About revival and evangelism in Argentina
Ed Silvoso is Director of Harvest Evangelism.
He worked for several years in crusade outreaches with his brother-in-law, evangelist Luis Palau, before founding Harvest Evangelism to assist the church in Argentina in reaching the entire nation for Christ.
Ed is the author of "That none should perish".
In this interview he talks to Noel Stanton, senior pastor of the Jesus Fellowship.
You were born in Argentina. Were you converted there?
Yes, I came to the Lord at 13. I was the first born-again Christian in the High School in a city of 100,000.
I was led to the Lord by a Brethren pastor who became a Pentecostal. His wife was dying of an incurable disease and she was healed by the Lord. When he reported that to the Assembly, they told him that God doesn't heal, so it had to be the Devil and told him to renounce it. He said, "I can't do that! It would mean death to my wife."
They asked him to leave and then he opened up to the Spirit, but he remained Brethren in his allegiance to the Bible. The Lord gave him both extremes!
And he became your "father in God" and trained you?
Yes. I was very privileged at only 14 to be part of his fellowship of 31 leaders. He told us, "I am not a trained theologian, but I'll teach you everything I know."
Every Monday he taught us from the Bible and then on the weekends we went out to do it. It was challenging!
Being a born-again Christian in Argentina in 1958 was like being a Christian in Mecca, that's how tough it was. But my pastor said, "If you don't use it, you lose it. If they harass you, if they insult you, they just make you blessed before the Lord - so go and do it!"
And through everything that he taught us, God shaped my character.
When did the revival in Argentina begin?
There have been three visitations of God. One in the mid-50s happened through an American called Tommy Hicks who visited Argentina. He was an incredible guy that got on a plane and God told him to go and pray for a man named Peron.
Known as the dictator!
He was so ignorant then! He thought that Peron was somebody on the aeroplane and asked the stewardess: "Is there a guy by the name of Peron here?" And she said: "No, Peron is our President" and so he went to the President's palace, knocked on the door and asked to see Peron.
He was told, "Impossible!" Then one of the secretaries broke her leg in a compound fracture. He prayed for her, God healed her and the next moment he was praying for Peron on account of that. So Peron gave him permission to preach, with newspaper and radio coverage. That led to the salvation of thousands of people!
There was another revival in the mid-60s with Juan Carlos Ortiz, who wrote the book Disciple. But they made a mistake at the very beginning. They said this revival is for the church not for the lost, and it became self-centred and led to many divisions. There were blessings, but never the breakthrough.
The current move of God began in March 1983, when Carlos Annacondia, less than two years old in the Lord, began to preach with tremendous boldness and led 40,000 people to a public decision. That was so unusual that the church debated whether it was from God or the Devil!
So it's been going on for 13 years - and is it still very alive?
Very much alive - some parts have dimmed a little, but then it has begun in other parts of the city or the country.
And what is happening to the Roman Catholic Church?
Church and state are very closely linked in Argentina. Because of that, the Catholic Church has been corrupt. Even in the 60s and 70s the renewal hardly touched the Catholic church because the bishops opposed the charismatic priests.
The Catholic Church has become very concerned because so many people left the church to become pentecostals or evangelicals that they have given room to the "Healing Priests", who are charismatic priests. That has brought the beginnings of revival to the Catholic church.
Who are the other key people in Argentina?
People like Carlos Annacondia, Omar Cabrera, Hector Gimenez and Claudio Friedzon are on the cutting edge. They're each different.
Carlos Annacondia is a businessman and an evangelist. He goes all over Argentina and beyond, leading thousands to the Lord.
Omar Cabrera was the forerunner of the revival. He had been doing everything that Annacondia is doing but was rejected by the establishment. Eventually he was embraced back and was able to bring a lot of solid teaching to Annacondia.
Hector Gimenez is a former thief who came to the Lord and began to preach, and his church grew very rapidly. At one point he had 150,000 people with 13 meetings a day, seven days a week.
Claudio Friedzon is the one who prayed for John Arnott from Toronto when he came to Argentina.
How did Harvest Evangelism start?
For eleven years I was involved in mass crusades with my brother in law, Luis Palau. I was very encouraged by them but concerned about the lack of incorporation into the church. Out of the thousands that make a decision less than 5 per cent join a church. The Lord led me to try in Rosario, Argentina a plan designed to correct this. We decided to plant churches ahead of time, to train the people, to mobilise everybody and we got good results - about half the conference joined the church.
But at the time - 1976 - all I knew about intercession and spiritual warfare was how to spell them! I became the target of the enemy and developed an incurable disease. The doctors gave me two years to live. That's when we decided to build a training centre to leave that legacy to the church in Argentina when I was gone.
People began to come to us for training. And so I said to the Lord, I have a problem: I have a fire in my bones about revival, but I am dying. I was sick - I was having 16 injections a day, 42 pills a day, 2 blood exchanges a week, chemotherapy - I was just hanging there by the skin of my nails.
