10/05/2007

Is it right to hold 'healing meetings'?

{Edit 2013:  I wrote this post at a time when I was involved in discussions with a couple of local pastors, some of whom have now moved on, about holding joint meetings for evangelism and signs and wonders.  While the issue never came to pass - because the idea never got off the ground - I am leaving the heart of the post here, which addresses the issue in the title - Is it right to hold "healing meetings"?}

When the idea was first mooted (now over 6 years ago) I had a real rise in my spirit about this, but at the same time was troubled.  The idea of "healing meetings" is something I have been troubled by {edit 2013: and remained troubled by today}. From the beginning of my walk with the Lord I was taught to regard all healing evangelists with suspicion and that continued even after I was baptised in the Holy Spirit. "Healing meetings are not in the Bible," I was told. "Do you ever read of Paul holding a healing meeting? You should just meet to preach the gospel, and pray for healing if you are so led. You can't presume God will heal..."

That's how the argument went. I have to say I bought it. But my dear brother's vision has caused me to re-examine. So should we hold healing meetings?

The first thing I sought to do was to examine what I believe are the two main objections to such meetings:

Objection 1: The apostles never held meetings where they advertised "healings"

Not as far as we know, but they did hold meetings at which healings took place. They taught publicly and from house to house. They preached the gospel, but during various services healings took place (Acts 8v5-7, 14v8-10, 19v11-12).

It became known in Jerusalem that God was healing through Peter and so people sought him out (Acts 5v14-16). The words "a multitude gathered" (v16) point to people gathering for the purpose of receiving healing. They were not, in the first instance at least, coming to hear the gospel, they were coming to receive healing. Undoubtedly they did hear the gospel as well, but the healing power of God was what gathered people.

So surely we should follow in their footsteps and hold meetings at which the gospel is preached, but also where we pray for the sick.

{Edit 2013:  Apologies for the terrible exegesis above!  The actually did not "hold meetings" at all, in the sense that evangelistic and healing crusades occur today.  People came to them because it was evident that God was with them.  This itself is a challenge to every believer.  Does our character, and the presence of Jesus with us, draw people so that they want us to pray for them and want to hear what it is about us that makes us different?}

Objection 2: It is presumptuous to declare that there are going to be healings

Wasn't the command of Christ - preach the gospel, heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead (Matt 10v8)? While many have argued that miraculous gifts have ceased, one can only do so by saying that the Gospels and Acts do not represent the normative experience. But if we regard these narratives as normal, then miraculous healing is not a rarity but a regularity. We are subnormal!

But if God is truly among the people of God as they gather (as He promises to be), then surely we must take Him at His Word. We can invite people to meet the living God. We can invite people to hear His Word that can change their lives. We can invite people to come and experience His healing power.

{Edit 2013:  I would now add, the emphasis of scripture is not on inviting people to come and hear, but to go and tell.  That is not to say we shouldn't invite people to church or to special events, but it is our job (every Christian) to share the gospel and the pray for our friends (souls and bodies); we shouldn't just be relying upon the pastor or evangelist.}

If Jesus said go and heal the sick and nothing happened when the disciples prayed, then He was a liar. But people were healed! If He is the same yesterday, today and forever, then His statements are true today. Praying for healing comes as part of the preaching of the gospel. It is part of the kingdom package, as it were. The powers of the age to come have broken through (Heb 6v5). People will hear of the kingdom, and they will experience the kingdom in conversion and in healing.


The breaking in of the Kingdom of God

Having delivered someone from a demonic spirit, Jesus said to the crowds "the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Matt 12v28). The delivering power is evidence of God's rule being extended in the earth.

We are living after Calvary, and after Pentecost. We are living in the light of Jesus instructions to His disciples to preach and heal. We are living in the light of Acts which is an account which continues what Jesus began to do and teach - and He is still doing and teaching.

Isn't healing and deliverance a part of the ministry of Jesus? Of course salvation is the greatest miracle of all - because a dead soul is being made alive - but the teaching of both Jesus and the disciples was accompanied by healing miracles. Extending His kingdom is more than simply numbers but also quality of life. Its the rule of God being seen in our souls and our bodies. Therefore praying for the sick to be healed should be an integral part of our gospel preaching.

{Edit 2013:  I need to think again about my statement above, "Therefore praying for the sick to be healed should be an integral part of our gospel preaching."  I take issue with the word "integral" now.  Ministering to the sick was clearly a part of both the Gospels and Acts, but the priority was the salvation of souls.  See below.}

So we should have outreach meetings where we pray for healing

Having reflected on these things, I must conclude that it is Biblical to hold evangelistic gatherings where the gospel is preached and the sick are prayed for. It is right to approach these meetings with an expectation that souls shall be saved and that people will be healed.

{Edit 2013:  As with most of the edits so far, on reflection, this post misses the issue of personal evangelism.  I do believe the priority of personal evangelism is to lead a soul to Christ.  While this is a sovereign work of the God, we are still responsible for preaching the gospel.  While healing is also a sovereign work of God, we are still called to pray for the sick.

In relation to outreach meetings - the priority must again be the gospel.  We should and must pray for any needs that there are and be expectant that our great and awesome God will intervene in people's lives and make Himself known.}

The awesome impact on the healing of the man at gate beautiful, the opening up of the Samaritans to hear the gospel through Philip, the transformation of the city of Ephesus are all testimony to impact of the power of God in signs and wonders to open up a door for the gospel to be preached.

We need this in our day.

Let me close with a quote from Jul in response to one of the comments on Dan's blog:

"I'm beginning to realize that we're not really preaching the gospel if there is not a demonstration of God's power in signs, wonders, miracles, healing, casting out demons, etc... "

Amen! We want to see God move in saving multitudes and showing His healing power, too!

4 comments:

jul said...

Great post! I've been thinking about these things a lot lately and have to agree with your conclusion. Great quote at the end hehe...thanks for the link.

Jesse P. said...

I would be interested to hear about how you are your co-laboring pastor plan on working out the details of these meetings. Keep us posted if you do venture out in such an initiative.

Pastor Chris said...

You do well to thing thru these things.

I was never a fan of "healing meetings" for the same reasons that you speak of. It's not because I didn't trust the speakers, nor was I cessasionist in my theology. It bothered me because it set up an expectation.

Do I believe healings happen? Yes.
Do they happen in "evangelistic" contexts? Yes, seen them with my own eyes.

Sometimes when I speak, after an invitation to receive Christ, I offer to have prayers for those present who are sick. However, i also encourage the local church leaders to come forward and be involved in praying for the people -- i'm just the guest preacher. I'm not the signs and wonders dude, and fully believe that since the Spirit gives gifts, its not really my place to dictate that only I get to lay hands on the sick for prayer.

Pastor Chris
EvangelismCoach.org

Peter Day said...

Thank you to everyone for visiting and for commenting. Thanks Jul - your quote was too awesome to ignore!

Jesse - I'll post again on this as it develops.

Pastor Chris - I agree that signs and wonders are not simply for the man at the front. In terms of setting up an expectation, it depends what we mean by that. We should encourage people to come in faith. And we should surely make it known that we are going to pray for the sick, so that people do come expecting and wanting to be prayed for.

And if we hold such meetings, we should come with a humble heart and seek God to move in power!