Pastor Brian Medway is the senior pastor of Grace Christian Fellowship in Canberra.
It’s hard not to get wet in Argentina.
You can’t help being affected by the climate of revival.
It may take a paradigm shift or two, but if you are open to God,
you’ll definitely get soaked by the revival rain.
It’s hard not to get wet in Argentina. In Australia it is relatively easy to stay dry. I’m not talking about the weather, but about the effects of Holy Spirit revival.
In October and November of 1996 I was one of twenty-five Australians who attended the International Institute conducted for the last seven years by Harvest Evangelism. Ed Silvoso, the Founder and President of Harvest Evangelism has visited Australia a number of times during the past five years and has introduced a strategy for reaching cities, regions and the nation called, “Prayer Evangelism.”
Argentina has been experiencing a revival for the last eleven years that has increased in impact each year. The struggling evangelical churches in Argentina prior to the revival would rejoice if one or two new converts were added to their churches in any single calendar year. These churches were always small and very segregated. They were generally hated by the Catholic Church and were often persecuted by the pro‑Catholic governments. This was the established status quo.
These evangelical/pentecostal churches had their share of dedicated and gifted leaders with every brand and emphasis in the protestant spectrum. They had good examples of everything: the right message, examples of fine theology and healthy spiritual ethos. Mission organizations from many nations had sown faithfully and persistently. But there was little power to impact the ruggedly proud and fiercely independent Argentine hearts. The cities and provinces remained seemingly impervious to their efforts.
Now things have changed. In more than sixteen city regions of the nation, the church overall is seeing consistent growth after the proportions of the parable that Jesus taught about seed and ground. Each year they are seeing “a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown” (Matthew 13:23). It is now customary for the whole church in a city to see an increase in people being added to the church of 100% per year.
We spent fifteen days in Argentina for three major reasons:
a) to attend the International Institute, a gathering of Christian leaders from every part of Argentina and most nations of South America,
b) to receive a commitment from wonderful South American Christian pastors and leaders to pray for a million hours for revival in Australia
c) to visit with leaders in some of the cities and gain some understanding of the practicalities of reaching whole regions for Christ.
Factors leading to revival
Our expectations were exceeded on every count. What I wanted to know was, “How did a fragmented unattached bunch of small churches ever begin to see revival?” There are probably many reasons: sovereign ones and human ones. I can’t do much about the sovereign matters, except be fully committed to them. I wanted to see what identifiable human factors may have led to the church in a nation seeing revival. Here are three that were observed.
1. Unity through relational networks has given the ministry of the church greater authority.
It’s hard to know who’s who in Argentina. Just looking at people in a crowded room would not give a clue as to who were the most anointed leaders, nor which “tag” they wore. I’m not implying that it was an insipid example of people striving to find their “lowest common denominator.” It was fiery and focused. It’s just that you couldn’t pick the Baptists from the Pentecostals. It seems that they have made a strong commitment to proclaim absolutes, not interpretations, when they come together.
As Ted Haggard says, “Inside the walls of our churches, let’s teach and practice the full menu of what we believe. …. outside the church we must focus on the absolutes. … The result is that the non‑Christian community hears the same basic absolutes from … a variety of churches.” What is similarly encouraging is that because the major leaders have not bought the western cultural value of status and importance, they have less to protect and therefore more to give away. We had the great joy and benefit of receiving and receiving. “Recibe! recibe! recibe” was often heard.
The other result is that the key leaders around the nation love each other enough to form a very strong relationship bond. They can give leadership to the church and help to acknowledge what God is saying and doing because they can speak with a voice that comes from being one in heart and soul.
In the cities, the pastors talk collectively about the church in the city. They actually think of themselves as one church even though they form different congregations with sometimes very different flavours. They give leadership to the church in the city from the perspective of a very jealously guarded unity. The pastors of the larger churches don’t dominate and operate independently and the pastors of the smaller churches don’t feel threatened. We saw it, heard it and felt it. It was the kingdom of God right enough.
This unity is not just for enjoyment value. It has given the church in a given locality greater authority. It is not to be measured in political or social terms, but spiritual. The powers of darkness have little power to blind the minds of unbelievers when the church operates in unity.
2. Uncompromised commitment to evangelism has created a sharper focus
Whatever the strategies to be used, the underlying strength comes from a heart to reach the people who are lost from God. There are meetings in the churches just about every night. There is very little emphasis on home groups and home group structures. Mostly people come to the meetings: teaching, prayer, evangelistic. The message is preached like any regular evangelical pastor would preach it in Australia. It would be more demonstrative of course as reflecting the culture, but there is no “secret” message associated with the revival.
