John E. Ruffle
As the new millennium dawns, reports confirm that across the globe the Church is in unprecedented growth - often with remarkable results. John E. Ruffle writing from London England has details...
Below are twelve short news reports that have appeared recently over an international Christian news service. These reports demonstrate what followers of Jesus Christ are doing around the world, and gives lie to the common perception promoted by the secular media that Christianity is in decline. While some main-line denominations fight decay, the truth is that often maligned Evangelical Bible-affirming Christianity, in all it’s various colours and forms, is experiencing the most astonishing - some would say miraculous - growth since Christ rose from the dead 2,000 years ago.
I have collected the following reports from a randomly-selected period of seven weeks.. and much, much more is going on around the world - this is just the tip of the spiritual iceberg. May this small selection (which accidentally happens to represent nations on each main continent) not only encourage you, but also provide you with factual ammunition as you share a contemporary, 21st century faith in a largely unbelieving, God-hating world!
Scroll through, print-out, or simply click below to access your selection:
36,000 CHRISTIANS MEET IN HOMES
Egypt: The Start Of House Churches: Egypt appears around 700 times in the Bible. Today, the Bible is appearing with increasing frequency in Egypt," writes the German Bible League, which distributes Bibles in Egypt, among other places, and trains local Christians. "In Egypt, it is illegal for more than 5 people to meet in a house, but over the last year, 36,000 people met in 1,267 Bible groups. In 1998 alone, 71 house churches were started by local Christians working with the Bible League. Source: German Bible League, fax (+49)-791-857035, e-mail BibelLiga.D@t-online.de. Friday Fax 1999 issue 34, 27 August 1999.
FAITH BIRTHS A PERFECT CHILD
Germany: Faith Prevents Abortion. In the 16th week of her pregnancy, Manuela Mayer's doctor performed a so-called 'triple test' which revealed that her hormone levels were very high. "The child may suffer from Downs Syndrome or Spina bifida," he told her, and advised an abortion. "In tears, I told him that, because I am a Christian, an abortion was not an option," Mrs. Mayer told FCJG News. The doctor considered that strange, and referred her to a special clinic in Dortmund. "In an FCJG service, I sensed God telling me 'As you care for your child, I care for you. I am touching you, and am here for you. Don't worry.'" "On 12 April 1999, our child was born completely healthy. We named him Felix Johnathan, which means 'Happy, a gift from God'." Source: Manuela Mayer, FCJG News 2/99. Friday Fax 1999 issue 31, 6th August 1999.
CELL CHURCH SEES MULTIPLE GROWTH
Switzerland: Double And Double Again. "Welcome to the Gospel Movement," reads an ICF (International Christian Fellowship) Church flyer in Zurich's Paradeplatz. The services are bilingual, held in (Swiss) German and English. American prophet Bobby Conners predicted that the church "would double every year in the next few years", according to Matthias Boelsterli, one of the ICF Movement's leaders. So far, the vision has been fulfilled. The attendance of 320 in 1996 became first 600, then 1,200; now, up to 1,700 people attend the four services. Evangelist Leo Bigger, ICF's overall leader, reports that some 300 VIPs (Very Important Persons - new visitors who are not yet Christians) attended the services - an almost unprecedented number for Switzerland. ICF is structurally a cell church movement. Source: ICF, Hoenggerstr. 117, 8037 Zurich; Fax +41-1-2724919; email firstname.lastname@example.org. Friday Fax 1999 issue 31, 6th August 1999.
CHRISTIAN PRAYER BRINGS PEACEFUL ELECTIONS
Indonesia: Political, Economic And Spiritual Miracle. All Asia spoke of the 'miraculous peaceful election in Indonesia' on June 7th. Following 16 months of violent unrest, the fears of a bloodbath were not fulfilled. Only days before the election, many imams (Muslim religious leaders) called on the population not to vote for the most popular political party, Megawati Sukarnoputri's PDI-P, saying "as a woman, she is not able to lead an Islamic nation, and she has too many Christians in her team." The call fell on deaf ears: with 36.5% of the votes, the PDI-P attracted more Islamic voters than all Islamic parties together. The country also experienced an economic miracle; the Far East Economic Review wrote "It is hard to believe, but Jakarta is Asia's most successful market this year. In the first two quarters of 1999, the performance was double that of the closest competitor." Many ask how this turn-around happened, and one answer is being taken increasingly seriously: the Indonesian Christians devoted themselves to prayer and fasting for their country. Churches are also experiencing a miracle: many denominations have united in the DAWN vision and set a new and courageous church-planting target. A training event for this purpose was recently held in a Jakarta stadium, attended by some 11,000 Christians. Source: name and address withheld. Friday Fax 1999 issue 31, 6 August 1999.
