Dr Rodney and Adonica Howard-Brown are pastors and revival evangelists.
Critics focus on the rip-roaring style of his revivalist “camp meetings”, but this US-based South African evangelist says all he’s interested in is God touching people’s lives.
The Holy Spirit wants to touch the lives of real people.
I don’t spend much time wondering about God’s ability
to do what he said he could do. I just trust him.
On previous visits to Australia, Rodney Howard-Browne has attracted both crowds and controversy. But vigorous debate about his methods and the “phenomena” seen at his meetings has not kept thousands away. … The US-based South African evangelist spoke with Rob Buckingham about spiritual power, the simplicity of faith, and how it feels to be surprised by God.
Buckingham: Things took off for you number of years ago. Can you tell us what took place at that time?
Howard-Browne: We’d moved to America in December ‘87 and travelled wherever the doors opened. One pastor in upstate New York asked us to have two meetings a day and invited the whole congregation. So in April 1989 we went to [a town called] Clifton Park to a church with about 250 members.
I was amazed to see people so hungry for the things of God. On the Monday morning 60 people came to the morning service. This was amazing, especially in America at that time – there had been some major set backs with different major ministries crumbling, and people were disillusioned. Next day we had 100 people at the service – nearly a third of the church coming out on a Tuesday morning!
While I was teaching, just like I normally do, the praises of God just filled the room, and people started falling out of their seats. It looked like someone was sitting in the balcony and shooting people with an invisible gun. Some were crying, some were laughing, others were rolling on the floor. It took a little getting used to.
The presence of God literally filled that place. We saw an outbreak of a revival that now, this April, is nine years old. It’s gone around the world, touched the lives of millions of people, an it hasn’t subsided or stopped. It’s been a great adventure.
Buckingham: What are your reflections now on what took place back then?
Howard-Browne: I see it as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It’s not like we weren’t expecting it. We were crying out to God to come and move; we just didn’t know how or when it was going to happen. So when it happened the way it did it totally took us by surprise.
Buckingham: Is there any change in what took place then compared to what’s happening now?
Howard-Browne: It’s just multiplied many times over. In the beginning it was 100 people and now it’s thousands. Whether we’ve been in China or Japan, Holland, Germany, Russia or the islands of the sea, it’s the same. People are the same and they have the same needs. The Holy Spirit wants to touch the lives of real people. There are many religions in the world, but religions will leave you empty because it’s man’s vain attempt to reach God. But Christianity is God reaching man through the person of Jesus Christ.
Buckingham: There are reports of physical healings at your meetings. Do these happen in every country?
Howard-Browne: It happens everywhere. We look at it this way. When people come to a meeting where the Holy Spirit is moving, whatever their needs are God will touch them at that point. Healing is just one of these. People come with cancer, arthritis, different diseases, and the presence of god touches them. Some are healed in their seat without even having hands laid on them, and it’s only later they find out that they’ve been healed.
Dolly, a little Alaskan native lady, came to our meetings in a wheelchair. She’d had arthritis for 18 years, the last five confined to a wheelchair and the final two years bedridden. She came as a last resort, asking God to please touch her. We laid hands on her, but we didn’t really pray that she’s be able to get out of the wheelchair, just that she’d get some joy and that God would touch her. I said, “Lady, what do you want to do?” She responded, “I want to get out of this chair.” So I said, “Well then, go ahead.” Then she climbed out of the chair and walked around the building and was totally healed of crippling arthritis. This happened back in 1991 and we’ve seen her subsequently. She’s still totally healed with no trace of arthritis in her body.
Buckingham: That’s physical healing. What about emotional healing? People can carry a lot of baggage around inside.
Howard-Browne: There are many examples. One is about a woman in North Dakota who was raped by a so-called friend. She contracted two venereal diseases, the worst the doctor said he’d seen. He told her that she’d never be able to have children.
This woman came to the meeting pretty traumatized – this had only happened weeks before. The power of God touched her, she fell on the floor and as she was lying there she felt like there was a fireman standing over her with a big fire hose washing her clean. For about two-and-a-half hours she felt this water washing her clean. When she got up she could remember the rape but it was like it happened to somebody else. God had totally removed the hurt from her. When she went back to the doctor there was no trace of the diseases. That was over five years ago. Today she’s married to one of the pastors of the church. They’ve had children with nothing wrong.
