Australian Pentecostal History
This page describes how God brought Pentecostal Christianity to Australia and where the Christian Assemblies International tie in. Our Bible Studies section contains a history of the Pentecostal movement internationally.
The Naming of Australia
In 1606, the Spanish Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, standing in Tahiti, spoke of the destiny of Australia almost a hundred years before it was claimed by Captain Cook. Here, in part, is the text of the prophecy:
"Let the heavens, the earth, the waters with all their creatures and all those present witness that I, Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros... in the name of Jesus Christ... hoist this emblem of the Holy Cross on which His person was crucified and whereon He gave His life for the ransom and remedy of all the human race... on this day of Pentecost, 1606... I take possession of all this part of the South as far as the pole, in the name of Jesus... which from now on shall be called the Southern Land of the Holy Ghost (La Australia del Espiritu Santo)... and this always and forever... and to the end that to all natives, in all the said lands, the holy and sacred evangel may be preached zealously and openly."
God already knew that Australia would be greatly used as a springboard for spreading the Gospel to other nations, in His time.
Good News Hall
The first Pentecostal church in Australia was started by Mrs Janet Lancaster, a former Methodist born in Williamstown, Melbourne, just three years after the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles. After reading a pamphlet from England entitled Back to Pentecost, she began to seek for the infilling of the Holy Spirit, which she received in 1908. Her testimony convinced others and, together with a few associates, she purchased Temperance Hall in Queensberry Street, North Melbourne. On New Year's Eve 1909, it was opened as Good News Hall. In 1914, William Jeffrey, who had helped establish the Good News Hall, went to Parkes where he began pastoring. In 1919, the group in Parkes opened Australia's first purpose-built Pentecostal church. Two famous evangelists were invited by the Good News Hall fellowship: Smith Wigglesworth of England in 1921, and Aimee Semple McPherson of Los Angeles in 1922. As a result of their campaigns, a number of assemblies were formed in the early 1920s.
In 1926, the Good News Hall invited South African Pentecostal evangelist Fredrick Van Eyk. Under the auspices of the Good News Hall, Van Eyk held highly successful meetings around Australia, giving organisation and structure to the movement and establishing some 16 assemblies, mainly in Queensland. The Good News Hall changed its name to Apostolic Faith Mission as a result of Van Eyk's suggestion and, at an annual conference in Melbourne, in 1927 he presented a constitution. Most of the Queensland pastors eventually disassociated themselves from him and from the Apostolic Faith Mission, naming themselves Assemblies of God. After the death of Janet Lancaster in 1934, the Apostolic Faith Mission dwindled quickly and eventually disappeared.
From 1929 to 1933, Van Eyk formed a number of Assemblies in New South Wales organised as the Foursquare Church. In 1930, William Cathart came to Perth from Scotland and established an Apostolic Church. In 1933, Cathart was joined by John Hewitt and a number of pastors who had left other works, which solidified this work. There are now approximately 70-80 Apostolic churches across Australia.
Southern Evangelical Mission
In 1910, Robert Horne, a Methodist minister from Melbourne, heard of the baptism in the Spirit and sought the Lord until he received the Holy Spirit. In 1911, he purchased a building in Caulfield which was formerly known as St. Aubin's, and started the Southern Evangelical Mission. The mission did not plant additional assemblies, but mainly concentrated in spreading the Pentecostal message using radio and printed material.
Sunshine Gospel Hall
In 1913, Charles Greenwood attended a Church of Christ meeting in Footscray and heard of the baptism in the Spirit from a man who had come under the ministry of South African evangelist, John G. Lake. Greenwood sought God earnestly and received the Holy Spirit on 25th November 1913. In 1916, a small home group led by Greenwood started praying for revival. After meeting in homes for several years, the group built a timber hall, which was opened in early 1925 and named Sunshine Gospel Hall.
The very same day, a young American Pentecostal preacher, Alfred (better known as “A.C.”) Valdez, arrived in Australia. He had felt led to come, but he did not have any clear plans for his visit. Having ministered at the Southern Evangelical Mission for 2 months, Valdez was led to the Sunshine Gospel Hall, where he conducted a series of very successful meetings where 200 people received the Holy Spirit. Meetings were initially moved to Prahran Town Hall, where the assembly was re-organised to form the Pentecostal Church of Australia (“PCA”). Within 12 months of Valdez's first meetings at Sunshine Gospel Hall the old Richmond Theatre at 343 Bridge Road, Richmond, had been purchased and was renamed the Richmond Temple. In 1926 another American Pentecostal preacher, Kelso Glover, arrived in Australia and was invited to take a series of special meetings at the Richmond Temple. Shortly after this time, Valdez felt he should return to the USA, and the Richmond assembly invited Glover to take over the pastoral leadership. In 1927 Glover also returned to the USA, and Charles Greenwood became pastor, a position he held until his retirement in 1968.
