Waving flags that said “Jesus is King,” 650 Christians marched up the beach bike path to the pier Saturday in an event that was meant to spark revival.
“This is not a protest,” said Vadim Semenchuk, a coordinator with United Revival of Sacramento which staged the event. “We’re here to proclaim the name of Jesus.”
Drawing smiles, smirks and wondering glances on a walk more famous for fun and flashing flesh, the gathering first worshipped, prayed and preached on the grass next to the beach at Barnard Way, before walking up to the pier shouting Jesus chants.
“The church of California has gotten its roar back,” said Ross Johnston, who leads the Orange County based group California Will be Saved. “The only hope for America, the only hope for California is Jesus. We’re not just here to get excited and feel good, we’re here to start a move. We pray for the Golden State to become golden again.”
Police initially estimated the event to have 325 people, but a more careful count by this reporter as they marched up the bike path revealed there were in fact 650. Latecomers may account for the discrepancy.
United Revival started doing outdoor revival events and marches during Covid when riots convulsed America over racial police brutality.
“When the world was protesting and riots were happening, we were like, why doesn’t the church go out and march and proclaim the goodness of Christ,” says co-founder Ivan Katrenyak. “The whole goal is to rally the church. As Joshua took cities (in the Old Testament), we’re here doing that today and exalting the name of Jesus.”
Coming Jesus marches this year will be held in Phoenix, Dallas, Tampa, Seattle, Portland, Denver, San Francisco and Sacramento, where United Revival is based and is raising up a local church in the North Islands neighborhood. Read the rest: Revival in Santa Monica.
The discouraging thing about Romania was not the breadlines. It was the utter lack of hope.
Even after communism fell, the leftover lifestyle was colorless — work, work, work.
Ovidiu Rusu, because he had read widely, dreamed of greater things and despaired of a life assigned by socialism of being just a part of the machine to support the state.
“When I was a child, I was not aware of how bad communism was. But as I became a teenager and then a young man, it was a struggle not seeing a future. There were no opportunities. All the doors were closed,” Ovidiu says on a Virginia Beach Potter’s House podcast.” I told my friends, ‘If the end of the year catches me here, I’m going to kill myself. I don’t want to live this life.’”
Life in Brasov under communism, according to Ovidiu, was characterized by:
Fear of authority. “Anybody with any measure of authority wants you to feel that they are the boss. Authority is there to harm and humiliate you. You live walking on eggshells.”
Poverty and boring food. “You have just five options to eat and you cycle through them. I remember being tired of beans and rice. You have one pair of shoes, one pair of pants, one coat. You sew it to fix it.”
You as an individual don’t count.
Thinking is squelched. “Because people who think for themselves are dangerous.”
Even the fall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in December 1989 did not immediately usher in a change of life. Though freedoms were introduced, life continued to appear pretty dull and opportunity-less.
The legacy of communism was atheism. His parents had never attended the Eastern Orthodox church much, but a lot of other Romanians did as a passive resistance to communism. Ovidiu didn’t believe in God because that’s what they had taught in school.
Thinking that if life were to change, he would need to do something himself, Ovidiu fled the country with some of his young adult friends. Their plan was to make their way to France and join the French Foreign Legion. They had heard that the pay was good, and you could apply for citizenship in France.
But they got caught and jailed. It was the first time Ovidiu flew in a plane, since before he could never afford plane travel, much less international tourism. He was flown because he was deported.
“I was very, very distraught,” he says.
He kept trying to escape Romania, but nothing worked. That’s when decided upon suicide to escape Romania.
During the last two weeks of 1992 he stayed in his room, pacing and smoking. He avoided his friends and his girlfriend. He was stewing.
Though he didn’t believe in God, he cried out to him. “If you exist you have to do something,” he said.
