Where Contemporary Healing Ministry meets the Theology of the Cross.
Rediscovering the Cross
“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2 "My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." Galatians 2:20
In the spring of 2016, I presented a paper in New York City at St. George’s Episcopal Church on the fallibility of Contemporary Healing Prayer Ministries. This paper, Faith and the Fall, was a treatment on the role of faith in a ‘demonstrational’ Christianity. By this, I mean miracles. My presentation asked two questions:
Have we missed the real power of prayer because of insufficient faith?
Are Contemporary Healing Ministries really equipped to deal with the healing we need?
With these two questions on the table, let’s journey on to two more questions:
What is faith anyways?
How do we find healing?
It is my belief that we don’t find healing; it finds us.
“Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.”Mark 9:32 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24 It is easy enough to use scriptures like these to ask for the good things we want—health and happiness or the removal of mountains that stand in the way of our perceived well-being. Positive thought techniques always find their way into Christianity. Here is a good example: In the book, Behold Your God, Agnes Sanford (d.1982) says, "what Jesus called faith is, in reality, positive thinking." She believed we can channel God's healing power through techniques and thinking; our words create our reality, and there are spiritual laws which we can learn and apply in order to heal and control reality; healing involves visualizing the person as being well because doing this "sets in motion our powers of spiritual creativity; those things that we see in our minds tend to become so" and "I know that there is within man the power to create by thought." Sanford, the wife of an Episcopal Priest, was known as the 'mother of the inner healing movement.' This is but one example and her work heavily influenced the work of Frances MacNutt who began his own healing ministry—Christian Healing Ministry— which is still in existence and dedicated to the practice and teaching of healing prayer. This type of healing prayer work holds the belief that someone who has had notable success with healing prayer would be recognized as having the actual gift of healing (referring to the gifts of the Holy Spirit in 1 Cor. 12). Healing will likely be characterized by sensations of heat, a trembling of power, or an electric current. Being "slain" or "resting" in the spirit as a result of the "healers" prayers is also a common phenomenon in this kind of healing ministry. It is said that this power becomes available after a second baptism of the Holy Spirit. This may sound all familiar if you have spent any time in Pentecostal or Charismatic circles.
Books by Christian authors on faith healing and positive thinking sell out to hundreds of thousands and even millions of readers. I put the principles of a wide range of charismatic healing teachers to use in my own life for a long time. Because of my long-time interest in healing, I was invited to lead a ministry in a church-based off of Francis MacNutt's book, Healing, and I seriously believed the group I led would get to experience the claims of this sort of healing ministry. I am using the example of Francis MacNutt's ministry because he is regarded as a pioneer in the modern revival of healing ministry in the church.
In the spring of 2018, I wrote and presented a second paper at the same conference (Mockingbird Ministries) at St. George's Episcopal Church (NYC). This paper, It Is Good: Waiting on our New Creation, laid the foundation for a future look at a sound healing ministry with efforts completely focused on the healing accounts of the Gospel—a Contemporary Healing Ministry dominated by the theme of the cross.
'“On Death and the Theology of the Cross”
The new creation, as promised in Scripture, is coming whether we want it or not, and it is most likely that, when pressed up against our death, we do not want it. At times the cross will seem to us to be a horror and God the devil. But that is what it takes to end the old life in order for the new one to begin. It is here we remember the crucifixion of Jesus. And we must not forget if we are to be raised as new. This view enables us to take a second look at the two passages above. What Jesus is doing here is essentially inviting you to a spiritual death in order that your new life may be LIVED in Him. “Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.” Mark 9:32
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly, I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:22-24
If we are to make any real sense of this shift in looking at a healing ministry from the perspective of 'dying', we will need to begin at the very beginning. I believe this because I remember well my frustration pouring over the healing scenes in scripture while trying to lead a healing prayer team away from the desire to find a method to replicate miracles. The Scriptures tell stories of the blind receiving sight, the sick receiving health, the lame rising to their feet with their mat in hand, and the dead being raised. It is not good enough to just give up and adopt an attitude that God has not healed that way since the days of the early Church when Jesus commissioned his disciples to continue to heal in his Name. The issue with many healing ministries today is that they do not really work when taken out of the context of God's eschatological plan for his creation. So, to get to the end, we must begin at the beginning.
My aim in this work is not to disparage a mission who's effort is centered in the hope of a merciful and healing God or to suggest that any experiences you may have had with healing are not legitimate. I know of many trusted friends and professionals who have had some experience with a healing practice such as listed above. Thus, the scope of the upcoming work is to present an alternative contemporary and charismatic healing ministry based on the following:
Christoph Blumhardt’s preaching emphasized the sinful heart of humankind to have "major eschatological consequences for the final fulfillment" of the Kingdom of God. Blumhardt understood "dying to be the pathway for the Savior's redemption of the world" and this slogan was Blumhardt’s call believing there is a "little flock", "a faithful remnant who still seek the Kingdom", specifically called to take on this "dying". "Once God has a few people in whom he can “live,” he will then be free in a new way to spread his message and his will."
“The arrival of the Savior in the midst of those who await him is the beginning of the redemption of the world, the beginning of the salvation of all humanity.” Theologian and Preacher Christoph Blumhardt (1842-1919)*
*All references to Christoph Blumhardt are from: Simeon Zahl, Pneumatology and Theology of the Cross in the Preaching of Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt: The Holy Spirit Between Wittenberg and Azusa Street, (London: T&T Clark, 2010), 46-48.