Tony McLennan has an audacious plan for our nation: to create an army of 10,000 “soul winners” who will bring one million people to Christ in the next five to ten years.
It may sound impossible, but McLennan is going about this “revolution of righteousness” across Australia and New Zealand with tactical precision (learned during his former life in the military).
Through the Australia for Jesus network (of which McLennan is CEO and co-founder), teams of evangelists are already deployed every second Saturday on streets across our country – currently in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide – sharing the gospel. They use a structured format that aims to not only convert but also follow up new believers.
While such a well-administered revolution may sound “earthly”, McLennan assures Eternity that every part of this grand plan is inspired by God.
“This is not a Tony McLennan ministry,” he says. “This is the Holy Spirit enlivening God’s people, as he is doing in a number of ways across our nation.”
Target: the great unsaved
“Australia for Jesus came about when I was CEO of the Bible League [Australia & New Zealand]. We were visiting hundreds of churches and meeting thousands of Christians. One of the things I noticed was that pastors would all mention they were very concerned about the lack of personal soul winning or personal evangelism among Christians,” McLennan explains.
This is a trend he had witnessed himself: “Most of the time, from what I’ve observed, people are going to church to sort of cope with life, like it’s some sort of pep talk or something … I don’t want to be critical because people do need to have their lives sorted out. It’s not as if I’m saying that’s bad, but what about the average Aussie, the great forgotten species in Australia? It’s the average Aussie who thinks that a six-pack and she’ll-be-right-mate will do the job. They’re not actually hearing the gospel from anybody.”
“The crop is souls. All Jesus is interested in is souls in the final analysis.” – Tony McLennan
McLennan highlights two biblical examples to show where he believes Christians are going wrong. First, he points to the way Paul instructs us to wield the “sword of the spirit” – that is, the word of God.
“People tend to think of it as a defensive weapon but Paul was referring to the word of God spoken to people about how they might be saved.”
Noting that Paul was most likely referring to the short sword used by the Roman Army, McLennan continues: “[Paul] was talking about close engagement, and what we have done with the gospel in Australia is we’ve made it remote engagement. We’ve made it ‘come to church and you’ll hear it’ or ‘do an Alpha course and you’ll hear it.’ But what we’ve got to do is get among the people with ‘the sword’, close range.”
Second, he believes Christians have mistaken Jesus’ teaching about “fruit” and “crops” (for example, in the parable of the sower) to be about developing Christian character rather than saving the lost.
“The crop is souls. All Jesus is interested in is souls in the final analysis. That’s why he starts off in Mark’s Gospel saying, ‘Now is the time. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe the good news!’, and he finishes off Mark’s Gospel with the words ‘go and preach the gospel to every creature’.” The same with Matthew’s Gospel: the first words of Jesus to his disciples are ‘come, follow me – I’ll make you fishers of men’ and his last words were ‘go and make disciples’. I mean, he’s telling us something.”
Leading a revolution
As a way of addressing this evangelism deficit, McLennan began running ‘Bringing others to Jesus’ seminars in churches which, he says, were very well received. “But along the way, I felt God was saying to me that we needed to go further than that and actually raise up soul winners that would be part and parcel of those churches and the wider Christian community.”
McLennan’s conviction was reinforced by a vivid dream he had in 2015.
“I saw this book coming down from above and it was brilliantly white. On the book was the word ‘God’ and underneath that were the letters ‘REV’ in caps … Then a voice spoke through the book and said, ‘They have had their sexual revolution. They have had their socialist revolution. They’ve had their secular humanist revolution. Now is the time for the God revolution.’
“And then what I deduced to be chapter headings fell out of the right-hand side of the book … So I woke up and I wrote all this down and I later called this ‘the God revolution’”. He has since published this in a video series and is shaping into a written book.
McLennan left Bible League in 2017 to launch Australia for Jesus with the support of other ‘Christian leaders’. These include Hope Christian Media, Navigators (of which Tony is a longtime supporter) and the Business Life Network. The latter is a ministry to professionals started by McLennan in 2000 – and the organisation that now operates Australia for Jesus.
The Australia for Jesus cohort hatched its bold plan to win one million people for Christ based on the assumption that “we only need 10,000 radicals to change the nation”. This is based on an interpretation of the parable of the sower suggests the number of converts could then be multiplied “a hundred fold”.
‘They have had their sexual revolution. They have had their socialist revolution. They’ve had their secular humanist revolution. Now is the time for the God revolution.’
To give people a vehicle to do this, they developed the “Way of Life” resource – a visual gospel presentation that evangelists can access on their mobile phone (or in booklet format) and share with people on the spot. The presentation begins with conversation-starting questions – such as, ‘What is the point of life?’, ‘Does God exist and can you know him?’ and ‘Do people go to heaven when they die?’. These are followed by a summary of our need for reconciliation with God and information about Jesus’ death and resurrection. It finishes with an invitation for people to pray “the sinner’s prayer” – a prayer to receive forgiveness through Christ. A guidebook has also been created on how best to approach people on the street and guide conversations using the presentation.
