We would like to share what we have learned after teaching The Elijah Challenge over 14 years in over 40 countries around the world.
During the Training Event, the believers are taught how to minister healing to the infirm from New Testament Scriptures, focusing on the model left for us by Jesus and his disciples. At the demonstrations of healing taking place during the sessions, we apply the principles we have discovered from studying the ministry of Jesus and his disciples. Many people will testify that they no longer feel their infirmities after the believers lay hands on them. There will be excitement and believers will be encouraged.
If an evangelistic healing service is conducted as a climax of the Training, the gospel will be preached to the lost who come to the meeting. Then the trained believers will lay hands on the infirm and minister healing to them as they were taught. The purpose of this is to confirm the truth of the gospel to the lost who are there. Many will testify publicly that the Lord has healed them as the believers laid hands on them. As a result some sinners will repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The believers will be built up and encouraged seeing what the Lord has just done through them.
Now the eventual, long-term impact of the Training upon the church will depend on what the leadership of the church chooses to do with the trained believers.
A case study from Brazil
In July 2010 a group of churches in Juazeiro do Norte in Northeast Brazil hosted The Elijah Challenge. Juazeiro do Norte is considered the second most idolatrous city in the country of Brazil, currently a predominantly Catholic country with the fifth largest population in the world. Their local god is named “Padre Cicero”, a deceased Catholic priest who was excommunicated by the Catholic Church in the early 1900s. Since Padre Cicero was born in November, the month has become a most festive time in Juazeiro do Norte—just as the month of December is set apart for celebrating Christmas in much of the world.
From Monday through Friday that month in 2010 we taught The Elijah Challenge each morning to over 600 disciples. Every afternoon after lunch these disciples broke up into small teams and went door-to-door in the city to pray for the people in their homes, to heal their sick as they were being trained to do each morning and to share the gospel with them. By the end of the week these 600-plus disciples had visited 9,577 homes. The number of people who were healed of their infirmities, mostly in their homes, was 1,920. Those who accepted Christ as Lord and Savior as a result of hearing the gospel and witnessing the confirming miraculous healings numbered 1,440. These results were historic, especially for the well-known spiritual wasteland of Northeast Brazil.
As a result of that week, some churches grew impressively and had to expand their physical facilities.
Unfortunately, however, most of the pastors and leaders saw what happened during the week as a “special” one-time event. Although a few churches continued to send their trained people out to preach the gospel and heal the sick from door-to-door, most stopped applying the Training for the purpose for which it was given—reaching the lost with the gospel. As a result, the impact of the Training was limited primarily to that one week. Most of the leaders were content with seeing so many souls saved during that one week and seeing their churches grow. They lacked vision, and so were unable to get maximum benefit for the kingdom of God from the Training.
A leader must have vision from the Scriptures if he is going to produce maximum fruit for the kingdom of God from the Training. We are commanded by our Lord Jesus Christ to preach the gospel to every creature and make disciples of all nations. Therefore we are not to stop sending our people out to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God after we are content with the growth of our church and its increased size. Rather we must continue to send people out until we have completed the Great Commission, and Jesus Christ returns.
So what should a pastor do following the Training?
- Of course he should continually encourage his trained believers to continue to apply what they have just learned to heal the sick, especially in the context of sharing the gospel with the lost.
- He should provide opportunities for the believers to heal the sick, for example near the end of church services when infirm people are called forward to receive healing ministry.
- In cell churches, trained cell leaders can heal the sick in cell groups, especially when new people who do not know the Lord are present
- Trained cell leaders can train the people in their cells to heal the sick so that eventually every believer in the congregation can heal the sick for the sake of sharing the gospel more effectively with the lost.
- The pastor should arrange for every new disciple in his congregation to be trained to heal the sick. According to the Great Commission, we are to teach every disciple to obey everything Jesus commanded His disciples—which includes healing the sick and preaching the gospel.
- Therefore the Training should be given periodically in the church by a leader whose calling is in the area of healing and who attended the original Training event. This can be a refresher course for believers who have already attended the Training, or for new believers. We have found that the more often a believer is exposed to the Scriptures contained in the Training, the more effective he or she will be in healing the sick. “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the word of Christ.”
- The pastor should send his trained believers out on a regular basis to go house-to-house to heal the sick and proclaim the kingdom of God—wherever this is possible. Often poorer communities are open to this kind of door-to-door ministry. Wealthy, gated communities might not be suitable for such an outreach.
- In summary, preaching the gospel accompanied by the healing of the sick should become an integral part of the life of the church if the Training is to be maximally effective and fruitful for the church and for the kingdom of God.
(In some countries, especially those having a non-western, non-Christian culture, these points will need to be modified to suit the more difficult local conditions there.)
If the above points are not taken seriously by the leadership, then the impact from the Training will likely die out in a few months. If trained believers are not encouraged and given opportunities to heal the sick, most will stop doing so because it takes great boldness to do so. The mountain-moving faith they learned from the Training will wither, and fear and doubt in the area of healing will come back to life to make them ineffective in healing the sick as they were before they were trained.