
The traditional distinction between renewal, revival and awakening has been pressed into service as Christians have tried to get a handle on these events. In this understanding, renewal is an action of God in stirring up the ‘first love’ of Christians; it becomes revival when it flows over to non-Christians on a substantial scale; and it moves to awakening when its effects are so significant that the surrounding society is widely impacted.
Few are saying this is revival. The Vineyard churches have labelled it instead a ‘refreshing’ – a time when God is drawing his saints near to himself to experience the joy of their salvation. Their description has rung true with thousands around the world.
But is that all there is to it? Few seem happy to think of God giving people a rollicking good time without having some wider purpose. There is a widespread belief that the ‘refreshing’ is the forerunner of something bigger.
‘There is no doubt that we are seeing the early stages of a transnational move of God, linked to the whole unfolding process of world revival’, writes Patrick Dixon in his new book, Signs of Revival. ‘This is no “flash in the pan”; no unexpected visitation.’
According to John Davies, these events fit with a number of prophetic words, some going back to 1984, that 1993/4 would see a great outpouring of blessing. Now some of the prophets are saying that this is the first of a three-stage work of God, the second part of which will be a time of exposure of sin in the church and of repentance, and the third a time of evangelistic harvest. In this scenario, the current refreshing is understood as God preparing his people for discipline by making sure they are secure in his love.
And being secure in his love is what it seems to be about. Mary Pytches, wife of retired Anglican bishop David Pytches, tells how she initially went to Toronto dry and thirsty. She felt she needed more anointing from God, so she stood in a service calling out to him. Then people started singing the song ‘Holy and Anointed One’.
‘Suddenly I thought, “How stupid I am! Why don’t I just ask for more of Jesus? That is the answer. If you have more of Jesus you have more of everything. You have more anointing, more gifting, more fruit, more righteousness and holiness – the lot.” And so I changed my prayer and I kept praying, “Lord, I want more of Jesus” – and that’s what I got.’
More of Jesus; more of his love; more love for him – all brought with a fresh intensity by his Spirit. That seems to be the experience of growing thousands of Christians. As one child commented when the experience first fell on the Christian Outreach Centre churches in 1993, ‘God is making me bigger inside so I can love him more.’
And if that’s the case there’s really only one thing to say: “More of you, Lord – more of you.”
Reprinted with permission from On Being, April 1995, pp. 32-38.
Worship in revival is awe-inspiring. The Holy Spirit moves powerfully upon us. The worship is Spirit-led. Spontaneous. Unpredictable.
Its local forms vary. The essence of revival worship, however, is the same everywhere. It involves a growing awareness of and response to the glory and sovereignty of God. The Lord moves upon his people, touching lives deeply.
Revival worship always brings repentance. Often in tears. Sometimes with joy. We grow more sensitive and responsive to the Lord’s leading. We stay longer in his presence. Prayer abounds in song, word and silence. Musicians may play inspired music as David did, and darkness flees. Songs blend and flow in creative harmonies, no longer tied to books or overheads. Sung melodies lead into solos, singing in the Spirit, prophetic songs and words, Scriptures sung and said.
Sometimes stillness reigns in holy awe and silence. Sometimes worship swells in a crescendo of exultation. Sometimes tears blend with wondering joy and repentance. Sometimes a wave of spontaneous clapping expresses worship in wordless adoration, acknowledging the great glory of our God.
Some people may be standing, some sitting, some kneeling, some lying prostrate on the floor, some dancing. Many raise their arms in adoration. Many open their hands in submission. Many have their eyes closed as they focus on the Lord in love, adoration, gratitude, surrender.
How can we enter this dimension of worship more fully?
We don’t need to wait until we are perfect. We’ll be in heaven then!
We come in our weakness. As we become more aware of God’s glory and presence we also become more aware of our sin and utter dependence on God for cleansing and forgiveness. So did Isaiah in his worship in the Temple (Isaiah 6).
We repent. There’s no end to that one! Mostly we repent before God as his Spirit convicts us. We repent of so much. Hard hearts. Unbelief. Pride. Envy. Jealousy and competition. Status seeking. Unloving thoughts, words and deeds. Self-interest. Blindness to others’ needs. Materialism. Individualism. Disobedience. Fear, especially fear of people’s opinions.
We pray. And pray. And pray. Especially personally, and also together. We seek the Lord. We wait on God. We listen for his word, his leading. We open our hearts to intimacy with our loving, holy Lord. We meditate on Scripture, communing with its author as we do so. The quality of our worship is related to the quality of our time alone with God, waiting on him, seeking his face, loving him. That may include hours communing with the Lord in the stillness of the night..
We begin to respond to the Spirit more fully, more freely. We find that prepared ‘orders of service’ rarely fit revival worship (unless charismatically given by the Spirit). We need to be flexible and responsive to the leading of the Spirit. Those called and anointed by God for leading in worship need to be especially sensitive to his gentle direction. They, in turn, release and encourage others to respond to the Spirit in worship.
We usually begin learning this kind of worship in small home groups. The same principles apply in large gatherings. There, the worship leaders’ anointing and gifting facilitate worship among all the others.
We sing and pray less about God and more to God. Worship is intimate. People may spontaneously change words of well-known songs to make them personal and prayerful – You are Lord; you are risen from the dead and you are Lord … You are exalted, our King you’re exalted on high … Your name is wonderful, Jesus my Lord …
We need musicians who harmonize with the worship. That often involves playing harmonies to accompany free singing or singing in the Spirit. It does not require only those who can play by ear, although that can help. Those who read the music need to know where to find it – quickly. Songs used frequently can be arranged alphabetically, for example. Anointed musicians will often play prophetically – just music, as the Spirit leads. Musicians may ‘hear’ it in the Spirit and express it (though somewhat reduced!) on their instruments.
We respond to God in many ways as we worship. The variety of response is endless! It varies from meeting to meeting. When did God decree a 20-minute sermon after half an hour of singing? His word may come in the first 10 or 15 minutes of worship and the rest of the meeting may be a response to that word. When did God decree that prayer for repentance would come at the end of the meeting? It may come early in the worship as the Spirit leads, followed by cleansed, powerful worship.
We find the Spirit leads us in harmony, but many people may be doing many different things at the same time – eyes open, and closed; standing, sitting, kneeling, dancing, and lying prostrate; weeping, and joyful; some may have visions while others intercede and others minister in love and others adore the Lord and others bring prophetic insights.
We preach differently – more like Jesus. Speaking often mingles with testimonies and shares stories of God’s mighty acts – last week or last month. Prepared outlines are often blown away in the strong wind of the Spirit. We learn to ride the wind more often.
We worship more in quantity and quality than before. An hour grows to two; two to three; three to four or more. It’s like praying. Our time with God grows in quantity and quality.
Immediately we think of obstacles. There are many.
If your congregation is not yet ready for this, begin with those who want to. Be led by the Lord. That may be in a home group. It may be a weeknight meeting. It may be Sunday night. Our Renewal Fellowship was all of those. It began as a home group. It grew into an open meeting on Friday nights. It then included Sunday nights.
As the worship time deepened and extended we began saying, ‘If you need to go, slip away anytime.’ Few did. Most wanted to stay, and the meetings gradually became half nights of prayer and worship. Many stayed after supper, or during supper, for prayer, for waiting on God, and for ministry to one another.
We began to realise the Lord was leading us to worship more fully, wait on him more fully, respond to him more fully. Our charismatic or renewal traditions are being transformed into something like revival worship.
The outward forms vary. They express the growing inner worship which involves loving God more fully, yielding more fully, repenting more fully, believing more fully, obeying more fully.
The contrast between our usual charismatic worship and revival worship is a little like the difference between the old-time church prayer meetings and renewal home prayer groups. The church prayer meetings I attended as a teenager had some hymns, a Bible study talk, and then individuals stood to pray in King James English. Not wrong. Just limited. In home groups we learned to worship more spontaneously, share ‘words’ from the Lord, discuss and respond to the Bible study, pray specifically for one another, including asking and believing to be filled with the Spirit and learning to use the gifts of the Spirit.
Now, as the same Spirit moves ever more powerfully in the earth, as revival fires are blown from scattered flickers to conflagrations, and as we learn to respond more fully to the Lord in the power of his Spirit, revival worship spreads across the land.
It is not new. It has all happened before. Often.
Revival Worship in the Great Awakening
Awesome worship is common in revivals. As God’s Spirit moves on growing numbers of people their worship grows stronger, and longer. Many people have continued for hours, late into the night, or throughout the day, worshipping and responding to God.
Some revivals, at their height, saw people come and go continually as worship, conviction, repentance, confession, and testimony blended with singing, praying, weeping, exalting, and honouring God in lives transformed by his grace and glory.
Sometimes people are overwhelmed by the presence and glory of God. Many fall to the ground.
Here are examples from the first Great Awakening.
Moravians. Among the Moravian refugee colony on the estates of Count Nicholas Zinzendorf in Germany during 1727, the community of about 300 adults put aside their theological differences and prayed together in repentance, humility and unity. Revival flamed in August.
At about noon on Sunday August 10th, 1727, the preacher at the morning service felt himself overwhelmed by a wonderful and irresistible power of the Lord. He sank down in the dust before God, and the whole congregation joined him ‘in an ecstasy of feeling’. They continued until midnight engaged in prayer, singing, weeping and supplication.
On Wednesday, August 13th, the church came together for a specially called communion service. They were all dissatisfied with themselves. ‘They had quit judging each other because they had become convinced, each one, of his lack of worth in the sight of God and each felt himself at this communion to be in view of the Saviour.’
They left that communion at noon, hardly knowing whether they belonged to earth or had already gone to heaven. It was a day of outpouring of the Holy Spirit. ‘We saw the hand of God and were all baptized with his Holy Spirit … The Holy Ghost came upon us and in those days great signs and wonders took place in our midst. Scarcely a day passed from then on when they did not witness God’s almighty workings among them. A great hunger for God’s word took hold of them. They started meeting three times daily at 5 am, 7.30 am, and 9 pm. Selflove and selfwill and all disobedience disappeared, as everyone sought to let the Holy Spirit have full control.
Two weeks later, they entered into the twenty-four-hour prayer covenant which was to become such a feature of their life for over 100 years… ‘The spirit of prayer and supplication at that time poured out upon the children was so powerful and efficacious that it is impossible to give an adequate description of it.’
Supernatural knowledge and power was given to them. Previously timid people became flaming evangelists (Mills 1990:2045).
That revival produced 100 German missionaries within 25 years, some of whom had a strong impact on John and Charles Wesley, resulting in their conversion.
Methodists. 1739 saw astonishing expansion of revival in England. On 1st January the Wesleys and Whitefield along with 60 others including Moravians, met at Fetter Lane in London for prayer and a love feast. The Spirit of God moved powerfully on them all. Many fell to the ground, overwhelmed. The meeting went all night.
‘About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer,’ John Wesley recorded in his Journal, ‘the power of God came mightily upon us insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of His majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God, we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.’ This Pentecost on New Year’s Day confirmed that the Awakening had come and launched the campaign of extensive evangelization which sprang from it (Wood 1990:449).
American Colonies. Jonathan Edwards described the characteristics of the Great Awakening in the American colonies as, first, an extraordinary sense of the awful majesty, greatness and holiness of God, and second, a great longing for humility before God and adoration of God. He published books still being studied today to help us understand revival.
All these revivals stirred up excesses as well. Wise and firm leadership helped to keep the focus biblical and responsive to the Spirit.
Revival Worship this century
The twentieth century has seen countless local revivals with similar phenomena. They now increase worldwide.
Welsh Revival. The century began with worldwide revivals. Best known is the Welsh Revival of 1904-5. Oswald Smith described it this way:
It was 1904. All Wales was aflame. The nation had drifted far from God. The spiritual conditions were low indeed. Church attendance was poor and sin abounded on every side.
Suddenly, like an unexpected tornado, the Spirit of God swept over the land. The churches were crowded so that multitudes were unable to get in. Meetings lasted from ten in the morning until twelve at night. Three definite services were held each day. Evan Roberts was the human instrument, but there was very little preaching. Singing, testimony and prayer were the chief features. There were no hymn books, they had learned the hymns in childhood; no choir, for everybody sang; no collection, and no advertising.
Nothing had ever come over Wales with such farreaching results. Infidels were converted; drunkards, thieves and gamblers saved; and thousands reclaimed to respectability. Confessions of awful sins were heard on every side. Old debts were paid. The theatre had to leave for want of patronage. Mules in coal mines refused to work, being unused to kindness! In five weeks, twenty thousand people joined the churches (Olford 1968:67).
Azusa Street Revival. William Seymour began The Apostolic Faith Mission located at 312 Azusa Street in Los Angeles on Easter Saturday, 14 April 1906 with about 100 attending. Blacks and whites, poor and rich met together in this radical company which grew out of a cottage prayer meeting.
At Azusa, services were long, and on the whole they were spontaneous. In its early days music was a cappella, although one or two instruments were included at times. There were songs, testimonies given by visitors or read from those who wrote in, prayer, altar calls for salvation or sanctification or for baptism in the Holy Spirit. And there was preaching. Sermons were generally not prepared in advance but were typically spontaneous.
W. J. Seymour was clearly in charge, but much freedom was given to visiting preachers. There was also prayer for the sick. Many shouted. Others were ‘slain in the Spirit’ or fell under the power. There were periods of extended silence and of singing in tongues. No offerings were collected, but there was a receptacle near the door for gifts …
Growth was quick and substantial. Most sources indicate the presence of about 300350 worshippers inside the forty-by-sixty-foot whitewashed wood-frame structure, with others mingling outside… At times it may have been double that… The significance of Azusa was centrifugal as those who were touched by it took their experiences elsewhere and touched the lives of others. Coupled with the theological threads of personal salvation, holiness, divine healing, baptism in the Spirit with power for ministry, and an anticipation of the imminent return of Jesus Christ, ample motivation was provided to assure the revival a longterm impact (Burgess & McGee 1988:3136).
Hebrides Revival. Duncan Campbell, ministered in revival in the Hebrides Islands of the northwest coast of Scotland in 1949. At the close of his first meeting in the Presbyterian church in Barvas the travel weary preacher was invited to join an all-night prayer meeting! Thirty people gathered for prayer in a nearby cottage. Duncan Campbell described it:
God was beginning to move, the heavens were opening, we were there on our faces before God. Three o’clock in the morning came, and GOD SWEPT IN. About a dozen men and women lay prostrate on the floor, speechless. Something had happened; we knew that the forces of darkness were going to be driven back, and men were going to be delivered. We left the cottage at 3 a.m. to discover men and women seeking God. I walked along a country road, and found three men on their faces, crying to God for mercy. There was a light in every home, no one seemed to think of sleep (Whittaker 1984:159).
When Duncan and his friends arrived at the church that morning it was already crowded. People had gathered from all over the island, some coming in buses and vans. No one discovered who told them to come. God led them. Large numbers were converted as God’s Spirit convicted multitudes of sin, many lying prostrate, many weeping. After that amazing day in the church, Duncan pronounced the benediction, but then a young man began to pray aloud. He prayed for 45 minutes. Again the church filled with people repenting and the service continued till 4 a.m. the next morning before Duncan could pronounce the benediction again.
Even then he was unable to go home to bed. As he was leaving the church a messenger told him, ‘Mr. Campbell, people are gathered at the police station, from the other end of the parish; they are in great spiritual distress. Can anyone here come along and pray with them?’ Campbell went and what a sight met him. Under the still starlit sky he found men and women on the road, others by the side of a cottage, and some behind a peat stack all crying to God for mercy. The revival had come.
That went on for five weeks with services from early morning until late at night or into the early hours of the morning. Then it spread to the neighbouring parishes. What had happened in Barvas was repeated over and over again. Duncan Campbell said that a feature of the revival was the overwhelming sense of the presence of God. His sacred presence was everywhere (Whittaker 1984:160).
The seventies. We saw touches of renewal and revival in the early seventies when the charismatic renewal had spread into many churches including Catholic prayer groups and communities. A wave of independent charismatic fellowships emerged then also. Revival spread in Canada. The ‘Jesus people’ in America captured media attention. Repentance and touches of revival spread through many colleges, especially Asbury College, and students went out in powerful mission.
The nineties. Now new thrusts of the Spirit disturb us again. For over two years many people worldwide have seen increasingly powerful moves of the Spirit. These include massive crowds with Reinhard Bonnke and others in Africa, huge crusades with healing and miracles in Latin America, miraculous visitations across China, refreshing associated with many ministries which the secular media has lumped together and called the ‘Toronto Blessing’. Reports tell of over 7,000 churches in Great Britain touched by this outpouring of the Spirit. Once again, colleges and schools have experienced sweeping times of public repentance, restitution and reconciliation through 1995, especially in America. Some of it began at Howard Payne University in Brownwood in Texas and spread nationally, including all night prayer and testimony meetings such as at Wheaton College. Students and staff have witnessed publicly in churches, camps and conferences.
Blessing and Refreshing. During the last few years, reports continue to grow of God’s blessing and the refreshing of thousands of churches in North America, England, Europe, and around the world. Some ministers are seeing more conversions than in all their previous ministry.
The worship often has touches of revival. Spontaneous moves of God’s Spirit result in extended times of singing, praying, testifying, repenting, and being anointed for service and ministry. Many are overwhelmed, resting on the floor. Some experience unusual phenomena, including spontaneous laughter and joy. Some tremble. Healings increase.
Australians continue to tell of fresh moves of the Spirit now.
Jeff Beacham (1995:32) reported on a touch of revival worship at the annual conference of the Assemblies of God in Australia attended by crowds of many thousands this year:
I don’t think I’ve ever experienced meetings so powerful as the ones that we enjoyed at our national conference. … The manifest presence of the Spirit of God in the meetings was so strong that many people could hardly stand.
In one of the morning meetings Rodney Howard-Browne exhorted the church to soar to greater heights of inspiration and to pursue the purposes of God in these end times. So strong was this exhortation that it lead into a 45 minute period of glorious praise and worship such as I’d never been in before.
Barry Chant (1995:5), described worship at the annual conference of the full Gospel Churches of Australia this year:
The gatherings were full of joy. There were positive testimonies of salvation and blessing; people often danced for joy; the fellowship was sweet. One thing that particularly impressed us was the frequent use of prophecy, tongues and interpretation. To be honest, one rarely hears these gifts being used these days in local churches. It was refreshing to see them given the attention they deserve.
