Copyright - Zac Poonen (2007)
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C O N T E N T S
1. Listening to God’s Voice
2. Assurance of Salvation
3. A Help In Time Of Need
4. Step-By-Step Obedience
5. Clearing My Debts
6. To Buy Or Not To Buy
7. The Baptism In The Holy Spirit
8. A Wide Open Door
9. Answered Prayer
10. Boldness To Witness
11. Called to Leave the Navy
12. Directed by God
13. The Importance of Small Decisions
14. To Marry Or Not To Marry
15. God’s Choice Of A Life-Partner
16. Saved From Death.
17. A Time of Breaking and A New Burden
18. God Pushes Me Into A Writing Ministry
19. A New Location And A House.
20. Forsaking All Possessions
21. Hitting Rock Bottom.
22. A Fresh Enduement With Power
23. Filled With The Spirit And Thereafter
24.The End of A Phase And The Beginning Of Another
25. Money And God’s Work
26. When People Speak Evil Of You
27. Preparation For Building The Church
28. Some Distinctives Of The New Church.
29. Authority Over Satan
30. Influencing The Government
31. Casting Out Demons
32. Early Days Of Meeting And Outreach
33. A Meeting Place
34. Reaching Out To Other Places
35. Delivering People Oppressed By The Devil
36. Travelling Mercies
37. Planting Churches In Other Countries
38. No Dependence On The West
39. Life At Home
40. My Style Of Preaching
41. God’s Time Is The Best Time
42. God Adds To The Church
43. God Removes From The Church
44. The New Covenant Pattern Of Ministry
45. The New Covenant Message
46. The Mistakes We Made
47. Making Disciples In All Nations
48. Looking Ahead
For a Ministry
Listening to God’s Voice
Large doors swing on small hinges. God tests us in many areas
many times, before He commits any important ministry to us. He tests us to see
if we are faithful in the little things before He commits greater things
to us. As with Adam and Eve, God asks for obedience to His voice first of all.
One of my earliest memories of obeying the voice of the Lord
was when I was 15 years old, soon after I had joined the National Defence
Academy at Khadakvasla
(Pune) for training to be a Naval officer. The year was 1955 and I was on
vacation (from the Academy), with my parents who lived in New Delhi. One Sunday evening, my younger
brother and I had gone to attend a church service. After the service, at about
8 pm, both of us were waiting at the bus stand to catch the bus to return home.
Suddenly a thought began to grow in my mind that I should witness to someone
about Christ. I had heard the good news of the gospel again that evening and
felt I must share it with someone, before going to bed that night. But I was
not sure whether this was a prompting from the Lord or just my own thought. In
any case it was getting late - and I needed to get back home soon.
In the distance, I saw the lights of a bus coming towards us.
I told the Lord silently, “If that is NOT the bus to my home, then I will take
it as a sign from You that I should witness to someone before going home. If it
IS the bus for my home, then I will take the bus and go home.” The bus drew
near and I saw that it was NOT the bus I had to take. The sign I had asked for
was fulfilled. So I told my younger brother that I had to go somewhere else
before coming home and asked him to go home alone. I then walked to a nearby
park hoping that I would meet someone there whom it would be easy to witness to
– because this was the first time I was venturing out to witness for the Lord
in a public place, alone.
I saw an old man sitting on a bench in the park and went and
sat next to him. I made casual conversation with him for a few minutes in Hindi
and soon became bold enough to talk to him about eternal things. I told him
about the love of God for man and how Christ died for our sins and the simple
gospel message that I knew. He listened to me patiently. Since it was God Who
had put an urge within me to witness that night, I assume that He must have had
this man in mind to reach with the gospel. I hope I shall meet this man in
heaven one day. That was my first venture at witnessing openly and all by
myself in a public place. God tested me to see if I would obey the inner
promptings of His Spirit.
That was “the day of small beginnings” (Zech.4:10). Since
then God has given me the opportunity to preach His Word to crowds of many
thousands of people in many parts of the world. But it all began with a small
act of obedience one Sunday evening in New
sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. You will never know until you stand
before the Lord how much you missed whenever you did NOT obey that voice.
As a Cadet in the National Defence
Assurance of Salvation
Some believers can remember very clearly the exact date and
time when they were born again. But I cannot. In fact I don’t even know in
which year I was born again. That does not mean that being born again is a
gradual process. It is not. Passing from death to life in Christ takes place in
an instant. But many people like me who were born and brought up in God-fearing
Christian homes, cannot pinpoint the exact moment when that miracle took place.
That is because many who are like me, ask the Lord to come into their heart,
many, many times and we can’t say which of those times was the real one.
If I remember rightly, I asked the Lord to come into my heart
for the first time, when I was about 13. But I did not know whether He had come
in or not, because I did not feel or experience anything, when I prayed. So I
kept on asking the Lord to come into my heart again and again – perhaps over a
hundred times during the next few years – but each time I felt nothing! And so
I did not know whether I was saved or not.
As long as I was at home, the restraints imposed on me by my
parents kept me from many worldly forms of entertainment like the cinema etc.,
But once I joined the military academy and the Indian Navy, I was on my own and
such restraints were gone. Gradually I became a worldly Christian who went to
church only as a matter of habit – and not out of any conviction.
But one good thing came out of my trying out the world’s
entertainments. I discovered that everything the world had to offer was empty
and hollow – incapable of satisfying me in a lasting way. One day, in July
1959, as I was sitting in my room in the Naval Base at Cochin and thinking about all this and
reading the Bible, I came to John 6:37, where Jesus said, “I will certainly not
cast out anyone who comes to me”. I had read that verse many times before. But
that day it struck me forcefully - and I believed it. I knew that I had come to
the Lord many times. I suddenly realized that if I had done my part,
Jesus must have done His part – He must have received me. It was then that I
realized that unbelief was the greatest sin (See John 16:9). For if I
did not believe God’s word, I was then making Him out to be a liar - and that
was the greatest insult anyone could give to God. So, after 6 years of being
tossed about, I believed - and I was sure that I was saved. What did I learn
from my experience? Two things.
First of all, that when you are not sure of your
salvation, it is very easy to get discouraged and to backslide.
Secondly, that faith is a gift of God. I was 19
years old when I first got assurance of my salvation. More than 46 years have
passed since that day, but I have never once doubted my salvation. I have
doubted many other things in these years, but I have never doubted my
salvation. I dropped an anchor that day
on the ground of God’s infallible Word and my ship has never drifted since
then. I have been battered by many fierce storms in these years, and my ship
has swung wildly at times, but my anchor has held. How can I explain that? I can only say that God
gave me the grace to “believe” His Word that day. Even faith is a gift of
God. So we cannot glory even in our faith. All we can do is humbly glorify God.
With my parents, when I passed out of the
National Defence Academy
as First among the Naval Cadets
A Help In Time Of Need
In July 1959, I was living in the Naval Base at Cochin. I had just been
commissioned as a Naval Officer. I had also received the assurance of my
salvation in the same month, and had decided to live totally for the Lord.
One evening, two of my fellow-Naval-officers came to me and
told me that a good movie was going to be shown that evening in the Naval Base
cinema theatre, and suggested that we all go together to see it. I had often gone
with them to the movies previously. But now that I had been born again, I had
decided that I would not go to such movies any more. The Lord had also taken
away from my heart the desire to go to the cinema. But I did not have the
courage to tell my friends that I was now a born-again Christian. So I went
with them. But all along the way to the theatre, a constant cry was going up
from my heart to the Lord to somehow save me from this situation.
When we reached the cinema theatre, we saw a notice pasted on
the front wall, saying that because the reel of the movie had not arrived, the
movie scheduled for that evening was cancelled. My friends were utterly
disappointed as we returned home, but I was thrilled. I was overjoyed that God
had done a miracle for me. This incident strengthened my faith greatly and I
realized that I did indeed have a Father in heaven who would be “a very present
help to me in my time of need” (Psa.46:1). He answered a cry that was only
in my heart and that I had not even expressed with my lips.
That was my first experience of a miraculous answer to
prayer. God is a Father Who does miracles for His children. The Bible says,
“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart”.
I was delighting myself in the Lord alone that day and wanted nothing but Him.
The desire of my heart was that I should be kept from seeing that movie. And
God granted it.
But after I came back to my room, the Lord told me that He
would not do that for me a second time. Next time, He wanted me to say “No”
to my friends myself - for only thus could I grow strong in His
grace. If God did a miracle like that for me every time, I would never
become bold or spiritually strong. The next time my friends invited me to the
movies I told them boldly that I was now a Christian and would not go with them
to the movies any more.
I understood then why God does not grant many of our
prayer-requests - because they are actually asking God to do miracles that will
make life easy for us. But if God granted all those requests, we would become
fat and lazy Christians and not strong, vigorous and bold as He wants us to
be. God will encourage us by
giving us miraculous answers to prayer occasionally. But many a time, He does
not grant our request, lest we remain weak and cowardly. Understanding this
truth has solved many mysteries about prayer for me.
In these past 46 years, God has answered ALL my prayers –
yes, 100% of them. Are you surprised to hear that? Let me explain. Like the
three colours in traffic lights, God’s answer to me has, at times been “Yes”
(Green), sometimes “Wait” (Orange) and at times “No” (Red). But
He has answered every prayer.
is great safety in obeying the traffic lights. I have found great safety in
accepting God’s answers as well – whatever they be.
I have discovered through the years that God leads us one
step at a time. His promise is: “As you go, step by step I will open up the
way before you” (Proverbs 4:12 - Literal translation). The pillar of cloud
led the Israelites day by day. So does the Holy Spirit lead us today.
Soon after I received the assurance of salvation, I was told
that the next step for me was to be baptized in water. I had been christened as
a baby in the Syrian Orthodox church - a ceremony that they called “baptism”.
And I knew that there were born-again Christians on both sides of this
theological fence – those who were “baptized” only as babies like me and
those who were baptized as believers. I decided therefore to study the Word of
God on this subject to see what it said.
As I studied the Word, I discovered a number of truths: First
of all, there was not a single mention of child-baptism in the entire New
Testament. A few instances of baptism of entire families were there, but there
was no mention of whether there were any babies in those families - and we
cannot prove any doctrine from the silences of Scripture. John the Baptist
baptized only adults. Jesus Himself was baptized only when He was an adult. Jesus baptized adults but only laid hands on
(blessed) children. (Many churches however do the exact opposite: they baptize
children and lay hands on adults (confirmation)!) When God blotted out my past
completely, that included my unscriptural child-baptism as well!! The first
step of obedience that every believer took in Acts of the Apostles was
All this convinced me that I needed to be baptized. But some
child-baptized believers told me that there was a far greater need for
preaching the gospel in the Orthodox churches than in the believers’
assemblies; and if I got baptized, I would be expelled from the Orthodox church
and would then lose opportunities to give the gospel to the unbelievers there.
This seemed a very convincing argument - and so I decided not to be baptized.
I remained thus for 18 months. But every time I knelt down to
pray, I felt as if God was saying to me: “If you are not listening to Me,
why should I listen to you.” And in all those 18 months I made NO spiritual
progress at all. This began to disturb me. Finally I told the Lord that I would
obey Him, even if I was thrown out of every church in the world. And so in
January 1961 I got baptized.
After that, I began to grow in my Christian life by leaps and
bounds. I then realized that I could not possibly be a blessing to others, if I
was disobedient to God’s commands myself. I decided thereafter that I would
obey God’s Word immediately in every matter – big or small – whatever men or
churches may say. How much spiritual loss we suffer when we to listen to the
arguments of human reason and disobey God’s Word.
Since that first step of obedience 43 years ago, God has
shown me many more steps of obedience. But each time, He showed me the next
step, only after I had taken the step He had already shown me. God’s Word is “a
lamp to our feet” (Psa.119:105), meaning that it shows us only the next
step for our feet and not the whole road in front of us. This is like
holding a torch and walking along a dark road. We can see only a little bit of
the road at a time – just enough for the next step. To see more of the road
ahead, we have to move forward.
If I had not taken that first step of obedience, I might
never have seen another step in God’s will for my life – and I would have wasted
my days on earth, even if I did go to heaven. If God has clearly shown you some
step of obedience now, obey Him immediately, lest you miss the will of God for
Obedience is a step-by-step matter.
Clearing My Debts
In early 1961,
immediately after my baptism, the Lord showed me the next step that I had to
take in my walk with Him. My debt to God had been cleared - completely. It was
now time to clear my debts to man - equally completely.
I remembered that I had cheated the government of money in
the past. Jesus said that we had to “give to Caesar what was Caesar’s”
first, before we could “give to God what was God’s” (Matt.22:21).
Otherwise we will be giving God money that we have stolen from “Caesar”.
So I calculated how much I had to pay back to the government. I hesitated
between two figures - one of them 20% more than the other. Finally, true to
human nature, I chose the lower figure. One day I read in Numbers 5: 6,7,
that God had commanded the Israelites that when making restitution, they were
to add 20% to what they owed!! This was a clear and direct word from God to my
heart: He wanted me to pay back the higher amount. This amount came to about
four times my monthly salary! So I began to save as much as possible each
month, so that I could repay my debt as soon as possible.
When I had finally saved up the amount, I faced another
problem. The government did not have any department where honest people who
wanted to make restitution could repay their debts!! So I went to the railway
station and bought a number of tickets for a long train journey to the other
end of India
(that covered the amount that I had to make restitution for). Then I tore up
those tickets. That way I ensured that the money went to the government’s
coffers. My bank account was now empty, but my heart was full – with the joy of
It was only when Zaccheus decided to repay all those whom he
had cheated that the Lord said, “Salvation has come – for the Son of Man has
come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk.19:9,10). Like all human
beings, Zaccheus was lost in the love of money and Jesus saved him from it. I
too was lost in the love of money, and Jesus saved me from it. “The love of
money is a root of all sorts of evil” (1 Tim.6:10), and the Lord wants to
save us from it. Only then can He say that ”salvation has come”. He
alone can root out this evil completely from our hearts. But He will do it only
for those who ask Him to do it.
Debts are not only financial. Sometimes, what we owe may be
an apology. When I was a young boy, I used to collect stamps, and I had once
stolen a stamp (of almost no value) from a friend’s collection. The Lord
reminded me of this small matter and told me to confess this sin (that I had
committed more than 10 years earlier) to that person and to ask his
forgiveness. This was even more difficult for me to do than repaying money to
the government – for this involved my having to humble myself before another
person. But I decided to write that letter of apology. Again the joy of the
Lord filled my heart.
In some cases, it may be impossible for us to make
restitution for the wrongs that we have committed. In such cases, we must not
allow Satan to harass us perpetually, but accept God’s forgiveness and be at
rest. God will show us the matters that we need to set right. And when He shows
us some matter, He will test us to see whether we will humble ourselves and
obey Him immediately - whatever the cost.
If I had not obeyed God promptly in these two matters, I
would have dragged a chain behind me, these 43 years. And I would have missed
God’s calling for my life. And the Lord would not have given me the ministry
that He did. What regret would then have plagued my mind for all eternity in
God wants His children to be free from debt to all men. Is
there some debt from your past that needs to be settled? Settle it immediately,
lest you miss your calling in life and have many regrets in eternity. Now is
the time for total obedience! Large doors swing on small hinges!
To Buy Or Not To Buy
In early 1961, when working at the Naval Base at Bombay, I
saw an accordion in a shop-window of a music shop. I thought of buying it to
learn how to play it. I knew however, that as a child of God I should seek
God’s will in all matters – both great and small. So I prayed and sought God’s
will. But I did not know how to find God’s will in such matters. So I asked God
for a sign. I told Him that if the price of the accordion was within a certain
amount, then I would assume that it was His will for me to buy it. If it cost
more than that amount, then I would assume that God did not want me to buy it.
Since I was very eager to buy the accordion, I eagerly hoped that it would cost
less than the figure I had quoted to the Lord.
But the lowest price the shop was willing to sell it for, was
slightly above the amount I had quoted to God. I began to think of a number of
factors. First of all, I did have enough money with me to buy it. Secondly, the
government had banned the import of accordions and so this was probably the
last accordion available in any shop in Bombay.
Thirdly, I wanted to learn the instrument only for use in Christian meetings.
But all these factors were overruled by the fact that I had
asked God for a sign and the sign was not fulfilled. So I decided not to buy
the accordion – and walked out of the shop. I was disappointed that I could not
get the accordion but happy that I had obeyed the Lord.
A few days later, I was witnessing about Christ to one of my
non-Christian colleagues. He asked me a question from the Bible for which I did
not know the answer. I was ashamed that as a Christian, I did not know the
answer to something from the Bible. I went back to my room and decided to study
the Word thoroughly, so that thereafter, I would know the answer to every
question for which there was an answer in the Bible.
From the time I received assurance of my salvation in 1959, I
had found a desire within me to read God’s Word daily. First of all, I had
decided to read through the whole Bible quickly - and had done so in about 6
months. I understood very little of what I read - but my faith was strengthened
by whatever I read. But I was not a deep student of the Word.
But now, the study of God’s Word became my passion. I began
to spend hours with the Bible, day and night, in my spare time. I saved some
money and bought a Young’s Concordance and used it to study the
occurrence of different words in the Bible. Very soon I, who knew almost
nothing of the Bible, began to understand deep truths from the Scriptures.
Then I realized why God had not wanted me to buy the
accordion. If I had bought it, I would have spent hours learning to play it
more and more perfectly. And as all musicians know very well, there is no end
to being perfect in playing any instrument. That is an endless pursuit. I would
have become a slave to the accordion.
Interestingly enough, six years later, I was able to buy an
accordion from someone who sold his instrument to me. But by then I had become
so deeply devoted to the Word that the accordion could not master me. It was my
slave. I never became an expert musician, because God had something better for
me, which I never knew in 1961. Today, how thankful I am, that I am a
Bible-teacher and not a musician and that I spent my life studying the Bible
and not music. There are many good Christian musicians but not many anointed
Large doors swing on small hinges.
The Baptism In The Holy Spirit
In early 1963 I was
posted in the Naval Base at Cochin.
I had been studying the Word seriously for more than two years and had
developed a fairly good knowledge of it – good enough to be able to preach at
meetings in the church. But I found a great lack of power in my
ministry. In the church I attended, we studied the Bible, but it was like
studying a history book – all intellectual! The messages I heard in the
church-meetings too were heavy and boring, lacking the freshness and fire of
the Holy Spirit.
Jesus told the Sadducees once that they did not know the Scriptures
or the power of God (Mt.22:29). In my case, I knew the Scriptures - to
some extent - but I certainly did not know the power of God. Jesus told
His disciples that they would receive power only when they were baptized in the
Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 8). But I discovered that different Christian
churches taught differently on this subject. Some taught that every born-again
Christian was automatically baptized in the Spirit at new birth whether he
realized it or not. Others taught that one had to seek the Lord specifically
for the baptism in the Spirit after being born again. I was confused.
But I saw that Jesus Himself was anointed with the Spirit before He began His
ministry (Acts 10:38). Then how much more I needed this! Jesus also said
that everyone who believed in Him could have rivers of living water
flowing out from him. But I found only a trickle flowing out from me. I
realized that I was missing something. And so I decided to seek God for His
power, without getting bogged down in a theological argument about the Holy
Spirit. I wanted the rivers.
I visited a group of assemblies that emphasized the ministry
of the Holy Spirit, to see if they could help me. They were very zealous, but I was
disappointed with much that I saw in their midst. There was a lot of noise and
emotionalism, but hardly any emphasis on victory over sin or Christlikeness of
character (which is what the Holy Spirit came to give us primarily). Many of
their pastors also seemed to be great lovers of money! One pastor asked me to
keep on repeating the word “Hallelujah” if I wanted to be baptized in the
Spirit! I refused to do that, since I knew that that was not the way the
apostles received the baptism in the Spirit. All this was certainly not the
fulness of the Spirit that I was looking for. But the counterfeit only proved
to me that the genuine article must be valuable - for people make counterfeits
only of valuable articles! I told God that I did NOT want what I saw in those
groups, but I did want the genuine baptism in the Holy Spirit that the apostles
received on the day of Pentecost. And I cried out to God every day for that.
I saw from the Scriptures that Jesus was anointed with the
Spirit when He chose to be baptized in water - which symbolized His choosing
the way of death to the Self-life. The Lord showed me then that the
Spirit-filled life was closely connected with the way of the cross. He told me
that if I chose the way of the cross at all times, I would have His power upon
me always too.
God filled me with His Spirit at that time. There was no
physical manifestation. But I found a freshness, a liberty and a boldness in my
ministry thereafter. I began to experience the gift of prophesying - to edify
and encourage and challenge others (1 Cor.14:3). I loved Jesus more
fervently and I longed to serve Him wholeheartedly. The way of the cross became
precious to me. And I had a burning
passion to bring others to Christ. I did not speak in tongues at that time.
That came 11 years later.
What I experienced then was only a beginning. Since then I
have had to be filled with the Spirit again and again and again. (We read in Acts
of three times when Peter was filled with the Spirit.) A cup, a well and a
river can all be full. Yet the capacity of each is different. As our capacity
grows, we need to be re-filled. My capacity at that time was only that of a cup
– but it was full and running over! It would grow into a river in later years.
A Wide Open Door
Many young people
complain that older brothers hinder them from having a ministry in the church.
But ministry comes to us from the Lord and not from man. If the Lord has
determined to anoint you and to give you a ministry, no man can hinder God’s
purpose for your life. He Himself will open the right door for you – at the
right time. You won’t have to push your way through anywhere and you won’t have
to go around asking people to give you a ministry! And you will never have to
complain that someone else hindered you from having a ministry. The Lord Jesus
is the One Who has the key to every door of ministry (Rev.3:7,8) and He
can open them for us just like the automatic doors that open by themselves as
soon as we come near them. We don’t have to do anything to open these doors!
One reason why God does not give a ministry to many young people is because
they are not seeking Him primarily but a ministry – and that too, in
order to get honour for themselves.
In 1963, I was 23 years
old and had been converted for 4 years. The elders in my local church would not
allow me to speak in our church meetings, because they considered me young and
inexperienced. So I used to visit the homes of nominal Christians and new
believers in distant places (where no-one else wanted to go) and conducted
Bible-studies for 3 or 4 people in their homes every week. It was thus that I
first learnt to preach God’s Word.
In August 1963, I was on leave from the Navy and decided to
visit the “Hebron Church” in Hyderabad
for some fellowship with God’s people there. Hebron
was the headquarters church of Brother Bakht Singh, who was India’s most well-known
church-leader. But he himself was not in Hyderabad
when I went there. On Sunday morning, the elder brother in the Hebron church asked
me to give the main message at the meeting. I had spoken at some smaller
meetings in their church at Madras
and he must have heard of some blessing that had resulted from those meetings.
But the church in Hyderabad
was a large one with over one thousand members and I had never ever spoken to
such a large crowd.
As I sought the Lord for a word, I felt urged to speak on the
subject of living a sacrificial life. So I spoke that morning on “offering
to the Lord that which costs us something” - based on David’s words in 2Samuel
24:24. There was an unusual anointing on the message that morning and a
spirit of repentance and revival came upon the people in the meeting. I was
amazed at what I saw. When the elder brother saw what the Lord had done, he
immediately announced that there would be two more special meetings with me as
the speaker – one that evening and one the next evening. The hall was packed
full at each of those evening meetings. This was most unusual for weekday
meetings. God’s anointing was again mightily present at both those meetings. I
was amazed to see the moving of God, for I had never experienced such revival
I left Hyderabad the next day
where I met Brother Bakht Singh. He had heard about the revival and asked me
why I had come away from Hyderabad
at such a time, instead of staying on and continuing with the revival meetings.
But I was young and unaccustomed to revival and did not know what to do.
However this experience encouraged me to believe that God wanted to use me in
His service. And as news about the revival began to spread, many doors began to
open for me in the different assemblies.
I did not go to Hyderabad
looking for a ministry. I desired only God Himself. But God had plans to use me
in His service and He knew when I was ready for it. And at the right time – the time He had
determined – He opened a door of ministry for me, without my making any
No-one can hinder God’s plan for your life and your
ministry, if you trust Him.
While working in the Naval Base at Cochin, I was very eager to attend the Spiritual Life
Conference (called “Holy Convocation”) at “Hebron Fellowship” in Hyderabad (the
headquarters of Brother Bakht Singh’s churches) in October 1963. So I applied
for leave on October 1, and was granted leave for the period of the conference.
But one week later, Naval Headquarters sent an order stating that the Navy had
to take part in an exhibition in Mysore
in October. Another officer from my office had to take part in this exhibition
and I had to fill in for him, and so my leave was cancelled. So I gave up all
hopes of attending the conference at Hebron.
On October 12, in my
morning quiet time, I was reading my daily portion in 2 Samuel chapter 2.
The first verse said, “David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go up
into any of the cities of Judah?’
And the Lord said unto him, ‘Go up’”. I wondered if this was the Lord
telling me to go for the conference, or whether it was just my mind finding a
verse to satisfy my own desires (as had sometimes happened to me in the past).
So I prayed about it and read further. The verse went on to say: “And David
said, ‘Whither shall I go up?’ And the Lord said, ‘Unto Hebron’”. The mention of Hebron here amazed
me. Perhaps the Lord did indeed want me to go to the “Hebron Fellowship” for the conference. So
I prayed saying, “Lord, if my leave has been cancelled according to Thy will, I
accept it gladly. But if this is Satan’s attempt to prevent me from going to Hebron, then I
resist him in Thy Name”. I knew that the Lord had urged us to pray together with
other believers when we face difficult situations (Matt.18:19). So I did
Amazingly, two days
later, an order came from Naval Headquarters that the Navy would not take
part in the exhibition at Mysore.
Thus I got my leave to go for the conference. I was amazed at what God would do
at the highest levels to help one of His young, insignificant children!
