Chapter Seven – Staying On the Rails

Healing Ministry can be difficult and/or messy because Holy Spirit empowered ministries are often difficult and/or messy. Paul struggled with the congregation in Corinth because they were too enamored of their spiritual gifts and the church has had difficulties with its Spirit-led members ever since. We will not create problems for the leaders of our congregations. We will not add to their burdens. There are three basic elements that I think we can build into our lives as people committed to Healing Ministry that will assist us in this commitment.

1. Being under authority and accountable.

We will recognize that we are under the pastoral and parochial authority of any person leading a congregation in which we minister. We may have a vision for our ministry within the congregation, but that vision is to be subject to the guidance of the rector/pastor. What we do must fit within the rector’s/pastor’s vision, not run alongside it or compete with it. There can be only one guiding vision for a congregation and that must come from the leader and leadership group.

Healing ministry must not ever be allowed to cause division. It must not draw undue attention to itself. Its purpose is to manifest the love of God and to draw attention to Jesus, not the healers. It is small wonder that in the early chapters of Mark Jesus routinely commands those He heals to silence. As He had come to point people to the Father, so we are pointing others to Jesus.

This also means that we will meet regularly with the leadership of the congregation to “check in” and receive input and guidance. It does not matter if you think the person appointed to lead you is sufficiently “Spirit-led.” They have been appointed by God and we will be obedient.

Some people, excited by the new ministry of Healing in which they find themselves, will be disappointed if their rector/pastor does not share their enthusiasm. This is not a cause to go church shopping. Do not go off trying to find a congregation that supports “your” vision. God has you in that place for a reason. Stay put and submit to those in authority over you.

The practices of the Benedictines speak loudly in this instance. I am no monastic, but there is a principle in the Benedictine rule called “stability.” My understanding of it is that those committed to this rule do not easily leave the company in which they find themselves. Instead, they allow the conflicts, mild or great, to shape them, humble them, make them more Christlike. We who are to be local healers will adopt the same principle.

We will also be accountable to the leadership and to each other within the congregation in which we find ourselves. Our behavior will be subject to the scrutiny of others, our successes, our failures. We will not isolate ourselves so as to “keep our faith untainted by the world.” When others share criticisms, we will listen carefully and seek to discern what we can do better.

If our ministry becomes just another divisive element in the life of the Church, then we have failed. It may attract some of those who are disenchanted with the Church as they find it, but we will root out that sentiment and recognize the gift that we have been given in our religious community.

This does not mean that we may not seek support and guidance outside the congregation as well. Especially given how unfamiliar large segments of the church are with spiritual gifts like healing, the kind of support this ministry requires may be difficult to find locally. There may be meetings in which we can find encouragement and discernment. These meetings will not compete with the lives of local congregations. They exist to help resource them. Healing ministers in these settings will be especially careful to hold each other accountable to the authority under which they operate, but more, they will provide support. And that brings me to the second element.

2. We will meet together in some form to encourage and continue to form one another.

It may be that you find yourself in a congregation that includes seven or eight others who have the same desire to see healing that you do. If you want to be active in healing ministry and survive the inevitable disappointment, you will meet regularly (at least monthly) to worship, learn, share testimonies and encourage one another.

At certain points in your ministry you may find yourself riding a wave of positive results that make these meetings feel unnecessary. Meetings may not strengthen your faith or resolve, but your presence and testimony will do that for others. And when you crash, others will be there to lift you up as well.

Such meetings may be difficult to organize physically. While I am “old school” enough to prefer (strongly) in-person gatherings, I also know that platforms like Zoom have served us very well through and after the Pandemic. As the Rapha-El community grows, these meetings are likely to have an important place in the process.

3. We will, whenever possible, pray in partnership with others.

Jesus sent His disciples out two by two. When the school in Mechanicsburg sent us out onto the streets of Baltimore to pray for people, they sent us in pairs. As I see it, there may be three or more reasons for this.
First, it helps us keep in mind that this is not about us. We do what we do within the embrace of community. It is far less likely that we will fall victim to the whispers of the enemy that we are somehow “special” if we are (almost) always praying in concert with others. When we went out in pairs from the school at Global Awakening, we took turns being the one who gave voice to the prayers, alternately praying or supporting in prayer.

Yes, there have been times when I was called to pray for folks when I was the only one there. Part of that was due to my pastoral responsibility, though. When I went out seeking people to pray for, I never went out unless someone went with me. They were, at first, reluctant to be the one doing the praying, but that gradually changed as they joined me and saw God at work.

This leads into the second possible reason. Or maybe it’s still part of the first. Praying in pairs is a good way of teaching others to pray with boldness and expectation. I find it good to pair those who have experience in healing ministry with those who have less. As newcomers witness God working through them and their partners, their faith and confidence grows and they become more and more willing to take the risk of praying aloud themselves. I think of all the healings the Twelve witnessed before Jesus sent them out.

Finally, being paired with someone gives us greater courage. Just not being alone makes the weight of praying for someone less as it is spread across more than one set of shoulders. Each encourages the other(s), and we accomplish more for the Kingdom.

A final thought on accountability.

While this consideration will ultimately fall to the discernment of each diocesan or similar unit, I strongly recommend that anyone involved in healing ministry be required to take whatever Safe Church courses are expected of other lay ministers. There is something deeply personal about praying for other people. It requires vulnerability on the part of all participants, and this can open the door to unhealthy behaviors. This is another reason that anyone involved should also be expected to participate regularly in group discussion and supervision. These are not absolute failsafes against abuse, but we owe it to our congregations to do the best that we can.”

Go back to any of the other chapters:

Chapter One – What Happened to Healing
Chapter Two – Why Do We Do Healing?
Chapter Three – Some Introductory Questions
Chapter Four – Things That Help and Things That Hinder
Chapter Five – The Five Step Method
Chapter Six – What Do We Do With Failure?
Chapter Seven – Staying On the Rails.

3 Responses

  1. Fr. Jeff,
    So pleased to see this continuing. Now that I have the summer free, I hope to read through all of this properly – reading through this chapter, though, I was really touched by your inclusion of the Benedictine model of stability, and your comments on that. I am not in the circumstances that you spoke of re: healing ministry in a local congregation (…yet!), but this was a welcome thought, and a ministering one that spoke to me. Thank you for all you do and the blessing you are!

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