Healing Line

Healing Line

Bringing the Obstacles to Healing into the Light

by Francis MacNutt
Apr/May 2008

Something that really excites me is that there are vitally important frontiers in healing that are still to be explored. We are called to be pioneers in areas that meet the deepest needs of the human race. Whenever the Holy Spirit is most intimately present at one of our conferences, the very leaders who have come to learn to pray for others find that they themselves have unhealed areas of their lives that surface with many tears. Sometimes deliverance from evil spirits also takes place. These are the deep spiritual needs that remain unmet in our ordinary Sunday services and liturgies. Healing services are simply not able to meet most of the deepest needs for healing that we have.

As it developed in the Pentecostal churches, the main way that healing was expressed was in dramatic healing services that featured a celebrity healer. These were marvelous testimonies to God’s love and power to heal, but, as in all things human, there were weaknesses. As I have seen them (and led them), I see the following normal imperfections that need to be addressed:

  1. Healing services tend to be large, so there is not time enough to minister to individuals whose ailments require more attention; we see great unmet need for counseling and soaking prayer. Prayer in these services has to be quick and results instant. Only a minority of the people who attend actually end up healed. Millions of Christians suffer from Alzheimer’s, for example, and yet when have you personally seen it healed at a large healing service?

  2. The basic rule of theatre is that you cannot bore an audience or you lose their attention. Therefore, the healing minister must be dramatic. Yet most of the major healings that I witness are deep and interior. They are hidden until later. Even when a tumor disappears, which is truly dramatic, it may take ten minutes.

  3. There is a temptation for the leader to hype the situation — to exaggerate, to be unreal. John Wimber was very sensitive in combating this human tendency whenever he could. Historically, this desire to show results has led to the fall of many healing evangelists. Take, for example, the most celebrated healer of all during the glory days of the 1950s — William Branham. Among other remarkable gifts, he was able “to read your mail” — even to knowing your name. He was famous for his gifts, but what does the healer do at the times when the gifting is not present? (See the life of Kathryn Kuhlmann, Daughter of Destiny by Jamie Buckingham.) At any rate, when other healing evangelists also appeared and became popular, they were all competing, in a sense, to draw the crowds necessary to support the ministry. To stand out again from the crowd, Branham began to prophesy that God would do more dramatic things than ever before in his ministry. When it was not clear what these supernatural gifts might be, Branham began to come out with dramatic prophecies (that did not come true), such as the sliding of the California coast into the Pacific Ocean. These discrepancies do not always bother gullible believers, but educated Christians soon made the term “faith healer” a term of derision. We have had to deal with this bad reputation all during our ministry.

  4. Greed. If the healing evangelist is serious in his study of Jesus’ life, he or she must eventually come to terms with Jesus’ strict warnings not to make money off the healing ministry. Far from heeding these warnings, some healing evangelists preach a wealth gospel that assumes that the preacher’s followers will enjoy financial wealth. Especially among many young people, this creates cynicism, rather than faith, about healing prayer.

These are, as I see them, the major obstacles to restoring Jesus’ healing ministry to the Church. We need to see these obstacles clearly so that we can effectively overcome them. These problems seem shameful, but all the more reason why we need to bring them into the light, confront them directly, and restore the reputation of being someone who is glad to be seen as a Christian minister of healing prayer.

Francis MacNutt Francis MacNutt is a Founding Director and Executive Committee member of CHM. Apr/May 2008 Issue