WORLD'S LARGEST CHURCH BUILDING
Nigeria: "Don't Collect Money, Collect People!" "It all started with a vision in a hotel room," says 45-year-old Bishop David Oyedepo, who now leads the Living Faith Church ('Winners' Chapel') in Lagos, Nigeria, with an attendance of 42,000 every Sunday. On 1 May 1981, Oyedepo saw a vision of desperate, distorted and hurting people obviously in need of help. When he asked God what it meant, God said "And from the beginning it was not so," and gave him the task of preaching the gospel. Only a few days later, on 8 May 1981, Oyedepo founded the 'Power House', a spiritual support system made up of people praying, fasting and preparing themselves to serve others. Fellowships started not only in Lagos, but also in Nigeria's traditionally Islamic north. According to the American magazine 'Charisma', the "Dominion Cathedral", which Oyedepo founded in Kaduna in 1984, is the largest church in the north of the country, with an attendance around 10,000. The church has [planted in] over 39 other African nations, including Ethiopia (attendance 1,000), Kenya (7,000) and Ghana (7,000). On 29 August 1998, the foundation was laid for what will probably be the world's largest church building, with space for some 50,400 people. Oyedepo reports that the church provides the finance itself, saying "God told me 'Don't collect money, collect people!'" Source: Winners' Chapel, Lagos, tel 4922415, fax 4922413, e-mail email@example.com, www.winners-chapel.com. Friday Fax 1999 issue 30, 30 July 1999.
HOUSE CHURCH MULTIPLICATION
India: Hundreds Of House Churches Started Last Year. The pressure on Indian Christians, such as in Madhya Pradesh, continues. Daniel (name changed), a church planter, has been beaten up several times and still receives threats from radical Hindus. At the same time, the spiritual openness in the nation is almost unprecedented. "A year ago, we had 35 house churches," Daniel reports, "Today, we have more than 100. In the first few months of 1999, we baptised 340 people despite threats of imprisonment." The Swiss strategy network 'Kingdom Ministries', which supports 140 Indian church planters, reports that Daniel is not an exception. "Last year alone, hundreds of new churches were planted, mostly house churches," they report.
Grass-Eating Woman Becomes Normal: "Signs and wonders happen all the time," reports Kingdom Ministries. In one village, a woman crawled around on her hands and knees, eating grass, just like King Nebuchadnezzar in the Bible. Doctors were unable to help her, and she was generally considered possessed. When A., a church planter, arrived in the village, he explained that he could not help the woman himself, but that Jesus could free her. He prayed for her, and she became normal again, with the result that many of the villagers decided to become Christians. Source: Kingdom Ministries, fax +41-33-4370016. Friday Fax 1999 issue 30, 30 July 1999.
HOUSE CHURCH LEADER ESCAPES JAIL
China: Modern Peter Supernaturally Freed From Jail. He is known as 'The Heavenly Man', 41 years old, and famous not only in China: house-church leader Liu Zhenying. He has been imprisoned for his faith several times, and during one imprisonment, according to Chinese sources, fasted for 74 days without water. On 16 March 1997, he broke both legs when jumping out of a window to escape police before his most recent arrest. He was sent to a high-security jail, but confidently expected to be freed. The other inmates considered him to be mad. His legs had healed by the time a fellow inmate, also a Christian, told him "You can go now!" "I wanted to be sure," says Liu, "and asked God for instructions God told me that it was time. Revelation and information from God are much more important than telegrams and telephones," he says. "I have a simple theology. I don't look at what I see, but at what I believe. When God spoke to me, I saw one of the large prison doors open; a guard was about to close it when the telephone rang. I went through the door, putting my life in God's hand. Another door leading out of the prison was also open. I can only think that an angel opened it," he says. "In all, three iron doors opened in front of me. It was perfect timing - I couldn't have left 20 seconds earlier or later. As I stood outside the prison, a taxi stopped, and took me to a Christian house. The people had been fasting and praying for me for a week, and already knew that their house would be my first stop after leaving jail. They already had a bed and clothes prepared for me." Source: Titus Pan. A full report appeared in C-Report number 6 (fax +49-6146-61496, tel -61681). Friday Fax 1999 issue 30, 30 July 1999.
