[This article first appeared in The Newsletter of Region 8 (Ontario, Canada) of the Order of St. Luke (OSL), an international, interdenominational ministry of healing, and later in “Sharing Magazine,” the North American magazine of the OSL.]
by Canon Mark A. Pearson
[Lay people, perhaps you could hand this to your rector or pastor to encourage him to start a healing ministry in your congregation.]
“Where were you thirty years ago?” the woman exclaimed with a combination of joy and irritation.
Joy – because she had just been healed – instantaneously, dramatically, and, as subsequent years proved, lastingly of a serious, debilitating illness. Irritation – because she wondered why she had to wait thirty years before her church hosted a healing service at which she was healed.
Not willing to let a set-up line go by, I responded, “Thirty years ago? I was in Junior High School!” She laughed, and yet waiting thirty years was not funny. Or necessary.
The new rector in her church gave permission for what a growing group in his parish had been requesting for years, a three day healing mission with teaching, training and ministry. It wasn’t that previous rectors were either heretics or incompetents. They were, so everyone told me, good and godly men, loving God and loving their people. But when it came to the healing ministry they got cautious — too cautious.
I was staying with the rector while conducting the mission so later that night I asked him if he had experience with the healing ministry. “No, not really, not until I came to this church,” he replied. “Then why,” I wanted to know, “did you say yes when your predecessors all said no to a mission?”
His answer, careful, thorough and well thought out, might be a good process for any pastor or rector to walk through in considering whether to say yes to having a healing mission or healing ministry. Here’s what the rector told me. He told me that in response to the encouragement of his parishioners wanting a healing ministry, he asked himself a series of questions:
1. Who is God? God is all powerful and all loving. Moreover, He intervenes. One can look at any era of church history to discover how God is active in His creation. A supernatural God does supernatural things, and healing is one of those.
2. Where is God? Many of us can allow that God is working somewhere else but find it difficult to accept He is work-ing right here in our midst. Whether it’s because of false modesty or a little bit of fear of God being that close, we find it difficult to acknowledge God wants to heal right in our midst. One way to overcome that is to ask parishioners to share experiences of God at work in their own lives, where it would be a bigger stretch to call it “coincidence” than to call it “God-incident.” Most of the time people are amazed at how much God has been doing right there in their church.
3. Does the healing ministry have to be flaky? Of course the healing ministry can get flaky, just as any other aspect of ministry or any profession. The key is to do it right. There are now many organizations which help people have a church-based healing ministry that is sane, balanced, mature and effective, proving, to quote Peter Wagner, “you can have a healing ministry without making your church sick.”
4. Won’t people lose their faith if they aren’t healed? Not if healing ministry is explained correctly. A false promise of, “Say a little prayer and I guarantee you will be healed,” is as wrong as a doctor promising, “Take these pills and I guarantee you will get better.” Because medicine is usually explained in a more mature way people don’t lose their faith in either doctors or medicine when a treatment doesn’t work. Explained rightly, neither will the healing ministry cause people to lose their faith in God or the church when a person isn’t immediately or ever healed.
5. Won’t starting a healing ministry prove divisive? If healing services and healing prayers are made optional, most parishioners will either choose to opt in or choose to opt out, just as they do with joining the choir or being a Sunday School teacher. It has been my experience in 34 years of ordained ministry that division comes not from the ministry being offered but the immaturity of those who mistreat others.
6. Can we find a style that works for us? The rector’s only experience with the healing ministry had been in visiting Pentecostal churches a few times. While he did not find the experience to be negative, he knew that this style would not work in his own church. So he asked other churches like his and of his denomination that ministered healing how they did it and discovered there was a style that would work for his church.
This rector had thought through things well, and decided, as any one should when trying to effect a change, to read further on the subject, brainstorm possibilities with his leadership, choose mature and gentle people to be the first ones ministering healing, and tell the congregation, “we’d like to try this for three months, stop, and then let’s all evaluate before deciding what to do next.”
Let me encourage clergy to consider an intentional, active healing ministry in your church. We believe in a supernatural God Who does supernatural things today. God, as many have pointed out over the centuries “is a gentleman. He doesn’t usually barge in. He often waits to be asked.” So let’s ask Him!
The second half of my book Christian Healing: A Practical and Comprehensive Guide was written to walk churches step-by-step through the process of beginning a healing ministry. It can help you. See resources for ordering.
Not everyone will be healed, but done with gentleness, compassion and a basic knowledge of the Christian healing ministry, you won’t cause harm. And, there just might be a parishioner who won’t have to wait thirty years to be healed.+