Wallace Henley, formerSenior Associate Pastor of Houston’s Second Baptist on Cessationism and The Elijah Challenge as published in The Christian Post
Traditionally there has been a chasm between what are called “evangelicals” and “charismatics” with regard to certain areas of doctrine and practice. One of the areas of disagreement between the two groups involves supernatural healing. Below are listed some of their differences.
- The charismatic approach involves the operation of the gift of healing which can require the believer to be baptized in the Holy Spirit as a second experience and to speak in unknown tongues as the outward evidence.
- Evangelicals, on the other hand, rarely teach on the gift of healing and even more rarely attempt to operate in such a gift. (Cessationist evangelicals believe that this supernatural gift has in fact “ceased.”) Evangelicals do not believe that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a second experience, but rather that every believer receives the Holy Spirit at conversion. They rarely if ever teach, much less practice, speaking in tongues.
- For charismatic churches, supernatural healing in practice is a blessing mostly for infirm believers in the congregation. Those who attend “Healing Services” therefore are mostly believers. It is not seen or meant primarily as a means to bring the lost to Jesus Christ, although if it happens it is a fine side benefit.
- Evangelicals might frown at the “self-centered” motive behind such healing services as “what can you do for me, God” instead of the more pure motive behind “what can we do for you, God?” They might rather see an infirmity as a “thorn in their flesh” from the Lord and as a vehicle by which “God’s power in them is made perfect.”
- In charismatic healing services people can fall down (be “slain in the Holy Spirit”) as they are ministered to by an “anointed” servant of God. There may be other visible supernatural manifestations as well.
- Evangelicals do not see such practices and manifestations clearly recorded in the Scriptures in the context of supernatural healing, and so question their validity. They might feel uneasy at all the attention and adoration directed at the “anointed” servant of God who ministers the healing and who is all too human.
- Some charismatic ministers will often place quite a bit of emphasis on God’s people sowing a generous “seed offering” at the end of the meeting in return for a harvest from the Lord according to 2 Corinthians 9.
- Evangelicals can feel some uneasiness about such an emphasis.
Because of these and perhaps other differences as well, there is a chasm between evangelicals and charismatics with regard to the ministry of supernatural healing.
What we have been given to teach regarding healing
In The Elijah Challenge, we do not take a position in this debate. Rather we have been given an approach which:m
- focuses on an area on which both evangelicals and charismatics give priority: that is, preaching the gospel and fulfilling the Great Commission
- follows Scripture closely, especially the ministry of Jesus Himself
- and therefore on which both evangelicals and charismatics can agree
- and which actually results in supernatural healing as “ordinary” disciples, whether evangelical or charismatic, minister to the infirm—usually instantly or very quickly as we see in the gospels and in Acts. Generally there are no supernatural “manifestations”—only the infirm person being healed and testifying thereof. Sometimes, however, when a demon is cast out of a person there may be a visible manifestation such as is recorded in the gospels.
- The miraculous healings occur as disciples minister to the infirm using the power and authority which Jesus gave to His disciples according to Luke 9 & 10—well before the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost bringing with Him the gifts of the Spirit, in particular the gift of healing.
- The supernatural healings are not merely a blessing for the infirm, but primarily to bring the lost to repentance—something which both evangelicals and charismatics could agree has priority in the eyes of the Lord.
- In events hosted directly by The Elijah Challenge, we do not take offerings in the traditional way by passing the offering plate or bucket. (However, we do not at all take issue with ministries which do take offerings. Ministry does in fact involve expenses.)
The Lord has been gracious to entrust to The Elijah Challenge such an approach which we hope will provide an opportunity for reconciliation and unity between the two groups. Certainly that will please our Lord Jesus, who prayed to the Father in John 17:21 that “all of us may be one.” There has actually already been some reconciliation which took place in some of our past events attended by both evangelicals and charismatics. How is that?
Charismatics will have no more reason to be tempted to look down (however unconsciously) on their evangelical counterparts who appear to lack power and authority. Evangelicals will no longer need to feel lacking in this regard (if ever they did). In this way, “the playing field can be leveled” for our evangelical and charismatic brethren.
And evangelicals will have no more reason to judge their charismatic counterparts for engaging in practices which are not taught in Scripture when they minister healing to the infirm.
“Are you evangelical or charismatic?” “Neither.”
Instances of reconciliation between Evangelicals & Charismatics