In 1981 John and Judy Potter were living in a flat on the property of the Blackwood Christian Outreach Centre located in Young Street Blackwood, South Australia. One afternoon in March that year, a brother called Max Costelloe came to John and Judy and said: "You are not going to a church these days and neither am I - let's meet for prayer on Sunday mornings". John said: "OK, lets do it for a month and see what happens". At the end of the month there were nineteen people gathering each Sunday in a shed on the Young Street property that John had lined with the help of Les and Nel Pearson. At the end of another month there were thirty people gathering each Sunday morning and on Sunday afternoons John was running teaching sessions on Christian life and practice at the request of the brethren. This led to John writing a thirteen part distance learning course entitled Kingdom Principles - see below. He wrote it in twenty six days and the Lord worked a miracle for him to get the courses printed for next to nothing. This was important because from 1980 to 1987, John and Judy had no income; Judy ran the seven person household for the whole period with nothing in her purse. The gathering was essentially 'John and Judy Potter's house fellowship' but, for registration and operational purposes, the group took the name The People of the Way (POW). At no time did John and Judy allow the brethren to call them 'pastor' or pay them a salary. Their view was that 'father's' should give to the children, and not vice versa; that if they were preaching faith they should live by it!
At this time there was a decided wider community push against fellowship groups meeting in homes; local Councils focused their opposition by objecting to large numbers of cars parked in streets. This caused the People of the Way to look around for a place on which to build a property that would allow them to minister into 'Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world' (Acts 1:8) on a daily basis, not just on Sundays. A property was found on Shepherds Hill Road which was zoned for commercial use including public meetings. The area was one acre and the price being asked was $170 000. John and Judy still had $11 000 available from the sale of their home in 1976; other assembly members offered to contribute as they were able. One couple said they would sell some land they owned and put in $100 000. With this assurance, the seller was asked to provide vendor finance for the balance, and when he agreed to do so, a contract to purchase in three months was signed. Soon after this the couple who had promised $100 000 pulled out of the negotiations! By this time the Potters had moved into a house on the property on a rental basis and were now in danger of being out on the street with no cash reserves and no employment. They were driven to prayer and the Lord encouraged them that the money would come in. Every day when they visited their post box they expected to find that funds had arrive! At no time did they feel apprehensive that they would have to move.
Graham Levy, Judy's cousin, joined the Blackwood team. In a ministry situation like POW it is essential to have at least three mature people available to minister: two to pray for someone in need while the third person keeps the household operating. Graham was a superb contributor.
The three months passed and no funds came in! The People of The Way defaulted on the contract and the property was on-sold to a fast food chain, to be settled in three months. The Potters continued to rent the house as before and at the end of three months the vendor rang John to say: "The food chain has gone bankrupt and cannot settle; what are we going to do now?" John said: "Loan us the full capital and we will settle and pay interest at 14%". This was agreed to. The Potters $11 000 covered the settlement costs and the POW community settled into a year of servicing the debt at $2 040 per month.
The Potters did not believe in taking up collections because in their view this placed un-due pressure on visitors. On the other hand they did not like it when people stuffed money into their pockets when they were talking to someone else. The community prayed and the Lord gave the scripture II Kings 12:9, so the assembly placed a box with a hole in it for freewill offerings at the entrance of the Hall where they were now meeting. This worked well; POW members people put money in that box without coercion. But each month the group needed $1 000 from 'outside the system' to meet the bills. Each month in the year 1984 saw a 'miracle' of supply. A case in point was Mike Potter's car money. Mike was a young man just starting a teaching career. He had been saving to buy a car and had $1 000 in the bank. The Lord challenged him one night to contribute it to the land fund. At 11pm that evening, while Mike was 'struggling' with this idea in bed, another couple in the assembly, Bruce and Gill Austin, were sitting in their second car in the street alongside the Potter's house, 'stuggling' with the idea of giving their second car to Mike Potter! At 11:30pm they dropped the keys of that vehicle into the Potter's house with the announcement that they were giving it to Mike. In the morning Mike came out and announced to the family at breakfast that he was giving his $1 000 to the land purchase and John had great joy in handing him the keys of his car!! God is a good God; He does all things well!
In December 1984, John Potter felt the load of the debt fall on him; having carried the load easily for one year, he now felt that he could do it no longer. He related this to the assembly on the next Sunday morning and asked two questions: (1) should POW continue to service this debt or not?; (2) if people wanted to continue, how much were they prepared to contribute each week?
The members met mid-week to pray about the first question: the result was unanimous agreement that the Lord wished the group to continue purchasing the land. A week or so later, at a Sunday morning meeting, POW members began 'a year of tithing'; each person indicated what they would contribute and it was enough to meet the bills! Later that year John was walking to the Post Office when he had a sudden thought to ask the Hindmarsh Building Society for a loan to pay out the vendor finance. This proved to be a prompting of the Holy Spirit; John found the Building Society desperate to give POW a loan and happy to do so on the record of giving for the past twelve months.