On Dec. 31, his mom sent him to the bread lines at 4:00 a.m. You had to get up early to get the special bread that is customary for New Year’s Eve. “It wasn’t a line, it was a mob, and I’m right in the middle of it,” he remembers. “I was standing there frustrated, angry, desperate, no hope.”
He noticed a young guy working his way through the crowd. “Excuse me, excuse me,” he pushed gently through, coming straight over to Ovidiu, whom he addressed.
“I know you from the neighborhood,” the young man said. He began witnessing to him about Jesus.
“I cried out to God three days earlier, and the first time I step out of my house, God sent this guy to talk to me,” Ovidiu marvels.
The Gospel has grown by 10,000% in more than a century in France, evangelicalism’s holy grail in Europe.
In the year 1800, there were 2000 Protestant evangelicals, in 2019 there were more than 700,000, according to statistics in a FOCL Online video and news reports.
In 1970, there were 840 evangelical churches, today there are more than 2,440. Every 10 days, a new church opens, said David Brown, chairman of the Evangelism Commission of the French National Council of Evangelicals (CNEF).
“Their numbers are no doubt increasing with the evangelical churches’ emphasis of personal conversion and a direct relationship with God,” says anchor Stuart Norval of France 24 English news in a “Focus” report which characterized the growth as “surprising.”
The news is cheery since evangelical Christianity tails Islam and secular humanism in France. The humanist viewpoint that God is a “construct” used by the rich to suppress the poor was practically born in France. About 8% of the country is Muslim while evangelicals barely make up 1%.
Despite sobering demographics, evangelicals have been growing at about 2.4% a year, in line with most countries in the world, according to the Joshua Project.
Francois Loury is a recent convert in the Porte Ouverte Chrétienne church in Paris. He recently was baptized and brings his whole family.
“It feels like a church that belongs to the modern world,” François says. “That’s what’s so good about it. That’s what makes it stand out. The pastors wear jeans. They don’t wear suits. They like to have fun; they tell jokes. Sometimes we even find ourselves laughing about religion. I think that in today’s world, that’s important, to have an open mind.”
Porte Ouverte Chrétienne, which means Christian Open Door, stands out compared to the mass offered by the Catholic church. Porte Ouverte’s worship is dynamic and heartfelt, activities are family oriented, and they reach thousands with simultaneous streaming over social media.
“When I attended Catholic mass I felt like a spectator,” says Eric Richter. “Our faith is a bit like for a fan in a soccer stadium. They’re in it together; they have faith in their players. And we have faith in God.”
Daniel Lietchi presides over CNEF’s committee to foment church planting praises God for the growth but prays for much more.
“If we continue like this with a new church established every 10 days, we’ll never accomplish our goal of having one church for every 10,000 French citizens,” Lietchi says. “We want things to progress twice, even three times, as fast. But the outcome depends on God’s will. For example in Spain, a new church opens every three days. Here in France, that’s what we’re aiming for.”
Much of the current church growth stems from a surge of immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, where people in their native countries have a higher level of openness to the gospel.
Monique Kapinga immigrated from the Democratic Republic of Congo when her husband died. She found a similar worship style and the same earnestness of her native land in the l’Arche de Paix Church, which after 25 years has over 500 members.
“I came to the Arch of Peace because it is a church of truth,” Monique says. “We pray like we pray back home.”
But the spiritual support is not the only help she found at the Parisian church. She also received money and assistance with renewing her immigration status. It’s no wonder immigrants, lonely in a foreign land, congregate together for camaraderie and social networking.
CNEF’s Brown tracks the history of current growth of Christianity in France in the follow epochs:
>From 1935 to 1960, Assemblies of God led the charge with successful church planting
>From 1980 to 1990, the Charismatic movement brought a surge
>From 1990 to 2010, immigration brought a boon.
>Since 1995, native church planters are taking the lead.
Personal evangelism fuels the growth, but white French resist the gospel with a “double insulation.” He says: “They rebuff evangelism by saying they are Catholic or believers in secular philosophy, which is strong in France.
