Imagine a revival so big that the number of charismatics and Pentecostals in a country triple in five years, with the result that it is a problem for churches to find buildings large enough to meet in.
Imagine thousands of people attending open-air meetings every night of the week in large cities. Meetings where miracle healings are commonplace in every service; where one of the best-known evangelists is a businessman who has been a Christian only 10 years.
Sound incredible? This describes Argentina, a nation of 30 million people in South America that until now has been slow to accept the gospel message.
“Argentina is in the throes of an absolute sovereign revival unheard of in the history of that country,” says J. Philip Hogan, executive director of the Division of Foreign Missions of the Assemblies of God, who has visited Argentina many times. “I know of churches where they have taken the seats out so they can pack more people in.”
Here’s what’s happening in Argentina: Once considered a prosperous country (Buenos Aires, the capital, had a modern subway system 50 years ago), the nation has been beset by economic and political woes for many years.
The nation is Roman Catholic (the constitution requires the country’s president to be Roman Catholic), but only a small percentage of the population is active in the church. Many Roman Catholics in the nation are involved in superstition and extreme Marian devotion.
In 1982, Argentina suffered a national embarrassment by losing the Falkland Island War (they call it the Malvinos Way) to Great Britain. Because Roman Catholic officials predicted victory for Argentina, and because many terrorists were trained in Catholic schools, many Argentines became disillusioned with the Catholic Church and have been more open to the gospel message in evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
At the same time, two things happened in the church:
- Evangelical Christians, who despite their common opposition to Roman Catholicism had a history of bickering among themselves, became unified and the dissension is largely ended.
“One of the blessings we have in Argentina is that many barriers are breaking down,” says Carlos G. Kennedy from Buenos Aires, who is with the Plymouth Brethren. “We’re not interested in arguing doctrine. We’re interested in changed lives, holiness, commitment and serving the Lord.”
- Miracle healings and deliverance from demons have become very common in churches, and it has been the miracles and the power that have drawn the unconverted.
It was this interest in the healing ministry that led well-known evangelists Charles and Frances Hunter to hold crusades in Argentina. On their first visit last July (winter in Argentina), more than 30,000 attended a meeting in Buenos Aires and 17,000 attended meetings in Rosario. More recently, more than 15,000 gathered in a large plaza in an affluent part of Buenos Aires this January to hear Charles and Frances minister on “How to Heal the Sick.”
In that service, after Charles Hunter ministered the baptism of the Holy Spirit to approximately one-third of those in attendance, miracles began happening spontaneously throughout the crowd, even before the Hunters had planned to move into the miracle part of the service. Trained workers began ministering to people who were healed.
Last December, John and Anne Gimenez, co-pastors of Rock Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia, visited Argentina and were impressed with the ministry of Hector Giminez (no relation). Giminez has a unique ministry in Buenos Aires where he is referred to by some as the “Nicky Cruz of Argentina.”
No accurate surveys have been taken of the number of new Christians. Yet several church leaders interviewed in Argentina said the total number of evangelicals is near three million – about one-tenth of the population. This is about three times the number of evangelicals when the revival broke out early in this decade. Of this number about 60 percent are Pentecostal or charismatic.
Even with the outstanding miracles, the growth of the churches and the obvious signs of revival, not everyone in Argentina believes a full revival is underway. Says Carlos Kennedy from Buenos Aires, “We believe we are only on the verge of a revival,” adding that the best is yet to come.