Zimbabwean-born Johnson Makoti often gets phone calls out of the blue from people who have heard about the new prayer and deliverance ministry at the Atherton Uniting Church. Dianne Jensen reports.
After only a year in the job, Rev Johnson Makoti’s hands-on approach to spreading the word of God has created a stir in the North Queensland town of Atherton and spurred growth in the local congregation.
There is a distinctly Wesleyan flavour to the new minister. He wears a dog collar, is passionate about pastoral visiting, and pours his energy into forming new disciples grounded in biblical teaching and ministry practice.
The former Methodist joined his wife Bridgetta and five children in Atherton in early 2015 after several years of postgraduate study in the UK, and he is the first to admit that the congregation took a step of faith inviting him.
“I actually applaud them because they called a black minister from Zimbabwe; they knew they were taking a risk. When I came over for the interviews, they said ‘As you can see, this church is full of elderly people. Will you be able to grow our church?’ ”
Johnson set about the task with enthusiasm, focussing from the beginning on pastoral care and evangelism.
“Three months down the line I asked the elders, would you mind if I set aside time on Wednesdays where I can just pray for people, counsel people? I didn’t know how many would come but on the first day 12 people turned up.”
The Prayer, Healing and Deliverance ministry is now a regular event, providing people from across the community with hope and healing.
Two days each week have been set aside for pastoral visits, and if someone has been absent for a while Johnson will call and offer to come and pray with them—usually with positive results. He has also joined the chaplaincy team at Lotus Glen prison.
The Atherton congregation has doubled from a weekly average of 53, attracting people of all ages across different cultures.
“We are saying the spirit of God is moving,” says Johnson. “We concentrate on equipping people to become disciples because when you equip them, they are able to go and witness to others. The issue is to evangelise, disciple and send out—because people bring others, and that’s the only way to grow the church—otherwise we end up doing maintenance ministry.”