Dr John Avanzini tells us why Christians are not meant to live in poverty, why he gave to CHC’s Special Offering and how he stays so energetic. We also talk to Jason Avanzini about travelling and ministering with his grandfather.
Last weekend (14-15 October 2023), Dr John Avanzini brought a powerful message titled “Lift Up Your Eyes” to CHC on its Special Offering weekend. The Special Offering was a one-time offering collected for mission work to Unreached People Groups, as well as local outreach work under CHC’s Church Without Walls initiative.
It was a treat for members who have been with the church since its days in Hollywood Theatre at Tanjong Katong. Brother John, as he is fondly called, has been bringing his teachings on Biblical economics to CHC for decades. It has been eight years since he was last here.
Brother John, 87, has been a leading teacher of Biblical economics since 1988. He has authored over 50 books on the subject. He pastored many churches in the early part of his ministry before becoming a full-time travelling minister in 1985. He served God with his wife Patricia, who was also a pastor. Sister Pat passed away in 2021.
Last weekend CHC had the honour of welcoming Brother John back, together with his grandson Jason Avanzini and his wife Jessica. City News caught up with them after the Saturday (14 Oct) service.
City News: Your sermon was so special because it reminded us of many of the things that you taught us before. Why did you decide to preach on “igniting your faith”?
Dr John Avanzini: Whenever you travel, you have theme messages that you are building as you go. One of nicest things about [being a travelling preacher] is you don’t have to speak a message only one time, you get to develop it. This must be the sixth or seventh time I’ve spoken (the message) here. But then I did modify it to coincide with my past experiences here. Then Pastor Kong (Hee) had 20 or 30 sermons that he wanted me to preach! (laughs) I have had great experiences here. Some of my greatest messages have been preached with this church, especially at (CHC’s old location) Hollywood Theatre— they were powerful messages.
It’s been eight years since you were last back with us. I understand you retired some time ago—how have you been enjoying your retirement?
I retired probably when I was 65. I did that for about three years or four. We bought a ranch in Texas and moved there. But I’ve been back in (ministry) the last eight years. Two and a half years ago, Sister Pat passed away, so that kind of fills my thinking. Her last years were good years. She had all her children around her, and I was around some so she was happy. But retirement, it eludes me.
Everybody wants to know: how do you preach like a man half your age? Please share with us your secrets of staying young.
My secret is staying busy. I’m not conscious of age. Although I acknowledge my age. I never hide my age because this is accomplishment, each year is an accomplishment. I can’t tell you how this happens, but I’m conscious of the fact that I’m not like other 87-year-olds.
So it’s not a special diet?
Lots of fried chicken, steaks and French fries. My favourite fried chicken is Babe’s in Texas. Oh and fried rice. The secret to longevity is fried rice. (laughs)
In your sermon you told us to “lift up our eyes”. You said you must be able to see your future. How do you do that, practically?
Lifting up your eyes is not looking at the ceiling. But on the inside, you have to look at things the way they are, then you have to be able to see them the way God would want them, and see the way you would want them. Just like Jacob—it wasn’t all that hocus pocus about those trees having different colours. But when he looked [at the flocks], he saw what he wanted it to be. And so I think it happens more in your mind than it does with your eyes. [You see with] the eyes of your mind, as it is said in some of the Scriptures.
You also said something that shocked some people; you said it’s all right to desire. Why do you think people are afraid to desire?
You have different levels of things that you would want: the things you need, the things that are practical. Everyone needs an automobile in my in my society, but I desire the best. (Other people don’t think it’s the best, but it’s the one I think is best.) After these years now I have it. Now I’m probably desiring it a garage (laughs). I’ve got in my mind one that would hold more cars so that I can get a few of the antiques that I want to get. I don’t mean decrepit antiques, but very powerful antique cars.
Do you have any antique cars?
I have one now. It’s a Cadillac CT5 and it’s 550 horsepower. The other car is a Cadillac V-12, with 700 horsepower. I have a few other cars in mind that I’d like to have. I’m doing a unique thing right now: I have a Plymouth Prowler and I’m putting in a container and shipping it to Brother [David] Sumrall as a gift. When you have a good friend, you want to give him something that means something to you. Sister Pat and I always gave cars. We wouldn’t trade it, we’d give it away.
So I was wanting a new car, but I was always in secondhand cars. Father God told me, “Well, the reason you have secondhand cars is because you sell secondhand cars. So, if you want new cars, you need to sell new cars.” So that’s how I got new cars.
Cars are too expensive here to get to give away.
Well, there are people that do it (smiles). That’s true. I’ve come to a place where I don’t see any limit on things, but I don’t do everything that I see. This time, I was in a choice between this car and a Rolls Royce. The Rolls Royce would probably have been more prestigious, but I want this car. There comes a time when you just have to be able to see that “I’m living here [in Singapore], but I have no financial limits.” You might be one of the first ones to give some cars away!
Amen to that! On that topic, when we talk about Christians prospering, the world takes offence to it. This is especially hard for the younger generations to navigate. So how should Christians hold on to the truth while navigating social norms?
If you have a rich father who has his children living in poverty, this society, which sets the pace for how that should be handled, will think he’s wrong, and that his children should be rich also. So, let’s use society’s rules. They should look at us through their own lenses and see that rich Father does not want His children to be poor. It would actually be child abuse!
That’s a powerful way of looking at it! You told us during the Saturday service that you joined in and gave to our Special Offering. Why?
Well, I am a sower. And sowers are not looking for needy ground; they’re looking for good ground. And this (CHC) is certainly good. You know, I do give to needy ground, but I don’t sow into needy ground. I give to people in need and I expect nothing back when I give. The Scripture for that is, if you give to the poor, you’ve lent to God. God doesn’t owe you a harvest, He’s just going to pay back what you gave.