Buckingham: What about other stories?
Howard-Browne: An executive-type lady came to a meeting with a lot of deep hurt in her heart. About 20 years ago she’d had an abortion, and every time she was around things of God she felt guilty and condemned with thoughts like “God’s never going to bless you because of what you did.”
We prayed for her and she was overcome, lying there filled with joy. Laughing hysterically. Later she told us it was as if she was taken up to heaven to see a little girl dancing around, with Jesus standing to the side. The little girl said, “Look Jesus, Mummy’s laughing”. When that happened, she said it felt like a hand reached down inside her and pulled out all the hurt. When she got up from the floor she didn’t feel guilty any more. She knew that God had forgiven her and everything was all right.
Buckingham: Are these incidents isolated events?
Howard-Browne: No. People are healed from depression, a lot from fear, even from wanting to commit suicide. There’s so much pressure on people today. People feel like they can’t make it. So they come to the meetings. God touches them and sets them free. It’s wonderful to see.
Buckingham: Australians are quite different from Americans, and you minister in America a lot. How do you respond to that difference in your meetings when you come to Australia?
Howard-Browne: Because I’m a South African, I think it’s probably easier for me to respond than it would be for an American. I find the Aussies very direct, which I like. There’s no airs or graces, nobody’s pretending. I think maybe that’s why we’ve had such a great response in Australia.
Buckingham: You travel extensively around the world. That must be draining on you. How do you handle the pace?
Howard-Browne: Actually, I find the travel exhilarating, so that by the time I get to a new place I’m refreshed. We travel 46 weeks of the year, and it’s awesome to see people’s lives touched and changed. That’s the thing that’s refreshing. When we get tired, we try to take a break for two or three days.
Buckingham: Rodney, how do you describe your own relationship with God?
Howard-Browne: I would describe my relationship as very, very simple. I don’t understand some people when they always want to complicate God. I just see him as God – nothing is impossible to him. I have a very childlike faith that God honours his word. I don’t spend much time arguing about it or wondering about his ability to do what he said he could do. I just trust him.
Buckingham: How does your relationship with God impact your life personally?
Howard-Browne: Well, because nothing is impossible for him, I always want to believe him for big things. When you think that he made the heavens and the earth, then everything we come up with after that is really so small. I just think sometimes people make everything so difficult when there’s nothing too hard for God.
Buckingham: What about your relationship with others? How does your faith impact that?
Howard-Browne: I want God to do for them what he’s done for me. I’m not anything special or different. I’m just an ordinary person. But I know that if he can do great things for me, he can do great things for them.
Buckingham: How does your faith impact your care for the world around you?
Howard-Browne: When I see a need, my wife has to calm me down; she says, “You can’t do everything.” God leads you into areas where you can minister effectively to touch the needs of people. We all want to reach out and feed the poor or help those less fortunate than we are, yet because I’m busy doing what I’m doing, I can’t do it. So I try to find other ministries and get behind them. I don’t have to do what they’re doing: I just finance and support them.
Buckingham: What can people expect at your meetings this year?
Howard-Browne: Pretty much like two years ago, we’re going to focus on he person of Jesus – people being touched by the Lord and coming back to their “first love”.
Buckingham: What do you mean by “first love”?
Howard-Browne: “First love” is the love you have when you first give your life to Christ – the joy that you’ve just met him, that he’s set you free from sin, that all the guilt and condemnation is gone. It’s like a young guy and a girl; when they first fall in love, they’re just beside themselves.
It’s so easy as a child of God to get caught up in the daily grind, trying to please God, caught up in rituals and traditions. You end up losing that joy and peace. Revival is about people falling in love with Jesus all over again.
Anything can happen when people come back to their first love.
This is an edited version of an interview conducted by Rob Buckingham for use in On Being ALIVE and his weekly radio program “Rob Buckingham and Friends”. It was originally broadcast on 3MP on 29 March, 1998.
Reprinted with permission from On Being ALIVE Magazine, No. 4, May 1998, pages 30-34.
(c) 2011, 2nd edition. Reproduction allowed with copyright included in text.
Renewal Journal – contents of all issues & links to articles
Renewal Journal eStore – Renewal Journal 11: Discipleship – $7 discounted
Renewal Journal eStore – all issues
Amazon – books & journals
Book Deposistory – free shipping worldwise (so cheapest, but limited)