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Forming (in) Community: Practicing Healing (2)

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Recap Forming (in) community: the Second Practice of Healing

We “do community” (forming and being formed in community) through the practice and discipine, firstly of healthy relationships, and secondly of healing. Last week I focussed on healthy relationships/community as the primary means of receiving healing and growth to wholeness and maturity. The discipline of healing has two sides: the practice of receiving healing, and that of ministering healing. Here I focus on how we minister healing to one another in Jesus’ name – though we practice both at the same time as ‘wounded healers’ as taught in last week’s notes and my qualifying comments!

First let me paint three pictures of God’s church. The local church is a hospital for sinners that practices healing for wholeness. It’s NOT a hotel for saints – some churches are hotels and cost you dearly depending on how many stars they have! Church is not only a hospital, it’s a family for God’s children, practicing loving relationships for growth to maturity. If there’s not a critical mass of wholeness and maturity as family to absorb and heal the broken as hospital, the family will be overwhelmed and become dysfunctional. Thirdly, the local church is also God’s army at war with evil in all its forms, advancing God’s rule and reign of love in society. So, we’re all wounded healers – both patients and healers – and we’re all spiritual siblings and parents. But this is all with a view to being trained soldiers fighting the good fight of faith in society (1Tim 1:18 cf. 2Tim 4:7). We’ll come to the last one when I teach on our third value: fishing the world for God.

The Practice of Ministering Healing

Jesus called people to follow him, enfolding them into his community of faith, which was the place of healing, growth, formation and training. He modelled both Kingdom life and Kingdom ministry (wholistic healing by the power of God’s Spirit), equipping his disciplined learners to live and do the same. Then he sent them out to advance God’s Kingdom by healing the sick, raising the dead, driving out demons, etc (Matt 10:7-10f). Later Jesus commissioned ALL his followers (“believers”, The Church, Mark 16:15-20) to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom and do healing ministry in his name.

So we believe all Christ-followers are called to practice Christ’s healing ministry by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit – internally in the church to heal one another – and to be equipped to do it externally in the market place to fish the world for God. We do it in a way that is accessible to all believers: A 5 Step Model of Ordinary Believer Healing Ministry. ALL should learn and practice this ministry – the ‘laying on of hands’ – as Jesus and the Early Church taught (Heb 6:2 cf. Mk 16:17-18).The one exception is: if your brokenness is such that you need to prioritise your own healing, rather not minister to others, otherwise you minister out of (and pass on) brokenness rather than wholeness.

First a few guidelines to introduce the 5 Step Model of Ministry:

The language we use is to ‘minister healing’ by ‘addressing the issues’ and not ‘praying for the sick’. Prayer is a posture of closed eyes and talking to God. Jesus gave us his authority, commanding us: “heal the sick, drive our demons, etc.” So ministry is keeping eyes open to see what God is doing and speaking ‘words’ of the Kingdom in Christ’s authority, as Jesus did: “eyes be open, pick up your bed and walk, etc.” Ministry is partnership with God; we’re like midwives helping people to have their birth-healing with God. So we must be sensitive, affirming, compassionate and humble. We must leave space to be wrong – open to correction. Speak words of blessing and healing clearly and simply. Don’t be vague or complex. Be inclusive and inviting. Don’t be demanding or dogmatic. Avoid hype, manipulation, and controlling statements or attitudes. Avoid intensifying emotions, raising your voice, using religious jargon and speaking in ‘absolutist’ language, like “The Lord says…”! By using ‘disclaimer’ language like “I feel…” or “I sense the Lord is saying…”, you’re open to correction. Lay on hands appropriately and do not cause discomfort, nor crowd the person in. If possible, minister in teams (2’s and 3’s) to help one another listen to God. Above all else, respect the person’s dignity; do not treat them as an object of ministry—we want to leave the person feeling loved! We are not out to fix problems, but to minister healing to the whole person; i.e. to love them through ministry and leave them with some measure of wholeness.

A potential ministry situation can happen spontaneously, or take place in a meeting or by appointment. Check the appropriateness of time, place and environment in regard to the nature of the ministry involved and the person’s ability to relax and receive.

This is not a counselling session, do not give advice, keep it very short! Ask just a few questions to get enough information to do a ‘preliminary diagnosis’ as to what the issues are. Listen at two levels: the person (natural) and the Lord (supernatural). Then decide on what approach to take in ministry, or what areas/dimensions of sickness one needs to address (you are looking for symptoms, underlying causes, and the root issue).

Engage in ministry by inviting the Holy Spirit (“Come Holy Spirit…”) and by blessing the person (“We bless you with God’s healing presence…”). Then wait and see what God is saying or doing—keep your eyes open! Move from the general toward the specific: from “I bless you”, to “receive God’s love”, to addressing the specific issues. By now you have selected the area/dimension of ministry or healing that you sense is needed (from step 2): spiritual healing (sin), or psycho-emotional healing (past hurts), or deliverance from demonization, or physical healing, or relational healing. Then address the issues: begin with the symptomatic or presenting problem (e.g. “pain, leave this body in Jesus Name”), and move on to the underlying causes, speaking what God reveals or prompts.

At the appropriate time get feedback, ask the person what’s happening, what they’re feeling. Again, this is not counselling, do not give advice, just get enough feedback in order to re-engage in ministry with more focus – to co-operate with God with more precision in what he’s doing. This feedback can happen a few times. Watch for signals indicating the ministry time is coming to an end; then gently close it down.

It’s important to briefly talk with the person about their experience, to make sense of it, to encourage and reassure them, and to point them in the right direction in regard to after care; e.g. to come for more ministry, to join a home group, to get counselling, to inform their small group leader or pastor, to attend a particular (recovery) course, etc.

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