A Chronicle of Renewal and Revival

Archive for February, 2016

New Wave of Revival in China


ConferencePraiseIt’s Thursday evening and scores of men and women are dancing, waving flags, blowing shofars, singing and worshipping God. You might think you are in a charismatic service in the United States. But you are not.

This is communist China. And what Duan Huilai says is remarkable about this scene is that it’s happening in an officially government-controlled congregation known as Three-Self Church. “Dramatic changes are happening,” Duan said. “God is moving powerfully inside these Three-Self Churches.”  Duan and his wife have for several years crisscrossed China documenting the Holy Spirit’s move among Three-Self Churches. “The most amazing thing is that the Lord is raising up God-fearing people in these churches—brothers and sisters who love God deeply and want to serve Him,” Duan said.

Pastor Duan says what is happening today in Beijing and in other parts of China as it relates to the powerful move of God amongst the Three-Self Churches is quite remarkable considering where the church has been in the last 30 years. “Every sermon that the pastor preached back then had to be vetted by the government authorities. Young people were never allowed to attend these churches so you’d only see old people, mostly women,” Duan said. “Preaching about the power of the Holy Spirit was forbidden. You couldn’t talk about end times or preach repentance.” Topics on healings, miracles, signs and wonders were out of the question. Not anymore. “Nowadays people have accepted these topics,” Duan said. Two main types of churches exist in China: registered and unregistered.

Three-Self Churches, are government-approved. Unregistered, sometimes called underground or house churches, operate outside government control, and for decades faced intense persecution. And with that persecution came tremendous growth. Three-Self Churches on the other hand never experienced that kind of explosive growth. Until now. “Now there’s big revivals happening in the Three-Self Churches,” Dr. Zhao Xiao said from his offices on the outskirts of China’s capital city. Zhao is one of China’s foremost experts on Christianity. A former Communist Party member and atheist, Zhao converted after reading the Bible. “If you go to Haidian Church, you’ll find yourself in a 100-metre line trying to get inside and worship. In Shenzhen, there are usually an average of 500 people being baptized each Sunday!” he shared.

Decades ago, the Chinese government had a law that said that young men and women below the age of 18 could not attend Three-Self Churches. Zhao says those rules have been relaxed in recent years. “There’s an increasing proportion of them in churches now—more young males, professionals, mainstream celebrities, especially in the big cities, that are attending the church unlike the past when it was mainly the elderly who attended.” Back at the Thursday night meeting in Fujian Province, folks have gathered for a four-day event called “Love Camp.” “Love Camp aims to help the Believer grow in their faith walk and get closer to God,” Sun Rengui said. Sun is a pastor and leads the camp. He says the idea came 12 years ago when the Holy Spirit one day showed up while he was preaching at the Three-Self Church he pastors.

“During the service, suddenly everyone at the church felt the Holy Spirit come. Some couldn’t stand straight, others fell down. Some were dizzy and nauseous. When the worship began, people started crying. After the service, some were being healed. I saw demons leaving people’s bodies.” Pastor Sun says his church had never experienced anything like it.” “It was unprecedented. We had no theological training in the work of the Holy Spirit. Word quickly spread. ” Soon, leaders from other churches came to us and were eager to receive the Holy Spirit. Later they also started witnessing the Holy Spirit’s move as well,” Pastor Sun said. But it wasn’t without controversy. “People doubted if it was real. There was even conflict among my church staff,” Sun said. “But as time passed, more people accepted it.”

Twelve years later, Pastor Sun says the impact of the Holy Spirit’s move is seen in the transformed lives of church members. “Our cell groups are expanding, more people are attending church, and more people are going outside the church to share the Gospel.” The church runs two orphanages and two elderly care centres, and twice a year puts on the Love Camp. For Pastor Duan and his wife, this is evidence that God is doing something special in China. “I was speaking in Shandong recently. Around 8,000 people joined the meeting. Last Christmas, I was speaking at a Three-Self Church in Yuhuan and there were 12,000 people,” Duan exclaimed with joy. “The number of Christians in China is growing rapidly. It means Christ is starting to play an active role in China’s society and that’s good in many ways,” Zhao said.

Source: CBN News (February 2016)

More revival stories:

Carl Lawrence & David WangThe Spirit told us what to do
Two teenage girls plant many churches

Excerpt from The Coming Influence of China

Great Revival Stories Reproduced in Great Revival Stories:

Read sample here

Part 1: Best Revival Stories
1  Power from on High, by John Greenfield    
2  The Spirit told us what to do, by Carl Lawrence   
3  Pentecost in Arnhem Land, by Djiniyini Gondarra     
4  Speaking God’s Word, by David Yonggi Cho       
5  Worldwide Awakening, by Richard Riss  
6  The River of God, by David Hogan   
Part 2: Transforming Revivals
7  Solomon Islands
8  Papua New Guinea
9  Vanuatu
10  Fiji
11  Snapshots of Glory, by George Otis Jr

12  The Transformation of Algodoa de Jandaira

More Blogs on China:
Asia’s Maturing Church (David Wang)
Revival in China (Dennis Balcombe)
House Churches in China (Barbara Nield)

Back to Blogs Index 2: Mission

Back to General Blogs Index

Back to Main Page

Asia’s Maturing Church, by David Wang

Asia’s Maturing Church

David Wang

David Wang

David Wang

The world’s largest revival continues unabated despite widespread restrictions and persecution. Dr David Wang talks about why God is moving so dramatically among Asian believers at this time. David Wang is the International Director of Asian Outreach.

An article in Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth
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The traditional word ‘harvest’ no longer seems

adequate to describe what God is doing.

I would describe it as ‘the great ingathering’.


Q. Is this truly a Decade of Harvest for Asia?

A. For 25 years I have been involved in Asian evangelism and mission. I must admit that there have been times of discouragement, particularly in the latter part of the 1960s. We saw a lot of activity and effort, but not many lasting results.

However I would say that for the past 20 years we have seen a tremendous response to the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is happening not only in countries such as Korea and Singapore, which are enjoying phenomenal revival, but also in countries closed to traditional mission activities such as China and Vietnam. We’re now seeing the Holy Spirit moving in dramatic ways, resulting in conversions and church growth, with regular signs, wonders and miracles.

The traditional word ‘harvest’ no longer seems adequate to describe what God is doing. I would describe it as ‘the great ingathering’. This is even happening in traditionally difficult Thailand and Japan. I visited these countries very recently and both missionaries and national leaders were reporting breakthroughs of an unprecedented nature.

Q. Why is the Asian Church suddenly growing so dramatically?

A. We must give credit to the early missionaries who laboured, bled and died sowing the seed of the gospel. Some of the seeds laid dormant for many years. But they did take root. As God’s time comes upon this continent, they are now bearing fruit. Aided by signs, wonders and miracles some are bearing a hundred fold!

Secondly, we now see an explosion of the Church led by indigenous leadership. God is raising up excellent Asian leadership. Asian workers are now evangelising, sending out missionaries and bringing in a great harvest.

Thirdly, persecution and suffering inflicted by communist or atheist regimes and other religious forces have enhanced the Church’s growth even further.

But ultimately I recognise that it seems to be God’s sovereign plan. He seems to have a timetable, and now is the time for the Asian Church to experience revival, renewal, growth and expansion. It is God’s time for this continent.

Q. You mentioned persecution what specific role has it played?

A. Persecution has brought out two things in the Church of Asia. Firstly, it has brought forth Christ’s beauty in the lives of the believers. I know of Christians who have been deprived of everything that we consider important and are suffering deeply for their faith, yet they are living out a life of purity and simplicity in Christ. That kind of living has a great impact.

Secondly, persecution has returned the Church back to the basics of Christianity. It is no longer the clergy who are important. It is no longer the building that is important. What is important is having a fundamental relationship with Jesus Christ. Believers who have suffered persecution experience that Jesus is very real to them.

This return to the basics of Christianity and living a faithful life of beauty in Christ have resulted in mass conversions of people to Christianity.

Q. We read of thousands of these persecuted believers sharing a handful of Bibles and often having no pastor. How can the free world help to meet their urgent need for leadership and Bible-based teaching?

A. Without question this is the number one concern for every one of us who are involved in ministry into the Restricted Access Nations of Asia.

I think first of all we have to realise that ultimately it is God who gives the increase. He is also the author and finisher of this good work. We have to go back and trust Him and say, ‘Lord, it is your Church. It is your body. It is your vine. You take care of it.’

This seems to be a basic philosophy for Christians in the East. When you talk to leaders in the rural areas of China they say things like, ‘Another church has sprung up in that village over there. And a church of 7,000 has just exploded out of nowhere in that mountainous region.’ They give thanks to God for what He has started, and commit it to Him saying, ‘Lord, you continue to finish your work.’ I suppose we have to learn to do the same.

On the other hand, for ministries like Asian Outreach, we do need to shift more and more from pure evangelism to evangelismplusdiscipling. I would say now that at least 50% of our efforts targeted into the Restricted Access Nations are discipling and training in nature. Other ministries are also making a similar shift. In this part of the world, it has to be evangelismplusdiscipling now.

Q. What can believers in Asia’s Third World countries teach their brothers and sisters in the First World nations of the West?

A. In the West, or in the free world as a whole, I see the church identifying far more with the powerful victory of Jesus’ resurrection. They want that kind of relationship. They are keen for the success, the prosperity, the good things of the Risen King. Few partake in the fellowship of Christ’s suffering (Philippians 3:10). However I see the opposite in the Asian Church, particularly in countries where situations are confining and restrictive. These believers are more willing to fellowship with the suffering of Christ. To them that is the greater reward and privilege.

Recently one of our coworkers went to China with a large sum of money to bail out a Christian worker. She had been sentenced to five years of hard labour in a very poor province of China. A few days later my coworker returned with the money. That woman refused to be bailed out. She said, ‘Pray for me, but don’t get me out of this situation. Here is where the sinners are. Here is where the criminals are. Here is where Jesus Christ would have come. Now He has sent me. So please don’t bail me out.’

Q. Dr Paul Kauffman, the founder of Asian Outreach, has been quoted as saying, ‘For the cost of sending out one Westerner to the mission field, five Asians can be sent.’ Should we be sending more Asians?

A. Yes, and no. Looking over the last 15 years I do see the Asian Church moving from a ‘bless me’ position to a ‘bless the world’ position. They are now ready not only in attitude but also in capability. Christians in Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan and even Thailand or Indonesia are now in a position where they can pray, they can send, they can give and they can go. I am seeing more and more of the Asian Church changing from being missionary-receiving to becoming missionary-sending.

However, I do want to sound a warning. Third World mission is not the rising star and the answer to ushering in the return of Christ. We have our share of weaknesses and problems. We are just as culturally insensitive. We suffer our share of egocentric nationalism. We stumble over the same things that Western missionaries have stumbled over. Perhaps we are even more arrogant! I think the key is for Western and Asian churches to both send out missionaries. Together let’s cooperate in learning, teaching, sharing, caring and shouldering in a relationship of interdependence the Great Commission responsibility.

Q. Should we be sending Asian missionaries even to the West?

A. This is something we have to really work at on both ends. We, on our end, have to stop being nationalistic. Thus far I see far more Korean missionaries going to Koreans in overseas countries, or Japanese missionaries going to Japanese, or Chinese missionaries working among the Chinese diaspora. I would like to see Asian missionaries going to wherever the need and the response are the greatest, be it in the West, be it Africa, be it Latin America or be it anywhere.

