A few years ago, my wife, Judi, and I ministered in Nepal at a large underground congregation that had planted more than 60 churches throughout this strongly Hindu nation. Recently, we ministered in Bali, Indonesia, at a large congregation that has birthed more than 50 congregations. In both regions, Christians are a tiny minority that is often persecuted and attacked.
Yet the gospel spreads like wildfire throughout these nations, and people's hunger to know Jesus increases. Even the governments invite us to teach on parenting and marriage because of the upheavals happening in families and marriages throughout Asia. Why is it that revival spreads so freely in Asia and often meets with apathy in the West? One answer emerges clearly--persecution.
Among many charismatics and Pentecostals in the West, the baptism of the Holy Spirit has become passé or even traditional. Believers speak in tongues and receive interpretation during a prescribed lull in the worship time of a service. Praying in tongues rises as a part of worship, or ministry, in many Western services, but the ones impressed are believers instead of unbelievers.
Paul writes, "Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers" (1 Cor. 14:22, NKJV). As we have worshiped and ministered throughout Asia, we have received more understanding for this text. With tongues and the Spirit's baptism come power, signs, wonders and miracles.
Every Friday night for the last 12 years in Bali, a "Bali Blessing" service for unbelievers is filled with the Spirit's presence for the purpose of the lost hearing the Spirit speak and seeing the Spirit's power to release gifts of healing, miracles and faith. In this heavily pagan region, the church has grown from being a tiny light to a blazing torch for Christ with more than 5,000 believers.
The Bali church's pastor made some observations about the manifestations of the Spirit's power in their region that are insightful for us in Western churches:
1. Strength. People are baptized in the Spirit for strength. Our Bali host showed us pictures of four young pastors. These young men with wives and small children had been recently beheaded for the gospel. "We teach people that the baptism of the Holy Spirit brings strength to face persecution," the pastor confided.
2. Power. The Spirit's baptism demonstrates that God is the Lord of all. "A Hindu man was dramatically healed recently in a Bali Blessing service. He received Jesus because His power far exceeded that of any other god," the pastor shared.
3. Miracles, signs and wonders. "In our services, as people pray in the Spirit and operate in His gifts, many are healed. Many miracles happen and the lost are saved," our friend affirmed.
One day our Christian friends took us to the largest statue of Vishnu in the world. The image dwarfs the size of the Statue of Liberty. I asked our host why we were going to see this pagan idol.
"To pray in the Spirit and laugh at the demons," he replied. "Jesus is Lord of lords!" we declared as we walked the site.
The Spirit's baptism must always be a power confrontation: light vs. darkness, true worship vs. idolatry, healing vs. disease, deliverance vs. bondage and grace vs. legalism. Too often in Western churches we institutionalize the Spirit's baptism and every move of the Spirit. We have much to learn from Spirit-filled believers in the East.
I have been to school there and relearned a basic truth: Jesus baptizes with the Spirit's power to bring about change in the lives of the lost--repentance, salvation, healing and deliverance. In the West, we often chase after conferences, models and paradigms to discover what the Spirit is doing. In the East, they read Acts chapters 1-2 and then live it.