By Teena Myers
When I find a church with current information on its website, it becomes a candidate for a First Time Guest Experience. The blog had been idle for three months, but information about upcoming guest speakers assured me the church was still active. I have not visited a church that meets in a hotel, so I filled out a form for people interested in attending a service. I also asked a reasonable question. What room do you meet in? Within seconds a no reply message with a link to contact the pastor appeared in my email. I clicked on the link which brought me to my original contact request with a message box awaiting my input. I typed in the same question. Hit send. The message appeared under my original message, similar to a text message. Was I talking to myself?
Other things occupied my attention until that evening. I opened my email account to discover my question had been answered the same day. Impressive. I also learned the pastor is a professional counselor with offices in three cities. They met Sundays at 6 p.m. The first day available to visit lay three weeks in the future, so I recorded the information on my calendar.
Writing down what you plan to do is a strong incentive to complete the task. When the day arrived, I did not want to go. Used the rain as an excuse, but it was on my calendar. The fact that it was the last article I needed to write before I break for the summer prodded me out the door.
I thought finding a parking place at a hotel would be easy. Wrong. I drove to the back of the hotel thinking this trip was a bust. An empty spot under a bright street light caught my eye. I saw a man enter the hotel through a back door, and followed him hoping it wasn’t a service entrance, or that I needed a key to enter.
The door was unlocked. At the end of the hall, a sign with the name of the church and location made finding the church easy. I joined fourteen people scattered about the room. A man seated on the row with me was engaged in a conversation with a woman. George had prayed for a man who was immediately healed of sclerosis. He described the miracle this way; he asked the man afflicted with sclerosis, “Do you believe God wants to heal you?”
“Yes,” the afflicted man said.
“Do you believe God can heal you?”
“Do you believe God wants to heal you?”
The afflicted man extended his arms, which apparently he could not do prior to stating he believed.
“Your faith has healed you,” said the man.
The pastor saw a new face and introduced himself then took his place behind a small round table in the dim lighting. He opened the service with prayer and moved to the front of the table. Doing so left the sparse lighting behind him and his face in darkness.
He had been teaching a series on healing that encouraged his congregation to pray for people. He opened the service with a testimony about a woman’s pain diminishing after he prayed for her. A woman followed with a testimony of a financial miracle. Someone encouraged the man whose conversation I heard before service started to give his testimony. I found it odd that he wasn’t the first one to share.
Then a man with a guitar led us in worship songs. While he played a friend he had been encouraging to come to the healing meetings walked in. Guitar man immediately put the spotlight on his friend of forty years. They had reconnected on Facebook. That is how he learned a motorcycle accident had left his friend in a wheel chair.
Guitar man called motorcycle man forward to share his story and receive prayer. The motorcycle accident had left him with metal plates in his leg. He had improved enough to walk with a cane and recently discarded the cane. A man standing in the back interrupted his story, “A lady had a plate in her arm for such a long time that the screws had come out. The loose plate was sticking out of her arm. The Lord healed her taking the plate all the way out. It had been replaced by muscle.”
Two people from the congregation were called forward to pray for motorcycle man. After praying, the pastor asked him if there was anything he could do now that he could not do before they prayed. Motorcycle man looked uncomfortable. Nothing had changed.
Someone from the congregation said, “No, seriously, we believe something happened. You need to move your body around and see if anything has changed. Your back might come in align while you are moving.” Clearly, they were not willing to accept anything but a healing. The sclerosis healing was repeated to encourage motorcycle man’s faith.
Motorcycle man was polite and honest. Nothing happened. He looked relieved when they let him return to his seat. The pastor said, “We may need to pray for you again.” Then he began his sermon on the believer’s power to heal. In all fairness to this church, I left before they prayed for the sick at the end of the service.
Motorcycle man might have received healing during the second prayer. I will never know, but I doubt he did. I have studied the theology of the pastor’s sermon in the past. It sounds reasonable. After Jesus resurrection, he gave the disciples the Great Commission, which is recorded in Matthew and Mark’s gospel. In Matthew’s gospel Jesus commands the eleven Apostles to make disciples of all nations, teaching them to observe all things he had commanded them. In Mark’s gospel, Jesus appeared to the eleven Apostles and commanded them to preach the gospel. Then he promised signs will follow “those who believe” (Mark 16:18). Among those signs, they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
In both stories Jesus spoke to men he had already given power and authority to cast out devils and heal the sick (Matthew 10:1). For this reason, some believe the gifts of the Spirit died with the Apostles. I am not among those who believe the gifts of the Spirit are no longer valid. But I have been a Christian a long time. Long enough to witness the end results of some doctrines. I have encounter few people who were genuinely healed. I can think of four people who believed and even had a doctor’s statement that they were cancer free, who later died of cancer. One friend was invited to give her testimony of healing only to learn before the meeting that her cancer had returned with a vengeance.
In light of the sparse genuine healings I have encountered, I think we need to reevaluate what Jesus meant when he said, “those who believe.” Is simply believing God will heal someone because we believe God will heal that person enough? If Christians had that kind of power, we could empty hospitals. My faith does not heal people. God alone is the healer. My faith that God is who he said he is, and will do what he has promised makes me a candidate for God’s healing power to flow through me. But I don’t control God’s power.
Life is complicated. There is more to healing than simply believing God will heal. In Jesus’ ministry he healed all who came to him. But he did not heal everyone in Judah.