The quest for genuine faith: A nationwide spiritual awakening
On Sept. 10, a woman stood in front of hundreds of fellow audience members at River Church of West Palm Beach and testified that her hearing had been healed. She proceeded to walk without her walker and attributed further physical healing to the power of Jesus Christ. This woman was joined by a line of people with similar accounts of healing, all led and performed by the Evangelist Ankit Rambabu.
“The Lord spoke to me and told me this week that Palm Beach has been plundered by the devil for a very long time, but we’re taking it back,” Rambabu preached that evening. “It’s gonna be a city of revival in the name of Jesus.”
Rambabu kicked off a week-long gospel crusade titled the “Festival of Miracles” that night with acts of healing, a prophecy for 2024 and a passionate call for spiritual revival in America. He brought the conference to a close six days later, drawing a full house each night.
“If you have never seen miracles in your life then this is the week to come witness it first hand. THE BLIND SEE, THE CRIPPLED WALK, THE DEAF HEAR and the fire of the Holy Ghost made manifest and the power of Christ made manifest,” said Rambabu in a Facebook advertisement in August.
Born and raised in India, Rambabu witnessed his father serve as an evangelist at large conferences. He began evangelizing at 13 years old, starting with an audience of over 100,000 people. Since then, according to their website, “Ankit Rambabu Ministries” has recorded 7.25 million salvations which were achieved through 151 “mass crusade meetings.”
Rambabu has felt called to ministry in America since he was 5 years old. Right before the COVID-19 pandemic, Rambabu heard a call from God to begin a traveling ministry in America that would lead to a revival.
“I would see spaces of people, of Americans, coming in multitudes, and giving their lives to the Lord,” Rambabu said about his calling to America.
Rambabu is not the only one discussing revival in America. Christians all over the country see a shift happening in the American church. Events like the Asbury revival in February 2023, in particular, have caused a rise in conversations surrounding spiritual revival. The possibility of a revival in the American Church is exciting for many. Others have concerns about the authenticity of these spiritual environments.
Pastor Bernie Cueto, the campus pastor at Palm Beach Atlantic University, cites scripture as the guide to identifying the authentic work of the Holy Spirit in any context, including the continuous worship at Asbury, or the acts of healing performed by Rambabu at the “Festival of Miracles.”
Cueto claimed that he does not technically see the event at Asbury as a revival, referencing “The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God,” by American theologian Jonathan Edwards as a resource for his conclusions. Edwards argues that something is not a revival merely because it is “unusual and extraordinary” or since it “produces bodily or emotional effects.” Cueto expressed concern for settings in which these characteristics hold too much weight.
In these cases, Cueto seeks genuine conversion and the fruits of repentance in order for him to consider the occasion to be a revival. This led him to describe what took place at Asbury as an “outpouring.”
Parker Snedeker, a senior at PBA, found himself deeply moved by the reports of Asbury’s continuous chapel service and spoke highly of the event as an authentic work of the Holy Spirit.
“Repentance, prayer and generosity – all the things that were going on in the videos or the live streams that I would watch just seemed very orderly,” said Snedeker. “The Holy Spirit was just in charge in the room.”
When discussing events like the “Festival of Miracles'' and the Asbury revival, Cueto saw differences between the two. He expressed concern in regard to the authenticity of evangelistic ministries such as “Ankit Rambabu Ministries.”
“It’s kind of a traveling ministry, which should raise a red flag because you go, ‘Why aren’t they under the auspices of a local Church?’” said Cueto.
Rambabu expressed a different take on the relationship between his ministry and the American Church, calling for the use of miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“God’s called me to revive the Church,” said Rambabu. “Not only do we need conviction of sin; we need miracles and signs and wonders, which happen in our ministry.”
While expressing belief in the existence of miracles, Cueto’s personal studies of scripture have led him to encourage caution towards their performance.
“Whenever there’s healings in the New Testament, they always point to God, to Jesus and to worship God,” Cueto said. “Usually when there’s healings in our community or on Youtube, that’s almost never the focus – the focus is the person and his or her ministry.”
Reverend D.J. Griffin from Holy Trinity Episcopal Church in West Palm Beach also expressed hesitancy. He brought up the history of spiritual manipulation by big-name evangelists such as Benny Hinn, particularly through miracle performances.
“I find myself skeptical when I see people doing it in the context of drawing large crowds,” said Griffin. “There are literally stage tricks, parlor tricks, that people do and have done for like 200 years, literally in the context of healings in public.”
Rambabu, on the other hand, claimed that miracles should be anticipated by Christians as an authentication of God’s power and ongoing work in America.
“You can’t just preach about Jesus and then not have the results,” said Rambabu. “People can be as skeptical as possible, but at the end of the day, the miracles settle the debate.”
While some audience members at the “Festival of Miracles” jumped and clapped with joy when witnessing Rambabu perform miracles, other audience members experienced uneasiness. Hunter Levinson, a junior at PBA, described her evening at the “Festival of Miracles” as far from reviving.
“It was just very impersonal,” Levinson said about Rambabu’s process of healing. “Evangelist was walking around and just touching each person, not even knowing anything about them or their situation at all. It was like this assembly line of healing.”
Levinson claimed to see a tendency in America to try and manufacture revival or turn it into a consumer product. Leaders at Asbury were also aware of this tendency during the revival and worked to keep Jesus at the center of their chapel, even amidst talk of Christian celebrities visiting the site.
“As an analytic theologian, I am wary of hype and very wary of manipulation,” Tom McCall wrote for Christianity Today while advocating for the legitimacy of the Asbury revival. “I come from a background (in a particularly revivalist segment of the Methodist-holiness tradition) where I’ve seen efforts to manufacture ‘revivals’ and ‘movements of the Spirit’ that were sometimes not only hollow but also harmful.”
Rambabu is assured that spiritual revival is on the rise in America despite any skepticism he may encounter. He claims that God told him Florida is the state in which this will begin, and he plans to visit 12 cities in Florida throughout 2024.
“I’ve seen more hunger in America than anywhere else in the world,” said Rambabu. “I see that hunger in Florida.”
When discussing the potential rise of spirituality in the American church, Cueto claimed that both the “Festival of Miracles” and the Asbury revival pointed to a universal truth: the human desire for God. Cueto emphasized his belief in the ultimate truth that God will redeem and heal all of humanity at the correct timing.
“The common denominator is, you know, people are hungry to encounter God, and that’s nothing new,” said Cueto. “God still heals. He can, by whatever means necessary. Sometimes immediately, usually gradually, but, if you’re a follower of Christ, always ultimately.”
By Grace Mackey