I. First Few Days in Tanzania
II. Stepping in the Impossible
III. Like a Duck
IV. Hungry for Revival
V. Mount Kilimanjaro
VI. Breakthrough in Arusha
VIII. True Riches
IX. Overcoming the Challenge
First Few Days in Tanzania
I am in Dar es Salaam, the capital of Tanzania. It’s a large city of about 6 million people, busy, prosperous, and fairly clean – better than most cities I have seen in Africa. As the name implies, it is a city of peace with a large Muslim population abiding alongside scores of churches. Now that I mention it, I’ve seen a lot of Muslims walking around – you can identify them by the clothes they wear. The women wear long black cotton gowns – neck to ankles – that have few embellishments, but their scarves, wow! They are usually made of elegant chiffon in gorgeous feminine colors, often decorated with sparkles and embroidery. Its as if all their feminine beauty is expressed in this one outlet that they wrap around their face. There are no burkas that I have seen, but there are some of the conservative black veils that are worn across their face. I really question the point of these things. Most of the women that subscribe to the full veils are older, fat, and … well, let’s just say that they are somewhat less than attractive. You would think that if they are trying to lessen their allure, they would just take the veils off. One look at some of these faces would be enough to dampen any man’s ardor.
The men can be identified by their little round caps that they wear. Some are simple cotton, some are embroidered, some are knit. I’ve forgotten what they call them, but they are like those little caps the monkeys wear that dance for the organ grinder. Sorry, but that’s what they remind me of. You can also see several men in what I call their ghost gowns – simple full-length white gowns over sandals. It makes you wonder what the religious significance is for these get-ups, but I don’t dare ask. At least they don’t sport the weird orange beards that you see in Kenya and Nigeria.
There doesn’t seem to be any of the overt animosity between Muslims and Christians that we hear about in other places. Actually, I have never seen any problems no matter where I have been, but it seems it is more peaceful here for some reason. Maybe that is not a good sign. Real on-fire Christians are supposed to be an offense to the world and a threat to sin. I’m not so sure that I have seen any evidence of that here. Everyone just sort of gets along with each other. While our modern theologies would commend that, the Apostle Paul would not. He was a lightning rod wherever he landed, and he expected us to be a partaker with him in the persecution of the Cross. You do not see that here.
So far I have had six services in three different churches. Only one of them had that feeling of life when I walked through the door. The others reflected that same placid feeling that you find in the city. It’s as if a particular spirit resides over this place like a spiritual blanket. I’ve experienced similar things in other places, as if each city has its own spirit. But under the blanket, there is still a hunger for something more in God. It takes a little bit of work to bring it out of them, but once the shell is busted open, things start to come alive.
The Lord has been dealing with me to stick to the message. I keep stressing out to come up with some new message that is great and powerful, searching for new revelations in new passages in the Bible. I’m afraid that my companion, Pastor Noah, will think that I don’t know how to preach anything fresh and new. But the Lord dealt with me to stick to the Plan. “Quit trying to be some stupid heavyweight and just deliver what He has given me. And yes, you’ve delivered this same set of messages hundreds of times. Just keep delivering them!” The feeling comes over me to just let go. Let go of your nets, relax and let God do the preaching. And as I yield, not only does a peace settle over me, but the message steps up into a hotter level of fire. Noah is amazed. He doesn’t know how I do it. Neither do I.
I need to add my message about soul-winning to the booklet that we pass out. When I bring this message, it always pierces layers of complacency with the chilling fear of God. They have read this, they know about it, they even acknowledge the importance of it, but the utter shattering revelation of its all-embracing importance has just never occurred to them before. Probably more than any of the other messages that are part of the campaign, this is the one that brings the biggest shock. Once they grasp this principle, the church is revolutionized and they will never be the same again. And for some reason, I never included it in the book. Go figure.
