This past Sunday we interrupted our regularly scheduled sermon series on the book of Judges for a four-week set of confessions. While I was in New York studying our denominations history and theology with a group of leaders from around the globe Jesus met me and convicted me of a number of ways in which I (and by extension, the congregation that I lead) have been negligent in my full, unhindered experience of Jesus Christ and the work he has called me to. And so with much trepidation (and after a week of arguing with God) I gave into the promptings of the Holy Spirit and started writing the sermon series that you now get to experience.
These are not simply public therapy sessions though where the pastor gets things off his chest and you have to listen to him vent, I have crafted these messages on these particular topics because I believe that my failure is either the cause of a corresponding failure in the church, a contributing factor to a corresponding failure in the church, or the result of not being bold enough to stand up and call out a failure in the church. In any instance, these messages are as much for the congregation as they are for the preacher, which is why they were so important to me that they couldn't wait until the fall.
This past Sunday I made my first confession: That my faith has not matched my theology in which I talked about my failure to believe with action, the things that I profess with my theology about the doctrine of divine healing. In response to the message, many of you stood up and took the risk of coming forward for prayer for healing. Thank you for showing more courage than I have shown in 15 years of pastoring by doing so. I believe with all my heart that Jesus was pleased with the congregation this morning as they were willing to stand up and trust him boldly.
While I was away Jesus spoke to me about where we are as a church and showed me that it was through a rediscovery of the practical and tangible ministries of healing and deliverance that we were going to break through this spiritual plateau and numerical decline that we've been experiencing. He told me plainly that unless the church was able to rediscover who she was, and what she was created for that this venerable 95 year old congregation was going to die of old age. Our movement was born in an experience of the real power of the Holy Spirit and the fruits of real, and experienced union with Christ. Our congregation was one of the first expressions of that movement in Western Canada (and the very first in Manitoba) and its high time that we rediscovered our heritage and legacy. This is why I am committed to the notion that what happened on Sunday will not be an isolated incident or a nice memory of Jesus showing up before we return to business as usual. What we experienced corporately that day needs to be the model for every gathering going forward. That doesn't mean that we are changing our service structure to do away with the Lord's Supper and have a congregation-wide healing ministry time every Sunday (although I can see that happening again), but it does mean that we are going to talk about this more regularly, and practice it as a routine part of our prayer ministry. Just as we have been adding deliverance ministry to our prayer team repertoire over the past number of months, we are going to be normalizing healing prayer. If that means we have to recruit more people to be praying, so be it! But people will know that The Bridge Church is a congregation that believes (with their actions) that Jesus Christ is our Healer, and that they can encounter him in our gatherings as the Lord for their Bodies.
I can imagine that as we pursue Christ in this way that we will do so imperfectly. That there will be missteps along the way and lessons that we can only learn in practice. What it looked like this past week may not be what it looks like in 6 months or a year's time. But I am committing to you as your pastor (in writing no less!) that we will chase after Jesus with both hands, confident that as we take ahold our healer - and he takes ahold of us - that our lives will be changed, and our witness will be transformed.
So let me leave you with this encouragement today: If you came forward for healing on Sunday and Jesus healed you (in fullness, or even in a small way) would you be willing to give testimony to that end? We need to give Jesus the glory when he does great things. We need the encouragement to know that when we risk things for him, he is faithful. You can talk to myself or Pastor Jenn, or your flock elder if you have a testimony of healing to share.
If you came forward for healing this past Sunday and you didn't receive healing, would you be willing to come back and risk it again. We don't want to be content with a drop of Jesus when he wants us to stand under the waterfall of his presence. Come back again, and again, and as many times as it takes until you have experienced the fullness of his blessing for your body. I would love to see our prayer room full every week and our prayer teams overwhelmed and calling in reinforcements because the people of God are trusting him for their bodies.
And if you didn't stand up on Sunday, but you know that you should have - don't feel defeated. Jesus is patient, Jesus is gracious, Jesus is loving, and you haven't missed your chance to show your faith with your feet by coming to him for the vitality that is in union with him. The best time to come to Jesus for healing is always today. So why not listen to the message again and resolve in your heart to trust Jesus more, as we learn to do the same. I really believe that he is worth it!
Thanks for entertaining my confession. This Sunday I'm going to talk about my reluctance to share a prophetic word with the congregation because of my fear of rejection, and speak to you about how the Lord has convicted me of that, and how we as a congregation need that word even today.