I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind, Joel 2:28.
Erlo Stegen, a Lutheran pastor living in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, was terribly frustrated with his ministry. In the early 1960's he had been laboring among some thirty Zulu believers with little to show for his efforts. There was gross immorality, strife, and division in his little church; and the people of the surrounding villages were not at all interested in Christianity, preferring the remedies of the local witch doctor when they faced difficulty, dismissing the Christian faith as "the white man's religion." While preaching one day, saying that Jesus was more powerful than the witchdoctor, a woman in the congregation, after the service, asked Erlo if that was indeed true. He said, "Of course." She said, "Then please come with me." The woman led Stegen to her small mud hut and as they entered they found the woman's daughter, naked, bound by steel wire,and tied to the center post in the hut. She had a wild and tormented look on her face. She had not eaten for days and talked incessantly in foreign languages. She was very dangerous, having bitten a man, leaving him with a bad wound on his arm. The mother had no animals left at her place, having obeyed the witch doctor who told her to sacrifice them in order to appease the ancestor spirits who were tormenting her. Erlo knew immediately that the poor woman was possessed by many demons. So he and his church leaders began to pray over the woman, laying hands on her, commanding the demons in the name of Jesus to come out of her. They continued for thirty days and nothing, absolutely nothing happened.
Erlo was very discouraged and dismayed. How could this be? He began to question the authority and power of the gospel as well as the Scriptures themselves. He wondered if the gospel could indeed help such primitive people. He wondered if perhaps they were simply too ignorant, too far gone into witchcraft and animism to be helped. This led him eventually to seek God for answers. So he began gathering his little flock of Zulu's for daily Bible study and prayer. They decided they would put aside their own theological systems and study the Book of Acts, asking God to show them the truth and power of the gospel. As they met daily in prayer and Bible study, God began to do a wonderful thing in Erlo Stegen's life. God began revealing to him his own sin. This was a very important revelation to Stegen because until that time, he was focusing on the sin of the Zulu people. "They were the problem. They were lazy, immoral, licentious ignorant." Stegen began to understand that he, in fact, was the problem. God began making known to him the profound and deep seated nature of his pride. He was white. He was educated. He was cultured. He was moral. He was a good man who was sacrificing his life for these primitive people and they did not seem to appreciate his loving sacrifice on their behalf! This was an exceedingly painful and humiliating time for Erlo Stegen, but God was working on his Zulu congregation as well. They too were being broken, humbled to the dust, seeing something of the deep nature of their own pride and rebellion against God.
One day, during a worship service, while Stegen was preaching, a woman, who apparently did not understand that one does not interrupt the pastor while he is preaching, said, "Pastor, I think we should pray and ask God to make our church like the one in the Book of Acts." Stegen said, "Okay. Why don't you go ahead and pray." She prayed a simple prayer and Erlo went on with his sermon.
A week or two later, as Stegen and his congregation gathered to pray in a small house near the white people's tennis courts, Erlo was embarrassed to be seen by his white friends with these primitive black people, so he closed the door and the windows of the little house so that his friends could not see or hear him praying with his church members. As they were about to pray, God seemed to speak to him saying, "If you close the doors and windows, then I am not coming in with you." So Stegen kept the door and windows open and prayed on his knees in full view of his white friends, as he and his congregation poured out their hearts to God in confession, contrition, asking for the Spirit's presence and power.
A few weeks later, while praying, this little congregation of Zulu believers and their white pastor heard and felt a mighty wind passing through their place of prayer. They knew the Holy Spirit had come upon them. As they left the place of prayer, they saw many Zulu's, who had to that point utterly and completely rejected the "white man's religion", coming toward them, eager to hear the preaching of the gospel. The first convert was a witchdoctor who said that he must be saved that very moment lest he go to hell. This began in 1966 and thousands of Zulu's have come to Christ over the years. Kwasizabantu means "place of shelter" in Zulu and indeed it has been that for so many. Remarkable healings, exorcisms, and conversions have continued unabated since 1966. A ten thousand seat auditorium was built many years ago to house the vast numbers who come daily to hear the preaching of God's word. A school and several farming industries have originated at Kwasizabantu over the years.
By the way, the mother of the demon possessed woman whom Erlo and his leaders could not help, showed up at an evangelistic service some three years later. Stegen went again to see her. The woman was still in her sordid state. Stegen and his leaders laid hands on her and the demons began to cry out, "We know about God and Jesus but since the Spirit has come this place is too hot for us." Some three hundred demons were cast out of this woman and immediately afterward, she had a peaceful countenance and looked as though she had been a faithful believer for many years.
I will have more to say on this next week, but allow me to leave you with this--I wonder if our deep-seated pride and arrogance is preventing a mighty work of God in our personal lives, families, churches, and nations. God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).
Reverend Allen M. Baker
Pastor Baker is ordained in the PCA and has been in the ministry for over 30 years. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he received his M.Div. degree from...