Another week here, and then we move off to the churches around Mt. Kilimanjaro. My guess is that we will find a totally different spirit there than we have found here. And for some reason, we will probably experience a stronger level of fire and more miracles of healing. There’s something about the villages out in the country that makes them more receptive to the Spirit. I’m sure everyone has a theory, but my hope and vision is that once the fire of revival breaks out, it will sweep over village and city alike in a tidal wave of revival that will ultimately go around the world, so what difference does it make. Just stick to the Plan and deliver the message, and let God do the rest.
Stepping into the Impossible
We have had some terrific days here in Tanzania this past week. I have been at several churches throughout Dar es Salaam and every service has been great. In most places (probably every one of them), the message of revival has been shattering. They all want revival, but it’s as if they are not really sure what revival is or how to get it. And when I bring this message to them, it opens their understanding like someone ripping open the dark curtains that was hiding the bright noon day.
What is interesting is that some of these places had just started getting serious about seeking God for revival when all of a sudden I showed up with this message. One pastor told me that he had been pasturing his church for 10 years, but only in the past couple of weeks has the Lord been pressing upon him to teach his church to go out and win souls. God’s perfect timing is so cool.
What they have not experienced before is the power that accompanies these services. I can feel the Spirit flowing through me, but I don’t feel what they feel out in the congregation. Pastor Noah tells me that the power is so strong out there that it is breaking hearts to cry out to God. Even our driver, who is a Muslim and won’t come inside the churches, said he could feel the power of God out in the parking lot and has decided to start coming inside. That has to be a good sign.
At every church, the people are excited, pumping my hand to express their thanks and begging me to come back. But when I come back to the hotel at night and stare out the window at the lights of the city, I don’t feel the same thing they’re feeling. I feel like a little boy who is trying to do a man’s job. Pretty funny seeing I am 62 years old. But honestly, I wonder about what I am doing here. Sometimes I just feel inadequate because I really don’t know what I am doing. I never know what the message will be until just before I stand up. Oh sure, it is always good – God never fails me – but even after preaching hundreds upon hundreds of messages that have all been filled with the Spirit, it is still daunting to me. It is not the words that I must deliver, but the power and anointing of the Holy Spirit. It’s like getting ready to jump into a swimming pool, knowing that you don’t know how to swim but being forced to trust God that He will teach you how if you just dive in.
Maybe I’m not supposed to be brimming with self-confidence like some big-time, sho’ nuff, Holy Ghost revivalist. Maybe I am supposed to stand in awe of the impossible providence of God’s Grace, knowing that I can’t do this – I will never be able to do this – but He can … and He does … every time. He just needs for me to get out of the way and let Him be God.
When we let God take over, we release Him to do the miraculous.
“And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
Did you ever watch a duck going after the pieces of bread that you keep tossing at him? They say that a duck will eat himself to death if you keep feeding him. I get the feeling that my host here in Tanzania is afraid that the same will happen to me if they keep giving me too many places to preach at. Instead of the usual two or three services a day, they have geared me back to one service a night. I suppose there are some good reasons for that – for one, most people have to work during the day and would miss any services that took place during the day. Besides, they have not had a lot of time to plan for any extensive seminars because we only decided to come here a few weeks ago, so people would not have been able to make plans to take the time off to take time off to attend during the daytime.
Still, I get the feeling that my host, Pastor Noah, is afraid that I will get worn out if I push too hard. I appreciate the concern, nevertheless there is a sense of frustration that hangs over me to get this message of revival to as many people as I can while there is time. If I had a hundred years to do this, it would be different. But I don’t. I believe Jesus is coming sooner than we really expect.
Oh sure, we all know that Jesus is coming back to Earth again “soon and very soon”. But how soon is soon? What if you knew that you only had a few years left … or maybe four? How would that change your perspective? Like a person sorting through his goods to decide what he can take with him on a trip and what he must leave behind, how would you change the things you do every day? Which of those things really matter in the face of Eternity? What are the things that you have put off for years, maybe all your life, which you would now rush to do? If you knew that it was all going to end in a few short years, what really matters, and what does not?
That is how I feel these days. I know God has given me a commission to light the fire of revival across Africa, but there is only so much time left to get it done. The only seeds that will not bring forth a harvest are the ones that have not been planted.