“A person says, ‘Well, I’m not really a believer,’ so you start talking about philosophy and try to convince them,” Brown says. “And then they suddenly say, ‘I’m a Catholic and we can’t believe that.’” Read the rest: Gospel in France
Reclaiming the heritage left by Martin Luther King Jr. and William Wilberforce, a group of Christians is preaching and baptizing on the street corner of Minneapolis where George Floyd’s life was snuffed out by a rogue cop. They’re seeking to effect real social change from the ground up.
“This is what God is trying to do. He’s trying to bring everybody together, all races, all ethnicities,” said Pastor Curtis Farrar, of the Worldwide Outreach for Christ Ministries in Minneapolis in his Sunday June 7th outdoor service. “His people are out here as one as the family of God. Only God can change.”
Pastor Curtis has labored for 38 years in a neighborhood that used to be overrun with gangs, on the same corner of E. 38th St and Chicago Avenue where Floyd was murdered. His patient service has helped multitudes escape sinful lifestyles and come to Christ.
“The mayor came out here and said our church has had a profound effect on the neighborhood,” Pastor Curtis related. “Man cannot do that. It takes the power of God.”
Pastor Curtis and his church have been joined by teams from Youth With a Mission (YWAM) and Circuit Riders, a California-based mission movement named after John Wesley’s Methodist preachers who rode “circuits” on horseback to preach throughout rural America.
“I came here and I was broken,” said WYAM’s Christophe Ulysse in Fox News. “It affects team members differently, but those of us of color, as we’re here, we’re watching the change happen through the gospel. My heart is so filled with hope. Those in the neighborhood are saying this is unprecedented unity. They’re feeling an outpouring of love and hope from this nation.”
The groups led praise and worship, held prayer, evangelized and even baptized in the street. While fear and anguish have convulsed people of color facing police abuses, the gospel is bringing hope and love, Christian leaders said.
“For us, there is this deep conviction that we have tried everything to deal with this issue. We’ve tried politics, we’ve tried economics, and we’ve tried social reform,” says Ulysse, a black Canadian stationed in Hawaii. “It’s the same thing over and over. We have to go back to what actually works. We’re going from pain and hatred to healing and hope. There’s this new narrative of the gospel.”
On the street, Yasmin Pierce of Circuit Riders delivered an emotional altar call before hundreds of listeners: “On the cross he was beaten to death. He could not breathe. He gave his last breath for every person here. He gave his last breath for me, for you, and he says, ‘Father, forgive them. Father, heal them. Father, save them from this dark world that they would know your love.” Read the rest: The gospel is the answer to police violence.
Jeff Fischer thought the Sunday school teachers of his childhood mainline church resembled the spooky characters on The Addams Family TV series, so he had no desire to go to church or come to Jesus.
But when he suffered a collapsed lung and a painful air bubble between his heart and lung, he grappled with neurotic fear of death and finally relented to accompany a co-worker to a “weird” Jesus People movement church where they asked him, “Have you been washed by the blood?”
He thought it was a cult and dashed for the door.
But he started reading his Bible — and he pasted a “Jesus Lives” bumper sticker on his car. (He didn’t know what the One Way index finger pointed to Heaven sign was about, so he flipped off someone on the road who attempted to congratulate him for the bumper sticker.)
“I started with Matthew and read straight through the gospels,” Jeff says. “All I remember is seeing my sin in the pages and seeing Jesus so gracious and so accepting of sinners. My father left when I was 10 years old, so I had real issues with being accepted. I kept reading and kept seeing Jesus accepting all these people.”
Maybe he can accept me, he thought.
The next time Jeff attended a born-again function, it was a Bible study in Woodland Hills, California, taught by a bassist he had seen on The Tonight Show — a “cool guy who knows Jesus.”
What’s going on?” he thought.
