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HEALING: A NEGLECTED MINISTRY  

 

INTRODUCTION  

 

There was a time not so long ago when the subject of healing was almost unheard of in most "mainline" Churches. It is probably true to say that all Christians were vaguely aware that there were some strange individuals and weird fringe groups that made claims about healings that were happening in their meetings but very few people took them seriously.   The media occasionally gave such groups some very dubious "press" but that tended to be on slow news days!

 

So, the evangelical Church got on with its task of evangelism and mission and, apart from claiming its passionate belief in the theology of the supernatural and the miracles of Jesus and the Apostles, it taught very little about the subject of healing and practiced even less than what it taught.  

 

In the early 1960's the "Charismatic Movement" began to make an unprecedented impact upon Churches right outside mainstream Pentecostalism. Part of the impact was an emphasis upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit which included "gifts of healings" (1 Cor.12/9). The claims of divine healing became more numerous and insistent. These claims were coming from conferences, church services and home groups etc. Some Christians began to explore these claims while others pulled right back from them.  

 

In the early 1980's, a further movement emerged which has been labelled, "The Third Wave"  (the first being Pentecostalism at the turn of the century and the second being the Charismatic movement mentioned above). The Third Wave was different inasmuch as it impacted Churches that were anything but charismatic (in the traditional sense and usage of that word) and which did not become or want to become part of the charismatic "fold".

 

Again, claims of healings accompanied this Third Wave as it spread around the world.   No longer could mainline Churches ignore the influence and impact of these movements. If whole churches were not being effected, certainly individuals in those churches were. Claims led to counter claims. Polarising was inevitable in that climate. Tensions rose. Attitudes deteriorated. Divisions emerged.  

 

So, why tackle a subject that has a history of tension and division?  Because not to tackle it is to invite that very division into our midst. Ignorance of truth is the seedbed of error. Where this (or any subject) is addressed in an atmosphere of honest, open and loving exploration, error and ignorance are the big losers.  

 

The purpose of these studies is to invite you to examine again what you believe about the Church's Healing Ministry in the 21st century. Whatever may be your convictions at the moment - for or against, positive or negative - my hope is that you will approach these sessions with a teachable heart. If these studies help further develop, inform and mature your convictions, then they will have served a valuable service for you and the whole Church.  

 

There will never be unanimous agreement on this (or any other subject, for that matter) until we get to heaven - and then, I suspect, we won't really care who was right and who was wrong!! But for now, we need to identify from Scripture if there is a Healing Ministry that the 21st century Church is called to exercise in the Name of the Lord and, if so, what form or shape is it to take?  

 

One further word of explanation.   It is very difficult to use the word "healing" in a Christian context today without the hearers thinking almost exclusively in terms of physical healing.......and the following studies might be seen as encouraging that perspective because they do major on the physical aspect of healing and wholeness.   However, it is important right at the outset to emphasise that I prefer the word "wholeness" because it is more encompassing of the whole person and not just the physical dimension of our lives.  

 

The Greek word mostly used in the New Testament for "salvation" is often translated "healed" or "made whole". Biblically speaking, "salvation" applies to the whole of our being - spiritual, emotional, relational and physical. In other words, every part of our lives that has been effected by sin is meant to experience the salvation of God.  

 

So we teach the good news of reconciliation through the Cross & Resurrection and call people to receive the wholeness of God that comes through repentance towards God, faith in the Lord Jesus and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. That is spiritual healing and the restoration of our relationship with God.

 

We also identify that part of the good news which relates to emotional healing that sees the wounds of the past robbed of their power to cripple the present and effect the future. Further, finding peace with God opens the way to find peace with others through mutual forgiveness which is relational healing.  

 

I want to emphasise this "wholistic" approach to healing because it is foundational to our understanding, teaching and practice of healing....and because that wider perspective could be lost in the specific emphasis of this series.  

 

This current series of studies necessarily majors on various aspects of the physical dimension of healing because this is a major area of claims, counter claims, concerns and confusion. My purpose in writing these studies is to encourage you to re-examine what you believe in this area and why you believe it.  

 

There are 6 primary areas that I want to bring to your attention.  

 

1. EXPLORING YOUR CONVICTIONS -What do you currently believe and why?  

2. HEALING AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD - The framework for understanding Jesus'healing ministry  

3. HEALING: INCLUSIVE OR EXCLUSIVE? - Why are some healed and some not?  

4. HEALING AND THE REALITY OF MORTALITY -Where does death fit into a theology of healing?  

5. HEALING: WHAT'S THE POINT? - Why did Jesus heal people? What motivated Him?  

6. HEALING: THE GREATEST POWER OF ALL - the one indispensable reality and power for all ministry.  

 

I do not pretend for a moment that this is the final word on this subject. I simply (and, I hope, humbly) offer what follows as a contribution to the further discussion and discovery of what it means for a church to engage in fulfilling it's whole calling as the people of God in our world.  

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