Pastor Noah sees all this. He has the same burden, but he’s still in his twenties and can keep going and going like the Eveready Bunny, but he’s afraid I don’t have enough sense to pace myself (old man that I am). I’m afraid he is right. Common sense has never been my strong suit. I’m guessing that God sees all this and that’s why he puts people like Noah around me to keep me from burning out.
If we accomplish anything at all, it will not be by the strength of our own efforts, but by the Grace of God. Like a sailing ship out at sea that is trying desperately to make it to port, we can only hope for the wind of the Holy Spirit to drive our vessel. We cannot row the ship there with our own efforts, but neither can we just sit and do nothing. If we are to catch the wind that will blow us to harbor, we have to raise the sails!
A strong wind of revival is coming, but it is not coming to those who have not raised the sail and prepared their vessel to catch it when it comes.
One is that I hate con artists, especially Christian con artists. We’ve got plenty in the U.S. splattered all over the television, selling oil and rags, holy water and thinly disguised indulgences, while they pat each other on the back and invite each other to their programs so they can pump up the audience to give more money. I call them the C.C.A.A – Christian Con Artists of America. I’m sure you know exactly who I’m talking about. Their slick cousins over in Africa have simply learned the trade from them.
The other reason for me not giving thousands of dollars to pastors for them to create some organizational extravaganza is that I am not looking for large numbers. I am only looking for those hungry souls who are willing to overcome any obstacles in their way to receive the fire of revival. Those are the ones who will carry the torch and light the rest of Africa – the others will just go home after they have been entertained and have had their free meal.
But there are those who are so desperate for revival that they will pay any price to bring this power to their people. Pastor William Iddi, the pastor who was the primary reason for me coming to Tanzania on this last trip, had attended one of my meetings in Kenya three years ago and had picked up a business card that someone had dropped on the ground. He has been asking me to come to his village in Tanzania ever since, but I have always been headed in a different direction. (Too many places and not enough time). He decided that he would take his plea directly to God instead, so, on three separate occasions, he went out to a mountain to fast and pray, sleeping on the rocks at night, for an entire week each time until God answered. Finally, at the end of the third session, the Lord spoke to him and told him stop his crying. He would send me. Geez! Talk about determination! When you really want something from God, you can get it if you are determined enough to hang on to the horns of the Altar until God answers.
Do you have the same zeal to see revival come to your church? William Iddi is not alone in Africa. There are whole churches that enter into weeks of fasting and all-night prayer meetings for God to send someone to bring revival to their church. Some of them are so far out of the way that it is an impossible dream for them. No one goes out to preach at some of these places that I have been sent to, especially white revivalists from America. But God specializes in impossible dreams.
Their hope, which is borne on the wings of soul-wrenching prayer and fasting, is birthed in a womb of desperation. And God’s ears are attuned to the cries of the desperate.
Regardless of what our false prophets tell you, revival will not come to America until we are broken to our knees in repentance – and that will not happen unless something terrible happens to break us out of our hypnotic fascination with blessings, prosperity, and a cheap grace. We are not desperate enough yet. But Africa is, and I believe that God will use Africa to bring revival to the rest of the world. My prayer is that, in our mediocrity, we will feel the heat of the fire that is kindled in Africa and drop to our knees to plead with God to forgive us for having “church” instead of what He called us to so long ago.
We are in Moshi, a quaint little town at the base of Kilimanjaro, Africa’s largest mountain. I am told that “Kiliman” means “mountain” and “jaro” means “large”. The mountain is so massive that it dominates the entire horizon. It is no wonder that so many tourists come here to climb it. It sits there like a great king standing over his massive domain in a commanding challenge to all those around it.
But I am not here to climb Kilimanjaro. I have my own mountains to climb. I am here to open a window of revival to these churches here. The two weeks we spent in Dar es Salaam are over and it is time for a new set of challenges. We will be at one church for 3 days, and then off to Arusha for a week with a couple more churches there.
