Learn more about David du Plessis, the South African-born Pentecostal minister who helped spread the baptism of the Holy Spirit worldwide and worked tirelessly to unite the Pentecostal and Catholic churches. David Johannes du Plessis (7 February 1905 – 2 February 1987) was a South African-born Pentecostal minister. He was one of the main founders of the charismatic movement that spread the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in other tongues to non-Pentecostal churches worldwide. David du Plessis was known as Mr. Pentecost.
WIGGLESWORTH'S PROPHETIC WORD
Du Plessis was General Secretary of the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) in Johannesburg. Around 7.00 am Smith Wigglesworth burst into Du Plessis's office with a prophetic word. He prophesied that a revival would come through the old-line denominations eclipsing anything previously known throughout history. He said that many of the leaders would change from strong opposition to accept the message and the blessing of the Pentecostal experience. Du Plessis would also have a very prominent part in this movement providing he remained humble and faithful. Smith bowed his head, asked God to prepare 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 and argued with the Lord about it becuase this was not what the brethren were expecting. Here is Du Plessis account of the event.
"Come out here!" Without hesitations, I moved around the desk and walked toward him. "Yes, Brother Wigglesworth." He put his hands on my shoulders and pushed me against the wall, not roughly, but certainly firmly. He began to speak, and I knew he was prophesying.
What followed was a remarkable and, to a Pentecostal in 1936, heretical message. The Lord would pour His Spirit upon the established Church, he said, and the ensuing revival would eclipse anything the Pentecostals had experienced. And David du Plessis would be mightily used by God to bring acceptance of the Pentecostal message to the established churches. It was an extraordinary prophecy, and the years that followed have been equally amazing."
Smith Wigglesworth told 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. David du Plessis's father was on the platform wanting to give his donkey which surprised David who knew his father 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, David was often known as "David the Donkey."
Three weeks after Wigglesworth's prophecy, David du Plessis was invited to minister the following year (1937) at the General Council of the Assemblies of God (AOG) in Memphis Tennessee. They discussed the benefits of a meeting of Pentecostal leaders in 1938 and 1939 in London or some other European center. Near the end of the conversation, Donald Gee, known as the Apostle of Balance, said it would be wonderful if David du Plessis could be secretary for such a meeting.
A European conference was also 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. That was the year 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 Ghost 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). 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.
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 train which had stopped on a rail crossing.
It was at this time the Pentecostal Fellowship of North America was born. Their first action was to send David $400, and $250 a month until he recovered from the accident. David du Plessis was then able to send his wife Anna more than $1,000 because he wanted her to come to America. The family came to West Virginia just 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 from the accident he attended the conference on crutches.
The Church of God offered him a professorship at Lee College in Cleveland Tennessee where he taught from 1949-1951. 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 so he resigned from teaching at Lee College and moved to Stamford Connecticut. There 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 confessing his wrong attitudes and how he overcame them. Du Plessis said,
"I could remember days when I had wished I could have set my eyes upon such men to denounce their theology and pray the judgment of God upon them for what I considered their heresies and false doctrines. ... After a few introductory words, I suddenly felt a warm glow come over me. I knew this was the Holy Spirit taking over, but what was He doing to me? Instead of the old harsh spirit of criticism and condemnation in my heart, I now felt such love and compassion for these ecclesiastical leaders that I would rather have died for them than pass sentence upon them."
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 replied, "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
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