When Australia for Jesus launched in October 2017 at Margaret Court‘s Victory Life Centre in Perth, McLennan says, “I didn’t expect it to go anywhere, to be perfectly frank. But obviously God was in it because it took off like a rocket.
“I remember many people [in that congregation] coming forward for prayer to be soul winners. Then it wasn’t long before we had thousands of people signing on wanting to be soul winners and people saying, ‘Come and do a seminar in our church.'”
“I didn’t expect it to go anywhere, to be perfectly frank. But obviously God was in it because it took off like a rocket.” – Tony McLennan
One of these churches was LifeSource Christian Centre in Chatswood, Sydney, where McLennan spent several months working with its evangelism team. During that time, they created a structure for what is now referred to as a “Way of Life campaign”.
“In those campaigns around six or eight people go out in pairs, usually, [in their trademark green T-shirts] and they share the Way of Life straight off their mobile phone. And they’re generally finding that – this is my observation- one in five people that they meet at random, whether they’re walking around or whether they’re sitting down, will actually entertain a presentation,” says McLennan.
The campaigns are also grounded in what McLennan describes as the “three Ps”: prayer, presenting the good news and parenting, spiritually, those who receive Jesus. Before each Way of Life campaign starts, teams get together to pray.
“Anyone can afford an hour a week to get with others and pray for the lost. And then that propels them into presenting the good news, preferably the same day,” says McLennan, adding that evangelists are also provided with resources to help parent those who received Jesus.
If someone does pray the sinner’s prayer, evangelists are encouraged to take down their details and make contact with them to help continue their faith journey and point them towards a Bible study or local church. Converts are also sent a link to the Way of Life presentation in video format, as well as the contact details of their evangelist.
Growing an army
Two years into their mission, McLennan says they are attracting a growing army of soul winners from “conservative Presbyterians to really out-there Pentecostals”.
While their database exceeds 5,000, he says “I’d be the first to tell you not everyone of those is an out there radical soul-winner …
“But I’d expect after five years, we would have that network around the 15,000, maybe 20,000, mark – and out of that, you’d see a far greater absorption rate into the community of people actually sharing the gospel.”
“Anyone can afford an hour a week to get with others and pray for the lost. And then that propels them into presenting the good news, preferably the same day.” – Tony McLennan
Using data from the first 22 months of Way of Life campaigns (from April 2018 to January 2020), McLennan says: “we’ve seen 1,919 partial presentations, 2,533 full presentations and 1,149 actual decisions – that’s people praying the sinner’s prayer there and then. A lot of those people gave their details for further contact too.
“In the 451 campaigns over that time, the ratio of decisions to presentations is 40 to 45 per cent, which is extraordinary. And the ratio of people who prayed [the sinner’s prayer] is 2.5 decisions per campaign, or five for every two campaigns.”
He cites many examples of successful campaigns, showing video testimonies of excited soul winners, often accompanied to church by the person they have introduced to Christ and, in some cases, the convert’s family members who have also become Christians. One of these is a campaign held by Manjimup Baptist Church in the south-western corner of WA – where there are only 4,000 people in the community. “In the hour-and-a-half [on the streets], we saw something like nine decisions in that short period of time,” says McLennan.
“The ratio of decisions to presentations is 40 to 45 per cent, which is extraordinary.” – Tony McLennan
He also gives the example of Peter O’Connor, who came to Christ in McLennan’s lounge room, and now his whole family are believers. O’Connor is now part of a Way of Life team in Hornsby, in northwest Sydney.
“Now he’s out there reaching so many others and inspiring so many other Christians. So the harvest continues to expand over 10, 20, 30 years. And so what we’re offering people is not just a place to start, but a place to continue and grow from. It’s not a flash-in-the-pan thing,” says McLennan.
“The whole intention is to help multiply these Way of Life campaigns, but also to have pastors with a bevy or company of soul winners in their church.”
As demonstrated by O’Connor’s conversion, the reach of Way of Life is intended to go beyond street evangelism.
“Street evangelism is really only a practice ground. People will do better among those they are actually relating to, at the right time. But you’ve got to give people practice so they can then, with great confidence, go to their family and friends at the right time when they’re tuned up a bit and they can apply the same presentation or even memorise it so it has a sort of spontaneity.”
In regard to the future of Australia’s “God revolution”, McLennan says: “I’m confident that we’ll see a mighty revival in our nation, where many people will be swept into the kingdom. I’m confident that God will use movements like ours and others to kindle a flame that can’t be put out.”
For more information visit australiaforjesus.org.au.