That You May Be Healed
by Lonnie Lane
I am reminded of a scene in the movie Exodus, the story of the Jew’s fighting for the establishment of modern-day Israel, to make a home for Jews everywhere, but mostly for those who have survived WWII and were now homeless and countryless. In this scene a young man named Dov Landau, played by Sal Mineo, wants desperately to become a freedom fighter in the Irgun, Israel’s underground army. He is angry, bitter, dark. The leader, an older man with the determination of a seasoned general and the compassion of one who knows the value of truth, interrogates him. He’s after the root of the boy’s bitter rage, and so he questions him over and over again, gently but relentlessly. Until finally, what Dov has kept even from himself comes to the surface and somewhat in shock now as he remembers, he finally confesses what was done to him by the Nazis, and what he had to do to stay alive. He sobs out his shame but his tears also bring release. The leader pulls him to his feet. Now he is free. Now he can join their army truly as a freedom fighter. He tells him to raise his right hand to God and swears him in as a soldier in Israel’s underground army.
Two verses come to mind: “The truth will make you free” (John 8:32) and “Confess your sins to one another… that you may be healed” (James 5:16). Both were operative, both brought liberty to be able to function, not out of hate or bitterness or a quest for revenge from oppression, but out of the conviction of truth and in this case, to fight for what God was doing, the re-establishment of the children of Israel to their promised land.
Another story of these verses working together goes like this. It’s about a woman who was new to our women’s “Kosher Gospel” Bible class. A pretty forty-something lady we’ll call Joanie was brought by another member of the class. A believer, she was pleasant and talked easily with us, even though she was new to most of the twelve in the group. During our time when we pray for one another as anyone has needs, or even just to bless each other, she came and sat in the “prayer-chair” around which we all stood. Would we please pray that she find a job as she had been let go from her old job, she asked. Not an uncommon occurrence in these days of economic pressure, with companies sometimes reducing the number of their employees.
We operate under the assumption that we need the Holy Spirit to tell us what He wants prayed for the person, based on Romans 8:26 which says, “We do not know how to pray as we ought; but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us….” So we waited for a few moments on the Lord. Then one of our women said to Joanie, “Don’t listen to what she said. You were told a lie about yourself by some woman and it isn’t true. Don’t pay attention to it. It’s not from God.” This was a word of knowledge from the Spirit that went right to Joanie’s heart. She dropped her head into her hands and covered her face. Someone else began to pray for God to heal her wounded heart. Finally she began to tell us what hurtful words were said to her and the circumstances. We gently showed her how she had taken those words in and they had affected her own sense of herself. She had believed what that woman had told her.
“Death and life death is in the power of the tongue” (Prov 18:21) and these words acted as a curse against Joanie. They did not bring life to her but she received them as if they were true of her and they had done a work in her soul to cause her to doubt her own worth. We led her in her own deliverance: “I come out of agreement with those hurtful words in the name of Jesus, and I agree with God that I am God’s beloved child. He loves me and He chose me to be His before the foundation of the world and no one’s words can change that.” We began to pray for her to build her up and for God to strengthen her inner-most being in Him. We encouraged her in the Lord through our Spirit-led prayers. When she got up from the chair she was a different Joanie than when she had sat down less than fifteen minutes earlier. Even her countenance looked different. There was a new light in her eyes. We applauded God! He is so good, so very good. All the time!!
Contrast this with some of the emails I have received recently. People are scared because of the direction some fear our country may be headed towards. Others share with me personal issues in their lives relating to the Lord, of unhealed hurts, or confusions about God and their walk with Him. Some write with things they don’t think they can tell to anyone they know. Others have questions they should be able to process or at least ask within their own Christian communities. But evidently there is a distinct lack of that kind of a secure loving Body-life out there, or access to leadership from whom they could expect to receive help.
They are like “sheep without a shepherd” (Matt 9:36; Mark 6:34). There seems to be little balm of Gilead to restore the health of God’s people (Jer. 8:22). There’s seems few places where people can “confess your sins to one another and pray for one another that you might be healed” (James 5:16). So they write to me, a complete stranger who is not in their lives, except for reading an article periodically. That is not what the Lord intended as relationships, nor what He meant by “bear one another’s burdens and thereby fulfill the Torah (law) of Messiah” (Gal. 6:1,2). I find it heart-breaking that so many are so at a loss for answers and help in their own churches. Something is definitely wrong.
I believe, however, it’s about to change. Our country has been crying out for change, have we not? Granted, what some think is the change we need, others are sure is not the change we need and therein is the concern of many. But we all have the witness that change is on the horizon. Many fear the change could mean days of darkness ahead for the country and the church. But let me tell you another story that may put things in the light of what God is up to, no matter what the world or the devil thinks they’re up to.