It is also time for the West to realize that mission has undergone a fundamental change. It is no longer ‘from the West to the rest’. Mission is now a universal endeavour of God’s church. People of various nationalities have to learn to work side by side to spread the Gospel. So if it’s time for Asian missionaries to go to the West, well, let’s do it.

Q. Are we seeing Asian leadership with such a global view?

A. I do see Asian leadership taking more and more of a strategic role in world evangelism. Some are even holding highly recognizable positions, such as Dr Thomas Wang heading up the AD2000 Movement.

But as a whole, the Asian Church is currently producing localized leaders who are effective in their own culture, among their own people. Only a few are also gifted with multicultural flexibility and availability. However, I believe that in days to come we will see more and more Asian leaders who are bigger than their own church, or their own denomination; bigger even than their own nationalities. Because they are totally for the kingdom, they will take a vital role in Christian leadership worldwide.

Q. How will Asian leadership be different?

A. Over the last one hundred years Christian leadership has been primarily trained with a Western theology. This theology has a strong emphasis on the Gospel as the knowledge of God, and the wisdom of God. But there is a general lack of understanding and application of the Gospel as the power of God see 1 Corinthians 1:24. Thus the propagation of the Gospel has been mostly information based, and somewhat ‘powerless’ in a warfaring sense.

Now we’re seeing an influx of Asians along with Africans and Latin Americans into the overall leadership of the Church. Because of their cultural and historical backgrounds, they have a far better understanding and application of the Gospel as the power of God. Signs, wonders and power encounters are more common to their thinking and lives. I see this having a balancing effect, enabling the Church to make great advances into the world of darkness.

Q. There are some who believe that this ‘power of God’ belongs to another age. Yet we hear many stories of signs and wonders in Asia leading to mass conversions. Is God doing something different in Asia?

A. God is creative. He doesn’t have to repeat himself in any way. But I do see that He has a pattern of operation when it comes to breaking up new ground, opening up new countries.

He allows new signs, wonders and miracles to take place to create tremendous impact. Because Asian cultural influences include a traditional dominance of spiritism and spiritual activities, God has to use signs, wonders and miracles in a very, very phenomenal and outstanding manner to demonstrate that there is no other god but Himself.

I believe He also wants to demonstrate to people in the West that He is a God of power, a God of might. He is the Great Physician. Unfortunately for many, God is our last resort, and not the first and only resort. Therefore we don’t go to Him as desperately and frequently as our Asian brothers and sisters, seeking Him regularly for supernatural intervention. A Biblical principal is that the more you ask the more you receive; the more you knock, the more the doors are opened; the more you seek, the more you will find. That perhaps is one reason why we see more signs, wonders and miracles in Asia. They knock more. They seek more. They ask more.

Q. If God is raising up His Church through mass conversions and is refining it through persecution, where is God taking His people?

A. As I see the events happening all about us, I summarize the work of the Holy Spirit as ‘Immanuel and Maranatha’.

Firstly, I see God being with us. God is not only being with us in a theological way, a historical way, in a hearsay way: ‘I hear that God is doing this and this and this… wow!’ But God is with us in a very ‘Immanuel’ way: personal, current and relevant. And you know it: you sense it, you hear it, you see it, you touch it.

I am sensing that God’s Spirit is taking His people to a realization of the reality of Christ. Jesus is very real. As I fellowship with Christians in China, I don’t hear people saying, ‘We heard about,’ or ‘We read about,’ but rather ‘I experienced Him, I touched Him He touched me, He revealed Himself to me, I saw Him, and also He healed me.’ He is Immanuel in a first person, hands-on manner.

On the other hand I am seeing ‘Maranatha’. Christ is coming back very soon. I think I have never seen the world so shaken up, so disrupted, so changed to the point where everyone is in a state of confusion, flux, and uncertainty. Countries and peoples who previously were not particularly open to the Gospel are becoming receptive. With that kind of openness, the Church is presented with an unequalled opportunity: publish the good news, and proclaim the Gospel ’till He comes.

That’s where I see He’s taking His people. He is giving His people a strong sense of the reality of Immanuel. He is also giving us a strong awareness of Maranatha. Something really big is going to happen very soon.

Q. How can West and East work together to support and encourage each other?

A. In my 25 years of ministry I have seen some basic changes in the relationship between the Asian and Western Church. In the beginning there was a total reliance on the Western missionaries for personnel, provision and prayers to meet the needs in Asia. Everything seemed to be reliant on the West. Then I saw the pendulum swing to the other extreme. One general mood was ‘Missionaries, go home!’ Even missions echoed such a cry. Total dependence swung to total independence.

Now I see a new and more balanced phase: a phase of interdependence. I think both the Eastern and the Western churches have matured to accept the validity of each other, with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I see them valuing each other’s giftings. I see more and more a symbiotic relationship developing where we say, ‘You rely on me and I rely on you.’ We now recognize that we need each other to survive, to perpetuate.

I do not call this relationship a partnership. Partnership is often an arrangement of convenience. I would like to see more of a marriage relationship developing, which is not an arrangement of convenience but of mutual commitment and trust. It is a body relationship.

I have seen Asians receiving Westerners, and I pray that Westerners will increasingly receive Asians.

Q. What has been the burden of prayer upon your heart, above all else, about Asia?

A. In Asia I have seen churches grow from nothingness into, perhaps, the biggest churches in the world today, such as Yonggi Cho’s church and now the Hope of Bangkok, and several others such as the Full Gospel Assembly of Malaysia. I saw them when they were small, and now they’ve grown tremendously. As I look at this kind of phenomenon, the thing that encourages me greatly is to see the birthing and the growing up of a church. The thing that concerns me is that often the church started as an organism and ended up as an organization; started as a corporate body of believers and ended up as a corporation.

My prayer for Asia is that I want to see the basic, beautiful gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed, and a simple, pure bride of Jesus Christ prepared. That’s my prayer.

(c) Asian Report, March/April, 1992 (G.P.O. Box 3448, Hong Kong).

Used with permission.


Renewal Journal: 2 Church Growth(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 69-76.
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Book Reviews (2) Church Growth

Book Reviews


Renewal Journal: 2 Church GrowthFrom Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth
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This issue of the Renewal Journal looks at some Australian books.

Heart of Fire by Barry Chant

Adelaide: House of Tabor, 1984, 382 pages.

Dr Barry Chant has written the only comprehensive history of Pentecostalism in Australia.  The 1973 edition, updated and expanded in 1984, makes fascinating reading.  Every college and Christian education centre should have one.  Every minister and leader in renewal needs to be aware of its story and heed its advice.

The revised edition includes twelve sermons by Pentecostal pioneers and has twenty pages of historical photographs.  It also tells of the beginnings of charismatic renewal in denominational churches and in inter-church activities.

Subsequent printing and the revised edition enabled the author to correct any errors in the account and add valuable information.  He wrote, ‘Not everyone apprecaited the ‘warts and all’ approach.  To those who have complained that I have been too ‘honest’, I can only answer that I know of no other way to write.  On the other hand, there have been widespread comments of appreciation, including many from outside the Pentecostal movement, for ‘telling it like it is’.

It tells the story of failure as well as success, of God’s grace and power amid human weakness and faithfulness.  Pentecostalism has been and continues to be controversial.  It must be.  Wherever God’s Spirit moves in power the evil in us and in society is confronted.  Pentecostalism itself is confronted, for like every movement it can lose its heart of fire and needs constant renewal (GW).

Dr Andrew Evans, General superintendent of the Assemblies of God writes,
Barry Chant is one of the leading Pentecostal ministers in Australia. … This book, I would consider as being one of the best that he has written.  It is a unique record in which he has set down in accurate detail the history of the Pentecostal movement in Australia from its beginnings until now.  It is the only one of its kind in print.  I find it to be inspiring and filled with many interesting anecdotes.  It also has an element of teaching in it; if the Pentecostal churches were to study it in depth it would help them in the future from making some of the mistakes of the past.
I have been personally blessed as I have read this outstanding account and it is my special joy to commend this book to those who are intereted in what God has done and is continuing to do through the Pentecostal movement.

The Spirit in the Church by Adrian Commadeur

East Keilor: Comsoda Communications, 1992, 143 pages.

A book about Catholic Charismatic Renewal in Australia reviewed by John Wilson, in Jesus is Alive, February 1993.

What?  Another book on the Renewal?  Aren’t our prayer groups’ tables already overladen with books?  But hold on a minute.  How many are locally produced and with the common touch as we know it?  How many leave us with the feeling, ‘Wow, we really have got something here!’

The author of The Spirit in the Church outlines the story of the Renewal in Australia with special reference to his involvement in Melbourne following his eight years as a Redemptorist student.  He takes us back to the 1970’s when the ‘new thing the Lord was doing’ was like new fire among us.  This is a timely reminder of our younger and fervent days.

The reader is taken on the spiritual journey with Adrian the young man and ‘New Australian’ who makes discoveries about the Lord, about the Church, about Scripture, about himself.  It is also the story of many of us who have been around since those days.  This reader knows personally many of the circumstances and personalities mentioned.  This gives the book authenticity.  Adrian explains the workings of the Holy Spirit and the consequent happenings in the prayer groups and beyond.  He explains with precision and sensitivity.

We may read here of the authoritative backing given to the Renewal by recent Popes and National Bishops Conferences.  We read of Covenant Communities, of miracles and above all of joy in the midst of a Church otherwise in turmoil.

My question after reading the book was: ‘What other section of the Church in our day has contributed as much as the Charismatic Renewal to the Church?’  What a treasure we have, is my final reaction to reading this book.  And perhaps the challenge to each of us is to appreciate ever more the treasure of Charismatic Renewal as we have it now, lest we say with shame later on, ‘Surely Yahweh was in this place and I never knew.’  I am referring to the fact that the Lord has done marvellous things already for those prepared to see.  What might He do in the future?

Available from the author, 15 Holly Green Court, East Keilor, Vic 3033, Phone/Fax (03) 337 2051.  Cost $12.50 posted.

Streams of Renewal, edited by Robert Bruce

Sydney: Uniting Church Board of Mission, 1991, 92 pages.

Here is a book of inspiration and encouragement concerning charismatic renewal in the Uniting Church, especially in New South Wales.

Part I, the first 22 pages, includes a summary of the developments of the healing and charismatic streams in the Uniting Church, written jointly by Don Evans, Don Drury and Robert Bruce.  It is an invaluable historical record of these significant developments.

Part II gives the personal journeys of twenty people (photographs included) whose lives have been deeply transformed by these streams of renewal.  Some of these people have become well known nationally, including Sue Armstrong, Don Evans, Harry Westcott, Audrey Drury, Con Stamos, Alan Robinson and Peter Savage.

Are you looking for a book to give your friends about the significance of charismatic renewal in Australia?  Here’s one.  It’s available at $6 ($8 including postage) from the Uniting Church Board of Mission, PO Box E178, St James, NSW 2000.  Ph (02) 285 4584.

Word and Spirit by Alison J Sherington

Published in Brisbane by the author, 1992, 38 pages
Republished by Renewal Journal Publications, 2011.

Reviewed by James Brecknell, in Journey, November 1992:

Alison Sherington’s Word and Spirit has the potential to bring healing to Christian disunity concerning the role of the Holy Spirit.  The booklet is subtitled Coming to Terms with the Charismatic Movement, ‘and is intended as an encouragement to be both faithful to the Word and open to the Spirit.’

Word and Spirit addresses many of the questions produced by confusion about the Word of God.  Confusion seems so unnecessary in the light of Alison Sherrington’s writing.  She shows that the truth of God is clear.