Immediately after this, on the 18th February 1985, at exactly 9 o'clock in the morning the Holy Spirit spoke to John to "Lay Healing Hands on the Nations of Africa". John did not know what this meant but he understood that it was a serious command in view of the fact that: (1) the 18th of February is the Third day of Adar in the Jewish calendar, the day that the restored Jerusalem Temple was completed (Ezra 6:15) - seemingly something on the Lord's agenda had been completed; (2) 1985 was exactly 40 Jubilees from the commencement of the ministry of Jesus in AD 26 (40 x 49 years); (3) a brother called Rod O'Neill rang John at 11am that morning to tell him that the Lord had told him to "count that day as the first day of the first year" in the next phase of His program. In May 1985, John and Judy travelled to Africa to see what the Lord would show them with regard to His plan for their future. They returned in August after visiting Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Zimbabwe and South Africa, not too sure what the future held apart from a possible return to South Africa in God's timing.
When the Potters returned, Janny Wendland and Robyn Light, two young women in the Assembly, shared that the Lord was directing them to visit India. The assembly was impressed by the fact that the Lord had given them precise instructions as to which cities and towns they were to visit and above all that He was requiring them to drop a note in the River Ganges at Varanasi (the Seat of Satan - cf. Rev,2:13) advising the Devil that his time on Planet Earth was finished. Having 'addressed the strongman' at Varanasi on behalf of the POW, Janny and Robyn returned to an Assembly that was now authorised and ready to take the Gospel to the nations. Over the next two years active ministries were developed for supporting work in India, South East Asia, China, Australian aborigines, Russia and, of course, Africa - Southern Africa (John and Judy, Tracy Radbone), Mozambique (Pauline Kupke) and East Africa (Mike and Dani Potter).
Back at Blackwood, POW had grown to over one hundred regular attenders. The income was sufficient to start thinking about laying the foundations of the proposed Centre to Reach the World. Building approvals were obtained in 1986 and the foundation was laid that year. This was a whole assembly affair (see below). An open air praise meeting was held on the slab in December 1986 to celebrate what God had done.
On the 26th of December 1986, the Holy Spirit commanded John and Judy to return to South Africa to 'stand against the persuasive voices'. They visited South Africa to spy out the land in March 1986 and a door opened for them to return to South Africa via the African School of Missions. After making due preparations to move to South Africa again and taking care to see that the POW assembly was in good order, in mid December 1987 John and Judy and Liz Potter left Australia for South Africa and Mike and Dani Potter left on the same plane for a 12 year sojourn in Kenya. In the meantime the POW team working together under Bruce Austin had begun building the walls of the Blackwood Centre. But that is another story.
John and Judy were called to lay a fresh foundation for the Lord's work in Blackwood during the sabbatical 1981-1987. Others were called to build on this foundation (I Corinthians 3:10-11). John is quick to recall that it was the Lord's foundation, it was only the Lord's disciplines on John's life that allowed the foundation to be laid to His specification.
During all of the above events, people grew in faith. John never preached 'grace', 'faith', 'baptism' or 'intimacy with the Holy Spirit' - people came into these experiences as a natural consequence of walking in community. Unemployed people found employment as they committed themselves to the Lord's purposes and, in God's timing, many heard the call of God to minister into the nations. Support groups grew around key people so that by 1987, 80% of POW community members were actively involved in mission activity of one sort or another.
MINISTRY YEARS IN AUSTRALIA 1981-1987
THE PEOPLE OF THE WAY
Lining the shed at Young Street where it all began
The house on the block at 344 Shepherds Hill Road.
John in his office at 344.
The Potter family at the airport, December 1987. At back: Steve, Mike and John; in front Ilona, Dani, Muriel (Judy's Mum), Liz, Audrey (John's Mum), Judy. Five of us are leaving for Africa, hence a few tears!
Baptism at the beach. The 'girls' praying for a friend
Laying the foundation of a Centre to Reach the World!
The big pour: 106 cubic metres of concrete!
The community takes over - building the walls1
Rejoicing on the slab, December 1986!
SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT IN A REFERENCE GROUP OF CAUCASIAN CHRISTIANS
THE KINGDOM PRINCIPLE STUDIES
KP 1: Sonship
KP 2: Learning Obedience
KP 3: Overcoming the World
KP 4: Overcoming the Evil One
KP 5: Overcoming our Human Nature
KP 6: The Kingdom is Within Us
KP 7: The Keys of the Kingdom
KP 8: The Battle Tower
KP 9: Body Building
KP 10: KIngdom Discipline
KP 11: Kingdom Anointing
KP 12: Crowning the King
KP 13: The Restoration of All Things