Doctors’ X-rays confirm divine healing of Cookie Padayachee’s brain tumour through prayer.
October 1989 X-ray – 1.5cm bone density cancer tumour surrounded by inflamed tissue.
September 1991 (straight after prayer healing) – tumour and inflamed brain cells completely gone.
Her husband Jesse prayed for her. He has seen many others healed through prayer also.
“We have to check this out because it is impossible. I have never seen anything like this before,” the doctor stammered.
With amazement and disbelief the Radiologist proclaimed that this was indeed a miracle. “I am a man of science, I don’t believe in God but I have to admit that there is definitely Someone up there taking care for you.”
Nepal: Deaf-mute boy miraculously healed by Jesus.
The boy who could not read, is now studying the Word of God. The boy who could not hear, is listening to teachings and growing in his faith. The boy who could not talk, is now proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ among those who have never heard.
In Nepal, a majoriy Hindu country in the Himalayas with 266 unreached people groups, Christians form only 1% of the population.
In 2017, the Nepali government passed a law that effectively outlaws conversion to Christianity, evangelization, and harming ‘religious sentiment.’ But the more governments try to hinder the growth of the church, the faster it seems to grow, often with miracles. Take the story of 18 year old Tilak, a deaf-mute teenager.
One day Pastor Biju, a church planter affiliated with The Timothy Initiative, stopped to pray with him. As the pastor prayed for deliverance and healing he witnessed a bewildered look on Tilak’s face. Something amazing happened to the deaf-mute boy. Tears streamed down his face, as he discovered that he could hear and speak for the first time in his life. A miraculous healing had just taken place.
Tilak rushed to his mother, who heaved sobs of joy and relief. Her boy was healed, and it was all because of Jesus. The entire family surrendered their lives to Jesus Christ that day.
Tilak and his family became eager to learn more about the God, so they began attending the very first church planted among their people. Now Tilak’s voice was able to join others in worship. As he listened to the teachings of Jesus, he was awed by the miracle that he could hear and understand what was shared.
Then a third miracle happened in Tilak’s life. When he opened God’s Word, he instantly was able to read, without any prior instruction. The symbols on the pages of Scripture came alive and he was given his own Bible to take home.
Tilak, the boy who could not read, is now studying the Word of God. Tilak, the boy who could not hear, is listening to teachings and growing in his faith. Tilak, the boy who could not talk, is now proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ among those who have never heard.
Source: The Timothy Initiative. Joel News, # 1115 , February 25, 2019
This is a result of my search for effective ways of praying for the sick. I found it produced results after persisting in hope and faith. At first it was mostly in hope. I know that God answers prayer, but we don’t always know how. Gradually my faith grew as I persisted in faith, believing that God answers prayer and that God heals. The tide changed and waves of healing blessings flowed more fully.
When I was young, we prayed for the sick in general terms, such as “Please God, heal Mr or Mrs So-and-so. Amen.” Generally the people we prayed for seemed to improve and sometimes we saw rapid improvement.
Then I discovered intimacy with God and the power of his Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus, in new ways. Jesus told us to seek this: “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” (Luke 11:13). We all need to ask, seek and knock, and Jesus promises that we will receive, find and have the door opened (Matthew 7:7-8).
So my journey in praying for others, including praying for the sick, began to change as I allowed the Holy Spirit to guide me more fully. Instead of praying the same old way, “Please God, heal that sick person,” I began praying the way I was led by the Spirit.
As I read about Jesus and his disciples, I realized that they rarely or never prayed this way, “Please God heal that sick person.” Mostly they commanded healing, and Jesus’ followers always did so in Jesus’ name. Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth, and we have authority as we serve him and pray in his name, on his behalf.
That gradually opened new horizons for me! I began listening more to the still, small voice in my mind and heart, and found I was praying with more authority, in Jesus’ name. Increasingly I found myself led to pray, “Be healed, in Jesus’ name.“
As I persisted, the Holy Spirit quietly prompted me to take authority over attacks against the person. Sometimes (not automatically and not always) I was led to pray something like “Infirmity, get out in Jesus’ name.“
Increasingly I found more people reported that pain had gone or that they felt significantly improved. So then I realized that it helped to ask the person being prayed for how they felt. If some pain remained, I was often led to pray for them again, sometimes more than once more.
As first I was reluctant to ask how the person felt, in case there was little or no improvement! Then, gradually I realized that asking how they felt actually gave more opportunity to pray more if that was needed. When we persisted, we often saw improvement right there and then. A simple way to check is to ask, “How much pain do you have on a sale of 10 to 1?”
Many blockages in my thinking stopped me from praying with authority. Here are a few.
Not good enough. That can stop us. We think we’re not good enough for God to work in and through us. “No one is good but One, that is, God” (Mark 10:18). If you wait till you’re perfect, you’ll be in heaven! Confess sin quickly and gratefully move on, because the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, goes on cleansing us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Fear of failure. What if the person is not healed? That is a common blockage because sometimes there is no evidence of immediate healing. I began saying, “We’ll keep on trusting God for more healing, however it may come.” As we persisted in faith, there seemed to be more healing, more often.
No healing gift. There are many gifts of healings (1 Corinthians 12:9), and some people have a gift of faith for healing – they just expect it. I think I had more hope than faith. But we can all pray for healing, even if we don’t have healing gifts.
Disappointment. We all experience disappointment sometimes when we pray for healing. Healing does not always happen, or it may be slow in coming. But we can persist, just as we do with medical treatments. We persist till healing comes.
No leading. What if you have no leading on how to pray? That happens at times. You can still pray in faith, knowing God hears and will answer in his way and in his time.
What helped me to overcome blockages?
God’s Word helped me most. The more I read about Jesus and his followers the more my faith grew. God’s Spirit speaks his word into our hearts and lives. We believe it and act on it.
Listening more for the leading of God’s Spirit helped me enormously. Note that “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing” (John 6:63) and that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6). Often, a ‘hunch’ turned out to be a ‘leading’.
One night I prayed for a young relative who had been getting migraines. Medications had helped, but migraines persisted. I had a hunch we were dealing with an attack, so I was led to gently place my hand on his head and pray, “Affliction, get out in Jesus’ name.” I felt it go, and my young relative felt fine and has not needed medication for that since then. We don’t always ‘feel’ something, but we can pray in faith.
Why lay on hands?
Why do we lay hands on the sick to pray for them? It’s biblical. See Mark 6:5; 7:32; 10:16; 16:18; Luke 4:40; 13:13; Acts 28:8. It’s also a natural way to express care and concern. All parents know that touch brings comfort when a child is hurt.
Biblical passages taught me to persist. Here are some: Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 11:5-10; 18:1-8; 1 Thessalonians 5:17. Jesus occasionally prayed/commanded for healing more than once, as for the blind man at Bethsaida (Mark 8:22-25) and the wild man of Gadarra (Luke 8:26-39).
Ultimate healing and the only total healing is in heaven. Meanwhile, in this broken world we can show compassion and care in many ways, including praying for healing. I know the pain of praying for a loved one’s healing, who died. Sometimes the healing is not here, but hereafter.
Sometimes God may surprise you, as you persist in simple faith. A nurse in one of our prayer groups was led to place her hand on a lady’s back and pray, “L4 be healed, in Jesus’ name.” The pain left immediately. Apparently the problem was in the lumbar (L4 region) of the spine.
A doctor, and my college class, once prayed for and laid hands on a lady student who was scheduled for an operation to remove a growth in her abdomen. Later that same day her specialist could find no growth, so they cancelled the operation.
Recently we prayed as a small group for a man with diabetes problems. When he had a blood test it registered normal, so he testified in church and gave thanks to God.
