Going to Ground
In 1935, a Chinese preacher in his mid 30s stood on a makeshift stage in Singapore conducting a Presbyterian-hosted revival. Chinese theologian Timothy Tow, a boyhood convert of that week, described John Sung as "attired in a light white Chinese gown … with a shock of black hair flapping his high forehead, he was jabbing away … 'You ought to die, to die!'" Sung then proceeded to act out and shout out the biblical story of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was an athletic performance, but not quite as energetic as the time Sung preached the story of Elisha, who ordered Naaman the Syrian to dip seven times into the Jordan River and receive healing of his leprosy. Sung demonstrated by jumping seven times off the platform. When John Sung, spoke people tended to listen.
Though Sung began as a boy preacher assisting his pastor father, his ministry as an adult evangelist lasted a mere 14 years—from 1927 to 1941, at which time he entered an excruciating three-year illness that took his life. A John Sung revival week would start with a call to public repentance (pastors included), with people instructed to write their sins on paper and personally present them. Then a call to new birth—second and third "new births" welcomed. Next came teachings on holy living, then new converts were organized into bands of three to five men and women instructed to evangelize at least once a week. Many of these were commissioned to become full-time evangelistic bands traveling throughout China and elsewhere. At each stop, the evangelists would organize their converts into small new churches meeting in homes, churches that would then send out fresh bands of evangelists to replicate the process.
In a typical year for Sung (July 1931-July ...