Prophecies were often in song, with several people picking up the theme and continuing it, so that one prophetic message might include input from four or five people. Often the whole gathering would join in at the end with singing in the Spirit.
All around Australia – and around the world – there are signs of revival. Many good things are happening. It is exciting to be part of the Kingdom of God at such a time as this.
Sue Armstrong describes the touch of God at Nowra, N.S.W., in August 1995:
Every meeting saw people touched and changed by the power of God. However, the final night was different! From the outset there was electrical excitement in the place; the praise and worship took off and by the time it came to the message it was impossible to bring it as the church was so filled with joy we knew the Holy Spirit was doing the work and we gave up!
Dan and Sue Armstrong then visited North America. There they attended a combined churches meeting in Toronto, Canada. Sue reports,
We were blessed to be there for a special event. On the Sunday evening there was a rally called ‘Waves of Power’ in the Metro in downtown Toronto. This was a first. Around 200 churches in the Toronto area came together for this event (around 6,000 people). The praise and worship went for over an hour and it was awesome! Phil Driscoll, an anointed trumpeter, ministered powerfully, and the speaker, Pastor Bud Williams, brought a challenge to take the city of Toronto for God. Over 2,000 people responded to this challenge.
Increasingly churches are willing to come together in repentance and unity to pray, worship and minister. Often this is accompanied by powerful moves of God’s Spirit. Some ‘hot spots’ where these outpourings of the Spirit are most intense include the Airport Vineyard at Toronto in Canada, Pasadena in California, Melbourne in Florida, and Sunderland in England. All these places have churches co-operating together to worship and minister in unity.
All this drives us back to God’s Word to see what he has to say – just as the charismatic renewal drove us to rediscover similar events in the Acts and teaching in the epistles on the body of Christ and spiritual gifts as in Romans 12, Ephesians 4 and 1 Corinthians 12-14.
Now we are rediscovering the passages about the awe-inspiring majesty of God, the overwhelming authority of Jesus the risen Lord, and the invincible impact of God’s Spirit in the earth. This drives us to our knees, or we fall prostrate before our God. Unity in the Spirit is longer a nice theological discussion point, but a humbling, sacrificial reality increasingly required and blessed by God.
We need to take God’s word on revival very seriously in this day of his visitation. ‘If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land’ (2 Chronicles 7:14).
Beacham, J (1995) ‘And the Heat Turns Up’, in the Australian Evangel, August.
Burgess, S M & McGee, G B eds. (1988) Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.
Chant, B (1995) ‘Personally Speaking’, in New Day, November.
Mills, B (1990) Preparing for Revival. Eastbourne: Kingsway.
Olford, S F (1968) Heartcry for Revival. Westwood: Revell
Pratney, W (1984, 1994) Revival. Springdale: Whitaker House.
Whittaker, C (1984) Great Revivals. Basingstoke: Marshalls.
Wood, A S (1990) in The History of Christianity. London: Lion.
Many books examine the place of Signs and Wonders in the church today.
John White’s When the Spirit Comes with Power: Signs and Wonders among God’s People, Hodder & Stoughton, revised 1992, gives many current accounts and helpful comments.
John Wimber’s classics written with Kevin Springer, Power Evangelism (revised 1993) and Power Healing (1986), both Hodder & Stoughton, are well known and give detailed examples and principles.
Charles Kraft’s Christianity with Power: Experiencing the Supernatural, Marshall Pickering, 1990, examines cultural concerns such as worldview as it affects our understanding of the Bible, and offers helpful ministry guidelines.
Biblical holism: where God, People and Deeds Connect is a Christian Interactive Video Workshop – a Journey Towards Understanding – prepared by John Steward, the Development Services Manager of World Vision in Australia. World Vision has a brochure that introduces this resource. The workshop is for small groups who work through, with the help of a 3 hour video, a study on the Lordship of Christ over every area of life. This foundation leads to studies on the application of the biblical material to Christian life and service.
Of particular interest to the theme of Signs and Wonders, one section of the study shows how these are part of the divine activity in the world that often leads to questions which open the way for the word of witness. Brian Hathaway shares how God led the Te Atatu Church in New Zealand into this awareness. A case study shows the critical importance of Signs and Wonders among Folk religions.
For a free introductory video about the workshop, write to World Vision Australia Book Shop, GPO Box 399C, Melbourne, Victoria 3001. Ph. (03) 287 2297; Fax (03) 287 2427.
We have been enjoying a ‘season of refreshment’ from the presence of the Lord (Acts 3:19) in Ontario during the past twelve months. We are calling it renewal, a precursor to revival. It began when John Arnott, pastor of the Toronto Airport Vineyard invited Randy Clark, Pastor of a Vineyard church in St. Louis, to come and conduct four nights of meetings in Toronto, commencing on 20 January, 1994. (Randy Clark had been prayed for by Rodney Howard-Browne several months previously.) The Lord surprised everyone by coming in power! Toronto Airport continues to run nightly meetings, except Mondays.
Conservative estimates are that at least 75,000 different people have attended from around the world, of which 10,000 are pastors. Many of these leaders have been significantly touched, refreshed and are consequently seeing their churches renewed.
Randy Clark and John and Carol Arnott came to our church, Jubilee Vineyard Christian Fellowship, the first weekend in February, 1994, to lead meetings with us. Many of us had already been touched by the services in Toronto, but the presence and power of the Holy Spirit were dramatically manifested in our midst on this weekend. As pastor of this church of about 275 people, it was overwhelming for me to see the auditorium floor strewn with bodies like the slain upon a battlefield!
All the strange phenomena that have often accompanied revivals of the past were happening right before my eyes with adults, teens, and children alike – falling, shaking, jerking, visions, prophecies, healings, laughter and tears! On the one hand I was thrilled; I knew this was of God. Yet I was stressed out because a pastor likes to have a good handle on what is happening with those in his flock. I personally have been refreshed and touched by the Spirit of God time and time again in this fresh move of God and in ways never experienced before. The same goes for my wife and three children. In fact my kids often beg to go to the meetings! They love to see God move.
In February we ran nightly meetings for three weeks, then went to only Thursday nights. Christians from many other churches in the area have come and been touched and now good things are happening in their churches.
I am thrilled to see much good fruit in our people in all this. We have observed that God is presently refreshing his people as well as empowering them for service. For example, the shaking is often an impartation of prophetic and/or intercessory gifts. In the first few weeks we saw about a dozen converts, a couple of dozen prodigals return to the Lord, an increase in hunger for the reading of God’s word, worship and passion for Jesus, more prayer activity, physical and emotional healings, demonic bondages broken, repentance, and reconciliation in relationships.
We are seeing God raising up an army of intercessors, worshippers, prophetic people and teams to go out and minister elsewhere. We are finding the principle true: ‘freely receive, freely give’. We get to keep what we are willing to give away!
This move is not about us, not about the Vineyard. It is about God and his grace and sovereignty. And we are believing God for more waves of his Spirit to come – not just to refresh and renew the church but to powerfully touch our neighbourhoods, our cities, and the nations with full blown revival.
Let us continue to embrace the cross, submit to Scripture, and also ‘keep in step with the Spirit’. ‘The kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power’ (1 Corinthians 4:20).
‘Now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation’ (2 Corinthians 6:2).
Preparing for revival
Winkie Pratney (1994:8,9) suggests we try this little survey with Christians:
How many of you know we need a revival?
How many of you want a revival?
How many of you know what a revival is?
How many of you have ever experienced a true revival?
Most would raise their hands to the first two questions. In fact, according to George Gallup, Jr., in the eighties, 80% of U.S.A. wanted a revival – including the lost! But very few would have an idea as to what a genuine revival really is, let alone ever experienced one.
It is imperative at this time in history that we get a better handle on this thing called revival. Hopefully this paper (used as seminar notes on the subject) can be of some help in this need for understanding by responding to the following six questions:
1. What is revival?
2. Why is revival needed?
3. When has revival occurred before?
4. Should we expect to see revival again soon?
5. What hinders revival?
6. How can we promote revival?
1. What is revival?
The term revival is not technically found in the Bible. Neither is Trinity for that matter, yet both concepts are found throughout the Bible.
Various forms of the verb revive are frequently used as well as such words as restore, renew, awaken, and refresh, for example:
Psalm 85:6 – ‘Will you not revive us again that your people may rejoice in you’ (prayer request).
Isaiah 57:15 – ‘I revive the spirit of the humble and revive the heart of the contrite’ (promise of God).
The theme of revival is described at times in such terms as an outpouring of the Spirit (like rain or fire falling or wind blowing), the renewing of God’s mighty deeds (Habakkuk 3:2), the glory of the Lord returning to his temple (Malachi 3:1), God healing the land (2 Chronicles 7:14) and the time of God’s visitation with his manifest presence (Micah 7:4; Luke 19:44).
(a) Definitions and descriptions of revival
* To revive is ‘to live again’ (1 Kings 17:22; 2 Kings 13:21).
* ‘When God comes down [Isaiah 64:1,2], God’s Word comes home [Nehemiah 8-9; Acts 2:37], God’s purity comes through, God’s people come alive [Acts 2, overflow of joy and vitality], and outsiders come in’ [Acts 2:41, 47; 1 Corinthians 14:25 ‘God is really among you’] (Packer 1984:244-245; Scriptures added).
* ‘The inrush of the Spirit into a body that threatens to become a corpse’ (D. M. Panton, cited in Wallis 1956:46).
* ‘Revival is man retiring into the background because God has taken the field. It is the Lord making bare his holy arm and working in extraordinary power on saint and sinner’ (Wallis 1956:20).
* ‘Revival is divine military strategy; first to counteract spiritual decline, and then to create spiritual momentum’ (Wallis 1956:45).
* ‘Revival is like a rocket ship that gets us back up into the orbit of New Testament Christianity’ (Charles Simpson, sermon 27 May 1994).
Revival is usually comprised of two stages: internal revival or ‘renewal’ (the church is set on fire and prodigals begin to come home) followed by external revival (conversion of those outside on a mass scale).
‘True revival is marked by widespread repentance both within the church and among unbelievers’ (Wimber 1994:4).
This repentance is the result of God coming in power, revealing his holiness and our sinfulness. One comes into the agonising grip of a holy God and is brought under awesome conviction. This manifested presence of God creates a divine ‘radiation zone’.
Here are two examples:
During the 1859 revival, no town in Ulster was more deeply stirred than Coleraine. A schoolboy in class became so troubled about his soul that the schoolmaster sent him home. An older boy, a Christian, went with him and before they had gone far, led him to Christ. Returning at once to school, this new convert testified to his teacher: ‘Oh, I am so happy! I have the Lord Jesus in my heart.’ These artless words had an astonishing effect; boy after boy rose and silently left the room. Going outside the teacher found these boys all on their knees, ranged along the wall of the playground. Very soon their silent prayer became a bitter cry; it was heard by another class inside and pierced their hearts. They fell on their knees, and their cry for mercy was heard in turn by a girls’ class above. In a few moments, the whole school was on their knees! Neighbours and passers-by came flocking in and all as they crossed the threshold came under the same convicting power. ‘Every room was filled with men, women, and children seeking God’ …
During the same 1859 revival in America, ships entered a definite zone of heavenly influence as they drew near port. Ship after ship arrived with the same talk of sudden conviction and conversion. A captain and an entire crew of thirty men found Christ at sea and arrived at port rejoicing. This overwhelming sense of God bringing deep conviction of sin is perhaps the outstanding feature of true revival. Its manifestation is not always the same; to cleansed hearts it is heaven; to convicted hearts it is hell (Pratney 1994:24-25).
2. Why is revival needed?
Throughout biblical history and church history the hearts of God’s people perpetually cool off and harden towards him, creating the need for revival. Nehemiah 9:25-28 describes this cycle or pattern of spiritual decline and renewal which involves six stages (Lovelace 1979:62-80):
1. God’s people are alive and in love with him.
2. Spiritual decline – hearts are subtly cooling off.
3. Hearts of stone.
4. The Lord disciplines those he loves (for example, Israelites were taken into exile).
5. Cry for mercy – intercession and repentance.
6. God pours out his Spirit and revives his people.
Where in this cycle is the church in this country today?
3. When has revival occurred before?
The Bible records at least a dozen revivals within its history (Kaiser 1986:12-13) and many movements of renewal and revival took place prior to and including the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century and the Puritan and Pietist movements of the 17th century. Here I will focus upon the major revivals of Europe and North America of the last 250 years.
Note that the intensity of a revival may last only a few years, but the effects are felt in the church and society for decades to come.
The First Awakening (1727-80)
1727-80 (approximate dates) in Germany: Count Zinzendorf and the Moravians, with unity, prayer (their 24 hour prayer vigil lasted over 100 years!), and missions. Their motto was ‘To win for the Lamb that was slain the reward of his suffering.’
1734-60 in North America’s 13 colonies: Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield, with prayer and preaching.
1740-80 in Great Britain: John and Charles Wesley and George Whitefield with outdoor preaching and class meetings (home cells).
Revival brought many social reforms including the abolition of slavery in Great Britain. Some historians believe this revival saved England from a bloody revolution like the one in France.
Then came a gradual spiritual slide. By 1794 moral conditions had reached their worst. For example, John Marshall, Chief Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, a concerned believer, wrote his assessment to Methodist Bishop Madison of Virginia stating, ‘The church is too far gone to ever be redeemed’. The famous agnostic Voltaire declared, ‘Christianity will be forgotten in 30 years’. Later Voltaire’s home became the headquarters for the Geneva Bible Society (Relfe 1988:26).
The Second Awakening (1792-1842)
1792 in England: William Carey, ‘Father of the modern missionary movement’ took as his motto, ‘Expect great things from God, attempt great thing for God.’
By about 1800 revival fires were burning once again in the U. S. A. In the East, Timothy Dwight was used in the college setting. On the Western frontier, James McGready, Barton Stone and Peter Cartwright gave leadership.
In 1821 Charles Finney, a lawyer, was converted and became an evangelist and social reformer. This revival was characterised by evangelistic camp meetings, social reforms and missions. Finney’s ministry overlapped the second and third awakenings.
The Third Awakening (1857-59)
1857 in North America: Called ‘the Prayer Revival’ it began when Dr Walter and Phoebe Palmer from New York City went to Hamilton, Ontario in early October. Revival broke out, then went south of the border.
Jeremiah Lanphier, a business man, began noon prayer meetings in New York City in September 1857. Within 6 months, up to 10,000 business men were praying daily for revival.
J. Edwin Orr states that ‘revival went up the Hudson and down the Mohawk. The Baptists had so many people to baptise they could not get them in the churches. They went down to the river, cut a square hole in the ice and baptised them. When Baptists do that, they really are on fire!’ (Relfe 1988:48). The revival spread from New York to Philadelphia and throughout the country. The emphasis was on prayer.
Revival spread to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well.
The fruit of this revival was 2 million converts (1 million within the church, 1 million from without) and in the following years slavery was abolished, and there were reforms in prisons, labour, education, and medical care.
Fourth Awakening (1904-7)
1904-5 in Wales: Youth and children featured in the Welsh revival. The key leader was Evan Roberts, aged 26 (and his brother Dan, aged 20, and his sister Mary, aged 16). Leaders came from around the world and were humbled to see how God used teens and children. Evan and others were not eloquent preachers but good followers of the Holy Spirit.
Their motto was ‘Bend the church and save the world’. Evan Roberts’ vision of seeing 100,000 converted in Wales was fulfilled in less than one year. People got converted just reading about the revival in the newspapers!
Crime dropped off to the point where many courtrooms and jails were empty and judges and police had very little to do. Horses in the coal mines were accustomed to obeying commands that involved yelling and cursing. Since the vast majority of miners were converted, the horses were confused with commands that were humane and wholesome, so the horses needed retraining!
Prior to the revival Wales was in a frenzy over their favourite sport, soccer. With the revival, the stadiums stood empty. No-one preached against soccer. The players and fans had simply become so captivated with the Lord that they were no longer interested in the game (Joyner 1993:51).
The fire spread throughout Great Britain, Scandinavia, Europe, Africa, India, Korea, as well as the U.S.A. The pastors of Atlantic City, New Jersey, reported only 50 adults not converted in a population of 50,000! The First Baptist Church in Paducoh, Kentucky, had 1,000 converts in two months and the elderly pastor, Dr J. J. Cheek, died of exhaustion (Krupp 1988:22).
In California, Bartleman, Seymore, and Smale were impacted by the reports and booklets on the revival in Wales in 1905 as well as from letters of encouragement from Evan Roberts. Shortly thereafter the Azusa Street Revival erupted into the great Pentecostal Revival that saw 5 million converts from 1905-7 and continues to impact millions of lives to this day.
The twentieth century has been called by some ‘The Century of the Holy Spirit’. Although we have not witnessed a major revival since the turn of the century, since 1947 God has been bringing smaller scaled revivals and renewal movements such as:
1947-53 – the Latter Rain movement in western Canada and the U.S.A.
1949 – Hebrides Islands, Scotland.
Here is a wonderful example of how a revival causes a geographical area to become a divine ‘radiation zone’ of conviction and repentance.
Duncan Campbell, en evangelist, came to the Island of Lewis in the Hebrides Islands. On the first night of his arrival, he preached in a church building. When he left the building at 11 p.m. he found 600 gathered outside, 100 from the nearby dance hall, the other 500 who had been awakened, got out of bed, and felt compelled to walk to this place. Campbell preached the gospel to them till 4 a.m., at which time he was requested to come to the police station where 400 people were gathered, baffled as to why they were there. On his way to the station he came across other people along the road who were crying out to God for mercy! Revival continued for 3 years with 75% of the converts coming to Jesus outside of church buildings (Krupp 1988:26-7).
The 1960s and 1970s saw the emergence of the charismatic renewal movement, including the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s.
The 1980s and 1990s saw the ‘Third Wave’ movement’ or the ‘signs and wonders’ movement and the ‘prophetic’ movement. Peter Wagner describes three waves of the Holy Spirit in this century, each continuing to be used by God: the Pentecostal movement, the charismatic movement (largely in the Catholic Church and mainline Protestant churches), and the ‘Third Wave’ movement which is primarily impacting the evangelical churches.