Her booklet clarifies topics such as the role of experiences of the Holy Spirit, problems of terminology, the desire to be baptized and filled with the Spirit, and the modern position on spiritual gifts.

The author reinforces the need for the people of God to have the right attitude to the Holy Spirit.  She writes that we need to be open to God, and this means being ready to change, ready to understand the empowering of the Holy Spirit as a means for glorifying God.  We should seek the Giver more than the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the gifts are for his glory.  Openness enables a living knowledge of the unity of Word and Spirit.

Renewal Journal

These reviews of the first issue of the Renewal Journal are written by Rev Dr Lewis Born, a former Director of the Department of Christian Education and Moderator in the Uniting Church in Queensland, and the Rev Prof. James Haire, Principal of Trinity Theological College and Dean of the Brisbane College of Theology.

Lewis Born wrote:

Renewal is no longer a matter of speculation.  It will be recorded as one of the most significant faith history phenomena of all time.  The Global Village factor makes this revival the most comprehensive international social and religious phenomena ever known.

To those who remain untouched or unexposed to renewal theology and events may I suggest that Geoff Waugh’s editorship of the Renewal Journal is a good step towards being more informed and possibly persuaded to the point of being involved, even to being a corrector of its course.

Future students of both social and church history will be surprised, both at the facts and at those who slept through them.  Professor Walter Hollenweger (Missiology, Birmingham) has stated, ‘a movement which represents more or at least as many members as all other Protestant denominations taken together can no longer be considered a fringe topic in church history, missiology and systematic theology.’

Among those who still sleep are members, clergy and leaders of orthodoxy who see themselves as defenders of the faith against this threat of enthusiasm and ‘unnecessary extremes’ to traditional faith, practice and theology.  Tradition and orthodoxy need to be re-defined.  If New Testament Christianity is the orthodox, then what claims to be twentieth century orthodoxy may be labelled by future theological historians as in fact deviant.

No doubt some of the renewal theological emphasis runs into error, if not enthusiastic heresy.  Some of its worship forms and practice are too subjective and unbalanced for my limited taste.  There are many charlatans.  But who would claim that contemporary ‘orthodox’ faith and practice were free of phonies and heresy?

Contemporary renewal is one of the most significant events in the history of Christianity.  Don’t do a ‘Rip Van Winkle’.

James Haire wrote:

Dr Geoff Waugh, an expert in Renewal Studies over many years, has begun editing an important Australian Journal which is unique in that it gathers together renewal material from the many church groups throughout Australia and overseas.

The first issue was published in the summer of 1993 and has articles ranging from an historical view of revival movements throughout history by Geoff Waugh himself to more specific accounts or revival experiences in Arnhem Land among the Aboriginal people of Australia by Dr Djiniyini Gondarra.

There are also significant articles by Stuart Robinson, J Edwin Orr, and material from John Greenfield.  In this issue all of them are centred on the theme of revival.  In addition, there is material on Renewal Studies in Australia and reviews of recent books on Pentecostal and Charismatic movements.

The Journal is breaking important new ground by linking renewal with ecumenical fellowship primarily throughout Australia.  For that reason it is quite a new contribution in this area.

I warmly commend this fresh and ground-breaking enterprise.  It looks as if it will play an important part in the Christian Church throughout this country.

Living in the Spirit, by Geoff Waugh

Melbourne: Joint Board of Christian Education, 1987, 80 pages.
2nd revised and enlarged edition 2009, Renewal Journal Publications

Review by Bishop Owen Dowling.

Many Australian Christians have experienced renewal in the Holy Spirit.  Yet it would be true to say that those church members enthusiastic about renewal are often a small group within a parish, frustrated because the parish, in its overall life and direction, does not seem to be renewed.

The Joint Board of Christian Education has produced a book of eight studies on the Holy Spirit and the Christian life called Living in the Spirit.  The author is Geoff Waugh, Director of Distance Education at the U.C.A.’s Trinity Theological College in Brisbane.

The assumption is that each study will take two hours, but the suggestion is made in the excellent guidelines at the beginning of the book that the course may be spread over sixteen sessions with only half the material in each chapter being attempted at each study session.

I find the study material to be balanced in theological emphasis and exceptionally well orgasnized and presented.  A relavitely large group, say a parish camp as a whole, or a group meeting in the parish centre, could handle the studies, with small group activity taken as part of the operation of the whole to allow closer interaction.  On the other hand I can see that the handbook would work well in a smaller home group, though I would recommend the sixteen study approach in this case.

There is a balanced approach to the controversial matter of the gifts of the Spirit.  I find myself opposed to that kind of teaching which treats the list of gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 as an exhaustive list – the 9 gifts – because Paul alters the list when he gives it again in verse 28 of the same chapter.  Living in the Spirit takes a wider perspective on the gifts, following Robert Hillman and his list of 27 Spiritual Gifts (see his book of that title also published by the J. B. C. E.).  Hillman finds biblical evidence for 27 spiritual gifts which we should expect to see operative in the church, and rightly divides them (following 1 Peter 4:10-11) into Speaking Gifts and Serving Gifts.

The study techniques used in the book are specific and helpful.  There is a good understanding of group dynamics, and exercises provided where possible answers are listed so that group members have something to start with.  Bald questions without any suggested answers are often daunting; the method here seems to be one of easing people in to dealing with biblical material, and sharing their own experience along with this.  Some study books go one way or the other – all on biblical references, or all experiential; this book combines both.

One feature I like of the studies is that in each one there is a ‘Voices from History’ section, with apt quotes from members of the Body of Christ from such writers as Tertullian, Augustine, Gregory the Great, Francis of Assissi, Charles Finney and David du Plessis.  The studies thus connect into the wider life, thought and practice of the church family, and are the richer as a result.

Those seeking to lead their parishes down a path of spiritual renewal with strong practical overtones and outcomes should look carefully at Living in the Spirit.


Renewal Journal: 2 Church Growth(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 93-100.
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Astounding Church Growth, by Geoff Waugh

Astounding Church Growth

Geoff Waugh

Geoff Waugh

The Rev Dr Geoff Waugh is editor of the Renewal Journal.

An article in Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth
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more people are praying and
more people are being reached for
Jesus Christ than ever before

The last decade of the twentieth century was seen as a decade of evangelism and harvest.  It capped a century of astounding church growth.

We can thank the Lord for it, and pray all the more earnestly for over two thirds of the world yet to be won to Christ.  Praying makes a huge difference.  We co‑operate with God in prayer as the Spirit of the Lord moves in mighty power in the earth.

More people are praying now for revival than ever before.  You can be one.  So can your prayer group and your church.

Mission statistician David Barrett, researched the magnitude of the prayer movement, noted that be the end of the twentieth century more than 170 million Christians were committed to praying every day for spiritual awakening and world evangelization.  In addition, more than 10 million prayer groups focus on those priorities.  Over 20 million Christians worldwide believe their primary ministry calling is to pray daily for revival and for fulfilment of the Great Commission.

Such massive praying, including yours, is linked with incredible church growth around the world.

Peter Wagner’s research described Latin American Evangelicals growing from 50,000 in 1900 to over 5 million in the 1950s, over 10 million in the 1960s, over 20 million in the 1970s, around 50 million by the end of the eighties and 137 million by 2000.  Over 100 new churches begin every week.  Now the church in Latin America grows at over 10,000 every day, or 3.5 million a year.

Africa saw church growth from 10 million in 1900 to over 200 million by the early eighties, with 400 by 2000.  Christians grew from 9% to 50% of Africa in the twentieth century.  Around 25,000 to 30,000 are added to the church daily in Africa, an estimated 10 million a year.

China, with 1 million evangelicals in 1950, has seen growth to an estimated 100 million.  In 1992 the State Statistical Bureau of China indicated that there were 75 million Christians in China (Asian Report 197, Oct/Nov 1992, p. 9).  David Yonggi Cho now estimates 100 million Christians in China’s 960 million population amid incredible persecution.  Current growth rates are estimated at 35,000 a day or over 12 million a year.

South Korea, a Buddhist country in 1900, had 20% Christian by 1980 and 30% by 1990 with estimates of 50% by 2000.  David Yonggi Cho heads a church of over 800,000 members with over 25,000 home groups and over 12,000 new members every month.  They have sent out 10,000 missionaries and commenced many other huge churches.

An official report of the former Soviet Union in 1990 acknowledged that 90 million of its 290 million inhabitants confessed allegiance to a church or religious community (Worldwide Photos Limited, Renewing Australia, June 1990, p. 38). Christians estimate that over 97 million are converted in Russia, that is one third of the population (Pratney 1984:273).

One quarter of Indonesia is now reported to be Christian. These islands have seen many revivals and people movements such as in 1965 amid political turmoil when over 100,000 animistic Muslims became Christian on the island of Java alone. Revival continues there.

Reports indicate that more Muslims have come to Christ in the past decade than in the previous thousand years. ‘New believers are immediately tested to a degree incomprehensible to us. Many are imprisoned and some have been martyred by governments or relatives. Yet the persecution seems only to strengthen their determination and boldness. In one country, where all Christian meetings are illegal, believers rented a soccer stadium and 5,000 people gathered. Police came to disperse the meeting and left in confusion when the Christians refused to leave’ (United Prayer Track News, No. 1, Brisbane, 1993).

1700 unevangelized people groups worldwide in the mid-seventies had been reduced to 1200 by 1990, and further reduced to 5,500 in 1993. David Wang of Asian Outreach estimates that these unreached people groups can all be reached by 1997.

The ‘Jesus’ Film, based on Luke’s gospel, has been seen by an estimated 503 million people in 197 countries, and 33 million or more have indicated decisions for Christ as a result. It has more than 6,300 prints in circulation and around 356,000 video copies. The world’s most widely translated film, Jesus, has been dubbed into more than 240 languages, with 100 more in progress (National & International Religion Report, May 3, 1993, p.1).

The CBNTV (Christian Broadcasting Network) 700 Club with Pat Robertson reported 6 million conversions in their work worldwide in 1990, which was more than the previous 30 years of results combined.

John Naisbitt, secular sociologist and author of ‘Megatrends’ (1982), has coauthored ‘Megatrends 2000’ (1990) in which one chapter forecasts religious revivals in the nineties including widespread charismatic renewal. He notes that one fifth, or 10 million, of America’s 53.5 million Catholics then called themselves charismatics, emphasizing a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

David Barrett research has uncovered the massive growth of the number of Pentecostal/charismatic Christians.  His figures indicate growth from its beginnings in 1900 to 550 million by 2000.   Pentecostal/charismatic Christians are now more than one third of all practicing Christians in the world today, just one indication of how the Spirit of God is moving.

The Assemblies of God, the largest Pentecostal group in the world, grew from 4.5 million in 1975 to over 13 million by 1985 and 16 million by 1990.  By the decade of the nineties it was the largest or second largest Protestant denomination in 30 countries.

Much of the amazing church growth results from visitations or outpourings of the Spirit of God. Leaders, pastors or evangelists are surprised and often overwhelmed. Rapid church growth has happened before, but never on such a large scale as now.

Such amazing growth is accompanied by fervent prayer, and usually grows out of earnest praying. People repent and turn to God. Lives are changed in large numbers. It makes a significant impact on society. Signs and wonders are common, as in the New Testament.

Revival and church growth

Church history and current revivals include times when God moves in great power. Revivals often result in rapid church growth.

* The early church saw it. Read Acts! At Pentecost 3,000 were won in one day. Soon after that there were 5,000 more. Then great multitudes of men and women. They had the reputation of turning their world upside down (Acts 17:6).

