The church has always been faced with the choice of evangelizing through the power of God or by human wisdom, often expressed as apologetics.
A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity.
Demonstration of the Spirit and Power
The Bible says, however, the “message was not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor. 2:4-5, RSV, emphasis added). Biblical evangelism is a revelation encounter with the power and presence of God, resulting in faith (“hearing” and obeying God).
Jesus is not revealed to us by “flesh and blood” (a human), but by the Father in heaven (Matt. 16:17-18). The very existence of the church is based on our agreement (confession) of God’s revelation of Jesus directly into our heart.
It may be perfectly reasonable to show that Christianity can be confirmed by biblical archaeology or philosophical proofs for the existence of God, but apologetics appeals more to those who already believe than to those who don’t. Sadly, it seems the only guaranteed “apologetic” cure for an atheist is his experience two minutes after dying!
In the “here and now” world, I am convinced, based upon multiple conversations with missionaries from Africa, the Middle East and Asia, that non-Christians are rarely brought to Christ as a result of Western apologetics. Instead they come to Christ primarily through the demonstration of the power of God in signs, wonders, healings and miracles.
For example, a representative of most of the traditionalist evangelical missionaries on the Sinai peninsula told me that they had met and discovered that none of them had ever led someone to Christ through apologetics but only after the indigenous people had seen signs, miracles, healings, visions, dreams about Jesus did they become Christians. For this reason he had been sent to talk to charismatic pastor and theologian Jack Deere, who recommended that he talk with Bill Johnson and me.
In addition to these important signs of the in-breaking of the kingdom of God, there are other factors contributing to the salvation of people in non-Christian cultures. These factors would include the compassionate acts of the Christians toward the non-Christians, often referred to as mercy ministries. However, neither the demonstrations of power in healing and miracles, nor the acts of compassion, by themselves result in salvations, baptisms and discipleship—the true fruit of successful evangelism.
True Fruit of Successful Evangelism
I believe that to the healings, miracles and acts of compassion must be added the proclamation of the gospel, the good news that through Jesus’ example of charismatic ministry, the cross, resurrection and ascension, that the powers of the god of this world with his demons, disease, death and damnation have been defeated.
In this truly biblical gospel, there will be the confirming divine testimony of signs and wonders, healing and miracles (Heb. 2:4) that are considered essential to the gospel of the kingdom, leading to the call to become a disciple of Jesus who is to be taught to obey everything Jesus taught His disciples to do (Matt. 28:18-20).
As a teenager, I remember going to a local denominational church, invited by a friend because it was “pack the pew” night. I don’t remember anyone giving his or her life to Christ during the invitation.
A couple of years later, however, the Jesus movement hit my local denominational church. It seemed like most of the students of the local high school came to the meetings that lasted 49 consecutive days with 250 professions of faith in Christ. My wife, who was 17, was converted in these meetings, and I was called to preach. What was the difference? The tremendous, convicting, revealing power of God that shook us kids out of our sin and spiritual blindness.
Once you have “tasted of the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:5), it is difficult to be satisfied with less. Once you have felt the electric expectation in the air of a true revival meeting, you can never be satisfied with an evangelistic outreach or program of evangelism. No, our souls thirst for His presence in our midst—for those things to happen that can only happen if God shows up at the meeting. Nothing else will ever satisfy.
In the great outpourings of the Holy Spirit in the mid-1990s that occurred in the meetings in Lakeland, Fla., Toronto, Canada, Brownsville, Fla., Smithton, Mo., and in many evangelical colleges, there was concern that evangelism be kept as the priority. Ironically, the concern that the phenomena that accompanied some of these outpourings would hinder evangelism has been shown to be unfounded. The foolishness of God’s methods has proven more effective than the wise plans of humans.
For example, four people touched through the outpouring in Toronto have taken the gospel worldwide. Rolland and Heidi Baker have labored in their work in Mozambique and other African countries. Leif Hetland works among under evangelized groups. Henry Madava has conducted healing crusades around the world and planted hundreds of churches in Ukraine, where 3 million people were won for Christ.
This does not count a projected million more people who were won by others touched by the Toronto Blessing of the mid-1990s. Today, there are still groups on the Internet who call these movements false or counterfeit revival movements filled with manifestations of the demonic. This has been the strategy of the enemy for 2,000 years to stop true moves of God by calling them the work of Satan—all the way back to Jesus and the Beelzebub controversy (Mark 3:22).