4. Should we expect to see revival again soon?
Many ‘third world’ countries in Africa, and Central and South America, as well as China and Korea, have been experiencing revival fires for a number of years.
Why should we expect to see revival again soon?
a. Biblical texts that create such expectation include:
Habakkuk 2:14 – ‘for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.’ (Reinhard Bonnke, evangelist in Africa, says, ‘not one spot stays dry at the bottom of the sea.’)
Joel 2:23 – ‘He sends you abundant showers, both autumn (early) and spring (latter) rains.’ Early rains soften the ground, making it suitable for ploughing and sowing. With the approach of harvest, heavy rain (latter) returns to swell and mature grain and fruit in preparation for the time of reaping. Pentecost marked the beginning of former rains. After the Reformation, outpourings became more distinct and significant. Latter rain is in preparation for the day of harvest.
Joel 2:28, 31 – ‘I will pour out my Spirit on all people … before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.’
Acts 2 – Pentecost, a partial fulfilment of Joel.
Acts 3:19,20 – ‘repent, turn to God, …..
John 14:12 – ‘will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these’ (miracles). Not fulfilled yet!
John 17 – In his priestly prayer, Jesus prays for Christian unity. This prayer has not been fulfilled yet. Of all the prayers the Father answers, would not his Son’s be answered? Rick Joyner says, ‘ Jesus is coming back for a bride, not a harem.’
Ephesians 5:26,27 – Jesus is preparing the bride to be presented to himself as pure, holy and radiant.
b. Based on previous patterns, revival usually occurs in a day of deep moral and spiritual bankruptcy. ‘Before a great awakening, there must come a rude awakening’ (Murillo 1985:11). The worst of times, in other words, precipitates the best of times. Who could deny the desperate need for a mighty revival in our day? Famine, poverty, pollution, war, crime, abortion, drug abuse, massive economic instability, and such like, stare us in the face. Nate Krupp (1988:34) argues that ‘we are at a point in history where it is either world revival or world destruction.’
c. Church historians, theologians and church leaders are predicting it. Many leaders have discerned that God is up to something big! He’s preparing new wineskins for the new wine, a fireplace for the fire, and barns for the harvest. Many even say that previous revivals are but a rehearsal for the big ones to come. ‘Our study of awakening movements only turns up what appear to be rehearsals for some final revelation of the full splendour of God’s kingdom… It is hard to believe that God will not grant the church some greater experience of wholeness and vitality than has yet appeared in the stumbling record of her history’ (Lovelace 1979:425).
d. Many prophets of our day in unison are expecting it in the 1990s and beyond. These include Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, Rick Joyner, and John Paul Jackson.
e. The growing emphasis on prayer. Prayer mobilisation today is unprecedented in history. Examples include men’s prayer movements, women’s intercessory groups, youth in schools, Marches for Jesus, ’10-40 Window’ prayer project, city wide pastors’ prayer fellowships, and so on. History demonstrates that revival is always preceded by a groundswell of prayer.
f. It’s God’s heart to bring revival. He longs to renew, restore, awaken us, and redeem humanity much more than we want him to. God is committed to renew his people and see the nations come to himself. ‘Ask of me and I will make the nations your inheritance’ (Psalm 2:8).
5. What hinders revival?
Don’t be a ‘fire-fighter’ or a ‘wet blanket’.
From a safe distance of several hundred years or several thousand miles, revival clearly looks invigorating. What could be more glamorous than a mighty work of God in our midst, renewing thousands and converting tens of thousands. … But if we find ourselves in the midst of revival, rather than being invigorated, we may be filled with scepticism, disgust, anger, or even fear…
The irony of revivals is that they are so longed for in times of barrenness, but they are commonly opposed and feared when they arrive. … The hostility in never to the idea of revival, which is ardently prayed for, but to God’s answer to our prayers and the unexpected form it may take (White 1988:34, 39).
Why does revival produce all this opposition?
‘We grow angry when we are scared. We fear what we cannot understand’ (White 1988:41).
a. Fear of change and losing control
We are creatures of habit (as in nostalgia, traditionalism); changes unsettle us. We fear the unknown, the unfamiliar, and the unpredictable.
b. Fear of emotions
We should be scared of emotionalism, the artificial manipulation of emotion, but emotion itself comes from seeing, from understanding. When the Holy Spirit awakens people, he seems to cause them to perceive truth more vividly … people see their sin as stinking cancer that will kill them and see the mercy of the Saviour with the eyes of those who have been snatched from a horrible death (White 1988:51).
Jonathan Edwards called emotions ‘holy affections’ and said they are essential for spiritual life. A hear heart (heart of stone) is an unaffected heart, a heart not moved by divine truth and revelation.
c. Fear of bizarre behaviour
Examples of unusual behaviour in revivals include shaking, jerking, falling, weeping, screaming, laughing, prophesying and being ‘drunk in the spirit’.
Three questions must be asked about this:
i. Has it happened among the people of God before (the biblical and historical precedence)?
ii. What is the fruit of it?
iii. How do we explain these phenomena?
i. Has it happened before?
Yes, these phenomena of bizarre behaviour have happened among God’s people during heightened spiritual activity. Martyn Lloyd-Jones points out that
it comes nearer to being the rule in revival that phenomena begin to manifest themselves – phenomena such as these … people are in agony of soul and groaning … sometimes people are so convicted and feel the power of the Spirit to such an extent that they faint and fall to the ground. Sometimes there are even convulsions, physical convulsions. And sometimes people seem to fall into a state of unconsciousness, into a kind of trance, and many remain like that for hours (1987:110-111).
There are also certain mental phenomena… You will find this phenomena of prophecy, this ability to foretell the future, frequently present (1987:135).
Martyn Lloyd-Jones goes onto say that ‘these phenomena are not essential to revival … yet it is true to say that, on the whole, they do tend to be present when there is a revival (1987:134). John White’s research has brought him to the same conclusion.
Note these biblical examples:
1. 1 Samuel 10:11 – Saul was in a trance, prophesying when the Spirit came upon him (also 1 Samuel 19:23-24).
2. 2 Chronicles 5:13-14 – The glory of the Lord filled the temple so the priests were unable to stand to minister.
3. Ezekiel 1:28; 3:23; 43:4; 44:4 – Ezekiel fell face down before the glory of the Lord.
4. Daniel 8:17-18 – Daniel collapsed and sank into a deep sleep during a vision and an angelic visitation (also Daniel 10:7-11 – no strength left; on the ground trembling).
5. Matthew 17:6; Luke 9:32 – On the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples fell face down to the ground, but also became heavy with sleep.
6. John 18:6 – When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus they fell to the ground when Jesus said, “I am he”.
7. Matthew 28:4 – On the morning of Jesus’ resurrection the guards at the tomb ‘shook and became like dead men’.
8. Acts 2 – At the Day of Pentecost the place shook, they spoke in strange tongues, and they behaved like being drunk. Peter responded (Acts 2:15) that ‘they are not drunk as you suppose’. Paul makes a comparison between being drunk with wine and being filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18).
9. Acts 9 – Saul on the road to Damascus fell to the ground, blinded by the glory. Later, in a trance-like condition he had a vision (2 Corinthians 12).
10. Revelation 1:17 – The apostle John said, ‘When I saw him I fell at his feet as though dead.’
Not only in Scripture do we find that frail human bodies are affected by the manifest presence of God, but most revivals in history have had physical and emotional manifestations of the Holy Spirit. Some examples:
1. Jonathan Edwards, the great leader of the First Awakening of the 1730s and 1740s in New England wrote to a friend saying, ‘many of the young people and children appeared to be overcome with a sense of the greatness and glory of divine things … and many others at the same time were overcome with distress about their sinful and miserable state and condition; so that the whole room was full of nothing but outcries, faintings and such like. … many were overpowered and continued there for some hours (Stacy 1842:546 in DeArteaga 1992:39-40).
2. John Wesley and George Whitefield spoke of the strange physical phenomena that took place in their meetings in England as well. Wesley describes in his Journal:
Monday, Jan. 1, 1739 – Mr Hall, Kinchin, Ingham, Whitfield, Lane, with about sixty of our brethren. About three in the morning, as we were continuing instant in prayer, the power of God came mightily upon us, insomuch that many cried out for exceeding joy, and many fell to the ground. As soon as we were recovered a little from that awe and amazement at the presence of his Majesty, we broke out with one voice, ‘We praise Thee, O God; we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord’ (MacNutt 1990:98).
Following the two events of John Wesley’s Aldersgate experience, May 24, 1738, and this January 1, 1739 encounter, the supernatural element in his ministry became more pronounced. For fourteen years it was hardly there; for the next fifty it was (MacNutt 1990:98).
3. MacNutt (1990: 104) tells us that early in George Whitefield’s career,
when he was working with Wesley in England and people started to fall, Whitefield decided to register a protest by letter: ‘I cannot think it right in you to give so much encouragement to these convulsions which people have been thrown into in your ministry.’ Ironically enough, when Whitefield came to confront Wesley in person he found himself reprimanded by reality, for when he, Whitefield, was preaching the next day, ‘four persons sunk down close to him, almost in the same moment. One of them lay without sense or motion. A second trembled exceedingly. The third has strong convulsions all over his body, but made no noise, unless by groans. The fourth, equally convulsed, called upon God, with strong cries and tears. From this time,’ Wesley writes, ‘I trust we shall all suffer God to carry on his own work in the way that pleaseth him.’
‘By the time he journeyed to America, Whitefield’s preaching was ordinarily accompanied by people toppling over:
Some were struck pale as death, others were wringing their hands, others lying on the ground, other sinking into the arms of their friends’ (Dallimore 1980:392-3, cited in MacNutt 1990:104).
4. Bishop Francis Ashbury, appointed by Wesley in 1771 as a missionary to the colonies, was a very disciplined man who insisted on meetings being conducted in a proper fashion, yet his meetings were characterised by shouting, falling, crying, and the ‘jerks’ (MacNutt 1990:107).
5. At the Cane Ridge camp meetings of 1801, which featured mostly Presbyterian preachers, one observer reported that
The vast sea of human beings seemed to be agitated as if by a storm… Some of the people were singing, others praying, some crying for mercy in the most piteous accents… While witnessing these scenes, a peculiarly-strange sensation, such as I had never felt before, came over me. My heart beat tumultuously, my knees trembled, my lip quivered, and I felt as though I must fall to the ground… Soon after, I left and went into the woods, and there I strove to rally and man up my courage…
After some time I returned… At one time I saw at least five hundred, swept down in a moment as if a battery of a thousand guns had been opened upon them, and then immediately followed shrieks and shouts that rent the very heavens (Johnson 1955:64-5; MacNutt 1990:109).
6. Peter Cartwright, one of the prominent camp meeting evangelists in the Kentucky area, spoke of the phenomena of the ‘jerks’: ‘… no matter whether they were saints or sinners, they would be taken under a warm song or sermon and seized with a convulsive jerking all over, which they could not by any possibility avoid, and the more they resisted the more they jerked… The first jerk or so, you would see their fine bonnets, caps and combs fly; and so sudden would be the jerking of the head that their loose hair would crack almost as loud as a wagoner’s whip’ (Cartwright 1956:17-18).
7. Charles Finney, at the village schoolhouse near Antwerp, New York, describes the phenomena of falling under the awesome power of God’s presence and conviction: ‘An awful solemnity seemed to settle upon the people; the congregation began to fall from their seats in every direction and cry for mercy. If I had a sword in each hand, I could not have cut them down as fast as they fell. I was obliged to stop preaching’ (cited in Pratney 1994:24).
8. Note how the Quakers and Shakers got their nicknames!
Yes, cases of physical phenomena have been observed throughout the ages whenever there has been heightened spiritual activity.
ii. What is the fruit of all this?
Jonathan Edwards wrote a treatise in 1741 called The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God. Edwards asked his readers to assess the awakening by looking past the enthusiastic behaviour and seeing the ultimate spiritual fruit. He argued that the authenticity of God’s hand in the revival was demonstrated by five ‘sure, distinguishing, Scripture evidences’. It
1. raises the esteem of Jesus in the community;
2. works against the kingdom of Satan;
3. stimulates a greater regard for the Holy Scriptures;
4. is marked by a spirit of truth;
5. manifests a renewed love for God and people (Edwards 1971, 1984:109-115).
In his concluding section, Edwards exhorted his readers not to oppose the Spirit of God in the revival for this is to commit the unpardonable sin of Matthew 12:22-32. Edwards’ warning went unheeded by and large. By 1742 a majority of the New England clergy had come to the conclusion that the Great Awakening was merely an epidemic of emotionalism and what was needed was a return to sound theology. Rev. Charles Chauncey of Boston became the brilliant champion against the revival. He effectively articulated all the doubts, fears and criticisms of the revival. His books became best sellers and ensured the defeat of the Awakening. ‘When Whitefield arrived in 1744 practically all the pulpits were closed to him, and the wind had gone out of the Awakening’ (DeArteaga 1992:52).
It’s worth noting the fruit at the end of the lives of these two prominent figures, Edwards and Chauncey. In 1757, Edwards became president of Princeton, but when he arrived in the area there was a threat of a smallpox outbreak. To set an example, he was quick to volunteer to take the experimental vaccine. He became ill and died. Chauncey became one of the founding theologians of Unitarianism which discarded the Trinity and advocated universal salvation. Chauncey is no longer considered a hero who saved the people from emotionalism. He is now ‘seen as a religious bureaucrat who defended the status quo without comprehending the deeper issues of revival’ (DeArteaga 1992:54).
iii. How do we explain these phenomena?
We must recognise the element of mystery in God’s dealings with us. We should hold explanations tentatively and humbly.
Some explain it as the work of Satan. However, Martyn Lloyd-Jones questions, ‘Why should the Devil suddenly start dong this kind of thing? Here is the Church in a period of dryness, and of drought, so why should the Devil suddenly do something which calls attention to religion and the Lord Jesus Christ? The very results of revival, I would have thought, completely exclude the possibility of this being the action of the Devil… [see Luke 11:14-18]. If this is the work of the Devil, well then the Devil is an unutterable fool. He is dividing his own kingdom; he is increasing the Kingdom of God… There is nothing which is so ridiculous as this suggestion that this is the work of the Devil’ (Lloyd-Jones 1987:141-2).
What is the true explanation?
When God sovereignly visits an individual or group of human beings, his manifest presence and power often affects their bodies in some way. John White (1988:23) states, ‘God is, of course, present everywhere. But there seems to be times when he is, as it were, more present – or shall we say more intensely present. He seems to draw aside one or two layers of a curtain that protects us from Him, exposing our fragility to the awesome energies of his being.’
Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1987:145-6) tells us that ‘we must never forget that the Holy Spirit affects the whole person… You see, man is body, soul, and spirit, and you cannot divide these… Man reacts as a whole. And it is just folly to expect that he can react in the realm of the spiritual without anything at all happening to the rest of him, to the soul, and to the body… these phenomena are indications of the fact that some very powerful stimulus is in operation. Something is happening which is so powerful that the very physical frame is involved.’
Lloyd-Jones also argues that such strange phenomena are a means that God uses to get our attention (1987:145). God is shaking us to wake us up (Ephesians 5:14).
God is also humbling us! Paul Cain says, ‘God often offends the mind to reveal the heart.’
Both John White and Martyn Lloyd-Jones conclude that although a small portion of such strange behaviour would be of the flesh (the person’s own need for acceptance and attention) or a demonic manifestation, the bulk of such activity in revival originates from the power and glory of God.
We should not be fixated on the manifestations, but on the person of the Lord Jesus Christ!
d. Fear of disorder
Charles Spurgeon, the great Baptist preacher, declared that ‘revival is a season of glorious disorder’ (Relfe 1988:8).
Martyn Lloyd Jones (1987:103) points out that ‘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 six-thirty in the evening, and it may not end until daybreak the next morning with nobody aware of the passing of the hours.’
We don’t like it when meetings get messy and unpredictable. It is embarrassing and offensive to most of us. But John White (1988:35) reminds us that ‘revival is war, and war is never tidy. It is an intensifying of the age-old conflict between Christ and the powers of darkness.’
John Wimber (1985:31) offers this analogy: ‘When warm and cold fronts collide, violence ensues: thunder and lightning, rain or snow – even tornadoes or hurricanes. There is conflict, and a resulting release of power. It is disorderly, messy – difficult to control.’
Understandably we prefer peace, decency, and order. We say, ‘God is a God of order’ but we must realise that to bring in order is sometimes a disorderly process… Chaos and darkness flee but they create a ruckus as they leave (White 1988:44).
Edwards was so convinced of this disorderly process as part of the work of God’s Spirit that he cried, ‘Would to God that all the public assemblies in the land were broken off from their public exercises with such confusion as this next Sabbath day (1741, 1984:127).
Again, John White (1988:45) argues that ‘if we insist that revival must be “decent and orderly” (as we define those terms) we automatically blind ourselves to most revivals. Like the dwarfs in C. S. Lewis’ children’s story The Last Battle, we may spit out heavenly food, for to us it looks like, smells like, tastes like dung and straw.’
Question: Am I missing the burning bush for trying to keep the lawn cut?
e. Fear of controversy
We all shy away from controversy. However, the fact remains, ‘renewal has always been controversial and will always be controversial. We must be ready for it (Mallone 1985:42).
Jonathan Edwards said, ‘a work of God without stumbling blocks is never to be expected’ (Works 2:273).
John Wesley prayed, ‘Lord send us revival without its defects but if this is not possible, send revival, defects and all (Bartleman 1980:45).
If we find a revival that is not spoken against, we had better look again to ensure that it is a revival… No one would pretend to claim that every revival burns with a smokeless flame (Wallis 1956:26).
Remember, wherever Jesus or the apostle Paul went there was confrontation. Riots and controversy occurred. Luther, Wesley, Whitefield and Edwards were extremely controversial characters in their day – some kicked out of their churches! But once the dust settled centuries later, they have come to be highly revered and seen as fighters for orthodox Christianity.
Further objections and concerns that many may find themselves struggling with are included here. I am indebted to Bill Jackson of Champaign, Illinois Vineyard for his unpublished paper of April, 1994, called ‘What in the world is happening to us?’ for the following section extracted from this paper with his permission.