“I was thinking seriously about my mortality and my fear of death. I had people talking about Jesus and how He could save me and set me free from fear and that I could know that if I die I could go to Heaven. I didn’t have to live the way I was living and I could be free,” Jeff says. “That was utterly compelling, but I was also scared to death to give up my life because I wanted to continue to sin, to do my life and not God’s.”
He was living his dream life in Manhattan Beach, California — abusing drugs and alcohol, playing in a rock band called “Tyme,” and surfing everyday — but he was miserable and hung over most of the time.
As The Tonight Show musician taught, Jeff’s fears subsided and the Spirit welled up in him. At the end of the Bible study, the leader asked for everyone to bow their heads and close their eyes. “If anyone wants to receive Jesus, raise your hand,” he said.
From a very young age, Nepal-born Surya Bhandari had a fervent desire to please the Hindu god Shiva. Because Shiva smoked marijuana, Surya sought to please him by smoking weed himself — starting at age 8.
Then in the sixth grade he learned about the dangers of tuberculosis and cancer from smoking and began to question the wisdom of the god. Also, kids at school started pointing at him as a “bad kid” for his cannabis consumption.
“In my little mind, I started thinking, ‘Why do they call me bad?’” Surya remembers. “‘This great god Shiva smokes marijuana. Why would they call me bad? Is it really bad? If I am bad, then this god Shiva is bad. If he is bad, is he really a god?’”
Surya as a young man
He belonged to the priestly Brahman class, but he turned his back on Hinduism, called himself an “atheist,” started using other drugs and alcohol.
“This Shiva destroyed my life,” he reasoned. “I’m not able to quit smoking marijuana. Someday I’m going to get TB or cancer and I’m going to die, and this god is responsible.
“I became so angry.”
One day he had a dream of being chased by a tall figure clad in a white gown. He thought it was a ghost. It scared him so badly that he didn’t want to go to his usual taekwondo that morning and instead decided to distract himself by reading one of his older brother’s books.
His older brother had either left home or been kicked out — he wasn’t really sure — because he had secretly become a Christian and was attending underground meetings somewhere downtown.
As Surya thumbed through the volumes on the bookcase, he happened to pull out a slim volume, opened it and saw — to his utter surprise — a picture of the same white-clad figure. Suddenly his fear abated, and he continued to read eagerly. “It was God, not a ghost,” he concluded.
Surya with his family today in Los Angeles
From that moment on, he wanted to become a Christian. But attending a church was no easy matter in those days in Nepal. Carrying a Bible was a crime worse than drug trafficking.
But Surya was determined. He begged an old friend of his brother to tell him where he could find the underground church that his brother attended. The young man was backslidden at the time and didn’t want to say anything. But after days of begging, Surya got him to relent and give him some rough directions.
The first chance he got he went eight miles away from his village to Pokhara. He liked the songs and listened intently without understanding much of the sermon. To his surprise after the service, nobody approached him or talked to him to explain things, and he was too shy to ask.
Revival in Nepal
Maybe people were afraid of the strict anti-proselytizing laws. They could get into a lot of trouble if they were perceived as trying to convert someone. Also, some may have been cautious, because a newcomer might be a spy from the police.
But Surya didn’t understand all of this at the time. It seemed to him that God’s people were indifferent. The next time Surya went to church it was the same. Nobody talked to him. So he quit going.
Then he did something that brought great shame on his family. He flunked out of school. His parents scolded him constantly and his brothers beat him.
So he took to the streets. He would leave before anybody woke up. He would come home, entering through the window, after everybody was in bed. HIs grandmother always saved him some food.
He tried but found that he couldn’t quit drugs. Everybody in town called him a bad kid. Even the principal of the school saw fit to take him aside and rebuke him for bringing shame on his family.
All this was too much for Suryam and he began to contemplate suicide.
“I loved my father so much. I did not want to bring shame on my father,” he says, reasoning to himself at the time: “If I can’t bring a good name for him, I have no right to live.”