Dar es Salaam was a series of challenges for us. At first, it appeared that we had no churches to preach at. The pastor of the church we were originally slated for wanted $5,000 to set up our meetings. I suppose he was expecting a Billy Graham type of crusade, but that is not what the Lord has consistently placed before me to do. But as soon as that door closed, several smaller churches immediately opened their doors to us. They were cautious at first, but once the word got out about the anointing that accompanied our services, everything changed. One bishop of a large church said that he actually saw the glow turn on as soon as I started preaching, and he spread the word to everyone else. The doors opened up and the struggles we were experiencing quickly turned into victory after victory.
There have not been a lot of souls saved … yet. A couple of Muslims got saved, but the real proof of the ministry is what will happen in the forthcoming weeks. I have told them that before they start gathering in the harvest, a fire has to be built in their churches, otherwise the souls that do come in will not stay. They get it. And now they know what they need to do to kindle that fire. The spark has been lit, but it is up to them to put fuel on the fire and fan the flames.
Now that they have experienced the anointing, they all want me to hurry and come back so they can gather all the churches in the area for some big meetings. But I rarely come back to the same place. Once a fire has been lit, you don’t go back to light it again with another match. They say that I need to come back to see all the fruit that will be there, but I am off to the next place to strike the next match.
Every place I have gone is different than any other and every church has its own personality. While my messages remain pretty much the same, the services do not. Each one is unique. My companion, Noah, says that’s it’s because of the Anointing. I suppose he is right because that’s what we keep hearing about everywhere we go. God takes the framework of a straightforward message and fills it out with the Holy Spirit. They see it; I don’t. I’m too busy pouring myself out over the pulpit. But that has to be what my part of this whole thing is – once I start, it literally pours out of me for the next hour and then leaves me drained as if a river had just run through me.
But every once in a while, you run into a place where the Spirit just doesn’t seem to move. It’s like you’re stuck in the mud and no matter how much you step on the gas, you are just spinning your wheels. Is it me? Is it them? Is it the leadership? Is it the people? Is it demonic spirits layered around the church? It’s during times like these that you can really feel how that, no matter how well you can see in this world, in the spiritual realm, you are blind.
Arusha was such a place. After a series of exciting services in Moshi, we arrived here in Arusha for the next leg of the mission. I should have had a clue what this next church was going to be like when I arrived on time and hardly anyone was there. But this is not unusual in Africa. As the saying here goes, “There is no hurry in Africa”. Hakuna Matata. Besides, I seen time after time when the Holy Spirit would pour out of the heavens on some tiny service way out in the boondocks, so I figured this was probably the same thing.
But in this service, I felt like I was preaching to a wall of ice. I know there were those who were receiving what I was delivering, but there was no passion, no feeling, no warmth. I felt like I was running down the runway flapping my wings as hard as I could, but I just couldn’t get off the ground.
Okay. Maybe it’s just a bad day. Maybe I was “off” today. But the next day was even colder. Now I’m worried. Worried because for the past week, I have been going through all kinds of fire – the kind of fire that really pulls you out of the Spirit while you are struggling with the flesh, like swatting off swarms of hornets. Maybe it’s me. I know I ain’t all that great a lot of times. Maybe I am just not in the Spirit. The problem is that I will probably not get a chance to minister to these people ever again, so I HAVE to deliver! And to do that, I have to get a hold of God today before this third and last service.
It’s Thursday. Services are at 4:30, so I have all day to read, pray, and fast and get a breakthrough. I can tell that the usual messages that I usually bring on the last day do not seem to fit somehow. I can just feel that they are only going to bounce off these people. I have already preached about the spiritual desolation in the last days out of Joel, Revelation, Matthew and others; I have called unto them about Rachael’s Cry; I have appealed unto them the hear the cry of the Blind Man’s heart in Mark 10 … but it has all just bounced off that wall of ice. Their hearts are not broken, their hunger is not peaked, and they just sit there staring at me like owls. I have to do something different.
The clouds part as I am on my knees. I am begging God that if it’s my fault for sliding out of the Spirit, like David pleading for his people, then punish me but don’t let these sheep suffer. I mean it. And He knows it. I can feel it. And then it comes down – a completely different message from the Book of Esther. Now, He doesn’t tell me what the message is – oh no, that would be too easy – but I know it’s coming from Esther … from somewhere. Oh well, what else is new?