1. It’s hard to understand
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, I would understand it. …
B. All through the Bible, God revealed himself in ways that were hard to understand.
1. God’s chosen people for the most part misunderstood Jesus. Pharisees said he was in league with Beelzebub, which was a term for the devil.
2. The disciples didn’t understand the mission of Jesus until the Holy Spirit came (Acts 2).
3. The Jews as a whole never understood that God’s heart was for all the nations. Even the disciples were shocked that God would offer the gospel to the Gentiles, law free. They muse in amazement in Acts 11:18, ‘So then God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life!’
4. Historically, God has moved in ways that are hard to understand. The classic example of this is martyrdom. Martyrdom has always been an explosive key to church growth. One of the early church fathers, Tertullian, said, ‘The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church’.
2. It makes me afraid
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, I wouldn’t be afraid.
B. Visitations produce fear throughout the Bible.
1. Lightning, thunder, and smoke on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19).
2. Daniel in Chapter 10 had a great vision: ‘I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale, and I was helpless.’ The angel, Gabriel, had to say, ‘Don’t be afraid,’ because he was terrified.
3. Great fear seized the whole church in Acts 5 when Ananias and Sapphira dropped dead through a prophetic word when they lied to the Holy Spirit.
C. Note: This fear is not the same fear as that which comes from Satan. 2 Timothy 1:7 says that God has not given us a spirit of fear. The devil’s fear robs us of faith and hope and renders us incapable of love. There is, however, a godly fear that the Bible says is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10). It is this kind of fear that is produced by divine visitations. It results in a more godly life.
D. How could a visitation of a holy God on sinful people not produce fear?
1. How could our finite minds expect to understand the infinite ways of God? He is completely beyond us and holy.
2. Fear is caused by:
a) the holiness of God coming in contact with our sinfulness.
b) our anti-supernatural world view. Since we have no supernatural category in our western world view, when we encounter the supernatural we encounter the fear of the unknown. It causes the psychological state known as cognitive dissonance. We receive data that does not fit and it causes feelings of insecurity.
3. It causes division
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, there would be no division.
B. There are two kinds of division:
1. When the kingdom of light clashes with the kingdom of darkness, it causes godly division. Jesus said he had not come to bring peace but a sword. ‘A man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’ (Matthew 10:36).
2. Backbiting, slander, and rebellion are ungodly because they cause the kingdom to be divided against itself.
C. Godly division is thoroughly biblical:
1. Korah was judged for his rebellion against Moses (Numbers 11).
2. Jesus caused division wherever he went.
3. The inclusion of Gentiles in the church caused division (Acts 15).
D. Godly division is thoroughly historical:
1. The Great Awakening broke out in New Jersey in 1725 and was violently opposed by more traditional churches.
2. G. Campbell Morgan called the Pentecostal Movement ‘the last vomit of Satan’.
3. Leaders in the previous move of God often persecute the present one.
4. God over-rides my faculties
A. Our presupposition: God is always a gentleman and would never force anything upon us.
B. The Bible seems to say something else:
1. God is God and he does what he wants. In Isaiah, God says, ‘I say my purpose will stand and I will do all that I please” (46:11).
2. God over-rode Balaam in Numbers 23 and caused Balaam to prophesy against his will.
3. God over-rode Saul and his men in 1 Samuel 19, and caused them to prophecy instead of killing David.
4. Jesus blinded Paul on the road to Damascus against his will.
5. God’s killing of Ananias and Sapphira is the ultimate over-ride.
6. Far from treating us gently, God has promised his people persecution.
5. It causes me to be the centre of attention
A. Our presupposition: If it were God, he would not do it publicly.
B. Quite to the contrary, God often uses the person to be the message:
1. In Ezekiel 4-5, Ezekiel is told by God to lie on his side, naked, to shave his head and beard. God made him the centre of attention because he, himself, was the message.
2. Jeremiah was told to smash a jar in Jeremiah 18-19 to draw attention to his message.
3. Hosea was told to marry a prostitute as a message to the nation of Israel.
4. Ananias and Sapphira can be used as yet another example because their dead bodies were the message.
5. Stephen was ‘glowing’ when he was killed.
6. It doesn’t happen to me
A. Our presupposition: When God moves, the same things happen to everyone.
B. Biblical perspective:
1. It’s simply not true that some people seem to be ‘favoured’ while others are not. God’s love is for the whole world. Under his sovereignty he treats everyone in a way that is beneficial for them. God ultimately determines what is best for us.
2. Jesus healed only one man at the pool of Bethesda despite the fact that there were many sick present (John 5). This in no way meant that God loved the man who was healed more than the ones who weren’t. Jesus said that he only did what he saw the Father doing and the father was somehow loving all those at the pool that day.
7. A final caution
A. It’s okay to have questions about what is happening but we must try to be honest about the motive behind our questions. What causes the questions?
1. If it’s because of your personality, that’s okay. But let’s not let our personalities keep us from being touched by God during this season of divine visitation.
2. If it’s because you are a ‘noble Berean’ (Acts 17:10-11), that’s to be commended.
a) Search for the truth diligently.
b) When you find it, press in.
3. If it’s because you are afraid:
a) Ask God why.
b) Don’t run. If this is God, then you would be turning your back on him.
B. After the crucifixion, the disciples had questions too. The Jesus who walked with two of them on the road to Emmaus and opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures is the same Jesus who walks in our midst by the person of the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:13-35). He will open our minds as well (Jackson 1994).
My conclusion to this section:
Today we need the fire of God. Some are afraid of wildfire but there are always enough ‘wet blankets’ around to dampen it.
On the Day of Pentecost, the crowd responded to the supernatural manifestations of the spirit in three ways: some were amazed, some perplexed, and others mocked. Each generation has been no different.
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. (1986:25) urges us to study past revivals because ‘once we know how the Lord has acted in the past, we should be better prepared to accept the special working of God when it arrives… Every one of our preconceptions and built-in limitations concerning what God can or cannot do or what he is likely or not likely to do in exact detail must be jettisoned.’
In other words, don’t put God in a box. Let God be God! He is the Great I Am, not the Great I Was! His thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55). We should expect to have difficulty understanding and agreeing with the way God does things at times!
We are wise to take the advice of Martyn Lloyd-Jones: ‘we must be careful in these matters… What do we know of the Spirit falling on people? What do we know about these great manifestations of the Holy Spirit? We need to be very careful lest we be found fighting against God, lest we be guilty of quenching the Spirit of God’ (White 1988:13).
6. How can we promote revival?
Taking a survey on the street, a reporter asked a hurried pedestrian, ‘Sir, do you know the two greatest problems in the world today?’ The man responded, ‘I don’t know and I don’t care.’ Without missing a beat, the reporter declared, ‘You got them both!’ (ignorance and apathy).
We can overcome ignorance and apathy concerning revival. How can we promote revival?
1. We need to care
We need to care that God works in our nation. Note that Nehemiah had a cushy job as a cupbearer to the king but left to rebuild the walls.
2. We need to get informed
We need to get the big picture!
Read the Bible. Read biographies of leaders of past revivals. Go where the fire is, such as conferences and places where God is moving powerfully, and get first-hand exposure and experience. It is irresponsible to criticise that which you know nothing about. Slander is sin.
3. Cultivate daily intimacy with the Lord
This is what John Wimber calls ‘developing a personal history with God’. Develop personal disciplines that cultivate a passion for Jesus such as prayer, fasting, Bible study, worship and obedience in the small things.
Jack Deere (1993:201) urges us to pray the following prayer on a daily basis: ‘Father, grant me power from the Holy Spirit to love the Son of God like You love him (John 17:26).
Don’t despise the day of small beginnings. Learn to hear God’s voice and catch his heart. Get spiritually prepared so that when God’s zero hour strikes, you’re fit for action.
4. Intercessory prayer
Note these Scriptures and quotes, and many like them:
2 Chronicles 7:14 – ‘If my people… will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.’
Isaiah 62:6-7 – ‘You who call on the Lord, give yourselves no rest, and give him no rest till…’
Isaiah 64:1 – ‘Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down.’
‘God does nothing but in answer to prayer’ (Wesley).
‘Prayer is not overcoming God’s reluctance; it is laying hold of his highest willingness’ (Luther).
‘Prayer is rebellion against the status quo’ (David Wells).
‘Prayer humbles us as needy and exalts God as worthy’ (John Piper).
‘Give me Scotland or I die’ (John Knox).
‘There has never been a spiritual awakening in any country or locality that did not begin in united prayer’ (A. T. Pierson in Bryant 1984:40).
‘When God has something very great to accomplish for his Church, it is his will that there should precede it, the extraordinary prayers of his people’ (Edwards, Works 1:426).
Some argue that revival is sovereign and you can’t do anything to make it happen, while others say you can pray and bring it about. I believe God initiates the prayer that precedes a revival; and in this hour he is stirring the church to be united, aggressive, and persistent in prayer for God to act and move again.
5. Be willing to pay the price
Are you willing to receive a divine ‘baptism of desperation’, a ‘holy dissatisfaction’ that puts your reputation, dignity and personal peace at risk?
We need to have the courage to be honest with God and say with Oswald Chambers, author of My Utmost for His Highest, ‘If what I have is all the Christianity there is, then the things is a fraud’ (Brown 1991:28).
We must force a crisis in our lives… when our very being aches with desire for his visitation, when we are consumed with hunger for his reality, when we radically cut back on other activities in order to seek his face, then we are ripe for transformation (Brown 1991:29).
We need to surrender our puny agendas, our need for security, safety and comfort zones. As Hebrews 11 tells us, we are not to shrink back and displease the Lord but to become risk-takers in this adventure of participating in the Kingdom of God.
Christians ought to be old friends with risk and when a church or an individual Christian builds a wall of safety, something very basic to the Christian faith has been violated… Christians ought to be the most gutsy people on the face of the earth (Brown 1983:113-114).
We must have more confidence in God’s ability to lead us than in Satan’s ability to deceive us (Deere 1993:215; see also Luke 11:11-13).
Arthur Wallis (1956:10) says, ‘If you would make the greatest success of your life, try to discover what God is doing in your time and fling yourself into the accomplishment of his purpose and will.’
We, like Peter in the boat during a storm, need to hear Jesus’ words, ‘Do not be afraid,’ and his invitation to ‘come’ and walk on water with him.
God’s gracious disposition is always toward revival and he only looks to see if there is a people, a generation who dares enough and cares enough to pay the price. ‘Now is the time to sanctify ourselves for tomorrow God will do wonders among us’ (Joshua 3:5).
Scripture quotations from the New International Version of the Bible (1973, 1978, 1984).
Bartleman, Frank (1980) Azusa Street. Logos.
Brown, Michael (1991) Whatever Happened to the Power of God? Destiny Image.
Brown, Stephen (1983) If God is in Charge. Nelson.
Bryant, David (1984) With Concerts of Prayer. Regal.
Cartwright, Peter (1956) Autobiography of Peter Cartwright. Abingdon.
DeArteaga, William (1992) Quenching the Spirit. Creation House.
Deere, Jack (1993) Surprised by the Power of the Spirit. Zondervan.
Dallimore, Arnold (1980) George Whitefield. Vol. 2. Crossway.
Edwards, Jonathan (1974, 1992 reprinted) Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vols 1 & 2.
Banner of Truth.
Edwards, Jonathan (1741, 1984) The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God.
Banner of Truth.
Jackson, Bill (1994) ‘What in the World is Happening to Us?’ Unpublished paper.
Johnson, Charles (1955) The Frontier Camp Meeting. Methodist University Press.
Joyner, Rick (1993) The World Aflame. Morningstar.
Kaiser Jr., Walter C. (1986) Quest for Renewal (Revival in the Old Testament). Moody.
Krupp, Nate (1984, 1988) The Triumphant Church. Destiny Image.
Lloyd-Jones, Martyn (1987) Revival. Crossway.
Lovelace, Richard (1979) Dynamics of Spiritual Life. InterVarsity.
MacNutt, Francis (1990) Overcome by the Spirit. Chosen.
Mallone, George (1985) Canadian Revival: It’s Our Turn. Welch.
Murillo, Mario (1985) Critical Mass. Anthony Douglas.
Packer, J. I. (1984) Keep in Step with the Spirit. Revell.
Pratney, Winkie (1994) Revival. Huntingdon House.
Relfe, Mary Stewart (1988) Cure of All Ills. League of Prayer.
Wallis, Arthur (1956) In the Day of Thy Power. Cityhill.
Wallis, Arthur (1979) Rain from Heaven. Hodder & Stoughton.
White, John (1988) When the Spirit Comes with Power. InterVarsity.
Wimber, John (1985) Power Evangelism. Hodder & Stoughton.
Wimber, John (1994) Equipping the Saints, Fall Quarter.
Australian Christians have often thought that revival was ‘just around the corner’ (Wilson 1983:26). However, since the mid-1960s the prevailing trends in Church attendance in Australia have shown a steady decline, apart from the growth of the Pentecostal Churches (Chant 1984:219-224). Without doubt Pentecostals have had many new conversions but it can be argued that the new growth is also transitional – dissatisfied people coming from mainline denominations. But, have there been any signs of genuine revival in recent times?
Ian Murray (1988:333) writes, ‘The Christian past of Australia has largely vanished out of sight. Not surprisingly, many have drawn the conclusion that the country has no Christian history of which it is worth speaking.’ However, this paper outlines an episode of Australian Christian history which is well worth retelling.
The story is simple. The happening is unique. It illustrates the way in which the Christian gospel can profoundly penetrate and radically re-orient Australian people.
Ministry at Wudinna
Wudinna. This was the Rev. Deane Meatheringham’s first appointment following his training at Wesley College. The town is somewhat isolated, being situated about 250 kilometres west of Port Augusta on the Eyre Peninsula in South Australia.
‘What a depressing picture the Wudinna Circuit must have presented to the young, enthusiastic probationer, Rev. Deane Meatheringham and his new bride, Rosslyn, as they arrived in 1967 to live and labour there’ (Curnow 1977:81).
The district was known to be one of the hardest Methodist circuits in the state, and hard for others also. At one time the residents in nearby Minnipa quite literally ran the Anglican minister out of town.
Deane Meatheringham began by preaching the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. He attempted to form small Bible study groups but this didn’t arouse any interest (Meatheringham 1981:3). At best, the Wudinna congregation consisted of about 40 to 50 members. About 8 families were regulars. By October 1967, the numbers attending Sunday services were actually down to about 9 or 10 people, and most of those were reluctant even to speak of spiritual matters. The status quo prevailed.
Even so, Meatheringham persisted with his preaching and teaching. ‘He pounded the gospel, the grace of God,’ remembers Marj Holman. In November 1967 he preached a sermon at Minnipa entitled ‘God has acted; we must react.’ He invited a formal response and much to his surprise three women who only haphazardly attended church came forward. For the regular worshippers, this occasioned a slightly embarrassing end to the service, but it also marked the beginning of an outbreak of groups in which many people expressed an unprecedented desire to learn and grow in their faith.
The three women were eager to become involved in confirmation classes, and they invited some of their friends to join the class at Mount Damper. About 15-20 people had attended the first teaching group in which the preparation for confirmation took place. Then, early in 1968, another confirmation class began with others who had been affected by Meatheringham’s preaching and teaching of the gospel. Studies were given on the meaning of baptism and also on justification by faith. A continual stream of people found their lives renewed as they happily put their trust in Jesus Christ.
The Leighton Ford Crusade came to Adelaide from 31 March to 7 April, 1968. Participation in and prayer for the Crusade was commended to all Methodists, ‘in the strongest possible terms’, by the President of the Methodist Conference, the Rev. Merv Trenorden. About 150 people attended the hall in Wudinna to listen to Leighton Ford via a land-line. An appeal was made and again people came forward. Soon after, when Merv Trenorden came to Wudinna to preach for the Confirmation Service, he was astonished by the activity which was taking place.
Twenty new converts were confirmed. People who had held nominal roll membership for years were experiencing Christian conversion – new birth. A group of teenagers had responded to the gospel. In October, 1967, the Wudinna Youth Group had joined with Glen Osmond Baptist youth for a Church camp at Crystal Brook. This had been a significant time for several of them. A vibrant Christian Endeavour group was formed and lead by Meatheringham. The Churches of Christ people were welcomed as associate members of the Methodist Church. People were starting to ask for Bible study groups and there was a growing hunger for Christian teaching and literature (Curnow 1977:81).
Wudinna has known many hard times and had experienced a severe drought in 1959, but interestingly enough locals recall how 1966, 1968 and 1969 were particularly good years. The country flourished, the economy was buoyant and it was a very busy time for farmers. At this time, the Jehovah’s Witnesses had been quite active within the area and it is not insignificant that people were very aware of ‘the law’ and of morality. However, the people here were largely unaware of and unaffected by the charismatic movement which was making some impact within the Australian churches. In this sense, the message of unconditional grace was being sown in well-prepared and virgin soil.
Mission at Wudinna
Meatheringham was authorised by his local 1968 September quarterly meeting, to make enquiries concerning a mission. As a result, the former overseas missionary, Anglican minister and Principal of the Adelaide Bible Institute (now the Bible College of South Australia) the Rev. Geoffrey Bingham, was contacted and he agreed to come. Meatheringham sought Bingham’s advice regarding preparation for the mission. It was recommended that prayer groups be formed. A total of 12 groups soon began meeting around the circuit.
The Wudinna folk also had a strong desire to be trained in some way. This happened through the Lay Institute For Evangelism (L.I.F.E). It was a wing of the Department of Evangelism in the Church of England Diocese of Sydney. Rev. Geoffrey Fletcher was the Director. The L.I.F.E. programme was designed to teach lay people ‘how to present Jesus Christ, how to avoid religious jargon, how to overcome anxiety in sharing, how to answer questions, how to avoid arguing’ and so on. Deane Meatheringham led the studies.
The enthusiastic desire to participate in these training courses was beyond anyone’s expectation. Sixty people came along to listen to the hour long tapes and to take part in the drill. A telegram was hurriedly sent off to Sydney: ‘Rush Twenty Extra LIFE Manuals to Wudinna S.A.’ While some folk did become Christians or were renewed through these programmes, they were primarily times of preparation for the mission.
