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John Sung

" you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh," says the Lord. "But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go."  Jeremiah 45:5

"All true believers have a right to expect that these supernatural signs will accompany and confirm their testimony as, in obedience to Christ's command, they seek to proclaim the good news of the gospel to all men."  Derek Prince

"All Christians will be held accountable for what they have done with their time, talent and treasure...all our works will be judged by fire."  Stephen Hill

"On that day you had better hope you're not standing knee-deep in ashes."  Leonard Ravenhill

"It is not won by promotion, but by many prayers and tears. It is attained by confession of sin, and much heart-searching and humbling before God; by self-surrender, a courageous sacrifice of every idol, a bold, deathless, uncompromising and uncomplaining embracing of the cross, and an eternal, unfaltering looking to Jesus crucified...a great price, but it must be unflinchingly paid by him who would be...a leader whose power is recognized and felt in heaven, on earth and in hell."  Samuel Logan Brengle

"I have one passion; it is He, He alone."  Count Ludwig Von Zinzendorf

John Sung was the most influential Chinese evangelist during the 1930s and his ministry had a profound impact on Christianity especially in...China and Southeast Asia. Out of a population of one million Protestants in China in 1949, hundreds of thousands were born again and filled with the Holy Spirit under his ministry. Author Timothy Tow wrote in, "John Sung and the Asian Awakening":

"Divine power in no small measure was poured upon Sung. His work was not one of adding to the Kingdom by tens, but rather of multiplying by hundreds into thousands and ten thousands. His ministry was not so much evangelism as it was revivalism. His messages were directed at spiritually dead church members more than those outside the church..."

Most everyone who has ever witnessed or those who have studied his ministry, considers him to be one of the greatest revivalists of the century. The impact he had on the Chinese revival of 1927-1937 was to bring hundreds of thousands of converts into the Church before the Communist takeover in 1949. He was considered by many to be the "John the Baptist of China." His confrontation of complacent churchly sinners brought many, including ministers and lay-people alike, to their knees. David Smithers tells us:

"He (Sung) operated as a true apostolic evangelist, with countless signs and wonders following his ministry...He was the embodiment of a burning zeal, unquenchable passion and an unrelenting fearlessness. Some called him the "John Wesley of China," while others called him "the ice-breaker" or the "Apostle of Revival."

William E. Schubert, a veteran missionary to China has said, "Dr. John Sung was probably the greatest preacher of the 20th century. I have heard almost all of the great preachers from 1910 until now, including R. A. Torrey, Billy Sunday, Henry Jowett, and Billy Graham. Yet John Sung surpassed them all in pulpit power, attested by amazing and enduring results."

Schubert estimates that from 1933-1936, Sung had something over 100,000 converts. Adding it all together from 1928-1949, we can safely say that between 200,000-300,000 souls were born again through Sung's relentless ministry.

John Sung was one man among millions. One man, who accomplished what hundreds of missionaries tried for centuries; the breakthrough of true Christianity in China. One man. What God can do with just one man:

Give Me a man of God---one man,
Whose faith is master of his mind,
And I will right all wrongs
And bless the name of all mankind.

Give Me a man of God---one man,
Whose tongue is touched with heaven's fire
And I will flame the darkest hearts
With high resolve and clean desire.

Give Me a man of God---one man
One mighty prophet of the Lord,
And I will give you peace on earth,
Bought with a prayer and not a sword.

Give Me a man of God---one man,
True to the vision that he sees,
And I will build your broken shrines,
And bring the nations to their knees.
- George Liddell -

John Sung grew up with a Christian upbringing. One of eleven children, Sung was born on September 27, 1901 in Hinghwa of the Fukien province in Southeast China. His father was pastor of the American Wesleyan Methodist Church and had the old Wesley passion and fire for the Lord. Sung was converted at the age of nine in a revival that occurred in his home church at which 3,000 were saved. He then began helping his father with the church duties. At the age of thirteen, he became his father's assistant and on certain evenings, when his father was either too busy or ill, he would have to give the sermon as a substitute. As he would stand in the pulpit many church members would call him "Little Pastor."

In 1920, at the age of nineteen, Sung left for America to study at Wesleyan University in Ohio. His parent's desire was for him to study for the ministry but Sung also wanted to dabble in science so he also took courses at Ohio State University. Within five years and three months from the day he entered collage, he earned three academic degrees: a Bachelor of Science, a Master of Science, and a Doctor of Philosophy. However, these high honors did not come without taking a great toll on his spiritual life. After a few years in America, sitting under the day to day worldly American philosophy and liberal American Christian theology, John Sung found himself backslidden and doubting everything that his father and the Bible taught him. By his own testimony, he did not indulge in the "four Chinese proverbial sins of womanizing, gambling, drinking and smoking, but rather in the deadlier American sins of the spirit: pride, hypocrisy, doubt, and unbelief.

