As the Church of England continues to see a fall in congregation...
"Unprecedented" openness to the gospel reported in Reading as 1,200 make commitments to Christ
Church leaders report as many as 1200 people have responded to the gospel on the streets of Reading over the past 3 weeks.
Rev Sam Owoo of Tyndale Baptist Church told Premier there is an "unprecedented" openness to the Christian message in the town.
While reluctant to use the word "revival", Neville Hollands from LifeSpring Church said there had been an "evangelistic awakening".
"It's early days but it seems God is up to something. Something is happening".
Mr Hollands also reported that church leaders in Reading have been gathering every Wednesday morning for the past 14 years to pray for the town. He said the latest news could be put down to "Good relationships and persistent prayer".
Reports of an awakening were first circulated after Florida-based evangelist Tommie Zito began holding meetings at The Gate Church in Reading to train local Christians in evangelism nearly 3 weeks ago.
Hundreds of Christians from various churches have since taken to the streets and offered to pray with people.
Churchgoers have been encouraged to follow a suggested script and prayer provided by Mr Zito (see photos).
The script encourages the Christian to lead people in prayers for salvation, but some leaders have expressed concern at the methodology which appears fast and formulaic.
Jill Bird, Outreach pastor at Wycliffe Baptist Church said, "there is something here of God" but said the process of talking to someone and leading them in a salvation prayer was "very quick".
The pastor of The Gate Church, Yinka Oyekan said in a statement: "We are finding that hundreds of people are happy to pray to give their lives to Christ on the streets of Reading".
Mr Oyekan said over 720 people had "prayed in the streets" during the first 10 days of mission. Today the number is said to stand at around 1200 and Mr Oyekan estimates that 80% of this figure represent prayers for "salvation or rededications".
Mr Oyekan also reported that Christian children are "leading the way", with one 11 year old claiming to have led 46 people to Christ.
"It is not like anything I have ever seen or experienced before and it left me reeling"
"What is happening is not revival yet if revival means the whole of Reading is turning to Christ, but it is an exponential explosion of what you would normally see"
"Evangelist Tommie Zito and I believe Reading could become the first city in Europe to be swept by the Glory of God."
"It is not a technique, it is not a program, it is not a church growth plan but something Holy from the Lord, it is simply the empowering of ordinary believers to be able to share the gospel on the streets and that is where the power to transform our cities lies."
Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Oyekan said: "I personally think there is a mixture in the responses to the gospel of genuine and not genuine, of confused and of clear. But, boy there are certainly hundreds and hundreds who have responded and meant what they have prayed."
Mr Zito filed for bankruptcy in 2010 but is now lead pastor of Light Fort Myers Church in Florida. He travels internationally and claims to have conducted 1230 "revival meetings".
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