* Missionary expansion continued to see it. For example, Patrick in Ireland and Augustine in England saw strong moves of God and thousands converted with many signs and wonders reported.

* The Moravians saw it. On Wednesday 13 August 1727 the Moravian colony in Germany was filled with the Spirit at their communion service. Their leader, 27 year old Count Nicholas Zinzendorf, said it was like being in heaven. Within 25 years they sent out 100 missionaries, more than all the Protestants had done in two centuries.

* The American colonies saw it. 50,000 were converted in 17345. Jonathan Edwards described the characteristics of that move as, first, an extraordinary sense of the awful majesty, greatness and holiness of God, and second, a great longing for humility before God and adoration of God.

* 1739 saw astonishing moves of God in England. On 1st January the Wesleys and Whitefield and 60 others, Methodists and Moravians, met in London for prayer and a love feast. The Spirit of God moved powerfully on them all. Many fell to the ground, resting in the Spirit. In February 1739 Whitefield started preaching to the Kingswood coal miners in the open fields with about 200 attending. By March 20,000 attended. Whitefield invited Wesley to take over then and so in April Wesley began his famous open air preaching (which continued for 50 years).

* John Hunt, a pioneering Methodist missionary in Fiji, wrote in his journal about revival there in October 1845. The Spirit fell on the people in meetings and in their homes. There were loud cries of repentance, confession, long meetings, simultaneous praying aloud, and some being overwhelmed. ‘Many cases of conversion were as remarkable as any we have heard or read of: many of the penitents had no command whatever of themselves for hours together, but were completely under the influence of their feelings. … During the first week of the revival nearly 100 persons professed to obtain the forgiveness of sins, through faith in Jesus Christ. Some were exceedingly clear, others not so clear’ (Birtwhistle 1954:133).

* Jeremiah Lanphier, a city missioner, began a weekly noon prayer meeting in New York in September 1857. By October it grew into a daily prayer meeting attended by many businessmen. By March 1858 newspapers carried front page reports of over 6,000 attending daily prayer meetings in New York and Pittsburgh, and daily prayer meetings were held in Washington at five different times to accommodate the crowds. By May 1859, 50,000 of New York’s 800,000 people were new converts. New England was profoundly changed by the revival and in several towns no unconverted adults could be found! Charles Finney preached in those days.

* During September 1857, the same month the prayer meetings began in New York, four young Irishmen commenced a weekly prayer meeting in a village school near Kells. That is generally seen as the start of the Ulster revival of 1859 which brought 100,000 converts into the churches of Ireland.

* Throughout 1859 the same deep conviction and lasting conversions revived thousands of people in Wales, England and Scotland. One tenth of Wales became new converts. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Baptist prince of preachers, saw 1859 as the high water mark although he had already been preaching in London for five years with great blessing and huge crowds in a church where people prayed continually and had seen continual growth.

Twentieth Century Awakenings

* From October 1904 Evan Roberts in his twenties, formerly a miner and blacksmith, saw God move powerfully in answer to his and others’ persistent prayers. 100,000 were converted in Wales during 19045. Churches filled from 10 am till after midnight every day for two years, bringing profound social change to Wales.

* William Seymour began a Mission at Azusa Street in Los Angeles on Easter Saturday, 14 April 1906 with about 100 attending, both blacks and whites. It grew out of a cottage prayer meeting. Revival there drew people from around the nation and overseas and launched Pentecostalism as a world wide movement.

* Revival in Korea swept the nation in 1907. Presbyterian missionaries, hearing of revival in Wales, prayed earnestly for the same in Korea. 1500 representatives gathered for the annual New Year Bible studies in which a spirit of prayer broke out. The leaders allowed everyone to pray aloud simultaneously as so many were wanting to pray. That became a characteristic of Korean prayer meetings. Revival continues there now.

* The famous cricketer and missionary, C T Studd reported on revival in the Belgian Congo in 1914: ‘The whole place was charged as if with an electric current. Men were falling, jumping, laughing, crying, singing, confessing and some shaking terribly. … This particular one can best be described as a spiritual tornado. People were literally flung to the floor or over the forms, yet no one was hurt. … As I led in prayer the Spirit came down in mighty power sweeping the congregation. My whole body trembled with the power. We saw a marvellous sight, people literally filled and drunk with the Spirit’ (W.E.C. 1954:1215; Pratney 1984:267).

* The famous East African revival began in Rwanda in June 1936 and rapidly spread to the neighbouring countries of Burundi, Uganda and the Congo (now Zaire), then further around. The Holy Spirit moved upon mission schools, spread to churches and to whole communities, producing deep repentance and changed lives. Anglican Archdeacon Arthur Pitt-Pitts wrote in September, ‘I have been to all the stations where this Revival is going on, and they all have the same story to tell. The fire was alight in all of them before the middle of June, but during the last week in June, it burst into a wild flame which, like the African grass fire before the wind, cannot be put out’ (Osborn 1991:21).

* God moved upon the mountain town of Soe in Timor on Sunday 26 September 1965. That night people heard the sound of a tornado wind and flames above the Reformed Church building prompted police to set off the fire alarm. Healings and evangelism increased dramatically. Hundreds of thousands were converted. About 90 evangelistic teams were formed which functioned powerfully with spiritual gifts. The first team saw 9,000 people converted in two weeks in one town alone. In the first three years of this revival 200,000 became Christians in Timor, and on another small island where few had been Christians 20,000 became believers.

* God’s power visited Asbury College in Wilmore, Kentucky, on Tuesday 3 February 1970 at the regular morning chapel commencing at 10 o’clock. The auditorium filled with over 1,000 people. Few left for meals. By midnight over 500 still remained praying and worshipping. Several hundred committed their lives to Christ that day. Teams of students visited 16 states and saw several thousand conversions through their witnessing in one week. Over 1,000 teams went out in the first six weeks.

* The Jesus Movement exploded in 1971 among hippie and counter culture youth in America in the early seventies. Thousands were baptized in the ocean. Vital new groups like Calvary Chapel led by Chuck Smith emerged and multiplied rapidly. Newspapers of the movement included the Hollywood Free Paper which grew from a circulation of 10,000 to over 150,000 in two years; Truth merged with Agape and printed 100,000. Right On! grew from 20,000 to 100,000 circulation (Pratney 1984:231).

* In 1971 Bill McLeod, a Canadian Baptist pastor, invited the twin evangelists Ralph and Lou Sutera to speak at his church in Saskatoon. Revival broke out with their visit which began on Wednesday 13 October. By the weekend an amazing spirit gripped the people. Many confessed their sins publicly. Meetings had to be moved to the Civic Auditorium seating 2000. This spread to other churches as well.

* In September 1973 Todd Burke arrived in Cambodia on a one week visitor’s visa, later extended. Just 23 years old, he felt a strong call from God to minister there. By the end of September he had seen hundreds healed and saved. A virile church grew rapidly, later buried after the communist coup of 1975. By 1978 a million Cambodians had been killed. Still the decimated church survives, and is growing again.

* In 1977 John Wimber began pastoring a fellowship which his wife Carol had begun in their home. Their Vineyard Fellowship grew rapidly with their prayerful worship, powerful evangelism and a growing healing ministry. On Mother’s Day in May, 1981, a young man gave his testimony at the evening service and called on the Holy Spirit to come in power. Revival broke out at that service as hundreds were dramatically filled with the Spirit. In the next four months they baptized 700 new converts. The church grew to 5,000 in a decade and commenced many other Vineyard fellowships.

* The church in China continues to see God’s strong move amid great persecution, torture and killing which still continues. David Wang tells of a pastor imprisoned for over 22 years who left behind a church of 150 people scattered through the hill villages in northern China. On his release in the 1980s he discovered the church in that area had grown to 5,000. Three years later it had trebled to 15,000. Evangelists who saw 3040 converted in each village they visited in the eighties now report 300400 or more being converted in their visits. Some villages are experiencing a visitation of God where the whole village becomes Christian.

* Nagaland, a state in the NorthEast of India, began to experience revival in the 1960s and has continued in revival. By the early 1980s 85% of the population had become Christians (Mills 1990:40).

* Missionaries were expelled from Burma in the 1960s but the church continues to grow. A baptismal service at the Kachin Baptist Centenial Convention in 1977 saw 6,000 people baptised in one day.

* During the 1980s the 200 missionaries of the Philippine Missionary Fellowship each organised daily prayer group meetings at 7.00 pm to pray for the growth of the church. They report that within a couple of years this directly resulted in the formation of 310 new churches (Robinson 1992:13).

* Revival has been spreading in the Pacific islands, especially in the Solomons since JulyAugust 1970 when God moved powerfully in the nation, especially in meetings with Muri Thompson a Maori evangelist. The Spirit came in power, producing deep and loud repentance, much confession, signs and wonders, and transformed churches. Teams have gone from the Solomons to many other countries, sparking many other revivals.

* Engas in the Baptist mission area of the Western Highlands of Papua New Guinea had a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit from Sunday 16 September 1973, as the village pastors preached in their services after attending meetings during the previous week led by visitors from the Solomon Islands. Many were saved. Many were delivered from evil spirits. Many were healed. The church grew rapidly.

* The Huli speaking people of the United Church in Tari in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea also experienced revival from August 1974, with much confession, many tears, and deliverance from spirit powers. That revival spread to surrounding areas also.

* On Thurdsay afternoon 10 March, 1977 at Duranmin near the West Irian border of Papua New Guinea, Diyos Wapnok the principal of the Baptist Bible College spoke to about 50 people. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and great joy. Keith and Joan Bennet of Gateway were there. 3,000 were converted in the next three years. They had daily prayer meetings in the villages and many healings and miracles.

* Aborigines in Galiwin’ku on Elcho Island, in northern Australia, experienced revival from Wednesday 14 March 1979. Djiniyini Gondarra had returned from holidays that day and people met in his manse for prayer that night where the Spirit fell on them, as at Pentecost. They met all night and many were filled with the Spirit and many healed. The movement spread rapidly from there throughout Arnhem Land.

* In the Sepik lowlands of northern Papua New Guinea a visitation of God burst on the churches at Easter 1984, sparked again by Solomon Island pastors. There was repentance, confession, weeping and great joy. Stolen goods were returned or replaced, and wrongs made right.

* Jobson Misang, an indigenous youth worker in the United Church reported on a move of God in the North Solomons Province of Papua New Guinea in 1988. For 8 weekends straight he led camps where 3,500 took part and 2,000 were converted.

* The Evangelist Training Centre of the Lutheran church in the Eastern Highlands of Papua New Guinea had a visitation of God on Thursday night 4 August 1988. Crowds stayed up most of the night as the Spirit touched people deeply, many resting in the Spirit, others praying in tongues. Students went out on powerful mission igniting fires of the Spirit in the villages.

* On Saturday 6 May 1989 the Spirit of God fell on Waritzian village in Papua New Guinea’s Eastern Highlands. For three days the people were drunk in the Spirit. Healing and miracles occurred. On the Monday they burned their magic and witchcraft fetishes. The area had been a stronghold of spirit worship. Students from the Lutheran Training Centre were involved that weekend.

Harvest in the 1990s

* In the 1980s Christians in East Germany started to form small prayer groups of ten to twelve persons to pray for peace. By October 1989, 50,000 people were involved in Monday night prayer meetings. In 1990, when these praying people moved quietly into the streets, their numbers swelled to 300,000 and the wall came down (Robinson 1992:14).

