Healing Line

Healing Line

Take it to the Streets

by Don Williams
Oct/Nov/Dec 2012

John Wimber, who led the Vineyard churches for many years, once said, "The meat is on the street." What did he mean by that? Often, in church circles, people say, "I just want the meat of the Word." This reflects Paul's distinction between milk for babies and meat for adults (I Cor. 3:2, KJV). When people asked for "meat" they meant that they wanted sermons to chew on, something to build them up. Wimber's answer was (to paraphrase it) if you really want to grow, if you want to chew on something substantial, take your faith and your ministry outside the church — take it to the streets. We need this as a regular reminder! As we celebrate our Lord's birth, this reminder is especially essential. He came into the world to go to the streets, to take His ministry of love, salvation, healing and deliverance to the masses who were untouched by "religion." Christmas celebrates God's greatest gift to us in His Son, and his gift and gifts are given to us to be given away. If we fail to act on them, we will simply be spiritual consumers and shrivel up. It's on the streets that boredom is driven out. It's on the streets that faith must rise. On the streets, people are hurting and dying without a clue that God loves them and has come for them. As we go to them, we are God's gift, and as we share Jesus in practical ways, we give the gift of His grace and healing love.

I started to go to the streets for the first time during the "Jesus Movement" in the late 1960's. The protests against racism and the Vietnam War were flourishing. People were marching. Campuses were being shut down. It was relatively easy to be an evangelist for Jesus then because everybody was an evangelist for something: "Mothers against the war;" "Students for peace;" "Hippies for pot." They were all out there and we joined the crowd. Since so many were spiritually searching, we fit right in. But as Bob Dylan put it, "the times they are a–changing" and they have changed. How can we take Christmas to the streets now? My experience is that people are wide open to receiving prayer and as we do this we are revealing and releasing God's love. Here every dimension of healing can be offered and experienced in some measure.

Several years ago my wife and I planted a Vineyard church in La Jolla, California. This sea–side community is both wealthy and beautiful, with an underbelly of addiction and pain. One of our mandates was to minister to the poor. Through Robbie, a psychologist friend who ran an AID'S clinic in Mission Beach just south of us, I was introduced to people sleeping outside, living in back alleys and garages (some of whom grew up in affluent La Jolla). We opened a store front to serve them with free clothes and lunches. Our "outside" congregation grew to several hundred. These dear friends were instinctively open to prayer. As we got to know them, we got to know their emotional and physical needs. Many were on the streets because of psychiatric disorders. Many were sick and addicted. Some had run away from home. As we became their friends it was natural and normal to share Jesus with them and to pray for their healing. We were living life together. These people are everywhere if we have the eyes to see them. Recently I have had the privilege of praying for and with Angelo, an ex–Vet and now a brother who is on the streets and in the process of getting his own apartment through the help of the VA. In mid–life, he is going back to school and no longer using drugs or alcohol for self–medication. With his prominent sign asking for money, it would have been impossible for me to miss him, but unlike the Good Samaritan, I could have easily passed him by on the other side. God stopped me. My gift to him was so much more than a few dollars. I am sharing in his life and Jesus is the center. Angelo gives more to me than I do to him. Our friendship and God's love is the heart–beat at the intersection of our lives.

I have a friend, Jason, who is a Messianic Jewish Rabbi. Much of his family was lost in the Holocaust. He grew up in New Jersey and became a Disk–Jockey in New York City, working at clubs and raves. A Jewish–Christian friend kept inviting him to a Messianic Synagogue. Finally, Jason went and Jesus met him there. His life was changed and now he is a young Rabbi who believes in Jesus and is reaching his generation. We were having lunch a couple of years ago and I learned something from him. When the waitress came for our order, Jason said, "We pray before we eat and I wonder if there is anything that you would like us to pray for, for you?" Without missing a beat, she responded with several requests. This was the start of being able to offer her healing prayer. At another luncheon we asked our waitress the same question and she replied, "No thanks." A few minutes later she returned and brought us several requests that were on her heart for prayer. When we have offered to pray for people in this setting we have never been turned down.

I was out to lunch with a few friends and we asked the waitress if we could pray for her. She immediately dropped to her knees at our table (in her waitress uniform) as we prayed. I suspect that since she was Hispanic, it was as if she were at an altar rail in her Roman Catholic Church. I was amazed at her freedom to receive prayer on the spot. We never know what God will do as we step out in faith.

To be effective in this we need to learn how to pray for the lonely, lost and sick. Here is where Christian Healing Ministries can help to equip us. We also need to welcome the Holy Spirit and ask him to fill us and gift us for the streets, for our neighborhood, the people we meet and know on a daily basis. Sometimes we may have surprise encounters. Not every person I have asked to pray for has said, "Yes." However, the overwhelming response has been positive and the invitation appreciated. These encounters may lead to the opportunity to share Jesus with people. We need to be ready to present him in an honest, Biblical way. My approach over the years has been to share that Jesus addresses the three core problems in our lives. Our past: he brings forgiveness for our guilt and failure through his death on the cross. Our future: he conquers death and offers us eternal life through his resurrection. Our present: he shatters our loneliness and comes to live in us when we respond to his welcome invitation, not only to be for us, but to be in us. As my friend Jerry Moser says, "God wants to zip us open and jump inside."

I can't stress enough the importance of also being in a Christian community. There will be times when a simple prayer will lead to a relationship and the need for continuing ministry. As Francis MacNutt has taught us, most healing is progressive and needs continuing prayer. This will often cut through the layers of sickness and pain. In a momentary encounter we can start the process. We may well see miracles on the spot. But there will also be times when continuing prayer is needed and we will need the support of a circle of brothers and sisters and the larger church. If possible, it is also best to pray for people in teams. A lunch companion is a great starting teammate.

Consider taking the gift of Jesus to the streets by praying for people, relevantly praying into their needs. Who knows where this will take you. John Wimber says we spell faith "r–i–s–k." God risked it all by sending his Son into our world; He risks again by sending us into His world. Ask the Lord to free you from fear and take the step of going to the streets this Christmas. It will renew this celebration for you and put Jesus back into the center of His holiday.

Don Williams Don Williams is a Vineyard pastor in La Jolla, California and is on the National Advisory Board of CHM. Oct/Nov/Dec 2012