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David du Plessis: Mr. Pentecost

David Du PlessisDavid du Plessis was known as Mr. Pentecost. The General Secretary of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) was in his office in Johannesburg. As it was before 7.00 am he was surprised when Smith Wigglesworth burst into his office. "Come out here," he boomed. Pushing David du Plessis firmly against the wall he prophesied that a revival would come through the old-line denominations eclipsing anything previously known throughout history.

 

Many of the leaders would change from strong opposition to accept the message and the blessing of the Pentecostal experience. David du Plessis, too would have a very prominent part in this movement providing he remained humble and faithful. Smith bowed his head, asked God to prepare David du Plessis and to keep him in good health, and he left his office.

Wigglesworth was in South Africa for the annual conference of the AFM (December 1936). David du Plessis was his interpreter and Smith Wigglesworth was staying in David's home. Ten minutes later Smith returned to David's office as though for the first time and inquired how he was. "Very puzzled," was David's reply. Smith Wigglesworth explained he had seen a vision well before dawn. He had argued with the Lord about it saying, "This is not what my brethren expect."

Smith Wigglesworth told David du Plessis that he should wait for confirmation from God and added, "It will not begin during my lifetime. When I pass away, then you can begin to think about it." Smith also told David du Plessis that he would travel more than most men.

DAVID THE DONKEY
In the Missionary Meeting of the Annual Conference of the AFM a missionary asked for some donkeys. One man gave two, another, one. Then, David du Plessis's father was on the platform wanting to give his donkey which surprised David who knew he had no donkey to give. Then his father called him to the platform only to find out that he was the "donkey." David du Plessis' senior told the congregation that he and his wife promised to give their first born son to serve the Lord even before his birth. Subsequently, he was often known as "David the Donkey."

UNITING THE PENTECOSTALS
Three weeks after Wigglesworth's prophecy David du Plessis was invited to minister the following year (1937), at the General Council of Assemblies of God (AOG) in Memphis Tennessee. They discussed the benefits of a meeting of Pentecostal leaders in 1938/9 in London or some other European centre. Near the end of the conversation Donald Gee said it would be wonderful if David du Plessis could be secretary for such a meeting.

A European conference was held in Stockholm in 1938 primarily to resist any formation of an International Pentecostal Movement. It was at that conference that T. B. Barratt prophesied the coming of World War 2.

FIRST WORLD PENTECOSTAL CONFERENCE
Due to the war, the First World Pentecostal Conference (PWC) was not held until 1947. This was the year that Smith Wigglesworth died. The conference was held in Zurich Switzerland and organized by the Swiss pastor Leonard Steiner and assisted by David du Plessis.

David du Plessis ministered on the words of John Baptist, "I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me will come one who is more powerful than I . . . He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matthew 3:11-12 NIV). God had shown David that one cannot grow wheat without chaff and that God would remove and burn it with the refining fire of the Holy Spirit.

A SEVERE ACCIDENT
One foggy night in 1948 Paul Walker, who was head of the Missions Department of the Church of God, was driving David back to Beckley West Virginia. At 3.00 am they crashed into a shunting locomotive which had stopped on a rail crossing.

It was at this time that the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America was born. Their first action was to send David $400 and they also agree to send $250 a month until he recovered from the accident. David du Plessis was now able to send his wife Anna more than $1,000 because he wanted her to come to America.

The family came to Beckley in time for their first Thanksgiving. David organized the 1949 P.W.C. from his hospital bed. While he was in the hospital God told him the time of the fulfillment of Wigglesworth's prophecy had arrived. Although David was told that it would take two years to recover he attended the conference on crutches.

The Church of God offered him a professorship at Lee College in Cleveland Tennessee. This enabled the family to obtain a residence visa in the United States. While teaching and with help from the students, the 1952 PWC was organized in London.

THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL
God showed David he needed to be near the centers of power of the established churches. He resigned from teaching at Lee College and moved to Stamford Connecticut. Here David developed a friendship with Dr. John A. Mackay who was the president of Princeton Theological Seminary. At the end of the 1952 PWC David resigned as secretary and traveled to Germany to attend the World Conference of the International Missionary Council at the suggestion of Mackay. At the conference he talked with 110 of the 210 delegates including Dr. Willem Visser 't Hooft the secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Dr. Hooft arranged for David to speak at the second assembly of the WCC in Evanston Illinois in 1954.

David changed his main message in two ways. First, he started to emphasize Jesus as the Baptizer in the Holy Spirit. He also started to confess his wrong attitudes and how he overcame them. This helped people to acknowledge their own prejudices.

PENTECOSTAL CATHOLICS
At a meeting of the WCC in St. Andrews Scotland,  David met Professor Bernard Leeming, a Catholic priest from Oxford England, who asked for the baptism in the Holy Spirit. This was the start of David's ministry to Roman Catholics.

Leeming knew Pope John personally and he arranged for David to visit Rome. God gave David a love for Catholics. First he met Dr. Robert Murray and then Dr. Thomas Strandsky, the secretary for Promoting Christian Unity. Strandsky had searched for a Pentecostal to talk to him and was told David was the only one.

Strandsky's boss was Cardinal Bea who asked David, "What do the Pentecostals want to say to Rome?" David's hesitating response, "I have to say, the Pentecostals have no intention of talking to Rome." Betraying no emotion Bea asked, "What do you want to say to Rome?" David replies, "Make the Bible available to every Catholic in the world in his own language. The Holy Spirit will make that book come alive and that will change lives and renew the church." Bea was taken in and said, "That is what the Holy Father wants to know, write it down," he said to his secretary.

In 1964 David was an observer at the historic Vatican Council originated by Pope John XXIII and completed by Paul VI. At Horgen in Switzerland in 1972, David represented the Pentecostals as co-chairman with Fr. Kilian McDonnell at the first of ten "Dialogues" between Catholics and Pentecostals including Charismatics.

In 1974 a group of Catholic and Protestant editors issued a list of eleven "shapers and shakers" of the Christian faith. David du Plessis was included alongside Rosemary Ruether, Don Helder Camara, Billy Graham, Hans Küng, Bernard Lonergan and Jürgen Moltman.

On 31 January 1987 after many years of service building unity among the body of Christ and preaching the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, David du Plessis went on to be with the Lord. May his life be an example and inspiration to the body of Christ in our generation.

© by Jonas Clark
www.jonasclark.com
Spirit of Life Ministries, 27 Hallandale Beach Blvd. Hallandale Beach, Florida 33009 (954) 456-4420.

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