Rev Sam Owoo of Tyndale Baptist Church told Premier Christianity there is an ‘unprecedented’ openness to the Christian message in the town. ‘I haven’t come across anyone that has refused prayer yet,’ he said.
While reluctant to use the word ‘revival’, Neville Hollands from LifeSpring Church said there had been an ‘evangelistic awakening’.
Mr Hollands reported that church leaders in Reading have gathered every Wednesday morning for the past 19 years to pray for the town. He said the recent developments could be put down to ‘good relationships and persistent prayer’.
According to Mr Hollands, approximately a third of those who have been prayed for and given their contact details have been willing to progress on their journeys of faith when contacted.
‘For me, the emphasis now is praying for rain to water the seeds which have been sown. We need to pray. In the parable of the soil, seed is sown everywhere and some fell on good soil. We need that good soil.’
Reports of an awakening first circulated after Florida-based evangelist Tommie Zito began holding meetings at The Gate church to train local Christians in evangelism. Hundreds of Christians from various churches have since taken to the streets and offered to pray with people, as well as sharing the gospel with friends, family members and colleagues.
Those involved in the outreach have been encouraged to follow a suggested script and prayer provided by Mr Zito. The script is designed to help Christians lead people in prayers for salvation, but some leaders have expressed concern at the methodology, viewing it as formulaic.
Jill Bird, outreach pastor at Wycliffe Baptist Church, said that ‘there is something here of God’ but that the process of talking to someone and leading them in a salvation prayer was ‘very quick’.
Pastor of The Gate, Yinka Oyekan, acknowledged that not everyone who has provided details represents a genuine conversion but described the move of God as ‘extraordinary’ nevertheless.
He said: ‘What’s the quality of the conversions? We’ll find out over time what percentage is genuine, which is what everyone wants to know.
‘What’s really profound is not that a percentage of 1,900 people that prayed on the street have got saved, whatever percentage that is.
‘What’s really amazing is that 60 to 70% of people in my church are meeting and praying for people on the streets on a regular basis.’
Mr Oyekan also reported that Christian children are ‘leading the way’, with one 11-year-old said to have led 46 people to Christ.
‘It’s not superstars; these are ordinary people in the church,’ he explained, ‘from 9-year-olds to 80-year-olds, leading people to Christ.
‘I think in a year’s time, up and down the country, the Church will be mobilised, with people out on the streets.
‘That’s when people will really get to see the impact of this work of God, which is actually about the transformation of the Church.’