Increasing the Population of Heaven
While many great moves of God were rejected by people in the church and were often considered to be of Satan and counterfeit, history has proven the critics wrong. Instead of being the work of Satan, they have greatly increased the population of heaven and decreased the population of hell.
Today, 32 percent of the world’s population is Christian, making it the world’s largest religion by far. These revivals have resulted in 25 percent of all Christians in the world being related to churches that believe in healing and deliverance, in the restoration of all the gifts today, and in the restoration of the offices of the New Testament.
Only 30 years ago, this group was just 6 percent. Millions have come into the kingdom of God through these movements. Many—if not most of the largest churches in the world—embrace the worldview, doctrines and experiences of these revival.
These movements did not win their converts to Christ through reason, apologetics or programs. Instead, the revival movements reaped a huge evangelistic harvest by the power of God manifested through the gifts of God. Hundreds of thousands of churches have been started with millions of people coming out of darkness into the light, from death to life, from the dominion of Satan to the dominion of the Son of God.
Once again the foolishness of God has proven wiser than the wisdom of man. Once again, the power of God has proven the most successful means of reaching the lost. Once again, the evangelistic programs, strategies and plans of humans have proven so much more ineffective than the simple biblical models as presented in the gospels and the book of Acts.
These revivals have had an impact upon Christian theology as well. “In Western Christian history there is a long tradition of learned theological debate over cessationism—whether or not the implementation of Christian practice based on Scripture (Protestants), or Scripture with tradition (Catholics), has taken the place of more direct contact with God and the spirits more generally,” Mark A. Noll wrote in The New Shape of World Christianity.
“In the Christian world as it exists today, that debate has been rendered moot by a tidal wave of Christian practice,” Noll added. “With only some hyperbole, we might say although some of the world’s new Christian communities are Roman Catholic, some Anglican, some Baptist, some Presbyterian and many independent (denominations), almost all are Pentecostal in a broad sense of the term.”
What was the common thread of various revivals, including the 18th century revival under the Wesleys and Whitefield in England (the Great Evangelical Revival); the work of Jonathan Edwards and others in the American colonies (the First Great Awakening); the 1848 Prayer Revival in America; the Holiness Revival that broke out in the last quarter of the 19th century; the Holiness and Pentecostal revival at the beginning of the 20th century; the Shantung Revival in China around 1930-1933; and the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s? They all had one thing in common: the power of God.
This power was manifested in various ways: falling under the power, shaking or trembling, jerking, tongues, healing, prophecy, laughing, renewal, rededications and salvations. These great moves experienced most or even all of these phenomena and gifts.
What was the fruit? Whole nations were impacted; to name a few: England, America, Canada, Wales, India, Chile, Brazil, Korea, Argentina, Kenya, South Africa, Mozambique, West Africa, Nigeria, China, Ukraine and many others.
Three Keys for the Church’s Growth
When an analysis is made of why these movements were so successful, there are various interpretations. Those that I believe are most inaccurate describe the success in sociological terms. Then there are interpretations of some of the denominations that were key leaders in these successful gains for the kingdom, especially the Pentecostals. They might emphasize their rediscovery of the initial evidence of tongues in relationship to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
But I believe the main reason for such growth is in neither, but in the emphasis upon the restoration of all the gifts, especially the gift of healing. I believe the gift of healing, the rediscovery of authority for deliverance and intimacy with Jesus, especially through prayer and worship, are three primary keys for the growth of the church in the 20th century and the continued growth of the 21st century.
Let us listen to the words of the apostle Paul and our Lord Jesus. “Therefore I glory in Christ Jesus in my service to God. I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ” (Rom. 15:17-19, NIV, emphasis added). (Also see 1 Cor. 2:4-5.)
Jesus’ words follow. “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father” (John 14:11-13).
He also said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20, emphasis added).
If we ask how are we to obey these commands, especially that had healing and deliverance at the forefront, the answer, I believe is in John 14-16, especially 15:1-8, “I am the true vine ... If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”
In these words of Jesus, we have what I believe is the secret of a life of power in the Spirit that comes from a life of intimacy with Jesus.
Randy Clark is the founder of Global Awakening, a teaching, healing and impartation ministry that crosses denominational lines. An in-demand international speaker, Randy is the leader of the Apostolic Network of Global Awakening, traveling extensively for conferences, international missions, leadership training and humanitarian aid. Randy is the co-author of The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick (Chosen Books).