Controversial is defined as,”giving rise to public disagreement; likely to produce controversy.”
I was sitting last month in a cafe in Indiana with my missionary friend, David Hogan, when he said to our host pastors,”I’m controversial, you know.”
That made me chuckle and I immediately thought of what my British mentor, Arthur Burt, used to tell me about healing evangelist Smith Wigglesworth. Arthur had lived with Smith at one time and said that people either loved Smith or hated him. To most people, he was a strange dichotomy of a man. He could be rough and aggressive one moment, then the next he could weep and sob as he held a sick baby in his arms. In one meeting, a couple with a crippled toddler came forward and set their little boy on the stage for prayer. Smith stepped back, then came forward and booted the boy off the stage. When the boy landed, he hit the ground walking-completely healed! Arthur said,”I saw it with my own eyes, Brother Steve.” When he operated in ways like this, some in the crowd would yell out at him,”You brute!”
Smith would yell back at them,”You mind your own business-I’m minding the Lord’s!” Wigglesworth was “controversial” to say the least.
Arthur Burt used to tell me that if you were “Spirit Filled” in the early 1900’s, you paid a price that few are aware of today. At the church where Arthur was pastor it was common for the critics and persecutors to paint,”Mad House,” in red paint on the outside of the building. On numerous occasions they tried to burn down his church building. One night as Arthur preached, a man walked down the middle aisle, up to the pulpit, and stuck a cocked revolver to Arthur’s head. He suddenly paused, and then turned and walked back out of the building. Back in those days to be Spirit Filled was to be “controversial.”
Remember back to Bible days when both John the Baptist and Jesus were viciously persecuted and criticized, mainly by the respected religious scholars of the day. Do you realize that John the Baptist was highly “controversial?” John appears out of nowhere with no “credentials.” Who amongst the touted scholars of that day would approve of John’s ministry? He aggressively comes on the scene and rebukes everybody! Why does he have that wild haircut and always wears the same leather outfit? Plus, the higherups say he’s of the devil and has a demon (Matthew 11:18), so there must be something really wrong with John’s ministry-right?
Then there’s the most “controversial” fellow of all time-Jesus of Nazareth. Did you know a lot of people called Him deranged, insane, out of His mind; and once again, the Biblical scholars of the day said that what He does is by the power of the devil and He’s possessed by one! (Mark 3:21,30) Which come to think of it, they still do that today with people they tag as “controversial.”
Which brings me back to my missionary friend, David Hogan. David is probably the most lied about, slandered, and maligned ministers that I personally know of today. He has paid a price to fulfill his calling-which is to reach the lost tribes of Mexico-Aztecs, Incas, and about 20 other tribes. There’s a reason those tribes were unreached with the Gospel for thousands of years-they are hard to get to and have violently tried to keep all foreigners out. They have beaten David with clubs, machetes, stones, tried to drown him several times and a sniper shot him in the side of the head. Yes, they have been hard to reach! Three of his American missionary co-workers have been martyred-including the father of his son-in-law. In order to reach these people, the Gospel has come forth with,”Mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God.” (Romans 15:19) Nearly every disease known has been healed, missing body parts miraculously restored, and David has personally witnessed 33 people raised from the dead. The result is that there are now 1200 churches in these areas.
Now realize that many of our critics, those who call David and me,”Liars, insane, imposters, false teachers,” don’t believe that Jesus does miracles today-so we are either lying or what we are doing is,”of the devil.” But, David and I will freely and boldly tell anyone,”That is God doing the works-it’s simply Jesus Christ working with us and confirming His Word with signs following.” (Mark 16:20) It’s the same Gospel that religious people today are still calling “controversial.”
When David and I were sitting together at lunch last month, he shared how he had the privilege last year to reach a village in Africa that had never heard the Gospel. As he described the hard trek up the mountain, then looking from the top down upon the thousands in the village, he got choked up and was moved to tears. The Holy Spirit then came upon me and it was all I could do to keep from sobbing out loud right there in the cafe! (And oh yes, the entire village from the Chief down decided to follow Jesus). David can come across rough and blunt to the American church, but his intention is for our good-to stir us and shake us from our complacency. David Hogan is the real deal-a royal fighter, as tough as nails, with a tender heart. Is he “controversial?” Absolutely! But, after reading this article, wouldn’t it be great if people started saying about you,”You know, they’re somewhat-CONTROVERSIAL.”