Evangelical Essentials

Why the African formula for revival may be simpler than we imagine.

I grew up in a Nazarene church in Ashland, Kentucky. Looking back, I do believe this particular church was born in revival. I would say they were at the "tail end" of a momentum precipitated by the Cane Ridge Revival in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in the early 1800s.

I was converted at the age of 6 and called into ministry when I was 19. A year or so later, I had a personal visitation from the Lord, driving in my car in Tennessee. The person of Jesus was more real to me than anybody around me.

This gave me a hunger to experience more of God. I began to want to see true revival more than anything. I began to preach this in Westminster Chapel and did so the whole of my 25 years there. Although we had touches of God upon us in definite ways, I would not call it genuine revival. To get a glimpse of such I would need a trip to a Third World country.

This happened a few years ago when I spoke in Nairobi, Kenya, at a Bible conference that was held annually by British and American missionaries. These were godly, evangelical men and women—quite traditional—and I was honored to be there. But I arranged to stay in Nairobi for a few extra days, because I had long wanted to see the church called Chrisco, where Michael Eaton is one of the church leaders. The contrast between the white missionaries and the black Kenyans was amazing.

My first exposure to Chrisco was at one of the prayer meetings held in the city hall auditorium for people who had been at work all day. The auditorium, which seated about 700, was packed. There was no music and no worship. All they did was pray.

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Although there was a leader whose prayer could be heard because of the public address system, he or she was still almost unheard by the volume of people praying aloud simultaneously. Imagine 700 people praying audibly until the one leading in prayer said, "We thank You for the blood of Jesus."

All of a sudden the crescendo of praise sounded like roars in a football stadium. They went wild. I sat in my chair and sobbed. I wondered if I was experiencing true revival for the first time in my life.

These prayer meetings took place every day around 5 p.m. every morning before 6 a.m. as people were going to work and every Wednesday at noon. It was all prayer. No preaching. No worship. Just prayer. They had preaching services and Bible studies at other times. I was honored to speak at one of them.

Every January the members of Chrisco church go on a two-week fast. No food whatsoever. Some don't even drink water. For 14 days. They think nothing of it. They don't think it is unusual. We thought we achieved a major accomplishment at Westminster Chapel when we fasted for one day at the beginning of each year!

But this is a church that is seeing conversions by dozens every month, signs and wonders and miracles regularly and a devotion to holy living that most of us might feel was over the top.

Why is it that only Third-World countries seem to see true revival these days? And why this particular group? I cannot be sure.

But part of the answer might be what I discovered some two months prior to my retirement. Kenya's president Daniel Arap Moi invited me to be his guest for a week in Kenya. He invited Michael Eaton to join us at his home for part of the time.

When President Moi asked Michael where his church was, the president was stunned. That area is where the poorest of Nairobi live. Poorer than most of us can fathom. Could this be why revival comes to them?

One more thing: There was also a weekly prayer meeting at noon Wednesdays on the second floor of the same City Hall where the people of Chrisco, one story below in the auditorium have their prayer meetings on Wednesdays.

The prayer meeting on the second floor is held by white evangelical missionaries. And what do you suppose they pray for? I happen to know so I can tell you: they pray for revival to come to Kenya. What breaks your heart is that these good people don't realize that their prayers were being answered! The problem was, they did not recognize what was going on in the auditorium as being revival!

Are we ready for answered prayer? What if revival came and we missed it—all because it did not fit the mold we think revival will fit?

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is the author of numerous books, including Total Forgiveness, The Anointing and The Word and the Spirit. His Web site is www.rtkendallministries.com.

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