The mission was planned for 24-31 August, 1969, and was a joint venture of the five congregations in the Wudinna Methodist Circuit. The few Churches of Christ families in the district were also closely associated with the Methodist Church. The Anglican parishes of Elliston and Streaky Bay joined in encouraged by the Rev. Dennis Crisp, the Anglican Minister from Elliston. It also had the support of the Lutheran Church. The Catholic Priest at Minnipa, Father Wesley Heading indicated his personal enthusiasm and prayerful support by sending Meatheringham a telegram prior to the mission. A combined Methodist-Anglican committee consisting of 8 members was elected to promote and make arrangements for the programme.
The mission was entitled FREE INDEED. The theme was taken from John 8:36, ‘If the Son therefore shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.’ It was well advertised using posters, personal and printed invitations, and through the use of articles written for local papers. As it was intended to be a ministry of the body of Christ it was agreed that no offerings be taken up at meetings.
Geoffrey Bingham came to Wudinna with a team of 11 students from the A.B.I. They played an active and significant part in the worship services and shared their own personal testimonies with the locals. Bingham was no newcomer to missions, nor to revival. He brought wisdom and experience with him. At one time he was the minister of a strong, dynamic congregation which sometimes attracted up to 1000 people at Holy Trinity Church, Millers Point in Sydney. Historian Stuart Piggin described him as probably the most successful young minister in Sydney during the 1950s (Lecture, 1992).
In 1957 Bingham had gone to Pakistan as a missionary (Loane 1988:90). Then in 1961 he founded the Pakistan Bible Institute and during a nine year teaching career from 1957-1966, witnessed two great waves of revival in this predominantly Muslim Country (Bingham 1992:95-120).
Bingham came to Wudinna not give revival messages, but to simply preach from the Bible. The messages were solid teaching about bondage to sin and Satan and the powers of darkness and the flesh and the world and so on; and the true freedom which Christ gives from such powers. Bingham is a powerful preacher. He has a commanding presence and a winning sense of humor.
The huge turnout for the first meeting at the Minnipa Anglican Church startled the organisers, impressed the visiting preacher and surprised the crowd of about 150 locals who came to hear him. ‘No one gets West Coast people to come out if they don’t want to,’ observed John Kammermann.
But this was a phenomenon which continued throughout the week of the mission. The atmosphere was expectant, people listened intently and many who attended were people no one even expected to be interested in Christian things. One well known local businessman who was an avowed atheist and communist attended more than one of the meetings!
On the first Sunday morning in Wudinna, the Church was so packed with 200-300 people that the ministers had to tip toe through the sanctuary in order to get past the overflowing masses of people. Many folk were crammed into the porch and some were even forced to listen from the windows outside.
At the service at Koongawa on Sunday afternoon, Ruth Toy, the organist, who usually put out about 6 chairs for the congregation, added enough extra to allow for the mission team! By the time the meeting began, the entire hall was filled with about 100 people. Ruth Toy was stunned. Not surprisingly, she was one of those who was deeply affected by the mission. She experienced such an amazing conversion, that her husband approached Rev. Bingham and asked him what he had been doing with his wife. When Bingham asked what he meant, the husband replied ‘Well she was a chain smoker and she stopped smoking and she was a pretty powerful swearer and she doesn’t swear a word and she was a very angry woman and I don’t see any anger.’
Things like that happened one after the other. All meetings were extremely well attended. Kyancutta Hall on the Monday night had 200-300 in attendance.
Wudinna local Marj Holman vividly remembers how she was completely renewed through the mission. Both young and old, those who had been pew sitters for many years, plus those who had been newly drawn into the church scene, repented, were brought to tears, brought to their knees, received forgiveness and were given new life and unimaginable joy in the Spirit. Some were amazed that even their headaches were healed immediately. Yet, there seemed to be no pattern at all to the way in which God was moving.
On the Monday night at Kyancutta as Bingham was preaching, he could hear strange noises going on during the meeting. He had been fighting to get his words out. He couldn’t see anyone’s mouth open and it struck him that it was a demonic phenomenon. He had previously witnessed meetings like that in Pakistan, and so he said, ‘Satan, in Christ’s name we rebuke you, and command you to leave this meeting.’ There was a loud bang. People sat there a little bit astonished at what had happened, but, the whole place was absolutely quiet.
People later remarked that up until that point they had felt their minds were very scrambled and they couldn’t hear what the preacher was saying. It had not made sense, people couldn’t hear rationally. But at once, everything changed and the preaching was full of power. Many people remained behind after this meeting and refused to go home until they had spoken with someone about becoming converted to Christ.
Impact of the Spirit
John Dunn, one of the students on the mission team, testified to being healed of a longstanding problem during the week of the mission. He also recalls some of the unusual events: A farmer who had not been coming to the meetings, although his wife did, was out on his tractor when great conviction came upon him and he got down in the dust and gave his life to the Lord. A woman believed she was healed of a kidney complaint in one of the meetings, and tests at the hospital the next day showed that there was no longer any problem with the kidney. Many were converted. There was also great opposition. Some shouted back or walked out as Geoff was preaching.
John Kammermann was another local Wudinna farmer who became a Christian at this time. He was a man who had previously listened thoughtfully to preachers, but had always known that he had insufficient resources within himself to sustain a commitment to Christ. However, this mission was different. He had a strong desire not to attend the meetings at all, yet somehow he was compelled to go.
‘I remember that by the time we got to the Sunday service,’ he recalled wryly, ‘there were only seats right down the front under the preachers nose. However in the wisdom of God that’s where you get a good look at the conviction of the messenger! I was convinced that he knew God. If he could know God like that then maybe I could as well.’
The reality of God’s presence and the singing in the meetings was quite extraordinary. It was something John and others had never expected. He recalls how the truth and words of one particular song kept coming back to him: ‘Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days, all the days of my life. And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for ever, and I shall feast at the table set for me.’
In many ways the situation and the events of those glorious days defies both explanation and description. God was at work graciously revealing himself, giving to each what they needed. It was remarkable, and somewhat unusual, to see the way in which children would happily go to sleep on the seats of motor vehicles or on the floor of the meeting halls. Bingham (1992:99) comments on this same phenomenon during revival in Pakistan.
Some folk surprised their own friends and relatives, as they deliberately broke normal patterns of behaviour and hurried off to be in time for the meetings. ‘I think our parents thought we were a bit strange,’ recalled Kay Kammermann.
The gift of the Spirit
On the Saturday night Bingham taught concerning the Holy Spirit. He made the point that the Father was pleased to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to those who asked. He said, ‘What the cross cleansed, the Spirit comes to fill.’ The assurance given was that God was true to his Word and that he delighted for the West Coast folk to receive his gift. Many did.
‘God was in the place forgiving the sin of our past godlessness, and giving the gift of His Spirit,’ John Kammerman remembered. ‘Even now that memory still evokes emotion.’
The promise of a rich future from God’s hand was something many could not contain. The atmosphere at the meetings could neither be explained or induced. People felt the presence of the Lord and had the expectation that all was well with them on account of that Presence.
At the end of the meetings crowds of people would just sit silently in wonderment for half an hour not moving. One woman was so settled in her seat a member of the mission team invited Bingham to meet her. She spoke in a voice of wonderment saying ‘I never knew he loved me like that!’
Deane Meatheringham reported, ‘We couldn’t get people to stand up and leave. This is the closest I have come to seeing things we read of in Acts or in John Wesley’s Journal.’
There was a woman who had heard the Christian message many times before. For years she had experienced the agony of various shoulder aches and pains. Some time after the mission, she stood up in Church and told how as she was sitting down milking the cow one morning it dawned on her what the Word of God had been saying to her for years. And that was that she was free! All her aches and pains went and she was liberated.
Other occurrences were similar to those decribed in the New Testament such as Acts 2:13 where newly Spirit-filled believers were described as drunk. One man, Trevor Gerschwitz, was so excited and effervescent when he called in to speak with his Lutheran Pastor, Ron Wilsch, on the way home from one of the meetings, that the Pastor later commented that if he hadn’t known him better, he’d have sworn he was drunk.
One burly farmer approached Bingham one night and said, ‘My wife and I made decisions when we were teenagers, but I’ve never seen her like that. I want what she’s got. You’ve got to give it to me.’
Bingham explained that what she had was freedom and that he could not give it to him; only Christ could do that. So one night the man stood in a prominent place at the back of the great mob at Minnipa while Bingham preached. All of a sudden he put his hand up and waved at Bingham as much as to say, ‘It’s happened you know; I’ve got it, this freedom’.
One night after the meeting, a local man, Ron Holman, ‘fairly stoic by nature,’ went and sat down beside Bingham. When asked what he thought of the meeting, Holman replied that he thought it was all right.
Bingham recognised that here was a man who generally didn’t seek conversation, so he said to him ‘Have you ever received the gift of forgiveness?’
Holman replied, ‘No I haven’t.’
Bingham then asked him if he wanted to. The reply was blunt: ‘Why do you think I’m sitting next to you?’
Within a few minutes he was absolutely liberated. Holman has since had quite a history of helping on mission teams, and regularly having witness and ministry.
The mission included a civic luncheon and visits to schools. Each day the mission team would meet for prayer. Throughout the week there were also numerous small informal gatherings for meals and discussions all across the 80 mile circuit, as well as a Saturday afternoon picnic, where people took the opportunity to talk more intimately with one another. Numerous folk sought out Bingham to ask him further questions concerning his messages.
Many beheld a previously unseen phenomenon – West Coast men actually had their Bibles out while they were cooking the BBQ – and were more interested in the message of the Bible than the food on the fire. But what was so strikingly unusual about all this, was that it seemed so natural.
Bingham notes that revival should be natural.
We need to understand God’s purpose for history. We need to see why, and how, revival is essential as a phenomenon in the course of history. We need to understand its goal. When we do, then the whole subject of revival is removed from the theoretical area, from mere human theologising, or human attempts at manipulating God into action. It comes into the realm of necessary action. We discover, in fact, that the word ‘revival’ in one sense covers the whole of the action of God in history. The principle of giving life, sustaining it and renewing it – that is, revival – is the work which God is about continually’ (1983:ix).
This was not religion but life. People were free indeed. Consistent with Bingham’s style, the mission had been free of gimmicks and tricks aimed at manipulating people. From one point of view, there was no need for it, it was an evangelist’s delight. ‘People were getting converted hand over fist,’ and this left a deep impression upon everyone.
The climate was such that in fact ‘someone could have got up to skull duggery,’ John Kammermann noted. The West Coast community had seen their fair share of entertainers, hypnotists and spiritualists. Bingham was aware of the pitfalls of such an atmosphere and was well acquainted with his own powers as a speaker. On the Wednesday night at the Wudinna Hall, in his concern that people not be manipulated, he gave a demonstration of the effects which could be induced by a speaker. He deliberately vocalised a hissing noise. The whole gathering reacted and a loud clunk was heard as everyone’s feet hit the floor together. People have commented how thankful they were that the potential of the situation had been publicly exposed and recognised. A clean, clear atmosphere prevailed.
The last planned meeting on the Sunday afternoon was quite amazing. There were well over 400 at the meeting. People came from as far away as Ceduna and Cummins. Many have said it was like the first Pentecost but without tongues.
Of the final night Bingham said, ‘Like a great rain of beauty and silence and joy, it just descended on the whole congregation. It was quite remarkable. I’d have called it a very gentle but a very powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit. And I can remember the joy in the worship and praise that night.’
During the mission there had been no appeals for people to come forward. There had been no pressure applied. But there had been an astonishing response. Children and people right up to those in their seventies, and many from each age group, had been deeply moved.
At the close of the final meeting, people wanting to talk with someone about faith were invited to move about halfway down the hall and enter into the supper room, where the team and other local folk were waiting to help. Over 50 people were counselled by those who had been prepared for the task.
In the weeks, months and years that followed the mission, God continued to reveal his love to his people at Wudinna. The mission had been no seven day wonder, but folk continued to be converted to Christ (Curnow 1977:82-83).
During the week immediately after the mission, John Kammermann arrived home from work keen to share with his wife Kay the details of a marvellous encounter with God, which he had experienced while shearing a sheep. In it he had understood anew the dynamic truth of God’s love. ‘It was not that God is love AND sent his Son; but rather IN the sending of his Son, God is love.’
How might that be communicated to a farmer in a shearing shed? As he recounted the somewhat unusual, yet seemingly natural happening, Kay quickly replied, ‘Guess what? The very same thing happened to me today while I was hanging out the washing.’
Many enriching conversations took place. Neighbours would sit down together somewhere out on the boundary fence of their large properties and go through the great events of salvation together, or read and ponder the words of Scripture while working on a tractor.
There had been something like 31 home groups in the week leading up to the mission. Some of these now combined and turned into Bible studies. The Ladies Guild virtually became a Bible Study Group (Curnow 1977:82).
Meatheringham was untiring in his efforts to nurture his people. This included writing a counseling booklet entitled ‘Christianity is Christ.’ As a Pastor he moved well among the community and encouraged people to continue in their faith. There were 61 confirmees during his 5 year term at Wudinna (Curnow 1977:83). Pastoral letters were written to teach, exhort and encourage people. The instruction given was clear and simple. People were enjoined to accept their salvation joyfully, live by faith in Christ, read the Bible diligently, pray earnestly and worship regularly.
Following the mission the Wudinna folk regularly sent teams of young preachers out to places like Haslam and Streaky Bay to help out. Families and groups would often get into cars with all their kids, and they would sing from chorus books all the way to and from their destination. Many people opened their lives and homes to one another. Spontaneous sharing of meals took place and people loved to gather together in homes after Church. There was a general air of excitement in the Church and people eagerly heard the Word from Deane and guest preachers.
One of the leaders, when praying during the mission ‘saw’ a large heap of leaves and a strong gust of wind scattering them all over what seemed a map of Australia. This was interpreted as indicating that lots of people touched by God would be moved on into many parts of this land; and it happened that way. Many people moved in later years to Western Australia, Victoria, Queensland and other parts of South Australia.
A consolidating mission entitled WE REIGN IN LIFE was organised in 1972 with the circuit now being pastored by the Rev. Ian Clarkson. Bingham and another team of students returned to lead the mission and the important question put to the Wudinna folk was taken from Galatians 3:3 ‘Having begun in the Spirit’ where are you now?
There had in fact been some difficulties within the church community since the time of the first mission. Some had sought to place greater emphasis upon the role and work of the Holy Spirit, and this caused divisions. One group broke away and later became the Christian Revival Crusade (C.R.C). To this day, hurts are slowly being healed.
After the first mission, it was natural enough that reports of revival soon began to circulate. Fellow pastors were eager to discover what techniques were used. When faced with this question at the Annual Methodist Conference, Deane Meatheringham made the now famous reply: ‘We organised a mission and God got out of hand.’
In a report on the happening, Meatheringham concluded: ‘Some people might say that we have had a revival. But in such arid days as ours I think this is exaggeration. We have seen the sparks of revival, and possibly the beginnings of even greater things.’
Apart from the movement in Pakistan, Bingham describes this event as the second closest thing to revival he has seen. The closest being what began at the Garrison Church in Sydney and spread from there to other churches during the mid 1950s.
This was the episode of Christian life which took place at Wudinna in 1969. In manifold ways the story continues to unfold in the 1990s.
Bingham, G. C. (1983) Dry Bones Dancing. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1985) The Day of the Spirit. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1985) Christ the Conquering King. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1992) Twice Conquering Love. Adelaide: New Creation
Chant, B. (1984) Heart of Fire. Adelaide: The House of Tabor.
Curnow, E. A., ed. (1977) Faith on the Western Front. Aldis.
Loane, M. L. (1988) ‘Geoffrey Cyril Bingham’ in These Happy Warriors. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
Meatheringham, D. (1981) Gospel Incandescent. Adelaide: New Creation Publications.
— (1969) Pastoral Letter: ‘The Assurance of God’s Word.’
— (1969) Pastoral Letter: How to Succeed as a Christian.’
— (1969) Report of Mission Held at Wudinna, August 21-31.
Murray, Ian. H. (1988) Australian Christian Life from 1788. The Banner of Truth Trust.
Piggin, Stuart (1992) Lecture: ‘Piety and Politics in Australia in the 1950s,’ given to ‘Australian Religious History’ class at Flinders University (S.A.), on 21 May.
Wilson, B. (1983) Can God Survive in Australia? Albatross Books.
Mrs Sue Armstrong and her evangelist husband the Rev. Dan Armstrong founded Kairos Ministries in Australiaand organized the Vineyard Conferences here with John Wimber and his teams. Sue reports on revival moves they have seen, including the Wimber Conferences in Brisbane and Perthin 1994. This article is expanded from the June and September 1994 Kairos newsletters, ‘News Across Australia’.
Once you have been in a place that is experiencing revival you will never forget the sounds! I have heard these sounds in other countries and up in the North amongst our aboriginal people and I have longed for the time when I would hear them here in our churches.
I will never forget a night in Papua New Guinea at Manngai High School, New Ireland, when the Holy Spirit fell on the young students gathered. They cried and wailed. They fell They shook. Repentance was there. Salvation came to many and deliverance from demonic powers came to some. I remember driving back to our village late that night singing, ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord,’ and truly knowing what that glory was!
I remember a night at Lelean High School in Fiji when the Holy Spirit fell on around 600 school children. It was pitch dark as there was a blackout with no power. Yet, we sure had Holy Spirit power! Bodies were lying everywhere, some pleading the mercy of God as their sin was revealed, some praising, some sobbing, some resting under the power of God. Suddenly people appeared from nearby houses. They saw flames coming from the buildings and they came to put out the fire, but there was no fire!
On another occasion in Fiji the Spirit fell during worship. We were singing to the Lord and suddenly weeping broke out. The Indian Fijian young folk and the Fijian kids began to run to each other and embrace. Racial hatred was dealt a severe blow as these kids repented and loved one another. We had no way of knowing that there would be a coup in a matter of weeks and that this touch from God was a moment of great importance.
In Indonesia we saw people flocking to the front of the large galvanised iron building. Some fell as they came and remained motionless. Some shouted as they had a common vision of Jesus. A group of Muslim school girls had a common vision of hell. People received healing and many were set free from demonic forces. The noise was ear splitting and the place was like a battle field – not at all the way I imagined revival would be. As people lay motionless on the floor some panic stricken people tried to administer smelling salts, but the ‘sleeping people’ remained on the floor with beatific smiles on their faces.