Healing is not always so quick. But it’s always a blessing to pray for one another. Sometimes it helps to pray in a believing group where those praying contribute their different spiritual gifts and insights. You can pray in the Spirit and often receive the Spirit’s leading on how to pray with authority in Jesus’ name.
Many people discover that God is real and personal, and they believe in him because someone prayed for their healing. We pray – God heals.
I pray that you will find peace and joy as you pray in faith for others, led and empowered by God’s Spirit. Just bless them in Jesus’name.
Young Christians sharing Good News on the streets in Brisbane
This afternoon we met Craig. Christie stopped him to tell him that Jesus loves him & asked if we could pray for him. He said yes!
When we prayed for him, he opened his eyes, jaw dropped & said he felt tingling in his face, in his words said “It’s Him” whilst pointing upward, smiling.
Craig was shot in the head by an intruder in his home one night in front of his son in 2009 (his son living in fear ever since). He let us take him to dinner & shared his story/scars of when he was hit by a car too, also how his father died in his arms.
He couldn’t believe that we wanted to take him with us, saying “This doesn’t happen.” He said he usually puts his hand over his face because people always point and laugh at him – visible hole on the top of his head (bullet still lodged in his skull).
He said he would love to come to the conference [Todd White at Glory City Church] although he couldn’t stay long & on the way to the conference he asked more about God. Christie shared with him about Jesus and the Holy Spirit.
He thanked her & she was able to pray with him as he gave his life to Jesus in the taxi. The taxi driver was in shock, forgot to put his meter on so my mate blessed him with a $40 tip, we told him Jesus loves him too.
Craig wasn’t able to stay long at the conference so when he headed out, Mitch followed him to drive him home then Todd White walked past, Mitch asked Todd to pray with him, turns out Todd & Craig had a lot in common, including being shot at with the same kind of gun. Todd shared more of Jesus with him, they hugged then Craig asked if he could come back to church with his son – Mitch introduced him to the pastor to exchange details.
Craig said he couldn’t believe how nice everyone was & couldn’t wait to get home & read his new Bible.
We are all so blown away by how God aligned everything, & we were able to be a part of this! Everyday out there are opportunities to love people. God said we only need faith as small as a mustard seed. There’s nothing like when you get to break past fear!! So many people let us pray with them tonight, God is so real & the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in us! Craig is overwhelmed with joy and so amazed he now knows God’s love. He will never be the same. #normalchristianlife
— with Tammi O’neon.
Reviews: Healing by Francis MacNutt;
Power Healing by John Wimber & Kevin Springer;
Healing through Deliverance by Peter Horrobin; Healing in the Now by John Blacker; All Together in One Place by Harold Hunter & Peter Hocken (eds)
The cover photo shows Grant Shaw with Leah Waqa. Grant Shaw and I attended the Sunday service at the Upper Room church in Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu in the South Pacific. There Leah, a nurse, told how she had been dispensing medicines at the hospital that week when parents brought in their young daughter who had been badly hit in a car accident, and showed no signs of life – the monitor registered zero – no pulse. Leah felt unusual boldness, so commanded the girl to live, and prayed for her for an hour, mostly in tongues. After an hour the monitor started beeping and the girl recovered.
Grant joined me on Pentecost Island in Vanuatu. South Pentecost attracts tourists with its land diving – men jumping from high bamboo towers with vines attached to their ankles. Grant prayed for a jumper who had hurt his neck, and the neck crackled back into place. That young man and his father both gave their lives to the Lord right there in the village. Grant prayed for a son of the paramount chief of South Pentecost. He was healed from a painful leg and later he invited the team to come to his village to pray for the sick. No white people had been invited there to minister previously. More were healed there in Jesus’ name. The full account is in South Pacific Revivals by Geoff Waugh (2010).
Healing is a tough subject, especially if you or your loved ones are sick!
Attitudes to ‘the healing ministry’ and theologies about healing vary greatly. At one extreme lies the claim that everyone can and should be well, and if you have enough faith in God you will be healed; at the other extreme lies the claim that healing, if it occurs, now happens through medical science.
People at the first extreme tend to avoid medical help, trust in God alone for healing, and deny any ‘lying symptoms’. However, they usually acknowledge the importance of healthy food, exercise, rest and positive attitudes – which people at the other extreme also acknowledge.
The truth, I believe, doesn’t just stand somewhere in the middle, but in both. God heals. His healing power is always at work in us with every heartbeat, every breath. Life is his gift to us. Healthy living contributes to good health. Oranges and Vitamin C tablets promote health. So do healthy attitudes. So does prayer, and faith.
We know that being healthy is good, not bad. We go to a doctor or we take medicine because that can help overcome sickness and restore health.
Most of us pray for healing, for others and for ourselves. We usually appreciate others praying for us. We pray for others in many different ways.
It may be the general ‘God bless them’ prayer or our wish for their well being. It may be the more specific ‘Heal them, please God’ or ‘Lord lay your healing hand on them’. It may be the still more specific prayer with a person as we lay our hand on them in Jesus’ name. It may be the even more specific prayer or command, led and anointed by the Holy Spirit, through various gifts of the Spirit including healing, miracles, faith, prophecy, words of knowledge or wisdom, discernment of spirits, or tongues and maybe interpretation.
And sometimes we don’t pray for healing, but it happens anyway!
More difficult to understand is when we do pray for healing, we do have faith, we ‘trust and obey’ and yet healing does not happen, as far as we can see. We have to acknowledge that we don’t ‘see’ very far yet. There is a mystery in healing, as there is in living. We don’t understand the mystery of life, nor do we understand a lot about eternal life.
However, we know that God gives life, and sustains life. We can learn more about how to co-operate with God, including learning how to pray more effectively, believe more truly, and love more fully.
Healing is complex. Most healing takes time, but intervention through prayer or medicine can speed up the process, sometimes dramatically. Healing also involves the whole being – spirit, soul and body (1 Thessalonians 5:23). These are inter-related.
We are also learning more about blockages to healing such as unforgiveness, unbelief, unhappiness, and unwillingness to yield fully to God. These can be removed in a loving, caring environment.
One major discovery in charismatic renewal, and in similar ministries, has been the reality of God’s healing grace revealing the Father’s love, such as through compassionate prayer in Jesus’ name in the power of the Holy Spirit. This ministry of love and compassion increases everywhere now.
Those who live and worship in places or among people where there is love, compassion, forgiveness, faith, courage and support for one another are especially blessed, for all these facilitate healing. As we yield to the Spirit of God among us, these abound, and so does healing. This is part of the Lord’s purpose and commission for his church – to be a loving and healing community.
We believe that Jesus healed, especially in compassion for people. He commanded and taught his disciples to preach the good news about the reign of God, heal the sick and cast out evil spirits. Jesus is the same – yesterday, today and forever. His commission is the same still. We are learning again to humbly and courageously obey him in the power of his Spirit. There is more to learn and do yet.
This issue of the Renewal Journal aims to help you do that. David Lithgow, Jim Holbeck, John Blacker, Colin Warren, John Warlow and Spencer Colliver tell of their discoveries and understanding of healing. Sue Armstrong and Trevor Faggotter describe revival movements which also include healing through prayer.
The next issue of the Renewal Journal, Number 5 (95:1), looks at Signs and Wonders including an overview of their place in the church throughout history and their explosion in revival movements today. Subsequent issues are planned for topics such as worship, prayer and compassion. These take on new meaning and expression in renewal ministry.
The Renewal Journal will continue to carry articles on renewal and revival across all churches and in the community. Please pray as you read! May God bring healing to the land as we repent and believe the good news of God’s great grace.
The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it (John 1:5).