* In the former U.S.S.R. there were 640 registered Pentecostal churches and many more unregistered. By the eighties 30,000 young people were meeting together in Poland to seek for the power of the Holy Spirit (Pratney 1984:273). Those numbers continue to expand in the nineties.

* Pastor Giedrius Saulytis of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, tells how after his conversion in 1987 he commenced a church which had 15 people in 1989. In 1993 that church has 60 home cells with 1,500 attending services, 800 being registered members. They have started three other churches, one of which now has 1,000 attending. Every week preachers from their church preach 20 times in 12 different cities in Lithuania (Church Growth, Spring 1993, p. 19).

* In a 1991 crusade in Leningrad 70,000 out of 90,000 attending made commitments to Christ. Russian delegates to the July, 1991, charismatic leaders conference in Brighton, England, reported on the amazing growth of the church in Russia (ARMA Brisbane Newsletter, Sept/Oct 1991).

* A Moscow conference with Pastor Cho of Seoul, Korea, held in June, 1992, at the Kremlin and a plaza nearby, attracted over 40,000 participants. Among them were 15,000 new converts (Church Growth, Winter 1992, p. 12).

* Chaplains in the Gulf War told of thousands of conversions and baptisms among the American troops from September 1990 to January 1991. 10,000 conversions were reported.

* Christians in Iran have recently grown in number from 2,700 to over 12,000 according to Abe Ghaffari of Iranian Christians International. An additional 12,000 Iranian Christians live in Western nations. Disillusionment with harsh Islamic law has opened Iran to the Gospel (United Prayer Track News, No. 1., Brisbane, 1993).

* Harvest has begun among the Kurds who have been hounded into refugee camps where Christians have helped and comforted them. The first Kurdish church in history has resulted. Many Kurds are open to the Gospel (United Prayer Track News, No. 1, Brisbane, 1993).

* In 1990 a bloodless revolution freed Mongolia from Russian rule. Within two years more than 500 people became Christian in that formerly resistant nation. A young girl was the first in her area to accept Christ. Now she reports that 70 others are meeting every week with her.

* The church in the Sudan is suffering under Islamic edicts. Missionaries are expelled, pastors imprisoned, and Christians persecuted. Despite the persecution there has been phenomenal church growth reported, especially in the south and the Nuba mountains region.

* A church leader wrote from Asaba, Nigeria, in 1992, telling how their church had increased from 700 to 3,200 within 6 months. A team of just over 100 went on outreach, first in Sokoto State where they started 5 churches involving 1,225 converts within 3 months. Then they went to Bomu State where 3 branches were planted with over 1,000 converts in all. Many Moslems were converted. He added,

When we reached Kano which is a Moslem state, we were able to preach for 2 weeks. Suddenly, the 3rd week, we were attacked, beaten and our property looted including our Bibles. Out of the 105 persons with me, 85 of them were killed, 17 mercilessly maimed (hands cut off). Only three escaped unharmed. I was beaten to unconsciousness, and imprisoned for 6 months without a hearing. After returning home, I was sued by some of the families of those who died in the outreach. Finally, I am particularly grateful to God that the Church of God is marvellously marching on in these three states. Praise the Lord! (Church Growth, Autumn 1992, p. 23).

* The church in previously resistant Nepal in the Himalayas is growing steadily. David Wang tells of a former Lama priest nicknamed Black Bravery, who has been an illiterate pastor for 15 years. By the nineties he led 43 fellowships with a total of 32,000 people. Another pastor in a remote area has 40,000 Christians in his region. Most conversions in Nepal involve casting out demons to set people free (Asian Report, May/June 1991).

* In October-November 1990, one small island in Indonesia saw 30,000 converted and 45,000 were baptized in another region in January-February 1991. This growth is among former animistic Muslims.

* Ruth Rongo from Vanuatu told of three months of evangelism ministry in 1991 where the power of God touched many villages and shocked the villagers with miracles just as in the New Testament. The church grew rapidly. Ruth was then involved in a prayer group which met after the Sunday night service. They began at 10.30 pm and prayed every week to 1 or 3.30 am

* John and Barbara Hutton were missionaries with the Huli people of Tari in Papua New Guinea. In April, 1993, Barbara wrote, ‘We have recently been to P.N.G. again. We were blessed to be part of a Youth Camp. I have never seen such exuberant and joyous worship among the Huli people before. There is a fresh move of the Spirit occurring. The highlight of the trip was the baptism of 100 young people in Tari when the Holy Spirit fell on the group before they even stepped into the water. A youth group of 6 there just last December was about 400 strong before we left late January. God moved through Huli university students home on holidays.’

* Eric Alexander of the Bible Society in India wrote in 1993, ‘I was in Amedabad in the month of February and was delighted to see a great revival in the Church there. I was surprised to hear that 30,000 people have accepted the Lord Jesus as their personal Saviour in the Diocese of Gujarat (Church of North India). Thousands of new converts are in the Methodist, Roman Catholic, Salvation Army and Pentecostal churches. There are thousands and thousands!’ (Sharing Australia, SOMA Newsletter, March 1993, p. 2).

* Fresh touches of God’s Spirit have been felt in Australia in 1993. It is only a beginning, but thank God for every touch of the Lord.

During May and June the Christian Outreach Centres experienced a strong move of the Spirit, with much repenting, and many resting in the Spirit or drunk in the Spirit for hours, or days. Many have received visions and prophetic insights, including young people and children in the schools. Beginning at their headquarters in Brisbane it spread to their churches. It brought a new zeal for evangelism and outreach.

Gateway Baptist Church moved into its new 1500 seat auditorium in 1993 (the former Queensland Expo Pavilion from Expo 1988), with around 1200 attending and more involved in their 4050 prayer groups, cell groups and outreach groups than ever before.

Networks of small home churches are also forming now. Perth, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane all have clusters of house churches or emerging networks which are linked for fellowship and accountability. These too are increasing in Australia.

Informal prayer groups as well as organized prayer groups of churches and Christian organisations continue to multiply as never before. This is true in Australia also. Much of this prayer involves a new commitment to repentance and revival.

Pray always

Every revival move is born in prayer personal prayer, prayer cells, prayer groups, prayer meetings, prayer in church, prayer in the car (with your eyes open!), prayer in bed, prayer with friends, prayer on the phone, prayer with people of other churches, pastors of different churches praying together, combined churches prayer meetings.

David Bryant, founder president of Concerts of Prayer International, suggests practical steps we can take in response to the phenomenal developments around the world (National & International Religion Report, May 1992, pp. 78):

1. Believe that God wants revival. Pray with faith and vision.

2. Join a small prayer group. Share the vision. Set the pace.

3. Work at integrating the prayer movement. Consider four ‘C’ areas:
closet prayer personal prayer life;
cluster prayer in small group settings;
congregational prayer when an entire church meets to pray;
concerts of prayer inter-church prayer meetings and rallies.

4. Seek out ‘pools of renewal’ in churches and organizations in your area, especially those praying for revival. Find ways to flow together and encourage one another.

5. Be equipped in your prayer life. Many resources are available (including this journal!). Share these resources together.

6. Get involved in a communication network. That will keep you informed. Note the renewal resources listed in this journal.

7. Visit places where prayer is flourishing. Talk to the leaders and bring reports to your own group.

8. Most importantly, don’t give up. We inherit the promises by faith and patience (Hebrews 6:12).

* Peter Wagner reported an example of prayer in Latin America. Arturo Arias, the pastor of an 800member church Centro Misionero El Sembrador in El Salvador, spoke at a meeting of church leaders in Guatamala. Wagner writes:

He told us how his church has received an unusual burden from God for extended prayer and that they responded by scheduling a 24 hour prayer meeting. They received such a blessing from God that they then attempted a 48hour meeting. God continued to pour out His presence and power.

Could they extend it and keep the church open for 7 days and nights of continuous prayer? They did, and the anointing increased. The day before Pastor Arturo left for our meeting his church had concluded a 10day continuous prayer meeting!

As he finished his address he said, half in jest, that his people were so enthusiastic about prayer that they were asking, ‘Can we have a month long prayer meeting?’ I immediately approached him privately and said, ‘How about challenging the Centro Misionero El Sembrador to become the first church to commit to an all month24 hour a day prayer meeting through October 1993?’

Arturo Arias replied, ‘I can easily speak for my church on this matter. Consider it done! We are committed to 31 days of continuous prayer next October!

What a challenge to the rest of us!  (Prayer Track News, Sept-Dec, 1992)

So, pray without ceasing. We live in a time when more people are praying and more people are being reached for Jesus Christ than ever before. May God find us responsive as we watch and pray.


Birtwhistle, A (1954) In His Armour. London: Cargate

Burke, T & D (1977) Anointed for Burial. Seattle: Frontline.

Koch, K (n.d.) The Revival in Indonesia. Evangelization Publishers.

Mills, B (1990) Preparing for Revival. Eastbourne: Kingsway.

Osborn, H H (1991) Fire in the Hills. Crowborough: Highland.

Pratney, W (1984) Revival. Springdale: Whitaker House.

Richardson, D (1981) Eternity in Their Hearts. Ventura: Regal.

Robinson, S (1992) ‘Praying the Price’. Melbourne: ABMS

Tari, M (1971) Like a Mighty Wind. Carol Springs: Creation House.

Tari, M & N (1974) The Gentle Breeze of Jesus. Carol Springs:

Wagner, C P (1983) On the Crest of the Wave. Glendale: Regal

Wagner, C P (1986) Spiritual Power and Church Growth. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Wagner, C P (1992) Prayer Shield. Ventura: Regal.

Watt, E S (n.d.) Floods on Dry Ground. Marshall, Morgan & Scott.

W.E.C. (1954) This is That. Christian Literature Crusade.

Further details of some of the revivals mentioned in this article are given in the article on ‘Revival Fire’ in the first issue of this Renewal Journal.


Renewal Journal: 2 Church Growth(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 77-92.
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Local Revivals in Australia, by Stuart Piggin

Local Revivals in Australia

Stuart Piggin

Stuart Piggin

Dr Stuart Piggin, Director of the Centre for the History of Christian Thought and Experience at Macquarie University, lectured in history at Wollongong and Macquarie Universities before taking up his present appointment.  His books include studies of Australian Church History and of Evangelicalism.

An article in Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth
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Be encouraged to pray
until the inundation of the Spirit comes


I want to advance four propositions about the history of revivals in Australia, and then comment on the prospects for revival in Australia today.

Four propositions

1. Local revivals have been frequent in Australian history.

In my research I have found references to 71 local revivals in nineteenth century Australia. And far from being impervious to revival, the twentieth century has witnessed more revivals than any previous age. This century has witnessed the greatest growth ever in the Christian Church, and revival in Africa, Asia, and South America is endemic.

In Australia the new century began with the largest evangelistic campaigns in Australia’s history. R. A. Torrey arrived in Melbourne (April 1902) following successful evangelistic tours in Japan and China. Attendances totalled a quarter of a million each week when the population of the whole of Victoria was only one million. Meanwhile, in 1902/3 a tent mission crusade throughout 200 country towns of NSW reported 25,000 inquirers.

In the 1920s there were rather spectacular revivals associated with Pentecostalism. In 1925 a revival broke out in the Melbourne suburb of Sunshine. Hundreds came under conviction of sin, were filled by the Great Baptizer, and created such excitement that people came from all over Australia to receive blessing. Out of this was formed the Pentecostal Church of Australia.