On a visit to Africa to the Transki, Dan was in a big gathering of blacks. He was listening to a massed choir singing in that amazing close harmony that only Africans can achieve when the Holy Spirit fell on the meeting. The whole choir fell to the floor. The pastors jumped to their feet exclaiming, ‘The Holy Spirit is here!’
Dan describes the next event as ‘like watching wind in a wheat field’. The Spirit moved among the people in waves and they swayed and fell as the Holy Spirit touched them. Many experienced miraculous healing and some who had come as spectators were saved.
The revival was different again in Arnhemland, Australia. It was much more gentle in its beginnings. The meetings were held at night in the open air, and people came out of the darkness to kneel on the ground and acknowledge Jesus as Lord. After that they jumped to their feet and joined with those praying for others. This was spontaneous. Immediately they began to experience the gifts of the Holy Spirit operating in their new lives.
There were special manifestations. One night we went with them at their request to cleanse the ceremonial grounds. Satan manifested in some of the people with bizarre happenings. One man bit a young woman. Another man tried to crucify himself on the cross the people had erected. Dogs went wild, barking, biting, fighting and howling all over the island. Then came the presence of the Lord over the place and a great release of joy and celebration.
I have read accounts of revival by J. Edwin Orr, John Wesley, John Whitefield, and Jonathan Edwards. They describe the falling, shaking, wailing, laughing and even rolling and drunken behaviour. But that was then. It’s surely not for our sophisticated society!
Over the past year reports have filtered through of churches experiencing some of the above phenomena, just here and there in regular services or home groups. Just the whisper that revival is on the way.
In Brisbane and Perth at the Wimber Conferences last April, right from the first meeting it became clear that God had his own agenda. During the initial worship time the Holy Spirit began to rest on individuals across the auditorium and ripples of laughter could be heard. Before John Wimber gave the opening message he called out young folk who had obvious signs of the Spirit resting on them – shaking, trembling, laughing and one just quiet and transfixed. He spoke of the way the Spirit moves on people’s lives and that we must trust the Holy Spirit and not try to stop or control what God is doing.
Each meeting the Holy Spirit came and people were touched in all kinds of ways. Here are a few testimonies.
* Although just a young married man I had to resign from my job because of chronic fatigue syndrome. The first night at the conference I was released with amazing laughter and the fatigue completely left during the conference. Energy has returned.
* I stood up and was really praising God, in my tongues language, and beseeching him to heal my back (where a tumour had been removed) which seemed to have got worse in terms of niggling pain of late. One of the members from my church put her hand right where the operation had been. After a few moments there seemed to be a real heat, like a hot water bottle, beneath her hand. John Wimber said, to the effect, ‘God is touching a man right now and putting his spine back together!’ The heat stayed around my waist area for some time and then, like honey running out of a container quite slowly, the feeling of heat extended down my leg following the sciatic nerve – I know my sciatic nerve! This feeling of heat ran right down to my foot where it stayed for several minutes. I could literally feel the power of God around me. I met with God that night. (He has been free of pain and can move his leg at the hip and knee.)
* I have had severe scoliosis for 35 years. I sought healing on Wednesday night and when I arrived home my wife (a registered nurse) agreed that the hollow on the left side of my lower back had changed and become more like the right side. It would appear that a rotated vertebrae may have been realigned.
* I received prayer for hearing loss Wednesday night and today I have not had to wear a hearing aid and my hearing is much improved.
* I had been walking with two walking sticks for four years. I had a fall after my hip replacement surgery causing the bone not to knit. This caused pain when I walked. On Tuesday night John Wimber had a word for someone who had had hip problems for 63 years causing pain in the right leg. Members of the team prayed for me and I am now walking without my sticks and the pain gets less every day.
* I have had arthritis in both knees for three years. Two of the girls in the team prayed for me and the pain and discomfort has completely gone. I can now move quite freely without discomfort.
* I have received the most special healing of major pain from a broken heart. Two young kids from the American team prayed for me. This has opened my eyes and given me a new vision for youth ministry.
* No one can know what it is like for someone who has believed for 39 years that she cannot be loved or should even exist, to suddenly discover that she is loved by the living God.
God touched people powerfully, in many different ways.
But the sound was there! I heard the Spirit come. John Wimber spoke from Judges 13:3, speaking to the nation of Australia: ‘You are sterile and childless but you are going to conceive and have a son.’ Revival is being brought to birth in this nation. Listen for the sound. Revival has begun!
North America and England
We have received reports of similar moves of God this year.
Charisma magazine, June 1994, told of people from all denominations flocking to a small church in Toronto, the Airport Vineyard, where revival has been stirring this year. People tell of the manifest presence of God. Many rest in the Spirit. Many exhibit laughing and drunken behaviour. Many report healings and release from emotional problems. The meetings have been dubbed ‘the laughing revival’ in which ordinary people, not high profile leaders, have suddenly begun ministering powerfully in the Lord.
Terry Virgo reports in New Frontiers magazine, July 1994, on moves of God this year following his return from ministry in South Africa:
On my return to Columbia, Missouri, I found our church meetings were totally transformed and that a new release of the Holy Spirit had overtaken us. We have seen extraordinary sights in terms of people being filled with the spirit of joy and ‘drunkenness’. We have seen lives totally transformed. People have a new hunger for God and a new zeal to see him glorified. I have seen lives changed so rapidly and the atmosphere of a church changed so swiftly.
He also describes moves of God this year in England:
I returned to England and found that wherever I went to report news of this outbreak, God accompanied us with more signs of his mercy and overwhelming love for his church.
First of all I met with a number of leading brothers in New Frontiers and we had two days of amazing experiences of God’s presence and a release of prophesying such as I have never known. After that came an unforgettable evening in my home church in Brighton which continued till 11.30 p.m. Many were overwhelmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Following this, over two hundred full-time elders from New Frontiers gathered for fasting at Stoneleigh where once again the Spirit of God was poured out in phenomenal measure. I have never seen such spiritual drunkenness and joy in my life. And once again the release of prophecy was breathtaking.
God moves powerfully in revival. People repent. Many are healed and delivered. God pours out his Spirit. Christians minister as Jesus did, and as he taught his disciples to do.
The sounds of revival are stirring again. You’ll hear cries of repentance, great joy and liberty, and awe and excitement at the amazing grace of God.
Editor’s P.S.: Darryl Krause (YWAM, Norway) wrote this in September 1994:
An Outpouring of God’s Spirit
Concerning the ‘Tronoto Revival’, we are beginning to experience something of it here also.
On 20th January this year the Holy Spirit was poured out in a special way at a meeting of the Airport Vineyard Church in Toronto, Canada. Meetings have continued there almost every night since then. Meanwhile similar outpourings began occurring elsewhere, often as a result of someone being ‘infected’ in Toronto and then returning to their home place.
It is reported that over 500 congregations in North America, and in England over 600 congregations (mostly Anglican), have been touched so far by this move of God. Several Norwegian Churches have now also been touched. Just over a week ago our local congregation was ‘hit’.
This outpouring has been mostly in the form of refreshing and renewal for God’s people, but there are also many who have come to salvation. The meetings have been characterised not by charismatic leader figures or gifted worship leaders, but by the Holy Spirit working deeply in people’s lives as ‘ordinary’ believers pray for and minister to one another.
Many thousands of believers have been led into an incredible new degree of freedom and security in their relationship with God. Some sob deeply or even cry out loud as the Holy Spirit ministers to deep areas of pain in their lives. Others dance around like children or laugh wildly – literallly drunk in the Spirit – as they rejoice in God’s goodness. Many are interpreting this as part of the outpouring of God’s Spirit before the period of great harvesting.
Dr David Lithgow and his wife Daphne were Bible translators and medical missionaries with Wycliffe Bible Translators for over 30 years, mainly in the Milne Bay Islands of Papua New Guinea. These edited selections from newsletters tell a little of their work for the Lord.
* Seven sick people were prayed for in Jesus’ name, and all were healed. Other people kept their sick relatives hidden inside their houses, preferring to trust their own magic and spirit cures. No one among these people was healed. This has been a demonstration of the power of Jesus.
* A woman who had been crippled for years got up and walked immediately, and was doing normal garden work in a week. The people here were convinced that Jesus is the Strong One, and this report spread through the whole area.
* The Lord has worked some surprising miracles, like multiplying the one remaining antibiotic capsule for treating an infection to become twelve – enough to complete the cure.
* After the studies and worship services many of the people came for prayer for the Lord’s cleansing from sin, and to receive the Holy Spirit. At Wabunun they came in a continuous stream, many weeping, for one and a half hours.
* The Lord moved powerfully through healing miracles and casting out evil spirits, demonstrating that his power is greater than that of local spirits and magic.
The Word and Work of the Lord
David and Daphne summarise their life together including work in the Muyuw, Dobu and Bunama languages of the Milne Bay Islands:
We had been leaders in the Evangelical Union of the University of Queensland since 1950, Daphne studying Science and David doing Medicine. In 1954 Daphne left for Ubuya Leprosy Treatment Centre near Milne Bay in Papua New Guinea. There she learnt the Dobu language and trained Papuan staff in laboratory work. When Daphne returned, David had graduated and was a Resident Doctor at Townsville General Hospital. We married in August 1957.
In February 1958 we left for Fiji where David was a doctor for the Methodist Mission Hospital serving Indian people. This entailed learning the Hindustani language. Our first two children, a daughter and son, were born there.
David, as the only doctor continuously on call, worked hard meeting physical needs of the people, but had little time to get to understand their spiritual needs. He felt helpless when faced with demon possessed Hindu patients, and could only prescribe sedation.
The work of Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics (W.B.T. and S.I.L.) was just beginning in Australia. Here we felt was a way of meeting people’s deepest needs – living with them as they live, learning their language and customs, and bringing God’s Word to them right where they are.
In 1960 we returned to Australia, and David found work at the Greenslopes Repatriation Hospital. In the next two years we welcomed two more sons. We became members of Wycliffe Bible Translators and in May 1963 we flew to Ukarumpa, the Summer Institute of Linguistics Headquarters in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea.
In the first few years while getting started in language work David was also the group doctor. In 1963 an allocation site was found at Wabunun village on a long sandy beach on the south-east coast of Woodlark Island off Milne Bay. Wabunun was home for the children from 1964 to 1972 in their house built of bush materils – split black palm floor, platted bamboo walls, and sago leaf roof. Daphne taught them correspondence lessons until they were 7 or 8 years old, after which they were in Children’s Homes for schooling at the Ukarumpa base.
From 1970 onwards the children all stayed at Ukarumpa for schooling, and we were able to travel around the language area, 150 miles by 70 miles, mostly on the big Muyuw outrigger sailing canoes.
The churches throughout this area had selected young men who came to Wabunun where we trained them as teachers of Muyuw, and sent them back with reading primers and duplicated portions of translated Scriptures. They all achieved some degree of success. Two of these teachers who were barely literate themselves had taught all the young adults to read as well as some of the older folk. They had established the church which worshipped together every Sunday morning – or when they thought it was Sunday, because they had no calendar.
In 1972 the Muyuw New Testament translation was virtually complete, so we moved to Dobu Island to help in the Bible Society project to retranslate the Dobu New Testament into modern Dobu. There the house had a sawn timber floor, bush materil walls and an iron roof.
From 1978 to 1982 we were settling our teen-age children into life in Australia while we worked as the Wycliffe Bible Translators representatives in Queensland. Every year David returned to Dobu to keep the literacy and translation program moving.
In 1978 our doctor advised against David returning to Papua New Guinea because of incipient cancer. It seemed David could expect about another two years of normal health. Our plans were examined closely but there seemed no need to change any of them. We also sought healing through prayer in Jesus’ name. Since then David has had better health then he had before. After such a sentence of death, every day is valued as a special gift from the Lord, and it gives an added sense of urgency to the task.
From 1982 we were at Dobu or Diwala Translation Centre, helping with the translations and doing literacy work. In 1985 the Muyuw New Testament was revised and reprinted. We travelled in S.I.L.’s new 24 foot boat with the minister, Rev. David Kuwab, who had been the main translation helper. We visited every island and village selling Scriptures and hymn books, and re-establishing literacy work where it was needed. Near the beginning of this trip the Lord moved powerfully through healing miracles and casting out evil spirits.
The new Dobu New Testament was dedicated in 1986. It is now used widely alongside the old Dobu Bible. Over 10,000 copies have been sold. As the Lord worked in Muyuw, he has also worked strongly in the Dobu speaking area, leading individuals and groups to renounce traditional magic and to trust in Jesus’ name for salvation and healing.
In 1991 the Bunama New Testament was printed and dedicated. It was distributed by three groups of three Bunama speakers who gave Bible studies from the new Scripture in twenty different villages. In almost every village there were people who sought the Lord’s salvation – older folk, young men, girls, school children. We were amazed at the many different ways in which the Holy Spirit spoke to people’s needs.
Preach the Good News, Heal the Sick, Cast out Demons
David describes a few events on mission patrols:
Muyuw Patrol, 1985
The 600 Muyuw New Testaments, first printed and sold in 1977, are worn from heavy use, tattered and discoloured. Some have lost their cover. People were eager to buy new ones for themselves and their children. Those who had no money traded canoe paddles, shells, ebony carvings, turtle-shell ear-rings, or baskets of food.
The main Muyuw translator Rev. David Kuwab, who is now Superintendent Minister, with his wife Dasel came with us on the seven week’s patrol by boat to all the inhabited islands and villages where this language is spoken. On one island Rev. Kuwab baptised ninety people and married five young Christian couples.
At another island an old man asked if he could take his wife with us on the boat to the next island where they wanted to get strong Papuan magic. Hospital staff had told his wife that the basis of this sickness was witchcraft, so they could do nothing and said she should go home and get Papuan treatment. All Papuan treatments had failed and they wanted to try stronger traditional magic. Rev. Kuwab and I went to her house and prayed for her. We asked if she believed Jesus could heal her, and she said ‘Yes’. So we helped her to her feet and started her walking. Soon she walked unaided doing heavy work in the food garden.
At the Government Administration Centre the wife of the Provincial Member for Health had been bed-ridden for three years. They believed this was from witchcraft. He had employed all the local methods to appease the witches and cure the sickness but she only got worse. He asked us to pray for his wife and we did so. When Kuwab asked if she believed Jesus could heal her he got a lethargic response. Daphne visited this woman to pray with her daily. She was improving, so the Provincial member asked Kuwab and me to pray for her again. After prayer this time, she got up and walked. We noted that she was quite anaemic and gave her iron tablets and advice on diet and encouraged continuing prayer and trust in Jesus. Rev. Kuwab warned them strongly against reverting to Papuan magic.
On our last day at Woodlark a man brought his mentally disturbed wife. Rev. Kuwab had told them to stop doing anti-witchcraft magic and to pray in Jesus’ name. The previous night they had done that and she told us she was now all right. They agreed to another prayer but as soon as Jesus’ name was uttered she screamed and stiffened and talked of bad things put in her abdomen by a witch. I rebuked the evil spirit in Jesus’ name and we prayed strongly. When Kuwab asked if she believed in Jesus she gave a definite ‘No’. I felt led to pray in the Spirit. Kuwab asked her again and she now said that she believed Jesus could save her. She seemed normal, though lethargic, when we left. She did recover.
One day was free to visit another village so the deacon took me there by canoe. We were not able to tell the people that I was coming, so the deacon and I prayed for the Lord to prepare the people. Normally they would have been scattered in the bush, in their food gardens, or at creeks and beaches getting fish and shell-fish; but we found almost all the people sitting in the church. One Tuesday each month they have a devotional meeting. This was that meeting.
They had just finished their devotions so they invited me to speak about the New Testament, hymn book and other Muyuw books. They bought them eagerly. Then the youth leader showed me their study paper on the Holy Spirit from a youth convention and asked me if I could help them understand it. So after a lunch break we went into the church again. I read and explained the Muyuw Scriptures about the Holy Spirit and they responded very positively. Many asked for prayer for the filling and empowering of the Holy Spirit.
There was much sickness in another village, especially children. They have no medical help. I had few medicines suitable for children. We gave them what medicines we had and prayed for all the sick. As in all places, they bought New testaments eagerly. Many people came under conviction of sin, coming forward for prayer for Jesus to cleanse and forgive them.
At the Sunday service at Wabunun, where we as a family had lived and worked for eight years, after Scripture had been expounded Rev. Kuwab invited people to come for prayer for sickness, or cleansing from sin, or for the Holy Spirit. People came forward in a solid stream, some weeping. Kuwab’s own son, now a grown man and getting into bad ways, came forward with bowed head and his father prayed for him. Kuwab had never before prayed for people under such conviction of sin and desiring salvation.
After a Bible study for preachers and leaders the next day more people came forward for prayers. It took half an hour to pray for them all. On the third and final day, after a straight Bible study no appeal was made but during the final hymn people began to come forward for prayer, mostly sick folk who had been brought from more distant places.
West Woodlark Patrol, 1989
We visited the islands of west of Woodlark in October. After two days of rough weather we limped in with a broken rudder attachment. The Lord provided an ex-plumber on the island who had some tools in his village house and was able to fix it.
We really admire the teachers of the English Curriculum Government Schools. Through their work many children become literate in English and Muyuw, but as not all children go to school there are many illiterate teenagers and adults who now want to learn to read. To try to meet this need we trained 26 new village literacy teachers.
Four places with a total of over 1200 people were still without any medical service despite government efforts to get Aid Post Orderlies to work there. We heard that people of one island were saying, ‘You don’t recover if you pray but you will recover if you use magic.’ When we arrived at that island 80 people were sick with malaria, some desperately ill. All recovered with prayer and chloroquine treatment. The people of one island complain more about having no minister than they do about having no medical help. For most, the value of Christian leadership is rated very high.
As well as Muyuw New Testaments and hymn books we took Kiriwina and Dobu New Testaments for sale. We found that the Holy Spirit’s blessings are not restricted to one way of ministry or to one language. People from a number of languages live at the commercial centre for Woodlark Island. The new United Church minister does not know Muyuw but has a powerful and effective ministry through the Dobu language.
The dialect on one island was a mixture of two main languages. There we found the strongest church on all of these islands. However, a matter of concern is a prophetess who is visited by a spirit from time to time and gives confusing teaching, but she has a large following.