At that conference,
Brother Bakht Singh broke a practice that he had always followed at
every conference that he had conducted during the previous 15 years. In every
conference, he himself was always the speaker at the evening meetings
(where the crowd was the largest and the need was the greatest). He never gave
that important ministry to even his seniormost co-workers. But at this
conference he asked me to speak at one of the evening meetings. I was only 23
years old and it was the first time that I was speaking to such a large crowd
of more than 5000 people. God anointed me and gave me great liberty to speak
The message I gave
there, “A New Vessel Full Of Salt”
can be read at my website : http://poonen.org/zac
The unusual liberty and
anointing I had at that meeting and the response from the people encouraged me
greatly. Bakht Singh also recognized this and asked me to speak with him at
public meetings thereafter in many other places. I knew now that God had
anointed me to be a minister of His Word. I was young and I needed such an
assurance from God Himself - by His confirming the word that I spoke. This
assurance helped me greatly to be clear concerning the Lord’s call 7 months
later, when He called me to leave the Navy to serve Him full-time. I also
learnt through this experience something of the tremendous power there is in the
prayer of faith, and in praying together with others. All the
authority of Christ comes down to back up His children when they pray together
with each other in unity and in faith.
This was a significant event in my life. If the Naval
participation in that exhibition had not been cancelled in October 1963,
I would not have been able to go that conference. And then I may not have got
the assurance that God had planned a wider ministry for me. Further, if I had
not had the habit of listening to God each day and praying on the basis of His
word to me, I might never have prayed that God would change my circumstances.
Thus I might still have missed God’s plan for me at that time. If God had not
miraculously opened that door of opportunity for me at that time to serve Him,
I might have ended up being merely an Admiral in the Navy instead of being a
servant of the Most High God. Large doors swing on small hinges.
Boldness To Witness
In the year 1964, I was working in the Naval Base in Cochin. I was a keen
student of the Word and when I found truths in the Word that blessed me, I was
eager to share them with others in the church I was attending. But since I was
young, I was not given many opportunities to preach there. So I decided to
preach on the streets, where I did not need anyone’s permission to preach.
Twice every week, when my work finished at noon, I would skip lunch, spend 2 to
3 hours in prayer and go and preach on the streets for two hours. I would take
another brother with me to translate my preaching into Malayalam. We would
stand on a street-corner and start by singing a chorus. Five or ten people
would soon gather around us, and I would preach the gospel to them for about
five minutes. We would distribute some tracts and gospels and move on to the
next street and do the same there.
Initially, I used to go far away from the Naval Base where
no-one knew me, because I lacked the boldness to preach before people who knew
me. But I kept on asking God to give me this boldness. God answered my prayer
in a two-fold way. I had already known a measure of the anointing of the Holy
Spirit (as described in an earlier article). But I found that I needed to be
filled with the Spirit again in order to be bold (as the apostles
needed, even after the day of Pentecost - See Acts 4:31).
Secondly, God gave me a revelation of the total authority of Christ.
Interestingly, I saw this wonderful truth through Genesis 41:44, where
Pharaoh tells Joseph: “Without your permission, no-one shall raise his hand
or foot in all the land.” I saw Joseph there as a type of Christ. So the
message I got from that verse was that without Christ’s permission, no-one
could lift a hand or a tongue to mock me or hurt me. When people called me a
devil for the first time on the streets, I knew they did so because God had
permitted them to do so. This revelation helped me immensely to face opposition
later in my ministry.
Then I understood why Jesus first told His apostles that He
had “all authority in heaven and on earth” before He
told them to go and make disciples in every nation (Matt.28:18-20). So I
knew then that Christ’s authority would back me, wherever I went to preach for
Him. The anointing of the Holy Spirit and the assurance of Christ’s authority
backing me, finally gave me the boldness to stand near the Naval Base and to
preach. My senior officers and the sailors who worked under me, all saw me
there. But that did not disturb me anymore.
Then the Lord told me to write two verses on my scooter. So I
wrote “PREPARE TO MEET YOUR GOD” on one panel of my scooter and “CHRIST
DIED FOR OUR SINS” on the other (in large letters). When my Naval Commander
saw this, he ordered me to remove the verses “in 24 hours”. I told him
respectfully that God had told me to write them. The next day, when he saw that
the verses were still on my scooter, he “marched me in” before the
Captain of the Base. (This is the first step before a court-martial, for
disobedience of orders). I gave the Captain also the same answer respectfully.
The Captain was merciful and did not court-martial me. But he said that he
would not allow me to ride the scooter inside the Naval Base. So I left my
scooter outside the Base in a friend’s house and started riding a bicycle
inside the Base.
I was disappointed at the turn of events, because I felt the
Devil had won by preventing me from proclaiming the gospel through those verses
to all in the Naval Base. But God turned the tables on Satan – as He always
does. When people in the Base saw me riding a cycle, they were curious to know
why, and asked what had happened. Soon the verses written on my scooter began
to spread from mouth to mouth and went around the Base faster than if others
had seen them on my scooter. Some of my fellow-officers whom I met many years
later, still remembered them! Thus God frustrated Satan’s plan. God also made me
a bolder Christian thus – even more free from the opinions of men. And this
boldness has helped me immensely in my ministry ever since.
The anointing of the Spirit and the authority of
Christ have been my strength and support whenever I have stood up to preach,
in every part of the world. But I first learnt the reality of these, on the
streets of Ernakulam, more than forty years ago.
Bible Verses on the Scooter – July 1964
Called to Leave the Navy
It was the morning of 6th May 1964. I was on
vacation from the Navy and had just finished preaching at a series of special
meetings in a small town near Bangalore,
along with Brother Bakht Singh. I was traveling by train from there to Bangalore along with a
number of his co-workers. As I was meditating on my daily Bible-portion for
that day (Isaiah 49), I got a strong feeling that God was calling me to
leave my job to serve Him fulltime. I had been considering full-time service
for some time and had told the Lord as early as July 1959 (as soon as I
received the assurance of my salvation) that I was
willing to resign from
the Indian Navy any time He called me. But I decided that I would leave only
if the Lord called me
I had already given up my other ambitions - of traveling the
seas, seeing the world, earning plenty of money and becoming the Admiral of the
Indian Navy. But I needed to know whether God wanted me in full-time service
for Him. As I preached God’s Word in different places, I found the Lord
blessing my ministry. I also found a growing burden in my heart to spread God’s
Word throughout India.
It was in this state of mind that I read Isaiah 49 that
morning. The Lord spoke to me through that chapter that He had called me from
my mother’s womb to be His servant (v.1,5) and that He had made my mouth
like a sharp sword (v.2). I did not give any thought to some of the
other promises in that chapter - that God would proclaim His salvation through
me to the far ends of the earth (v.6), that people would come to hear
His Word from the Northern and Western countries of the world and from China
(v.12); that God would fight against all those who fought with me and that
all my sons would be saved (v.25).
I now see, 40 years later, that God has fulfilled all those promises
too. But on that day (6th May 1964), I saw only one thing in Isaiah
49 – that God was calling me to serve Him full-time. I decided then and
there to resign from the Navy.
A few minutes after I had made this decision, Brother Bakht
Singh (who was travelling with us in the train) came to me and asked me, “When
are you thinking of leaving the Navy?” I was surprised to hear him ask me that
question, for I had never shared my thoughts on this subject with him or with
anyone else. Bakht Singh was the one man I respected at that time as a genuine
man of God. And his words were a confirmation to me from the Lord, that what I
had heard a few minutes earlier in my heart was indeed the voice of God. I am
glad that I heard from the Lord FIRST before He confirmed His word to me
through His servant – just like Paul and Barnabas got a confirmation of their
call from other prophets, only AFTER they had heard God’s call directly (See
In the succeeding days, God confirmed His call to me again -
through another Scripture : The Lord asking Peter to come out of the boat and
to walk on the water (Matt.14:29). The Lord was calling me also to come
out of the boat I worked in, to live a life of faith (“walking on the water”)
- looking to Him alone for all my needs.
I submitted my resignation to the Indian Naval authorities
promptly, stating that the Lord Jesus Christ had called me for His work. But
that made no sense to Naval Headquarters and they rejected my application
immediately. I wondered what to do next. The Lord then reminded me of what Moses
did when Pharaoh refused to allow the Israelites to go and serve God: Moses
went back to Pharaoh again. So I applied again, giving the same reasons in
greater detail. Cadet-entry officers like me were required to serve the Navy
for a minimum of 20 years before we could resign, because of the large amount
of money that the Defence Ministry had invested on our training. So my
application was rejected once again. I continued to pray and applied a third
time, some months later. Amazingly, in May 1966, the Navy released me. That was
a miracle, for I was the only cadet-entry officer in the history of the Indian
Navy who had been permitted to resign on such grounds. That became then a
further confirmation to me of God’s call.
The clear assurance that God called me to His service is
what has upheld me in the many trials that I have faced as a servant of the
Lord. And that is why I have always urged believers never to enter full-time
service for the Lord, until they have a clear call from God. If God calls you,
He will support you in His service, until the end of your life. Serving the
Lord has been a most satisfying experience for me, for more than 38 years now.
Award for “Best All-Round Cadet” (May 1958)
- The first step to becoming an Admiral !!
Directed by God
I left the Indian Navy to serve the Lord fulltime in May
1966. I was single and decided to live in Vellore
(Tamilnadu) as a base from which to travel around serving the Lord. In October
1967, I was invited to speak at a camp organized for students and graduates by
the Evangelical Graduates Fellowship in Ahmedabad. So I took the train and
reached Ahmedabad early in the morning after a two-day journey. As soon as I
arrived there, on the very first day of the camp, I got an urgent telegram from
my father (who was also living in Vellore)
that he had been diagnosed with cancer by the doctors at CMC Hospital Vellore
and needed to be operated on urgently. Since I was his eldest son (and the only
one of his three children in India),
he requested me to come home immediately to be with him at the time of his
I wondered what to do. Since there was one more speaker at
the camp, the organizers of the camp would have understood my situation and
allowed me to go, if I had asked them to relieve me of my responsibilities as a
speaker – although the burden on the other speaker would then have been
immense. But I wanted to know whether this was a scheme of Satan to prevent me
from speaking at the camp. So I sought the Lord about it.
I had the habit of reading through the Scriptures, chapter by
chapter every morning. My daily reading that day was Deuteronomy Chapter 1.
I read there in verses 3 and 7: “On the FIRST DAY OF THE ELEVENTH MONTH, God
said, Turn and set your journey and go…”. I wondered whether God was
showing me there as to when I should start my return journey. I did not have
the habit of finding guidance from verses of Scripture taken out of context,
for I knew that that was a dangerous practice. But I also knew that God did
guide His servants on rare occasions through such means. So I prayed and
sought the Lord’s will. As I prayed about it, I felt an increasing assurance
and peace in my heart that this was indeed guidance from the Lord. So I went to
the railway station and booked my return journey for the first day of the
eleventh month (November) – which was the second-last day of the camp. This
meant that I would stay on in Ahmedabad for the entire period of the camp and
would miss only one meeting on the last morning of the camp. So I sent a
telegram to my father to postpone his operation to the first week of November,
since I could come back only by then. [Let me give you a warning here: Don’t
read spectacular guidance into every verse that you read in the Bible. God has
given me such spectacular guidance through a verse, on only two or three
occasions in my 46 years as a believer.]
I spoke at the various sessions in the camp throughout the
week – and the blessing of the Lord flowed in our midst. Thirty years later, I
met people who told me how they were blessed and challenged by my ministry at
that camp. I finally left Ahmedabad on the first of November and reached Vellore two days later.
When my father got my telegram and realized that I would not
be back for a whole week, he decided to use the time to get the opinion of yet
another doctor. So he sent his Xrays to another radiologist (a better one) for
a second opinion. This doctor looked at the X-rays and told my father that he
was certain that there was no cancer and that there was no need for any
operation. Thus my father was saved from going to the operating table. He lived
for another 15 years after that and never got cancer.
If I had returned to Vellore
as soon as I had got my father’s telegram, my aged father would have underwent
an unnecessary operation. And who knows what complications that might have led
to, at his age. And the young people at the camp would not have heard what the
Lord wanted to tell them through me.
It is good to seek the will of God in even the smallest
matters of life – for there may be big doors that turn on those small hinges.
The Importance of Small
Even small decisions
that we take in our younger days are important, because some of those decisions
can take us completely out of God’s will for our lives finally. And so we must
never be in a hurry when taking a decision, but always wait on the Lord and
seek His will in patience, before deciding.
After I left the Navy,
I did not know how to start doing the Lord’s work. I did not know where to
begin or even where to stay. Then an elder brother (whom I knew) invited me to
come and stay with him in his church for a short while, to wait on the Lord. So
I went to his assembly and spent about a month there in prayer, with some
periods of fasting. At the end of that period of prayer, I was still not sure
what to do. But my heart was at peace, assured that the Lord would show me His
plan for my life, in due course. So I continued to live from day to day,
without being anxious about the morrow. I realize now that God allows such
periods of uncertainty to test our motives and to teach us patience. So my time
of prayer and fasting was most profitable and God protected me from making
mistakes in the decisions that I took in the following weeks and years.
Trusting The Lord to Teach Me His Word
Someone suggested to me
at that time that I should join a Bible-college first of all and get a degree,
because that would be a good preparation for my ministry and would also give me
many openings for ministry. I had nothing against Bible-schools. But I knew
(1) In the Old
Testament: No prophet ever came out of a Bible-school, even though there
were such schools in Israel.
(2) In the New
Testament: Jesus never sent any of His disciples to a Bible-school, even though
Gamaliel was running such a school in Jerusalem
at that time.
(3) Today: 99%
of God’s people are in secular employment and can never go to a Bible-school.
So I felt I should be
an example to these 99% of God’s people by demonstrating to them that one could
serve the Lord effectively without attending a Bible-school. So I decided never
to go to a Bible-school, but to trust the Holy Spirit to teach me His word and
His ways, just as He taught the disciples in the first century. A top evangelical Bible-college in Canada
then offered me a seat in their college, with full scholarship and airfare
fully paid, to study there. This would have been a tempting offer for many
Christians, but it was not for me now. So I rejected their offer. Another
friend of mine took that seat in my place, and ended up settling down in Canada!!
God saved me from that fate and from missing His will thereby! I am thankful
that I never went to any Bible-school – for God has given me such amazing
revelations from His Word that I could never have received, if my mind had been
trained to think the way Bible-schools train their students to think. The men
and women whose lives and writings have influenced me the most, have also been
those who never went to a Bible-school themselves - Madam Guyon, Charles
Finney, D.L.Moody, Jessie Penn-Lewis, Watchman Nee, A.W.Tozer, Sadhu Sundar
Singh, Bakht Singh etc.,
Trusting The Lord to Provide My Earthly Needs
Another truth that I
saw in God’s Word was that Jesus and His apostles never made their earthly
needs known to any human being – either their personal needs or their ministry
needs. They trusted their heavenly Father alone to meet all their needs. I had
given away all my earnings (in the 8 years that I worked in the Navy) for the
Lord’s work and to poor believers. So I had left the Navy with an empty bank
account and no savings. But I believed that if the Indian Navy had been
faithful to take care of all my earthly needs when I served them, my heavenly
Father would be even more faithful when I served Him.
So I decided never to
make my financial needs known to anyone but my heavenly Father, Who knew
exactly how and when to meet my needs. I used to receive occasional gifts from
some believers, but that came to only about 15% of what I was earning in the
Navy. But I learnt to live simply and so I never suffered any lack.
One day, the Chairman
of a large Western organization that was involved in a wide Christian radio
ministry in India
invited me to become the Director of their organization. I was offered a large
salary plus house-rent, free car, free telephone and other perquisites. I
greatly appreciated the work of this organization. But if I joined it, I would
be engaged primarily in administrative work and promotional work in different
churches. God had however called me to preach his Word, and not to sit behind a
desk doing administration. Here was a tempting offer. God was probably testing
me to see what I would choose - a comfortable life or His perfect will. I
rejected the offer and continued to trust the Lord for my needs. I would not
sacrifice my calling for any material benefit or financial gain.
For nearly 40 years
now, the Lord has taken care of all my needs and the needs of my family as well
- and I have proved His faithfulness time and again.
Young people are often
tempted to compromise on the principles of God’s Word – especially when they
see older servants of God doing so. But if you trust in the Lord and stick to
the principles of His Word, you will find that God will do many miracles for
you. You will know God better thereby and your ministry too will be enriched.
So, let me encourage every young person never to
compromise on the principles of God’s Word, at any cost.
To Marry Or Not To Marry
One day in 1963, when I
was still working in the Naval Base at Cochin,
I was meditating on God’s Word and came to Jeremiah 16:2 which read
thus: “You shall not take a wife for yourself, nor have sons or daughters in
this place”. I used to find, in my
Bible-reading, at times, that a verse would stick out and make a deep
impression on me. This was one such verse. So I began to wonder if this was a
word from the Lord to me personally. As I sought the Lord in prayer, I felt
that it was indeed a word for me. So I decided to remain single for the rest of
my life in order to serve the Lord. I was already active in the Lord’s work and
was delighted that I could spend the rest of my life “in undistracted
devotion to the Lord”, without any of the distractions that married life
can bring (as mentioned in 1 Cor.7:32-35).
As a 24-year old young
man, I had the normal desires that all young men of that age have. But now that
I had received this word from the Lord, I totally stopped looking at young
sisters as prospective life-partners. I came across many attractive young
sisters as I traveled around. But I never considered even one of them for a
moment, because I wanted to be true to God’s call on my life. When speaking at
meetings, I would look only at the brothers and never even look at the sisters!
Because I was earning a
large salary as a naval officer, I received marriage proposals even at a young
age. But I rejected all of them, without even stopping to consider them. I told
everyone that God had called me to remain single. I made this fact known in my
local church as well, so that all the young sisters there (and their parents)
would also know my calling. I was then able to speak more freely with them, and
had no fear that I might be giving ideas to any of them. I was spared from many
a temptation too, because of this word that I received from the Lord. Thus God
kept me in my youthful years in single-minded devotion to Him alone, and I
could spend all my spare time praying and studying God’s Word.
In May 1966, I left the
Navy to serve the Lord full time. Since I was NOT earning any salary now, and
was ministering among very poor people in the villages of India, I was sure that no-one would
ever again consider me for marriage. I was also losing my hair and growing
balder every month. This too was an advantage, for I felt that it would
disqualify me even further in the eyes of young sisters!! But as I traveled
around and spoke at meetings and conferences during the next 12 to 15 months, I
found that, despite all the above disqualifications, I was still being “eyed”
by some parents who were looking for “a gifted servant of the Lord” for their
daughter – even if he was bald!! So I had to be careful once more.
I had also heard of
preachers falling into immorality – and I knew that I had the same flesh that
they had. I discovered then that there were many dangers a single young man
faced when serving the Lord fulltime. So I sought the Lord again as to what I
should do. As I continued praying, I felt the Lord urging me to consider
marriage. But this appeared to
contradict what the Lord had told me four years earlier, from Jeremiah 16:2.
So I re-read Jeremiah
16:2 – again and again. All of a sudden, I noticed something in that verse
that I had never noticed before. I now saw that the Lord’s command was not to
marry “in this place” – that is, while I was in the Navy. That
liberated me from the fear that I would be disobeying the Lord if I got
married. I wondered then why the Lord had not allowed me to understand
this last phrase of the verse in this way for four long years. I saw two
1.The Lord wanted me to
believe that I was really going to be single all my life – so that I would
never consider any girl during my entire naval career. This was to save me from
being distracted, so that I would concentrate on studying His Word. He had
planned a teaching ministry for me in the future, which I never knew of then;
and He wanted me to be grounded in His Word during my single days, because He
knew that I would not have much free time to study the Word once I was married.
2.The Lord was testing
me to see if I was willing to give up marriage altogether for His sake - just
like He tested Abraham to see whether He would sacrifice Isaac. After testing
me for four years, when God saw that I was willing, He gave this “Isaac”
back to me and told me to consider marriage.
What a privilege it is to be led by God, step by step, as
He led His prophets and saints in olden times.
God’s Choice Of A
I had laid marriage on
God’s altar as a young man. But God gave marriage back to me at the right time
and gave me the best wife I could possibly have got. I am glad I allowed God to
choose for me - for I got the best.
I had seen so many
unhappy marriages and so many wives who were a drag on their husband’s
ministry, that I was afraid that I too (in a moment of weakness) might choose
the wrong girl. So I used to pray to the Lord desperately that He would even
send an earthquake (if necessary), at the time of my wedding, if by some
mistake I had chosen a girl that was not His choice for me.
In the Indian Christian
culture of the 1960s, boys and girls were not allowed to converse with each
other except formally. So it was not easy to know much about any girl. I prayed
therefore that God Himself would give me enough information about any girl I
considered so that I could “prove His perfect will” (Rom.12:2).
In mid-1967 (when I was
27½ years old), Brother Bakht Singh
proposed a girl named “Annie” who had just graduated from the Christian
Medical College at Vellore – and asked me to pray concerning her. I didn’t care
for the fact that she was a doctor, but I was impressed when I heard that she
was very active in the Lord’s work – in the church, among the students in her
college and also in witnessing to prisoners in the women’s jail. Around the
same time, two staff members of the E.U.(Evangelical Union) also came to me
(independent of each other) and suggested the same “Annie” to me. I
prayed that God would give me more information about her so that I could know
if this was His choice. Since my primary burden was for the poor people in India’s
villages, I wanted someone who had the same love and care for the poor.
Annie – serving the poor
I learnt that Annie had
decided to work among lepers in a hospital in North India.
From the age of 16, she had visited that hospital every year and done voluntary
work there. (No lady-doctor had ever
gone to work in that leprosy hospital before this). Annie had been warned by
her relatives that working among lepers would hinder her chances of getting a
good husband. But what her relatives considered as a disadvantage was the
very factor that assured me of Annie’s love for the poor.
Then one day, I
happened to overhear a conversation between two brothers at the church in
Vellore: One was telling the other of a sister named “Annie” who
although she was a doctor, had sat beside the bed of a poor, sick sister (from
the church), caring for her for many nights, in the poor people’s ward of the
Vellore hospital. Those brothers did not know that I was considering this very
same Annie as a marriage-partner! God had sovereignly arranged for me to hear
that conversation, to assure me again of Annie’s concern for the poor.
I discovered later that
Annie had read the same Christian books and missionary biographies that I had
read. She had understood the way of the cross – just as I had. We both had the
same passion to serve the Lord among the poor. I waited on the Lord now for a
final confirmation of His will. This came to me one day from my daily reading
in Ezekiel 44:15,22: “They shall come near to Me to minister unto
Me….. and they shall take maidens from the house of Israel for their wives.” I was
now convinced – and my heart was drawn to her.
God had so wonderfully
prepared this young girl for 24 years, far away from me, and finally brought
her to me. Just as He had prepared a perfect partner for Adam, He had also
prepared a girl perfectly suited for me. I saw that God was not hindered by the
limitations of Indian culture, and that He was still a loving Matchmaker Who
brought man and woman together, as He did in Eden.
Annie had heard me
preach a number of times and so she knew that the Lord had gifted me to serve
Him. But she knew almost nothing else about me. So I told her plainly that I
had no income but was trusting the Lord alone to provide all my needs. I told
her that I was not sure as to what my ministry was going to be. All I knew was
that God had given me a burden for the poor and for college-students – both of
whom had very little money to support me. I had no savings and my father was a
retired pensioner with very little money himself. I painted before her a life
of financial struggle and hardships, but coupled at the same time, with the
immense joy of serving the Lord. I told her to wait on the Lord and to seek His
will and not to decide in a hurry. Meanwhile she was receiving proposals from
well-placed medical doctors. She prayed and waited on the Lord and was
convinced that I was God’s choice for her – and told her parents so.
Her parents immediately objected to the proposal, because I had no
income! They must have thought that I wanted to marry a doctor because of the
money she could earn to support me. Little did they know that I would be
trusting the Lord for my needs and not in any income that Annie could earn.
(Annie has never earned any income as a doctor during the 37 years of our
marriage. She has given medical help to thousands of poor people freely).
We decided to honour her parents and to wait until they accepted me – and
we continued in prayer. Within six months, God answered our prayer and her
father accepted the proposal. Four months later, we were married.
Brother Bakht Singh conducted our wedding at Vellore on 19 June 1968 and gave a prophecy
at the wedding saying,
“They are being joined for the blessing of many people of many
countries. And the light of God will shine brightly by their union in many
parts of the world”.
We did not pay much attention to those words of his and had forgotten
them completely, until we listened to our wedding tape again 30 years later.
Suddenly we realized that his prophecy had been fulfilled.
I have met many women in my travels around the world in the last 37
years. But I never yet met one who was more suited for me than Annie – the one
God chose for me.
How perfect is God’s choice for those who put Him first in
all matters! All praise be to His Name alone!
Wedding Conducted by Brother Bakht Singh at Vellore on 19 June 1968
Zac and Annie – June 1968
Saved From Death
“He delivered us
from death and will still deliver us” (2 Cor.1:10)
In all of our lives,
there must have been occasions where we were saved from almost certain death by
God’s intervention. I can think of a few such instances myself. God has a purpose
in thus saving us.
incident I can think of was when I was about 12 years old in 1951. My parents
and I were sitting outside our home at night with a table lamp for light.
Suddenly the lamp went off, while there was still electricity inside the house.
I felt this must be due to a break somewhere in the electrical cord of the
lamp. Foolishly, I picked up the cord and felt my way along it to see where the
break in the wire was. Suddenly when my fingers touched the broken part, the
current ran through my body and threw me on the grass with the cord still
clinging to my fingers. I screamed. My mother seeing what had happened, had the
presence of mind to switch off the electrical main supply immediately. Thus my
life was saved. I was not born again at that time. If I had died, I would have
certainly gone to hell.
incident that I can remember was when I was in the Navy. I was posted as the
Executive Officer of a minesweeper in Bombay
during the war with Pakistan
in 1965. Our Naval fleet had planned to bombard Karachi harbour. My ship’s job was to go
ahead of the large ships in the fleet and to clear the mines that the enemy
would have laid to protect their harbour. Only thus would our fleet be able to
move in. Clearing the mines could be done easily, because we had both the
equipment and the expertise in our ship to do the job. But our ship would have
been an easy target for the long-range guns from Karachi that would be firing at our fleet.
And our ship would almost certainly have been sunk. That would be the price we
would have to pay for clearing the way for the rest of the fleet to bombard the
harbour. The war had been going on for about two weeks and we were all set to
leave for Karachi,
when a ceasefire was suddenly declared - and the war ended. My life was thus
saved. If the war had continued for even a few more days, I would almost
certainly have died outside Karachi
harbour. But God had made a plan for my life from before the creation of the
world – and in that plan I was not to die then. So He stopped that war for
my sake. There is nothing that God will not do for His children.
