The church in Sri Lanka is notably home-grown. One reason is that since few missionaries get visas. That cuts off the church from foreign influence, and to some extent from foreign funding.
A second reason is that the Assemblies of God are the most dynamic church in Sri Lanka. Pentecostalism goes back a long way in Sri Lanka, inspired by the 1923 visit of Madam Livini, a converted Danish actress. Stirred by her example, a number of local families began Pentecostal ministries. These kept their distance from the prevalent colonial churches.
The Ceylon Pentecostal Mission became the largest. Its members dressed in white robes and stressed celibacy for church workers.
The Assemblies grew from the same root, but somewhat more conventionally, thanks to the presence of American Assemblies of God missionaries. These withdrew in 1963, however. According to Pastor Colton, the Assemblies' respected white-haired leader, the missionaries found Sri Lanka a "difficult field."
"Missionaries and funds go together," Colton told me, "even though they speak of indigenous work. When suddenly you are weaned from your mother's milk it is a time of real difficulty. Most of our workers and their families were almost at the point of starvation.
"But it was a blessing in disguise. 'The just shall live by faith,' as the Scriptures say. Colonial rule had crushed our ability to stand on our own initiative. We were the 'Island of Palms'—we always had our palms out.
"I started my church with 50 hens for self-support. People began tentmaking, and that really helped the work. It began to grow on indigenous principles. We must clothe Christ in the garb of the people, and speak of Christ in the language of the people." By all accounts the Assemblies have become ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 60+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more