After we returned from the Woodlark area Daphne stayed in our house at Dobu catching up with household matters and weeding our yam garden while I did a survey of another area with Peter from Holland. He and his doctor wife are looking for a language in which to begin translation work. Family in-fighting which is worsening, destruction of villages, and criminal activities among some of those people are causing widespread concern. The police recently made a large number of arrests. There are, however, faithful Christians there in the United, Catholic, and Seventh Day Adventist Churches.
On the patrol we had hard hiking in rain and flooded rivers, then sea travel to return. I had been having intermittent malaria and some other problems, but improved during the patrol and returned feeling strong and fit.
Bunama Patrol, 1991
The Bunama New Testament is now with the people, and the Lord blessed the distribution patrol. Of the 600 printed only 40 were left unsold.
I went with the nine Bunama speakers in the distribution team. We spent two days in preparation, praying and studying 1 Timothy, the book we were to use for village Bible studies. Then we set off in groups of three, each group to a different village.
The emphasis was on teaching, and at some stage in most places at the end of a session the team leader or the local pastor would invite people wanting help from the Lord to remain behind. The manifold working of the Holy Spirit was amazing to all of us. Together with the local pastors we prayed in pairs for the people who requested help. Several times the boat captain was teamed with me. Two years before he was illiterate but Daphne taught him from a Dobu primer. Now he reads the Dobu Bible and his prayers were spiritually sensitive and powerful.
Even among the most distant of the dialect groups they understood the Bunama Scripture and teaching quite well and many of them responded to the Lord. They all had individual and different needs, and the Holy Spirit worked in their hearts.
In another place a team leader was hesitant about making an invitation and did so rather tentatively. Later he felt rebuked for his reluctance because many responded. He discovered the agony of soul of one woman who needed the Lord’s help, as well as seeing two boys of 10-12 years who had waited back in the distance but were strongly convicted of their need for forgiveness.
There were failures too. — After church one Sunday a number of people went back inside the church and sat quietly. Too late, the members of that team realised they were probably wanting help. — Often after uplifting experiences, team members and local people would sing all night. This was good for the local people but I felt it left team members unable to give of their best the next day. — Some pastors felt that hospitality required them to give betel nut and tobacco to team members, and most felt that good manners required them to use it. Three of the team members were smokers and most used betel nut to some degree. I feel that this drug can dull a person’s spiritual sensitivity. — When under pressure near the end of the trip I hurt someone by an outburst of anger, and my apology may not heal all of that hurt.
Half of the team members and some of the village pastors are people the Lord had touched in Dobu Bible studies as we have visited these areas in previous years. It is wonderful to see the Lord’s work being multiplied.
All team members spoke clearly against the use of traditional magic and spirit practices. This is a break-through and a key to the Lord’s blessing on their ministry. Ten years ago it was considered wrong to mention these things in church.
In the second week the engine of our boat was getting harder to start, taking up to an hour with the crank handle. So before trying one day we prayed and it started first crank. Next morning a team member prayed for the engine. It started by battery power just with the starter button. It has kept starting that way ever since.
The language used at another village was not Bunama and I was undecided about calling there, but called in anyway. There were lots of people about, and they wanted a Bunama Bible study. A team member led it and made an invitation at the end. I could see six young men hanging back in the shadows and listening from a distance. They responded, each with a strong desire to leave his old ways and be a true Christian. The pastor was away, but his wife was delighted. She told us that those young men had been a heavy burden on their hearts.
Our trip finished on the island where it began. They wanted a Bible study from Bunama New Testament and afterwards several of them bought it. The response for prayer was mainly from men aged 25-30. Some were so moved by God’s Spirit that they could hardly speak.
Woodlark and Marshall Bennett Patrol, 1994
This trip took three months. Revival is now spreading through these islands.
We arrived soon after a mission led by a United Church minister. During the mission at the main population centres hundreds sought salvation through Christ and were baptised in the sea, surrendering their equipment for magic and sorcery. One witch admitted having killed over twenty people, and she collapsed physically as the power of the Lord came on her.
Two local ministers travelled with us on the S.I.L. boat, continuing this ministry to the more remote places. Rev. Bili Wilson went with us to the Lachlan Islands and the eastern end of Woodlark. Rev. David Kuwab, co-translator of the Muyuw New Testament, was with us in visiting the rest of Woodlark and the Marshall Bennett Islands.
The people gave Rev. Bili Wilson and us their full attention for five days so we gave them the Good News and sold lots of Scriptures. They responded in an amazing way. On Friday I gave the main study in the church and invited people during the last hymn to come into the fenced section near the pulpit for prayer. That area was soon full and most of the rest of the congregation were crowding forward. Rev. Bili and the Pastor worked as one team; Daphne and I as a second team.
On Sunday people were invited to give up their equipment for doing magic, so after church the older men brought wood, gum, ginger, stones, and bones and eagerly released it to be burnt. Rev. Bili, using a metaphor, said, ‘If you have any death in your house bring it here and burn it.’ On Sunday afternoon Rev. Bili baptised 18 young adults in the sea.
There was widespread response to the Lord. Hundreds more were baptised in most places, and lots of equipment for magic and sorcery was burnt. Hundreds also sought prayer for special needs. One woman came to Rev. Bili Wilson and said, ‘This is my heaviness – I am a witch.’ Then she collapsed, and two other women held her on her feet while we asked the Lord to take away this evil spirit and give her the Holy Spirit.
We went to another island where the enthusiasm was the greatest yet. Older folk there, as well as the young folk, are very keen for the Lord. There was another baptism of many people in that area. Two leaders prayed for each candidate before their baptism. Afterwards the newly baptised Christians stood in a line and all who wished to do so shook each by the hand and gave words of encouragement or prophecy as the Spirit led. The biggest prayer need of the young people was to learn to read so as to read the Bible and hymn book. We prayed for them, gave them primers, and instruction for those who can read to help them daily in their homes. I also told them that betel nut gums up their brains.
There is a strong Pentecostal church in one island we visited. They had just finished a mission. They all speak Holy Spirit tongues and have no tobacco, betel nut, traditional mortuary feasts or kula trading. Whether they are right or not on these issues, it frees them to worship the Lord with such joy that I have never seen before. Their faces shine with a happy peaceful radiance. When you meet them along the road they talk enthusiastically about the Lord and his return.
They baptised 42 people on Sunday, many of them being United Church followers who will continue in the United Church. The United Church there follows the Pentecostal worship pattern in most ways. I preached at the United Church mid-day service. The singing praise session at the start turned into a congregational prayer meeting, all praying together. It seemed they would never stop!
We were delayed a day leaving there by a cyclone. Everything got wet. At least it was cool when the cyclone was around. After it cleared it was terribly hot. On almost every trip we caught fish including some big ones. One pulled my attaching knot undone and got away with the whole line. If you have any weakness in your tackle you lose all those big ones, and your tackle.
At the next island it seemed as though everyone turned to the Lord and was baptised in the sea. It was the same in two more islands.
Frightening gossip preceded us in some places. People were told that if they are baptised in the sea and then commit sin again they will die. Some people wanted to stay with the ways of worship and life practices to which they were accustomed. These people saw the revival movement as a new and different religion.
However, in each of the opposition strongholds ten to twenty people sought baptism and new life in Christ. One was a healing magician who found that after practising his art he had terrible dreams, so he wanted to be rid of his magic. Another man testified in church that he was finished with his various sorcery practices.
Rev. David Kuwab’s youth was spent in the midst of sorcery and magic. He dramatically explained the use of items for magic and sorcery and physical poisons as he threw them into the fire, shouting, ‘These are Satan’s things.’ The people showed no sign of embarrassment; just relief and joy. The young people sang praises to the Lord during the long baptism procedures. Mature Christians prayed for each person before they were taken down into the water, and another Christian prayed for them when they came back to the shore.
When the Gospel of Christ was proclaimed in one place a famous spirit healer was one of the first to respond. He was quite willing to give up his healing and killing practice. He told Rev. Kuwab, ‘I have only used sorcery to kill bad people, never good people.’
Spiritual hunger generated a great demand for Muyuw Scriptures. We had to get fresh supplies, and we still ran out of New Testaments at the last island. The new large print New Testament was very popular with people of all ages. In a population of some 4,000 people we sold 700 New testaments, 150 hymn books, and 300 booklets on Spiritual Warfare which Rev. Kuwab had translated.
The Marshall Bennett Islands at the end of a three months trip were exhausting. That is where we ran into opposition. There is no medical worker for over 2,000 people. The three main islands are flat-topped craggy limestone, 500-600 feet in elevation with no water supply where the people live on the tops of the islands, except what falls from the sky. There are few good anchorages.
With no medical services the people have depended heavily on healing magicians. On one island there was hostility between members of the church, and many were suffering from malaria, coughs and scabies. The plight of some small children was pathetic. We were carrying medicine for malaria and pneumonia but nothing for scabies. Rev. Kuwab worked hard to help the church leaders overcome their differences through the power of Christ.
Although people were resistant there, at one smaller preaching place 60 were baptised. At another place 20 were baptised and gave up their magic.
We had planned and prayed for the Woodlark trip for a long time. Since 1963 we have been praying that God’s Word would bear fruit among the Muyuw people. What is now happening exceeds our greatest expectations. To our Lord Jesus be the glory.
This article is adapted from a Church Growth essay Barbara wrote in her M.A. studies.
The prodigious growth of the house church movement in China is one of the greatest phenomena in the 20th century. Various observers of these Chinese Christians maintain that this move of the Holy Spirit is gathering people into the kingdom of God at the rate of 35,000 daily, and 12 million yearly (Paterson 1989:23; Waugh 1993:47).
Although it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics, approximations show that, whereas in 1949 there were between 800,000 and 1 million Protestant believers in China (Paterson 1989:103; Kang 1990:79; Kauffman 1991:6) and 4.5 million Roman Catholics (McGavran 1989:1) by 1989-1991 there were possibly as many as 50 million in the house churches. Carl Lawrence, however, estimated there were 75 million and a Japanese Christian editor who spent 6 months investigating the Churches throughout China in 1989 estimated 100 million (McGavran 1989:1).
The State Statistical Bureau of China completed a 2 year survey of religious believers in 1992 and the unofficial figures indicate 63 million Protestants and 12 million Roman Catholics (Asian Report 197, 1992:9). The Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) maintained there were 5,000 official Churches and 5 million believers under its auspices in 1989 and these figures were unaltered in 1992. This means at least 50-58 million – the majority of believers – attend the house churches (Paterson 1989:71). Most of the growth has occurred in rural areas where 80% of the population lives.
These figures do not only represent quantitative growth since growth has been sustained for almost half a century and is still increasing. There must be highly significant qualitative factors operating in the Chinese Church to achieve such phenomenal growth.
My purpose is to evaluate the key principles that have contributed to the effectiveness of the house church movement in China. I will examine the historical context and the revival context which emerged from it. Both of these contexts involve dynamic theological and spiritual elements at work in the burgeoning Church.
Christianity and colonialism
The growth of the Church in China cannot be divorced from the historical and political events of the 19th and 20th centuries. Church growth in general ‘is closely conditioned by both history and anthropology’ (McGavran 1980:153).
The arrival of the Protestant missionaries of the 19th century coincided with the victories of western colonialism. ‘Missionaries and colonialism in China were inseparable, at least in the minds of the Chinese’ (Kauffman, 1975:82).
In 1869 a Chinese official retorted to the British Ambassador: ‘Take away your opium and your missionaries and you will be welcome’ (Kauffman 1975:83). The Boxer Rebellion of 1900 is an example of violent aggression against Western influence including Christianity. 189 missionaries and children were martyred as well as an even greater number of Chinese Christians (Francis 1985:23).
Therefore between 1949-1966, after almost 100 years of unwelcome foreign harassment, the Communists vigorously targeted and attacked Christianity primarily because of its identification with imperialist exploitation (Paterson 1989:40).
Not only was the timing of the introduction of Christianity into China fraught with difficulties, but the manner in which it was propagated aroused considerable discontent among the Chinese Christians. Western missionaries were challenged quite early to adopt the concept of indigenisation.
The principle of self-responsibility and self-support for mission-planted Churches was advocated in 1841 by Henry Venn, secretary of the Church Missionary Society. By 1851 the concept had been formulated as the Three Selfs: self-supporting, self-governing, self-propagating’ (Shenk 1990:29).
In 1856 John Nevius, a Presbyterian missionary, set out this plan for indigenization:
1. All Christians should work for a living and evangelize their neighbours;
2. Ecclesiastical organisation should only be developed as the Christians deemed expedient;
3. Churches must be self-supporting;
4. Churches should use local architectural designs;
5. Church buildings should only be constructed when affordable;
6. The Chinese church should both send and support its own evangelists;
7. Strong emphasis must be given to prayer and Bible training (Kauffman 1975:91).
The self-supporting, self-governing and self-propogating principles became the theme for the First General Conference of Protestant Missionaries in China, held in Shanghai in May, 1887.
The Chinese Church, too, was beginning to realise the need to be independent of the foreign missions. In 1906 the Rev. Yu Kuochen of Shanghai established a small independent Chinese Church (Shenk 1990:32). It represented a voice of protest against the strategies of the missions.
On a larger scale, the True Jesus Church, commenced in 1917 in Tientsin and Peking by Chinese pastor Paul Wei, soon gained nation-wide prominence. This Church emphasised witnessing, tithing, and local Church government. A strong belief in the supernatural power of God to heal, deliver and empower believers was also a catalyst in its expansion throughout China (Kauffman 1975:93).
The tension that existed between the two parties resulted from different interpretations of the meaning of ‘self’. The western missionaries believed in indigenous leadership, evangelism and self-support, but within the framework of western traditions, forms and structures.
On the other hand the Chinese Church leaders desired to express their faith in Jesus in Chinese cultural forms and patterns. This drive for homogeneity, the principle of establishing the gospel in every people group – panta ta ethne – without circumcising inherently good cultural practices, is a natural and spiritual desire which the Bible endorses (Matthew 24:14; 28:19; Romans 16:26).
In the imperialistic climate of China it was very important to the evangelistic thrust of the Chinese Church to be able to preach the gospel and establish people into the Body of Christ in culturally relevant ways to offset the distasteful provocation of colonialism. The Chinese Church leaders therefore expressed their disapproval in 1922 in the following statement at the National Christian Conference held in Shanghai: ‘We wish to voice the sentiment of our people that the wholesale, uncritical acceptance of the traditions, forms and organisations of the West and the slavish imitation of these are not conducive to the building of a permanent genuine Christian Church in China’ (Shenk 1990:32).
Missions and Churches subsequently made genuine attempts to affect change, and establish Chinese leadership in the Church. There were positive signs of the Church becoming indigenous. Powerful Chinese preachers and evangelists were used to win many converts. Others, such as Wang Ming-Tao ‘stood for adherence to the Scriptures and withstood heresies and false teachings’ (Paterson 1989:41).
In 1926 Watchman Nee established The Christian Assemblies, also known as The Little Flock. These were locally autonomous churches without any central organisation. Prominence was given to Bible study and teaching, and the movement produced excellent Chinese evangelists and Bible teachers (Kauffman 1975:94).
However, the period of the Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) brought further instability and suffering to the Chinese people, and the momentum of change was impeded in the centrally organised churches (Shenk 1990:33; Francis 1985:23). At the same time, though, conditions in the eastern provinces caused an exodus to the inland regions where the gospel increased and spread.
This was due to the timely intervention of God himself for in places such as the northern province of Shantung he was sovereignly orchestrating his church.
In the early 1930s, Shantung experienced a supernatural visitation of the Spirit of God, characterised by deep repentance and public confession of sin by both believers and new converts, accompanied by signs and wonders in healing, speaking in tongues, and casting out demons. People from all denominations were affected.
This visitation impacted the church across China, resulting in Bible conferences and a rapid increase in church membership (Kauffman 1975:92). ‘To many (in China) the churches and their faith seemed the only stable element in a distraught and changing world’ (Latourette, cited in Kauffman 1975:93). God used the suffering of the people to prepare the church for the intensity of persecution that was soon to follow.
Intervention of the Spirit of God
An excellent model of the Spirit’s preparation of the church for the onslaught of Communism is afforded in the truly indigenous group known as The Jesus Family (Ye-su Chia-ting). Under the Holy Spirit’s direction, this commune:
* Had no central control – therefore , unlike denominations under central leadership, could not be easily controlled by the Japanese or the Communists.
* Refused to accept any foreign funds, on the basis that God was their source and they should exercise faith for his provision. Churches with foreign funds were liquidated in 1949.
* Had no church buildings. The buildings they owned were used for worship, but simultaneously used to produce their agricultural products – providing the livelihood of the commune.
* Encouraged their people to allocate a separate area in their homes for worship – a marvellous preparation for the ensuing forced worship of believers in the house churches.
* Had a dynamic faith in the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit which was a normal part of the worship of the commune, and proved to be an essential expectation of the persecuted church.
This church began in 1920 under the leadership of Ching Tien-ying. He established a commune in Shantung Province using land left to him by his great grandfather. The felowship spread through the north of China and into the interior. He established agricultural policies, progressively tithing from 10-90% of the harvest annually. During the famine of 1942 the commune gave 90% of the harvest to the poor and still met their own needs. Later the Communists needed one acre per family for life support, yet The Jesus Family was able to feed 500 people from 43 acres and still give away 90% of the produce (Kauffman 1975:95-97).
Effects of initial Marxist/Communist rule
In 1950, under the leadership of Mao Tse-Tung and the Marxist/Communist regime, the Christian Manifesto called on the Christian church to expose and oppose the effects of imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism, and help promote an independent, democratic and patriotic China (Paterson 1989:54-55).
However, the Three Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) was established in 1954 by the government to mediate between itself and the church. The name was a prostitution of the ‘Three Self’ principles espoused by the Christian missionaries of the previous 100 years, since the blatant agenda was to secure from the Christians a total commitment to Communist/Marxist policies, and therefore a united, patriotic China. Where the Bible and patriotism conflicted, loyalty to the party line was to be paramount. Chinese evangelical Christians saw the TSPM as the Party’s controlling mechanism of the church.
