35 South African church leaders visited California, USA recently to glean firsthand from what God is doing in churches known for sustained revival. Three of the leaders share on their experiences.
Seeking raw power to transform hurting lives — Moss Ntlha
For a number of years I have wrestled with what it means to be true to Acts 1:8 in ways that do justice to the full blast of the grace promised in this text. Three things bothered me. These are impact, mass empowerment and supernaturalism.
I yearned for practical ways in which the power promised in Acts 1:8 could be operationalised in ways that deliver impact in a society. It seemed odd to me that the needs in our communities were so real, concrete and damning to the poor, that Christian witness was, at best, theoretical. The raw power to make a difference in the lives of ordinary hurting folk appeared sorely lacking.
I recall once after the TRC completed its report, with many victims of human rights violations waiting for what seemed like ages for reparations, I approached one rather wealthy suburban church to assist.
I asked the pastor: “Can you second a volunteer to help set up a machinery to mobilise local church based assitance for victims of human rights to get wheel chairs, pay for medical bills and schooling support for children of disabled or dead victims?”
The answer I got was blood-chilling. “The anointing does not work for something like that. It only works for soul winning ministry. If you wanted to win souls for Jesus we could help.”
As I walked out the door of his office I wondered: since when was the anointing of Luke 4:18 not available for the poor? To put it another way, since when was the Holy Spirit “right wing”?
Instinctively I knew that Acts 1:8 promised more that personal inner worldly change. The human predicament was far worse. To reduce it to a need for personal salvation only was to trivialise it. Worse, that would be to do injury to the witness Jesus asked us to deliver to the world. He lived, taught, overturned corrupt social values, healed the sick, cast out demons, fed the poor, raised the dead and much more. Then He turned to us and said: “It’s your turn. Be my witnesses. I will help you.” And in John’s gospel, added: “You will do much more than I did, because I go to the Father.
So, I really was looking for a local church community that had impact in its environment. Bethel Church, along with its associated networks appears to have — not only in their home city of Redding, CA where they have impacted social institutions, neighbourhoods, health and even the economy of an entire city. They have gone further afield around the world to spread a message of a revival culture that approximates more closely what a faithful modeling of Acts 1:8 looks like.
They have also made the supernatural normal. And obversely, the natural abnormal. This is quite a shift in doing church. How else, I wondered, could we do a decent job of being a faithful witness of Jesus?
It also concerned me that African societies tended to be strong-man societies, in the Church and political life. Elitism is rampant. I was searching for models of church life where the norm was the empowerment of the laity so everybody could participate in the service of the kingdom.
Bethel had done a terrific work in this regard and have built an organisational culture that enfranchises every member to participate in the work of the kingdom. This mass empowerment multiplies impact and removes leadership bottlenecks. In this way, the promise of of Acts 1:8 has become a practice that flows down to the lowest and youngest member of the christian community.
Evangelical Alliance of South Africa
Trusting for growth and breakthroughs — Jan van Reenen
A senior leadership team from our church recently joined a delegation of 35 Southern Africans on the Global Legacy Revival Tour to California in USA. The tour was led by John Crumpton from Breaktrhu Life Church who, with his team, seemed to have planned for all eventualities. We attended three conferences in two churches, namely The Mission Church in Vacaville and Bethel Church in Redding.
Some the highlights included:
- It seemed as if each formal session and informal interaction was scripted specifically for us, by the Holy Spirit. Through various prophetic words there was a strong sense of validation and confirmation of what God is doing in our lives and ministries. All 11 people traveling in our shuttle attested to this.
- We witnessed how each person in our group encountered God’s loving presence and liberating power in unique ways. Some cried for the duration of the 14 days, and still do. Others experienced the joy of the Holy Spirit for the first time in decades. There were many emotional and physical healings.
- God restored my ability to run for the first time in 20 years. Bill Johnson encouraged us to ask God to restore certain aspects of life that we lost along the way. The next morning, while walking on a treadmill, the Holy Spirit prompted me ask Him to restore my ability to run. I did and started running at a steady pace for seven minutes without any pain. Praise God!
- We were deeply touched by the culture of love, honour, humility, transparency and faith for God’s presence and power encountered at these two churches.
- We were all encouraged, equipped and empowered to fulfill the call of God on our lives.
- My personal highlight was a testimony shared by Caleb, a missionary working among the 178 known tribes in the Philippines. Through a dream God led him to discover the Tinananon people, an undocumented tribe of 100 000 people, living on a secluded mountain surrounded by Muslim war tribes. In the dream God gave Caleb, who happened to be a 6th generation musical instrument maker, a blueprint of an instrument who turned out to be the Tinananon tribe’s Salimba — their most sacred instrument with which they used to worshipped the “God of gods.” Over 100 years ago the tribe’s Salimba was destroyed in tribal wars, along with their only instrument maker. Since then they’ve held to a prophecy that the “God of gods” would return for His people with the sign being the return of the Salimba. The dramatic way in which God led Caleb to make and return their Salimba gave him tremendous favour with the tribe’s leaders and the opportunity to lead them all to Jesus and initiate a process of translating the Bible into their own language. During the sharing of this testimony and following prayer time I encountered God’s relentless love to seek and find an undocumented people group. I found that encounter to be most transformational.
We returned to our beloved South Africa with hearts full of hope and spirits full of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power. We’re already seeing breakthroughs in various areas of our ministry. One word spoken over the Leaders Advance delegates at Bethel was that God is going to do in the next seven weeks what man cannot do in seven years. We took this word to heart and are trusting to witness tremendous growth and breakthroughs before the end of 2017. We want everything God has for us!
Jan van Reenen
Cross Culture City Church
Inspired to complete God’s purposes — Sam van Niekerk
What an honour and privilege to, once again, have been part of this life-changing experience. I would like to express our appreciation to all who were involved in the logistics of this event and secondly, to all in the tour group who contributed to making it such an amazing experience.
As this was my second trip to The Mission and Bethel, I prepared myself for a totally different encounter. I knew comparison would limit the Holy Spirit in whatever His plan and purposes were.
My first visit, I now in hindsight realise, was very much from a spiritual leader’s perspective. All the amazing encounters were related to our home church, what we need to download and how we need to realign to start flowing in this revival culture that made such a huge impression on me.
The second visit was, as expected, a totally different encounter to me. This time round, God focussed on me, as an individual. From the onset, the Holy Spirit was on my case regarding various aspects of my life.
When the Spirit exposes one’s heart, it can become pretty uncomfortable and humiliating for oneself. The fruit of exaltation, once you have been through the process, is spiritually rejuvenating and energising.
Prior to our Bethel tour, I had spent several months strategising to secure the future leadership of our church. Little did I realise how much this had impacted my personal mindset regarding my personal future in ministry. As I was dealing with these strategies, I started thinking more management and less visionary! I, obviously, believed it was the other way round!
The prophetic voice repeatedly came to me, confirming the same message regarding my future goals and destiny. My realisation became very clear! I would not be allowed to “short change” God as far as my calling is concerned.
My short-term planning is no longer my short term vision.
I have returned, inspired by every Holy Spirit encounter, to complete His purposes for me and to finish strong, by His grace.
I will always be trusting God for the favour to do this journey again. What an investment in one’s calling!
Sam van Niekerk
Agapé Christian Centre