Revival continues to explode in spite of, and in the midst of, darkness such as the brutal massacres of Christians and others in North Korea, North Africa, Syria and the Middle East.
Local Australian examples of healing evangelism, for example, continue to increase. Many churches now have ministry teams that pray for people at the end of each service.
Joel Shaw, a young pastor at Glory City Church in Brisbane leads youth in prayer healing evangelism in the streets and malls of Brisbane, along with others. Here’s a recent example from him:
“I am just on a total high from last night! After church we went down with the young adults to Kangaroo Point. Chris Turner [youth pastor] and I were talking about all the opportunities that were all around us. As we were walking from one location to the next we saw this big bunch of young people smoking and rabbling around. Chris stopped and called out to them. At first they didn’t even acknowledge that he was there. Chris called out a second time in a louder voice “HEY GUYS!” Their conversation died down and they started to listen.
“Chris said, “Have you guys seen any miracles?” Some jeered, some were serious and others quite friendly. Within 30 seconds there was a guy who admitted to having a knee problem, One prayer and he was instantly healed! A girl stepped up saying that she had period pain and she was also instantly healed.
“A guy next to me started to talk to me about his elbow. He had heaps of pain and limited movement. By this stage it was electric. I knew there wasn’t a chance this guy wouldn’t be healed, so I said, “Watch this!” to the other guys around me and began to pray. I felt the presence of God go through me and he stumbled backward. “WHAT THE @#$%!” He exclaimed, moving his arm around vigorously. He began to jump around and continue to stream expletives in total shock that he had been healed.
“By that time I had lost track of the other miracles that were happening all around me. Immediately another guy comes up to me and said to me something along the lines of “I need help, I have a lot of sin!” It was because of the miracles and the presence of God he was convicted of his sin! The loving kindness leads us to repentance.
So as I hugged the guy with the healed arm for the 5th time, I proceed to share about the price that Jesus paid for his sin. Turns out he had been to church but was desperate to encounter the supernatural so had delved deep into witchcraft and other new age practices. I prayed for him, and he said he was so overwhelmed by God’s presence. … We got his number and his address and he is coming to church on Friday. Seriously Kingdom life is the most exciting life! That was an opportunity we could have easily walked by.”
During the last few years I led teams of young people from these churches on missions in the South Pacific. Healings, deliverance and salvation increase with each visit. Everyone prayed for in one pagan village reported their pain had gone, and for the first time ever the paramount chief asked for healing prayer for himself. When Andrew Chee and the pastors prayed for him the pain left. Previously he had burned a Bible given to him. Now he is saying that a church can be built where he burned the Bible.
Last year a team saw everyone healed that they prayed for on Pentecost Island, Vanuatu. The testimonies opened the way for more salvation, deliverance, and people being filled with the Spirit and equipped for powerful service. That includes detecting and removing magic and witchcraft.
Grant Shaw, Joel’s brother and now pastor of Kingdom Culture Church in Brisbane, joined me at many revival meetings in Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands. We saw God move powerfully on hundreds of people, especially at a national youth conference in the Solomon Islands. One young man, healed at the conference, that night prayed for his mum and brother in their home and they both were healed. He had never done that before. We prayed with nurse Leah Waqa in Port Vila (the capital of Vanuatu) who that week had been led to pray in the hospital for a girl who had died after being hit by a truck. Leah prayed for the girl for over half an hour of Spirit-led prayer commanding her to live. The girl lived.
We live through amazing revivals globally this century. One of the most obvious is with Iris Global, with Roland and Heidi Baker. They write:
“Iris Global (previously Iris Ministries) is a holistic ministry that we began in 1980 as we took small evangelistic street drama teams to Asia on short-term mission trips. Our emphasis was the creative presentation of the Gospel, and our ministry grew greatly. But we were so impacted by the condition of the poor that we changed direction drastically and began to stop for the one and prove the love of God by first addressing the temporal needs of the broken and humble, “the least of these.” We focused on the bottom of society rather than the top. Now, after coming to Africa and starting with street beggar children in 1995, we have seen a people movement spread across the ten provinces of Mozambique. Massive desperation for God rising out of a long history of repression, poverty and natural disasters has fueled revival, one that is sparking more fire in nations around the world. And signs and wonders are following all the way.
“What began as a ragged band of young beggars, thieves and delinquents has developed by the power of the Holy Spirit into a closely-knit national family of thousands of churches and a broad ministry encompassing Bible schools, children’s centers, church-based orphan care, primary education, medical clinics, constant evangelistic and healing outreaches, farming, well drilling and much else. Our vision in the Lord is constantly increasing.
“But most of all we proclaim Jesus. He is our salvation, our prize, our reward, our inheritance, our destination, our motivation, our joy, wisdom and sanctification — and absolutely everything else we need, now and forever. All His grace and power flow to us through the Cross and no other way. We are glad to be known as social workers and humanitarians, and to have a reputation for doing good. But all is in vain if we do not bring to the people faith in our God and Savior Jesus Christ. We want to be known by His Name, first and foremost. And we do not expect fruitfulness to come out of anything but intimacy with Him …” (http://www.irisglobal.org).
The Light still shines. We can live in the Light.
Or, to use another picture, we can hoist our sail of faith and catch the wind of the Spirit blowing powerfully in the earth.
German missionary to Africa, Reinhard Bonnke (1940-2019) founded Christ For All Nations (CFAN) which now ministers to millions.
Converted at nine, he had a missionary zeal. As a teenager, Reinhard saw Johannesburg in South Africa in a vision of a map of Africa. At 19 he headed off to the Bible College of Wales to train as a missionary, even though he couldn’t speak English. Three months later he was preaching in English! There he learned practical principles of living by faith.
After a short pastorate in Germany where he married Anna, they left for German Pentecostal missionary work in Africa. Working as traditional missionaries from 1967 to 1974 in Maseru, the capital of the small landlocked country of Lesotho, they saw meagre results.
The early days in Lesotho (1974)
Near the end of that time Reinhard’s interpreter broke down during his message at a healing meeting one Sunday morning and sank weeping to the floor because of God’s awesome presence. Waiting for the interpreter to recover Reinhard ‘heard’ the Lord speak ‘words’ which amazed him: “My Words in your mouth are just as powerful as My Words in My own mouth.”
The ‘voice’ repeated the sentence. He ‘saw’ it like a movie in Scripture – Jesus told the disciples to speak in faith and it would happen. “I suddenly realized that the power was not in the mouth – the power was in the Word,” said Reinhard.
Then, when the interpreter had recovered enough to speak, as he was preaching Reinhard ‘heard’ the Spirit say, “Call those who are completely blind and speak the Word of Authority.”
He did. About six blind people stood. He boldly proclaimed, “Now I am going to speak with the authority of God and you are going to see a white man standing before you. Your eyes are going to open.”
Taking a deep breath Reinhard shouted: “In the name of Jesus, blind eyes open!”
The power of his voice jolted even those on the stage. It felt as though a flaming bolt of lightning was let loose in the building. His voice was still resonating against the bare brick walls when there was another shout. This time it was the shriek of a woman’s voice. What she screamed shattered the silence that hung over the congregation: “I can see! I can see!”
She had been totally blind for years. The other blind people also saw. The place erupted in excited cheers. A woman handed her crippled boy through the milling crowd to Reinhard who sensed the power of God on the boy and watched amazed as his crippled legs shook and straightened. He was healed. The meeting went for hours as people screamed, shouted, danced and sang.