The Richmond assembly was the headquarters of the PCA, which from its inception identified itself with the Assemblies of God in Great Britain, America, Canada and New Zealand (with some individual assemblies even using that name). A small college was established in 1926 and, during its two years of operation, 30 preachers from Victoria, South Australia and New South Wales were trained. In July 1926, the PCA commenced publication of a magazine called the ‘Australian Evangel'. By 1928 about three hundred people were meeting regularly for worship at the Richmond Temple.
By 1937 most of the Pentecostal churches in Australia were calling themselves either Assemblies of God (“AOG”) or the Pentecostal Church of Australia. In 1937 a national conference was convened at Redfern, Sydney, in order to unite the assemblies under one constitution. Charles Greenwood, then pastor of the Richmond Temple, was elected as the first President. There are now approximately 900 AOG assemblies across Australia.
Christian Revival Crusade
In November 1941, Leo Cecil Harris, an AOG pastor (whose father was converted under Van Eyk and was at that time also an AOG pastor), met Thomas Foster who was associated with the ‘British-Israel World Federation'. As a result of this meeting Harris embraced a historical approach to Bible prophecy (compared to his previous futuristic position) as well as the ‘British Israel' message, i.e. how Bible prophecy links the Anglo-Saxon (and European) peoples with the lost ten tribes of Israel [see National Israel]. In 1945, Harris received a prophecy to start a work in Australia, and the National Revival Crusade (now Christian Revival Crusade or “CRC”) was founded in Adelaide. In the aftermath of World War II, the need for national repentance and the Kingdom of God was preached/stressed, together with healing and the need for receiving the Holy Spirit.
In 1958, when the CRC adopted a constitution, the Melbourne, Geelong, Port Lincoln and Canberra churches withdrew under the leadership of Lloyd Longfield and Noel Hollins (both of whom had received the Holy Spirit during a CRC revival in 1952), forming the Revival Centres. This work spread to other states, and now consists of around 300 assemblies covering Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Fiji, Italy, Kenya, Papua New Guinea, Malawi and the United Kingdom.
Starting in May 1968, accompanied by a series of powerful moves of the Holy Spirit, many students and staff at Ballarat East High School and other local schools were converted to Christianity. The growth of newly-saved students was such that many could not attend normal 'church' meetings, thus a group formed by sheer numbers into what was firstly called the ‘Ballarat Revival Centre' and then ‘Pentecost Revival Centre'. Amongst those converted was a teacher named Scott Williams who was baptised by Lloyd Longfield and went on to set up assemblies in many countries around the world under the name Christian Assemblies International.
Revivals in Australia
The following quote from an article by Stuart Piggin demonstrates the vibrancy of Australian Christian history, and the frequency of local revivals:
“In my research I have found references to 71 local revivals in nineteenth century Australia. And far from being impervious to revival, the twentieth century has witnessed more revivals than any previous age. This century has witnessed the greatest growth ever in the Christian Church, and revival in Africa, Asia, and South America is endemic…
"The 1902/3 tent meeting crusade in rural NSW, which resulted in the conversion of 25,000 was nowhere more wonderful in its manifestation than in the coal mining villages of the Illawarra when 2,735 professed conversion or some 15% of the region's population. The fire of the Spirit fell on each coal mining village in a work described as 'gloriously monotonous'. At Mt. Kembla 131 professed conversions; Mt. Keira 214; Balgownie 183; Bulli 292; Helensburgh 234 and so on. At Mt. Kembla 'an intense emotion with an evident assent to the Preacher's burning words were imprinted on every face and feature'.” 1
Pentecostal Churches in Australia Today
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures indicate that by 2001 there were nearly 195,000 Pentecostals in Australia. Such churches have also spread the full gospel to many other regions, particularly those of South-East Asia and the Pacific islands, and this missionary work continues strongly today.
R. Humphreys and R. Ward, Religious Bodies in Australia: A Comprehensive Guide, New Melbourne Press (1995) pp.180,181,189,247.
B. Chant, Heart of Fire, 4th printing, Tabor Publications (1997).
Philip J. Hughes, The Pentecostals in Australia, Australian Government Publishing Service (1996), pp2-6, 20-24
- 1. Stuart Piggin is currently working on a history of Australian evangelicalism and on the history of and prospects for revival in Australia. In 1991 the Centre for the Study of Australian Christianity, which fosters postgraduate research into Australian religious history in conjunction with Macquarie University, was established at Robert Menzies College, PO Box 1505, Macquarie Centre NSW 2113, Australia. (c) Renewal Journal #2 (93:2), Brisbane, Australia, pp. 3542