04 July 2014
Power evangelism: power to change
The ministry of his church has been credited with slashing the homicide rate of the Illinois city of Aurora to zero in 2012 following a meeting with gang leaders. Despite taking more of a hands-off role in Vineyard Aurora since last year, Robby Dawkins spends much of his time travelling and teaching the Church about power evangelism.
Richard Woodall caught up with him following a Vineyard conference in Oxford…
Heading to a country house in Oxfordshire to interview Robby Dawkins feels slightly strange. He has an ever-growing powerful healing ministry and is a big name in the Vineyard church in the US. Some of his recent gigs include New Wine and Soul Survivor.
To add to this, two days before interviewing him, I went to a conference of his on power evangelism. During it, he gave a word of knowledge to the person sitting next to me (I was told later it was completely spot on) while also teaching the 100-plus people present about how to bring the miraculous into the everyday.
I find Robby welcoming and humble. He certainly doesn't see himself as the Church's equivalent of Jose Mourinho: the "special one". As he puts it, he makes himself "available to God" in a way others can too.
Surprisingly, Robby, 48, didn't grow up in a church with a 'signs and wonders' ministry, although he says the reality of the spiritual world was evident to both him and his parents from an early age.
His mother later told him of satanic visitations she had received when pregnant with him; ones which tried to tell her both she and her baby would die.
Robby, a father of six sons, made his own personal commitment to Christ aged seven. It wasn't easy being a pastor's son though.
Despite a lack of God's healing power while growing up in church, this didn't put Robby off seeking it for himself. "I read of miracles in Acts and Luke and wondered what was missing. All the evangelistic thrust in my dad's church was apologetics. It worked for others but we just couldn't argue people into the kingdom. It seemed everyone I prayed for got worse!
"Later on in life as a youth pastor, I received a call from a woman whose father was going in for his third heart bypass operation. The doctors had said he wouldn't make it."
As he was about to pray, he heard the words 'take a risk' and 'open your mouth and I will fill it'.
"I told this woman God was going to completely heal her father; he would have a new heart and new lungs. She hung up and panic hit me – I'd never seen anyone healed whom I'd prayed for.
"She rang later and told me that her father hadn't died. Previously her father had a clogged heart valve and had it replaced with a pig valve. The doctor found this had disappeared and was completely human with no previous scarring from previous surgery.
"He had also had half a lung removed after cancer but the doctor said he now had a whole lung."
When Robby and wife Angie pitched up in Aurora, Illinois, in the mid-1990s, to plant a church, murders and drive-by shootings were common in the city.
"Everyone was afraid. We saw some of God's power but I didn't think it would be sustained unless we took it outside the Church. We went into bars, struck up conversations and prayed for people. People were healed."
Would he ever put a figure on how many receive healing in his ministry?
"It's difficult. I'd say about 75 per cent of those we prayed for experienced some level of healing .For cancer I'd say it's 60 - 65 per cent.
"With schizophrenia, maybe five per cent – some are tougher than others. God's not holding out, there's a growth process in it. Of course the most incredible miracle is the changed life."
Power evangelism is an integral ministry to Vineyard Aurora. Was there anything specific which made him change his mind about healing power?
"I sensed the Lord was asking me to look at prayers of healing in the New Testament."
People came to Jesus and asked for healing. He would say something like 'rise up and walk' or 'stretch out your hand'. There wasn't a request. We started praying like that and seeing some 20 or 30 healings happen every week.
"Until 2012, the past 66 years in Aurora, there had never been a year without homicides.
"All of a sudden crime was dropping and gang leaders were thinking they didn't have any respect anymore, and threatening that 2012 would be the bloodiest year ever.
"We invited the top three leaders of Latin Kings – the largest gang in the city – to the church to talk. They all thought we wanted to stop a war but I told them we wanted to show them Jesus.
"As we prayed, each of them was dramatically touched and they all gave their lives to Christ.
"I told them what had happened in that room would change the city. Amazingly, in 2012, we did not have one homicide."
Jesus himself spoke about a "sinful generation" always asking for a sign. What does Robby think of this?
"The culture Jesus is referencing is a dark period of history. A people into superstition and hungry for the spectacular.
"I want people to have a platform of faith in order to bring them into relationship with God."
How essential is someone's level of faith in praying for or receiving healing?
"Sometimes Jesus says your faith has made you whole, but not all the time. I prayed for my mum but she died of colon cancer. We had prayed for the woman in the same room who also had cancer. The other woman was instantly healed of it and went home the next day."
I ask if he ever met charismatic leader and founder of the Vineyard movement John Wimber.
"Nearly. He was walking into a room as I went past. He looked for a long time while his hand was on the door. It was quite weird. I always wondered what he was thinking or seeing."