The Pentecost is a Christian festival held seven weeks after Easter Sunday. It celebrates a biblical event – the descent of the Holy Spirit on Christ's disciples after the resurrection. Pentecostalists believe in the fundamental truths taught in the Bible. English plumber-turned-evangelist Smith Wigglesworth advanced the Pentecostal movement in New Zealand with a series of revival and spiritual healing meetings between 1922 and 1924. A. H. Dallimore, who had lived in New Zealand as a young man, returned as an evangelist in 1927 and influenced many people to become Pentecostals.
The earliest offshoots of the New Zealand Pentecostal movement are the Assemblies of God and Apostolic churches. A New Zealand branch of the US-based Assemblies of God was formed in 1927. During the 1960s the Assemblies of God came to be the largest Pentecostal denomination in New Zealand. The Apostolic movement arose in Wales in 1904–5. New Zealand followers formally linked to this British parent church in 1927. A Māori mission of the Apostolic Church began in Bay of Plenty in 1934.
New Zealand’s Pentecostal movement grew rapidly after the Second World War as overseas evangelists arrived. In 1961 Tauranga-based evangelists Rob and Beryl Wheeler held revival meetings in a large tent in Christchurch. US evangelist Oral Roberts held ‘crusades’ in Christchurch, Wellington and Rotorua in 1965, the largest Pentecostal meetings then seen in New Zealand.
The Pentecostal Church of New Zealand merged with the British-based Elim Church in 1952. In 2016 there were 36 Elim churches throughout New Zealand. Former members of more traditional Christian churches such as Anglicans and Presbyterians, and immigrants from the Pacific Islands, further swelled the numbers of New Zealand Pentecostalists. By 2016 there were almost 80 churches in the New Life group of Pentecostal churches.
Man and beast
Evangelist A. H. Dallimore arrived in New Zealand in 1927 and held giant healing services in the Auckland Town Hall, supported by a large orchestra. His ‘Revival Fire’ meetings, at which farm animals as well as people were reportedly cured of serious ailments, attracted widespread scepticism as well as support, and he was banned from using the town hall. His meetings continued in other venues for several decades.
The first overseas missionary of the Pentecostal Church of New Zealand was 70-year-old Miss I. Burnett of Auckland, who travelled to Tonga in 1926. Soon afterwards other missionaries left for the South Pacific, India and the Congo. In 1975 the Associated Pentecostal Churches of New Zealand was formed to represent all main branches of the movement. In the 2013 census almost 74,300 people identified themselves as members of Pentecostal churches.
The Destiny Church is a Pentecostal fundamentalist Christian movement formed in New Zealand and based in Auckland. The church was launched in 2001 by Pastor Brian Tamaki, who previously headed other churches in Te Awamutu, Rotorua and Auckland. A large proportion of Destiny Church members are Māori or Pacific Islanders. Destiny Television, a ‘televangelist’ ministry, began broadcasting on national television and in the South Pacific and Australia.
‘Enough is enough’
In 2004 Destiny Church led the ‘Enough is enough’ march to Parliament to protest against changes to the drinking age, the decriminalisation of sex work and the introduction of the Civil Union Bill. In 2005 Tamaki was ordained as bishop of Destiny Church. In 2008 Destiny formed an urban Māori authority, Te Runanga a Iwi o Te Oranga Ake. Urban Māori authorities represent Māori who have lost contact with their iwi, and run government-funded health, education, parenting and restorative justice programmes.
In the 2010s Destiny Church had churches in 11 New Zealand cities and in Brisbane, Australia.