At the end of 1974, Reinhard relocated to Johannesburg and established Christ for All Nations (CFAN). Early in January, when he was ill, he had a vision of Jesus similar to the Joshua’s vision (Joshua 5:13-15). He wrote: “I was very sick. I didn’t think I would make it. I went to doctors. Nothing helped. I was crying to God: ‘Lord what are you doing? What is your plan?’ One afternoon I retired to my study. A thirst for prayer came over me and I was hardly on my knees when I saw a most wonderful vision. I saw the son of God stand in front of me in full armour, like a general. The armour saw shining like the sun and burning like fire. It was tremendous and I realised that the Lord of Hosts had come. I threw myself at His feet. I laughed and I cried … I don’t know for how long, but when I got up I was perfectly healed.”
When Reinhard flew to Gaberone in Botswana to buy time on radio there the Lord told him to hire the 10,000 seater sports stadium for a crusade. The local Pentecostal pastor who agreed to help prepare for the crusade was amazed. He had only 40 in his congregation!
The crusade in April 1974 with Reinhard’s evangelist friend Pastor Ngidi started in a hall which could seat 800. On the first night 100 attended. Healings happened every night, abnd people fell to the floor overwhelmed. That was new to Reinhard.
By the end of the first week 2,000 people were packed into the hall. So they moved into the stadium! Thousands attended. People were saved and healed every night and over 500 people were baptised in water within two weeks.
One night in the stadium, the Holy Spirit urged Reinhard to pray for people to be baptised in the Holy Spirit. So he asked an African co-worker to give a message on the Holy Spirit. Reinhard felt dissatisfied with talk because it didn’t mention tongues.
About 1,000 people responded to the call to be baptised in the Spirit. As soon as they raised their hands they were all flattened shouting and praising God in new languages on the ground. Reinhard had never seen anything like that before. It continued to happen in his crusades.
Reinhard used an enormous tent which could seat 30,000 people. Then the crowds grew so large no tent could hold them. Some of CFAN crusades in Africa have reached huge open air crowds of 600,000 to 800,000 people and even over 1 million.
Dr Donald McGavran was the founding Dean of the School of World Mission at Fuller Theological Seminary. His seminal books Bridges of God (1955) and Understanding Church Growth (1970, 1980) pioneered church growth research. This ground-breaking paper, was presented to the Christian and Missionary Alliance Missionaries at Lincoln, Nebraska in 1979.
The problem of church growth faces all of us. Many of us are working where we have had little growth. Wherever our churches are sealed off, ethnically, economically, or educationally, the people from other classes of society do not ordinarily join us. This very common problem affects not just the Christian and Missionary Alliance. You have less of it than some other missionary societies. This problem has faced me. For the last 25 years I have been thinking of this on the world scene. For 25 years before that I was thinking of it in the Indian context. So for about 50 years I have been considering this difficulty.
As I have been reviewing church growth around the world, I have seen that it frequently correlates with great healing campaigns. That is why I am speaking about Divine Healing and Church Growth. Where the church is up against an insuperable barrier, there no matter what you do, how much you pray, how much you work, how much you organize, how much you administer for church growth, the church either does not grow, grows only a little, or grows from within, not from without. Under such circumstances, we need to lean heavily on that which is so wonderfully illustrated in the New Testament, namely the place of healing in church growth. You remember the two villages of Lydda and Sharon where it is recorded in the book of Acts that all Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord. Two whole villages in a day! When did that happen? When Aeneas was healed by Peter. This great ingathering was preceded by a remarkable case of divine healing.
American missionaries, who have grown up in a highly secular society, usually take a dim view of divine healing, considering it mere charlatanism. After long years of sharing that common opinion, I now hold that among vast populations, divine healing is one of the ways in which God brings ruen and women to believe in the Savior. Missiologists ought to have a considered opinion on the matter. They should not brush it off cheaply and easily. Administering for church growth in part means arranging the stage so that divine healing can take place. Look at the evidence of divine healing. Withold judgment until the evidence has been reviewed. There is much more evidence than I am able to present in one short address.
My considered recommendation is that missionaries and Christians in most populations ought to be following the biblical injunction to pray for the sick (James 5:14-15). When notable healings have taken place, great efforts should be made to multiply churches. When healings have taken place in your denomination or any other denomination, when the Pentecostals mount a great healing campaign, then say to yourself, “This is the time to strike, while the iron is hot.”
I now lay before you a few cases of divine healing that have come to attention from various sources. The first is a case of healing carried out by American Presbyterian missionaries. I quote a report from India about the operation of these ministers, visiting India for a brief period.
Everyday there was preaching in the evening and teaching in the morning. They lived with us as brothers. They visited and preached in 24 of the 278 churches we have. The work of the Holy Spirit was experienced throughout the preaching ministry. Reverend Little was blessed with the gift of healing power. All those who came to the gospel meetings with a rea.1longing for healing were wonderfully healed. Every night Reverend Little had to minister for more than 4 hours. People who were healed came forward and witnessed about their healing. Hundreds of people were healed. Thousands were able to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord. People were made whole physically, mentally and spiritually. Some of our pastors were healed from serious illnesses, including Rev. J. Thompson, Rev. S. Yesunesan, Rev. E.J. Victor and Rev. Moses Israel. Those who were suffering from chronic diseases were healed. A woman who was suffering from asthma for 21 years was healed. A man who was deaf for more than 40 years was healed. So many blind people were able to see. Lame people were healed. People who were suffering from bleeding were healed. Reverend Wilson shared how more than 2 weeks after Little and Wallace had departed, he would visit a church and find people still praising God for the healing they had received. He discovered that there were a number of Hindus who had received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour among the thousands who experienced salvation. It was customary for Dick Little to ask the people to renounce their gods before repenting .and accepting the Lord Jesus into their lives. Apparently a number received their healing as Christ Jesus came into their hearts.
The second case comes from the CMS Newletter. This is written by the General Secretary of the famed Church Missionary Society whose headquarters are just across the Thames from Parliament Building in London. Here is what is published:
Perhaps there is no more impressive example in recent years of healing than Edmund John, younger brother of the Archbishop ofTanzania, with his great healing mission over a 3 year period of ministry form 1972 to 1975. Not only were vast numbers of people healed, exorcised, moved to open repentance, led to or brought back to Christ in great gatherings, but also in quiet, ordered proceedings. All that happened was related to the central apprehension that Jesus is Lord; and amazing response for the lax Christians and the newly drawn Muslims alike. John’s death at the end of the astonishing blaze of ministry to his people left behind in many places a church spiritually and numerically strengthened.
The third case is from Bolivia, from a United Methodist. This man studied at the School of World Mission in Pasadena and went back to Bolivia a convinced church growth man. His letter is addressed to me personally. In it he says:
It is most striking that the district of our church which has really broken new ground in growth is our very own Lake District where we have worked for 16 years. This is the rural Aymara Indian district. This growth really began to gather momentum during our absence and has been strongest during the last year. So new is this that we do not yet have proper statistics on what has taken place. The mother church of the district in Ancoraimes, our mission station, has increased its Sunday morning attendance six fold. They hold week meetings that have usually average 250, this year have averaged over 600. For the first time in the history of our work, a majority of approaching consensus has turned to Christ in a single community, practically the whole village became Christian. This was shown dramatically on May 31, 1973, the traditional fiesta date, when the community celebrated their first community Christian Fiesta. Of the 170 families, 160 have turned to Christ; five our of six zones of the community, which is called Turini. The lay pastor of the Ancoraimes church, Juan Cordero, was the key man in this movement. Mum’s the word, please do not say anything about this. Dr. McGavran; mum’s the word on the following factor. Preaching has been accompanied by healing. Over and over this has been the case. The lay pastor has been practically mobbed on occasion, but he has stood his ground and has virtually obliged interested persons to hear him out on the gospel before he will pray for healings.
