For centuries, Christians in Wales have been praying “Your kingdom come”, and at times the answers have been momentous, transforming lives and communities way beyond our borders. It’s such a simple prayer, but has a profound impact. This shouldn’t surprise us, since we are asking for heaven’s rule to be experienced on earth: “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”
Our small nation is often referred to as ‘the land of revival’ – and not without good reason. Between 1735 and 1904 there was a Christian revival somewhere in Wales every 10 years, resulting in tangible expressions of heaven invading earth; hardened coal miners weeping because their sins are forgiven, women able to feed their families because wages are diverted from the tavern to the dining table.
In 2016, Wales celebrated the centenary of Pentecostalism in our small nation, including a gathering in the Senedd (Welsh Parliament) attended by eight Assembly Members, focusing on the impact of the gospel of Jesus Christ in Wales.
The experiences of the 1904 revival in Wales and the 1906 revival in Asouza Street in Los Angeles are now seen as a catalyst for what we call the Pentecostal movement.
The brothers George and Stephen Jeffries from Maesteg in the Llynfi Valley were converted to faith in Jesus Christ during the 1904 revival and became forerunners of a movement that led to the denominations now called Elim and the Assemblies of God. My family come from the same valley and I grew up with stories of how the revival changed so many people in Maesteg, including my grandmother Hannah Godding.
Also in 1916, in a chapel in Penygroes, half way through the trauma of WW1, another spiritual awakening took place that gave birth to the Apostolic Church. When thousands of young men were conscripted to fight destined never to return, in Penygroes a prayer was prayed: “Your Kingdom come”, and it was answered as hundreds of men, women and children were saved.
For over 16 years now, in my capacity as the national director of Evangelical Alliance Wales, I have preached in hundreds of churches and served ministers from most denominations. My observation is that Pentecostalism has a laser-like focus in its mission and is passionate about the transformation of individuals and communities for the better. It has had a very significant impact on Welsh society and within many other nations through its overseas missions.
What are the distinctives of these denominations?
- A belief that the power of the Holy Spirit to transform people, as recorded in the book of Acts, can be experienced today.
- A belief that God can and will use whoever He wants to lead His Church in its mission, resulting in a powerful mobilisation of the laity.
What do I see across Wales today?
After more than eight decades of steady decline, something is changing: many churches are now growing once more through conversion. Those that are growing have certain traits in common. They preach the gospel of Christ as Saviour in an accessible way through words and actions. They engage with their communities by serving needs of the people. They have nearly all been influenced by Pentecostalism.
As we continue to pray: “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” what should we expect? Why not the same answer as the believers received, as recorded in Acts 4? After they prayed for boldness to preach, they prayed: “stretch out your hand and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus”. Heaven invading earth. Signs of the kingdom coming.