The Lord indicated to me that I had to learn about intercession. He gave me a word that He was going to heal me, but it was going to be a process which would take time.
From that moment the healing began - it took 4 years. In that context we launched Harvest Evangelism and the Lord led us to Resistencia, which is a city that we reached for Christ using the principles of prayer evangelism.
When that happened Peter Wagner from Fuller Seminary got wind of it and people began to come from all over the world. As they saw what was happening, our ministry became worldwide - and by then the Lord had healed me.
Which countries are you working in now?
A total of 158 cities in four continents. The ones that I work in most are Australia, Hong Kong and Taiwan, Japan, the USA, Canada, Argentina, Brazil and the UK. Singapore, Switzerland, and South Africa are the latest additions.
Do you take a team with you?
Ed: Yes, but we look for the people in the city who will establish a beachhead in the heavenly places. We come back a second and a third time to help them secure and expand that. Then we go back one last time to train the rank and file in prayer evangelism so that the church members turn their homes into lighthouses of prayer. That's our basic strategy.
What is prayer evangelism?
Prayer evangelism is basically the implementation of 1 Timothy 1:15 to 2:8. In 1 Tim 1:15 Paul says, "This is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance that Jesus came into the world to save sinners." That word full acceptance means that everybody should accept it. Then in verse 18 he tells Timothy, "I have a command for you that if you keep it, you will succeed." And the implication is unavoidable. You will succeed in making everybody accept the truth that Jesus came to save sinners.
Then in Chapter 2 he tells him how to commence. "First of all then I urge that prayer be said on behalf of everybody, everywhere," because God wants everybody to be saved and Jesus died for all.
We see prayer as a support system for evangelism. We tell people we would like to pray for them. And they say, "Well, I don't believe in Jesus." We say, "Once we're done, you'll believe in Jesus, because Jesus promised anything we ask He will do."
This is revolutionary. We go to the lost and rather than telling them they're going to hell and praying they'll go to heaven, which is offensive, pray for something that they consider is important. We're finding dramatic answers to those prayers and many, many people coming to the Lord.
You emphasise reconciliation between Christians.
Yes. Our unity is essential for the world to believe. The anger that Christians have against each other, that's what gives the Devil room. It's like a policeman taking bribes from a drug dealer. The policeman has authority to arrest the drug dealer, but he has lost the moral authority to do so because the drug dealer will accuse him before the judge. And the Devil accuses us before the Father and our effectiveness is destroyed.
And that would also mean social or national reconciliation?
Eventually, yes. The problems the nations have are nothing more than a reflection of the problems inside the church. If the church is divided racially, like in America, the society is divided racially. If we are angry, the society is angry. So we have to clean up our act so that our nation can be clean. When that happens, people come to the Lord by the tens of thousands.
This city-wide prayer evangelism goes on for months and years?
Yes. What we present to the church is a lifestyle rather than a programme. If each one in the church adopts 100 people that they pray for, your sphere of influence jumps from say 1,000 to 100,000 immediately. Now, as people go into their homes they look to the right and bless the people on the right, and look to the left and bless them. They look across the street and they bless them. They go to work, they do the same thing. So we talk about a lifestyle of evangelism in prayer, rather than an event.
Do you have failures?
We have about two or three cities that looked very promising at the beginning and are doing very poorly right now.
What we found in one city is that they look at unity as the ultimate objective rather than a means to winning the lost. So they began to have celebrations of unity, and got drunk on that!
We tell people time and again: unity is a means to an end. Unity without mission is terrible.
In another city, one of the key leaders had a selfish ambition, and he just used the movement to promote himself. But there are hundreds of cities where things are going very well.
So Satan counter-attacks.
Absolutely. And it's always through anger. The opposite of love is not hate, but it is indifference. Murder is causing somebody to cease to exist. If I withdraw from you and don't talk to you, it's like I had murdered you. And this is going on in the church.
Do you recommend styles of worship?
When you're having your own church meeting, do what suits you best! When you go beyond that, go with high intense praise and worship, because that brings the presence of Jesus. When Jesus shows up, the unbelievers notice it - sometimes sooner than believers!
Has revival broken out in other nations as in Argentina?
Brazil is a very close second. Next month I'm going to a Brazilian city of a million people. It has 3,000 intercessors who pray every day for the city.
Then every Friday 110,000 intercessors, that's 11 per cent of the population, pray together via radio for about two hours, and you should see how that changes the climate. Crime goes down, unity flourishes.
Hong Kong is getting there. They came to Argentina for our conferences to seek the anointing, and are now seeing a tremendous breakthrough all over the city.
And the UK?
I see the UK like a nation soaked in divine gasoline and any time God is going to strike a match. The moment you have two or three cities reached, it will happen all over the UK.