The fourth case of healing followed by growth is one in which the gift fo healing was exercised by a layman, a recent convert, not by the minister or missionary. In Tamilnadu, India, the Evangelical Church of India, planted by OMSI of Greenwood, Indiana, has grown from a few hundred in 1996 to more than fifteen thousand in 1982. During 1983 the church expects to plant fifty more churches – one a week.
After 1970 growth was accompanied by healings and exorcisms. What convinced multitudes to follow Christ was that with their own eyes they saw men and women healed by Christ’s mighty power. Evil spirits were driven out in His name. The Holy Spirit was at work.
The fifth case is from the Mekane Yesus Lutheran denomination in Ethiopia.
Eighty three percent (83%) of our congregations give healing from illness and exorcism as reasons for their growth.
In summary, it is clear from these five cases and much more evidence that the growth of the Church has often — not always, but often — been sparked by healing campaigns.
There are 200,000 East Indians in Trinidad. In 1950 a couple thousand were Christians, the sons and grandsons of people converted by Presbyterian missionaries. Except for those, very few Hindus or Moslems then living in Trinidad had become Christians. In the late fifties there was a healing campaign, and when the educated Indian community, which had scorned Christianity, saw their own people healed in Jesus’ name, they said, “Here is power!” Hundreds became Christians.
The seventh case is a remarkable one from India. Suba Rao was the headmaster of a government school –a member of one of the middle castes and a wealthy man. He had laughed at baptism. He had hated missionaries. He had thought of the church as an assembly of the low caste.
One of his near neighbours and close friends fell sick. For two years his sickness was not healed and gradually wasting away. He went to many doctors to no avail. One night while Suba Rao was asleep, the Lord Jesus appeared to him and said, “Will you will go and lay your hand on that man’s head and pray in My name, I will heal him.” Suba Rao woke up and laughed, thinking, “What a funny dream” and went back to sleep. The next night the Lord Jesus stood by his side and said, “If you go and lay your hand on that man’s head and pray for him to be healed, I will heal him.” Suba Rao woke up; he didn’t laugh this time and he didn’t go back to sleep, but he didn’t lay his hands on the sick man either. He said, “That’s impossible!” The third night the Lord Jesus appeared to him. He got up at once and went to his neighbour. He laid his hand on the man’s head, prayed for him, and in the morning the man said, “I feel much better. Do it again.” the man was healed. Suba Rao threw out his idols. He started to read the Bible. He started a Bible study class among his neighbours. But he still ridicules baptism. He has not joined and church. But he proclaims himself a follower of the Lord Jesus. The healing of people in Jesus’ name became his chief occupation. Joining the church, which there is composed very largely indeed (98%) of the lowest castes of Indian society is, he thinks, an impossible (and perhaps an unnecessary) step for him. Still the Lora Jesus heals men through him (Mark 9:39).
What do healings of this kind — repeated thousands of times — mean for us, living in the world today? “Like a comet blazing across the skies, this faith healer suddenly appeared among the small churches planted in this land in the last 20 years.” News notes to this effect have reached sending churches in America again and again in last 20 years, from many different lands and many different denominations. The biblical saga continues. In one congregation of none, under the faith healer’s prayers, marvellous cures occurred, crowds gathered, thousands attended, members of important wealthy families were cured, the press carried front page articles on the events. Night after night discarded crutches were gathered. Night after night the testimonies of the blind who now see, the paralyzed who now leap, the deaf who now hear were most impressive. Faced with the enormous power of the riser and reigning Christ, men and women in increasing numbers confessed Christ, turned from sin and other gods, were baptized and incorporated into new and old churches. A new era developed, churches began to multiply in many denominations. Baptists grew, Methodists grew, Lutherans grew, Pentecostals grew, and on and on. The evangelization of this country took a great leap forward. Events like these occurring in many lands have caused heated discussion among American Christians.
During the last 100 years, Western Christians have been heavily secularized and saturated with scientific thinking. They believe diseases are caused, not by God’s will, but by germs. And these diseases are cured by drugs; malaria by quinine, colds by Contac, atherosclerosis by open heart surgery. As Christianity has spread throughout the world, missionary physicians have proved enormously more effective than the mumbo jumbo of witch doctors, herbalists, faith healers of the animist world. The missionary doctor gave the patients penicillin and offered prayer to God for their cure. They were cured.
The Christian doctor would say it was not by unaided prayer but by using the medicine that God has given to mankind. This Christian interpretation of the healing process and the part played by unaided prayer and faith differs from the rationalists view, and yet it holds that, as a matter of fact, God does not act independent of physical means. That, my friends, is the atmosphere in which we all live. Secular man believes that there is no God; the causes of illness which can be measured and manipulated by men are the only reality. These causes can be physical, chemical or psychological.
To such 20th century thinking, faith healing is at best mistaken and at worst charlatanry. The faith healer is either a self-deluded enthusiast or a clever manipulator of men. If people claim to be cured, maybe they were not really sick in the first place, or have temporary feelings of well being induced by the excitement of the moment due to crowd psychology. The “healed” may even be planted t the faith healer to build up his reputation. The power of hundreds of thousands who believe alike and express their belief vividly is a real factor in human affairs and has been used by politicians. merchants, priests, and magicians from time immemorial. Westerners and Eastern secularists are highly sceptical about any power available to man other than what man himself generates by one mean or another, Faith healing causes lifted eyebrows and superior smiles.
To most people in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, however; disease is inflicted by spirits. It is cured by super-human powers regardless of what people in America think.
Witches eat up the life force of other men. An angry neighbor casts an “evil eye” on a woman and she grows weaker day by day. A wandering evil spirit devours a baby and the baby dies. A demon causes an illness which no medicine can cure. Western medicine may help some people, but Africa is full of mysterious powers which the white man does not know, and only those who know the secret source of black power can heal African affliction. These evil powers must be overcome by superior powers.
In Spanish America the Curandero has great power. His incantations, potion, sacrifices, and medicines marvellously heal the sick. In Asia, Africa, and Latin America, perhaps 98 out of 100 persons believe that superior power drives out inferior power. In Europe and North America the impersonal, mechanistic system of scientism fails to satisfy millions. Therefore, they, too, eagerly believe I the occult, extra-human powers. Satan worship flousrishes. The mysterious influence of magic words, rites, robes, stars, yogis, and gurus fascinates many people in Europe and North America. Christians in North America and Europe have a special problem with faith healing. Why? Because their religion wars with their science.
Faith healing unquestionably occurred in biblical times. The New Testament Church rode the crest of a tremendous, continual manifestation of faith healing. One of the may passages reads as follows:
Now many signs and wonders were done among the common people and by the hands of the apostles, more than ever, believers were added to the Lord. Multitudes, both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and pallets, that, as Peter came by, at least his shadow might fall on some of them. The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with evil spirits and they all were healed (Acts 8:12-16).
Yes, Christians have a problem in the Western society. Their sciences war with their Christian faith. Divine healing was an essential part of the evangelization as churches multiplied across Palestine and the Mediterranean world. What are we Christians to make of all this? Is there something here that we can use?
Many educated Christians have been more secularized than they realize and are antagonistic to divine healing. They write it off as superstition and fraud; it leads people away from sound medicine and counts many as healed who are still sick. They say divine healing is a massive deception. They think that divine healing is using God for our own ends.
Some educated Christians say that in addition to the human mechanism and material means which God uses, He sometimes acts in sovereign power. He retains the right to act outside His laws which we know in order to use higher laws which we do not know. He ordinarily operated through His laws, but He is not bound by them. When it pleases Him, He intervenes. Such Christians hold that the best possible world is one in which most of the time a just and loving God rules through laws. But occasionally, when He sees fit, He uses a higher law. Such Christians view healings in the name of Christ as demonstrations of the power of God.
