ADELAIDE, Australia (FR) – Three thousand Christians marched down the main streets of this Australian city early this year, proclaiming God’s ownership of the city and praying for the government as the parade halted in front of various city offices and business houses. The rally, held in conjunction with a nationwide Christian conference called Revival ’89, was yet another visible sign of the impact Christianity is having upon the nation of Australia.
Participants in the parade were numerous young people from Maranatha fellowships in New Zealand and Australia, some of whom had only been recently converted to Christ. Bob Weiner, founder and president of Maranatha Campus Ministries, was a keynote speaker at the convention – which drew leaders from throughout the Pacific region.
The Adelaide conference, sponsored by Barry Chant, leader of Tabor House, underscored a year of Christian activity that caused even secular observers to marvel. Last September, a constitutional amendment which many Christians feared would curtail civil and religious liberties was resoundingly defeated. One noted newspaper columnist in a Melbourne daily wrote of that event: “Christians have made their presence felt during the last year more than at any other time in our history. Voters turned down the national referendum that would have given government a stronger voice … I suspect (the Christians’) opposition did much to influence voters. As for this writer, I welcome the Christian viewpoint in Australia. It’s about time we heard from them.”
There was also more movement toward Christian unity in Australia last year as over 35,000 people, including youth from Maranatha churches in Melbourne and Sydney, joined the National Prayer Gathering in the nation’s capitol, Canberra. In keeping with the 200th birthday celebration of Australia, the Bible Society last year organized Christians to distribute Bibles to every household in the country.
Meanwhile, Maranatha campus churches in Sydney and Melbourne continued to grow last year, adding more international students from southeast Asia than ever. More than 24,000 Australian editions of Forerunner were printed and distributed on campus. According to Grant Clark, editor of the newspaper, the publication of an Australian edition dovetailed with the nation’s bicentennial, which “allowed the nation to focus on its foundations and achievements. It has also allowed a time to ponder our future. Many politicians, church leaders and sportsmen have called for Australia’s youth to lay the foundation for the next 200 years.”
Evangelism has penetrated the Sydney University campus so powerfully that a recent poll disclosed that Christians have become the second largest group on campus, second only to the ski club! Christians are also making inroads into politics. In New South Wales, three Christians formed “Call to Australia,” a new political party. During a hotly contested election, three party members were swept into office and now control the balance of power in the New South Wales Upper House. In Adelaide, the Student Representative Council President is a Christian and a member of an Assembly of God Church.
With this growth of Christian influence has also come an increase in Australia’s stature worldwide. NBC Television spent a week televising live segments of the Bicentennial celebration, giving millions of Americans a window into a country they have known little about. Recent movies about life in Australia, such as “Crocodile Dundee I and II” and “A Cry in the Dark,” have sparked a new wave of tourism – making it the number one industry in Australia. Hotels and related industries are building beachheads in not only the capitol cities of Sydney and Melbourne but also in medium-sized cities and resort towns where experts are predicting over 5 million tourists a year will visit by the turn of the century.
Visitors to Australia say there is a new spirit in the land, an enthusiasm and excitement that is translating into positive economic effects for the nation. Even though socialism has lurked in the culture for decades, a renewed free enterprise fervor is gripping the land, making Australia more prosperous than at any time in its history. “Aussies feel good about themselves,” says Pastor Mark McClimens, who credits much of the change to the spiritual revival that is sweeping the land.
Meanwhile, in New Zealand, the promise of spiritual renewal is touching a country that one internationally-known Christian leader says “could go Marxist at any time unless a mighty Christian revival washes the land clean.” Maranatha Campus Ministries has accepted the challenge to help change the nation: a team of 10 Americans, led by pastor Bob Muni, is now surrounded by a band of young, enthusiastic new believers who are preaching on campus and sharing Jesus Christ in classrooms, cafeterias and in their homes.
Christians who came to the campus during the Auckland outreach were amazed by the openness of unbelievers who wanted to hear the gospel. Pastor Muni says he wants to bring New Zealand back to its spiritual moorings, and believes his core group of 45 are making an impact on the nation even though the campus fellowship has been active for less than a year.
The young people in the Auckland church have a passion to impact the world. Angela McGrath, 21, a freshman from England studying at the University of Auckland, says she wants to “restore the education system in New Zealand to godly principles.” Presently, Angela says feminists and lesbians are running the teacher’s college where she is enrolled. “We are raising up a new generation of Christian leaders in every area of life,” she added.
Nineteen-year-old engineering student David Senn watched Muni and evangelist Ken Dew preach boldly in the student union quad area during last summer’s outreach He gave his life to Christ as a result, and now stands in the same spot to preach his own messages. Senn commented: “I want to see us in student government next year to raise God’s standard on the campus.”
Larry Goodall, 21, a recent mechanical engineering graduate, is working for the government “to be a shining light.” Goodall and dozens of other students say the campus was impacted by Maranatha’s summer outreach. “When the Maranatha team arrived, it shook the campus,” reported Megan Hughes, an 18-year old freshman majoring in science. “I was one of the people who was totally adamant that I would not get ‘saved’! But I realized there was more to life than partying and drinking. I realized I had not gone to that meeting by chance. God had drawn me!” Megan says she wants to travel and witness to people all over the world about Jesus Christ. Right now, however, she admits there is much missionary work to be done at Auckland University.
But things are just beginning in New Zealand. Ken Dew and a team of young Maranatha evangelists will hit the Auckland campus once again in July of this year. If you are interested in being part of this venture, plus a 20-day evangelism thrust in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, write: Maranatha Missions, P.O. Box 1799, Gainesville, FL 32602.