A third incident
also comes to my mind: This was in August 1993. I was riding my moped in Bangalore returning home
from the market and going past a railway-crossing (about 700 metres from my
house). I had crossed one side of the crossing and had gone across the railway
lines. Just before crossing the other side, the gateman lowered the bar
(without seeing me). The bar hit me squarely on my chest and hands and knocked
me and my moped down on to the railway track, where my head hit the ground. I
lay there unconscious. (I later found out that the gateman was not the regular
gateman but a substitute who was not familiar with the procedure for opening
and closing the gates). I still do not know for how long I lay there
unconscious. Someone picked me up and I regained my consciousness. When I was
taken to the hospital I discovered that my skull had a hairline crack in it and
my shoulder was dislocated. But otherwise I was all right. I said to the Lord
at that time, “Lord, I have not yet finished saying ‘Thank You’ to You for
dying for me on Calvary. Give me a few more
years to express my gratitude to You for that, by serving You.” My arm was in a
sling for a few weeks and I was soon back to normal health in every way. The Lord has given me 12 more years of
perfect health thus far, since that date, to serve Him and to show my gratitude
to Him for saving me.
incidents, I can think of numerous occasions, when riding my scooter in Bangalore, where God saved
me from accidents – once when my brake-wire snapped and at other times when the
carelessness of other drivers threw me off my scooter. I have driven cars and
scooters for 43 years now. But by God’s immense mercy, I have never been
seriously hurt myself and have never hurt anyone else either.
These incidents are
constant reminders to me that I might not be living on earth today, if small
things had been otherwise at any of the above times. I have often thought back
to these incidents and asked myself why God saved my life. It was certainly not
that I might live for myself but that I might live only for Him.
instances now and then has helped me again and again to devote myself to live
for the Lord alone.
We should all remember such instances when God has saved
us from certain death and ask ourselves why God spared our lives. Such memories
will help us all to re-dedicate our lives to the Lord again and again.
A Time of Breaking and A New
When I left the Navy, I
had anticipated that I would be spending the rest of my life ministering among
the assemblies connected with Brother Bakht Singh. But God does not show us the
whole future – and I had some unexpected surprises awaiting me, sooner than I
In 1969, a young
brother (from the Bakht-Singh assemblies) asked me what I felt would happen to
those assemblies when Bakht Singh died. I told him that I felt that the
assemblies would split and be divided, since only Bakht Singh himself could
hold them all together. I should not have made such a rash comment about
the work of a man of God. But I was only 30 years old and I was very unwise.
Some of Bakht Singh’s co-workers heard about my comment and reported it promptly
to Brother Bakht Singh – and he was greatly disturbed. He immediately told his
co-workers not to allow me to speak any more in his assemblies. I was not welcome thereafter in
the very assemblies where I had once been a conference speaker. Through my rash
speech I had lost an open door for ministry. I repented of what I had done. But
I had to sit thereafter at the back of the Bakht-Singh assembly at Vellore, and was never
allowed to share the Word there again. God told me in those days not to
get offended with this discipline but to keep my mouth shut. He told me to
respect the elders of the assembly, and not to criticize them, but to maintain
a good attitude towards them at all times. And I did that.
But I was confused now
and wondered where my ministry would lie in the future. All the plans that I
had made, when I had left the Navy 3 years earlier, now lay shattered at my
feet. I had been married for just one year and my wife and I wondered what we
were supposed to do next.
For about three years I
sat at the back of that assembly in Vellore,
with a good attitude towards the elders there. Many people there misunderstood
why I was being disciplined – and I did not seek to explain anything to them
but kept quiet. Those were the years in which God broke me and tested me to see
whether I was satisfied with Him alone or whether I would hanker after a public
ministry, such as I had had until then. In all of my Christian life, I had
wanted only the Lord - and I was ready to prove it to Him now.
In those quiet years, I
took whatever opportunities the Lord gave me to minister among students in the
medical college campus at Vellore.
As I ministered among them, I discovered a great need for Christian books
written especially for the needs of Indian students. All the books available in
Christian bookshops were written by Westerners, and not from an Indian
perspective. Those books were also far too expensive for Indian students to
I had no ambition to
write any book, because I knew very well that I was no writer. But I had a
great burden for young students. So I decided to put down on paper whatever I
had shared with students in my meetings among them, so that I could circulate
it among them, for their private study.
Since I had no
invitations to preach anywhere, I had plenty of time on my hands with nothing
to do. So I started writing down first of all, the notes of a series of four
messages I had given to students in the Christian
took me a long time to type those 60 to 70 pages – and then to correct and
re-type them again – on an old typewriter that I had from my Navy days. But I
finally finished the job after many months. I read and re-read my manuscript
many times - and found that the Lord had indeed helped me to transcribe my
burden faithfully on to paper. I then wondered how best I could circulate this
among the students. But God had something far better in mind for my manuscript
that I didn’t know about then – and He was showing me only one step at a
Even though it was
entirely my fault that I lost the open door of ministry among the Bakht Singh
assemblies, I now see that God was able to bring something glorious even out
of my failure. If I had continued in those assemblies, I might never have
entered into a writing ministry. How great and how good is our God!!
I can now say like
Jeremiah said about his younger days (when he was being broken and trained to
be a prophet):
“I thought all hope
was gone. I can never forget those awful years. Yet there was one ray of hope.
I knew the Lord’s compassion never ends. The Lord alone was my inheritance in
those days and I hoped in Him alone - and I found His mercies to be new to me
every morning. Now I can testify that
the Lord is wonderfully good to those who wait for Him and that it is good to
quietly wait for the Lord’s time of deliverance. It is good for a young man to
be under discipline, for it causes him to sit in silence under the Lord’s Hand,
with his face in the dust. Let him turn the other cheek to those who strike him
and let him accept their awful insults. Then there will be some hope for
him. The Lord will not abandon him.
Although God gives grief, He shows compassion too.” (Lamentations
3:18-33 – adapted from the Living Bible).
God Pushes Me Into A Writing
Towards the end of
1969, I had just finished writing my first manuscript (as described in my last
article). But I never sent the manuscript to any publisher for I did not feel
that any publisher would publish a book written by an unknown young man. So I
kept it with me.
At that time, Angus
Kinnear (who compiled Watchman Nee’s books) “happened” to come to Vellore and I “happened”
to meet him. I see now that God had sent him there at that very time, just
for me. Since he was an experienced writer, I showed him my
manuscript and asked him if he
could read through it and give me some suggestions. He agreed to do so and took
it with him to England.
In a little while, I got a letter from him stating that he was happy with the
manuscript and had got it typeset, got a cover designed for it and sent it on
to GLS Bombay to be published. That book - “THE SUPREME PRIORITIES
- was published in 1970. Thus God nudged me
into a writing ministry.
The leaders of the
Union of Evangelical Students of India saw this book and “happened” to
ask me (in the same year) if I would write two more books – one on guidance and
the other on sex and marriage – specifically designed for Indian students. I
sought God earnestly for wisdom and He helped me to complete the initial
manuscripts of both books within 3 months. I spent another 4 months correcting
the manuscripts and retyping them on my old typewriter. Finally, one night in
1970, I finished typing the last of the 150 pages of both manuscripts.
I had never learnt
typing, and so I had to do all my typing by looking at the keys (the “seek
and ye shall find” method!!). Besides that, I could type with only one
finger of each hand!! So my progress was very slow. I still remember that night
when those two fingers of mine were thoroughly numb, after many months of
typing! But I went to bed rejoicing that night, because God had given me grace
and wisdom to complete the task He had assigned me. FINDING GOD’S WILL
and SEX, LOVE & MARRIAGE were published by GLS in 1971.
In early 1971, it “happened”
that I was invited to speak at the Evangelical Fellowship of India’s annual
conference at Vellore.
I gave three messages there on Elisha. The Lord gave me an unusual
anointing at that conference - and so I felt that I should share these messages
with others immediately. God helped me to type out those messages too - and I
titled the book “NEEDED – MEN OF GOD”.
In mid-1971, I was
invited to speak at the Keswick Convention in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamilnadu. I
gave four messages there on “The Christ-Life for the Self-Life”.
Audio-taping of sermons was not common in those days. But in the sovereignty of
God, someone “happened” to tape all four messages. Three months later,
someone “happened” to come to me and offered to transcribe those
messages from tape to paper. Once I got the transcript, I edited it and titled
the book “BEAUTY FOR ASHES”. If those messages had not been taped and
transcribed by someone, that book would never have been written - because I was
now getting many more openings for ministry and I just did not have the time,
as in the previous two years, to sit down and type any manuscripts.
In all these instances,
I see the amazing sovereignty of God that brought the right people to me at the
right time (without any effort on my part), to encourage me to write, to ask me
to write on specific topics, and to tape and transcribe my messages. I also see
the sovereignty of God that reduced my preaching ministry considerably during
those three years – so that I would have plenty of time to write – and to
Many authors nowadays
spend thousands of rupees on computer equipment and on staying at expensive
retreat centers for many months, in order to write just one book! I had nothing
but an old typewriter with me. And I lived with my wife and my small son in one
small room and did all my work in that room from 1969 to 1971.
I had no ability to
write and I certainly had no desire to be known as an author. But God had given
me a love for young people and a burden to reach them with the truth. And so He
pushed me into a writing ministry when I was 30 years old – and I wrote five
books in a period of less than 3 years. I know that it was God Who did it. And
I know He did it because He loved the young people of India and wanted them to know the
truth about Him and about His Word.
I have discovered that writing Christian books does not
require money, or convenient surroundings, or even any special natural ability.
Peter and John were poor fishermen, not writers. And Paul wrote while he was in
a prison. But all of them sought the glory of God alone in their lives and God
anointed them with the Holy Spirit. And they wrote from what they had
experienced in their lives – not empty theories. That was the secret. And that
is why God has used their writings to bless millions of people all over the
world during the past twenty centuries.
A New Location And A House
After my books began to
be circulated in 1971, I began to receive many invitations for ministry from
all over India.
Since it was not easy to travel from an out-of-the-way place like Vellore, my wife and I
began praying about moving to some major city from which travel would be
easier. We also wanted to be in a city where we could work among
college-students. We considered Madras and Bangalore as two
possibilities. As we prayed about this matter, considering various factors, we
saw that there was plenty of student-ministry going on in Madras,
but very little in Bangalore.
So we began leaning towards moving to Bangalore.
But we wanted some confirmation from the Lord before moving.
At that very time, a
missionary (whom we knew well) who was pastoring a Baptist church in Bangalore, knowing nothing
about our thinking, asked me if I would fill in for him in his church, while he
went on vacation for three months. He told us that we could stay in his house
during those 3 months, when he and his family were away. This seemed to be the
confirmation that we had been seeking for. So I accepted his invitation. This
would also give us three months to look for a house for ourselves.
So we moved to Bangalore in April 1972.
We had no savings and very few earthly possessions at that time. All that we
owned on earth fitted into one small van, with which we moved to Bangalore. I preached in
the Baptist church there for three months. When the missionary returned, I
handed the pulpit back to him.
This was the first step
in God’s plan – because those three months of ministry in Bangalore gave us contacts with a number of
people who later formed the core of the church that the Lord planted three
Annie and I had moved
to Bangalore in
order to work among college-students. But we ended up never working
among students at all. The Lord planted a church instead. God’s ways are mysterious.
He does not show us the whole future, but only one step at a time. He even
allows us at times, to imagine that we are going to a place in order to engage
in some particular ministry, when all along what He has in mind for us there is
something quite different! “His ways are perfect – and He makes our ways
perfect” (Psa.18:30,32). Hallelujah!
God plans our future in
far better ways than we can ever do. When we seek His kingdom and His
righteousness first, He gives us all the earthly things we need for life in
this world too. Christians tend to go to two extremes in this matter. Some
imagine that God is interested in blessing us with earthly blessings primarily.
Others imagine that God has no interest in our earthly needs at all.
Both are wrong. God cares for us more than any earthly father cares for his
child and He wants to provide our every need – spiritual first and earthly
God knew that housing
would become very expensive in Bangalore
in future years. I did not know that. So God made a provision to meet that need
for me. My father was a retired pensioner without much money. But he did have a
small ancestral house in Kerala, in which he had not stayed for 40 years. It
had been leased out to a tenant. When my father tried to sell that house, the tenant
caused difficulties. The Communist party that had been ruling Kerala for many
years always supported the tenants. So my father gave up all hope of ever being
able to sell his house. But God had a plan. A little later, the Communist party
lost the elections and a new government came into power. However, in a short
time, this new government also fell and the Communists came back to power
again. But during that short interval – when the Communists were not in
power – God enabled my father to sell his house! He did not get much money for
it. But he gave me my share from that.
With that amount, I
bought an old house in Bangalore
in 1972. When negotiating the purchase of this house, I told the owner (a
respectable lady) that I had no “black money” to give her, but that the
entire price of the house would be paid by cheque as “white money”. In India,
almost everyone buys and sells houses with a large percentage of the price paid
in “black money” (money kept as cash because it is unaccounted for).
This lady had received more attractive offers than mine from her own relatives.
But she told them, “Mr.Poonen is a righteous man and I will sell it only to
him!” We owned no furniture. But we discovered amazingly that she was selling
all her furniture also along with her house! And she sold us that too at a very
reasonable price. We still use that very same furniture today. God’s care for
our needs was so exact! Above all, this house became the birthplace of the
church three years later – in 1975.
When I gave away all my earnings for God’s work and left
the Navy to serve the Lord, I never thought I would ever own a house in my
entire life. But God had plans that I knew nothing about. He even removed a
government in Kerala so as to enable me to buy this house in Bangalore. It is wonderful to see the perfect
timing of God in everything He does. As we seek to honour Him, He honours us. Hallelujah!
Square, Bangalore, India
- where we first started meeting as
a church on 17 August 1975
Forsaking All Possessions
Jesus said that anyone
who wanted to be His disciple must “forsake all that he possesses”
(Lk.14:33). If we are serious about being His disciples, then God will
bring us again and again to the place where we have to forsake all that the world
I had already made the
decision to forsake honour, position and money, when I gave up my naval career.
I was now faced with a new choice – concerning earthly property.
I had never expected to
own a house in my entire life. But as I mentioned earlier, I now owned a house
– albeit an old one. And I began to wonder whether I would become attached to
this bit of earthly property. I never wanted anything to come between me and
the Lord and I never wanted to be attached to anything on this earth at any
time. I wanted to be like the overcomers mentioned in the book of Revelation
who had been “set free from the earth” (Rev.14:3 paraphrase). So I
prayed with all my heart that if this house was going to become an idol to me,
the Lord would burn it down to the ground. It would be quite easy for the Lord
to arrange an electrical short-circuit or some accidental fire to burn the
house down, when none of us were inside it. I prayed this prayer many times –
quite sincerely. And many a time, when returning to my house from somewhere, I
fully expected to see my house in flames and my wife and son standing outside
I had placed this ‘Isaac’
on the altar and given it up to God (Gen.22). But God did not
destroy my house. He allowed us to keep it – and we still have it today.
But we don’t possess it. It has
never been our house from the very first day. It has been the Lord’s
house always – to be used for Him and for His people. We have lived in that
house for more than 33 years now – and we praise the Lord that it has been the
house of God and the gate of heaven for many people during all these years.
Lost souls have found the Lord in this house, the sick have been healed,
demon-possessed people have been delivered, and the church of the living God
has been built there. From this house, books and tapes have gone out into many
parts of the world and blessed many people. I now see that that was why God
gave us this house. And that is the reason why God gives us many earthly things
– that we might use them to bless others. Earthly things have their maximum
value only when they are used to bless and help others – and not when they are
used merely for ourselves and our families.
Some time after this, I
bought a new scooter – since the old one I had from my Navy days had worn out.
I was very careful with this new scooter (as we all are with anything new), and
did not to allow any scratches to come on it. Within a few days of my
purchasing it, I began to hear a rattling sound coming from it, whenever I rode
it. I wondered what was wrong. I took it to a mechanic, and he checked it
thoroughly and said that there was nothing wrong with the engine or with any
other part of the scooter. I sought the Lord and He told me that I had not
placed this new scooter on the altar and given it up to Him as yet. I realized
then that I could unconsciously become attached even to a small thing like a
scooter – especially if it was a new one! So I placed this also on the altar
and gave it away to the Lord. It was His scooter from then on and He
could do whatever He wanted with it. If He wanted me to lend it to one of His
children at some time (or even to give it away), I would do so – because it was
His. And if someone borrowed it from me and damaged it or lost it, I would not
allow that to disturb me – for the scooter was the Lord’s. The rattling noise
in the scooter stopped immediately.
I saw that God wanted
me and my wife to be to free from attachment to all earthly things – from big
things like a house and from small things like a scooter; and from still
smaller things like the electronic gadgets that we used in our home – and even
from the clothes that we wore. We were to possess nothing as our own. At
times, when a tape-recorder or a mixer in our home was spoilt or stopped working,
we reminded ourselves that while we were to be careful in the use of all
earthly things, we were never to love or possess any of them.
The Lord was jealous that our spirits should not be
defiled by attachment to anything of this earth. This is a prime requirement
for being a disciple and for building His church. The Lord wanted me and my
wife to be His disciples – who while having earthly things in our house,
would possess none of them as our own. Thus our life has
been free from anxiety over earthly things and also from greediness and
covetousness. We have found our joy in the Lord Himself – and in the Lord
Hitting Rock Bottom
The period from mid
1971 to end 1974 (when I was 31 to 35 years old) was the period during which my
fame grew rapidly in my public ministry. It was also the period during
which I backslid the most in my personal life. Popularity and
backsliding go together in the lives of many preachers.
My fame as a preacher,
author and radio-speaker was spreading far and wide. I had written 6 books by
then that were being widely circulated. Some of them had been translated into
other Indian languages. Ken Taylor (translator of The Living Bible) had
met me in 1971 and asked for permission to publish my book Finding God’s
Will through his publishing house in the USA. This was published
through Tyndale House in 1972. My weekly radio programme was being
broadcast across South East Asia. And I was
being invited as the main speaker at many deeper life and ‘Keswick’ conferences
in Singapore, United Kingdom, Australia
and in many places in India.
I remember one series of revival meetings at which I preached every day for 21
consecutive days. Many people repented of their sins and were drawn to the
Lord. I was an ascending star in evangelical Christendom!
But during this entire
period (mid-1971 to end-1974) I was backsliding inwardly. My external
life before men was spotless throughout this period. I was also upright and
honest in all my private financial matters and paid all my taxes honestly. But
I was defeated inwardly in my thought-life and defeated in my home-life by
anger etc., No-one who heard me on the
radio or in pulpits across the world however knew this, for I was still
preaching powerfully. There was no decline in the exercise of my preaching
gift during this entire period.
In fact, when I visited
Melbourne (Australia) in December 1973, to
speak at the Keswick Convention, an Australian Christian newspaper proclaimed
me as the finest Keswick preacher they had ever heard. Little did they know
that I who preached the deeper life of victory over sin was defeated myself in
my thought-life. I discovered then that even good believers can be deceived
into considering a man to be spiritual if he has a powerful preaching gift. I
have preserved a copy of that newspaper article to remind myself that one
can be the finest preacher and the greatest backslider at the same time.
But through my
backsliding, God taught me the following lessons:
1. The blessing of the
Lord upon our labours, and the results that we see in our ministry, are no
indication of God’s approval of our life. Our spiritual state can be
evaluated only by the purity of our inner life.
2. It is when our
ministry is being blessed mightily by God that we are in greatest danger of spiritual
pride – and pride is the primary cause of all backsliding.
3. God allows people to
exercise their spiritual gifts powerfully, even when they are living in known
sin, in order to test them to see whether they value His approval more
or the honour of men.
4. The eloquence of
gifted preachers and their so-called miracles do not impress me any more
– for I believe what Jesus said, that many who prophesy and do miracles in His
Name will be sent to hell finally, because they lived in sin in their private
Knowing all this has
been a great safeguard for me during the last 30 years.
By mid-1974, I became
so tired of my hypocritical life that I decided to quit the ministry– because I
did not want to go on living a double life and deceive people. So I began to
seek the Lord in prayer. I told Him that if He wanted me to continue in His
service, He must baptize me afresh in the Holy Spirit and make my inner life
correspond with what I was preaching. For six months I prayed regularly along
with another brother who was equally needy. And then in January 1975, God
filled me with His Spirit again and turned my life around completely.
I know now that God
does not give His Spirit to those who deserve Him, but to those who realize
their desperate need of Him. I did not deserve the Holy Spirit then, or
now. The Holy Spirit is a free gift – exactly like the forgiveness of sins.
Since that day, more than 30 years ago, life for me has been totally different.
It has proceeded from “one degree of glory to another”. God’s grace has
been abundant to a wretched sinner like me, who deserved only hellfire. I thank
God that Jesus came “to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance”.
I had to hit rock
bottom and go into the depths of defeat and be thoroughly broken, before the
Lord could accomplish what He wanted in me and through me.
Two results of this
breaking have been:
(1) It is very
difficult for me now to be puffed up (no matter what God does through me) or to
imagine that I am a ‘somebody’.
(2) It is very
difficult for me now to despise any sinner or backslider, however deeply he may
Thus God prepared me for building His church six months
A Fresh Enduement With Power
God allows many things
in our lives to break us so that we are driven to cling to Him. By the end of
1974, God had broken me over a period of 15 years in many ways. Many elder
brothers of churches had misunderstood me, had been jealous of my ministry and
had suppressed me and rejected me. I had failed many a time in my personal
life. In our home, Annie and I had gone through periods of extreme financial
need. And to top it all, when I moved to Bangalore,
I became sick.
I had always been a
healthy young man. But as soon as I moved to Bangalore in 1972, I was severely afflicted
by repeated attacks of asthma. This was so bad that I could not sleep at night
but had to sit up in a chair most nights. I had to spray asthma-relieving
medicines frequently into my mouth just to be able to breathe freely. People
told me that Bangalore was the worst place for
asthma-sufferers in India.
Yet I knew that God had led Annie and me to move to Bangalore. So this was obviously an attack
from Satan to make me move away from Bangalore
– for some reason.
In mid-1974, I received
an invitation to be the pastor of a Baptist
Church in Bangalore. I told them that I would preach
for them every Sunday morning and evening, on two conditions – (1) that I would
not take the title of “Pastor”(because I hated all religious titles);
and (2) that I would not receive a salary from the church (because I
felt I would be able to preach the whole truth to them only if I was not
receiving any money from them). They agreed to both conditions readily and I started
preaching in that Baptist
But I was in desperate
spiritual need in my personal life. So I began to seek God earnestly in prayer
along with another brother, who was also in desperate need. Yet nothing seemed
to change for us, month after month.
In January 1975, a
charismatic preacher from England
came to Bangalore
for some meetings. I had read his books and been greatly blessed by his
balanced teaching on the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I attended his meetings
and asked him if he would speak at our church the next Sunday morning. He
Before the Sunday
morning service, the Lord asked me if I was willing to stand up before my
congregation (that respected me so highly) and confess that I was a hypocrite.
I said “Yes, Lord”. (We don’t have to confess our private sins publicly.
But in my case, I was deceiving everyone by my hypocrisy.) I had reached
rock-bottom in my life and I was willing to do anything and to pay any price,
if only the Lord would meet with me.
This charismatic preacher
always gave an invitation at the end of his meetings, for those who wanted
prayer to come forward. So I planned to be the first one to go forward and
confess my hypocrisy, that Sunday morning. But amazingly, that Sunday morning,
he never gave an invitation. So I did not get a chance to make my public
confession. I felt then that the Lord had seen my willingness to sacrifice my
reputation - and that that was all He wanted. I had placed my “Isaac” on
the altar and the Lord had returned it to me.
I invited the preacher
home for lunch after the service. After lunch, we went together to an upper
room in my house and I told him how desperately I needed God’s power. He told
me, “It is unthinkable, Zac, that God will call you to His service and then
refuse to give you His power”. As he said these words, faith was suddenly born
in my heart – and I believed that God had answered my prayer for power. We
knelt down to pray and he prayed for me. Then I prayed and thanked the Lord for
answering my prayer. As I did so, I suddenly found myself uttering strange
syllables that I had no intention to utter. I switched back to praying in
English and found myself again uttering some strange syllables that I could not
understand. This puzzled me but joy filled my heart. We had prayed only for a
few minutes. As I got up from prayer, I asked this brother what he had heard.
He said he had heard me speaking in tongues! My wife told me later that when
she saw me coming back from that time of prayer, she knew something wonderful
had happened to me – by the light on my face. God had indeed met with me – and
things have never been the same since.
It is not that I never
made any mistakes or fell, after that day. Nor has it been a straight steady
climb upwards since then. But I can say this that the general direction of my
life was reversed that day – January 12, 1975. The graph of my life started
going upwards and has been going upward ever since. 30 years have passed since
that blessed day and life has never been the same for me. But if you look
closely at this upward graph, you will find that it is not a straight line but
a wavy line. There are little ups and downs along the way, but the graph
moves steadily upwards. And the ripples on the line get less and less as I get
closer to the Lord. I am not perfect, but I am pressing on. And as a wonderful
by-product of this encounter with God, He healed me of my asthma and I have
never had a problem with it since.
At last I discovered
what “new-covenant life in the Spirit” really was – the life that Jesus
purchased on the cross for His church and gave to her on the day of Pentecost.
Filled With The Spirit And
Both my wife Annie and
I, were in a Brethren
church from the time of
our conversion. This made it difficult for us to accept the doctrine of the
baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues. I had already experienced
something of the enduement of the Spirit (without “tongues”) in 1963;
and I was open to receive the gift of tongues as well if God were to give it to
me. So I used to listen to many tapes on the baptism in the Spirit. But Annie
was strongly prejudiced against this doctrine and did not want me to listen to
such tapes, fearing that I might become a Pentecostal.
However, she soon came to
a place of desperate need herself. She had been very active as a young
college-girl, witnessing for the Lord in her college and in the women’s jail
etc., Now she was married to a fulltime worker who did not even have a clear
understanding of his ministry. We did not have enough money to even rent a
house and were living in one room of my parents’ home that they had given us to
use. Our first son had just been born; and so Annie had a small baby to look
after as well. We had to scrape all the
money we had in order to buy milk-powder for our son each month. These
pressures reduced Annie to a state of discouragement.
