As I share my thoughts on a healing ministry in the local church, allow me to delimit some of my discussion. I will not be dealing with any of the apologetic issues surrounding healing in this article. For example, “Does God heal today?” “What if some persons do not get healed?”, or “Why does a good God allow bad things to happen to good people” etc. will not be at the table of this discussion. Simply, there is not enough space in this forum, and they are not the topics of this particular focus.
Much of what I have believed and practiced as an evangelist, pastor, and professor in healing ministry stem from a very basic theology of healing that I will succinctly identify in a few statements. Simply, God is a healing God (Adonai Rapheka – “The Lord that heals you”). In Matthew 8:17, Christ came to bear our infirmities and carry our sickness, and by his stripes we are healed. Healing is comprehensive and can be understood in somewhat of a holistic light that reflects a Wesleyan and even Eastern Christian understanding of salvation and wholeness. Since the source, authority, power and goal of our salvation is the resurrection, salvation needs to be understood as extensive. It is the salvation of the whole of our humanity, including spirit, soul, and body. It is also the salvation of all of creation, a cosmic theosis, a new creation in the image of God.
Salvation as full restoration includes healing the disorder that prevents God’s creative purposes from being accomplished. In this sense, salvation is curative in dealing with sin as spiritual sickness and also in redeeming our bodies. Christ came to heal the brokenhearted (Luke 4:18) and heal all who are oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Christ also came as the Resurrection and the Life to raise us from the dead and transfigure our mortal bodies (John 11 and Rom 8). In fact, the resurrection of Christ, that is the culmination of the eschatological breaking through of the kingdom, is the material grounds for all divine healing, and all divine healing is a foreshadowing and testimony of the resurrection. Thus, resurrection is the ultimate in healing and, of course, in deliverance from evil, sanctification from sin and salvation of God’s people.
Salvation based on the person and work of Christ on the cross, culminating with the resurrection, includes sanctification, deliverance from evil, and healing. Theologically, healing is a subset of sanctification, which in turn is a subset of salvation.
Furthermore, but not the direct topic of this article, I understand deliverance (from evil) as a subset of healing. Thus salvation encompasses our sanctification, healing and deliverance, among other blessings. All that is to say that a theology of healing comes from a greater soteriology centered on the resurrection, which is rooted in a Triune God who redeems and restores. It is essential to have a theology and practice of healing that is rooted in the Triune God and in salvation lest it becomes dislodged and is seen merely as a benefit of divine health insurance to be claimed on route to our own health and wealth, success, self-actualization or whatever is the latest upgrade on the American Dream narrative.
Even though divine healing ultimately points to and draws from the resurrection, that is not to say that it is only for believers. As the Gospel is good news for unbelievers (the world), so is healing. This includes even the natural means and wisdom afforded by creation and science, which I do not see in conflict with God’s will but are aspects of his prevenient grace. God rains goodness and mercy on the just and on the unjust alike.
With all that said, here is some practical wisdom: a list of 10 thoughts on a healing ministry.
Build your healing ministry on a robust and comprehensive theology of the resurrection. The resurrection is the origin, source, power, authority, and goal of our healing. Thus, healing is God’s gift to us. Healing is also progressive as well as instantaneous. It is something we receive now and in the future. The greatest healing is the resurrection and redemption of our bodies, as well as a new heaven and a new earth (the new creation). All healing is a foreshadowing of this ultimate healing and prefigures it.
2. God heals
Since the resurrection is the complete picture of our healing, then our faith and expectations should be based on it. Although repentance, faith, wisdom and proper medical treatment are essential to the process of healing, we rely ultimately on God who raises us from the dead. It does no service to healing to judge, condemn or blame persons of sin or a lack of faith when we do not see or receive our expectation or version of healing.
Educate the community of faith concerning Divine Healing. Prepare the community by employing the teaching ministry and instruct on healing from the pulpit, Sunday School, small groups and by other means. People are able to receive change and new practices more easily once they are informed and the strangeness or newness of it all is clarified. Create a culture of nurturing and healing.
4. Common Language
If you are to officiate a healing service, do it in the liturgical language with which your congregation or participants are familiar. For United Methodists, which is my tradition, I use the healing service in the UM Book of Worship. People are more apt to participate and receive in an ecclesial culture that is familiar, especially something as sensitive and complex as healing.
5. Train and Certify
Train, certify and install (publicly in a service) workers for a healing ministry. Those asked to pray for healing should feel equipped and confident for the task, and your people should feel confident to receive ministry from such persons. The community of faith needs to affirm and confirm such a ministry and its workers.
A healing ministry should be comprehensive, encompassing physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, relational and other types of healing. Local churches and ministries should partner with other institutions and persons that are better trained at ministering healing in a certain area, like clinics, therapists, 12 step groups, nutritionists, physicians etc. Thus, a good holistic health network, in-house training, and a thorough referral system are essential.
7. Integrative Approach
A healing ministry is most effective when it takes on an integrative approach. Theology and science, at their best, should work hand in hand. Do not be afraid to take an approach that identifies multiple causes and solutions to problems. For example, counseling, medications, intercessory prayer, laying on of hands and anointing with oil can work together effectively to combat mental health issues. Not every problem is an ‘either/or’ issue of faith or science.
8. Network of Ministries
Contrary to popular opinion or even stereotype, there are many types of healing ministries that one can have in the local church: healing services, an altar team, a visitation team, 12 step groups, health fairs, an in-church clinic, deliverance and exorcism ministries (Yes, I said that), a Zumba class, a weight training room or gym, Stephen ministries or similar grief recovery ministries, various support groups like NAMI, nutrition classes, suicide awareness seminars, classes for Christian forms of yoga and or intentional deep breathing (may not be acceptable to all local churches), confessional and accountability groups (i.e. Wesleyan band meetings), Theophostic, Sozo, and other types of inner healing prayer ministries, healing prayer teams, food pantries, free community meals, cooking classes, along with a host of other courses, events, ministries and teams. Think of creating an environment or culture for health and wholeness to be nurtured and fostered rather than merely having crisis intervention for when sickness or a problem arises. Think of creating a healthy environment that fosters wholeness as a lifestyle: prevention as well as intervention.
Expect healing to come at any time, any place or in any way. If you are a leader, teach your people likewise. Many are disappointed because they do not receive the healing they wanted and in the way or time they wanted it. Resurrection comes in many ways and at different times, and at all times death and resurrection become the greatest healing. Teach people to look for and expect resurrection every day and in every way. Give God the space and time to work God’s will and expect miracles.
10. Our Part
Educate people to be responsible in terms of doing their part in the process. In Philippians, Paul instructs us that it is God who works within us the desire and the will to carry out his purposes. Healing is in God’s hands, but some things God has providentially given to our care and responsibility. God chooses to use the practice of medicine, proper diet, sleep, exercise, wisdom, repentance, faith and other means of grace to work healing. Teach responsibility and education for our health.