It’s been interesting reading and listening to a few different reflections on Thursday evening’s service at the Spring Arbor Free Methodist Church. As should be expected, everyone took something different from it.
My take? It just got better as the night rolled on. If you left before 9:30, you missed out on the real heart of the service.
Taize worship? I don’t know much about it. Not familiar with the history of it, so I didn’t really know what to expect. It seems, though, that I will be content to do without it. Just not really into formal, ordered worship times. I didn’t pick up the lyric sheet, which I was kinda glad for in retrospect. Since the songs were continuous loops of the same words, sorta chanted to guitar and violin, once I caught on it was easy to move past following the notes and lyrics to-a-T and just fix my attention on the Lord. Certainly was mellow-out stuff, but I mostly prefer mellow-ing out to my own song and melody… But then again, worship isn’t so much about me as it is about the Lord, so if He was glorified and lifted up and found it as a sweet incense, then mission accomplished.
Richard Foster then built the case for the need of the Kingdom of God to be demonstrated in power. One of his key concepts was that whenever there is a declaration of the Kingdom, there ought to be a demonstration of it. In our churches, how often are we asking God to confirm his Word through signs and wonders, as the disciples did in Acts 4?
It’s sad that the church has shied away form power ministry over the years. I would imagine it’s mostly because we’ve seen or heard of it being abused. That makes sense, I guess. I think intentions are good; people don’t want to be deceived, they don’t want to scare people away… stuff like that. But the Bible is… the Bible. It’s God’s Word; it’s our hand book. When did it become up to us to decide which parts of His Word we ought to pursue? If gifts have been abused or not, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12 to not be ignorant of spiritual gifts and to “eagerly desire the best gifts.” What are the best gifts? Do we even ask the question or seek an answer? Two chapters later, we’re exhorted to pursue spiritual gifts, especially that we would prophecy, and to “eagerly desire to prophecy.” Of course, instruction on how to move in the greatest gift of all, agape love, is nestled in-between there. That’s of ultimate importance.
Anyway, Foster did a great job of unpacking his own journey toward understanding every Christ-follower’s call to move in God’s power. It wasn’t just for the 12, it wasn’t just for the 70, it wasn’t just for the first apostles–those who’d seen and fellowshipped with Christ. It’s for everyone. Read Jack Deere’s book Surprised By the Power of the Spirit for a deeper look at the Biblical case for this.
Then, following Foster’s faith-building message (Romans 10:17), a guy who prays for the sick for a living gave a little workshop. It was really neat to hear what he’d learned over the years. There’s so much that is mystic about praying for healing… so much beyond explanation. And that’s the beauty of it all at the same time… it IS beyond explanation and beyond workshop-able. You don’t have to understand it to do it… you just have To Do It. Just believe and pray. There is much to learn in the doing.
I think we’d be amazed at what God would do if we would simply start praying and applying His Word to situations. “We do not have because we do not ask” (James 4:2). Asking God to heal us and our brothers and sisters is Biblical; it’s a commandment. We aren’t being selfish when we ask God for what he’s already offering us. I think it’s often one of those “I thought you’d never ask…” situations where a person is just dying to be asked out by the person they adore… He wants to bless us so much, but He responds to His word. He doesn’t force His blessings on us.
Many of the experiences shared by the Old Saint mirrored things I’d read in books (namely Deere’s mentioned above). Reminds me of 1 Corinthians 12:4-6:
There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all.
People can be different; approaches can be different… but it’s still the same God who moves on behalf of His people, so there are going to be similarities, too.
The looming question in many people’s heads plagues even those who’ve been involved in ministry for decades: Why are some people healed, and others not. There are myriad ways to explain this mystery, many of which Deere covers in the book I’ve mentioned three times now (you should really read it). And the Old Saint, in a round-about way, simply said he didn’t know, but keeps praying anyway. And I think that’s a pretty good philosophy.
There are times we can and should know why God’s Word hasn’t come to pass in a situation–like, in the case of healing, if a person has unrepentant sin in his or her heart, or is under demonic bondage or is backslidden…. stuff like that can be in the way and should be dealt with. But there are times it might be a mystery. And we can’t let mystery of the unknown keep us from pursuing what we do know: that God’s Word is true regardless from circumstances, experiences or testimonies. And if His Word says “believers will lay hands on the sick and they will recover” (Mark 16:18), then we should lay hands on the sick and expect them to recover… not hope “it’s God will” they recover. The verse doesn’t say “And the sick might recover if it’s God’s will.” It says they will recover.
Toward the end, the Old Saint reminded those in attendance that healing ministry in the North American Church has been decidedly absent the past few-hundred years, though it is alive and thriving most everywhere else, especially South America, Africa and Asia. But it’s coming back to America… and that’s really exciting. The Body needs it; and the post-service prayer time showed how people are for it.
After the Old Saint prayed for a few people, Ken Brewer–Spring Arbor University’s resident disciple’r–brought out the troops: a dozen or so SAU students who’ve been trained in healing ministry and actively practice it with the sick and hurting in Jackson (and hopefully right in their dorm rooms, because we all need healing). They would pray for anyone in the audience who wanted prayer. Though few immediately jumped at the opportunity, once a few did, things picked up steam and many were ministered to.
Being an addict of seeing “the kingdom of God at hand,” I stuck around to offer intercession support and take it in. It’s so exciting to see students with such zeal for ministering in the Lord’s power. It was Church: Jesus-style, as you read in this entry’s title. When we started settling for talking-head church, I don’t know. But weekend service-church-as-we-know-it should primarily be about Body-maintenance, where we come together to minister to each other and be recharged from our tough week in the trenches. And that’s how I kinda saw the post-service time: the body was ministering to the body. People needed prayer and they were getting it.
By not having an active healing prayer ministry, or prophetic ministry, or permitting people to speak and interpret tongues, or move in words of wisdom or knowledge, we’re pulling a 1 Corinthians 12:20-26:
But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
Many churches have hacked off so many appendages, we may as well call Sundays an amputee service rather than a worship service. If a local body doesn’t have members (or at least frequently-visiting ministers) moving in some gifts, it would seem to be a red-flag of sorts to the leadership that something is wrong… that the body isn’t being properly attended to. If not, the leadership is essentially saying “I have no need of you.” America, and the church with it, has exalted knowledge and the ability to teach as an ultimate gift which should take care of most everyone’s needs. But God Word doesn’t agree. And when “one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.”
I’m excited about what’s happening and will continue to happen on campus and among the greater-Jackson area Church. We’ve been praying for a new movement of the Spirit, and things like this service, GospelFest and others are signs progress is happening. And with the “shaking” going on at SAU, which, I might add, was prophesied, I’m reaffirmed things are in God’s hands and will “work out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).