He decided to throw himself off a cliff and into a river near his town. Read the rest of Chrisitanity in Nepal
For seven years, Juan Pablo Cardo was stymied in his ministerial call by another pastor in Buenos Aires who envied his charisma.
“He felt like I was a threat and didn’t let me do anything,” the Argentinian says in a Bible conference video. During those years of imposed inactivity, “God taught me patience and humility, just being there, sit down and deal with my pride and many things in my life.”
He didn’t bolt, and his perseverance paid off. Unexpectedly one day, his pastor asked if he want to launch a startup church on his own in Munro, a suburb of Buenos Aires. He offered no financial support. He would get Juan Pablo out of his hair.
To weigh and consider this monumental life-altering decision, it took Juan Pablo a full fraction of a nano-second to say yes.
Juan Pablo started a house church with 17 people. They began to tithe and he rented a small store front 9’ by 51’ — all at the time of Argentina’s worse economic crunch.
The work grew, and they rented a bigger building for 120 people on the main avenue in the Munro neighborhood.
Juan Pablo’s story is one of flourishing under shortsighted leadership. You have to keep your heart from becoming bitter, he says.
“It was a difficult time because it was seven years practically not having a pastor, not having someone to go to who could guide you,” says his wife, Silvina. “I asked God, ‘How long? Where are You?’ I wasn’t complaining but asking God for help. I saw that everyone else had a pastor they could share with. And I didn’t have that for seven years.” Read more about surviving pastoral abuse.
Growing up in Iran, Padina memorized the Quran before she started school. She faithfully recited her prayers every day.
“I hated Christians and I became very happy when I found out that they were being persecuted. They always told us that if they killed a Christian, we had a one way ticket to heaven,” she told Hormoz Shariat, president of Iran Alive Ministries.
She was fastidious about applying the Quran to her life. If she forgot the ceremonial washing before prayer, she would stop mid-prayer, go back and wash correctly and start all over again.
“I was a very strong Islamic believer,” she affirmed.
But all her religious piety was in vain. She grew depressed to the point of wanting to commit suicide.
“I felt so distant from Allah,” she confided to Hormoz.
Meanwhile, her mother, afflicted by multiple sclerosis, grew deathly ill.
Padina confided to her mother about her suicidal tendencies. Instead of discouraging her, she shocked Padina by asking her to kill her also — a double suicide!
“I will do this for you, and we will both die,” she told her.
But then one day, mom in her deathbed tuned in to the satellite broadcast of Hormoz Shariat, who has been called the “Billy Graham of Iran.”
“If you are hopeless, if you are oppressed, if you are planning to commit suicide, the Lord says, ‘Stop.’ He has a hope and a future for you,” Hormoz said on the broadcast. “If you’re planning to kill yourself, stop and call me right now.”
Padina’s mother was so desperate that she didn’t care that Islam punishes with death those who convert to Christianity. She didn’t care that the Koran dooms all “apostates” to hell. She didn’t care, so she dialed.
After conversing for half an hour with Hormoz, she repented of her sins and received Jesus into her heart with the prayer of faith.
There was a time, during the reign of Franco, when Spain was arguably more Catholic than Italy. Evangelicals were forbidden to evangelize, meet outside their homes or print religious materials. Nevertheless a small band of fervent faith grew mostly in the independent region of Barcelona.
But now, the country – technically and symbolically part of the so-called 10-40 window most resistant to the Gospel – is experiencing unprecedented revival. Two new churches open every three weeks, and there are now 4,045 houses of worship, according to a new survey.
More than 80 new places of worship opened in the last six months of 2017, according to the bi-annual report of the Observatory of Religious Pluralism of Spain’s Justice Ministry.
The growth is being consistently sustained, according to Maximo Alvarez, head of In Depth Evangelism in Spain.
“The figures keep growing thanks to initiatives of church planting that are being carried out by churches and denominations,” Alvarez told Christian Today.
