Healing Line

Healing Line

Back to Our Roots

by Francis MacNutt
Mar/Apr 2002

By the time you read this we will have held a long anticipated one–day retreat with CHM's Board of Directors (February 2) that will go back to our roots in charismatic renewal — centering on the "Baptism of the Spirit" — which is the power underlying the entire ministry of Christian healing. We are doing this because many friends understand something about the healing ministry, but really don't know much about the Baptism of the Spirit, even though it is central to praying for healing. (Perhaps this is a reason some people seem to have more success in praying for healing!) It's a little like Paul asking a new group of Christians in Ephesus, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?" (Acts 19:2). When they answered, "No," Paul laid hands on them and the Holy Spirit came down on them "and they began to speak with tongues and to prophesy" (Acts 19:6).

So many Christians don't know much about our need for the empowering of the Spirit, even though it is a central theme of the Gospels. I imagine that most of you who read this Newsletter do know about the Baptism of the Spirit and have experienced it, but because there are some of you who may not know much about it, I think it is really important to bring it up, even though in a limited space we cannot do justice to this key subject.

I remember back in the 1960's when I first met people who actually prayed with sick people for their healing, they were the ones who told me that it all went back to when they were baptized in the Spirit. To me, this made sense because of my study of the Gospels (especially the sending out of the twelve in Matthew 10, which was central to St. Dominic's founding the Dominican Order). I also knew that there was something missing in our ministry to emotionally wounded and hurting people. There had to be something more!

I knew that John the Baptist's main prophecy about Jesus was that he was the one who would baptize us in the Holy Spirit. This is in all four Gospels (see, for example, Matthew 3:11–12) and two Gospels also add, "and with fire." Then Jesus himself received the empowering of the Spirit when he began his own public ministry (Matthew 3: 16–17); immediate I y afterwards the "Spirit drove him" into the wilderness to confront Satan and the power of evil.

After I became convinced that I needed to pray for the Baptism of the Spirit ( although I had already been blessed by Baptism, Confirmation and Ordination), I decided to attend a conference in Maryville, Tennessee, in August 1967. There I met the speakers, Rev. Tommy Tyson, Agnes Sanford and Derek Prince. When I was prayed for to receive a further empowerment of the Spirit (the "release of the gifts that were already there" in Baptism and Confirmation), Mrs. Sanford prophesied that God would use me to help restore the fullness of the healing ministry to the Roman Catholic Church.

Following that experience I began sharing at conferences about our need to understand and pray for the Baptism of the Spirit, and that gave me the wonderful opportunity of praying for thousands of people — including hundreds of priests and ministers — to receive the Baptism of the Spirit. The 1970's then became days of increasing, joyous hope that entire churches (denominations) would rediscover the empowerment of the Spirit, and in some measure that came true. In almost every denomination strong renewal organizations and even entire communities were started. In the Episcopal Church, the Rev. Dennis Bennett started renewal in his Seattle church; in the Presbyterian church, it was Brick Bradford and Bob Whitacre; among Methodists, there was Tommy Tyson and Ross Whetstone. And so many others, past counting.

In the Roman Catholic Church, too, charismatic renewal grew in an extraordinary way, in spite of dire prophecies by some (like David Wilkerson) that it would be stopped dead by the authorities. And yet in 1973 I was among a dozen leaders invited to a private audience with Pope Paul VI where he gave the unofficial go–ahead for charismatic renewal. (This, of course, was largely accomplished through the initiative of Cardinal Suenens, who was like a shepherd and protector of charismatic renewal among Catholics.)

Those were heady, exciting days when it seemed as if the entire Christian world would join the Pentecostal churches in rediscovering the essential value of the Baptism of the Spirit in renewing not only individual lives but in renewing the entire body of Christ.

In many ways, that has happened. But then, in the 1980's, the renewal seemed to stop growing in the main denominations for a variety of reasons. There still remained fine renewal organizations (like Acts 29 in the Episcopal Church), but most of the major leaders in these churches — and most of their members — were largely unaffected. Even groups that held healing services in their churches did not always learn about the source of it all: the Baptism of the Spirit.

As a result of this vacuum, many searching Christians, no longer as loyal to their church as their ancestors had been, left their church of origin and joined independent evangelical–charismatic churches, such as the Vineyard movement, which have grown at an extraordinary rate.1 As Dr. Roof, Professor of Religion at the University of California stated: 42 percent of the 76 million baby boomers (one–third of the U.S. population) are dropouts from their church. But then, 25 percent are returnees who have left their church of origin but returned to some form of religion they felt was more spiritual. This statistic should speak loudly to the main established churches about a deep need for change.

Going back to the need for us to be baptized in the Spirit, we should note that Jesus, in his "State of the Union" talk (which you can read in Luke 4: 16–22) says explicitly that he has been anointed by the Holy Spirit which empowers his mission of preaching Good News to the poor and healing the sick. Later, after his Resurrection, he told his disciples they still weren't ready (even after their being with him for three years) to go out and evangelize until the Holy Spirit had descended upon them in a new way. They had to wait. At last, with a rush of flame and winds, they were finally endued with God's power at Pentecost. Not until then were they fully ready to minister.

That is our model. We, too, need our individual Pentecost! Has what happened at Pentecost to Peter, happened to you?

Francis and Judith
with Rachel and David

1 See Harvey Cox's Fire from Heaven: the Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty–First Century (Addison–Wesley Publishing Co., Reading, Mass., J 995).
(A New York Times "Notable Book of the Year")

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Mar/Apr 2002 Issue