One day in late 1969, a
sister whom she knew, asked her if she would like to come for a time of prayer
to her home. Annie went with her. When she returned some time later, she was
totally transformed. I could see that she was radiant. Something had happened
to her. She told me how she had cried out to God many times in the past months,
in her desperate need. Finally God had met with her that afternoon and filled
her with the Holy Spirit and given her the gift of tongues as well. She was the
one who had been totally opposed to this gift until then. But God had broken
down her prejudices and met with her. From that moment she began to pray that I
too would receive this gift. She never told me that she was praying for me and
she never urged me to seek for this gift. All she did was pray for me in
More than five years
later, God answered her prayer and met with me too - on January 12, 1975. But
the day after the Lord met with me, I began to doubt my experience. Had I
really been filled with the Spirit? Had I really received a genuine gift of “tongues”,
or had I just made up those syllables that I spoke?
I felt that if I had
really been filled with the Holy Spirit, then one proof of it would be that the
Bible (that the Holy Spirit had written) would come alive to me in a new way
from now on. So I decided to read the New Testament all over again – and
started with Matthew Chapter1. I mediated on the genealogy of Christ
with all its “begats” – and didn’t get any inspiration from them! But
when I reached verse 20 I was struck by the words: “…that which is conceived
in her is of the Holy Spirit.”! I felt that God was speaking to me
directly. That which had been conceived in my heart and which I had delivered
through my mouth yesterday was from the Holy Spirit!! I was so delighted that I
praised the Lord for this assurance.
The Lord then began to
speak to me through this passage. First of all, even as Mary alone knew what
the Holy Spirit had done in her and most others misunderstood her, even so, I
alone knew what the Holy Spirit had done in me; but most others would
misunderstand me. Secondly, as the Spirit came upon Mary to produce Jesus in
her, even so the Spirit had come upon me primarily to produce Christ in me. The
Lord told me that the gift of tongues had been much misunderstood and evil
spoken of in the world; and I was now to adorn this gift with a Christlike life
so that people would once again have faith in it. This is what I have sought to
during the last 30 years.
From that moment, it
was as if all hell broke loose around me in India. Word spread like wildfire
throughout the churches that “Zac Poonen was speaking in tongues”. Today
the gift of tongues has become more respectable in Christendom in India,
and opposition to it has died down, because thousands of believers have
received this gift. But in 1975 in India, things were different.
People began to spread false stories about me that I was pulling people’s
tongues to make them speak in tongues!! Satan had a field-day with his
gossiping co-workers in Christendom!! But I was unfazed. I had not even
expected to speak in tongues and was surprised when God gave me the gift. And
as He had warned me, most others would misunderstand me.
I now began to teach
the Biblical basis for the baptism in the Spirit in the Baptist church in which
I was preaching. Week after week I taught on it and a few who were conscious of
their powerlessness became hungry for this in their lives. We began weekly
prayer meetings for these few. Three months later a godly charismatic preacher
came to Bangalore,
and I asked him to speak at our Baptist church. At his meetings, a number in
the church were led into the baptism in the Spirit. And then the Baptists were
Satan was furious, but God was sovereignly working out His
purposes and silently planning for me in love.
The End of A Phase And The
Beginning Of Another
There would have been
no Christianity on earth today if it were not for the mighty baptism in the
Spirit that the apostles received on the day of Pentecost, that transformed
them into flaming witnesses for Christ who took the gospel everywhere. It is
not surprising therefore that Satan has made the baptism of the Holy Spirit the
most controversial doctrine and the most counterfeited experience in
As I preached the
baptism in the Spirit in the Baptist church during the first six months of
1975, many people in that church were disturbed, because this did not agree
with “their church traditions”. Conflict with tradition was
something that Jesus and His apostles had also encountered wherever they
preached (Mark 7:13).
In July 1975, I was
invited to England
for some meetings. While I was there, early one morning, the Lord spoke to me
in the clearest way that I had ever heard Him speak to me in my entire life. I
did not understand the significance then, of all that He told me. But looking
back now after 30 years, I can see that the Lord was encouraging me and
preparing me for the beginning of a new phase in my life and ministry. I did
not have a clue however that I would be catapulted into that phase as soon as I
returned to Bangalore.
How wonderfully the Lord encourages us in advance when he sees that we are
going to face rough waters in the future.
On my return home, I
discovered that a lot of murmuring had been going on in the Baptist Church
concerning my preaching. God is not the author of confusion but of peace - and
so I sought the way of peace. I called the deacons of the church together and
told them that I had no desire to cause confusion or to split their church over
the issue of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. If they wanted me to leave, I told
them that I would leave quietly. They said they wanted me to leave immediately.
I asked if I could give a farewell message to the church the next Sunday. They
said, “No”. The next day, however, they relented and agreed to let me speak.
And so I preached my
farewell message to that congregation on Sunday, August 17, 1975. I told them
that they were facing a crucial decision, just like the Israelites at the
borders of the promised land. They could either go forward into a life in the
Holy Spirit, or continue to wander in the wilderness of religious traditions.
As soon as I had finished my message, the brother who was the Assistant Pastor
in that church got up and said that since the church had rejected my message,
he had decided to resign his position and leave the church too.
A visiting godly
brother (who had preached in that church four months earlier) had prophesied
in his message that if the church rejected what I was teaching about the Holy
Spirit’s ministry, then the Lord would remove me from their midst and use me
throughout India in a mighty way, apart from them.
That was the end of a
phase of my life and ministry. The Lord had planned something new for me
thereafter, but at that time I was confused and did not know what lay ahead.
But I was then at the threshhold of what the Lord had been training me for, all
along – making disciples and building the Body of Christ. And that ministry
would lead to intense opposition and persecution – such as I had never
experienced in all my life – from almost every group of believers in
Christendom. God does not allow us to be tested beyond our ability. So He did
not allow me to face such opposition until then. I needed 16 years of
preparation to face it.
On that Sunday, after
the two of us left that Baptist church, we did not know what to do next. So we
decided to meet for prayer in my home that evening. We certainly had no plan to
start a new church. When we finished praying, we agreed to meet again during
the week for more prayer and fellowship. I spent the next three days in fasting
and prayer seeking the Lord for direction for the future. A couple of families
joined us the next Sunday and we started meeting four times a week and spent
many hours in fasting and prayer (on all public holidays). As we look back now,
we see that a “baby” was being conceived in those times of fasting and
prayer. It was the beginning of a “body” – a local expression of the
Body of Christ.
At that time, an
elderly American pastor of a Pentecostal church who was retiring and returning
home, came and asked me if I would takew over from him as Pastor of his church.
I immediately said, “No”, for I knew that God did not want me to join a
denominational church again. It was a new wineskin that God now wanted in Bangalore.
And so we moved forward
– one day at a time – led by the Spirit, as the pillar of cloud led the
Israelites in the wilderness. It was an exciting time – of making mistakes and
learning from our mistakes. We did not
know, for example, how to exercise the gifts of the Spirit. Fortunately,
none of us had a Pentecostal background. So we got all our teaching from
Scripture alone. We learnt through trial and error about prophecy, speaking
in tongues, interpretation and healing etc.,
The numbers at our meetings began to increase slowly to 20 and then 30.
Some who came were sincere while others came only to receive financial help. We
did not have much discernment in those days and were cheated a number of times.
But we learnt lessons from our mistakes.
All of us were far from perfect. But we were determined to
press on to perfection. That was the next phase…..
Building the Body of Christ
Money And God’s Work
When considering the building of the Body of Christ, why
should we start with a chapter on money??
Because money is the greatest alternate master to God in this
world and Jesus said that that no-one could serve both God and Money (Luke
16:13). Grace is the greatest power in God’s kingdom and money
is the greatest power in this world.
So I realized, that if I am to build the Body of Christ, it
was vital that I be free from the love of money and that my methods of
obtaining money for my personal needs and for my ministry be godly. Many
Christian workers have not thought through this issue – and so they end up in
all sorts of compromises.
When I started serving the Lord full-time, I took two
decisions in relation to money:
(1) That I would never make my financial needs
known to anyone but my heavenly Father.
(2) That I would live very simply so that my needs would be
By God’s grace I have been able to maintain both those
decisions until today.
Most of my ministry in the early days was to poor people in
village churches – and I refused to receive any gifts from them, because their
standard of living was much lower than mine. Some others however (who were
richer than me) would occasionally give me gifts, and I received enough for my
expenses each month, as long as I was single. But once I was married and had a
child, I found that what I received was not enough for my needs.
How could I meet my family’s financial needs now? I did not
want to be the salaried employee of any Christian organization, lest I become
their slave. And of course, I would certainly not send out
circular letters hinting about my needs. I would also not visit
rich churches, merely to get gifts from them. The well-known preachers in India
preached only in the large cities. The great need for in-depth ministry was
therefore among the poor people in the villages of India. So I asked the Lord to send
me to those villages – and He did just that.
However, since I had to provide for my family, I found myself
frequently thinking about money. I knew that those who are called to serve the
Lord full-time should not be thinking about money frequently –
just as a person called to be single, should not be occupied with
thoughts of sex. One whose mind burns with sexual thoughts is obviously not
called to a single life; and one whose mind is always on his financial needs,
should not be in full-time ministry. So, in January 1970, I
decided before the Lord to wait for another six months. If by the
end of that time, my mind was not freed from preoccupation with my financial
needs, that would prove to me that I did not have grace to continue in full-time
work. I would then take up a secular job, and serve the Lord in my spare time.
One week before that 6-month deadline expired (in end-June
1970), a Christian group sent me a letter stating that they wanted to support
me with a fixed amount that would be enough for my family’s needs. On my part I
would have to give them all the gifts I received for my ministry. I could
choose whatever ministry I wanted and go wherever I felt led to go – and they
would not control me in any way. I was amazed at their offer, because I did not
know of any organization in the world that supported Christian workers without
controlling them. Those who gave money always pulled the strings! I saw then
that this was the Lord’s way of confirming to me that He had indeed called me
to full-time ministry.
Once we started our house-church however, I felt I should
stop receiving this financial support, in order to be an example to others in India.
The Lord then led me to support myself as the apostle Paul did. God provided
for Paul’s needs mostly through his own occupation as a tentmaker, and partly
through gifts from the Philippian believers. God now changed the mode of my
financial support as well – and He did it in such an amazing way that my
original desire was still fulfilled: My mind would NEVER be on money.
I was 35 years old when we started our house-church. All I
knew was how to navigate ships and how to fire guns and torpedoes – none of
which was of any use in getting a job in Bangalore!!
I did not have much skill in working with my hands either. I also needed to
find a means of earning an income that would not tie me down to Bangalore, for I had a burden to spread the good news to
many other places in India.
I was the Lord’s servant first and foremost. The apostle Paul’s
example challenged me in this area. Although he supported himself fully with a
secular occupation in Corinth, Thessalonica and Ephesus for many years, he
never allowed his secular occupation to become primary. He was an apostle first
of all and he always made the Lord’s work His top priority.
I decided to invest the little money that I had (that I had
received as an inheritance from my parents), in companies that would give me a
good return for my investment. I did not speculate in the stock market, for
then my mind would always be on the market-value of my shares and not on God’s
work. I decided instead to invest directly in companies, without
going through the stock-market. Amazingly, the Lord made the government of India
also to help me at that time by their passing certain laws that enabled me to
invest directly in a number of good multinational companies. I knew nothing
about investing then, just as I knew nothing about preaching or writing, when I
started doing those things. But God saw that my desire was not to make money,
but only to earn enough for my family’s needs. I had very little money
to invest. But God took my five loaves and blessed them miraculously, so that I
have been able to support my family for more than 30 years now, with that. By
God’s grace, our family’s “bowl of flour and jar of oil” have always
remained full (1Ki.17:16).
I had always wanted to be a living demonstration to my
generation that there was a loving Father in heaven Who cared for His children.
And God has enabled me to be such a testimony for Him. All glory and praise be
to Him alone. Amen.
When People Speak Evil Of You
I left the Indian Navy to serve the Lord fulltime in May 1966, the one person
who encouraged me the most and advised me was Brother Bakht Singh. He was India’s
most outstanding evangelist at that time and I respected him more than anyone
else I knew, as a genuine man of God. He gave me three bits of Scriptural
advice that have proved to be extremely valuable to me during the last 40
years. They were:
Never make your needs known to any man.
Live simply and don’t spend much on your personal needs.
If people criticize you or speak evil of you, don’t defend yourself.
In the last chapter, I mentioned how the Lord had helped me
all these years to keep the first two of those bits of advice. The need
for the third bit of advice became more evident after 1975-1976.
In the years 1975 and 1976, three things happened that
suddenly changed the attitude of many Christians in India towards me. They became very
negative towards me thereafter.
The Lord filled me afresh with the Holy Spirit and gave me the gift of tongues.
(Some Christian groups still believe that “speaking in tongues” today
comes only from demons!!).
The Lord started a new church in my home. (This is a very unpopular thing to do
in a day such as ours, of interdenominationalism and ecumenism).
3. The Holy Spirit gave me revelation on the humanity of
Christ – especially on the truth that Jesus “was tempted in all points as we
are and yet did not sin” (Heb.4:15). I saw this as “the secret of living
a godly life” (1Tim.3:16) and began to preach this glorious truth
everywhere. (Biblical truths that have not been preached for centuries sound
like heresy when someone finds them and preaches them again).
But these were the very three things that made me a joyful,
rejoicing Christian who began to experience victory over sin in my personal
life and in my family life. And for the first time in my life I had begun to
experience fellowship in a local church that was a foretaste of heaven. But all
of this infuriated Satan.
Whenever the blessing of the Lord increases in our life,
Satan’s fury against us increases too. The Lord allows this, because it is only
through such attacks of Satan that the Lord keeps us humble, draws us closer to
Himself, leads us into spiritual warfare thus strengthening us, and makes us a
blessing to thousands. Like the rock that was smitten, we too need to be
broken, before the rivers of blessing can flow out through us to others. The
opposition of men and their false accusations serve to keep us broken before
God. Thus the grain of wheat falls into the ground, loses its attractiveness
before men, and dies. Then fruit comes forth from it in abundance.
Satan was quite happy with me as long as I was a famous, but
defeated preacher, hypocritically preaching about the “deeper-life”. But
once I entered into the new-covenant life and started building new-covenant
churches, and began to support myself financially, Satan became furious and
stirred up Christian pastors and leaders all over the country against me –
people who were either jealous of my ministry, or whose hypocrisy,
honour-seeking and love of money were being exposed by my preaching. They began
to portray me as “a false prophet” who was teaching errors like “sinless
perfection”, “Christ had sin in His flesh”, etc., and other
heresies. None of these accusations were true and none of my accusers could
show any evidence of my having taught these, in any of my books or tapes. But that
did not bother them. I discovered that many Christian leaders hold hands with “Satan,
the Accuser of the brothers”, and spread stories about God’s children,
without any evidence at all. Many Christian magazines and publishers also have
no more ethics than secular tabloids – for they too jump on to the “Accusation
bandwagon” often and publish “hearsay” without verification.
It was now that I needed the third bit of advice. I
had to learn to keep my mouth shut and to follow the Lord Who was silent as a
lamb when He was accused falsely. And the Lord helped me. He has now helped me
in this matter for over 30 years. I have refused to defend myself before any of
my accusers. The Lord would often ask me, when I was being mercilessly attacked
by false accusations, whether I wanted to justify myself before my accusers or whether
I would allow Him to deal with them. I always told Him that I would let Him
deal with them. Such accusations have not stopped even after 30 years. But when
God is with us, we can face the whole world being against us. God has given me
grace to love and forgive all my accusers and I have never lifted
one finger to repay evil for evil or to hurt anyone who has tried to harm me.
Vengeance is God’s business and not mine. “’Vengeance is
Mine and I WILL repay’, says the Lord” is a new-covenant
statement (Rom.12:19) – and God is very exact in making such “repayments”!!
Actually no-one has ever succeeded in harming me. I am “the
apple of God’s eye” (Zech.2:8), and I have experienced the
fulfilment of Romans 8:28 in all the attacks I have faced. They have
worked together for the glory of God and for my own good.
Here is but one example: Some who were warned against me,
read my books and listened to my tapes, in order to find out what exactly the
wrong doctrine was that I was preaching. As a result, they were gripped
by the truth – and joined our churches and are glorious brothers and sisters in
our midst today!!
Thus God has turned the tables on Satan again and again.
Praise the Lord!!
Preparation For Building The
Ever since the year 1965, I had a great burden in my heart to
see a local church in India where discipleship, holy living and separation from
the world were emphasized, and where the brothers and sisters were identified
as Jesus disciples’ by their love for one another (as Jesus said in
Jn.13:35) - and not by the fundamentalism of their doctrines. I now see
that God planned to build such a church, when He moved us to Bangalore. But before that church could be
built, the Lord had to test me in two important areas.
Two of the biggest sins among
preachers in Christendom today are:
1. Making financial profit through one’s
spiritual gift and ministry. (No-one can be a servant of God if he loves money – See Luke 16:13).
2. Seeking for fame and honour through one’s
spiritual gift and ministry. (No-one can be a servant of Christ if he seeks to
please man or impress man – See Galatians 1:10).
Failure in these two areas is the main reason why many gifted
preachers fail to become God’s “prophets” and genuine “servants of
the Lord” in our land.
These were two areas in which the Lord had to test me before
He could commit His work to me.
I have already spoken (in an earlier Chapter) of the Lord’s
testing me in the first of these areas and how the Lord led me to
support myself in order to be an example to other Christian workers (as Paul
was) – in India.
In relation to the second area: The Lord asked me twice
in my life, to give up fame and honour.
The first time was in 1964, when I was advancing
rapidly in my Naval career. I was doing exceptionally well in my career when
the Lord asked me to quit the Navy and serve Him full-time.
The second time was in 1975, when I was becoming more
and more famous in Christian circles as an author and radio-preacher and as a
speaker at deeper life conventions in many countries worldwide.
My father had been the Chairman of the first “Billy Graham
Crusade” in India (in Delhi in 1956) and he used
to tell me that I too had a preaching gift like Billy Graham and that God could
use me all over the world.
The Lord however told me in 1975 not to seek for a world-wide
ministry but instead to just fall into the ground each day and die. He showed
me that the secret of a fruitful ministry did not lie in a spiritual gift or a
worldwide ministry, but in dying as a grain of wheat – as He Himself had done
in His earthly days (Jn.12:24).
God wanted me to turn away from the pursuit of fame in the secular
world as well as in the Christian world. Only then would
He attest me as His servant. By God’s grace, I yielded to His call in BOTH
The Lord also assured me that He would give me His power and
anointing constantly if I consistently chose the way of the cross. This
meant dying to my own choices, dying to men’s opinions about me (whether good
or bad), ignoring the criticisms of my enemies and loving them in return, dying
to earthly comforts and conveniences, dying to personal choices as to where to
go and where to preach, dying to my own cleverness and depending on the Lord
alone for revelation and guidance in all matters, dying to my personal
attachment to people (which could make me compromise or show partiality to my
family members or coworkers), etc., In other words, He was calling me to die to
Self and accept the rule of God in every area of my life.
The Lord also showed me that there were two sides to
the great commission – one was preaching the gospel to ALL men
(as commanded in Mark 16:15 ff) and the other was making disciples
and teaching them to obey ALL that Jesus commanded (as commanded in Matt.28:18-20)
– and the Lord showed me that it was the second side of this great
commission that had been neglected almost everywhere in India, and that needed
to be emphasized.
And so I chose in 1975, to give up an itinerant worldwide
teaching ministry and to start on the less exciting ministry of making
disciples and building them into local churches. After 30 years of doing this
latter ministry, I can say that, although this is a more demanding
ministry, it is far more satisfying. It produces more lasting results – for
eternity. It is easy to be a spiritual consultant travelling around the
world giving advice to people. It is more difficult to be a spiritual father
working patiently with disciples and bringing them to maturity. But at the end
of the road, it is far more rewarding to be a spiritual father than to be a
I have no regret today that I chose the way of the cross
instead of worldwide fame as a preacher!
Some Distinctives Of The New
When we started meeting together in my home in August 1975,
we had absolutely no intention of starting a new church. Only apostles
planted churches – and I certainly did not feel that I qualified! But as time went on, we found more and more
people coming to meet with us and we had no option but to continue meeting
together. We never invited anyone to join us. And we did not want anyone to
join us merely because he was fed up with his own church – because we knew that
such a person would soon get fed up with us too! Jesus invited only the “weary
and heavy laden” to come to Him (Matt.11:28) – in other words, those
who were fed up with their own defeated lives and who were desperately
seeking for victory. We wanted only such folks to join us.
There were already hundreds of denominations in India
and we were certain that God did not want to start another denomination through
us. Ever since the Protestant reformation, every new movement that the Lord
started was started by Him to emphasize some features of the new-covenant life
that the existing churches around them were not emphasizing. Otherwise
there would be no need for God to start something new.
Now the Lord was starting a new church in our midst. We
wondered what the distinctives were that He wanted to emphasize through us. We
were certainly not more spiritual than others. We were all sinners saved
by grace and we were aware of our own imperfections in many areas. But we could
not agree with many other churches in a number of areas, where we felt
they had departed from New Testament teaching and practice. As we continued to
meet, some of the areas where we disagreed began to crystallize in our minds:
1. Water-baptism: We practiced water
baptism by immersion for believers in the Name of the Trinity. So we were
different from all the mainline denominations that practised infant baptism.
2. Baptism in the Holy Spirit:
We believed in the baptism in the Holy Spirit and all the gifts of the Holy
Spirit. So we differed from the Brethren and the Baptists!! But then we did NOT believe that speaking in tongues was the evidence of
the baptism of the Spirit, but rather the receiving of God’s power (See Acts
1:8 and 10:38). So we differed from the Pentecostals and the
3. Discipleship: We saw that our Lord
had commanded us to make disciples (Matt.28:19), who fulfilled
the conditions of discipleship He had laid down in Luke 14:26,27 and 33.
So we disagreed with most other churches – that emphasized only evangelism and not
4. Pastors: We saw that a “pastor”
was a gift (Eph.4:11) and not an office in the church. The
New Testament clearly taught that churches were to be led by “elders”
and not by a pastor (Tit.1:5). And there had to be at least two
elders in every church – to avoid the dangers of one-man rule and to bring a
balance in the leadership. This conviction set us apart from almost all
5. Money: Money has such great power, that
Jesus referred to it as an alternative master to God (Lk.16:13)! We saw
that we needed a clear testimony in this area, because much of Christian work
had a bad reputation, due to ungodly financial practices. Preachers and pastors
begged for money through their reports and their prayer-letters. Jesus and His
apostles had never given reports of their work to anyone (except their
fellow-workers); and they never asked anyone for financial support for
themselves or for their ministry. Instead, they trusted their heavenly Father
to move men to give them the money necessary for their work. We could trust our
Father in the same way too. So we decided never to give reports of our work to
anyone (except our own church family) and never to ask anyone for money. We
also decided that we would never take an offering in any of our church services
but only keep a box for voluntary offerings – since the Lord had said that all
offerings must be given secretly (Mt.6:1-4). So our financial policy
differed fundamentally from that of almost every other church in India.
6. Self-support: Most Christian workers in India
saw Christian work as a means of earning a living and not as a calling from
God. Many of them joined Western Christian organizations for a salary. Christian
work was a business for them, through which they made large profits! The
apostle Paul however worked with his own hands and supported himself in order
to make himself distinct from such preachers in his day (2Cor.11:12). There is certainly nothing wrong in full-time
elders being supported by the believers in their church. But because of the
situation in India,
we felt that we elders should be self-supporting – in order to be distinct from
these other workers, just as Paul was in his day. In this area too, we found that our views
differed from that of almost all the other churches in India.
7. Dependence on the West. Many churches
were heavily dependent on Western Christians - both for ministry and for money.
We saw this as a hindrance to our testimony to the non-Christians in India.
We saw that many Indian preachers blindly imitated American methods and
unquestioningly accepted American theology. So we decided not to be connected
with any foreign organization and not to be dependent on any foreign
source, either for money or for ministry. We wanted our ministry to be truly
Indian, with Indian leadership – while at the same time being open to receive
believers of all lands. In this area also we differed from most churches in India.
These were the reasons why God was starting a new church in India.
We could see that God needed such a testimony in our land. So we submitted to
God and allowed Him to do as He willed with us.
Every church has wonderful principles when they start.
But time tests all those principles. How are things a few decades later?
As we look back now after 32 years, although we still see our lack in many
other areas, we thank God that He has preserved us without any compromise in
the above seven areas.
All glory be to his Name alone!
Authority Over Satan
Jesus told the Pharisees, “If I cast out demons by the
Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you”
Jesus casting out demons through the Holy Spirit’s power was
proof that the kingdom
of God had come there and
then. Peter also said, “Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and delivered
people who were oppressed by the devil” (Acts 10:38). Jesus had lived a
perfectly holy life for 30 years in Nazareth.
But it was only after he was anointed with the Holy Spirit at His baptism that
He came into direct conflict with Satan (Matt.4:1-10) and delivered
people from demons.
As a new church in Bangalore,
we saw that the Lord’s calling for us was to be a miniature model of the kingdom of God. And this would bring us into
direct conflict with the kingdom
of Satan. As Christ’s
Body on earth, we were called to exercise the same authority that Jesus our
Head had exercised. And we could do that, only as he Himself did it – through
the Holy Spirit. None of us in our
church had any experience thus far, in binding Satan’s activities in prayer or
in casting out demons. Demon-possessed people could not be helped by counseling
or by exhortations to repent. They needed deliverance from the
evil spirits that possessed them!!
All around us is a spirit-world that our human senses cannot
sense. We can only observe the manifestations
of these spirits. Before I was anointed with the Holy Spirit, I did not know
what to do if I encountered a demon-possessed person. But the baptism in the
Holy Spirit brought me into an awareness of this spirit-realm.
All human beings are afraid of Satan. One of the first things
the Lord began to show me was that Satan had been defeated and stripped of all
his armour on the cross (Col.2:15; Heb.2:14). So Satan could not touch a
child of God in any way now, except where God permitted him to do so, for that
person’s sanctification. The Lord showed me also that He had given His children
“authority over ALL the power of the enemy” (Lk.10:19).