The 1930s, the decade of the African revival, witnessed scenes of considerable spiritual vitality in Melbourne. The Methodist Local Preachers Branch was very vigorous and had an impact on evangelical life in Australia. Teams of these local preachers went all over Australia and New Zealand. For many years it held a Holiness Convention each King’s Birthday weekend in Melbourne. It was conducted entirely by laymen. A Baptist minister, George Hall, who trained in America under Dr R. A. Torrey and Dr Campbell Morgan, and who knew evangelical life in USA intimately, said the Methodist Local Preachers Melbourne Branch Holiness Convention was the greatest spiritual force he had ever experienced.

The 1930s also saw scenes of revival in Queensland, especially connected with the Pentecostal branch of Methodism. Revivals were reported at Woombye, Kingscliffe, and Toowoomba. One who was used in this work was Booth Clibborn, grandson of William Booth. Other effective evangelists were Gavin Hamilton, Hyman Appleman, Garry Love and Gypsy Smith. The aboriginal pastor, Rodney Minniecon, now at Griffith, was a product of the same movement.

There were revivals associated with the name of Geoff Bingham in Australia in the 1960s and 1970s, some remarkable occasions associated with the Jesus movement, particularly among young people in Melbourne, and, of course, revival broke among aborigines on Elcho Island in March 1979.

2. Evidence indicates that local revivals have been genuine.

Consider the revival at Kiama in 1864 under the ministry of the Rev. Thomas Angwin, a Methodist. His sermons revealed a knowledge of ‘the deep things of God’, and congregations and prayer meetings grew in number, swelled by Presbyterians and Anglicans who sought a richer fare than they were receiving in their own churches. On ‘one of the later Sundays’ in July 1864 the revival came:

“The arrows were sharp in the hands of the King’s messenger that night. They were straightly aimed, and shot with all the intensity of a love baptized with the compassion of the Christ. … The next night there was almost equally as large a congregation at the prayer meeting. Then began what the good old people called ‘a breaking down’. The communion rail was crowded with seekers. Some hoar-headed men were amongst them; a storekeeper in the town, notorious for his fearful temper and furious conduct when under its influence; some gentle-spirited women; a number of senior lads from the Sunday schools … Night after night for the rest of the week and into the middle of the next, the meetings continued. … It was a revival which gave workers to the Church, teachers to the Sunday School, local preachers to the circuit plan and ultimately several ministers to the Australian Methodist Church” (Carruthers 1922:32).

Revival in Australian Methodism in the second half of the nineteenth century is mainly associated with John Watsford, the first Australian-born Methodist clergyman. In Ballarat in the 1860s, in Parramatta, in the inner city suburbs of Surry Hills and Balmain, and in country town such as Windsor and Goulburn, Watsford was used to ignite the fires of revival. Of a service in the Bourke Street Methodist church, Sydney, in 1860, Watsford (1901:123) reported:

“To a congregation which packed the building I preached from ‘Quench not the Spirit’. What a time we had. The whole assembly was mightily moved, the power was overwhelming; many fell to the floor in agony, and there was a loud cry for mercy. The police came rushing in to see what was the matter; but there was nothing for them to do. It was impossible to tell how many penitents came forward; there must have been over two hundred. The large schoolroom was completely filled with anxious inquirers.”

3. Revivals have raised moral standards of whole communities.

The 1902/3 tent meeting crusade in rural NSW crusade which resulted in the conversion of 25,000 was nowhere more wonderful in its manifestation than in the coal mining villages of the Illawarra when 2735 professed conversion or some 15% of the region’s population. The fire of the Spirit fell on each coal mining village in a work described as ‘gloriously monotonous’. At Mt Kembla 131 professed conversions; Mt Keira 214; Balgownie 183; Bulli 292; Helensburgh 234 and so on. At Mt Kembla ‘an intense emotion with an evident assent to the Preacher’s burning words were imprinted on every face and feature’.

What about the impact on the moral tone of the community? At Mt Keira swearing disappeared and the pit ponies in the mines stopped work as they could no longer understand their instructions, a phenomenon also reported in the Welsh revival 3 years later. Asked what was the evidence that the revival was genuine, the Rev. D. O’Donnell replied that the question was a very proper one, since there should be ‘works meet for repentance’. He catalogued four evidences:

“First, payment of debts. Tradesmen report the settlement of accounts they had long regarded as bad. Second, a pure language. …  It is said that in the Mount Keira pit an oath has scarcely been heard since the Mission . . . Third, a fair day’s work.  The proprietor of one of the mines told me that the biggest day’s output of coal they ever had, followed the Mission. Fourth, attendance at Church.  All the churches report greatly increased congregations and increase in the membership” (Colwell 1904:630).

The great revivals of the past have always resulted in a decline in national illegality and immorality. The same is true of the Billy Graham Crusades in Australia in 1959. The number of convictions for all crimes committed in Australia doubled between 1920 and 1950 and then doubled again between 1950 and 1959 when the population increased by only one quarter. Then, in 1960, 1961, and 1962, the number of convictions remained fairly constant, resuming its dramatic upward trend in the middle and late 60s.

The illegitimate birthrate was also investigated to get some rough index to noncriminal community standards. In the period 1955 to 1965 this index rose every year to almost double the 1954 figure, but the year it rose slowest (.06%) was in 1960. The illegitimate children not conceived in 1959 were not born in 1960!

Turning to alcohol consumption, the Bureau of Statistics supplied the following figures.

Annual Per Capita Consumption of Beer in Australia in Litres 1958-59  111.01,  1968-69  113.5,  1978-79  133.2.

This also reveals the same deteriorating trends as we have seen in all the other social indicators. It is therefore striking to learn that the figure for 196061 is 100.1, that is 10% lower than the 195859 figure, an unexpected and dramatic fall.

4. Revival comes with social salvation to marginalized and underprivileged groups.

Today’s aborigines, who number about 150,000 in Australia, are experiencing revival, with some of their own movements emerging. There has been a change in the tone of communities touched by revival: less drunkenness, petrol sniffing, and fighting; greater conscientiousness in work; an increased boldness in speaking out against social injustices. At the Anglican Roper River Mission (Ngukurr) which had been reduced to a social disaster area by the granting of a liquor licence, the revival, which began in 1979, came as a form of social salvation. Sister Edna Brooker exclaimed: ‘New life has come to Ngukurr. Half the population say they have turned to Christ and the transformation from alcohol, petrol sniffing and immorality is very wonderful’ (Boyd 1986).

At Warburton in Western Australia 500 came to the Lord and were baptized. At Wiluna crime dropped to zero and the local publican had to put on free beer to entice people back into his pub.

So, revival comes as a form of social salvation to a needy people. In Australia the major perceived problems are economic recession and malaise; unemployment; marital breakdown and the poverty of relationships; drugs; death on the roads; environmental rape; demoralization of the young. Revival would be the chief means of energizing the Church in general and Christians in particular to address these problems.

Prospects for revival in Australia

1. Revivals are often caught rather than taught.

Many people, particularly in the missionary movement, are learning about revival which is endemic in other parts of the world and are bringing what they have learned back to Australia.

Australian missionaries working in Africa learned much from the East African revival which began in Ruanda in 1931. Revival has been endemic in the Solomons since the early 1970s. Among the missionaries was George Strachan who has written an instructive book entitled Revival: its blessings and battles. There, for example, he answered the important question, ‘Why do revivals not start?’

“Lack of real prayer is a major hindrance. For many of us prayer is of no great importance. It is just an ‘extra’ to a busy life. But prayer that brings power takes precedence over all else. Nothing should be allowed to steal away time spent with God in prayer” (1989:55).

In 1962 Geoff Bingham, who had been influenced by the East African revival, returned from Pakistan. That year Bingham taught at a teaching mission at Thornleigh. He taught all the great truths which had crystallized for him when he experienced revival in Pakistan: the holiness of God; the tyrants which hold people in bondage, namely sin, the flesh, Satan, principalities and powers; God’s wrath, the conscience, the law. He then showed how all of those have a hold over us because of guilt, but that when the guilt was taken away in the cross so the bondage is taken away.

A prayer meeting before the mission was held in the home of Fred George, a returned CMS missionary from Tanzania. About thirty people attended it. At first the meeting was fairly routine with prayer for the church and mission, and then Geoff said ‘I think that the Lord wants to bring home to us now what the Lord thinks of us.’ He read from Psalm 24, ‘Who shall ascend to the hill of the Lord? He who has clean hands and a pure heart.’

Then he suggested that those present should come to the Lord and ask him to reveal himself. They all knelt down in a circle, and then someone began to weep, and a great conviction came over all of them. Some tried to pray, but dissolved in sobs.

One who could not attend that mission because he was sick was John Dunn. At that home prayer meeting there came over John Dunn an incredible sense of his own depravity in the sight of God. He saw something extraordinary. It was as if he were standing outside himself, looking at himself. And he wanted to flee from himself as fast and as far as he could because of the horrific sight he had of his own sin. He was crushed and broke down and sobbed convulsively, and the others around him were prostrate on the floor, broken-hearted.

Then a gentle quietness came over the whole group, and then a wonderful sense of God’s total forgiveness. Then they sang and sang until they were hoarse. The singing and intercession just went on and on, until someone said, ‘It’s half past four in the morning’. Everyone was staggered that so much time had elapsed.

2. The Theology of Revival is increasingly studied and understood.

The thinking of some of the most influential evangelical teachers and preachers of the twentieth century leaves room for revival e.g. Martyn Lloyd Jones and J. I. Packer. Packer, for example, tells us that the Puritans did not use the word revival much they spoke of godliness, by which they meant revival. There is an increasing study and appreciation of the writings of the church’s greatest theologian of revival, Jonathan Edwards. Bingham has written over 150 books. Many of them bear on revival. Then there is the excellent study material of the Fellowship for Revival’s Academy prepared by the Rev. Robert Evans, 57 Talbot Road, Hazelbrook, NSW, 2779. So there is ample opportunity for the Christian to study the whole issue and theology of revival.

3. Revival is usually preceded by unprecedented unity.

Unity among Christians must involve greater cooperation between Evangelicals and Charismatics.  This will require godly leadership from those who have been given leadership roles in those branches of the Christian church. I think that there has been such a stand off between the two that I have been advancing a theology which might bring them both together on what they agree about the Holy Spirit rather than have them arguing over what they disagree about the Holy Spirit.

We all agree that the most fundamental work of the Holy Spirit is to convict of sin and to regenerate and sanctify. Let us all evangelical and charismatic meet together and pray for a great outpouring of these things rather than arguing over disputed matters such as gifts and exorcisms.

4. Revival comes when we move together.

Revival is the river of God’s love flowing freely and fully through the Church, and it may come when the existing tributaries start to flow together.

a. In late 1989 the first of the prayer meetings for a spiritual awakening within the Anglican church was held in Lindfield, a Sydney suburb. That has expanded and some 26 regional groups are now meeting to pray for revival. This involves about 6000 folk in prayer for the revival of the church and the spread of the gospel. Much blessing is being reported. There are churches which as a result of their involvement with this are reactivating their prayer life. One church reports conversions every week. At a time when the Anglican church is divided over so many issues it is great that Anglicans should be able to draw together to pray in this way.

b. The Fellowship of Revival in the Uniting Church has nurtured such wonderful Christians as Dr Robert Hillman. His life and his lectures on the ministry of intercession will continue to speak to the Church and sensitize it to its need for revival.

c. Then there are such groups of faithful souls longing for revival as Intercessors for Australia, and Aussies Afire launched by the Bishop of Grafton in 1989. There is also Fusion and Aussie Awakening, headed up by Mal Garvin.

d. Bishop Dudley Foord, an organizer of the Sydney Anglican prayer gatherings, spoke at the National Parliamentary breakfast in Canberra. This was a great opportunity to remind the nation that national regeneration or the restoration of a demoralized people is a spiritual matter primarily and only secondarily an economic matter. Then Bishop Foord and Glenda Welden, the wife of the publisher, Kevin Welden, and a member of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, attended the first international Prayer Leaders Conference organised as part of the Lausanne Commission on World Evangelisation.