Some would add that the healings are a mixture of God’s acts and man acts, thus we see many incomplete healings, and failures of healings, due to lack of faith or sincerity.
Some hard-headed Christians, who would normally be highly sceptical about divine healing, have gradually come to accept healing campaigns upon seeing he great numbers who throw away crutches, plus those healed of deafness and blindness and cured of heart disease. They have seen large numbers of recent non-believers rejoicing at Christ’s power, singing His praises, hearing His word, and praying to Him. The facts overwhelm the hard-headed.
Finally, some Christians believe that God has called them to actively engage in healing the sick, exorcising evil spirits, and multiplying churches. They deliberately use the vigorous expressed faith in Christ which abounds in a healing campaign to multiply sound churches of responsible Christians.
All Christians ought to think their way through this matter and realize that here is a power which a great many of us have not sufficiently used.
Healing campaigns have occurred in Buenos Aires with Tommy Hicks in 1954 and Guayaquil, Ecuador, in the mid 60’s. The latter was a very interesting case. The Full Gospel Church had three mission fields with growing younger churches in Brazil, the Philippines, and Panama. In their other fields converts were not being won, congregations were not multiplying. In the late sixties in Guayquil healings took place in a small way. Immediately, a big tent was flown in from Los Angeles and pitched right where the crowd gathered. For the next six weeks every night in that tent faith healing followed the preaching of Christ. Twenty branch churches were planted in various parts of the city. Guayaquil became a mission field where churches multiply.
In South Africa there is an Indian community of about 800,000 that has been solidly opposed to the Christian faith. Very few Indians became Christians. About 20 or 25 years ago through a series of healing campaigns, two Pentecostal denominations began to grow among the Indians. One of those Pentecostal churches is now 25,000 and the other 15,000. They got their start in healing campaigns in South Africa. Healing campaigns are occurring today and they will occur tomorrow. They are a part of today’s context. When one talks about contextualization, healing campaigns should be mentioned.
Christians, especially missionaries and missionary societies, must ask, “What is the biblical response to divine healing campaigns? What do Christians do when faced with the excitement and faith-heightening of a divine healing campaign?” Many for the first time become able to hear the Gospel with the inner ear.
What ought we to do after a campaign when many decide to become Christian? The following answer was formed in my mind when I was in the Christian Missionary Alliance field in Ivory Coast, at Yamoussoukro. A church growth workshop sponsored by the Evangelical Churches and missions was being held. This amazing story was told by the Ivory Coast pastors and American missionaries gathered there to study the growth of their churches and to find ways of proclaiming the Gospel more effectively. It illustrates very well the problems and opportunities which healing campaigns bring.
The Church in Ivory coast was typical of many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Ivory Coast has about 4 million people with the Roman Catholic Church numbers about 30,000. The Methodist Church dates from 1924 and has 60,000. Seven small Protestant denominations, with a total baptized membership of about 11,000, have arisen because of the faithful work of American missionaries. They have a growing rate of 70% per decade, led by Ivory Coast ministers. About 100 dedicated American missionaries are helping these churches and are doing a multitude of good deed.
Pastor Jacques Giraud, a French missionary tot he West Indies, arrived in Ivory Coast in March, 1973, to dedicate and Assemblies church building in Abidjan. As the meetings progressed, people began to be healed. The crowds grew and the meetings were moved to the stadium. Truck loads of people came from all parts of Ivory Coast. The papers were full of the event. The radio broadcast daily concerning it. Leading government officials and their wives flocked to the stadium. Pastor Giraud would tell of one of Christ’s miracles and preach for an hour on God’s mighty power to heal. Then he would say, “I don’t’ heal; God heals. I ask Him to release His power. Put your hand where it hurts and join me in prayer.” He would pour out his heart in believing prayer to God for healing. After a half hour of prayer he would invite those who God had healed to come to the front; crutches were thrown away, bent and arthritic persons stood erect, blind men walked forward seeing, scores and sometimes hundreds came, some hobbled, some limped, some saw ‘men like trees walking’ but they believed. God had given them at least a measure of healing. Thousands were also not healed.
After several healing sessions, Pastor Giraud would begin preaching salvation, repentance, atonement, and sanctification—straight from Bible preaching. A blind pagan from 600km north promised his fetish a sacrifice if he was healed. He went by bus to the Giraud meeting. At the meeting he saw for an instant, but then darkness returned. He stayed on and heard the gospel. When he returned home, he burnt his fetish and declared himself a Christian, saying, “I was not healed, but I heard the gospel and I am sure that God is the real power.”
This incident illustrates the truth that a healing campaign has dimensions far in excess of the healings. Groups of men and women seeing he power of Christ and hearing the message under favourable conditions declare their faith in Christ. Theirs in not an illumined faith but it is strong enough for them to burn their fetishes. They can be incorporated into existing congregations and formed into new ones.
After the Abidjan campaign in the very southern tip of the country, a high government official, who had been greatly blessed by the meeting, arranged for Pastor Giraud to hold a healing campaign in his home town of Toumoudi. He directed the leading government administrator there to arrange, at his expense, a place for meetings, and lodging and food for pastor Giraud and his party. A campaign similar to the Abidjan campaign was held. Radio and newspapers again broad- cast the huge nightly meetings. The next meeting, again on the initiative and expense of leading government officials, was held in the city of Bouake in late August of 1973. Then at Yamoussoukro, another campaign with Giraud was held. Pastor Giraud conducted healing campaigns in many towns and cities of the Ivory Coast.
Although he was a minister of the Assemblies of God, it is his practice to direct converts to the local churches and missions for shepherding. At Toumoudi he had the Alliance missionaries and ministers on the platform with him. He said to the people, “When you place you faith in Jesus Christ, call these men to baptize you and shepherd you.”
Reverend Fred Pilding, a missionary of the Christian and Missionary Alliance working in Ivory Coast fills in some details in the Alliance Witness, Sept. 26, 1973.
The crusade began in Bouake June 18th and continued for three weeks. Morning attendance averaged about 4,000. From 6 to 15,00 turned out in the evenings with a high of 25,00 one Sunday. The sick were seated on the grass on the playing field and all the others occupied the grandstands. As the evangelist presented Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever, people became aware of His continuing power today, through a healing receptive place. It became easier for them to trust Him as Saviour. A hunchback came to the meeting, grovelling in the dirt, under the influence of demons. The demons were exorcised in the name of Jesus and he was instantly healed. The next day he attended the meetings nicely dressed, perfectly calm, and gave his testimony. Whenever those who were healed testified, witnesses were asked to verify each healing. Pastor Giraud again and again cited Mark 16:15-18 as every believer1s commission and emphasized that in Christ’s name they were to cast out devils and lay hands on the sick and they shall recover. He refuted vigorously the title of healer. His ministry, he said, was to inspire faith in the gospel. “It is in the name of Jesus that people are healed.”
After the Toumoudi meeting, groups of converts from 81 villages around Toumoudi sought out the Alliance missionaries and ministers, begging them to come and make them Christians. After the Bouake meeting, responses were received from over 100 villages. A hundred and forty cards were filled out from one small town alone. From one village near Bouake 10 cards had been received. The missionary went to visit this village. Seeing him, one of the men who had been healed rushed off to get some of the pagan village elders. While waiting, the missionary said to the children, “Do you know Pastor Giraudls song?” Immediately they broke into joyful singing, “Up, up with Jesus, down, down with Satan, Alleluia!” People carne pouring out and the missionary preached and then asked, “How many will follow God and leave their old ways?” More than half immediately said, “We will.” In another village the Chief said, “Fetish is dead, we shall all become Christians.” The pastors and missionaries were faced with great opportunities. The challenge was to take advantage of this enthusiasm, which could dissipate rapidly, and channel these people into ongoing responsible churches of Christians who know the Lord and obey His word. Nothing like this had happened in their experience in the Ivory Coast, and they were naturally fearful, lest the excitement prove transient as it very well might.