At this time he was visited by an American Methodist pastor, who suggested he attend Union Theological Seminary in New York. At Union Seminary, Sung was bombarded with more watered down, limp-standing liberal American Theology. Finally under the teaching of Harry Emerson Fosdick, his faith crumbled to nothing. Concluding that if God was dead and Christ was not risen, there was no purpose in Christianity, so he turned to Taoism, Buddhism and studied the Koran. In later years he would lament on the deadening effect of modernistic teaching, replacing the word "seminary" with the word "cemetery." The more he searched for the truth in these religions, the more confused and desperate he became. He was going through an intense struggle between the Spirit of God and the Spirit of Deception (Satan) between truth and error. The seed of God planted in him years ago began to germinate and grow. His conscience continued to turn him back to the things of God and through it all he persevered in prayer and confessed his sins. One night during this struggle, as he was in prayer, an amazing experience came on him. He was suddenly overwhelmed by a vision of the crucified Christ standing before him. John described it like this:

"The Holy Spirit poured over me, just like water, on top of my head," then, "The Holy Spirit continuously poured onto me wave after wave...this is my Spiritual birthday! Although I already believed in Jesus since my childhood days, this new experience is a life changing one for me."

When the vision receded, Sung felt a wonderful relief. He leaped to his feet and at the top of his lungs he shouted, "Hallelujah!" that rang through the corridors of his fourth floor dormitory.

Now John Sung felt possessed with more strength and fervency to preach the Gospel to everyone he met. He became a radically changed man and began to preach fervently to his peers and lecturers in the seminary. Like John the Baptist whose name he assumed after that night of conversion, his message was marked by unremitting rebuke of sin in both high and low places, particularly the church. For the next week he preached the glad news ceaselessly. His spiritual eyes opened, he went straight to his teacher, Fosdick, and declared:

"You are of the devil. You made me lose my faith!"

As you can expect, just as in today's church, it did not sit well with those on the receiving end. This drastic change in John Sung's behavior made some believe that he had become mentally unbalanced. For denouncing sin in high places, he was sent, by the seminary officials, to a mental asylum where he was confined for 193 days. All he was allowed to take with him was a Bible and a fountain pen. Confined in the section of the hospital reserved for the most severe cases, Sung read his Bible from the beginning to the end forty times. From that time on until his death he never would read another book but the Bible. He devoted almost every waking hour to Bible reading and prayer. This period of Spiritual renewal laid the foundations for one of the greatest revivals of the 20th century.

The Chinese Consulate managed to arrange for John's release and he returned to China leaving the Union Theological Seminary behind. While on the ship to China, he was cast down with melancholy at the words of Jesus, "For what shall it profit as man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?" (Mark 8:36). The new John Sung then took all his degrees and academic rewards and threw them into the sea in order to make sure he would not be attracted again by the glitters of the world. The year was 1927 and the Holy Spirit was now finished with laying the foundations for John Sung's revival ministry. The mighty ten year Chinese Revival , The Great Asian Awakening was about to be birthed.

When Sung arrived back home, he realized that what China needed was men who preached the Gospel of the kingdom of God. It wasn't long before the tinder was set on fire. He preached in the Min-nan region for three years on the power and the purity of the " first New Testament Church, "The Cross", "The Blood of Jesus", making Christ's crucifixion, resurrection, ascension, and return the center of his preaching. As with John the Baptist, "all the region ...went out to him and were baptized by him...confessing their sins. (Matthew 3:5-6)

An eyewitness account of Sung's ministry:

"My first impression was that he was a most unusual man. Attired in a white Chinese gown with a shock of uncombed hair flapping before his big forehead, his demeanor was at the same time earnest and serene. Owing to much speaking, his voice was hoarse bur rich with sincerity and appeal. Realizing that what the Chinese Church needed was repentance and new birth, he fearlessly lashed out at the sins of the people, naming them one by one. His remedy was none other than the precious blood of Christ and the renewal of the Holy Spirit. He declared our duty before a holy God was to humble ourselves and to confess our sins. Many, including myself, wept bitterly for our sins... When we were thus gloriously saved, a wave of praise and prayer went up spontaneously from all our hearts and lips as in the days of the Acts of the Apostles...feuding elders and deacons made up with each other. Sums of money that had been stolen were returned. Mr. Gan, a man with three wives, repented together with them. He made an agreement with his second and third wives to live apart for the rest of their lives and he would still provide for their needs."

Sung took new converts through a progression of Bible studies so they would become familiar with the deep truths of the Scriptures. These Bible sessions, like his revival meetings , would last two hours each session, and were conducted three times a day. Timothy Tow relates on Sung's preaching:

"Sung strongly emphasized the holiness of God ...and by denouncing specific sins that fit under the categories of each of God's Commandments. Since the wages of sin is death, he spoke often on the themes of heaven and hell."