People in Argentina are coming to Christ in one of two main ways:
They come in thousands to the altar rail of Carlos Annacondia crusades. This little dynamic Argentine exudes a measure of faith that has nothing to do with presentation, and everything to do with heart – from spending a lot of time in the presence of God no doubt.
People are also coming to Christ through the prayer supported lifestyle of the average members of the churches. So much of it is one to one. If anything this seems to be the growing edge.
As the pastors and intercessors knock out the enemy missile launching sites, the regular soldiers are able to take captives with much greater frequency; I wouldn’t say ‘automatically’, but I would say ‘more readily’. They can do this not because they have a level of faith much in excess of that of the average believer in Australia, but because they are focused on evangelism. It is their chosen lifestyle focus.
This focus allows all the activities of the church to be measured more objectively. We tend to measure programs on how they will affect the members. They tend to measure programs on how they will affect the non‑members. The ministry of evangelism gets the first second and third bite of the cherry in Argentine churches. People will sacrifice anything. The pastoral staff of a church all sold their cars at one time in order to make possible a particular evangelistic ministry. They mean business. That’s the bottom line.
3. A commitment to the harvest has uncovered important principles of prayer and spiritual warfare
South America in general and Argentina in particular have become synonymous with prayer and spiritual warfare. Sometimes this has been a bit controversial in its expression. I discovered something in Argentina that helped me to put this in a clearer context. Basically the principles of things like “spiritual mapping” have come from the experience of evangelism, not from a study of spiritual warfare.
No finer example of this process could be found than the experience of Baptist leaders Victor Lorenzo and his father Eduardo. They had begun to evangelize and found that they have had little impact in some places.
A typically ‘Australian’ conclusion would be to say that it was a ‘hard place’. These men would be more likely to say that ‘no harvest’ was not an option. When they looked for the reason for no harvest they began to find that the hardness was due to the exercise of some form of demonic power or influence. They would give themselves to dealing with the powers as the Bible describes those encounters. As a result, hundreds and even thousands of people were saved and added to the church.
There were places where successive attempts to plant churches had totally failed. When they began to deal with the spiritual forces of darkness that held these areas in bondage, the same attempts were successful. This evidence was compelling, but the process was even more enlightening. The spiritual warfare comes out of a bold commitment to preach the gospel, not out of a textbook on spiritual warfare.
This is the emphasis of the New Testament of course. Spiritual warfare is not a department of the church where people hive off and play with demons. Evangelism and spiritual warfare are the same thing. It’s just that they have discovered that evangelism is more than communication, it is warfare. The evangelists must be committed to the intercessors and the intercessors must be committed to the evangelists. The apostles and prophets must work together with the pastors and teachers and they must all work together with the evangelists. God is raising up these ministries within regions. Not only in South America, but on every continent.
Conclusion: Not exactly new, but very, very different !
There were some compelling conclusions for me. The first was the realization that there is really nothing there that’s mysterious or new. It is different but not new. The difference will be found in the measure.
- While we tend to fill our shelves with books and tapes on prayer, they tend to fill heaven with bowls of incense (Rev. 5:8; 8:3,4).
- While we tend to spend our time reading “fishing” magazines, they tend to spend their time boldly proclaiming the kingdom of God.
- While we tend to skirt around the edge of our community picking up the few “strays” and adding them to the church, they tend to focus on “binding the strongman” (Mark 3:27) and robbing the whole house.
- While we tend to languish in our cultural and ecclesiastical baggage, they tend to take seriously the matter of finding every way they can to become one, so that the world will know.
That’s exactly what is happening. The difference in Argentina is that they are so much further down the same road. They have put in the effort, and paid the price. They have very little excess baggage. They set aside non‑essentials. They have more energy for the main event on the program. The result is that the kingdom of God is coming not only to Argentina, but to the rest of the world. As they continue and as they pray for the nations of the world, their “faith is being reported all over the world” (Romans 1:8).
It’s hard not to get wet in Argentina. You can’t help being affected by the climate of revival. It may take a paradigm shift or two, but if you are open to God, you’ll definitely get soaked by the revival rain. In Australia we are still looking to the sky for rain. Our main danger is that when the rain comes we are just as likely to take out two umbrellas, a full length driz‑a‑bone and some gumboots just in case we might get wet. Wet theology and wet and crinkled church traditions are so messy. I wonder what the weather man will say on TV tonight? Praise the Lord !
Reprinted by permission from New Day, February 1997, pages 18-20.
(c) 2011, 2nd edition. Reproduction allowed with copyright included in text.
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