What are Christians to make of faith healings and exorcisms? Missionaries, other church leaders and evangelists all over the world face many different situations, populations, oppositions, and opportunities. In some places mission is very largely good works and proclamation of Christ which very seldom .is followed by open acceptance of Jim as Lord and Saviour. In other places multitudes are accepting Christ and becoming members of multiplying congregations. In places the entire work is carried on by national pastors and their comrades. In other places, the missionary is the chief agent. He recruits, trains, employs, and deploys the national pastor and their comrades. In other places, the missionary is the chief agent. He recruits, trains, employs, and deploys the national evangelists and pastors. each of these men -missionaries and pastors -face a unique situation.
In view of all the evidence, missionaries in training in the (rapidly multiplying Schools of Evangelism and Mission now found in many parts of the world must ask themselves:
WHAT PLACE OUGHT WE TO GIVE TO FAITH HEALINGS AND EXORCISMS?
It would be foolhardy to attempt a single answer which would be equally true for all pieces of the vast mosaic of mankind. But certain truths may be emphasized.
First, God does give a few Christians the gift of healing. This is the clear statement of Scripture, and the convincing witness of history. It would be both unbelieving and foolish to disregard the massive evidence. It would be unscientific, if you please, to close one’s eyes to the facts of faith healing. It would be unChristian to deny those parts of the Bible which tell us clearly that on occasion, in response to faith, God does heal in miraculous ways. Biblical faith requires faith in miracles. If we cast them out, we cast out the whole Bible, or adopt a system of hermeneutics which destroys while it interprets.
Second, many healings in Christ’s name are incomplete, temporary, or even contrived. The facts are clear. Some faith healers are charlatans, and do it for the fame or money they receive. But this fact must not destroy our ability to see that God does heal in response to faith and prayer.
Third, when healing in Christ’s name has gone on and has attracted wide attention, multitudes can hear the gospel and many will obey it. This is the convincing witness of the New Testament and of modern history in many parts of the world, including the Western World. God wishes us to recognize white fields. When the disciples were saying, “No one will believe. The harvest you speak of is four months off. We are just sowing the seed or ploughing the field,” it was exactly then that the Lord Jesus said, “You are wrong. Lift up your eyes and look on the fields which are white to harvest. Pray God to send labourers into the ripe fields.” Pastors of congregations, missionaries at work in new populations, executive secretaries of mission boards, professors of missiology – all ought to practice and teach that healing campaigns are frequently accompanied by periods of great receptivity. It is required of Christians that they recognize these periods and multiply congregations in receptive populations.
Fourth, God’s man is sometimes faced with highly secular company of Christians who do not believe in faith healings or any other miracles, and who would be put off by any advocacy of them. They would turn away from something which, to them, seemed impossible. Facing such an audience, what should God’s man do?
He should do what thousands of ministers and missionaries have been doing during the past century. He should commend Christ in ways which that audience will accept as commendation. He should recognize that faith healing claims will turn some people away from Christ. When God sends him to minister or to evangelize to such people, he must present the gospel in terms which they understand and which raise up no insuperable obstacles before them.
I would hope, however, that even to this audience some of the facts of faith healing could be and would be presented at suitable times. As modern secular Christians give themselves utterly to Christ, and as they accept the full authority and infallibility of the Bible, they will come to the place in which they too will believe that with God nothing is impossible
Reproduced with permission from MC510: Healing Ministry and Church Growth class notes, Fuller Theological Seminary, 1983, a course taught by John Wimber.
Dr Rodney and Adonica Howard-Brown are pastors and revival evangelists.
Critics focus on the rip-roaring style of his revivalist “camp meetings”, but this US-based South African evangelist says all he’s interested in is God touching people’s lives.
The Holy Spirit wants to touch the lives of real people.
I don’t spend much time wondering about God’s ability
to do what he said he could do. I just trust him.
On previous visits to Australia, Rodney Howard-Browne has attracted both crowds and controversy. But vigorous debate about his methods and the “phenomena” seen at his meetings has not kept thousands away. … The US-based South African evangelist spoke with Rob Buckingham about spiritual power, the simplicity of faith, and how it feels to be surprised by God.
Buckingham: Things took off for you number of years ago. Can you tell us what took place at that time?
Howard-Browne: We’d moved to America in December ‘87 and travelled wherever the doors opened. One pastor in upstate New York asked us to have two meetings a day and invited the whole congregation. So in April 1989 we went to [a town called] Clifton Park to a church with about 250 members.
I was amazed to see people so hungry for the things of God. On the Monday morning 60 people came to the morning service. This was amazing, especially in America at that time – there had been some major set backs with different major ministries crumbling, and people were disillusioned. Next day we had 100 people at the service – nearly a third of the church coming out on a Tuesday morning!
While I was teaching, just like I normally do, the praises of God just filled the room, and people started falling out of their seats. It looked like someone was sitting in the balcony and shooting people with an invisible gun. Some were crying, some were laughing, others were rolling on the floor. It took a little getting used to.
The presence of God literally filled that place. We saw an outbreak of a revival that now, this April, is nine years old. It’s gone around the world, touched the lives of millions of people, an it hasn’t subsided or stopped. It’s been a great adventure.
Buckingham: What are your reflections now on what took place back then?
Howard-Browne: I see it as an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It’s not like we weren’t expecting it. We were crying out to God to come and move; we just didn’t know how or when it was going to happen. So when it happened the way it did it totally took us by surprise.
Buckingham: Is there any change in what took place then compared to what’s happening now?
Howard-Browne: It’s just multiplied many times over. In the beginning it was 100 people and now it’s thousands. Whether we’ve been in China or Japan, Holland, Germany, Russia or the islands of the sea, it’s the same. People are the same and they have the same needs. The Holy Spirit wants to touch the lives of real people. There are many religions in the world, but religions will leave you empty because it’s man’s vain attempt to reach God. But Christianity is God reaching man through the person of Jesus Christ.
Buckingham: There are reports of physical healings at your meetings. Do these happen in every country?
Howard-Browne: It happens everywhere. We look at it this way. When people come to a meeting where the Holy Spirit is moving, whatever their needs are God will touch them at that point. Healing is just one of these. People come with cancer, arthritis, different diseases, and the presence of god touches them. Some are healed in their seat without even having hands laid on them, and it’s only later they find out that they’ve been healed.
Dolly, a little Alaskan native lady, came to our meetings in a wheelchair. She’d had arthritis for 18 years, the last five confined to a wheelchair and the final two years bedridden. She came as a last resort, asking God to please touch her. We laid hands on her, but we didn’t really pray that she’s be able to get out of the wheelchair, just that she’d get some joy and that God would touch her. I said, “Lady, what do you want to do?” She responded, “I want to get out of this chair.” So I said, “Well then, go ahead.” Then she climbed out of the chair and walked around the building and was totally healed of crippling arthritis. This happened back in 1991 and we’ve seen her subsequently. She’s still totally healed with no trace of arthritis in her body.
Buckingham: That’s physical healing. What about emotional healing? People can carry a lot of baggage around inside.
Howard-Browne: There are many examples. One is about a woman in North Dakota who was raped by a so-called friend. She contracted two venereal diseases, the worst the doctor said he’d seen. He told her that she’d never be able to have children.