Well, yeah, you guessed it. I got up to preach, rebuked every foul spirit in the Blood of Jesus Christ, and then I just stepped off the edge of the cliff. I didn’t know what the message was or what I was going to say, but, BANG! God showed up. I love it when you are riding that wild stallion, hanging on for dear life, and riding like the wind. That’s what it was like. What a breakthrough!
Services were 3 hours long, and although many left during the service, the ones who stayed were so excited that we couldn’t just end the message and go home. I brought everyone down front to the altar where Noah led them through an intense rededication and commitment to God. They stepped into a covenant with God that will change their lives forever.
The lesson here? I guess it’s that old adage from Winston Churchill, “Never give up. Never, never, never, never give up!” When you know you have the truth, take power and dominion over every devil in Hell and claim the victory that you have through the Blood of Jesus Christ.
And let God do the rest.
We visited two churches in Arusha, Tanzania that were in complete contrast to each other. The first one was like trying to break through a wall of ice. It took three days to do it, and that was with a solid day of fasting and serious prayer.
What was it about this church that was so unresponsive? I hate to make a judgment call with so little time to base it on, but I will say this – if the leader is lifeless, don’t expect the church to be any different. If the leader is on fire, however, the people in the church will either catch the fire or get burnt and leave. Jeremiah doesn’t cry out, “Woe to the flocks that scatter the pastors.” He cries, “Woe to the pastors that scatter the flocks.”
Now, there are exceptions. Get this -- a couple of months ago, I preached to a group of college kids at a university in Rwanda. I didn’t know at the time whether they really got the message or not. I just delivered it, prayed over them, gave them a bunch of booklets, and kept on going.
Oh, they got it alright. They want revival with a passion! I just found out that they have taken the message I gave them and spread it over the whole campus. They have asked for another 700 booklets of “Four Steps to Revival” because so many students keep joining the group. But (and here’s where it gets amusing) their pastor is an Anglican priest who is not caught up into the same Holy Ghost fire of soul-winning and revival as the kids are. So they fired him! (Can they do that?) They said he was too boring anyway. Ha! What a scream! The university administration started to object, but so many kids were so fired up that they were afraid that there would be a riot. What’s that old saying? Lead, follow, or get out of the way!
Revival is coming and if you are nothing but a limp-wristed, wet dishcloth of a pastor, then it will roll over you.
The other church in Arusha was open, receptive, and hungry. The services burst through the walls and the ceiling and broke through to the Throne of God. Wow, you had to have been there to know what I mean. They were so excited that they gave me an offering to give to my church back home. I thought that was pretty cool. I guess they thought that my church had sent me, when actually, although supportive in prayer, no church has ever had any part in sending me anywhere. Nevertheless I love intrigues, so I’m going to give this to them and use this offering to establish a link between the two churches. I’m hoping it will help to set the American church on fire. They need it as much as the church in Arusha.
Just to give you an idea of how ripe these people in Arusha are, my interpreter for some of these services has a church of his own here. He came to the hotel and asked me to lay hands on him and pray for an anointing on him and his church. He just called me today and said that the very next service was so anointed with the Spirit of God that a whole bunch of souls got saved, the Spirit poured out so heavily that people broke out of the pews, got slain in the Spirit, baptized in the Holy Ghost, and many were miraculously healed of several diseases! Like an over ripe fruit just waiting for someone to shake the tree!
Revival is coming and no one is going to stop it.
Mornings are so crisp and clear here that you can feel the snap in the air. The sensation is like biting into an extra crisp red Delicious apple and hearing that pop. Is the air actually clearer out here, or is my imagination just enhanced by that tropical feeling of being in an exotic land? Whatever it is, the feeling is grand. The temperature is so perfect that there is no temperature – you don’t even feel it. It’s not a few degrees hot and its not a few degrees cold. It’s like Goldilocks’ porridge. I can see why many whites have come to live in certain areas of Africa. It’s just beautiful all year round.