The rain clouds of blessing are gathering. Be encouraged to pray until the inundation of the Spirit comes.


Boyd, Jeanette (1986) ‘The Arnhem Land Revival of 1979: An Australian Aboriginal Religious Movement’, unpublished paper, October.

Carruthers, J. E. (1922) Memories of an Australian Ministry. London: Epworth.

Colwell, James (1904) Illustrated History of Methodism. Sydney: William Brooks.

Strachan, George (1984) Revival: its Blessings and Battles. An Account of experiences in the Solomon Islands (Revised 1989). Laurieton: South Sea Evangelical Mission.

Watsford, John (1901) Glorious Gospel Triumphs. London: Charles H Kelly.


Renewal Journal: 2 Church Growth(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 59-68.
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Reflections on Renewal, by Ralph Wicks

Reflections on Renewal

Ralph Wicks

Ralph Wicks

The Rt Rev Ralph Wicks, an Anglican Bishop, was a pioneer in renewal among Anglicans in Australia. He reflected on that ministry.

An article in Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth
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I have been amazed over the years at the

transforming power of Jesus in individual lives.


An event of some significance occurred in the early years of my episcopate. I had a feeling that the church as a whole was just plodding along. There were a few bright spots among the parishes, but on the whole I thought church growth was not exciting. What troubled me more was that not many clergy were over-concerned, and if they were anxious about the situation, they didn’t show it.

At the same time as I was experiencing these impressions, I was made aware of the ‘Holy Spirit’ movement. Pentecostal churches had been with us since the beginning of the century, but in the 1960s they had been showing a lot of vitality and considerable growth in adherents many former Anglicans and also former members of a number of other historic churches. I was interested to discover the reason for this new phenomenon. Books by Michael Harper, Colin Urquhart and David Watson, Anglican priests in England, helped me to understand this ‘charismatic movement’ (charisma here refers to the Pauline list of Spiritual Gifts).

Power ministry

I wanted to know about the ‘Power’ ministry, i.e. the Power of the Holy Spirit. I knew God had blessed the few natural gifts I had, but there was always so much effort on my part, and I got tired. There was not much ‘resting in the Lord’.

But I had a problem. My wife and I now lived in a fine house in Taringa Parade, Taringa, owned by the diocese. My wife knew of my growing interest in the charismatic movement, but was very apprehensive about this spiritual phenomenon. She said to me, ‘If you get involved in this movement, I’ll leave you.’ So I pulled back from the charismatic movement. However, an extraordinary event was about to unfold.

I went to a clergy retreat. While I was away, my wife went, albeit reluctantly, with a friend to a house meeting to hear an evangelist and spiritual healer. I imagine the friend was endeavouring to find support for my wife, who now had cancer. During the meeting, an invitation to go forward for prayer was given. My wife, who was really a very private person, was first to step forward. Later, she told me she didn’t really know what happened except friends were picking her up from the floor. She felt weepy, and asked to go home. She cried herself to sleep, not out of grief, but of joy.

The next day she had a strong desire to ring three women from whom she was estranged. Two were delighted that friendship was restored; the third, from whom my wife had not heard for months, got her phone call in first, and there was much rejoicing. In a real sense, I found a different woman in my home when I returned from the retreat. She of course looked the same, but she seemed to have grown ten feet tall spiritually.

With confidence now, I went to a conference in Sydney, led by Archbishop Bill Burnett of Capetown and Bishop Zulu, also from Africa. Archbishop Burnett was the Episcopal Father of the Charismatic Renewal in the Anglican Communion.

The conference was terrific and I ended up being elected chairman of the Anglican Renewal Ministries in Australia, a post I held for several years.

It was a joy to organize several Diocesan Renewal conferences at Camp Cal, Caloundra. Guest speakers at various times included Vernon Cohen and Dick Wallace, Anglican priests from Melbourne. It was a privilege to have Father Terry Fulham from Darien, Connecticut, USA, at another of the meetings.

Ecumenical Renewal services at St John’s Cathedral drew packed houses. The Rev. Geoff Waugh, from a Baptist-Uniting Church background, and a Roman Catholic priest, Father Vincent Hobbs, were co-convenors of these rallies, some of which were also held at St Stephen’s Roman Catholic Cathedral and the Albert Street Uniting Church. These were exciting times as lives were changed, Holy Spirit power was in evidence and healings took place. A small number of diocesan priests were blessed and their ministries enriched.

Proclamation of Jesus

However, it was not all plain sailing. Some clergy regarded me as a ‘weirdo’ but one thing they could not deny: The proclamation of Jesus and God’s gifts of salvation by grace through faith became key features of my preaching. I was reminded by Scripture that the work of the Holy Spirit is to glorify Jesus.

Of course, there are excesses in most spiritual movements. I have also known Anglo-Catholic and Evangelicals to go ‘over the top’, and I have experienced ‘charismatic Christians’ who have become quite unbalanced and fanatical.

I have been glad to have experienced the strong sacramental life of Anglicanism and the good order of liturgical worship. But liturgical worship need not be stiff. The warmth of the Spirit can melt the coldness of mere formalism. At times, ‘non-liturgical’ services, too, have a very helpful place in our churches.

I was invited to a conference of Evangelicals in Melbourne. I guess it was strange to have one brought up in a strong Anglo-Catholic tradition to be given this invitation. However, my role was to respond to a paper by Michael Cassidy on ‘Charismatic or Spiritual Renewal’. Michael has been well known in many countries as one of the leaders of African Enterprise an organization concerned with a two-pronged mission Evangelism and Community Social Development.

From Monday to Wednesday, the lectures had been superb, but more of the head than of the heart. I thought, in fact, that the mood of the delegates was quiet and subdued. So arrived my six minutes. The then Archbishop of Melbourne, Bob Dann, kept reminding me about the ‘six minutes’. I put away my prepared text and simply shared with the conference what spiritual renewal meant to me: how my ministry was enriched, how I came to understand and love Jesus more. The response of the delegates was very moving to me. They rose in acclamation. I went backstage and wept. God had done something beautiful.

As I had to leave the conference immediately and return to Brisbane, I could know only secondhand that the mood of the conference changed from that moment people were more open and friendly than before.

What has always amazed me is that Anglican leaders, yes, bishops, have almost acted as though Pentecostalism does not exist, especially when many Anglicans have moved into Pentecostal fellowships and especially since Pentecostalism is the fastest growing Christian expression in Australia. Either they are afraid to admit that Pentecostalism has ‘something’; or worse, they think Pentecostals are in some way outside the pale and not to be regarded as part of the Christian family.

Bishop Shevill once said, ‘The untaught truths of yesterday become the heresies of today.’ In other words, what the historic churches fail to emphasize, others pick up and go to excesses. Historic churches, by their partial neglect of the third Person of the Holy Trinity, have in part, only themselves to blame for the growth of many Pentecostal fellowships.

Parish Missions

Before and after my adventure with ‘Charismatic Renewal’ I felt called to offer myself to any priest who would risk inviting me to lead a parish mission. I had no particular training in evangelism but I learnt something by doing.

During my time as an archdeacon and assistant bishop, I conducted parish missions or intense weekend teaching periods in a number of places within and outside the Diocese of Brisbane. The ‘local’ ones were at Stanthorpe, Pittsworth, Petrie (twice), Mt Gravatt (twice), Maroochydore, Bundaberg, Nanango, Ekibin, Inala, Yeronga and Ashgrove. Outside the diocese, missions were taken at Kurri Kurri in the Diocese of Newcastle, Glen Innes in the Diocese of Grafton, Stratford in the Diocese of Gippsland, Belgrave in the Diocese of Melbourne and Biloela in the Diocese of Rockhampton.

It was a privilege to be invited by the Bishop of Singapore, Ban it Chui, to take a mission in his Cathedral of St Andrew and also a clergy retreat. The visit to Singapore was a real eyeopener. In this diocese, the ‘charismatic movement’ has changed church life in many parishes. I saw churches filled especially with young people hungry for the Gospel. In one parish I visited, a cinema has now been acquired to accommodate the growing congregation.

One night while I was ministering in St Andrew’s Cathedral, a young man a Buddhist wandered in and was converted to the Christian faith. On one Sunday, I ministered to an all Indian congregation. For three hours, the whole congregation came singly or in family groups for the laying on of hands with prayer. A number were overpowered by the Holy Spirit and all the time I was praying over others, two women knelt on the concrete floor beside me, praying for me. With such enthusiasm for Jesus, it is perhaps not surprising that it was hard for me to leave Singapore.

Of course, it is difficult to estimate the effect of such parish missions. In one or two places, I suspect the missions were a complete failure. My own ministry may have been defective or maybe the preparation may have been inadequate.

However, in other places, according to the rectors, lives were changed, people were converted, people were physically healed. A former rector of Maroochydore, in the Diocese of Brisbane, told me that my mission was the most significant event in his long ministry in that parish. For that I praise God and give Him the glory.

Recently I met a businessman in Nambour who confessed that he had been converted at the mission in Glen Innes. I remembered this man well. He was the last to whom I ministered at that mission.

There have, however, been a few regrets. I have known people so changed and challenged by the in-flowing power of the Holy Spirit to be a real threat to parish clergy in parishes where I have ministered. These dear priests have not been able to cope with the enthusiasm of the newly converted and have found them difficult to cope with. Some of my missions have swelled the numbers going to Pentecostal churches.

It has been beautiful over the years to see wayward husbands come back to their wives and families, to see men and women freed from the burden of guilt which has plagued them for years, to see people with cancer have remission for a number of years, to know people so enthused that they form the nucleus of a new parish. I have been amazed over the years at the transforming power of Jesus in individual lives.


(c) Ralph Wicks, 1993, One Rung from the Top (Brisbane: Boolarong), pp. 76-82.
Used by permission.

Renewal Journal: 2 Church Growth(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 53-58.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.

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Renewal Leadership, by John McElroy

Renewal Leadership

John McElroy

John McElroy

The Rev Dr John McElroy wrote as senior pastor of Churchlands Christian Fellowship in Perth, Australia.

An article in Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth
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We must be cautious in the selection of leaders.

Our unity, especially in leadership, sparks revival.

The church must stay true to Jesus and obey him.


When I first heard some colleagues talk about the 1990’s as a ‘decade of revival’ I wondered if it was just more wishful thinking aimed at getting Australian churches to take evangelism seriously.

It is increasingly apparent, now, that we live in a ‘kairos’ moment – God’s time for us.  Good and evil grow side by side at what appears to be an accelerating rate.

In these times of economic and social upheaval we have the potential of an almost unprecedented audience for God’s action. Our fellow Australians are seeking spiritual answers to life’s questions. Many do so for the first time. Others are seeking a place to belong and want healing from the wounds of life.

At a time of such obvious need and searching we agonize to observe some congregations experiencing decline and, in a few cases, apparent death. Yet, regardless of outward appearances, wherever God’s people gather in worship there is always potential for renewal.

God has a plan for the church. In the past God kept his promise. Even though it would appear whole generations lost a true knowledge of God, he sovereignly renewed his kingdom again when he found willing hearts. Today, God is looking for pure and willing hearts among those who would aspire to leadership in the church.

