The second half of my interview with Andrew Evans on the Rise and Rise of the Assemblies of God in Australia.
Pentecostals are known for their dependence on the Holy Spirit. Did all this goal setting undermine that dependence?
We set goals. But to get the churches going there has to be a work of God.
In South Australia, I began to pray for the larger regional towns. When I began as State Superintendent in 1978, we had just 12 churches.
We started to see where God was doing something and we just had to cooperate with Him. If you cooperated it would work.
So, for instance, Port Augusta, six people came to see me and said, we want to start a church. They were all English immigrants with an AOG background.
I told them, this is the bottom line, you've got no money, you've got no pastor, but if you want to start a church, start a prayer meeting.
Three weeks later I was at a combined function for church boards, pastors in Adelaide. Sitting there, I can feel the Holy Spirit say, "Here's the man for Port Augusta." Now, this guy was a board member, he wasn't a pastor.
I looked at this guy and I thought, gee, I don't know, he's a nice guy and all that, but in my view he wasn't pastor material. He was a faithful board member.
So I never said a word to him. About two weeks later he rang me and asked to meet with me.
He said I've been thinking of going into the ministry and he said he wondered what to do. He thought perhaps he was called to NSW. Soon after he drove through Port Augusta on a work trip and he felt God say, this is it.
I told him, Al, you've got no money, there's only six people, and they're "Poms" (English). You'll have to go and get a job, and that's it. He said well, I think God wants me to do it.
So, off he went. Within 6 months, he had seventy people.
Now, that story, that simple story, was repeated over and over again.
The mechanics and human willpower will not work if the Spirit is not at work.
In my twenty years as National Superintendent we planted a new church about every ten daysâ€”680 churches. That trend has continued under Brian Houston's leadership, except now the churches on average are larger.
What role did ministry training play in fueling a church planting movement?
When I became National Superintendent, the Commonwealth Bible College (now Southern Cross) was our only college for the nation. Everyone felt it was our duty to support the denominational college.
But we had a few "renegades" like Daivd Cartledge in Townsville who decided to start their own colleges. David was the first.
David is a driver and he began to recruit from all over Australia. The College became successful.. He applied for AusStudy and recognition from the government.
The new college was graduating young leaders and off they'd go and plant all these churches.
Others followed David's example and started colleges all over the nation. I planted one here in South Australia.
Eventually we had 18 colleges. We set up basic guidelines so they could be registered with the denomination.
The fear was, if we start more colleges they will compete with each other and not be viable. When we had just one college there were 40-50 graduates annually. Once we had colleges throughout the nation we had 1,000 graduates a year.
These new colleges were not turning out PhDs like the central college could. But they taught good knowledge of the bible and the basics of church life and leadership.
The colleges just kept feeding church planters into the movement. Without that, I don't think we would've made such a difference.
The central college at first was troubled, but now has reinvented itself and provides resources and expertise to colleges all over the nation. It's doing an even better job today because of all the new colleges.
What other changes did you need to make?
I can think of two.
Firstly, we changed our view of leadership at a national and state level. We encouraged visionary leadership rather than administrative leadership in the denomination. Our state and national leaders were at the same time, effective local church leaders.
Administrators and educators have an important part to play in a movement. But they should not lead the movement. Leaders should lead.
Secondly, we had to battle the "territorial mindset"—the idea that you can't come in to "my territory" and plant a church.
We brought out a rule saying we could start a church anywhere, anyplace, at any time. Provided that you do two things. One, you're ethical and don't go after people in other churches. And secondly, you go and talk to the local pastor and tell him what you want to do. You go and talk to the State Executive and tell them what you're going to do. You're not asking for permission, but you are doing the right thing.
Andrew, what would you like to say to the next generation of Australian church planters?
I want to remind them of importance of the anointing.
It's something I learnt from my dad. He was converted following the Welsh revival in a fresh outpouring of the Spirit. His Pastor was a coalminer, and he was just a dear old guy who loved the Lord and took to preaching. He taught other young men like my dad to preach under the power of the Spirit.
Well you can't live without God. I mean, if you try to get through on methods, it just won't work.
Have your goals and plans, but look for that God-factor every time you want to plant a church.
And so, there's always a supernatural factor about it. I think even our guys today, church planters, sometimes overlook that.
It doesn't matter how good you are and how big you are, it's got to be God.