This woman came to the meeting pretty traumatized – this had only happened weeks before. The power of God touched her, she fell on the floor and as she was lying there she felt like there was a fireman standing over her with a big fire hose washing her clean. For about two-and-a-half hours she felt this water washing her clean. When she got up she could remember the rape but it was like it happened to somebody else. God had totally removed the hurt from her. When she went back to the doctor there was no trace of the diseases. That was over five years ago. Today she’s married to one of the pastors of the church. They’ve had children with nothing wrong.
Buckingham: What about other stories?
Howard-Browne: An executive-type lady came to a meeting with a lot of deep hurt in her heart. About 20 years ago she’d had an abortion, and every time she was around things of God she felt guilty and condemned with thoughts like “God’s never going to bless you because of what you did.”
We prayed for her and she was overcome, lying there filled with joy. Laughing hysterically. Later she told us it was as if she was taken up to heaven to see a little girl dancing around, with Jesus standing to the side. The little girl said, “Look Jesus, Mummy’s laughing”. When that happened, she said it felt like a hand reached down inside her and pulled out all the hurt. When she got up from the floor she didn’t feel guilty any more. She knew that God had forgiven her and everything was all right.
Buckingham: Are these incidents isolated events?
Howard-Browne: No. People are healed from depression, a lot from fear, even from wanting to commit suicide. There’s so much pressure on people today. People feel like they can’t make it. So they come to the meetings. God touches them and sets them free. It’s wonderful to see.
Buckingham: Australians are quite different from Americans, and you minister in America a lot. How do you respond to that difference in your meetings when you come to Australia?
Howard-Browne: Because I’m a South African, I think it’s probably easier for me to respond than it would be for an American. I find the Aussies very direct, which I like. There’s no airs or graces, nobody’s pretending. I think maybe that’s why we’ve had such a great response in Australia.
Buckingham: You travel extensively around the world. That must be draining on you. How do you handle the pace?
Howard-Browne: Actually, I find the travel exhilarating, so that by the time I get to a new place I’m refreshed. We travel 46 weeks of the year, and it’s awesome to see people’s lives touched and changed. That’s the thing that’s refreshing. When we get tired, we try to take a break for two or three days.
Buckingham: Rodney, how do you describe your own relationship with God?
Howard-Browne: I would describe my relationship as very, very simple. I don’t understand some people when they always want to complicate God. I just see him as God – nothing is impossible to him. I have a very childlike faith that God honours his word. I don’t spend much time arguing about it or wondering about his ability to do what he said he could do. I just trust him.
Buckingham: How does your relationship with God impact your life personally?
Howard-Browne: Well, because nothing is impossible for him, I always want to believe him for big things. When you think that he made the heavens and the earth, then everything we come up with after that is really so small. I just think sometimes people make everything so difficult when there’s nothing too hard for God.
Buckingham: What about your relationship with others? How does your faith impact that?
Howard-Browne: I want God to do for them what he’s done for me. I’m not anything special or different. I’m just an ordinary person. But I know that if he can do great things for me, he can do great things for them.
Buckingham: How does your faith impact your care for the world around you?
Howard-Browne: When I see a need, my wife has to calm me down; she says, “You can’t do everything.” God leads you into areas where you can minister effectively to touch the needs of people. We all want to reach out and feed the poor or help those less fortunate than we are, yet because I’m busy doing what I’m doing, I can’t do it. So I try to find other ministries and get behind them. I don’t have to do what they’re doing: I just finance and support them.
Buckingham: What can people expect at your meetings this year?
Howard-Browne: Pretty much like two years ago, we’re going to focus on he person of Jesus – people being touched by the Lord and coming back to their “first love”.
Buckingham: What do you mean by “first love”?
Howard-Browne: “First love” is the love you have when you first give your life to Christ – the joy that you’ve just met him, that he’s set you free from sin, that all the guilt and condemnation is gone. It’s like a young guy and a girl; when they first fall in love, they’re just beside themselves.
It’s so easy as a child of God to get caught up in the daily grind, trying to please God, caught up in rituals and traditions. You end up losing that joy and peace. Revival is about people falling in love with Jesus all over again.
Anything can happen when people come back to their first love.
This is an edited version of an interview conducted by Rob Buckingham for use in On Being ALIVE and his weekly radio program “Rob Buckingham and Friends”. It was originally broadcast on 3MP on 29 March, 1998.
Reprinted with permission from On Being ALIVE Magazine, No. 4, May 1998, pages 30-34.
(c) 2011, 2nd edition. Reproduction allowed with copyright included in text.
Several decades ago, A. W. Tozer said, “Worship is the missing jewel in the Christian Church’. In some ways things have changed since Tozer wrote those words. Over the past 25 years the Holy Spirit has been renewing his church in a remarkable way and bringing Christians everywhere a new understanding of the meaning and importance of worship. We have a way to go though, if we are to follow the words of Jesus to ‘worship the Father in spirit and in truth’.
Our primary task in life is to worship God. Deep within everyone there is an urge to worship. It was placed there by God. If we do not worship the Most High God, then we will worship ourselves, or an extension of ourselves, for we MUST worship.
Our greatest challenge is that we intellectualize God. We allow him access to the mind, but steadfastly resist any approach by God to our emotions or our bodies. Why do we find it difficult to express ourselves with our emotions and bodies in worship? When sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, so did embarrassment, self-consciousness, wrong kinds of self-awareness, lust, and so on. When Jesus died on the cross, he died for the shame which put us in bondage to self-consciousness. Only through him can we experience total freedom in our emotions and bodies.
William Temple, the great Anglican theologian, said, ‘Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose’, and I would add ‘and the surrender of our bodies to his total freedom’.
We are the ones who prevent God working in his wholeness in us. True worship can only take place when we agree to God sitting not only on his throne in the centre of the universe but on the throne that stands in the centre of our heart.
The work of Christ in redemption has one great end – it is to save humanity and restore us to the joy of knowing true worship. Adam and Eve enjoyed that when they walked with God in the cool of the Garden before the Fall. Our major problem when it comes to worship is our sinful self-centeredness. Sin consists in maintaining self in the centre of our lives, the place that God actually reserves for himself. When God no longer occupies the centre of our being, then we become the centre – we become god! And that other god is called ‘I’.
Invaded by God
Unless the central core of our being is invaded by God and maintained by him, then there can be no proper object on which to focus our worship. Many of us are caught up in an inner fight with ourselves because we never understood that to become the person God wants us to be, we must stop fighting ourselves, and surrender to God. Then he can come in, take up his rightful place in the centre of our lives, and rule and reign as Lord. Unless we surrender totally to God then the inevitable result will be inner conflict and disharmony. Our human ego functions best when it functions in harmony with God, for, left to itself it becomes a dangerous and damaging force.
What does God require? The answer is quite simple, and yet so deeply profound – self-surrender. This is the joyful exchange of an egocentric, sinful self for a God-centred self made whole. It is in fact a swap – our life for his and his life for us.
Romans 12:1 says, ‘Therefore, I urge you … in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship.
We need to exercise our will in deciding to accept the freedom Jesus offers. He never makes us feel silly or proud. Satan’s insidious voice speaks to our fallen nature, the part that feels silly and proud. We need to resist him and claim our victory in Christ.
Then, when we learn to express ourselves to God, with body, emotions, mind, will and spirit, we will enjoy a continuing, freeing experience. We don’t stifle our emotions; then they don’t get bottled up inside. And we begin to gain more confidence. Our self-image benefits and we become more aware of others. Jesus takes us out of our self-awareness, and we reach out to others, to communicate with them and be more sensitive to them.
Remember that our healing starts with our personal time with the Lord. It’s there that we can be free with God alone and after spending time alone with him, we can become more free with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Both are essential to know complete healing. Worship then becomes our whole life, involving all our being.
Paul summarises this well in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, ‘May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.