Becky Pippert is a friend who has been a great encouragement to the mission of ACT 3. Many of you will recognize her name as the author of one of the best-selling books on evangelism of all time: Out of the Saltshaker (IVP). Becky, and her husband, Dick routinely send me their prayer letters. In June Becky's prayer letter spoke of an upcoming trip but in the same letter she also reflected on her recent experience of ministering in the Netherlands. I thought this report was so interesting that I secured her permission to share it with you. Here is what she wrote (with some minor edits by me):
We spent several days exploring the Netherlands. It’d been decades since either of us had been there. We were delighted in the light that is peculiar to Holland – caused perhaps by the large expanse of sky in the absence of hills. The brightness, it is said, inspired the Dutch painters, famous for their use of light. The museums were extraordinary, the tulips were still in bloom, and we were deeply moved to visit again the homes of Anne Frank and Corrie ten Boom.
I truly enjoy the Dutch, which is fortunate since I’m married to one! They often describe their character as eigenqijs (stubborn) and say so with pride! They are straight forward, you always know where they stand, and I find their direct, no-nonsense approach to life refreshing.
When I spoke in Linz, Austria, last Easter at the triennial European Evangelism Convention we met many Dutch students. What we heard repeatedly was: “I understand God’s truth with my head – I just don’t feel it in my heart.” In fact, their theological sophistication was quite impressive. Dutch Reformed Christians can trace their roots almost directly back to Calvin! Yet it was clear these students hungered deeply to KNOW at a deeper level that God is real. As one student said, “I’m weary of having a formal, polite and correct kind of faith. I want the things I believe by faith, to be made more real.”
I gave three plenary talks to 600 University students and a workshop on Seeker Bible study. I asked the leadership to select a team to do prayer ministry after all my talks. They were eager to do it but wondered if the students would come for prayer: a combination of Dutch reserve and it being a rather new practice.
But how they came! No coaxing or pleading – I simply invited anyone who wanted prayer to come while the worship team led us in quiet worship. We “officially” ended each evening around 10:00 P.M. but no one wanted to leave. Many students stayed until midnight! In fact, so many came for prayer that the staff had to jump in and help. While waiting in queues I often saw students turn to the person next to them and say “Why don’t we just pray for each other?” That is exactly what we had hoped!
Each night I addressed different doctrinal themes and showed how biblical truth has profound implications for holistic witness. We must express the reality of the gospel through our being, doing, sharing, defending and living. On the last night I felt led to pray for 3 issues from the stage: forgiveness, salvation, and the head-and-heart issue they so often mentioned. I asked them to raise their hand high if what I was praying pertained to them.
So with their heads bowed and eyes closed I started to pray. Or at least I tried to. Before I could get out the first word, it suddenly felt as if a lion had attacked my throat. Out of nowhere I began coughing loudly and uncontrollably and I couldn’t stop. I motioned for Dick to come to the stage and he began praying for the first two issues, while several rushed to the side of the stage to help me.
I know of no other explanation than it was a demonic attack. Yet I KNEW I was supposed to pray for the third issue. So after Dick prayed in considerable power for the first 2 topics (and he himself was not feeling well all day), I took the microphone. My voice was weak but I gradually gained strength as I prayed. It may seem like a very odd way to begin a prayer but remember, the Dutch are serious about being biblically and theologically faithful. So I said:
“I believe the Scriptures teach that all Christians receive the Holy Spirit when we place our faith in Christ. Romans 8:9 says that we aren’t truly Christian unless the Spirit dwells within us. In Acts 2 at Pentecost, all the believers were filled with the Spirit. But in Acts 4, when they turned to God in prayer because of the Sanhedrin’s threats, they didn’t ask for another outpouring of the Spirit. That had already happened! They simply asked God for boldness and supernatural power to continue being witnesses. How did God answer? The room was shaken, God filled them all again with the Holy Spirit (the very same people who had been filled only two chapters before) in order to strengthen and enable them to boldly witness under difficult circumstances.”
“I think this means we may ask God for a deeper and fresh filling of His Spirit not once, but all the time! We must tell God that we long to see more of His glory, to sense His presence and be filled with His power. One of the chief characteristics of the indwelling and filling of the Spirit (besides making us more Christ-like) is receiving boldness in witness. It is the Spirit, and our faith and obedience to the Word, that makes Christ real and takes what we know in our heads and makes it a deeper reality in our hearts. Therefore, for anyone who wants to ask God for a fresh filling of the Spirit, who longs for God to reveal His presence and to take what we know by faith in our head and make it a deeper reality in our soul, please raise your hands as I pray.”
I wish you could have seen it! Nearly 600 people raised their hands high! Just remembering it brings tears to my eyes. The prayer ministry that followed the service was extraordinary as people poured out the aisles to go to the prayer ministers. I finally left the auditorium at 11:30 that night and there were still peop
le there. What struck me mos
t about the people for whom I prayed was their fresh awareness of God’ glory and their deep conviction of sin – which is always the evidence of the Spirit’s work. It was profoundly moving.
I will include a few lines from an email I received from the IFES President for The Netherlands:
“It is amazing to reflect on what God did. A lot of students (non-Christian and nominal) came to Christ, turning to Him and confessing their sins etc. We felt as if we could touch the Holy Spirit. As you well know, the prayer ministry lasted for hours. I have never experienced this before. And very important to me, it was nothing about mere human emotion – it was only about God Himself. The students were so hungry to experience and see a sign of God – to know that He really exists and still is alive. And He showed us that He is!
So praise God with us! We have also received some wonderful emails from students who have started Seeker Studies.