I have come to an area out in the rural countryside near Lake Victoria. Dirt roads run through green countryside for miles, interspersed with tiny homes topped with picturesque African grass roofs. Spaced out every so often is the occasional village with all its riot, noise, and trash. Faded sign boards are displayed on miniature kiosks that sell everything from soap to candy, and cell phone air time to plumbing parts. Chickens fill the background, running around with their incessant squawking while the locals sit outside sleepily gazing at the muzumgu (white man) as I drive by.
You get a sense of real community out here. Conditions may be primitive, but I can imagine that kids have a great time growing up here and adults settle into a communal rhythm that has been set for generations. They know they’re poor, but I don’t think they feel it as badly as we think they do. They have the village to surround themselves with.
You would expect the churches out here to be much less sophisticated than in a modern city back in the States – and, to a certain extent, they are – but you also find a depth of faith and worship that is foreign in Western cultures. Their theological depth is shallow because they do not read the Word deeply, mostly because many do not own their own Bible while others have difficulty reading because of a lack of education.
But they have faith. And they worship God.
It must have something to do with their utter dependency upon God. They have so little in this world that they just need God more than we do. We are, in comparison, like the Church of Laodicea in Revelations. We are rich and increased with goods and have no idea how needy we really are. We send mission trips here to help them, but what we really need is a healthy dose of what they have in God.
I was going to tell you about the services out here, but really, it is the same as it has been throughout Africa. I go in to challenge their notion of church and revival, show them what they are lacking as a church, and set them free to break through to the Throne of God. Their response is almost always the same – like letting racehorses out of the gate.
Out here in the back country, it seems even more intense. I tried to close one of the services yesterday with a prayer for a minute or two, but they kept going … and going … and going. Hands raised, hearts crying out, tears flowing, voices lifted … for 45 minutes! (Yes, I timed it.) And this has not happened just once or twice, but time after time, service after service, village after village. And you can’t stop it, either. I just stand in front of them, silently waiting while they pray themselves out. It usually take about a half an hour. Try that in your church back at home!
What is it that they have that we don’t? Close a service in a typical Pentecostal church and you’ll hear some rumbling in prayer across the congregation but it ends when the Pastor does. Close a service in a Baptist church and all you hear is the shuffling of shoes. But here, you hear the depths of their hearts breaking through the rafters. And, in the midst of their poverty and lack, you can sense the reciprocating response from the Spirit of God.
They possess riches that we are not even aware of.
Right now, I am in the rural back country of Tanzania. Not too many white guys come out here. You can tell by the stares I get as I pass by and the kids running after me and yelling, “Muzumgu! Muzumgu!” These are people who have life down its bedrock simplicities with few distractions, so their need for God is more exposed than it is in Western culture. When you preach repentance, they repent. When you cry out for them to seek the face of God, they are climbing over your cry with an intense and violent prayer of their own. When you point to the Word as the source of all power, they beg you for Bibles.
And that is the heartbreaker for me because we never have enough Bibles to go around. Maybe we’re not supposed to. Maybe God allows them this challenge to prove their sincerity and teach them how to overcome the challenges they will face in this Christian walk. Sometimes, I will ask how many do not have Bibles, and all kinds of hands go up. And then I ask how many of them have cell phones … Oops. They can afford a cell phone to talk to their friends, but can’t buy a Bible so they can talk to God? They always laugh at this, but they get the message loud and clear. It is time to stand on their own two feet and rise to the challenge that God has placed before them.
And that is the true test for the Church in Africa. Have they been so conditioned by do-gooder Western aid organizations, NGO’s, American churches, and the United Nations that they have become welfare-dependent? If they are going to reach out for revival, that dependency has to be broken. Many of them understand this, but it is hard to be weaned off it.
Clearly, the price for revival is high – higher than human flesh would like to pay – but if they are willing, if they are hungry enough, even desperate enough, then God will give them the power and the drive to overcome.
And if they do not, then He will find someone else who will.
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” (Rev 3:22)