Sung believed that people admitting their sins is not enough, they must "repent of their sins" and totally change their lives to remove the sinful behavior. He always emphasized repentance and the need for complete restitution where it was at all possible.

In 1930 he formed the "Bethel Evangelistic Band" made up of graduates from Bethel Bible School in Shanghai. God used this apostolic team mightily to spread the fires of revival all over China. They went forth preaching and singing the Gospel and signs and wonders with healings and conviction followed them wherever they went.

Contrary to what many thought of him, Sung's personality was reserved ad sometimes subdued. But not when he was in the pulpit. While preaching he would surrender to intense emotions pacing back and forth across the platform or sometimes leaping over the communion rail. Sometimes he would walk up and down the aisles to point his finger at someone in the audience and then turn and run back over the communion rail to the pulpit. David Smithers explains:

"He fearlessly denounced all sin and hypocrisy wherever he found it, especially among hardened ministers. Yet he also moved audiences with the message of Christ's tender and unfailing love, like few others could. Dr. Sung's meetings were always accompanied by a tremendous amount of conviction and brokenness over sin. It was not uncommon for hundreds of people to be seen with tears streaming down their faces and crying out for mercy. Convicted sinners frequently would rush forward to openly confess their sins before the whole congregation."

Leslie T. Lyall writes:

"In the course of his preaching, Dr. Sung often received the gift of prophecy. On several occasions he pointed out the sins of some backslidden pastor with an incredible and fearful accuracy. Sometimes he singles out an individual...or office bearer in the church, and says, ‘There is sin in your heart!' And he was always right."

When John Sung wasn't preaching or teaching he was actively adding to his prayer list. Sung defined faith as "watching God work while on your knees." He prayed daily over an extensive list of people's needs while carrying around small photographs of people to pray for. Nothing was allowed to hinder his time of prayer. Everywhere he went he urged people to give themselves to prayer. He made it a regular habit to be up before the sun, usually at 5A.M., every morning and pray for two to three hours. A close friend and prayer partner tells us:

"Prayer for John Sung was like a battle. He prayed until the sweat poured down from his face. At times he would literally collapse upon his bed and uncontrollably weep and sob under the burden of travailing prayer."

His name spread throughout China and invitations soon poured in requesting him to spread the Gospel in other regions of the country. Under Sung's preaching a great revival hit the city of Nanchang. Sung was preaching three times every day, each time with a fiery anointing. Within two weeks God was moving mightily. Sung announced that on Sunday night there would be a prayer meeting instead of preaching. That afternoon 193 people went, two by two, into the village of Bean Sprout Lane to witness in the homes. The Holy Spirit fell on the villages and the villagers began to come out of their houses carrying their idols. They threw the idols into the river, and the wooden ones they burned. From that day on the entire village gave up idolatry. That evening, at the prayer service, the Holy Spirit fell on the congregation three powerful times. The third time, while Sung was on his knees praying, spontaneous prayer erupted from the congregation and continued non-stop for forty-five minutes. Everyone in the room came under conviction and started confessing their sins. Eight communist students also came under conviction. They later confessed that they had been paid to come to the meetings and cause disruptions and trouble, crying out "Oh, our unspeakable sins" they all became earnest Christians.

The sick and crippled, for miles around, came to Sung to receive prayer for their bodies. One eyewitness reports:

"Dr. Sung usually had one meeting in every campaign at which he would give an address on healing and the necessity for sincere repentance before inviting the sick to come forward."

Each time hundreds were instantly healed of every kind of ailment and disease. Sometimes he would personally lay hands on and pray for as many as 500-600 people at one time. As in the Scriptures, the blind received their sight; the lame walked, and the deaf and mute were wonderfully healed in the name of Jesus. In spite of the many signs and wonders that followed his ministry, John had his own "thorn in the flesh." His body was racked with intestinal tuberculosis. He was in constant pain from the infected bleeding ulcers in his colon. He still continued to preach fervently, sometimes in a leaning or kneeling position to lessen the terrible pain. He always said that God's grace was sufficient to get him through. Finally at the age of 43, the forgotten prophet of the forgotten Chinese Revival died on August 18, 1944.

Well did Leonard Ravenhill describe the role of a prophet:

"Prophets are God's emergency men for crisis hours. They thrive on perplexity, override adversity, defeat calamity, bring the new wine of the Kingdom to burst withered wineskins of orthodoxy, and birth revival."

Matthew 3:7,8,10 "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come...bear fruits worthy of repentance...even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

J.J.(Dark) Di Pietro
Cane Creek Church