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The Healer

November 12, 2008

I’m not talking about the John Lee Hooker album (which is GREAT, by the way).  No, I’m talking about spiritual gifts.

As part of our most recent Residence in Ministry retreat we were required to read the book Equipped for Every Good Work by Dan Dick and Barbara Miller.  Having read Dan Dick’s excellent Vital Signs, I was intrigued at the prospect of a spiritual gifts assessment from a United Methodist perspective.  The results were surprising to me.

First, the book was better than I expected it to be.  I almost expected a spiritual gifts book to be cheesy in some ways (and in some ways it was).  But in other ways it was an exercise in self-awareness and perspective, and it gave me strategies for leadership in the local congregation.

Second, my highest score – and one that came as a big suprise to me – was in healing.  It wasn’t just my high score, it was one mere point from the highest possible score.  I’m not sure I would have ever considered myself a healer, at least not as my primary spiritual gift.  I don’t know what I expected it to be, but healing wasn’t my first idea.  Of course, my second highest score was in miracles and I sure didn’t expect that one either.  

If I were to describe my gifts and graces on my own, healer and miracle worker aren’t the first things that come to mind.  But let’s look more closely at how Dick and Miller describe them.  These descriptions are from the handouts available at the book’s website (which makes using the book with a congregation exceptionally easy).

 

Healing—the gift of conducting God’s healing powers into the lives of God’s people. Physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological healing are all ways that healers manifest this gift. Healers are prayerful, and they help people understand that healing is in the hands of God. Often their task is to bring about such understanding more than it is to simply erase negative symptoms. Some of the most powerful healers display some of the most heartbreaking afflictions themselves.

 

I have described myself on this blog before as a Wesleyan theologian with Process leanings, which makes sense in this context.  One of my pastor friends puts it this way: “if you pray, and you expect God to do something about your prayers, then you are a process theologian to some extent.”  I think that’s right.  I believe God’s will is ultimately done, but that God really does hear our prayers and responds to them in real time.  Sometimes God changes our circumstances, but more often God changes the pray-er.  And sometimes God just says, “No.  Not right now.”  I believe very strongly in a responsive, relational God.  

It also makes sense that my two careers – mental health counseling and pastoral ministry – merge at healing.  I believe both are healing professions.  And in my life as a therapist I was a Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapist, a disciple of Albert Ellis.  This makes sense if I am gifted as a healer, because REBT adds technique and method to my natural empathic abilities.  

A lot of my theology revolves around healing in one way or another.  I often articulate the doctrine of depravity as an expression of our inherent brokenness rather than sinfulness, corruptibility, or badness. Wesley often described original sin as sickness or disease, and Christ as the healer or the cure.  I work hard to articulate that healing takes many forms – including death which is the ultimate healing, our full incorporation into the life of God.   

Miracles—the gift of an ability to operate at a spiritual level that recognizes the miraculous work of God in the world. Miracle workers invoke God’s power to accomplish that which appears impossible or impractical by worldly standards. Miracle workers remind us of the extraordinary nature of the ordinary world, thereby increasing faithfulness and trust in God. Miracle workers pray for God to work in the lives of others, and they feel no sense of surprise when their prayers are answered.

Our worship bulletin has one scripture quote printed across the bottom every week.  It’s Mark 10:27 “With God all things are possible.”  So maybe that one makes sense too.

News reports, including those within the denomination, tell us that the church is dying.  I refuse to believe it.  It’s not denial.  I believe that to write the church’s obituary before we are dead is to deny the power of God to renew, reform and vitalize the church.  In other words, I believe that if you are focused on the numbers and the statistics and you see a bleak future for the church, then you are the one who is in denial.  When our little local church has improved our weekly attendance from 25-30 to 35-40 (and sometimes more) since I’ve been here I am not surprised.  I won’t be surprised when our numbers jump even higher.  God has a future for our churches if we pray, if we work hard, and if we are intentional about making disciples (first of ourselves, then of others).  Maybe I am a miracle person.

One thing I could have predicted is that I am not a director-administrator.  I do know enough about myself to know that.  So it is my challenge in each church I serve to find people who are gifted as director-administrator-organizers who can help me lead more effectively.  All in all, I learned a lot more than I expected from a relatively simple study.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. eric permalink
    November 12, 2008 7:24 pm

    Now that I have made my cheesy joke, I might try a more serious comment.
    I recall that there was some surprise when you entered ministry. And I recall saying, “About time.” I think you have always wanted to have those traits or gifts that involve healing the psyche or soul. Or else you always did.
    But two paths converged perfectly — therapist and spiritualist. (I am not quite using the word spiritualist correctly, but it was a long day at work, ya know?)
    Then again, maybe my cheesy joke about the album wasn’t completely a joke. I don’t know. I know that Santana riff on the title cut is stuck in my head now.

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