To embolden me against Satan, the Lord began to give me
dreams at night, of encounters with Satan. We read in Acts 2:17 that God
speaks to us occasionally through dreams: “God said, `I will pour out
my Holy Spirit upon all mankind….. and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men will dream dreams’”. The New Testament itself
begins with five incidents (in its first two chapters) where God guided people
through dreams (Matthew Chapters 1 & 2). Every dream we have
is not from God. Many dreams are meaningless; and some dreams are just the
result of having eaten too much the previous evening!! But occasionally a dream
can be from God. We can know it is from God, if it encourages us and lifts up
In one dream, I saw myself walking back to my room alone,
after preaching my heart out at a public meeting one night. I heard a voice behind
me saying, “That was not good enough. You could have preached better than
that.” I thought I had done my best that night - but perhaps the Lord was still
not satisfied - and I was discouraged when I heard that word. Then I asked the
Lord (in my dream), “Why is it Lord, that when You speak to me face to face, I
am always encouraged. But whenever you speak to me from behind me, it is always
so discouraging?” The Lord said, “Turn around and see who is speaking to you.”
I turned around and saw that it was the devil who had been speaking. As soon as
I recognized him, he fled and disappeared.
I woke up from my sleep and learnt something that day – that
the Lord never says, “That was not good enough” – to anyone. He
never said it to anyone when He was on earth and He does not say it to anyone
now that He is in heaven. Such a word always comes from Satan,
who tells us we haven’t done well enough, only in order to discourage
us. The Lord, on the other hand, always appreciates our weakest
efforts. But we imagine that words that challenge us to improve could come only
from the Lord and never from Satan. And then we get discouraged, because
we feel that the Lord will never be satisfied, no matter how hard we try. This
is one of Satan’s many lies. He is a master at pretending to speak as an angel
of light (2 Cor.11:14)!
The Lord told me to expose this tactic of Satan in my
preaching everywhere. And that is what I
have done ever since. Most believers who know that Christ died for their sins
on the cross, do not know that Satan was also totally defeated on the same
cross. That is why they are afraid of Satan and therefore often depressed.
All discouragement and self-condemnation
come only from Satan. Our heavenly Father will never tell us anything that
discourages us. He is “the God Who gives encouragement” (Rom.15:5) and
the “One Who so wonderfully comforts and strengthens us in our hardships and
trials” (2 Cor.1:3,4-Living).
I had been a slave to depression for many years. But the
revelation of Christ’s victory and our authority over Satan, coupled
with being filled with the Holy Spirit, delivered me from all depression and
discouragement – totally and permanently.
Jesus is “the Author and Perfecter of our faith”
(Heb.12:2). He was never discouraged or depressed. Because He
defeated Satan, we too can now walk on earth as He walked then – free from all
discouragement and depression (1 Jn.1:7).
Praise the Lord!
Influencing The Government
of Jesus Christ is God’s
ambassador in each country. And so we are called to pray for government rulers
and for all in authority, so “that we may live a quiet and peaceful life
with all reverence toward God” (1Tim.2:1). When we started meeting as a
church in my house, we saw this as one of our main responsibilities as a
new-covenant church. God had placed us in India to influence the government
of our country and of our city, for good, through our prayers.
We knew that God was not looking for a great crowd of people
to pray but only a few (“two or three”), who had a pure
conscience and who were united (Psa.66:18; Matt.18:18-20). We were
only a few in number in our church, but we did seek after holiness earnestly
and we were united.
God used us on a number of occasions to influence the affairs
of our country and of our city.
First instance: One night, when I was
in North India, I woke up suddenly from my
sleep at 2 am and saw a vision. This was perhaps the only vision I have ever
seen in my life. (It is difficult at times, at night to distinguish between a
vision and a dream). In the vision, I saw the face of a very senior cabinet
minister in the Indian government. I then saw the faces of a number of Indian
people from various parts of the country; and I heard a voice that said, “The
power to free these people is in the church”.
I did not know what the vision meant but I knew it was from
the Lord. So I began to pray in unknown tongues. When I returned to Bangalore, I shared this
vision with the believers in our house-church and they joined me in prayer.
Since I did not know what I was to pray for, I continued to pray in tongues.
Ten days later, this particular minister had a conflict with others in the
party and resigned from the parliamentary party. Two months later he resigned
from the cabinet itself. This led to two factions emerging within the ruling
party – one supporting the prime minister and the other supporting this man who
had resigned. In the months thereafter, many efforts were made to bring these
two factions together. Every time I read about such efforts in the paper, a
burden would come on me to pray. I did not belong to any political
party. So I could pray from a neutral standpoint without any bias towards
anyone. And since I was praying in tongues, I did not know what I was
praying for, but I knew it was in accordance with God’s will – whatever that
About eight months later, an anti-Christian bill was
introduced by a member of the ruling party, in India’s parliament. But by then the
ruling party was so divided into these two factions that they could not unite
to pass the bill and make it a law (to harass Christians). The party itself
lost power finally and split into two. It was only then I understood why God
had given me this burden of prayer: It was to prevent this bill from
becoming law. We are God’s co-workers and He works in answer to our
prayers. A few states in India
have now passed such a law forbidding conversions, for their states alone.
But this has never been passed as a law for the whole country – and so
Christians still have freedom in most places in India, to preach the gospel freely.
Second instance: One evening, during a
church prayer-meeting, I found myself having a sudden burden to pray for the
country and for the government, so that we might live in peace and rest in our
was passing through a difficult time, with rumours of corruption at the highest
levels of government. I shared my burden with the church at the prayer-meeting,
and we prayed for the country with much burden. Within 24 hours, there was a
dramatic turn of events in the country. God removed someone from power who was
the root-cause of the problems. And as a result, the political climate of the
country changed totally – for the better. This was a very quick and specific
answer to prayer.
In 1981, the workers of all the public sector companies in Bangalore went on strike for over two months.
Some began to indulge in violence too. Matters reached a flash point when the
police fired at a crowd of striking workers one day. Bangalore was now a powder-keg of explosives
ready to blow up. The police could round up the gangsters and the hooligans who
were causing the problems. But they could not restrain the evil spirits who
were instigating these people. That was the job of the church. So we called our
church to three days of prayer for peace in our city. At the end of the third
day, we felt that God had answered our prayer.
A confirmation of this answer came later from the security staff of one
of the companies, who told one of our church-members that all the security
staff in that company had been under great suspense wondering what would happen
next – when suddenly on a particular date the situation changed and the tension
eased. The date he mentioned was the last day of our prayer meetings!! Very soon
the strike too was called off and peace returned to our city. God used our
small church to bring peace to millions of people in Bangalore.
Besides these instances, we have also influenced the
elections in our country dramatically, more than once. We knew that the
Christians in India
were too few in number to influence any election results by their voting. But
we also knew that we could influence the decision of the whole electorate in India
by prayer. So we decided to vote for “God’s perfect will” in prayer
meetings!! As we prayed, God could move people’s thinking in the direction that
He wanted. So we have prayed as a church, for our country, at each election
time. We have also prayed against anti-Christian governments whenever they have
come to power in India
or in our own state. And we have seen again and again, how God has answered our
prayers in amazing ways. (We were not the only church that was praying. There
were others too. God answered all our prayers).
We were encouraged through these instances to see that God
was making us the salt and light of India – salt that gave a taste to
its surroundings and a light that shone brightly for the Lord in the land.
Praise the Lord!!
Casting Out Demons
“Jesus said to His disciples, ‘Go into all the world and
preach the gospel to all creation…..These signs will accompany those who have
believed: In My name they will cast out demons…………” (Mark 16:15-17).
Men and women have been possessed by demons from the
beginning of human history. But we read of people being delivered from demons
only after Jesus came. Now that Christ has defeated Satan on the cross, anyone
can be totally delivered from demons in Jesus’ Name - just like anyone
can have his sins totally forgiven in Jesus’ Name. Jesus wanted His disciples
to proclaim this dual good news all over the world - that people could
be delivered from the guilt of their sins as well as from
demons. However, I never had faith to deliver people from demons until I
was baptized in the Holy Spirit and was convinced that Jesus had defeated Satan
on the cross.
of my first encounters with an evil spirit, interestingly enough, was when I
was speaking to students at a Bible-College. (Jesus cast out demons during
synagogue-meetings!) I had experienced a great anointing in speaking that
morning and had just concluded my message and asked everyone to bow in prayer.
Suddenly one of the students in the last row of the hall got up and started
dancing in the aisle. I realized immediately that this was a demon trying to distract
the students from responding to the message. Since everyone was bowed in
prayer, I knew that any loud rebuke of the demon would make the students lift
their heads and look around and be distracted. So I whispered under my breath
(so softly that even those sitting immediately behind me on the platform did
not hear), “In Jesus’ Name, sit down.” Immediately the young man (who
was nearly 40 feet away from me) sat down. I then continued with my closing
prayer. I left the Bible-college after the meeting and never discovered who
that student was. Some months later, I got a letter from another country. The
person wrote saying that he had been possessed by a demon while in a temple
some years earlier, and had then become a Christian and joined the Bible-college
(at which I had spoken). He identified himself as the student who had stood up
at that meeting and then wrote, “I sat down when you told me to sit down”!
I was amazed to read that sentence – because his ears certainly did not
hear my whisper that day, for he was too far away. But the demon within him had
heard my words – and obeyed.
Lord taught me two lessons that day about demons. First of all, that
demons have very good hearing and so we don’t have to shout at them
(like many people do) when casting them out! Secondly, that if our life
is clean and we have faith in Christ’s victory over Satan at the cross, we need
command the demons just once – and they will leave immediately. One does
not have to keep on commanding them (as many people do). Jesus cast out
demons with a single sentence: “When He spoke a single word, all the demons
fled” (Matt.8:16-Living Bible). If demons do not leave after a single
command of ours, it would indicate that our faith is weak. Then we need
to go away and fast and pray first (Matt.17:21).
another occasion, a sister from our church brought a lady to my home for prayer
because she was having some problems. My wife and I spoke with the lady and
then I asked her to repent of her sins and to receive Jesus as her Saviour. I also
asked her to speak to Satan and tell him, “I don’t belong to you now. Jesus
defeated you on the cross”. (I ask all who want to be saved to say this to
Satan). All of a sudden, she contorted her face, and looked at me fiercely and
changed her voice and said, “I was not defeated on the cross”.
Until then I had not even suspected that she had a demon, for she had spoken to
us gently. But when I realized that a demon was there, I immediately said to
the demon, “You are a liar. You were defeated on the cross. Get out of
her in Jesus’ Name.” The demon left immediately. I knew that it had left,
because when I asked the lady a second time to say the same words to Satan, she
said it immediately, without any hesitation.
That day I learnt a third lesson about Satan and
demons – that they don’t like to be reminded that they were defeated on the
cross. So I decided thereafter, that I would remind Satan frequently that Jesus
defeated him on the cross. I also decided to teach this glorious truth to all
believers. (We have to speak these words to Satan, since he cannot hear
our thoughts or what we say in our mind.) It is because many Christians either
don’t know, or don’t believe, in Satan’s total defeat on the cross (as written
in Colossian 2:15 and Hebrews 2:14) that they live in fear of him
and are afraid that he might harm them in some way.
The Lord also gave me dreams now and then – dreams in which I
saw myself facing demon-possessed people and casting out the demons from them.
I also saw dreams where Satan came as a snake or a scorpion etc., to me, but
was unable to harm me, even when those creatures touched my body. Jesus told His disciples, “I give you
authority, so that you can walk on snakes and scorpions and overcome all the
power of the enemy, and nothing will hurt you” (Lk.10:19-TEV). An
interesting feature of all these dreams was that I never had a moment of fear -
either during the dream or thereafter. Thus, the Lord taught me that I could
face Satan fearlessly at all times - exactly as Jesus Himself had faced him on
“Greater is He Who is in you than he who is in the world - (Satan).
“As Jesus is, so also
are we in this world……
“We do not fear now,
for God’s perfect love for us has driven away all our fear” (1 John 4:4,17,18).
Praise the Lord!!
Early Days Of Meeting And
From the outset (August 1975), we met together three or four
times each week as a church in our home. We did not know what God had in store
for us in the future. We were all poor families struggling to make ends meet. I
was the only one who had a scooter. The others had only bicycles or nothing.
And I was also the only one who had a telephone (and that too was allotted to
us only because Annie was a doctor). But we had great fellowship with each other
and we discovered as a church what it meant to be a family.
Annie and I had three boys (aged 6 years, 2 years, and 8
months) when we started meeting as a church in our home. Our fourth son was
born 3 years later. Our children enjoyed arranging the chairs for the meetings,
and fellowshipping with the young brothers who often ate with us and stayed
overnight in our home. We cared for one another in the church and we used to
meet someone from the church almost every day. If anyone was in any need, we
would all pitch in and help that person or family. When any family had to move
to a new rented house, all of us men would go and help them to shift. I was
less than 40 years old in those days and I could do many things then that I
can’t do today. I remember carrying cupboards down the stairs and scrubbing the
floors and cleaning the toilets in the houses of many of my fellow-believers.
Some joined us only to take advantage of our goodness and our generosity and we
were cheated by a few. But we have no regrets about that today, because we
acted in goodness and love to them. And
we learnt from our mistakes. We continued to emphasize discipleship and the way
of the cross. As a result, over a period of time, those who were not gripped by
this message dropped away from our midst.
soon felt a burden to share these wonderful truths that had transformed our own
lives with others in India.
So in January 1977, we started an 8-page monthly paper containing the message
of the overcoming life. I used to type the articles on my old typewriter,
correct them, retype them and then give the paper to the printer to set up. We
did not have much money. So we had to use a cheap print-shop that had only a “letter
press” (with lead types), where they set up the paper, one alphabet at a
time!! After a few days, the first proof would be ready and I would go
and pick it up from the printer and check through it. There would be numerous
mistakes to correct. I would give it back to the printer who would correct
those mistakes and give it back to me to check once again. I would check
through it again before the final copy was printed. At times, in spite of my
checking through the final copy three or four times, the “printer’s devil”
would still be active. In one issue, the
words “We should never be anxious”, lost one letter and came out
as “We should ever be anxious”!! So some of us sat down and
corrected all the printed copies by hand! Over the next few years, we gradually
built up a mailing list of about 600 addresses. Each month, some of our
church-members would gather together on a Sunday and put the paper into
envelopes for mailing. One by-product of doing it this way was that it built
fellowship between ourselves.
also taped each message that was preached – primarily for the benefit of those
in our church who wanted to listen to the message a second time or who wanted
to give a copy of it to someone else. Little by little, we built up a small
library of tapes. To make these copies, I would connect two tape-recorders
together and copy one side of the tape first, and then turn the tape over to
copy the other side. It would take me 90 minutes to copy one tape!! Sometimes
people from other places in India
who had heard about us, would ask for a tape. I would then copy a tape, pack it
and go to the post office and mail it. We did not have many requests for tapes
those days. So I was able to do this all by myself. The requests for tapes
increased slowly – and I was kept quite busy.
God in His foreknowledge, saw that the requests for our tapes would increase
enormously in the coming days. And He had a pleasant surprise in store for us,
for He “silently plans for us in love” at all times (Zeph.3:17
paraphrase). A family in Germany
(whom I had never met or corresponded with) had got a copy of a tape of mine
from someone and heard it and passed it on to others. Because they were all
blessed by what they heard, they wrote to me saying that they were led by the
Lord to mail us a fast tape-copier. I never even knew that such a machine
existed! When the machine arrived, the postal customs officials made an
unreasonable and exorbitant demand for customs duty. They probably wanted a
bribe, which I would not give. So I prayed to the Lord for help and went
and met the senior-most officer in the department. She happened to be a
Christian who had read my books and knew my name, even though we had never met
before. I told her that I was willing to pay the legal customs duty on the item
– whatever it was. I just didn’t want to pay a bribe or to be unnecessarily
harassed. So she spoke to the official concerned immediately. Thus I got the
parcel, after paying just the legal amount of customs duty and without being
machine could copy a tape in 3 minutes. That saved me 87 minutes on every
single tape I copied!! The demand for tapes increased by leaps and bounds,
shortly thereafter and we copied thousands of tapes on that machine in the
ensuing years. How good God was to prompt someone to give us that gift at just
the right time. We have always believed that we should never make our needs
known to anyone but God. This was yet another proof of His loving provision and
care for us.
made a decision right at the beginning, that all our literature and tapes would be given out at the lowest
possible cost, without our making any profit on them. No royalties would be
paid to me for any book or tape of mine that the church published. And we have
stuck to that principle all these years.
200,000 tapes of sermons have now (upto 2007) been distributed around the world
in many languages – not only by our church but also by many other individuals
and churches. These messages are now going out through CDs and DVDs as well –
and also being downloaded freely from the Internet every day. Thus the
new-covenant message has gone to all five continents from our small church. We
rejoice that people are being challenged to live an overcoming life, all over
give all the glory to God for what He has done!! When we honour Him, He honours
us. Praise the Lord!
A Meeting Place
Over a period of four years (1975-1979), the church meeting
in our house increased in numbers. Some who came were really sincere and eager
to be disciples of Jesus. But others came because they were attracted by the
novelty of joining a new group!! We received everyone and left it to God
to filter out the chaff in His own time.
The rooms in our house were all small and people sat in four rooms on
Sundays, with the speaker standing in a central place from where most people
could see him!
From the very first year, we arranged 4-day conferences in
our house, during the holiday season in October, every year. Some who had been
blessed by our literature in other parts of India, also attended these
conferences. We offered food and accommodation freely to everyone who came and
even helped some who were poor with their train-fare. We cooked the food in the
backyard of my house. The brothers slept on the floor in the front room of our
house at night. We never took any offerings at any time – not even during the
conferences. We kept an offering box at the entrance for any who wanted to give
– secretly and cheerfully. And God provided all our needs. We have followed
this policy for 31 years now – and have found that all our needs have always been
met. We have never had to borrow money and we’ve never been in debt. God has
honoured this policy of ours, as we have sought to honour Him.
With the increasing numbers coming to our Sunday meetings, we
realized that soon we would not all fit into our house. At the same time we
didn’t have the money to buy land anywhere nearby. So we started looking for
land that was cheaper, outside the city limits. But we could not find any place
there either, that we could afford.
Then the Lord did something wonderful for us. My father had
purchased a piece of land close to our house and paid the initial down-payment
(20%) for it. He had planned to sell his house in Madras
and build a house for himself in Bangalore.
But he suddenly developed asthma while in Bangalore,
and realized that the climate here would not suit him and that the Lord was
thus stopping him from moving to Bangalore.
So he decided to sell the land. Many were keen on buying it from him, for it
was located in a prime area and its value had gone up. But my father decided to
gift the land to our church. (We would have to pay only the balance of
the money due and the registration charge).
But we had only 50% of the money required for this in our
account – and that was what we had saved up in 4 years!! We decided
that we would not tell anyone about our needs – not even others in the church,
for all the brothers were relatively poor, and we did not want anyone
sacrificing and giving us their life’s savings. We prayed and told the Lord
that if this was the place He had chosen for us, then He must give us the
money, without our mentioning our need to anyone.
We had to register the land by a certain date – the final
date that the original owner had set for my father to pay the balance amount,
for transfer of the property. Just a few days before this deadline, we got a
cheque in the mail. It was sent by a person whom none of us had ever met or
heard of. So he could not possibly have known of our need either. He had
obtained our address from somewhere. And amazingly, the amount of the cheque
was the exact amount that we had needed to complete the
land-transaction!! We have never met this donor to this day – and he never sent
us any money again, after this one time!! It was obvious to us that God had
prompted him to help us. Many would call such events as “coincidences”.
But for us, it was the perfect provision of our loving Father in heaven,
confirming to us that the purchase of this land was in His perfect will.
We registered the land in the name of “Christian Fellowship
Centre”. We now needed to build a meeting-hall on it. Again we decided that
we would not mention our need to anyone. Little by little over the next two
years, money trickled in – from our offering box and from here and there.
Then we faced another problem. There was a shortage of cement
in the country at that time, and a permit had to be obtained from the
Government to buy cement – 50 bags at a time. We applied for the cement and I
went and saw the clerk in the State government-office for our first permit.
He told me to come back the next week. I went back the next week and he told me
to come back later. This went on for sometime, until someone who was wiser to
the ways of government-offices told me that this was the clerk’s way of asking
for a bribe! So we prayed. I met the Director in the department and kept going
back to the office – and acquired a lot of patience thereby! Finally, after
many weeks, we got our first permit. I had applied only for cement. But
I got patience as well in the process! God always give us more than we ask for!
God used a corrupt official to enable me to partake of the
Divine nature – patience! If I had given him a bribe, I would have got the
cement earlier. But I would not have got the patience. God then
answered our prayers even more than we had expected. Soon, cement became
plentifully available in India,
and the government cancelled the requirement for a permit. Then we could buy
all the cement we wanted from the market.
We completed the meeting-hall and had our first meeting there
in October 1981. We arranged a conference also that month – and this time more
people came than ever before. God had known that larger numbers would soon
start attending our conferences. Seeing that need much before we saw it, He
gave us a meeting-hall just in time – just as He gave us many other things,
before the need for them arose.
God had silently planned for us in love once again – and He
continues to do so even today (Zeph.3:17)!!
Reaching Out To Other Places
For seven years we did not do any outreach as a church in Bangalore. God kept us
concentrating on ourselves alone. This may have looked very introverted and
selfish to others who observed us, but God knew what He was doing. There is a
time and a season for everything in the will of God. We can never build the church of Jesus Christ as and when we like. We
have to wait for God’s time and must be led by His Spirit at each step.
God knew that our church needed to be built together as
a family first, before we could invite others in India to “Come and
see”. Under the old covenant, the emphasis was : “Come and hear”.
The old-covenant prophet would invite the Israelites to come and hear
what God had told him. But under the new covenant, the emphasis is on a visible
manifestation of the life of Christ through a local body of believers, and
not just on a spoken message. Jesus said that all men would know that we are
Christ’s disciples, when they see our love for one another and
not just when they hear us preach (John 13:35).
And so God built something into us as a church during those
first seven years (1975 to 1982). He worked a deep work within many of us and
taught us the way of the cross and thus we learnt to love one another.
Thereafter, He opened one door after another for us to reach out to other parts
– and finally to the rest of the world. God’s way is always the best way.
In 1980, I was invited to speak for 3 days at the annual
convention of the largest Pentecostal denomination in India. There must have been 12,000
people at that convention. I told them that the burden the Lord had laid on my
heart was to speak, not to the laymen, but to their pastors and leaders (many
of whom were sitting on the platform). I spoke for two days on being righteous
in the use of money in Christian work. On the third morning the senior pastors
sent me a message saying that they did not want me to preach again. Many of
them were offended by my plain speaking. I accepted their decision joyfully,
for I felt that the Lord must have finished saying whatever He wanted to say in
two days – and there was nothing more to be said.
After the convention was over I had to go to another place in
Kerala. The convention’s organizers could easily have taken me there in one of
their cars – but they did not. So I carried my bag and went to the bus-stop and
looked for a bus that could take me there. I was not familiar with the bus
routes in those parts and ended up boarding the wrong bus. I discovered my
mistake only after I had travelled for some distance. So I got down from
that bus and got into another bus. But the Lord had planned all this with a
purpose. The second bus was packed with people and I had to stand. But right in
front of me stood a young brother who was also returning from the same convention.
We talked with each other for just about ten minutes and then he had to get
off. But that encounter was the beginning of a relationship that has lasted
until today. He told me later how he was seeking desperately for a victorious
life at that time and was sure that it was God Who had sent me across his path
God used this brother later to open the door for a church to
be started at Kottayam – and from there to many other parts of Kerala. I saw
that God had sent me there primarily to meet this one brother and not to speak
to 12,000 people. How good it was that the convention’s organizers did not
take me by car that day. How good it was that I got into the wrong
bus. If it were not for these events, I might have missed meeting this dear
brother altogether. And how good it was that when I met him, I was not in
a bad mood for the insults and inconveniences I had faced, but in a spirit of
thanksgiving for God’s sovereignty. God plans all things perfectly and so
we can give him thanks – for all things at all times!
In early 1983, this brother invited me to take special
meetings for a small church of about 50 people that he was attending in
Kottayam. I had also received an invitation to be the main speaker at the
annual convention of another large Pentecostal denomination where many
thousands would be present – at the very same time. I prayed about these
two invitations and felt led by the Lord to turn down the invitation to the
large convention and to go instead to the small church. That one decision had
far-reaching consequences. A handful of people in this small church were
gripped by the truths of the new covenant and decided to pull out of their
denomination and to gather separately. That was the beginning of our work in
Kerala. As in Jesus’ time, even so today, the Lord is looking, not for large
crowds, but for wholehearted disciples.
In the same year (early 1983), God opened the doors to
Tamilnadu as well. In May 1982 I had been invited to speak at a denominational
convention in Madras.
A pastor who heard me there invited me to speak at some special meetings in Madurai. Some born-again
young men (who were members of a large denomination in Tuticorin) came to
attend those meetings. They were gripped by what they heard. But they did not
have the money or the influence to organize a meeting for me in their hometown.
But, in the providence of God, someone who was working in another organization
arranged a series of public meetings for me in Tuticorin. A number of pastors
from the city were present at the very first meeting. But by the end of the
very first meeting, they were all offended by my message and never came
back. Interestingly, the organizer of the special meetings also got offended
So these young men (who had heard me in Madurai) took over the meetings and led the
singing – and I spoke. I was impressed by the zeal of these young men and met
with them privately later. We spent many hours talking together late into the
night – past midnight. Then I realized that all the preceding events had been
planned by God only to enable me to meet with this group of young men. Later in June 1983, these young men decided
to leave their denomination and started meeting together separately as a
church. They invited me to come and guide them and thus we had our first church
conference in Tuticorin in 1983. How
good it was that the organizer of the Tuticorin meetings got offended and left
me with these fine young men. The ways of God are truly amazing.
A few weeks later we had some special meetings in Thanjavur
and there too, I met some brothers who were gripped by the message of victory
over sin. These meetings opened many doors in Tamilnadu and very soon a number
of local churches were planted all over the State.
We never did any of this according to our own wisdom or our
own plans. God planned and executed His work in His own sovereign way. We just
followed “the pillar of cloud” as God led us from one place to another!!
Praise the Lord!
Delivering People Oppressed By
“God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with
power, and He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the
devil, for God was with Him.” (Acts 10:38).
Jesus’ example mentioned here, indicates that those who are
anointed will have the power of God (see Acts 1:8) and the
presence of God with them. As a result they will go about doing good and
delivering people from the oppression of Satan.