Since the government viewed the TSPM as the voice of the Protestant Church, pastors and churches who refused to be associated with the movement were vehemently attacked, and many were imprisoned and tortured. Wang Ming-Tao, an eminent Peking Pastor, was arrested in 1955, imprisoned, and subjected to brainwashing and mental torture. He was not released until 1978. He was typical of the fate of many devout Christians of this period who refused to compromise with the State (Paterson 1989:42). Watchman Nee was also arrested in 1952 and never released.
By 1958 all Christian meetings not authorised by the government were dissolved. Many Christians stopped attending the TSPM churches because they had become primarily centres for political indoctrination. The house church movement came out of the cauldron of this attempted politicising of the church. During this period, believers began to meet quietly in their homes for mutual encouragement, prayer, and sharing of the Lord’s Supper. These meetings were a reflection and extension of the traditional Chinese social emphasis on family life (Paterson 1989:78).
These house churches (1954-1966) became the fertile soil out of which explosive growth occurred. They provided the climate for the preservation of ‘grass roots’ evangelical Chinese Christianity, and through attention to the basics – Jesus Christ, crucified and risen again, the power of corporate prayer, and the mutual edification of the Body of Christ – laid a firm foundation for growth.
Another factor influencing the success of this movement in the early stages was its roots in the cultural basics. The Chinese church was now truly indigenous. At the same time, the Holy Spirit had been progressively teaching believers to hear and respond to his voice and minister in his power in preparation for the years of the Cultural Revolution, when the church was mercilessly and relentlessly persecuted.
Persecution: context for revival
During the decade 1966-1976, the Red Guards – representatives of the hardliners of the Communist Party – embarked on a ruthlessly cruel campaign to eradicate religion. For Christianity it meant:
* Confiscation of all Bibles and Christian literature;
* The stifling of all remaining institutionalised Christianity;
* Closure of all church buildings;
* Public humiliation of Christians through physical and emotional assault;
* Imprisonment in labour camps, factories and farms;
* Suicide of some Christians;
* A denial of faith in Christ for some;
* Betrayal of fellow Christians by some.
Yet, the gospel spread to areas without any previous witness, due to the exile of believers to remote farms and labour camps (Paterson 1989:45-46). Amazingly, even Red Guards, impressed by the lifestyle of the believers, turned to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ during this time.
Many Chinese believers testify to the fact that the church was purified in the fires of this persecution. Only those who were wholeheartedly committed to Jesus withstood such fierce opposition. One woman believer said ‘If a person joins us, we have a real Christian’ (Paterson 1989:94).
Suddenly, believers needed each other more than ever before. Meeting in small groups, mostly in homes, they learned the value of the unity of the Body of Christ, the edifying effects of fellowship with other Christians, the power of prayer, the priceless value of the Scriptures, and the comforting presence of the Holy Spirit in their midst. The lessons of the preceding years were now bearing fruit in their dire need for mutual strengthening and encouragement.
The Chinese church was developing a quality of lifestyle and attitude that many Western Christians have never experienced. As they were leaderless in many instances, they began to appreciate the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers.
This is the true meaning of revival – a fresh and deepened commitment of believers to Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord. Christians who know him in this measure have a hope that transcends all hopelessness in this life. Although it was very dangerous to witness openly to the Lord at this time, many believers did so. The church primarily grew from conversions as people observed the way Christians endured persecution, and saw their lifestyle under extreme pressure.
By 1977 a more moderate set of pragmatic policies was pursued by Deng Ziaoping in the early years of his second term in office. The more liberal faction of the Party campaigned for the Open Door policy for the West – to help foster much needed industrial reforms.
Christians were released from prison for political expediency. China wanted to boost her trade and diplomatic relations by impressing the West with a policy of religious freedom and attention to human rights issues (Paterson 1989:49-50).
During the decade 1978-1988 the house churches saw great multiplication growth (McGavran 1989:1), and initially enjoyed relative peace. Consequently, the Christians boldly evangelized, worshipped and taught in large meetings. Outstanding reports included one city where 60% of the population became Christians, and a city of 160,000 where the majority are Christians, living in 13 communes (Paterson 1989:82).
David Wang (Paterson 1989:163) reports of another situation in which the majority of the citizens of an entire county became Christians in 1988. A Pastor had been imprisoned in 1963, when there were only 170 believers in his county. When he was released in 1986, there were 5,000 believers. Two and a half years later, the church had grown to 56,000 believers.
Evangelism: the result of revival
Conversions on a huge scale are the result of aggressive evangelism, characterised by a bold proclamation of the Gospel, accompanied by signs and wonders in the power of the Holy Spirit. Believers who learned to operate in the power of the Spirit in the secret meetings of the house churches now boldly proclaim the saving, healing and delivering power of Jesus Christ.
This is specialised evangelism that works through the supernatural intervention of the Holy Spirit into particular situations. Itinerant evangelists devote their lives to preaching the gospel from province to province. They constantly risk imprisonment and harassment from the authorities, but they are passionate in their ministry and are seeing much fruit for the kingdom of God.
The church encourages the ministry gift of an evangelist, and also emphasises the individual’s responsibility to witness, both in word and lifestyle. Anthony Lambert (1989:8) says the house church model for effective witness in China today is the simple, apostolic proclamation of the Gospel, combined with sacrificial life-style and suffering. This … is remarkably effective in reaching the masses of the people. … The church is growing by leaps and bounds from the grass roots upwards.
Influence of radio ministry
One other form of evangelism in China deserves special mention. The Christian radio ministry has progressively impacted unbelievers all over China. During the years when the country was closed to the outside world, the Far East Broadcasting Company received virtually no feedback on the influence of their programs on the Chinese. However, after 1979, letters received from inside China reveal that Christians are being nurtured, encouraged and strengthened by the broadcasts. More than 50% of the responses are from unbelievers seeking information about the gospel.
The following figures show the increase in written responses each year between 1978 and 1988. The overall decadal growth rate is a staggering 9,000%.
The responses totalled only 177 for the entire period between 1969 and 1978, but sharply increased after China and the United States resumed diplomatic relations in 1979.
1979 – 3,000 responses.
1980-1986 – 10,000 responses a year.
1987-1988 – 16,000 responses a year.
Given the fact that there are many who still cannot respond because of the danger, the radio ministry is of immense value to the cause of the gospel (Paterson 1989:115-116).
Reasons for growth
Vital theological convictions have produced significant spiritual emphases in the house churches.
As early as 1917, Chinese believers recognised the sovereign, supernatural power of the Spirit of God to heal the sick, perform miracles, and deliver from demonic oppression. I believe it is significant that this revelation coincided with the drive of Chinese Christians to become indigenous.
Western believers presented the Gospel from a Western theological perspective – appealing to people’s rational processes. Faith was based on the message proclaimed in words. The preached word has been emphasised exclusively, and Jesus has been well presented as ‘Christ the wisdom of God’.
However, the Chinese – and other Third World peoples – are more acutely aware of the dimension of the spirit world. Therefore, ‘Christ the power of God’, acknowledged in the preaching of the Word with accompanying signs and wonders, is the way God demonstrates his supremacy over all false gods (Wang, Asian Report 194, 1992:9-10).
Chinese Christians expect the Holy Spirit to declare the Lordship of Jesus through supernatural acts as a normal occurrence. This theological absolute is the common thread evidenced throughout the house church movement. I am convinced this is the fundamental reason for its preservation and outstanding growth. Within the house church movement itself ‘most Christians still recognise signs, wonders and miracles as the number one factor resulting in church expansion’ (Wang, Asian Report 198, April, 1993:7).
2. Revelation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ
The primary priority of Chinese Christians is encouraging and maintaining a personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.
Persecution has driven the church to the basics of the faith, and a very real experience of the presence of Jesus in their lives. Their faith is in Jesus who is present now in the believer, and is returning soon. Therefore, effecting reconciliation between him and all who desire salvation is a matter of urgency.
3. A Theology of entering into Christ’s sufferings
A theology of suffering has issued from the fires of persecution. Christ Jesus suffered for them, therefore they willingly enter into the fellowship of his sufferings (Phil.3:10), and consider it a privilege to identify with him as his representatives in situations of persecution where they can demonstrate his great love for sinners.
David Wang tells of a woman Christian worker in a poor province of China sentenced to five years hard labour who refused to be bailed out by fellow Christians. She saw imprisonment as a divinely appointed opportunity to minister the gospel in the labour camp. Her only request was that Christians would support her in prayer (Asian Report 194, April, 1992:7).
4. A belief in the power of prayer
All the activities of the house churches flow from a base of intensely fervent prayer. Intercession occupies a major portion of their church meetings. Whole congregations unashamedly weep as one before God, and the entire group of believers sustain a unity of focus, adding their passionate ‘Amen’ to the pleadings and supplications of their fellow Christians (Balcombe Video, 1993).
One Chinese pastor, returning from a conference in a western nation, said ‘Our brothers in the West know how to plan, but we know how to pray’ (Paterson 1989:189).
Persecution drove them to prayer, and now persistent corporate prayer is frequently sustained for three to four hours in any one church gathering.
5. Belief in the church as a spiritual structure
No other structures except the Body of Christ are necessary in this movement. The vast majority of house churches do not own any property, but meet in homes, old buildings, and even, in at least one instance, a cave. What is important is the spiritual membership of the group.
Inherent in this doctrine is their faith in the priesthood of all believers. Leaders do not dominate the church, but encourage all members to live pure lives, and take their rightful place in the Body of Christ (Paterson 1989:189).
6. Recognition of the Scriptures as the Word of God
The Bible is highly esteemed among Chinese Christians. They will go to any lengths to obtain a copy, sometimes travelling for days to make contact with a courier, and risking detention by the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) for obtaining ‘foreign supplied’ Bibles.
In other places, one copy is circulated among members who are responsible for hand-copying the text. The lack of sufficient Bibles, along with limited sound Biblical instruction, unfortunately leaves many places open to heresy. Pastors refuse to send their potential ministers to seminaries operated by the TSPM, because of the strong political content of the courses.
7. A responsible belief in the mission of the church
These house churches take seriously the church’s mission (Matt.28:18-20). This is attested to by the spiritual harvest they are experiencing. Every Christian is encouraged to witness, and the ministry of the evangelist is given a high profile (Paterson 1989:189).
Ensuing spiritual elements
Definitive spiritual emphases have emerged from these theological convictions in the house churches today in China. For ease of comparison, they are presented in a simple table. They represent Church Growth principles at work supernaturally.
Recognition of, and dependency on signs and wonders
* sensitivity to the Holy Spirit in evangelism* exercise of spiritual gifts
Revelation of the Lordship of Jesus Christ
* presentation of the basics of the gospel* emphasis on personal relationship with Jesus Christ for conversion growth
* commitment to personal witnessing* sustained vitality in worship
Entering into Christ’s sufferings
* selfless Christianity* boldness in witnessing* focus on eternal values
Belief in the power of prayer
* sustained, persistent, fervent prayer* total dependence on God’s miraculous intervention to preserve his testimony
The church as a spiritual structure
* supportive, caring community* every believer essential to the Body of Christ* emphasis on lay ministry* importance of corporate fellowship
Recognition of the Scriptures as the Word of God
* high view of Scripture* an insatiable hunger for God’s Word* willingness to risk personal safety to obtain Bibles
Responsible belief in the mission of the church
* personal evangelism* fearless preaching of the whole Gospel
The greatest benefit to the church in China is the unity gained from a truly indigenous church functioning in the power of the Spirit.
In addition to this principle of indigenous unity, the following phases of Church Growth advocated by Eddie Gibbs (1986:43-45) are all strongly contributing to the current growth of the church in China and are evident in the theological and spiritual elements.
1. Mobilising the witnesses.
2. Equipping the people of God for ministry. This is encouraged, but at times hampered through lack of suitable materials and teachers.
3. Creating a climate of receptivity. This has been a work of the Holy Spirit, using the persecution of the church and the expulsion of Western missionaries to focus the church on the real issues.
4. Effecting regeneration.
5. Incorporating into the Body of Christ.
6. Involvement in the ministry of Christ.
The Chinese house churches have flourished under the dynamic direction of the Holy Spirit. This growth occurs within a climate of official hostility to Christianity. The strategies of the Spirit have developed a truly Chinese church independent of any foreign control or influence, free to propagate the gospel in terms easily understood by its fellow citizens.
These churches are constrained by the present suffering to present the gospel as a matter of urgency, compelled by the love of Jesus Christ for lost sinners. The whole church seriously applies itself to evangelistic mission, and gathers the converts into a nurturing community to build them up so that they can take their rightful place in the Body of Christ.
Despite the remarkable growth of the Christian church in China, there is still much work to do. The best figures reveal there are 100 million believers in this country of 1.289 billion. When we consider that China is one fifth of the population of the world, and 33.5% of the world’s population is Christian (Barrett 1993:23), the church in China is faced with a formidable task to fulfil the Biblical mandate to preach the Gospel to every people group.
They have pressed on by the power of the Holy Spirit in the past, and will continue to do so in the future as they combine his supernatural enabling with their tenacious devotion to the task at hand. Fired by their constant knowledge of Jesus Christ present in his power they proclaim Maranatha, the Lord is coming.
Balcombe, Dennis (1993) ‘Harvest Time For China’, Video, Mount Gravatt: Garden City Christian Church.
Barrett, David B. (1993) ‘Annual Statistical Table on Global Mission: 1993’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, January, 1993, pp.22-23.
Chao, Jonathan (1988) Wise as Serpents Harmless as Doves. Pasadena: William Carey Library.
Francis, Lesley (1985) Winds of Change in China. Guidelines For Effective Service. Sydney: OMF.
Gibbs, Eddie (1986) ‘Power Won’t Flow From Principles’ Global Church Growth, July/August/September, 1986, Volume xxiii, No.3. pp.43-45.
Hunter, Kent R. (1990) ‘Whatever Happened To The Homogeneous Unit Principle?’, Global Church Growth, January/February/March, 1990, Volume xxvii, No.1, pp.1,4.
Lawrence, Carl (1985) Against All Odds: The Church in China. Basingstoke: Marshall Pickering.
McGavran, Donald (1980) Understanding Church Growth (Revised). Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans.
——- (1989) ‘What is Happening in China?’ Global Church Growth, April/May/June, 1989, Volume xxvii, No.2. pp.1,4.
Kang, Wi Jo (1990) ‘Korean Minority Church-State Relations in the People’s Republic of China’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, April, 1990, Volume 14, No.2., pp.77-82.
Kauffman, Paul E. (1975) Confucius, Mao and Christ. Hong Kong: Asian Outreach.
——- (1991) ‘China’s Opposing Attractions’, Asian Report 190, Volume 24, No.3, May/June, pp.3-7.
Lambert, Anthony (1989) ‘The Mandate of Heaven: An Analysis of the Present Overall Situation in China’, Global Church Growth, Volume xxvi, No.2 pp.7-9.
Paterson, Ross (1989) Heartcry For China. United Kingdom: Sovereign World.
Pierson, Paul E. (1985) Historical Development of the Christian Movement – Class Syllabus. Pasadena: Fuller Theological Seminary.
Shenk, Wilbur R. (1990) ‘The Origins and Evolution of the Three-Selfs in Relation to China’, International Bulletin of Missionary Research, Volume 14, No.1, January.
Wagner, C. Peter (1976) Your Church Can Grow. Ventura: Regal.
Wang, David (1992) ‘Asia’s Maturing Church’, Asian Report 194, Vol.25, No. 2, March/April.
——- (1993) ‘China/Hong Kong: At The Crossroads’, Asian Report 198, Vol.26, No.1. March/April.
Wark, Andrew (1992) ‘Reaching and Teaching’, Asian Report 196, Vol. 25, No. 4. July/August/September.
Waugh, Geoff (1993) ‘Astounding Church Growth’, Renewal Journal, Number 2, pp. 47-57.
Pioneer village pastor missionaries – front row
with remote village people
Endorsement by Rev L.A. (Tony) Cupit, former Director of Evangelism and Education, Baptist World Alliance:
No one speaks more authentically about a mission situation than one who has experienced it. That is one reason, among others, why Geoff Waugh’s latest book, Light on the Mountains, is such a valuable resource.
It was my privilege to serve in Papua New Guinea with Global Interaction at the same time as Geoff. I greatly appreciated his genuine love for Jesus the Christ and notable contribution to and love for the Enga people during the seven years we served together. These are reflected in this fascinating book. Geoff writes with deep personal knowledge and insight about the joys and challenges of mission life. He has collected valuable original source material and used it creatively to convey historical and missiological insights that needed to be unearthed and made available.
Anyone interested in learning about the dynamic work of the Holy Spirit of God in Papua New Guinea, and of discovering reasons why people engage in cross-cultural and linguistic mission work, would be well rewarded by studying and absorbing the insights this book provides.
Endorsement by Rev Don Doull, pioneer missionary in PNG from 1949.
This book describes those exciting days when Australian Baptists began a new missionary enterprise in 1949, the Baptist New Guinea Mission. We were motivated by a desire to fulfil our Lord’s great commission and reach out to those people just to the north of our country who had not yet heard the name of Jesus. As you peruse the pages of this book, which records the beginnings of that missionary challenge taken up by the Post-War churches of Australia, you will sense again the spirit of adventure and dedication which drove our churches in what has proved to be a wonderfully rewarding missionary task.
Geoff Waugh has done a wonderful job of drawing together the many threads which have been woven together to make the fabric of what we are able to stand back and marvel at as we now are aware of the activities of the Baptist Union of PNG.
Many hundreds of missionaries and many thousands of faithful Christians from our Australian churches have contributed to this modern missionary endeavour which has now exceeded the vision of those who commenced the task. We can now look back over these past six decades with much gratitude to God and see a vital indigenous church functioning in PNG in a part of that country still emerging from “The Stone Age” when we commenced our task.
Our world has now changed almost beyond belief over these past decades, but the task still remains of reaching the multitudes of people who have never heard the name of Jesus. My prayer is that God will use the story Geoff has documented to challenge our 21st Century fellow believers, to move into our modern world with a similar faith and dedication as that which was demonstrated during the second half of the 20th Century by our Australian Baptists.
Part 1: Pioneer Mission History
1. Beginnings of the Baptist New Guinea Mission
2. The Church is Born: the first baptisms
3. The Church Grows: community transformation
Pioneer mission centres
Pioneer mission development
Part 2: Pioneer Mission Teaching
4. Trails and trials: mission life in the highlands