Ascension Day 2012 was celebrated in a big way in Indonesia. Could this be the beginning of a Christian revival in the largest Muslim nation in the world?
On May 17th, the Christian minority came out to pray and they came by the busloads, and they thronged to attend the 370 satellite centers that hosted simultaneous broadcasts of the three-hour event held at the packed 100,000-seat stadium in Jakarta. Altogether, early reports from these satellite centers indicate that 2.5 million people in Indonesia participated in the Ascension Day Prayer Meeting. In addition, it is reported that many people around the world also tuned in via the Internet to join those gathered in Indonesia to pray. How unusual for any country—but Indonesia?
Who would have thought that Indonesia with more Muslims (180 million) than any other country has a national public holiday to commemorate Jesus Christ’s Ascension?
Yet there was little media coverage. Where mass media seems more interested in reporting on growing religious intolerance and Lady Gaga’s tour being cancelled due to Islamist opposition (front page news), this landmark event in the history of the Church in Indonesia, and perhaps the world, almost went unreported in the local news media.
There was only a little one-paragraph report on the “Mass Prayer” in Jakarta Post saying, “Thousands of Christians participate in the World Prayer Assembly at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Senayan, Jakarta on Thursday. The main prayers were undertaken simultaneously by millions of Christian in more than 200 countries.”
In a private meeting the morning after, Rev Dr Nus Remias, one of the key people behind this unusual gathering, recalled (trying to hold back the tears) how the Lord two years ago called many Indonesian pastors to put aside their differences and join together as the one body of Christ to stage this prayer event. He mentioned about the pastor of one of the largest local churches who one day went to some other pastors in the city to ask for forgiveness for his pride in the past.
The fruit of humility was evident on May 17th, when 70 leaders of different denominations came to pray together in front of millions of Christians throughout the land. The president of the Catholic conference of Bishops shared the stage with the leaders of the Protestant churches, as they exalted the risen Lord in prayer before the people.
Who would have thought that a worldwide prayer movement would find a new center in Muslim-majority Indonesia? That church leaders and Christian business people from over 80 countries gathered to attend the week long World Prayer Assembly in Jakarta was also remarkable. Originally targeting 4,000, the organizers had to adjust their plans to accommodate the 9,000 that came to encourage each other to pray for global and local issues like human trafficking and religious persecution, across different generations, interceding for unreached peoples, regional communities, Christians in the marketplace, governments, unity in the Body of Christ and so on. Appropriately so, the support of one of the regional prayer leaders was greatly appreciated. Dr Yonggi Cho who had led a prayer revival in South Korea three decades ago came to encourage everyone in prayer.
But it was not these giants in the faith that were the heroes of the day. It was the person sitting in the stadium, in the satellite centers, or at home watching on TV or the Internet and committing with everyone else to the call to pray called “MY HOME” to adopt a street or a local community or an office to focus their prayers. That is the real change that the organizers are seeking to implement.
After all that, we can overlook some of the prayers that may seem theologically imperfect, and those whose doctrinal position we may not agree with, but there is no denying that the organizers sought to and did exalt Jesus Christ, and that it is equally undeniable that the unity of the Body of Christ was evident in the actions and words of all the denominational leaders who stood side by side and prayed together. God was glorified in an unusual meeting.
Now, following this unusual prayer meeting, it is very timely that Leading The Way is organizing a revival meeting in Indonesia. In fact, the Istora indoor stadium is right next door to the Gelora Bung Karno stadium. Some of the same leaders have already committed to help organize that meeting. May that be another unusual meeting in which the Lord is glorified. May the people of God be inspired and grounded in the life-changing uncompromising Truth of Christ!