Delivering people from Satan’s oppression is one of the main
ministries that we have as new-covenant servants. Those under the old
covenant could not do this, because Satan had not been defeated in those days.
But now that Satan has been defeated on the cross, he has no
more power over any child of God who walks in the light. This was one of the
great truths that the Lord taught me and that He wanted me to proclaim to
believers everywhere. He gave me some experiences to prove this too.
There was a house close to ours in which an aged man was
sick. To cure him they got a witch-doctor who spent some weeks, concocting some
potion in a pot openly in their garage. One morning, we found a small pot
containing something, lying inside our compound. We had heard that witchdoctors
try to transfer a sickness from one house to another in this way – and therefore,
many people are afraid even to touch such a pot, fearing that some harm will
come to them. But for us, this was a great opportunity to teach our children
the impotence of Satan against God’s children. So we just picked up the pot and
threw it away. And we taught our children that we need never fear Satan – for
he cannot touch us, if we walk in the light. No harm came to us. But the old
man in that house died. But I gave him the gospel before he died. No weapon
formed against us can ever prosper (Isa.54:17).
Demon-possessed people used to be brought to our house at
times for deliverance. Some Christians warned us that we should not cast out
demons inside our home, since we had small children in our home. But we had no
such fear – for Satan is a defeated enemy. Our calling was to do what Jesus did
– to deliver people from Satan’s oppression everywhere. God Himself would
protect our children. So we continued to cast out demons in our house. And
neither we nor our children ever had any problem at any time. It only increased
their faith in the power of God.
Once at the end of a conference, someone brought a young girl
to me for prayer. As I was talking to her asking her to give her life to the
Lord, she turned around to me suddenly, changed her voice and said, “I have
been here for so long and are you trying to cast me out?” I was taken aback for
a moment by these words. But I knew then that she was possessed by a demon. I
prayed in tongues (softly, under my breath) to build up my faith in the Lord’s
power and then commanded the demon to leave, in Jesus’ Name. Since I had to
rush away to catch a bus, I asked the local elders there to check that the
demon had indeed left her. I met the girl later and found that she had been
We had two occasions when demon-possessed people came right
into our church-building in Bangalore,
while a meeting was going on. On one occasion, as we began our afternoon
session at a conference, a man came crawling up one of the aisles, like a
snake, to the front of the hall. I had just begun the Bible-study and didn’t
want Satan to disturb the study with any side-issues. So I commanded the demon
in Jesus’ Name, to lie down where he was. The man went to sleep immediately on
the spot. As soon as the Bible-study was over and we had said the final Amen,
the man woke up immediately. Then we counselled him.
On another occasion, someone came to our church-hall, just as
our Sunday meeting was getting over and wanted to meet me. I told him to ask
Jesus to come into his life and to confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. He
shouted out in the presence of the whole church, “Jesus Christ is not
Lord”. Since he was a nominal Christian, I realized that this was not him
speaking but a demon. I commanded the demon to leave him, in Jesus’ Name. He suddenly
took a karate position and then slid down to the floor like a snake.
That was the day I discovered that there were demonic spirits behind martial
arts like karate. I then picked him up and told him to confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord. He did so immediately, and told us that the migraine he
had been having until then was gone.
These two events strengthened the faith of many in our church.
In a public meeting in one part of India, many years ago,
where 30,000 people were present, as I was speaking from the platform, a man in
the audience suddenly got up and started dancing in front of the platform. I
requested him to sit down – more than once. But he kept on dancing, distracting
the people. I then realized that this was a demon. I commanded him in Jesus’
Name to sit down – and he sat down immediately. There is tremendous
power in the Name of Jesus. Demons tremble at that Name and they have to obey
In the U.S.A.,
a young lady was once brought to me for counselling at the end of a meeting. I was
surprised to see her dressed in very dirty clothes - because that was not the
way young American ladies dressed. I shared the gospel with her and asked her
to repeat the sinner’s prayer after me, to receive Christ as her Saviour. When
I came to the Name of Jesus in the prayer, she was silent. She said she could
not say that Name. Only then did I realize that she had a demon. I commanded
the demon to leave her and she was delivered immediately. Then I commanded her
in Jesus Name to call upon the Name of Jesus. She did so immediately and was
saved. The transformation in her appearance was so amazing, that she was hardly
recognizable when she came to the meetings the next morning smartly dressed!
What that dear young lady needed was not some psychiatric counselling but
I have said all this not to speak about what I have done, but
so that believers everywhere might recognize that Christ has defeated Satan on
the cross. This ministry of deliverance is being exercised not only by me, but
by others in our churches too. Any child of God who walks in the light and
knows the authority there is in the Name of Jesus can cast out demons.
The tragedy however has been that many who were
delivered from demons kept their house (heart) empty, and thus were exposed to
more severe demonic attacks later – exactly as Jesus warned in Matthew
However, some who were delivered have gone on to seek
God earnestly, and been filled with the Holy Spirit, and become disciples of
Jesus. Some are now elders in our churches.
Praise the Lord!!
I have been in fulltime service for the Lord for nearly 41
years now (2007) and I have been travelling constantly. My wife (Annie) and I
have travelled many hundreds of thousands of miles all over the world – by
cycle, bullock-cart, moped, scooter, bus, auto-rickshaw, car, train, boat and
aeroplane. I have been amazed at God’s goodness and protection over us in all
By God’s grace, as far as I can remember, I have not
missed a single series of meetings (that I had committed myself to), in
all these 41 years – whether due to sickness, or a missed bus, or a missed
train, or a missed flight, or due to any other reason. This has been entirely
as a result of God working on our behalf.
I am 68 years old now and God has kept me in remarkably good
health all these years. He equips our bodies in our mother’s womb itself with
whatever abilities are required for the ministry He has planned for us. Two
very important requirements for those who travel constantly are the ability to sleep
anywhere and to eat anything – and God equipped my body with these
two abilities when I was born. As a result, I am able to sleep anywhere even
today – on a bed or on the floor, in a car or in a bus, in a train or on an
aeroplane. He also equipped my body to eat any type of food – western, eastern
or nothing (for a few days!!). This has made travelling to every part of the
world much easier for me. I cannot boast about this, for this is entirely God’s
doing, in the way He made my body. I only praise God for His goodness. The
worst thing I have ever experienced in my body has been the loss of my voice on
just two or three occasions, after much speaking.
For the last 25 years I have been going every year to
Tuticorin, for the conferences of our Tamilnadu churches in South
India. For many years, no train service was available to Tuticorin
and I had to travel overnight by bus for 16 hours to get there. The roads had
numerous potholes – which ensured that we stayed awake most of the time!! By
the time we reached Tuticorin, the first session of the conference would
already have started - and I would have to go straight to the meeting to preach
God’s Word. I would then speak at 9 or 10 one-hour sessions during the next
three days; and immediately after the last meeting, catch the bus for the
16-hour journey back home. Yet by God’s grace, I have never fallen ill or lost
my voice at any of these conferences in all these 25 years.
Travelling in India
gives us some unforgettable experiences too! I had my pocket picked twice –
once while traveling in a crowded bus in Madras
and a second time when traveling in a crowded train in Bombay. My money was stolen, but not my joy –
for I had ensured that my joy would always be in my heart and not in my wallet!
I also prayed for the two pickpockets. I am sure they needed someone to pray
for them. Perhaps that was why God allowed them to pick my pocket!! God
allowed this to happen also to free me a little more from the love of money.
God had to liberate me from being calculating in my attitude to money - so that
I would not grieve over every rupee lost or rejoice over every
rupee gained! He wanted me to find my joy in Him – and in Him alone – a joy
that could not be increased by any material gain or decreased by any material
In the early days of my ministry, I had to travel for many
hours in crowded, unreserved train-compartments. Most of the time, the benches
would all be occupied and I would have to sit on the floor, or at times stand
for the entire length of the journey. The compartment would be packed with
people and luggage from the starting station itself. Things would get worse at
each station along the way, with more people and more luggage coming in – and the
physical pressure on me would keep on increasing, as also the temptation to
complain against the incoming passengers. It was on one of these occasions
that God gave me this revelation: “If I could become the size of an ant here, I
would find no pressure on me at all. I find the pressure to be too much only
because I am so big. An ant however would find this crowded compartment quite
spacious. There is a spiritual lesson here: If I am always small in my own
eyes, I will be free from all pressure and tension and complaints against others.
Then I can always be at rest in God!” I found that I could learn something
in every situation.
Once when I was travelling in an unreserved
train-compartment, every bench was fully occupied. But I saw one man sitting
cross-legged on one of the benches, occupying the space for two people. Since I
had to travel all night on that train, I asked him if he could put his legs
down, so that I could get a small space to sit. But he would not oblige. The
others who were sitting on the bench sympathized with me and were ready to help
me find space to sit; but this man would not move an inch. I prayed then that
the Lord would fill his bladder so that he would have to go to the toilet.
Within five minutes he got up and went to the toilet!! The others on the bench
quickly moved over and filled up the extra space that he had been
occupying and gave me space to sit down.
In many overnight trains in India, reservations have to be made
many days earlier (usually 60 days before the journey), to get a sleeping
berth. Once I was invited to a certain place in South
India for meetings and this required an overnight train journey.
So, 60 days earlier, I asked the brother (who had invited me) to book a
sleeping-berth for my return journey to Bangalore.
But he forgot to do this and realized his mistake only when I reached his place
for the meetings. He apologized for his carelessness and sent someone
immediately to the train-station, to book a berth for me. But I could get only
a seat in the 2-tier compartment on the train. All the sleeping-berths
had already been booked. When the meetings were over, I got into the train. I
refused to complain but praised the Lord for giving me only a seat and not a
sleeping-berth. Next to me sat an old Roman Catholic nun. She asked me if I
could do her a favour. She had a sleeping berth on the top bunk, but said that
she was too old to climb up to her berth. If I could take her berth, she could
curl up and sleep on the lower seats. I told her that I would be glad to help
her in this way!! And thus I got a sleeping berth for my journey back to Bangalore – and I didn’t
even have to pay for it.
Such incidents were not major earth-shaking events, but they
showed me that my loving heavenly Father cared for even my smallest comforts,
as I travelled in His service. God is good – all the time.
“He knows every detail of what is happening to me” (Job
Praise the Lord!!
Planting Churches In Other
Jesus told His disciples that when they were baptized in the
Holy Spirit, they would “receive power to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria
and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). God does His work slowly and
steadily – in ever increasing circles. I have found this to be true in
my own ministry too.
We never planned to start a new church in Bangalore. That was entirely God’s doing. And
then, we never thought God would reach out through us to other parts of India.
When we saw churches being planted in different parts of India, we were thrilled. We then
thought that our calling was only for India. But God had other plans for
One of the prayers that I have prayed for many years is this:
“Lord, if there is anyone seeking for a godly life in these parts, either
lead him to us or lead us to him. If you don’t do either of these, then tell us
what is wrong with us.” As we have
prayed this prayer, God has shown us many things that we needed to set right in
our church. One of the main things He showed us was the legalistic and
unfriendly spirit that we had, that we needed to get rid of. As we started
cleansing ourselves from this, the Lord began to send hungry people to us –
first from Bangalore, then from other parts of India and finally from different
parts of the world. We did not go looking for these people. God sent them to us.
Here are five examples of the planting of churches in
some countries. (I have not mentioned the names of the people or of the
countries – in order to preserve anonymity.)
Foreign Country 1: A young brother
living in this country (but originally from India)
came to India
to visit his relatives. While in Madras,
a neighbour gave him a copy of the monthly paper that we were publishing, that
contained an article of mine. He was challenged by what he read and decided to
meet me when he visited Bangalore.
I was not in town when he came home. But he met Annie and took some of our
books and returned to his homeland. He was gripped by what he read and came
back to India the next year
and spent six weeks in Bangalore
and fellowshipped with our church. When he returned to his country, he looked
for others who were interested in an overcoming life – and found one or two. A
few years later, he asked me if I would come to his country to meet with just
the three of them. I agreed and went and shared the Word with them. From that
small beginning, a church was born that is now an expression of Christ’s Body
in that city. I have visited them a number of times in the last 20 years and we
have had conferences for the church as well as meetings for the public. The
Lord has added some wonderful brothers and sisters to this church and also
removed some who were not called to be with us. The brother who contacted us
initially is now the elder leading this church. As a result of visiting this
church, God has given me openings to other cities in this country and this has
resulted in many being gripped by the truth in those cities too.
Foreign Country 2: In the early 1970s,
when speaking at a conference in this country I visited a large church here and
become acquainted with a brother. He invited me to visit him any time I was
passing through. Ten years later, I suddenly felt a burden to visit him
– but I didn’t know why. I did not have the money for my airfare. So I sold my
moped (two-wheeler) and bought an air-ticket and travelled to this country. I
arrived on a Saturday and this brother arranged for me to stay in the guest
room of their church. On Sunday, the speaker who was supposed to speak at that
church’s morning service had not arrived (because his flight had been delayed).
The elders heard that I was in town and asked me to speak. God gave me a word
for them and I had great liberty as I preached. The meeting was so blessed that
the elders asked me if I would speak again. I agreed – and they immediately
arranged special meetings during the next three evenings. After each evening
meeting, I spent many hours talking to a number of the young brothers. Our
talk-sessions would end at 2 am in the morning – for those young men were all
hungry to know the truth. Six months later, these young brothers left their
church and started meeting together on their own. They invited me for their
first church-conference. Thereafter I visited them every year for a number of
conferences. Over time, as in every place, some brothers left the church and
new brothers came to take their place. This has been God’s way everywhere.
Foreign Country 3: A young Indian
brother (originally working in another foreign country) heard some of my tapes
on the new wine (Matt.5, 6 and 7) and the new wineskin (the new-covenant
church). He repented, took baptism and decided to be a disciple. When he came
on vacation, an Indian pastor told him that I was preaching false doctrines and
warned him to avoid all contact with me. Wanting to find out the truth for
himself, this brother came to Bangalore
and spent some hours with me and discovered that the accusations he had heard
were all false – based on ignorance and jealousy. Later he heard me at a public
meeting and realized the importance of family life as a disciple. Since he
could not take his family to the country where he was working, he resigned his
job there and returned to India,
so that he could give priority to his family. The Lord honoured him and gave
him a better job in this foreign country, where he could take his family also
with him. He stood for the truth and two other families joined him. (At the
first conference we had here, we had 3 days of meetings for just these three
families!!) A little later, the other two families got offended and left. But
God brought in new families. Since then, I have visited them a number of times
and the Lord has added many others. The church here has been used by God for
many years now to spread His Word through tapes and CDs to many thousands of
people around the world.
Foreign Country 4: Along with the above
brother, there was yet another brother working in this country who also
heard the same two tapes (mentioned above). He too was gripped by the truth and
broke away from the group he was with and decided to build a new-covenant
church. I had the opportunity to visit this country too and we had a few
conferences there for the local church. As in other places, here too, God has
added some people and removed some people through the years. But the church
Foreign Country 5: I went to this
country just for the purpose of meeting two young brothers from India
who had gone to work there. I had planned to stay there only for a day or two.
No meetings had been planned, for I knew no-one else there. But my departure was
unexpectedly delayed for 4 or 5 days, because I could not get a visa for my
onward travel to another country – because the immigration offices were all
closed for 4 days of holidays. So I decided to have meetings here every day –
morning, afternoon and evening. It was
an unplanned conference – unplanned by men, but planned by God. God led us
during that time to a wonderful brother who was seeking for a godly life. Now
there is a flourishing church there under his leadership. “The steps (as
well as the stops) of God’s servants are ordered by the Lord”
(Psa.37:23). Praise the Lord!
The Lord is sovereign in the way He leads us in His work. All
authority in heaven and on earth is in His hands and that is why He has told us
go to every land and make disciples – and He has promised to be with us as we
go (Matt.28:18-20). In the last 32 years, I have found that the Lord has
faithfully accompanied me everywhere I have gone to make disciples. The most
amazing thing of all is that He has raised up godly elders to lead His churches
in all these countries.
Praise the Lord!
No Dependence on the West
I had an encounter with a refined Hindu gentleman in Madras 40 years ago (in
1967), that I have never forgotten. I was engaged in open-air evangelism and
offered the gentleman a book written by an American Christian. He immediately
asked me if I was a paid agent of America. I was shocked. I was
certainly no agent of any country, preacher or organization – Western or
Indian. That man did not know that I had quit a well-paying job in order to
serve the Lord Jesus – and I was certainly not preaching to earn my
living!! But I realized that I was giving my countrymen a wrong impression when
I promoted books written by Western Christians. It is the impression we give
to others that is ultimately our message. That incident challenged me
considerably and opened my eyes very early in my ministry as to how I was to
serve the Lord in India.
Most Indians feel that Christianity is a Western religion.
They also feel that Christian workers in India are all paid agents of
American organizations, and preach only because they have to send reports to
the West, in order to get more dollars (or euros) so that they
can live in luxury. So I felt I must do everything possible to remove this
false impression from the minds of my fellow-Indians – if my witness to them
was to be effective. As Sadhu Sundar Singh once said, “We must give the
water of life to our fellow-Indians in an Indian cup”.
For nearly 50 years now, I have had the opportunity to travel
all over India
and to see the workings of many Christian organizations and churches (of many
denominations). Here is what I have seen. (Please note that I am not judging
anyone and that this is only my personal opinion):
1. More than 95% of fulltime Christian workers in India (that I
know of), have never ever worked in any secular job. In fact,
most of them would not have been able to get a decent, well-paying
job, in the secular field, even if they tried. Yet many of them earn 10
times what their colleagues earn in the secular field. These “Christian
workers” have free houses and cars and other perquisites (given by their
rich Western sponsors) – that only the rich people in India can
afford. So Christianity has become a means of gain for them – and not a
way of sacrifice – as it was for Jesus and the apostles. The gospel
records show that Jesus never called a single unemployed person to be an
apostle. He called only those who were employed – and they had to sacrifice
everything before they could follow Him. It is such people that He is
calling even today.
2. Most Christian work in India cannot survive without
Western aid. And so we see the sad spectacle of “begging letters”
(called “prayer letters”) and exaggerated reports of conversions, being
sent constantly from Christian organizations in India to the West. Nowadays, many
shrewd Christian workers have started asking their Western sponsors for large
amounts of money, so that they can invest it in buildings and property in India, so as to
become self-sufficient in the future – just like the shrewd manager in the
parable in Luke 16:1-8. Any non-Christian can see through such American
sponsorship of Indian Christianity. And now with the widespread preaching of
the prosperity gospel and the unashamed begging for money by American preachers
on TV in India, (90% of the
preachers on Christian TV in India
are Americans), the non-Christians in India are convinced that
Christianity is not only an American religion, but a money-making racket as
3. Christian theology in India imitates Western
theology blindly – in every church and Bible-school that I have seen.
Most Indian Christian preachers have no original revelation and merely repeat
what they have read in Western books. It is as though God speaks only to
Americans and not to Indians!! Indian Christian preachers imitate Western
preachers even in their pulpit-mannerisms! The old slave mentality (carried
over from the days of British rule) makes them follow Western music practices
and imitate Western preacher-habits (such as pushing people down on the
platform, and asking the audience to repeat some slogan to their neighbour,
etc.,). The slogans that are popular among Western Christians have become the
slogans of their clones in India
All these factors have compromised our witness as Indian
Christians in India.
Indian money is not holier than Western money. So
anyone (Westerner or Indian) can support God’s work in India. But I
felt that dependence on the West would present a wrong picture of
Christianity to my countrymen. So when we started planting churches in India over 30
years ago, I decided that, with God’s help, we would tread a different path: We
would not be dependent on the West or on any man – either for our
earthly needs or for our theology.
I had decided when I left the Navy, that I would discipline
myself never to receive more income than what I would have received if I had
continued working in the Navy. I had also decided to live at a lower standard
always than what I had in the Navy – because Jesus lived at a lower standard on
earth than what He had in heaven. I also decided never to accept gifts from
anyone who earned less than what I did, or whose standard of living was lower
than mine – for this was the position that Jesus took too.
By the grace of God, I have never had to make
my personal needs or the needs of my ministry
known to any man thus far. My heavenly Father has always provided those needs
in one way or the other. He has also sovereignly determined how much
I should receive - and I have always been happy with His
decisions. The result has been that, like Jesus, I too have never had to borrow
money from anyone and I have never been in debt to anyone at any time. When
preaching in churches in the West and in the rich Gulf countries, I have been
introduced as “the one Indian preacher who never asks for any money either
for himself or for his ministry”. I am glad to have such a reputation – for
that was Jesus’ attitude to money too.
I also decided that I would question every doctrine taught by
men – even by the greatest of Bible-scholars – and accept only what I saw
clearly in the Scriptures myself. So I rejected the blind following of Western
theology that was being practised by Indian Christians everywhere. Here are
three examples of what I have rejected:
1. The unScriptural Western teaching that the church would be
raptured before the great tribulation.
2. The unScriptural definitions of the gifts of the Spirit
proclaimed by Western charismatic preachers.
3. The unScriptural pulpit-practices of Western
charismatic preachers that they claim are manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
I decided to demonstrate to my countrymen that Christianity
came to India
from heaven and not from the West. I was convinced
that the Lord wanted me to have a clear, unequivocal testimony in this matter
before my fellow-Indians, if I was to be an effective witness for Him in India.
I decided to be a living witness and demonstration to my
fellow-Indians of the truth that if I sought God’s kingdom and His
righteousness first, He would provide all my earthly needs.
There must be no earthly explanation for the godliness
of our life, or for the effectiveness of our ministry, or for the provision of
our earthly needs. The explanation must only be that our Father in heaven
supports us and provides all our needs – and not that we have contacts with
some rich people in the West. Only thus will God alone get all the glory from
May it be so with all of us. Amen
Life At Home
The Bible says that if a man cannot run his home in a way
that glorifies God, he is unfit for any leadership or ministry in the church (1
Tim.3:5). The church is God’s family. And our own family is the place where
God tests us to see whether we are fit for ministry in His church. We have to
build our own family in a godly way first, before we can build God’s family.
Since I was often travelling in the ministry, I sought God
for wisdom to balance ministering to the needs of my family with ministering to
the needs of the church. I often wished in those days, that I had a spiritual
father whom I could go to, for practical advice on such matters – but I had
none. And so I made lots of mistakes – but I gradually learnt from my mistakes
and thus acquired some wisdom.
Since my income was small (from my “tentmaking”
business), my wife had to be a woman of simple tastes, who was willing to live
frugally and to work with her hands at home.
She also had to be someone who enjoyed being hospitable, for we
often had unexpected visitors in our home. How thankful I am that God gave me
exactly such a wife in Annie. God had prepared Annie from her youth to be the
type of wife I needed in my ministry. And she has made my ministry so much
richer and so much more effective. After the Sunday meetings, we would often
invite people home for lunch – especially those who had come from distant parts
of Bangalore. I
discovered later that Annie often went without lunch on many a Sunday, so as to
feed those visitors!!
Many young brothers used to stay in our house overnight after
the evening meetings, because it was too late for them to go home. They would
have dinner with us and use our kitchen freely in the mornings to make coffee
for themselves before going to college. We had a 4-day conference in our home
every year during the early years – and then the house would be filled with
visitors throughout the day.
Once I was away from home for ministry for five weeks. We had
only three boys then – and all of them fell sick at the same time. Annie prayed
for them, took care of them, never burdened me with the problem and did not
even ask me to come home earlier to help her. When she married me, God had told
her, “Your husband is My servant; and I have called you to support him, look
after him and free him for My work.” And Annie has done that job faithfully for
nearly 40 years now.
I didn’t have victory over my anger when I first got married.
But things changed after some years, by God’s grace. And now our home
relationship is glorious. Joking with each other every day is a major
part of our life together. I have believed for a long time that humour between
husband and wife is the clearest proof of a good relationship between them.
Since I was travelling frequently, it was Annie who had the
major responsibility of bringing up our four sons in the ways of the Lord. She
prayed for them and with them constantly. From their childhood
days, she was their friend – talking with them when they came back from school
about their experiences during the day. And she would play with them too.
My task as a father was to provide for them and to instruct
them in godly principles. I took them to school on my scooter – until they were
12, after which age, they started going by bicycles on their own. And God
protected all of us from serious accidents on the roads more than once. All of
us are alive today because the Lord sent His angels to protect us on Bangalore’s dangerous
I encouraged my boys in their education and also to
participate in extra-curricular activities at school. Annie and I used to help
them with their homework and studies (up to 10th Standard) – Annie
much more than me.
It was my responsibility to discipline my sons. I followed
what was written in Proverbs (and in Hebrews 12), that children
should be disciplined. And so I did that, even though I never relished
doing it. But I reverenced God and knew that His way was the best for my sons.
After disciplining them, I would often pray with them. I knew that anger was a
sin, and so I wanted to discipline my children without anger. But I
didn’t manage that always. And so, whenever I disciplined them in anger,
I would get alone with God and repent and ask God to free me from my anger. I
must admit that at times, I punished them by mistake too, due to faulty information.
If I remember right, I rarely ever disciplined my boys physically, once
they became 13 years of age and probably never after they crossed 15. After
that age, if they did something wrong, I would pray with them and ask God to
show me where I had failed as a father in bringing them up. And finally, I have to say that it was not
my discipline that kept them in God’s ways, but God’s mercy alone.
If my sons had an event in which they were taking part, at
school, Annie and I would attend it, to encourage them. When they had important
public examinations, I would ensure that I was available in Bangalore to help them. I did not want
any of them to ever say, “Daddy was so busy serving the Lord that he had no
time for us.” I would also take my sons out for a personal outing, one by one,
once a month, usually on a Saturday or a holiday. We would go out and eat
something simple somewhere and talk together. My sons always looked forward to
these “dates”. Unfortunately, because of my frequent travelling I did
not do this as much as I should have.
