Socality is so excited to partner with Planetshakers for their 20th anniversary conference in Melbourne! Partnership and collaboration has always been at the core of Socality so when we were invited to oversee community engagement for this momentous landmark conference for Planetshakers, we were honoured to be involved. With over 15,000 people in attendance, this conference will bring together passionate change makers from all over the globe. So what is Planetshakers and how has this movement had 20 years of culture shaping impact?! We wanted to introduce you (if you don’t know already) to Russell and Sam Evans who have been leading and guiding this movement from the beginning.
1. When did Planetshakers start and what is the backstory?
Russell Evans: Planetshakers started in 1997. The backstory is, in 1996 I was in a Conference and I had a powerful encounter with God. The fire of God came upon me, and I felt like God called to me to start a conference called ‘Planetshakers’. I said to God “What’s that?” and He said “You’ll see.”
The Scripture Acts 1:8 popped out to me at that time - ‘You will received power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the outermost parts of the earth.” So we started a Conference with 300 young people, and it just exploded. God showed us step after step after step, and over the last 20 years He has just blown us away.
Sam Evans: Planetshakers Conference started in January of the year 1997. It all began in response to an encounter Russell had with Holy Spirit. He came back to our youth group leaders at the time and said we were going to start a youth conference and call it Planetshakers. None of us knew what that looked like or what was about to take place but we all responded excitedly to this new adventure. There were many steps of faith along the way that saw it become a reality but one of the more significant ones was the night we took up a ‘miracle offering’ to help pay for the conference, to sow into Youth Alive and also church planting in the Philippines. It was an electric night as we all came with what we felt challenged by the Lord to give – for many it was a whole week’s wage. The anointing in that place was so strong and the worship was intense with tears streaming down our faces as we gave to the Lord. Little did we know that these acts of faith and obedience were setting us up for a powerful move of God.
2. This year you are celebrating 20 years. Can you share a few highlights?
RE: There are so many highlights. Too many to count. One of the highlights early on was Rich Wilkerson Senior, who was a speaker in our 2nd year, preaching a sermon called ‘I want the Cross’. We had about 1,000 people at our Conference in that 2nd year, and in that sermon he talked about laying down your life for the cause of the Gospel. It culminated with challenging young people to give their lives for the cause of Jesus. Rich got everyone to stand to their feet and yell out “I want the Cross”. This literally shook something in the atmosphere over, I believe the nation of Australia, and it shifted something over our Conference. It created a momentum in the Spirit and after that the Conference began to go to a whole new level.
There was a meeting one time that Glen Berteau was speaking at, and in the middle of his sermon the people began to praise and shout. Glen couldn’t event get back to his sermon, because the meeting had gone into a place of powerful praise. They actually praised at over 122 decibels for 20-30 minutes.
There were meetings with Benny Perez where miracles were just so numerous. The meeting went until 2am in the morning.
I suppose some of the things that mark and highlight the Conference for me is the people’s hunger for God. We’ve had people lining up at 6am for a 9am service; thousands of people lining up at 2pm in the afternoon for a 7pm service. Going to different cities and seeing an explosion in different cities; Reinhard Bonnke speaking a session on the ‘Fire of God’; Chris Hill on the ‘Seven Steps of Praise’. There are just so many. Every time, God moves.
SE: A few highlights for me would be the day that we all started cheering and shouting to the Lord our praise. The shout was so loud and the intensity so strong one thought that it would quickly die down but it just kept going and going and going. Nearly half an hour later we stopped. It was a supernatural praise that saw so many people set free and encounter God so powerfully.
The year that we had to go to 2 night services because we couldn’t fit everyone in the building. The lines to get in were so long and the young people would then get to the venue at 6am just so they could get a seat close to front and not to miss out. They would chant and cheer and sing spontaneously as they waited expectantly in the auditorium as they waited for the night to start.
Our first conference in Brisbane was a highlight. We weren’t sure if it would be the same kind of revival fire that we had experienced in Adelaide but it was! That year, my children who were still quite young had their first experience with God where they both fell under the power of God without anyone touching them. It was life defining for them as they watched Reindhart Bonnke minister.
After one of Robert Morrises sessions where Natalie Ruiz began to sing spontaneously to the Lord – the tangible presence of God in that room was electric. We were all so powerfully moved. Amazing!
3. What have been some obstacles you have faced and needed to overcome as an organization/church?
RE: One of the major obstacles that we’ve had to overcome is growth. Growth is exciting, but it’s also a challenge. Venues - after you start in churches you then have to hire public buildings, which take costs from hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars. Then going to different states and taking conferences and touring to nations.