In preparation for revival and harvest, God is raising up leaders whose visionary zeal is matched by their integrity. Our Master is concerned not only about whether we reach the goal, but how we achieve it. Leaders today are wise to remember that the end does not justify any and every means of getting there. On earth, Christian leaders are servants of a God whose nature is integrity, justice, love and mercy. Our Lord wants his ambassadors to reflect his nature and character in the midst of providing leadership.

For some time I have noted that methods and standards vary greatly in the selection and guidance of church leaders. Within my denomination, I have often been called upon to give advice or rectify situations which are attributable to poor leadership decisions.

My intent is not to reiterate what others have written on issues facing renewal leadership. I would like, however, to underline three issues which I feel must be considered by those who desire to be leaders in renewal. These issues have come out of my experience as pastor and as convenor of the Christian Ministries Network of Western Australia.

Caution in leadership selection

Leadership is a key issue in renewal and revival. The apostle Paul warned against being hasty in the laying on of hands for leadership (1 Timothy 5:22). While this Scripture is often quoted, the importance of its implementation is often underestimated, much to the detriment of the church. Once a person has been placed in a position of leadership that person carries an authority and influence within the Body of Christ which either promotes or hinders its mission.

I have not yet discovered one elder, staff person or leader who, at the time of being selected, was fully mature in the Lord. That is normal. Jesus picked the disciples on the basis of their potential, not their perfection. Chapter three of 1 Timothy provides an essential list of considerations for spiritual leadership. In addition to this list, I often ask the following six questions concerning potential leaders:

1. Have they undergone a period of settling in and observation?

When new people decide to make our Fellowship their spiritual home, we invite them to undertake a minimum three to six months settling in and getting to know us. During this time we ask that they join a weekly home group but refrain from signing up for, or becoming involved in, any of the ministries of the church. During this period our leaders observe their character, gifts, and apparent maturity in the Lord. This brief time of waiting clarifies not only their suitability for ministry but whether the needs and vision of the individual fit our capabilities.

2. Have they dealt with sin or strongholds operative in their lives?

In other words, are they free of habitual sin or do they require ministry, healing, or counselling which will set them free from ungodly thoughts or behaviour? Do they give evidence of anger, unforgiveness, rejection, lust, pride, hurt, gossip, or any of the acts of the flesh noted in Galatians 5:1921? The presence of sin or strongholds does not indicate a person’s ultimate unsuitability for leadership, but it does indicate: not yet!

3. Do they show evidence of having gone to the cross?

Does the nature of Jesus, particularly humility, seem to be evident and growing? Going to the cross speaks of dying to the flesh and human cleverness in our attitudes and lifestyles. Such people will show traits of circumspectness, submissiveness, wisdom, compassion, transparency, patience and prayerfulness. They are humble, teachable, willing to be accountable, and allow others to speak into their lives.

4. Do they have a growing intimacy with God?

In John 15:5 Jesus said, ‘Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’ To abide in Jesus speaks of an intimate relationship of prayer and communion; of two best friends who anticipate one another’s moods, mannerisms and responses. Abiding is the process of becoming like the company we keep. The result of intimacy is to bear certain recognizable fruit: the fruit of the Spirit, an ability to discern the Lord’s voice, and a growth in our understanding of God’s nature and the way he brings his will to pass.

5. Are they free of selfish ambition or worldly cleverness?

Selfish ambition is essentially the desire for recognition, power, and control. Worldly cleverness is the means of fulfilling ambition: intellectualism, deceit, power games, manipulation, partiality, and control. Some seek church leadership with hopes of lordship rather than service. Others have a mistaken notion that what made them successful in the business world translates identically to the church.

Our own enthusiasm can never substitute for godly wisdom in decision making, as stated in Psalm 127:1,
Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.

Those suited to spiritual leadership acknowledge sooner rather than later that prayer, waiting on the Lord’s timing, and following his plan are the only ways to build God’s house.

6. Do they have the same spirit and vision as your team?

Are potential leaders on the right train? Are they willing to work in submission to the pastor and leaders of the local church? Do they hold views which mesh with ours, or are they at odds with our established vision, ethos, and mission?

For some reason, growing churches attract ambitious people aspiring to leadership who lack the discernment to choose the church God has actually selected for them. You must therefore look out for ‘cruisomatics’ flying from church to church looking for the perfect roost. Beware of those practising a ‘gift of correction’ or ministries which they proclaim will ‘get your church on the right track.’ These are the lone rangers, free spirits, and ultimately the self-inflicted wounded whose unrepentant hearts cause untold grief.

When selecting potential leaders it is always wise to narrow the front door, so to speak, by being cautious and getting as many facts as possible on the table. Good things come to those who wait and ask God’s discernment in the selection of leaders. I, and many others, have learned the hard way. It is much easier to refrain from placing a person in leadership than to admit a mistake and have to remove them later.

Unity results in synergy

Unity, especially among leaders, gives impetus to revival. It results in a Holy Spirit induced synergy.  The Macquarie Dictionary defines synergism as ‘the joint action of two substances… which increase each other’s effectiveness when taken together.’ While synergism is most commonly thought of in the context of chemistry or metallurgy, it also applies to the church. When two churches and their leaders pray together, relationships bond, cooperation results and the net impact is greater than their previous effect as two separate entities.

The chances of revival taking place within a church, area, or city increase when there is unity within the leadership. John Wimber has noted that one of the signs of impending revival would be a call to unity. This call to unity is not an exercise of theological compromise or ecclesiastical carpentry but comes as the Body of Christ is touched by repentance, healing, and holiness.

Pat Robertson, in his book The Secret Kingdom, writes of eight principles arising from the teachings of Jesus which govern all of life. He calls these eight principles ‘the laws of the kingdom’. One of these principles, which Robertson calls ‘the law of unity’, presents both a challenge and promise to Christian leaders in Australia.

Essentially, the law of unity states that within the Trinity there has always been agreement and harmony. Consequently, unity and harmony in Christ’s Body are crucial to the unleashing of God’s incredible power among us. Great creativity and power for accomplishing God’s purposes are released where there is harmony.

A practical outworking of the law of unity is seen in Matthew 18:1920 where Jesus said, ‘Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’

Here our Lord calls for agreement based on unity. Since Jesus was among them when they gathered to consider an issue, Jesus’ disciples would be expected to agree with him. As the central focus and inspiration of their fellowship, Jesus would bring his disciples to harmony if they genuinely laid aside their own preconceptions and centred on him.

The biblical accounts of life in the New Testament church further illustrate the power of unity. As the believers continued to seek the Lord together in prayer (Acts 1:14) the Holy Spirit added to their number and confirmed the gospel with signs and wonders (Acts 5:1216).


Early in 1990 I became aware of the existence of Christian networks of encouragement in Australia, England, the United States, and South Africa. These networks focus on unity through prayer and building relationships among leaders. I had the privilege of visiting networks in South Africa and in the U.S.A.

While the setting and composition of each network varied greatly, they had five traits in common:

1. They were built on relationships between church leaders.

2. Those involved had been renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit and believed the Spirit was raising up a strong church to take the land.

3. Those involved came from a wide variety of church backgrounds.

4. All shared a Bodywide vision, putting aside competition and empire building in favour of building up and encouraging the wider Body of Christ.

5. They showed evidence of the spirit of Joshua and Caleb, having the courage to dream and plan great exploits for God.

Inspired by what I saw, I returned to Perth and began to pray about God’s plan for networks of encouragement in Australia. Aware of similar moves under way in the eastern states initiated by the Rev Dan Armstrong and Kairos Ministries, I felt a need to bring leaders together across Western Australia. After inviting some colleagues (many of whom had worked together in organizing Vineyard Conferences) to join in prayer, the Christian Ministries Network WA was formed in 1990.

Recently I have observed a marked increase in the number of interdenominational prayer meetings and in fellowship activities aimed at building relationships between evangelical and charismatic leaders in Western Australia. Politicians, judges and heads of some Bible Colleges are among those beginning to come together for prayer and fellowship. There appears to be a warming of the spiritual atmosphere over the state, similar to the Greenhouse effect.

As the impetus towards unity increases and relationships are built, I am noticing a decrease in competitiveness. Leaders desire increasing cooperation. Pastors talk about such subjects as discovering God’s plan for taking our cities, networking with the wider Body of Christ, establishing the church of the city, and discovering and sharing each congregation’s redemptive gift. I have concluded that unity is bringing a synergy to the Body of Christ in Western Australia.

For further reading on developing strategies for bringing revival to our communities I recommend two excellent books, Taking our Cities for God by John Dawson (Creation House, 1989) and The House of the Lord (Creation House, 1991).

Revival foundations: Jesus and obedience

I believe that one of the reasons why God withholds revival is that he knows our nets are insufficiently strong or mature to contain the catch. Historically, revivals have lasted for about a generation for this reason. Eventually the nets broke down. In the coming revival I believe God wants us to pay attention to the foundation on which we build our nets.

In 1 Corinthians 3:11, the Apostle Paul reminds us that ‘no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.’

We do well to remember this. Many Christians and congregations are unsure of the implications of Jesus as the foundation. We have inadvertently confused Jesus with our doctrines, liturgies, denominational trappings, and social activism. These are forms or expressions of faith and may be valid, but they are not the one and only foundation: Jesus Christ himself.

Many Christians have built their identities and loyalties on the other building materials Paul alludes to in subsequent verses, not on a personal relationship with and loyalty to Jesus. These alternative building materials may look and feel substantial. In the final analysis, however, they do not stand the test.

What does it mean to build on the foundation of Jesus? It means being cemented into him. It involves being more Christlike as his disciples and obeying all he commands (Matthew 28:1820). To build on the foundation of Jesus is to build a church which is nourished in the love of Jesus and gives love in response (1 John 4:19). This kind of church will take the land.

John Dawson emphasizes that, ‘It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is, first of all, love for God’ (Taking our Cities for God, page 209). Love is the greatest power the world has ever known. As more of God’s love and light flood the world, darkness will be overcome.

This leads us to the vital question: What brings revival to a land? Revival is essentially a ‘soft spot’ in the heart of God, an act of God’s grace and mercy. God sovereignly determines when and where revival will happen. Yet within the scope of God’s sovereignty we can make a response. We see it in God’s word to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14,

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

Perhaps the first act of humility required of us is to ask ourselves: What is our goal in evangelism? Are we seeking to make people ‘churched’ as members of a particular denomination with a loyalty to our ethos and traditions? Or are we making disciples of Jesus? Will the fish we catch be appropriately ‘cleaned,’ that is discipled to become like Jesus and serve him? How do we help new disciples go back into the harvest field to bring others into his glorious light?

In Ezekiel 34:4 we find the tasks of God’s shepherds. They strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, and search for the lost. When I consider each of these five traits I find there the sum total of what God appears to be training his church to engage in. Here is the culmination of what I understand to be power evangelism, personal evangelism, and making disciples who carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ.

Only Jesus Christ has the authority to draw everyone to himself. Only at his name will every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Only as the sheep hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and sense his touch as ministered through his obedient servants will they be drawn to him in revival.

There are, no doubt, many issues crucial to effective leadership in renewal. These three, however, are foundational to fostering revival. We must be more cautious in the selection of leaders. Our unity, especially in leadership, will result in a Holy Spirit induced synergism which sparks revival in the land. The church must stay true to the right foundation of Jesus and obey him.


Renewal Journal: 2 Church Growth(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 43-51.
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