CHURCH GROWTH FACTS
Venezuela: Revival In Co-operation. "This country is experiencing a revival. In contrast to the revival in Argentina, it is a revival through church planting, in which all levels of society are being shocked by the gospel," writes Berna Salcedo, a Colombian member of the DAWN staff. "It is a revival in cooperation. As a result of the current political tension between the Congress and President Hugo Chavez' civilian government, the country is open as never before," he said during a special strategy conference in Barquisimeto from 12-15 May. Strikes, delayed flights and even the fact that Barquisimeto had been cut off after the bridge into the town was swept away by floods could not keep the 80 leaders of the country's most important Christian movements from attending the conference. "Venezuela had previously been viewed as the poor relative of Latin America's evangelical Christians," says Salcedo, "because the country had such a low rate of church growth." In the 90's, that has changed: Venezuela now has the highest rate of growth because of church planting.
Four-Fold Multiplication in 12 Years: At the COMIBAN conference in Sao Paulo in 1987, Valentin Vale, representing Venezuela's Evangelical Alliance, reported that the country had no more than 500,000 evangelical Christians in 3,000 churches. At the DAWN Congress in Caracas in November 1992, the Venezuelan church growth researcher Tomas Moreno reported 4,900 churches with some 800,000 members. At that time, over 50 denominations were challenged to strategically plant new churches. The church planting rate was then 4.7% per year, low for South America. The 300 leaders present at the Congress set a target of planting 12,000 new churches by the year 2002, reaching 15% of the population with the gospel. To achieve that, the rate of church planting would have to increase to 12% per year.
After four more national consultations, the target has been raised to 15,000, the reason: 3 new churches every day. Between 1992 and 1998, the country experienced spectacular church growth. The number of churches and members more than doubled in the 6 years, to 11,489 churches, and in the 1989-99 time frame, the number has multiplied: the growth rate has increased to 11%, and the membership grew to 1,247 million. In 1997 and 1998 alone, some 2,000 new churches were planted: 3 per day. The leaders attending a DAWN conference in May 1999 decided that an almost spectacular average (!) growth of 15% per year is possible. With that, 20,000 new churches would be planted instead of the targeted 15,000, and the total number of churches would rise to over 30,000. Today, most of Venezuela's churches and denominations have their own church planting aims and leadership training courses, plan to reach the unreached (the country has 18 unreached people groups) and particularly target the under-45's, who constitute 70% of the population, with the aim of having one active church per 500-1,000 of the population in order to reach the entire country with the gospel. Source: Berna Salcedo, Tomas Moreno. Friday Fax 1999 issue 29, 23 July 1999.
CHURCH TAKES OVER MASONIC LODGE
Australia: Freemasons' Lodge Becomes A Church. 12 months ago, an intercessor drove through Yankalillain, a small town in South Australia. She felt God prompting her to stop at a Freemasons' lodge, to pray that it would become a church. One year later, the building came up for sale at an auction. Peter Moore, pastor of a small Assemblies of God church, had the impression that he should buy the building. Two weeks before the auction, a Malaysian visitor had put a cheque for $10,000 in the collection box. Moore set himself a certain limit on the auction day, and was outbid by another person. The church did not give up, and continued to pray. Their prayers were answered: the higher bidder lost their financial backing, and pastor Moore received a call to say that he could have the building for exactly the price he bid, which was the limit he had set himself. Yankalilla means "watering place". According to the report, Freemasonry played an important role in the building of South Australia, so the takeover of the building has a symbolic significance. Source: Pastor Derek and Grace Bodycote, Paradise AOG, South Australia, via Global Revival News. Friday Fax 1999 issue 29, 23 July 1999.