One of the greatest regrets I have today is that I did not spend more
time with each of my boys individually – because of the demands of the
I remember vividly how, on the birthday of one of my sons, I
had promised to take him out for the evening. He was all dressed up and excited
to go. But just then a brother from our church came to see me with a problem
and I spent a long time counseling him. By the time I had finished, it had
become dark and it was too late to take my boy to the park. My son was terribly
disappointed. To this day I remember that incident with great regret. I could
have asked that brother to come and meet me the next day, since it was not an
urgent matter. But I was not wise then. However, my son forgave me – and when I
asked him about this incident much later, he did not even remember it. God is
so good !! I would advise fathers to
spend more time with their children and to keep all the promises they make to
I wanted to win the hearts of my boys at any cost – so that
they would follow the Lord wholeheartedly. I wanted them to be servants of the
Lord, (“as tentmakers”), as Paul served the Lord and as I myself was
serving Him. Today I am thankful that all of them love the Lord – and also respect
and honour Annie and me for what we tried to do for them – as imperfect
All glory be to God alone.
My Style Of Preaching
God, in His great wisdom, decided that He would save people
by “the foolishness of preaching” (1 Cor.1:21-KJV). Preaching God’s Word
is therefore the greatest work that any human being can be engaged in. I
feel greatly honoured that God called me to this ministry. But preaching is
also the one ministry that has been abused the most, by money-loving preachers
We are commanded to seek earnestly for the gift of prophecy
(which is the gift of preaching in such a way as to encourage, challenge and
build up people – 1 Cor.14:1,3). So I began to seek God for this gift as
soon as I was baptized in water. And when God anointed me with the Holy Spirit,
He gave me this gift as well. In the beginning, I was tempted to try and
impress people with my preaching and to move them emotionally. But one day the
Lord asked me, “Do you want to help people or do you want to impress
them.” I said I wanted to help them. Then the Lord said, “Then don’t try
to impress them.” It was not easy to overcome the temptation to impress
people, but I fought against it, and gradually overcame it.
Each preacher has his own particular style of preaching. Most
Indian preachers imitate American charismatic preachers. I decided that the
best thing for me would be to pattern my preaching after Jesus’ style of
preaching. So I studied the way Jesus preached.
The first thing I saw about Jesus was that He preached
only what He had already practised. He did first and then taught (Acts
1:1). So His preaching always had a practical application. I knew that the
Bible commanded me to “prophesy only according to the proportion of my
faith” (Rom.12:6) – in other words, only up to the level of my spiritual
experience. But I failed here, because I fell a prey to the temptation to
impress people. And so, I ended up in a backslidden condition for some years.
But God was merciful to me and filled me with the Holy Spirit again in January
1975 and restored me. I decided then, that I would preach thereafter only what
I had already practiced and experienced, or (at least) what I was earnestly
seeking after. God then took me through varied trials in order to teach me His
ways and how to trust Him in difficult situations. Thus I grew in faith and
wisdom – and I could pass on this faith and wisdom to others through my
Secondly, Jesus always preached in the
power of the Holy Spirit. When He walked with the two disciples to Emmaus, He
preached to them for two hours and their hearts burned within them
throughout those two hours. I kept this example before me and wanted to preach
like that every time. A chicken-leg taken out of the freezer is totally
unappetizing. But the same leg when cooked on a fire makes everyone’s mouth to
water. That is the difference between cold truth and the same truth preached
with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Utter dependence on the anointing of the Holy
Spirit therefore became primary in all my preaching. I depend on God every time
I speak to anoint me, so that my words will set people’s hearts on fire.
Thirdly, Jesus spoke primarily to
people’s minds and not to their emotions. His preaching challenged
people and convicted them and stirred them to faith and obedience. He never
whipped up their emotions the way many preachers do nowadays. We are
told to love God with all our hearts and also with all our minds. I felt
that all my messages must be like well-cooked meals – both nourishing and
tasty!! So I needed to take more pains in preparing a sermon than any housewife
ever took to prepare a good meal. A good housewife also lays out her meal in an
attractive way. I also needed to arrange my thoughts clearly, before I
preached. Many preachers do not do this – and end up wasting people’s time by
wandering around in their preaching. God is a God of order (1Cor.14:33,40)
– and He is glorified when a message is presented in an orderly, understandable
Fourthly, Jesus had the right word for each
occasion because of two reasons: He listened to His Father constantly (Isa.50:4)
and He had a great love for people. So I studied God’s Word in all my
spare moments to know God’s mind accurately. To understand the Scriptures, many
preachers study Hebrew and Greek. But I saw that what I needed was not a
knowledge of these languages, but the revelation of the Holy Spirit, since He
was the Author of the Word. The Holy Spirit taught me many glorious truths from
His Word that I never heard from any human being. These truths led me to a
close walk with God and saved me from the deceptions and counterfeits that are
flooding Christendom today. The Spirit then enabled me to teach these truths to
others. The Holy Spirit also flooded my heart with love and compassion for His
people (Rom.5:5). Thus my ministry gradually became one of encouragement
and conviction, and not one of legalism and condemnation.
preaching was always interesting - and never boring. It is a sin
to waste people’s time. Most preachers don’t realize that stealing people’s
time is just like stealing their money. If we bore a congregation of 200 people
for just 15 minutes, we have thereby robbed them of 50 man-hours of
their time. If their average wage is Rs.50 per hour, we would thus have stolen
Rs.2,500 from them in those 15 minutes. So I prayed to God that He would help
me to preach in an interesting way and never bore anyone.
In the early days, I could do this only for short periods of time. So I spoke
only briefly then. As I grew in the knowledge of the Lord, I could speak for
longer periods of time.
Sixthly, Jesus used many simple
illustrations to make His message clear. He spoke about bread, fishes, birds,
trees, flowers, pearls, farmers, buildings, etc., His simple illustrations made
the deep truths He spoke about, much easier to understand. He did not seek to
get a name for himself by using complicated illustrations that only clever
people could understand. I sought to follow Jesus’ example here too. At times,
I would look at some of the least educated people sitting in my church, and
speak at their level. Then I found that my messages could be understood by
everyone. I would ask little children
after my preaching, whether they had understood what I had said. If they
had not, then I knew that my preaching had to become still more simple.
Seventhly, Jesus used humor and exaggeration
at times. He spoke of a camel going through a needle’s eye, of people straining
out mosquitoes and swallowing camels, of those who had big logs in their eyes
while looking for specks in the eyes of others – and thus He exposed hypocrisy
and spiritual pride. Humour can sharpen a message and make it interesting, just
like spices can add taste to food. Some preachers however go to an extreme in
this, and try to make people laugh all the time (just to get a
reputation for humor). Such preachers become like circus-clowns! I never use
humour in my messages to entertain people – but only to keep them attentive
during a long message, or to drive home a point.
Eighthly, Jesus repeated His messages many
times. He did not seek for the honour that one can get, by preaching something new
or fanciful on each occasion. People need to hear the same truth many
times before they can be gripped by it. So I decided that I would not
try to impress people by preaching something new in every message, but
would repeat a message many times, until people were gripped by that truth. But
every time I repeated a message, I would seek to present it in a fresh way, as
led by the Spirit.
Ninthly, Jesus spoke without using notes.
Because His walk with the Father was so close and intimate, the Spirit gave Him
words to speak, even while He was preaching. Most preachers cannot speak
like that, because they do not walk so close to God. And so it is best for 99%
of preachers to prepare their messages carefully and to use written notes, if
they want to preach effectively. That was how I started. But nowadays, I speak
most of the time without using any notes. But when taking a Bible-study,
I still use notes and write down the verses so that I don’t forget any point.
So I’m not a slave to either using, or not using notes, since
neither of these methods is more spiritual than the other. If anyone wants to
speak effectively without using notes:
He should have walked with God for many years, so that he can speak from his
He must be living under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and have the
supernatural gift of prophecy.
3. He must know the Bible well, so that he knows what it
teaches on any subject.
4. He must have a good memory, so that he knows where to find
verses on any topic.
5. He should have good communication skills so that he can
hold people’s attention for the entire length of his message.
If anyone doesn’t have all these five qualities, then it is
better for him to use notes when preaching.
Finally, Jesus never shouted while
preaching (Matt.12:19). Nor did He say “Hallelujah” every now and then
in His messages. I have followed Jesus’ example here too. When preachers shout
in their preaching, it is not the fire of the Holy Spirit usually, but
just their soulish attempts to manipulate people; and their “Hallelujah”s are
merely a habit or “time-fillers”, while they are thinking of what to say
In my preaching, I sought to get people to obey God’s Word
and to take up the cross daily and follow Jesus – and not just to move them
emotionally for a short time. The goal of my preaching has been “to present
every man perfect in Christ” (Col.1:28,29; 1 Tim.1:5).
God’s Time Is The Best Time
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a
time for every event under heaven” (Eccl.3:1)
Even though man’s need existed from the time of Adam’s sin,
yet the Son of God waited in heaven for 4000 years before He came to save man.
But He came “at the right time” (Gal.4:4 - TEV). And after coming to
earth, He still waited 30 years in Nazareth
for “His hour to come”, before He began His preaching ministry (Jn.2:4).
There is a right time for us too – for every ministry.
By 1995, I had preached God’s Word in most of the states in India, but I
had never visited Mizoram. An evangelical church in Aizawl (capital of Mizoram)
arranged a series of special meetings in October 1995 to celebrate 100 years of
Christianity in Mizoram. They made enquiries for a speaker and someone (whom
they respected) told them that if they wanted to hear the whole truth, they
should invite me!! And so they invited me and I went.
When I reached Aizawl, it was raining heavily. I immediately
thought of Elijah who asked the Lord to stop the rain 3000 years ago. And I
prayed that the Lord would stop the rain here for the next seven days, so that
people could come to the meetings more easily. I remembered that Elijah also
prayed saying, “Lord, let these people (who respect Baal’s prophets and
consider me to be a false prophet) know that I am Your servant” (1 Kings
18:36). And I prayed Elijah’s second prayer as well – I didn’t know why!
The Lord answered my first prayer and the rain stopped
completely before the first evening meeting started; and we had clear weather
for all the seven days of the meetings!
It was only after the meetings were all over, that I heard
this amazing story: The elders of this
church had wanted to invite me many years prior to this. But they had been told
that I was teaching heresy, and so they had not invited me earlier. It had
rained heavily in Aizawl for seven consecutive days before the meetings.
When the church-elders saw the heavy rain, they began to wonder whether God was
telling them thereby that they had invited the wrong preacher for their
meetings!! The senior elder told me (after all the meetings were over) that on
the day before the meetings were to begin, he had prayed publicly at
their morning prayer-meeting saying, “Lord, if Zac Poonen is really Your
servant Whom You have chosen to speak at our meetings, then give us a sign by
stopping the rain and giving us clear weather at the first evening meeting.”
God gave those believers more than the sign that they
had asked for: The weather was clear for all seven days of the meetings. And to
confirm that it was God Who had done that, it began to rain heavily once again,
the very next day after the meetings were all over!! There was also a
two-day strike in Aizawl after the meetings were over, that paralyzed life in
the city. But God had restrained both the forces of nature and the forces of
rebellion during the seven days of the meetings!! Then I understood why I had
prayed Elijah’s second prayer too. God answered that as well!
I preached 15 messages on “Perfect Freedom in Christ”
and “True Discipleship”. And while there was no physical rain
during the meetings, there was plenty of spiritual rain at all the
meetings!! About 600 people were present at the first meeting. This number
increased to about 1200 on the last day, with many people standing outside the
building on the main road. The Holy Spirit moved mightily. On the last two
evenings, I asked all those who wanted to repent and surrender everything to
the Lord, and who wanted to take up the cross daily and follow Jesus, and who
wanted the baptism in the Spirit, to stand up. Hundreds stood up and I prayed
The church-leaders were excited to see the work the Lord had
done. One of them told me that they had heard sugar-coated words from other
preachers in the past, but now they had heard the pure unadulterated truth of
God, for the first time.
I understood then why the Lord had allowed people to warn
these church-leaders against me earlier. If they had not been warned
against me, they would have invited me to Aizawl ten years earlier, when the
ground in the hearts there was not ready. And then my labour would have
been wasted. God saw that – and so He allowed the church-leaders to be
prejudiced against me for ten years. Once the ground in those people’s hearts
was ready, God removed their prejudice and took me there – at the right time –
to proclaim the full counsel of God.
I have seen God working in a similar way in other places too.
Everyone needs to hear the full gospel –
but people’s hearts have to be prepared to hear it. The ground has to be
ploughed up in their hearts before the seed can be sown. And God alone knows
when any group of people is ready to hear His full truth. If we live in the
will of God, He will lead us to such people at the right time. God’s
ways are perfect. It is best therefore to accept His timing in all our
movements and to give thanks for opposition too – for even that can only
fulfil God’s purposes. God uses what Satan does, to further His purposes. Thus
He makes a fool of Satan again and again.
Praise the Lord!
God Adds To The Church
Two proofs that God is still working in a church are that He adds
wholehearted disciples to it and removes from it those who are not
interested in following the Lord. We read in the Scriptures:
“The Lord added to their number those who were being
saved” (In those days, only those who accepted the message of
discipleship were considered “saved”) (Acts 2:47).
The Lord says, “I will remove from your midst your
proud, exulting ones, and leave among you a humble and lowly people. The LORD
your God (will then be) in your midst and rejoice over you with shouts of joy”
We have seen our heavenly Father work in both these
ways in our church, from the very beginning.
In a country like India, with over one billion people, to
find those who want to be disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ is like looking
for a few needles in a hundred thousand haystacks!! We can spend a lifetime
searching through these haystacks, and even then find only one or two needles.
But a more efficient method would be to put very powerful magnets outside these
haystacks. The needles will then be drawn out of the haystack by the magnets –
with minimum effort! This is the best and most efficient way of finding those
who are wholehearted. And this is the way God wants it done too. Jesus said
that others would know that we are His disciples when they see our love for one
another. (John 13:33-35). It is our witness as a church that is to draw
others to us.
And so we wanted our church (and all the churches the Lord
planted through us) to be such magnets that drew disciples out of the thousands
of haystacks in India
– and elsewhere too.
Since the Lord commanded us to make disciples (and not
converts) (Matt.28:18-20), we preached the three conditions of
discipleship (mentioned in Luke 14:26-33) from the very beginning, –
loving Jesus supremely, dying to Self daily and being free from attachment to
the material things we possessed. We wanted to gather together in our churches
only those who were interested in fulfilling these conditions of discipleship.
So we prayed that the Lord would add to our number those who
wanted to be such disciples. We never invited anyone
to join our churches. We wanted people to join us their own. In all
these years, since 1975, I have never invited a single person to become a
member of any of our churches. We have received only those who came
to us entirely on their own. We believed that the Lord would send
to us those whom we were called to shepherd and minister
to. It is the Lord Himself Who adds people to His church. Jesus
said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and
the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out” (Jn.6:37). We
believed that this would be true of us as Christ’s Body on earth too.
The Lord used amazing ways to add disciples to us.
Here are some examples.
In a nearby country, there was a war that led to many people
having to leave everything and to flee with their families in little boats.
Some of those boats sank in the sea and many drowned and died. But some
survived and reached the shores of India. The Indian government housed
these refugees in a camp. Two of our churches were located near this camp. So
some of our brothers from those churches visited these refugees (who were
unconverted nominal Christians) and shared the gospel with them. As a result, a
number of them were born again. Our brothers then visited them regularly in
their camp and established them as a church. They also attended a number of our
conferences in Bangalore
and elsewhere, for about two years. Their eagerness to share their testimony
was so great that they would rush to the pulpit at our conferences and testify
boldly. Our other church-members hardly got a chance to testify when they were
there!! We were all challenged by their zeal. In one conference, after I had
spoken about how the Bible taught that wives should submit to their husbands,
as the church is to Christ, one newly-married wife from among them, wept and
prayed to the Lord and begged Him to give her grace to be a submissive wife
right from the beginning of her marriage. Never in my life had I heard a wife
weep and pray so fervently with such a request!!
After about two years, the Indian government decided to send
them back to their homeland. But by then, these believers had been well
established in the faith and we could appoint three among them as elders,
before they went back. So God timed their stay in India perfectly. Some time after they
returned to their homeland, there was war again in their area, and they were
dispersed into three different areas. But amazingly, each of these three groups
had one of the elders we had appointed among them! So they could function as
three churches under the leadership of those elders. Many others were also
added to these churches through their witness there. One of our brothers
visited them a few times and had meetings among them and encouraged them.
In another small town, there was not a single church there,
since the time of Christ. One of our brothers was transferred there for his
official work. He witnessed to others while he lived there and the Lord saved a
number of people. He and another brother (from one of our churches) laboured
together in this town, and in a few years a fine church was established there –
the first one in that town in 2000 years. Very soon thereafter, we appointed
elders to lead this new church. In a few years, this church grew further and
reached out to the surrounding areas and two more churches were planted in
those places. We have had conferences there regularly now for some years, when
more than 1200 people gather together to praise the Name of Jesus.
Another one of our brothers decided to settle down in a new
place, to start a small business there. Here too, there was not a single church
since the time of Christ. Through this brother’s witness there, some became
disciples and there is a fine church there today – for the first time in 2000
The greatest miracle however, that God has done in our midst
during the last 25 years, is not the planting of churches where none
existed for 2000 years, but the raising up of godly elders to lead the many
churches. To find spiritually-minded leaders who are willing to serve and shepherd
God’s lambs and sheep, without any payment whatsoever, is an amazing miracle in
a country like India
– where most Christian workers are salaried workers – with the money coming
mainly from foreign sources. God however, has sent us men who have served in
our churches as elders and shepherds, freely – for decades now. Because we
don’t pay any elder a salary, we have been protected from many “Christian
racketeers” who would have joined us otherwise. This is the problem that
many other Christian churches and organizations are facing today.
Our magnets scattered across the country have drawn some fine
and genuine needles out from the haystack. We hope to draw many more in the
days to come.
Praise the Lord!
God Removes From The Church
In the last chapter, we saw how God adds to the church.
God also removes from the church “the proud,
exulting ones” (Zeph.3:8-17).
The apostle John saw this happening in his day. He said, “They
went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us,
they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown
that they are not of us.” (1 John 2:19).
The elders of each church determine what spiritual standard
they want to maintain in their church. Churches that have no standards
of holiness will not have anyone leaving them. But churches that desire to live
by the standards that Jesus taught, will find as Jesus Himself found, that many
will leave them. And we have seen this happening in our midst too.
Those who left our churches first of all were the rich and
the mighty who were offended because they did not receive the preferential
treatment in our midst that they were used to receiving in the world and in
other churches. It was not their wealth or their position that hindered
them from becoming disciples of Jesus, but their pride in these
things. We never cared for anyone’s
earthly wealth or position. We honoured only those who were humble and
Godfearing – whether they were rich or poor (Psalm 15:4).
Some others left us because they wanted to become elders in
our churches – and were not appointed as elders! And some who were
appointed as elders, left us when they were asked to step down from eldership,
because of their unfaithfulness to their charge. Some of them wanted to make
money through their preaching abilities (1 Pet.5:2) – and we are
commanded to stay away from all who preach the gospel to make money (1
Tim.6:3). Others ruled over the flock as lords (1 Pet.5:3). And some
of them attached people to themselves and not to the Lord (Acts 20:30)!
God replaced all these elders with better men and thus confirmed to us that it
was He Himself Who had removed them.
Others left us because they wanted to be connected with some rich,
Western church – and not to a poor Indian church like ours.
Most Indian Christians believe that Western Christians are spiritually
superior, and so they are abjectly subservient to them. Many churches in India never
have any special meetings without at least one American or European preacher as
their main speaker. Only thus can they attract people to their
meetings! We however, treated people of all
races as our equals and sought to draw people to our churches by the anointing
of the Spirit and the message we preached – and not by the colour
of the preacher’s skin!! Many Indian Christians latch on to Western groups for
the sake of financial gain and to get free trips to the West!! We stood against
all such “seeking of one’s own”.
Then there were a number who left us because they felt that
the standard of holiness we preached was too high! We preached
discipleship, the baptism of the Holy Spirit (and His gifts), victory over all
conscious sin, the sermon on the mount (Matthew
Chapters 5,6 and 7), pressing on to perfection, walking as Jesus walked, a
godly family-life, taking up the cross daily, separation from the spirit of the
world, freedom from the love of money, fasting and prayer, forgiving everyone
from the heart, loving others as Jesus loved us, building the local church as
Christ’s Body, etc., Such preaching stumbled a number of people and so they
left us. But this did not disturb us – for we knew that many were offended with
Jesus’ message too, and had left Him (Jn.6:60,66). But it did amaze us
that Christians who chose the best schools for their children’s education and
the best hospitals for their medical treatment, chose churches with low
standards of holiness for their spiritual fellowship. This only proved
that they valued earthly things more than spiritual things and their bodies
more than their souls.
But we were more amazed to see that some who had no desire
for a godly life still chose to stay in our churches. We discovered
however, that they stayed on, only because they found a good atmosphere in our
midst for their families. Our church was like a good club that charged
no membership fees!! And so a number of “Babylonian” Christians still
stayed on in our churches. Jesus had a Judas Iscariot in His church too!
We sought, however, to maintain a high standard among the
elders in our churches, with frequent meetings and conferences designed
specifically for them. God raised up some fine men to be elders in our
churches. Many of them were not eloquent preachers, but they sought the glory
of Christ and had a genuine concern for the welfare of God’s people (Phil.2:19-21).
If we could not find even one such brother in a place, we would not start a
church there – for without a godly shepherd, we realized that the sheep would
only go astray.
As we look at our churches today, we see that we are still far
short of what God wants us to be. But we are pressing on to perfection and we
seek to maintain the standard of holiness that Jesus taught – irrespective of
who joins us or who leaves us.
The church is God’s dwelling place – just like the tabernacle
was in the Old Testament. That tabernacle had three parts – outer court, holy
place and most holy place. In the outer court, great numbers of people crowded
around the altar and the laver (symbolizing forgiveness of sins and
water-baptism). In the holy place however, the number was much smaller. There,
the lampstand, table of bread and altar of incense symbolized the anointing of
the Holy Spirit, the study of God’s Word and prayer. But into the most holy
place, no-one could enter, in Old Testament times. It is this sacred
area that is open today for all who seek fellowship with God, who surrender
their all to Him, and who seek to worship Him in spirit and in
These three parts of the tabernacle represent three circles
of intimacy with God. And every church (including ours) consists of people who
choose to live in one of these three areas. The overcomers however are the ones
who choose to live in the most holy place all the time, and who will
therefore remain faithful to the Lord until the end. They are the ones who
constitute the real strength of our churches – and of every church.
The New Covenant Pattern Of
Right from the beginning of our work in India, we decided that we would
follow the pattern found in the New Testament in every aspect of our ministry –
and not what we saw in the churches around us.
In the first century, the Lord used apostles, prophets,
evangelists, shepherds and teachers to build His church (Eph.4:11).
We prayed that we would have all these five ministries to build the church in India in our
day as well.
Apostles: Apostles were those who
planted churches and appointed their elders (Acts 14:23). They were
spiritual fathers to the elders and guided the churches that they planted. They
did not make their churches into a denomination, but allowed each church to be
We did not see any apostolic ministry in most of the churches
around us. What we saw among them mostly were two man-made systems of
(i) The pyramid system. This was a centrally-controlled
system headed by a Pope or a Superintendent or a President, who had bishops
under him, who in turn had priests or pastors under them who ran the
churches. In many of these churches, the
higher posts were all filled by election! This hierarchical pattern imitated
the business world exactly.
(ii) The independent system. In this system, each
church was totally independent and answerable to nobody. An elected board would
invite a man with a Bible-college degree to be its salaried pastor. After a few
years this pastor would discover a larger church where he could get a better
salary – and he would move there. Then the board would advertise and find
another pastor for their church!!
In both these systems, there were no spiritual fathers – only
elected and paid leaders. We rejected both these man-made systems and chose to
follow the apostolic pattern described in the New Testament.
Prophets: Prophets (1 Cor.12:28)
were those whose ministry revealed the secret sins and failures in a church and
who could prescribe the remedy as well (1 Cor.14:25). Their ministry was
to challenge, encourage and build-up the church (1 Cor.14:3). But such
prophetic ministry was rarely seen in our day. What we did see were false
prophets who deceived the believers by pretending to predict their
future (like fortune-tellers do). The Lord protected us from such deceivers and
gave us genuine prophetic ministry in our midst.
were those who brought people to Christ and added them to the local church.
But in our day, we saw the emphasis on “evangelistic crusades”, where
those who came to Christ were not being gathered together and built up
into local New-Testament churches. Most of the conversions recorded in the book
of Acts, came through personal evangelism. And God gave us some
outstanding personal evangelists, who not only brought people to Christ but
added them to the local churches as well. We also urged our brothers and
sisters to pray that the Holy Spirit would lead them to those around them who
were seeking for a God-fearing life. The Lord answered those prayers and added
many disciples to our churches. We were about four families when we first met
in my house in August 1975. But God added many thousands to us thereafter, from
all parts of the world – and most of this was through personal evangelism.
Shepherds: The shepherd (translated
as “pastor” in Eph.4:11) is a gift given to the church –
and not the title of the leader of a church (as in churches these days). The
leaders of the New Testament church were called elders – not pastors –
and there was always more than one elder in every church. So we decided that
every church that the Lord planted through us, would have at least two elders.
At times, we had to wait for some time before we could find men who qualified
to be elders. But gradually, the Lord gave us godly elders to lead each church.
But we needed many shepherds (pastors) in every church (besides the
elders) to help in shepherding the flock. Jesus’ example showed us that one man
could effectively shepherd only 12 adults. So a church with 120 people would
need at least 10 shepherds (pastors). God gave us many brothers with a
shepherd-heart to care for the lambs and sheep, but we have not attained the
proportion of 1 shepherd for 12 people as yet.
Teachers: The teacher in the New
Testament had the task of teaching believers “to do everything that Jesus
had commanded” (Matt.28:20). They did not expound the Scriptures academically.
Their teaching was always practical and designed to lead people to
obedience to our Lord’s commands – commands such as “Love all your enemies,
Forgive everyone, Don’t lose your temper. Don’t lust after women. Don’t seek
man’s honour, Don’t love money”, etc., (Matt.5:22-44; 6:1-24). We never
heard any teaching on these truths in most of the churches around us. But God
gave us teachers who taught the believers how to obey such commands of the
Financial support for workers:
In the New Testament, the Lord’s servants were supported
financially in two ways: Some were
supported by the gifts of believers, while others like Paul supported
themselves. But in India,
almost every Christian worker was either a salaried worker of a church
or supported by gifts from believers. So we saw a great need for some
workers in India
to support themselves and thereby demonstrate the second method
of support found in the New Testament – and thus restore the balance.