And then after seven years of conferences we then started a church. Then we had to juggle running a church and running five conferences across Australia at the same time. Then there are transitional seasons where God speaks to you about changing. And then how do you pay for everything?
So it’s really all about hearing God’s voice in each moment, and then taking steps of faith and telling God “I’m going to trust in You”. I think the biggest challenge is trusting Him in the moment, and believing that He has the right strategy for the right season. We can’t rely on yesterday’s strategy, but today’s strategy.
And over 20 years of conference, we haven’t had one loss in a Conference. God has blessed us every year. It’s amazing.
SE: Paying for each conference has always been a challenge. For some reason, I think that people think that we are rich. Haha. But every year is a step of faith for us financially, especially when God speaks to you to make the registration cost only $20! Also, everyone registers so ‘last minute’ and that puts a huge financial strain upon us because so many of these companies that we work with want to be paid before the event. Each year has meant we have to pray and ask God for the strategy to overcome this obstacle. He is so faithful – He has always provided for us and we have been able to pay all our bills.
4. What has been the response around the globe to Planetshakers?
RE: When God first told me to start a Conference, we just started a Conference. But we look on now, 20 years later, and literally millions and millions of people have been impacted by that one obedient decision. Either through our conferences, which hundreds of thousands of people have attended through the years; our music which has touched hundreds of millions of people; whether it’s through TV; our church where tens of thousands of people have been saved (our church in Melbourne is now 14,000 people in 13 years).
Our passion is contemporary church that is relevant, prophetic and powerful. Not weird. Jesus spoke the language of the day, so he was relevant. But he also had power to back that up. I see the problems with the modern day church is that we have a lot of relevant churches that have no power, and we have a lot of powerful churches that aren’t relevant.
I think part of the impact that Planetshakers has had on the body of Christ is that it is one of the models that shows how relevance and power can be coupled together.
SE: The response to Planetshakers globally has been so positive. People get excited about our music and the amazing encounters that we have together all over the world. We get surprised by the invitations that we get from different parts of the world like Russia or China where we didn’t even think our music had reached. It’s always a blessing to join with people from different countries and languages to worship Jesus together.
5. How do you keep your vision fresh and relatable?
RE: To keep fresh and relatable you have to keep speaking the language of the day. Jesus was brilliant at this. When He spoke to tax collectors He spoke about taxes. When He spoke to fisherman He spoke about fish. So our music style has changed over the years, it’s constantly evolving to fit the language of the day. Daniel spoke Babylonian, but he didn’t let Babylon form him. Rather, he spoke prophetically into Babylon.
So we’ve made sure that we’ve remained relevant to the culture, but have not been consumed by the culture. But Jesus also had power. So prayer has been a significant part of all of our strategies. We’ve been led by the Holy Spirit, He’s the genius. He’s creative. So we’ve allowed him to lead us. It’s His movement, it’s not our movement, we’re just here to steward what He’s given us. So the way we’ve kept it fresh and relevant is to be guided by Him and not be guided by how we used to do things, or how we’ve always done things. Rather - what is He saying now?We’ve also kept fresh and relatable by using the principles of the Word of God, and not just going to where the Church culture is going, but going where God wants to move. You know, the challenge for the church is that so often what the church calls culturally relevant is actually 5 or 10 years behind where culture is actually at. I believe that church should be prophetic. It should be leading culture, not following culture. It needs to be in the culture, and understanding it, but bringing a prophetic edge to it. And at Planetshakers we’ve always tried to be in the culture, but also prophetic to the culture. I call it ‘New School in Presentation, but Old School in values’.
SE: I’m a seeker of God and I think that if you keep your focus on Him and never stop pursuing him he never stops filling you with passion and vision to see His kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. I think also keeping a thankful heart enables you to keep your focus on where all these wonderful things in my life are coming from – God. It is not my talent or ability that is seeing the impact of Planetshakers it is God! That’s why I am dependent upon him constantly in everything I do. It’s Jesus that I want to keep lifting up not Planetshakers.
I am also an observer of what is happening in the world. I want to speak their language. I want them to be able to receive the good news of the gospel and I don’t really want to give them an excuse not to hear it. That’s why we want the presentation of our messages and our music to always be evolving. It’s always been about reaching the lost for me so that’s why I want to keep up with what is going on in the world. Our message has not changed but our presentation of that message will keep changing so that all can hear and receive.