PRIEST PLANTS LARGEST EVCANGELICAL CHURCH
Mexico: Catholic Priest Plants Independent Church With 10,000 Members. "Aurelio Gomez used to be a Roman Catholic priest with his own parish. Today, he preaches in revival services attended by up to 25,000 people," reports Canadian evangelist Wesley Campbell. "In the revival services, which have been going on for 50 days, at least 10,000 mainly nominal Christians have decided to follow Jesus," according to one report. Many of the services' attendees have brought weapons, drugs, pornographic material and Satanic books to be disposed of. One man confessed to robbing people in buses as he handed over 4 knives and a gun. A 15-year-old heroin addict testified that he was now free from drugs and wanted to preach the gospel. 73-year-old Gomez experienced God during prayer after a charismatic Catholic told that God loved him. He started praying for the sick; hundreds of people came to the church, and Gomez was forced to leave his parish following protests from the area's residents that too many people were sleeping rough in the area while seeking help. He found a new home in Monte Maria Atizapan Zaragoza on the outskirts of Mexico City, where up to 25,000 people can attend the services. The church became Mexico's largest Catholic church, with 3,000 associated prayer groups throughout the country. The Catholic bishops could not control the phenomenon, so decided to excommunicate Gomez, thus making the church Mexico's largest evangelical fellowship, currently with 10,000 members. Source: Wesley Campbell, Religion Today. Friday Fax 1999 issue 28, 16 July 1999.
DEAF GIRL HEARS FOR FIRST TIME
Canada: 12-Year-Old Girl No Longer Deaf. "A 12-year-old girl asked Nigerian preacher Charles Ndifon to pray for her during his revival services in Edmonton, Canada, in early June 1999," reports Katherine Waldon, who also attended the services. The girl suffered from many illnesses, and was deaf. Following prayer, she was able to hear, but was not able to understand the unaccustomed sounds - at first, she had to continue using sign language. She had been brought to the service by a woman who had only decided to follow Jesus the previous day. Source: New Wine. Friday Fax 1999 issue 28, 16 July 1999.
INTELLECTUALS FLOCK TO CHRIST
USA: Post-Modern Church - From 12 to 600 In A Year. In only one year, the Mars Hill Fellowship in Seattle [Washington State] grew from a Bible study group of 12 to a church with an attendance of up to 600. "Most of the congregation are new Christians in their 20s, musicians, writers and doctorate students who would hardly have put a foot in a traditional church," says 27-year-old pastor Mark Driscoll, who has neither attended a Bible school nor been ordained. The church aims particularly to reach pluralistic-thinking people who believe in moral relativism and heathen spirituality with the gospel. "The services are honest, unpolished and down-to-earth. Driscoll tends to tell stories instead of preaching in traditional style, because he believes that that style of communication helps his generation understand God's word and better apply it to their lives," says one report about the church. "The auditorium is darkened, with some candles lit. Driscoll speaks for about an hour, with the listeners keenly taking notes." "People are not less intelligent than previously, nor do they have a shorter attention span," says Driscoll. "The church members share houses and eat together, and serve each other with their spiritual gifts. Evangelisation takes place where Christians build good relationships with non-Christians and listen to them. There's no other agenda than to listen to them and love them," he says. Driscoll describes his church as post-modern and no longer traditional. "Post-modern churches often start with new, uncomfortable ideas. I know of some 1,500 other pastors who think the same way," says Driscoll, who anticipates a second Reformation. Mars Hill Fellowship's services take place every Sunday at 5pm in the F. Presbyterian Church, 1013 Eight Ave., Seattle. Source: Mars Hill Fellowship, tel. (+1)-206-522-0285. Friday Fax 1999 issue 28, 16 July 1999.
POSTSCRIPT: Subscription Information
The news items above originally appeared in the Friday Fax, a voluntary-funded weekly newsletter available via email, sent only to subscribers. To subscribe, send a message with the *subject* “subscribe English” to: firstname.lastname@example.org. To unsubscribe, send a message with the *subject* “unsubscribe English“. Used by permission. Items may be copied in entirety for educational and religious not-for-profit use. Copyright 1999 Friday Fax.
You can view an archive of these and other reports in the interactive classroom hosted by John E. Ruffle, on the web at www.nicenet.org. Due to it’s interactive features, you need the following key to log into our virtual prayer-room. The class key is: ZZ4679C59. Follow on screen instructions for entering a classroom when on the nicenet.org site. And while you’re visiting, please do post your comments and/or prayer requests! Blessings - John.
This edition of NetWord Copyright 1998 by John E. Ruffle, London, England. All rights reserved.
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