I’m going to start by saying that two years ago, I went to a healing service at another parish and I hated it. I was in a really tough place in my life and felt stuck. I had a vague hope of experiencing relief from depression, but I walked into that church and felt like I had no idea what was happening. Everyone was so excited to be there, and seemed to know to arrive over an hour early so as to be toward the front of the church. Then, as soon as individual prayer teams were announced, there was a huge line in a matter of seconds, a line which would move 2 feet in the course of 30 minutes. If someone would have suggested incorporating Holy Spirit-driven healing ministry into parish life at Most Holy Trinity to me right after that event, I can’t say my response would have been music-minister appropriate!
As a staff, we had a lot of questions after our varied experiences with the healing event I just mentioned, so we started reading, researching, and talking to people already involved in these ministries. Ultimately this lead to a huge perspective shift in our approach to parish ministry, encapsulated in these basic concepts:
- Healing, prophetic prayer, and deliverance were essential to Christ’s ministry.
- He intended for these to be commonplace in the Christian life for all Christians.
- These forms of supernatural ministry are meant to bring Heaven to Earth, for us to become more whole and united to Him now.
Three of our staff, including myself, have been attending a weekly class with Encounter Ministries this academic year. One of our first homework assignments was to read the Gospel of Mark and write down every instance of supernatural power, including healing, deliverance from evil spirits, miraces, and prophetic revelation. There are 16 chapters in that Gospel, and not a single one of them lacks one of these demonstrations of power; in total, I recorded 70 instances. If you took out all of these, you’d be left with a couple measly paragraphs. This evidences our first prerogative shift: Jesus wasn’t just here to tell people to love each other. He came to reveal the Father’s love in power. Healing and prophecy were the very essence of his mission.
It’s really incredible that as Christians, we go our entire lives reading the Gospels and not noticing this. We fixate on Christ’s moral teachings without realizing that these were preceded by demonstrations of God’s desire to bring healing and wholeness to the world.
This is all well and good, but even in recognizing this, it’s easy to put up a mental wall between what Jesus did and what we’re called to do as Christians. We’re eager to do what Jesus told us to do in his teachings, but pick and choose which acts of his to imitate. I’m guilty of this; I like to bring God’s love into the world in ways that are more comfortable for me, or at least not as intimidating to the people I encounter. Healing and prophecy are for Jesus and the really holy people; I can take care of encouraging others and volunteering and praying in solitude.
But Jesus’ commission is not that comfortable. When he tells us to “make disciples of all nations,” he also says “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do.” We know what Jesus did, and it was a lot more than preach. He healed, he drove out demons, he gave people encouraging and challenging words for their futures. And contrary to our experiences, He meant for those acts to be commonplace in Christianity. He spent so much time with his apostles modeling supernatural power and then challenging them to do the same. He was inviting them to become more like himself, to share in His authority and union with the Holy Spirit. Things didn’t always work out for them, and at times the disciples returned to Jesus frustrated because they were unable to heal or deliver someone. But he doesn’t say “I’ll take care of it, stop trying.” He explains and equips them to go out and do more. He promises to give them His Spirit to make these things possible.
If the Gospel of Mark becomes a few scattered paragraphs when we remove supernatural ministry, the Acts of the Apostles does the same. This book is a picture of the early Church, the field in which the Apostles go out and literally do what Jesus did. Again, we can paint the early Christian church as simply a warm community of people who shared everything and prayed together. But when we look at it through a new lens, we can see Jesus’ powerful works carried on in his disciples.
Why is this important? Because the very prayer we were instructed to pray by Jesus asks for the Father’s will to be done “on Earth as it is in Heaven.” There is no suffering in Heaven, no sickness, no emotional brokenness. We’re missing out on so much when we believe that Earth is a pit of suffering and we just have to make it until Heaven for everything to be better. While it is true that pain and loss are to an extent inevitable experiences, God wants to begin Heaven now in us. He wants to break into our sickness and pain through others, and He wants to use us to break through others’ suffering. He wants to invite us into loving intimacy with Him now, not just after we die.
In summary, there has been a major shift in our parish ministry because it has become apparent that healing and transformation aren’t just a kind of Christian lifestyle. They are the very building blocks of Christian life and ministry.
We are going to spend a few articles explaining this concept further, including how to understand suffering in light of this knowledge. Our hope is to lay the building blocks for seeing God’s power in a new way, and ultimately to invite you into this journey of healing and transformation. We’re learning along with you, and are excited to continue to see God’s work in our parish community. Please consider inviting God in a new way at the Holy Spirit Encounter this Sunday at 7:00 PM. He wants to love you and make you whole. Let’s allow His kingdom to truly come on Earth as it is in Heaven!'