Spain had been slow to catch on to the trend in Latin America, its former colonies, where the Gospel has spread like wildfire. From 1900 to 1960, 90 percent of Latin Americans identified as Catholics, but according to Pew Research the number has fallen to 69 percent. One in five Latin Americans consider himself Protestant.
Marcos Vidal, Spanish Christian singer
Meanwhile, Muslim houses of worship also grew to nearly 1700 in Spain.
Historically, Spain was hostile to the Gospel. While England, Germany, France and Switzerland experienced the Protestant Reformation, Spain sponsored the Inquisition to stamp out similar movements with appalling tortures and lynchings.
Then, Francisco Franco took over in 1939. While officially neutral in World War 2, the dictator was fascist friendly. Political opposition was squelched mercilessly.
Franco was also deeply Catholic and actively repressed evangelical movements. It was said, “Franco was more Catholic than the Pope himself.” Religious “freedom” under Franco meant Christian evangelicals were only allowed to conduct church services in their homes, even with their own families. No visitors were allowed. Read the rest of revival in Spain.
New York City – never considered the spiritual heartbeat of America — is now experiencing revival, especially among millennials flocking to upbeat services with vibrant faith communities.
“A lot of people told us, ‘this is the graveyard of churches. Don’t go there. All the hipsters won’t want to come to church.’ We felt that’s the best place to be, where no one wants to go to church,” said Josh Kelsey, senior pastor of C3 Brooklyn Church.
In 1989, less than 1% of city residents attended church, according to CBN. But now about 5% goes to church, and there are hundreds of churches, big and small, scattered throughout the city.
The C3 Church in Brooklyn
“New York has reached the tipping point,” CBN concluded. If current trends continue, it could become a majority Christian city by the year 2026, according to CBN.
It turns out that Batman is not going to save Gotham City. Jesus is.
The formula for success has been to revive the unchanging elements like prayer and Bible study while changing the liturgy and relational dynamics to fit the multi-cultural, educated population of the city, pastors say.
“Church for me was a place where I always felt I had to be perfect,” said one church-goer. “C3 allows me to embrace my imperfections and know that God still loves me regardless. So it’s changed my perspective because I know I can still be a human and still beloved by God, which is not an idea I had before.”
Pastor Josh Kelsey
A 2013 Barna survey found 32% of residents of the Big Apple considered themselves born-again, up from 20% in the 1990s, Religion News Service reported
“New York City is not known as a particularly religious place,” the RNS article stated. “But it is more spiritually active today than even 2001 in the wake of 9/11.”
The Presbyterians and the Dutch Reformed Churches were strong in New York City in the early 1800s but began to misfire as the city grew and changed its ethnic makeup, according to Pastor Tim Keller, a prominent minister in NYC.
When Catholic immigrants flooded Lower Manhattan in the 1880s, churches found themselves with fewer and fewer members. Restaurants, stores and theaters burgeoned, supplanting churches as a social gathering place. Many churches moved out of the ethnic downtown, and others built houses of worships in a fruitless effort to attract congregations, Keller said.
With numbers dwindling, churches grasped for fixes. Charles Briggs of Union Theological Seminary tried modernizing the message, teaching that much of scripture contains error. This gave rise to liberal Chrstianity, and instead of attracting followers with a more “intellectually reasonable” message, it finished off local churches, Keller said. Read the rest of the article.
Not sure why we are obsessed with mega-church pastors. Not even Jesus did that.
No, Jesus prepared for revival after His departure. He sent out 12 with full power, then again 70. He was training and equipping followers for when He would no longer be with them.
I must confess I fell into the nobody-can-do-it-as-good-as-me trap once. God slapped me across the face for my selfish pride. I would do everything: teach, preach, sing, evangelize. Then He allowed my voice to get damaged. I had to relinquish singing.
Others could rise up and get ready for ministry. They could practice with live experience and do start-ups with confidence. Why had I been so blind?