So I decided to support myself and to serve the churches in India freely.
I also decided that I would not receive any royalties for my books and
audio-tapes that our church published. I encouraged my fellow-elders also to
follow my example. The amazing miracle we have seen is that we now have more
than 70 elders in the churches in India, who have been serving the
Lord freely for many, many years. And some of them are serving in India’s poorest
Reports: The New Testament contains many
letters written by the apostles. But they never gave any reports about their
work in those letters. Nor did they ask for any money to support themselves
or their ministry. But almost every Christian organization (that we knew)
sent out reports of their work regularly – and brazenly asked people for money.
We decided to follow the example of the apostles – and never to send out
any reports or photographs of our work, or to hint about our financial needs to
anyone but our heavenly Father. We have followed this policy from the time we
started the work in 1975 – and God has abundantly supplied all our needs. Paul
shared the reports of his labors only with his fellow-workers – and we have
Fellowship: Fellowship and unity
among His disciples was the primary burden of Jesus’ prayer in John 17. And this was the goal of the apostles too.
Most of the churches around us however emphasized activity – meetings
and more meetings – and not fellowship and unity. We valued meetings.
But we felt that fellowship was more important. So we organized picnics
and other functions, at which we got to know each other better. We played games
at these picnics with our young people and children and thus deepened our
fellowship with each other. Thus we built a depth of fellowship among us that
was precious and unparalleled.
There were many other areas like this, where we did things
differently from the churches around us. It was a battle to pioneer these new
ways of doing things and to return to the practices of the New Testament. Satan
opposed us vehemently and many Christians criticized us. But God was with us –
and that was all that mattered.
The New Covenant Message
When we first started gathering together as a church, we did
not know victory – either in our personal lives or in our home lives. When we
looked at other believers, we found that they too were in the same condition.
So we could not turn to any of them for help. So we fasted and prayed
frequently as a church and sought God for an answer. We spent most of the
public holidays in fasting and prayer. Gradually God began to reveal truths to
us about the new covenant from His Word that we had never known before.
As we began to understand these truths, we became more and more liberated – and
our lives and our homes were gradually transformed.
I felt a responsibility then to proclaim these truths to
others. It became clear to me that God was calling me to emphasize those truths
in the Bible that other Christians were not preaching. So I listened
carefully to what others around me were teaching. Thus I discovered what
I was called to emphasize in my teaching ministry.
The Full Gospel: I heard some preachers using the expression “the
full gospel”. But when I compared what they taught with Scripture, I found
that they were not preaching the full gospel at all. In Hebrews 4 the
Holy Spirit describes “the gospel” (verse 2), as “entering into
Canaan” and not just “coming out of Egypt”. I also read there that God’s
people were to enter into a “Sabbath rest” of victory (verse 9).
So I saw that the message of forgiveness of sins was only half
the gospel. The full gospel included overcoming sin as well (slaying the
giants in our flesh). As such a life gradually became a reality to me, I
began to preach the full gospel.
Repentance. Most evangelists were
preaching faith in Christ as the only requirement for forgiveness of
sins. Repentance from sin was hardly being preached at all. And even where
repentance was mentioned, the root of sin was not being clearly defined as selfishness,
self-centredness and wanting one’s own way. So people did not
know what exactly they had to hate and what they had to turn away from. I saw
that my calling was to explain the root of sin clearly so that everyone would
know what they had to repent of.
Discipleship: Most converts were not
being taught that they had also to become disciples of Christ. The three
conditions of discipleship (that Jesus laid down) were not being explained: (1)
Loving Jesus supremely (above all family members); (2) taking up the cross
(dying to Self) daily; and (3) forsaking all that we possessed (not
being attached to material possessions) (Lk.14:26-33).This therefore
became a major emphasis in my preaching.
The Baptism In The Holy Spirit.
Almost every group that preached the baptism in the Holy Spirit taught that its
initial evidence was “speaking in tongues”. But I saw that most of those
who taught this were worldly-minded and lovers of money. At the other extreme,
I saw some believers who were convinced that all speaking in tongues was from
the devil!! But Jesus taught that the evidence of the baptism in the Spirit
would be power – power to BE His witnesses (referring to
the way we lived) and not merely to bear witness
(by what we spoke) (Acts 1:8). And so, I proclaimed that. Speaking in
tongues was only one of the gifts of the Spirit that He gave to some. Because
of my stand on this issue, the ‘Pentecostal’ folk labeled me as ‘Brethren’.
And the ‘Brethren’ folk labeled me as ‘Pentecostal’!! I
was quite happy to be equidistant from both these extremes.
Mercy And Grace. For many years as a
believer, I had considered mercy and grace to be the same thing.
But I discovered one day that “mercy” referred primarily to the
forgiveness of sins, whereas “grace” referred to the power that God gave
us to overcome sin and the trials of life (Heb.4:16; Rom.6:14; 2 Cor.12:9).
And this ‘grace’ came through Christ (Jn.1:17) and became
available only after the Holy Spirit came to indwell man on the day of
Pentecost. This also became a major part of my message.
The Humanity of Christ. While all Christians
worshipped Christ as God very few emphasized that He was also a Man
whose example we could follow. Some who did emphasize His humanity
denied that He was God when He was on earth. It was rare to find Christians who
proclaimed the balanced Scriptural view that Christ was fully God and fully
Man. But I saw that “the secret of living a godly life” lay in seeing
Christ having overcome sin as a Man (1 Tim.3:16; Heb.4:15,16). This too
became a major emphasis in my preaching.
Money: When we started our work in 1975,
the prosperity gospel (that we hear so much of today) was not in vogue. But
Christians still loved money just as they do today. Jesus taught that those who
loved money hated God (Lk.16:13). But I never heard a single
preacher preach this message. Most churches only taught their members to pay
their tithes. But tithing was part of the old-covenant law that had been
abolished in Christ. I preached the liberating new covenant message of
giving joyfully, secretly and voluntarily to the Lord. Another
thing I saw was that hardly any church in India
(that I knew of) preached strongly against the evil practice of asking for a
dowry in marriages – a practice that degraded women all over India. I preached strongly against
this evil practice; and when conducting weddings, took signed certificates from
both the bride and the bridegroom that stated that no money had been exchanged
between them or between their parents.
Soul And Spirit. This was another
subject that was not being preached. In Old Testament times, there was no clear
revelation on the difference between man’s soul and his spirit. But the New
Testament makes a clear distinction between the two (Heb.4:12). Since
most Christians did not know this distinction clearly, they were being deceived
by the psychological gimmicks of clever preachers and by emotional counterfeits
of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So I taught people the difference between what
is truly spiritual; and what is merely soulish.
The Local Body of Christ. I saw clearly
that the final goal of God was to make all His children into one Body in
Christ. The New Testament church was to be a Body and not a congregation.
In a Body (as in the human body), every member would be connected to the other
members and each would have a unique function. Christ alone would be the
Head and all the others would be equal members. I saw that this was the
type of church that God wanted to see in every locality on earth. And so I
decided to spend my life building such expressions of Christ’s Body wherever
possible on earth.
The New Covenant. All these truths were
related to the new covenant that God had made with man through the death
and resurrection of Christ. I saw that the greatest need among believers was
for their eyes to be opened to see the greater glory of the new covenant
compared to the old covenant. This therefore became the major thrust of all my
preaching – and it continues to be so.
These were some of the major truths that God showed me that I
sought to proclaim by every possible means – preaching, books, tapes,
etc., – to my fellow-believers. My
burden was to spread these truths all over India. But God saw fit to spread
these messages even further – to people in many other countries as well.
All glory be to His Name alone.
The Mistakes We Made
Just as babies to learn to walk only after falling down
often, God allows His children also to learn to walk in the Spirit, only after
they fall numerous times. Apart from our Lord Jesus Himself, no man or church
ever avoided making mistakes as they sought to walk with the Lord. As a church,
we also made many mistakes – from the very beginning. But we decided to
acknowledge our mistakes and to learn lessons from them, so that we did not
repeat them. Thus our blunders became less and less as we went on.
The apostle Paul made many mistakes too – circumcising
Timothy (Acts 16:3), shaving his head to fulfil a Jewish vow (Acts
21:24-26) and even getting angry with a judge towards the end of his life (Acts
23:3). Luke (Paul’s close companion) was the one who wrote Acts.
Left to himself, Luke would not have mentioned any of Paul’s mistakes – as is
the practice of most biographers. But when Paul knew that Luke was writing
about him, he must have compelled Luke to write about his (Paul’s) mistakes as
well, because Paul did not “want anyone to think more highly of him than he
should” (2 Cor.12:6-Living).
We do not want anyone to think too much of us either.
Social Work: The first mistake we
made was to help everyone who came to us for financial and
material help. We were few in number and poor, but we were generous with what
we had – and very unwise. In a country like India, there are many who will
pretend to be Christians and join a church only to take advantage of its
generosity. We helped people with money. My wife prepared numerous meals for
visitors and did day-care for mothers who left their babies in our home.
Numerous families who visited Bangalore
stayed in our home and took advantage of our hospitality. One of those people
even dropped our newborn son on the concrete floor once, while tossing him
around, as if he were a ball. We served others to show them the love of Christ,
hoping that some of them would become disciples of our Lord. My wife and I do not
regret any of the sacrifices we made. We knew that we had to pay a price if we
wanted to build the Body of Christ. But gradually we realized that God had not
called us to do social work but to make disciples. We also found that
almost every single person whom we helped thus, left the church as soon
as we stopped helping them. That showed us that they had no interest in becoming
disciples of Christ, but only wanted financial and physical help. The world is
full of people who are looking for monetary help and for free service!! So we
learnt our lesson and decided thereafter to concentrate on making disciples. We
still help the poor where we can, but we do it more wisely now.
Legalism: The second serious mistake we
made in our pursuit of holiness was to emphasize the letter of Scripture rather
than its spirit. This is a mistake made by almost all who pursue
holiness and perfection. We knew that worldliness was to be found in the
attitude of our mind and not in externals; but we still emphasized some
externals like dress-styles and the length of people’s hair, etc., We were
influenced unfortunately, by some of the “holiness” preachers who visited us
and preached to us. Some of their teachings were good but they were mixed with
heavy doses of legalism. It was like eating a chicken curry with a dead lizard
in it that could poison us and kill us. In time, we realized that external changes
only made people greater Pharisees! Most evangelical Christian churches are
either at one extreme of worldliness or at the other extreme of legalism. It
was not easy to find the narrow way to life that lay between these two
extremes. But that was what we sought to find. By God’s grace, we slowly found
it and began to experience what it means to walk in the Spirit.
The Inward Look: Another mistake that
we made in our pursuit of holiness was to look inside constantly and to examine
ourselves and dig out all the dirt we could discover in our flesh – and the
flesh is a very deep pit (Rom.7:18). Even the songs we sang were inward
looking. We hardly ever sang a song of pure thanksgiving and praise to God. The
result was that we became gloomy and morose ourselves and hard and judgmental
toward others. But God in His great love for us, amazingly removed the
legalistic influences and the songs that we were singing, that depressed us.
And He led us out into “the glorious liberty of the children of God”. We
realized then that we are to run the Christian race, looking at Jesus alone –
and not inside ourselves. It is as we see His glory, that we will
see our own need more clearly and readily acknowledge it too. Then we can trust
Him to deliver us from those sins. That way, there will be neither depression
nor gloom in our lives.
Gifts of the Spirit: Another mistake we
made was the lack of a strong emphasis on
the exercise of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. As a church, we started
out emphasizing the baptism and the gifts of the Spirit. But then in pursuing
the fruit of the Spirit, and in a pedulumitis-reaction to the
wild extremes that we had seen among the charismatics and the Pentecostals, and
due to the influence of preachers who never spoke about the gifts of the Spirit,
we ignored many of the gifts of the Spirit. The result was that believers in
our midst did not experience the power and the gifts that the early Christians
had. It took many years for us to come back to preaching and emphasizing the
power of the Spirit and His supernatural gifts.
The ministry of women: Yet another mistake
that many elders in our churches made was caused by their male chauvinism and
the prejudices of Indian culture. They followed the Brethren-assembly practice
of keeping the women silent. Although women were allowed to pray, they were
never encouraged to share God’s Word in the church-meetings or to guide and
encourage the younger sisters. These elders forgot that under the new covenant “God’s
sons and daughters could prophesy” (Acts 2:17). As a result,
old-covenant practices continued in almost all our churches for many years and
many of our young sisters lacked godly counsel from older sisters and thereby
suffered spiritually. My wife had the gift of prophecy. I knew that because I
had been blessed by her prophesying myself - on a number of occasions. But I
did not want to push her forward in the church. I taught the new covenant
privileges of God’s daughters in the churches. But it took many years for some
of our elders to change their views and to align their views with Scripture. It
is very difficult to break free from traditions that have been acquired over a
period of many years. Consequently, many young people suffer.
There were other lesser mistakes that we made. But God was
gracious to us and we progressed.
All movements decline over a period of time as more and more
people start joining it who are not serious about being disciples of the Lord.
Elder brothers also can backslide when they experience God’s blessing on their
labours and become financially prosperous. We have seen this happen in our
midst too. We are no different from any other movement that God has raised up
through the centuries. So we walk in humility and brokenness before Him and ask
Him to preserve us in faithfulness to Him until the end.
God has given us an excellent and fantastically loyal
group of co-workers, in Bangalore
and in other places. And through them, God has built a quality of fellowship
amongst us that is unique – a fellowship that has protected and preserved our
children and that has been a foretaste of heaven itself. We have never found
anything like it anywhere else. For this we are deeply thankful to the Lord.
Our greatest encouragement through all these years has been
that God has given us light continually on our errors and mistakes and the
imbalances that we have. The greatest proof of God’s blessing on our lives is
His giving us light on the un-Christlike areas in our lives and making us
Christlike in those areas by the power of His Spirit. This message needs to be
emphasized in a day when many Christians are being taught that financial
prosperity and physical health are the primary marks of God’s blessing.
All glory be to God alone for His mercy and His grace that He
has showered upon us – day after day and year after year.
Making Disciples In All
Since it was easier to make converts than disciples, most
churches in India
made only converts. But we decided to take our Lord’s command seriously,
to make disciples (Matt.28:19). And so we proclaimed the
standards of holiness that Jesus proclaimed in the sermon on the mount (Matt.5
to 7). We taught what Jesus taught – that no-one could follow Him who did
not die to Self daily (Lk.9:23) and that anyone who loved money
could not love God (Lk.16:13).
God has a particular calling for each church. Our
churches were raised up by God not to do missionary work among the
unreached – because many thousands were already doing this good and necessary
work in India.
He called us to do what was not being done by the others – to make the
converts into disciples. He told us to teach believers those Biblical
truths that other preachers were not teaching, to lead them into
new-covenant life (the new wine) and then to build them together in
new-covenant churches (the new wineskin). Many believers criticized us for not
engaging in evangelism, but we stuck to our calling. We knew that all parts of
the Body do not have the same function. The hand takes food from the plate and
puts it into the mouth (a picture of evangelism), while the kidneys spend all
their time just purifying the bloodstream and maintaining the balance of
chemicals in the blood (a picture of purifying believers and making them
balanced). We stuck to our God-given calling as “kidneys” in the Body.
We also followed the financial principles found in the New
Testament: We never paid any of our church-elders a salary. Every elder had to
support himself or trust the Lord for his needs, just like the apostles and
elders in the New Testament. And like the apostles, we also never made our
financial needs known to anyone.
Most Christian work in India is heavily dependent on
Western money and this is why so much of Indian Christianity is so shallow.
God’s work cannot be done through dependence on money. So we decided not to
join any foreign organization. We decided to depend on the Holy Spirit alone.
We knew that if we followed these New Testament principles,
our growth would be very slow. But that did not disturb us because we
knew that the Lord looked for quality in His work and not
quantity. As the Lord’s servants, we were responsible for “quality
control” in His church. The Lord would take care of the “quantity”
aspect. And He did that. He added to our churches those whom we were
supposed to shepherd – and He added them at the right time - when we were
able to handle it. God’s ways are perfect.
We knew that only few would choose this way of discipleship,
for Jesus had said, “The way of discipleship that I have just described (referring
to the sermon on the mount – Matt, 5 to 7) is very narrow but it
leads to life, and only a few will ever find it. Beware however of false
prophets who will come to you in sheep’s clothing (= having the right
doctrines), and tell you that great multitudes will become My disciples and
find this way to life” (Paraphrase of Matt.7:13-16).
We knew from these words of our Lord, that if we proclaimed
His standards faithfully, very few would join us. We could increase our
numbers only by lowering our standards. But we refused to be false
prophets! It was not right to
sacrifice even one Biblical principle for the sake of larger numbers.
The Message Bible translation of the above verses
reads thus: “Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with
practised sincerity…They are out to rip you off in some way or other. Don’t
fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for
character. Who preachers are, is the main thing, not what they
say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your wallet.”
God keeps His servants hidden and tests them in secret before
He entrusts a ministry to them. He kept Moses hidden in the backside of the
desert for 40 years and tested him before He sent him to lead Israel out of Egypt. Jesus was kept hidden for 30
years in Nazareth
and tested before He was sent forth into His ministry. God kept our church also
hidden in the same way. For about 20 years (from 1975 to 1995) He kept our
church hidden under a covering of reproach, misunderstanding and criticism from
other Christians. God tested us to see if we would stand true to Him when faced
with such strong opposition from others. He also tested us to see if we would
retaliate against our accusers or trust Him alone to defend us and vindicate us
in His time.
Once we had passed these tests, God began to open one door
after another for us all over the world, to proclaim the glorious gospel of the
new covenant – that had produced such wonderful fruit in our lives and in our
homes. The numbers who responded to these truths were still small, but
the outreach was worldwide.
We did this outreach mainly through literature, cassettes,
CDs and the Internet. This was not the work of any one man, but the work of
many men and women in the Body of Christ who worked together to spread God’s
Literature: Sticking to our
calling, we published books and magazines about those subjects in the New
Testament that others never wrote about. God gave some of our brothers a burden
to translate and publish these books in other Indian languages – and they
worked hard to produce and distribute these translations. Thus the word of the
Lord spread far and wide in South India – and
many churches were established. About one million copies of our books in many
languages have now gone into people’s hands.
Cassettes and CDs: One of our smaller
churches copied and distributed nearly 35,000 tapes and CDs of our messages to
people in their city. Many who got these tapes made copies of them and
distributed them to others in many lands. (We encourage people to do that). In
two church-leaders added our tapes to their church’s tape catalogues. This
resulted in about 100,000 tapes of our messages being circulated freely
by them in many lands. In South India, a
mission-leader invited me to take a study of every book of the Bible in his
Bible-college in December 2000. God gave me grace to do this in 70 hours – over
a 14-day period, speaking 5 hours every day. The messages were recorded
digitally on a CD. Thus we produced the first audio CD in the world to contain 70
hours of study covering every book of the Bible on a single CD. This
CD also has been circulated widely, and has enabled thousands of believers in
many lands to understand the essential message of each book of the Bible.
Internet: As the worldwide web became more
and more accessible to people all over the world, we decided to have a website
for our church. This website has now become an amazing vehicle to reach people
in many countries. At the right time, God gave us an excellent team of
technically-skilled brothers to develop and maintain this website. Every week,
we send out a short written message and put out a new video-message on this
website. Many audio messages and all our books in English (and in a few other languages)
are also available on this website. Everything is offered freely for anyone in
the world to read, listen, watch or download. This has brought us in touch with
many believers all over the world who are seeking for a godly life. In some
countries, families who do not find a good church to attend in their hometown,
have made our weekly video message their Sunday morning service at home – every
All praise be to God alone for what He has done.
I face the future with total confidence because what is
unknown to me is fully known to my heavenly Father. And He has planned every
detail of my future life and ministry – taking into consideration every
circumstance that I will ever face. Nothing takes Him by surprise – for He is
God. And since my only desire in life is to please and glorify Him, I have no
fear or anxiety about the future.
The greatest truth that God has taught me from the
Bible is that He loves me as much as He loved Jesus (Jn.17:23). And
so He cares for me as much as He cared for Jesus too. Everything in
Jesus’ life was planned, down to the last detail, from His birth to His death.
And God has planned my life also in exactly the same way. “The Lord saw me
before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe.
Every day was recorded in His book! How precious it is to realize that the Lord
thinks so much about ME ! (Psa.139:16,17).
I have a bridal relationship with my Lord (as described in
the Song of Solomon). This is a very personal, intimate and loving
relationship. I live my life “leaning upon my beloved Lord” (Song 8:5).
And it is out of this relationship that my ministry flows. My Lord and I go to
the harvest fields of the world together (Song 7:11,12). I have no
desire to go to any place that He does not lead me to. I say, “Lord, You lead
the way. Tell me where You are going and I’ll come along with You. I will not
choose where to go, on my own. And tell me also what to preach – and I will
preach it.” And that is how I have served my Lord for these past many years.
My ministry therefore has never been a burden and I have no
complaints about anything, or against anyone – not even against
those who have betrayed me, maligned me or sought to harm me. I love them all,
because my Saviour loves them all. And He has taught me to pray for those who
seek to harm me, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they
are doing.” My life and my times are in the Lord’s hands. People could not harm
Jesus or arrest Him “until His hour had come” (Jn.7:30; 8:20). And no
person or event can harm me “until my hour comes” either – and it
is my heavenly Father Who determines that hour.
God has never allowed Satan to harass me beyond my ability to
overcome, at any time (1 Cor.10:13). God has made me “run against
men” first, and only then allowed me to run “against horses” (Jer.12:5). And every trial that I have faced and
overcome by God’s grace, has only made me stronger. Thus I have been prepared
to face even greater trials. My Christian walk has been an education – and
trials have been the means by which God has promoted me to a higher class each
time! God’s grace has been sufficient in every situation I have faced thus far.
And it will be sufficient for me in the future too. Thus I will complete my
spiritual education on earth.
The Lord has given me a specific ministry to fulfil in his
Body – primarily, to preach those particular Biblical truths that others are not
preaching and also to expose the un-Scriptural and un-Christlike
practices prevalent in Christendom today. And by God’s grace, I shall fulfil
that ministry until the very end.
I know that I will face opposition in my ministry. That is
only to be expected. Paul did not have a persecution-mania when he
wrote, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be
persecuted (2 Tim.3:12). He was facing reality – and was inspired by the
Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that they would be persecuted by the
world, as He was (Jn.15:18-21) – and Jesus was persecuted more by the Jewish
religious world than by the secular world. So I know that I will be opposed
more by religious Christians than by non-Christians. The Pharisees were
jealous of Jesus’ ministry and criticized Him. Religious Christians will be
jealous of my ministry too and will criticize me. Jesus was accused of
preaching false doctrine. So will I be. Jesus was taken to
court – by the Pharisees. So will I be – by religious Christians.
Jesus’ enemies were the members of His own family (Jn.7:5). So will mine
be. Jesus said, “Even those closest to you – your brothers and relatives –
will betray you and have you arrested. You will be hated, because you are
Mine.” He also said, “The
religious world hates me, because I KEEP TELLING IT that its ways are
evil” (Jn.7:7). The only way a Christian can avoid such persecution is by
keeping quiet. However the Lord’s promise to me has been, “Not a hair
of your head will perish….No weapon turned against you shall succeed, and you
will have justice against every courtroom lie. This is the heritage of the
servants of the Lord” (Lk.21:16-18; Isa.54:17-Living Bible).
Some years ago, someone told me that a “Satanist group”
was targeting me in their petitions to Satan. I had known for many years that
Satan hated me – because I was a servant of God and a threat to Satan’s
kingdom. But I also knew that Satan could not touch me or my family, because I
was living under the headship of a Christ Who defeated him on the cross. My
family and I are surrounded by an army of angels and we are part of a powerful
Body of believers who pray for us constantly.
The Lord told me recently, “As you were once afraid
of Satan, from now on Satan will be afraid of you, because I am with
you.” As Satan was afraid of Jesus, he will be afraid of us too if we walk
in the light, because “as Jesus is, so are we in this world” (1 Jn.4:17).
So we do not fear Satan at
The trials and difficult situations that the Lord has allowed
me to face were all planned by Him to enable me to know His power and to
experience His deliverance. It is in the face of opposition from men and
demons, that I have tasted and seen the power of God in operation. And such
experiences have enabled me to strengthen the faith of others too. Effective ministry comes not only through
Bible-study and the anointing of the Spirit, but also through facing trials and
overcoming them (2 Cor.1:3-6).
God has blessed me with an amazing family. He gave me a
wonderful wife, who has great spiritual discernment and a very simple
lifestyle. She has stood by me faithfully in my ministry, through all these 40
years of our married life. God also gave us four wonderful sons who love the
Lord, and who love us and love the church too. And they are serving their
generation today, by spreading the truths of God’s Word that they saw in our
lives and heard in our church.
God has also given me an anointed team of coworkers, who are
elders in the churches in India
and in other countries. They do an excellent job of shepherding their churches
and have thus relieved me of many responsibilities, so that I can travel to
other places and preach God’s Word.
We are living in days of a famine of the prophetic word (as
predicted in Amos 8:11,12). Fresh revelation on God’s Word is very rare
and most preachers are lovers of money. Believers in many groups are getting
fed up with the boring sermons and the constant demands for money that they
hear from their leaders every week. In such a time, God is raising up prophetic
voices here and there, in many lands – and we praise God for this.
We are thankful for the privilege God has given us also, to
have a small part in proclaiming the prophetic word of life to believers in
many denominations. Some who listen to our messages are preaching those very
same messages in their own churches – churches that would never invite me to
speak! Thus God has penetrated every man-made barrier. Our ministry is a very
small part of the Body of Christ – but we want to fulfil the particular
ministry that God has given us for this time.
My future path may be difficult or easy – I don’t know. But
God will choose what is best for me and I know He will “always
lead me in His triumph” (2 Cor.2:14). And since He is always on my side
against Satan, He will make me “more than a conqueror” in every
Predestination means that my final destination
has been pre-determined by God. That destination is not heaven but total
likeness to Christ (Rom.8:29). Every day brings me closer to
that destination. Praise the Lord!! And if the pathway to that destination
leads through a little bit of suffering now on earth, I rejoice in it.
When I see my beloved Lord face to face, I want to hear Him
say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”.
Copyright - Zac
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