“In 30 years now of ministry, I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” said Howard-Browne, founder of Revival Ministries International and pastor of The River Church in Tampa, Fla. “It’s not about a meeting and it’s not about me; it’s about the power of God. It’s about Jesus. I’m just here with a message and people are grabbing a hold of it.”
The nightly revival meetings held at a sister congregation in East London, South Africa, that is also known as The River Church are being broadcast in churches in 63 cities nationwide, as well as on the Internet and satellite TV through TBN Africa and CTV Africa.
Howard-Browne said since the services began June 21, they have reached viewers in more than 220 cities, where he says the sick are being healed in hospitals and people are being delivered of demonic oppression.
In each city, participants also have been mobilized to evangelize using a soul-winning script Howard-Browne’s ministry developed for its Great Awakening Tour, which has reportedly seen more than 1 million people across the U.S. make decisions for Christ since February 2007.
But Howard-Browne, who became well-known in the 1990s for leading revival services where attendees often laughed uncontrollably, said the “awakening” in South Africa is unlike anything he has ever seen.
“What is happening here is everything that I prayed for in America,” Howard-Browne said. “I don’t know why God did it here first.”
Although he said there have been reports of cancer being healed and tumors miraculously disappearing, he points primarily to testimonies of salvation as signs of revival. He said a witch doctor came to Christ in one city, and a 92-year-old woman caught a passion for evangelism and led seven people to Christ using the “Gospel Soul-Winning Script” that opens with the question, “Has anyone ever told you God loves you and has a plan for your life?”
In another instance, he said an evangelism team led a man to Christ on a Monday, then learned later that week that he had died the following day.
“The purpose of the meetings … was people coming back to their first love, falling in love with Jesus all over again, and the upper room experience, the power of Pentecost to go outside the four walls of the church,” Howard-Browne said. “That’s the way the early church started, and that’s the way this end-time church has to function.”
With unemployment at 65 percent in the nation’s Eastern Cape, which includes East London, and hundreds contracting HIV each day, Howard-Browne said many South Africans are desperate for change. He believes the “fire” will continue even after the meetings end on Sunday, which will mark 50 days of consecutive revival services.
He said God told him to end the meetings after 50 days because that number speaks of the biblical year of Jubilee, which was celebrated every 50 years, and Pentecost, which means “the 50th day” in Greek.
“What is happening here is not going to stop,” Howard-Browne said. “The people are desperate enough here, they’re not going to let this fire go out. And they realize it’s not something that revolves around these 50 days. It’s not about a meeting; it’s about a passion.”
Howard-Browne, who came to the U.S. as a missionary with his wife, Adonica, more than 20 years ago, believes a similar revival will happen in the U.S. within the next two to four years “as people get desperate.”
He says many American Christians are “asleep at the wheel,” pointing to statistics that show only a minority of U.S. Christians evangelize.
“For whatever reason, we’ve got [South African] pastors winning souls, leaders are going out, and that’s what it’s going to have to take,” Howard-Browne said. “Soul-winning is not a program, it’s a passion, and it has to start in the pulpit and go to the pews. And when everybody in the pew is mobilized, from the littlest child to the oldest saint, that’s when we’re going to start seeing the harvest come in.”
He worries that many U.S. Christians are “fair weather” believers who will serve God only as long as it is comfortable. “There’s not a message preached about giving up your all for Jesus,” he said. “It’s all about you can have a better life and everything’s going to be fine and dandy. Jesus said if you love your life, you’re going to lose it.”
He said in the last six months the U.S. has advanced socialistic policies that could lead to religious persecution, and eventually set the stage for a one-world government and the introduction of the Antichrist.
“I don’t think the American church is ready for what’s coming because the preachers are preaching each other’s sermons; they are prophesying each other’s prophecies,” he said. “People are asleep at the wheel.
“The only thing we can do is bring in the harvest of souls,” he added, noting that he plans to host a Great Awakening Tour event in Washington, D.C., Sept. 7-11 but is still seeking churches to sponsor it. “This is not about a government bailout. The government cannot change what’s coming. … We’ve got to see a revival. We’ve got to see a Great Awakening.”