There’s no question that this is good ground. I’ve seen it from the days when it was nothing. I know the things that this church does; I’ve seen the reports where the children to do better with their grades and attendance in school. Yeah, Brother Kong not only taught Christianity, he taught good citizenship.
And the salvations the last 34 years have been in the hundreds of thousands. It’s just good ground.
Since the first time you met Pastor and Sun, which is when they came to your debt service and gave a really painful offering, what is something that has never changed about them or your relationship with?
Even in the worst days, there was enthusiasm. You know, enthusiasm is a great word: it’s being “in theos”, it’s being in God. I’ve always seen God in him.
One of the reasons that I’m very excited about this church is the pastor’s wife. Sun is a great inspiration to me, the crusades she used to hold. She’s probably one of the most powerful women I know. And that is part of what I love about Kong, he’s smart enough to pick a good wife.
You’ve also been a friend of our church for so long and blessed so many of our church members with your teaching. I’m sure you’ve heard many testimonies.
Some of the nicest things are when people can help someone that they love. You just can’t do very much without money. Earlier Jason brought up something to me: the Good Samaritan would not have been the Good Samaritan if he’d been broke—he would have been the “well-intentioned Samaritan!
This problem about poverty in the church is the church’s fault. Pastors down to the years have taught it and they finally got all the people convinced. But all of our Bible characters were rich—almost no one was poor, except for the beggar [outside the gate called Beautiful] and Blind Bartemaeus, the minor characters in the story of God. The Bible has wealthy people and they’re not wealthy because they’re smart; they’re wealthy because they were given grace by God to be wealthy.
Money’s not bad. Money’s whatever you want. Money is a great servant. It does exactly what you tell it to do. No, if ands or buts. But it’s a terrible master.
You’ve done so much for us. But what have we done for you?
You’ve honoured my message. A lot of churches globally don’t honour the message, but here, there’s honour. The applause (Saturday night), I’ve never felt that my whole life.
Jason Avanzini: “It’s Wonderful To Have Him As My Grandfather, Mentor, Spiritual Father”
City Harvesters would have seen a young man accompany and help John Avanzini throughout his time here at CHC. Jason Avanzini is Brother John’s grandson and he and his wife Jessica travel with him and are mentored by him. Taking after his grandfather, Jason is a preacher and a teacher of Biblical economics.
“Growing up, I always looked up to my grandfather, and admired him and admired the impact that his message had, and seeing people’s lives changed,” Jason shared. “Seeing people come out of not understanding, but later understanding, and seeing people coming out of debt and insufficiency to a place of sufficiency and more than enough.”
Jason’s early models in the things of God were his grandparents John and Patricia. “Primarily when I was growing up, my grandmother was pastoring and my grandfather was travelling [to preach]. I grew up seeing strong women in ministry, and also seeing the anointing my grandfather brought all over the world,” he recalls.
Jason’s ministry began in 2012 after he started travelling with his grandfather. ““I had no intention of becoming a pastor, I just wanted to come and serve,” he remembered. “My grandparents were very wise about it. They didn’t say, ‘Oh, here, we’re gonna throw money at you so you can fund the vision.’ They said, ‘Go for it.’ So, I had a season where I would come to Indonesia for three or four months, then I would go to back to Texas and work on metal roofs [to raise money], because that’s a job you can leave and come back and they’ll always need help.” Eventually he settled into full-time ministry in Indonesia.
“Through that, my grandpa began drawing closer,” Jason said. “It was great the way that it happened, because he brought me in at the right time. But then he also held back to see what I was going to do, to see the real intentions in my heart. Then when that developed, he moved back in and, and really began to mentor me.”
Jason spent a decade pastoring, evangelising and teaching in Indonesia. For a season he also hosted a Christian radio programme on Rhema Radio where he shared the Gospel and Biblical principles of increase to global listenership. He worked with Pastor Nala Widya at Elshaddai Creative Community in Bandung. Indonesia was also where he met his wife (now of three years), Jessica. In 2021 during Covid Jason and Jessica pastored in Hawaii, in a church under David Sumrall.
Today, the couple is based in Texas and travels with Brother John on his ministry trips. Covid caused many churches around the world to shut down, which had its impact on Brother John’s ministry, but God did a miracle this year.
“[During Covid] my grandfather was not able to travel because some the churches aren’t open. But his giving stayed consistent: he was still feeding the hungry, he was still sowing into good ground. He’s still doing all of these things [though] the avenue for what has generally been the avenue for harvest was not there because there was no opportunity,” Jason explained.
At the beginning of this year, “there were words of prophecy spoken, that there would be a return of the harvest. So, we believed for it,” he continued. “So here we were in a room after one service, and a pastor came. And my grandpa said, ‘I’m sorry, I haven’t met you before.’ This pastor has had a ministry for about 30 years and he said, ‘No, we’ve met—I met you in your books. All of your books are what has been the foundation of our financial situation in this church.’ And he said, ‘We just want to sow a seed of honour— it’s not an honorarium for you coming and speaking—we want to sow to you a million dollars.’”
Receiving a million dollars is a dream for many, but for Jason it is the ability to give a million that moves him. “It stirred my faith, because once you’ve seen someone to give a million dollars all at once, you begin to think, ‘I could give a million dollars.’ And you begin to realise that just from one day to the next, God can move. One person can bring a change in situation.”
In the last few years, grandfather and grandson have become much closer. “We’re working on a book together, and we’re travelling a lot together, ministering together,” said Jason. “It’s been wonderful to have him as my grandfather, also as a mentor and a spiritual father.”