Recently, the Israeli government has been revoking the Visas of foreigners living in the Land. The reason in part has to do with the enormous increase of Jewish persons “making aliyah” (pronounced ah-lee-ah, emphasis on the last syllable, for those of you who enjoy these Hebrew tid-bits). Making aliyah means moving to Israel. There’s just so much room in Israel and just so much water and just so many resources. Those who have citizenship elsewhere are being invited to ‘go home’ and make room for those Jews who need to come live in Israel, especially with the increase in anti-Semitism in Europe today.
This “change” includes revoking the Visas of many (Gentile) Christians who have been involved in ministries in the Land, some for many years. It has been very painful for them to leave. At first, there was a great deal of concern from the Body of Messiah in Israel and those of us outside of Israel who love them. But a conversation with a visiting Israeli believer in my home last week told another story. Here’s what she told me: At first the Believers were very concerned as many of the leaders in the body were among those who were being asked to leave the country. But then, another picture began to emerge. My friend has been a believer for over twenty-five years. She said that her generation had to fight for their identity as believers in the land. They had to prove that they are good citizens, and that they are trustworthy and to be respected rather than ostracized, feared or shunned. Now their children, the next generation, occupy a place of respect in the land, having been raised in the Lord, and having served their time in the army and been found to be exemplary soldiers and model citizens. They are secure in who they are and completely open about being believers and bold when it comes to sharing Yeshua.
This confidence in a second-generation of Believers in the Land of Israel is an unprecedented event. Even in the first century, the believers had to flee from Jerusalem and throughout Israel before their children could grow up there as believers. This is the first time in history the children of Believers have become the new adult community of Jewish followers of Yeshua in Israel!
As it turns out, the leadership vacuum didn’t last long. It is being filled by that young Messianic generation who is stepping up to the plate now that the “Christian” leadership is no longer in the land. What had seemed like a tragic loss to the Believers because of a law enacted by their government, had turned out to be the hand of God to strengthen the indigenous Jewish believers in the Land.
Consider the implication of this. The Jewish culture in which they grew up is in many ways the same in which Yeshua grew up. Things that are lost to the church, such as interpretations of Scripture, meanings of commandments and references to places and situations are quite clear to them. They understand the Bible perhaps better than any Believers ever have. There is scholarly opinion that the Gospels, at least Matthew, was originally written in Hebrew. Many of the Idioms become quite clear and very Israeli when the Gospel is translated back into Hebrew. This new generation is reading their Bibles, including their New Covenants, in Hebrew so that the language nuances aren’t lost to them. They do not have to deal with mistranslations that render portions of Scripture rather meaningless or subject to misinterpretations as they can be to those for whom they are foreign.
What will God do in the Land of Israel through these young Believers? Israel must say, “Baruch ha ba b’shem Adonai” (Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord) before He will be seen again in Israel (Matt 23:39). And if that takes place in Israel what will be the corresponding effect in the church? Because there always is one when God does something with Israel. This could have profound implications. We might do well to pray for those young Believers in Israel that God’s highest will might be accomplished through them in the Land.
It would appear that the word I received from the Lord recently, which is in the article, “Finding the Heart of Kingdom Territory,” was actually prophetic because I did not know about this second generation of Israeli believers when I wrote it. This new generation having grown up with believing parents are now the generation of faith and confidence in their God. They are not a generation with doubts or fear of giants.
The Lord is apparently underscoring something significant here. Perhaps several “somethings.” There is a pattern that prevails: First the physical, then the spiritual. What is happening in Israel right now with the leadership is both. A change is taking place. What men decided to do governmentally, God used to strengthen His people in the Land. So what is the implication? Well, this generation grew up together, talking together, shared life together and wars together and terrorism together, and suffered together. They have relationships intact. It is unlikely that one of them would suddenly become a pastor and have the relationship dissolve so that as pastor he would now become somewhat aloof and distant from his buddies and take a stand above those whom he had grown up with. The Israeli army functions like this. Leadership is obeyed and respected, but they know each other as brothers, or at least cousins. No, these relationships are not likely to change. What is likely to happen is a return to how things were in the beginning when people met house to house and had everything in common and shared as anyone had need and everyone was on a first name basis and no one had a title. “Do not be called Rabbi, for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers” (Matthew 23:8.)
If you recall, Yeshua lived with His guys, day and night for three and a half years. There were also women who traveled with them too, who perhaps did their laundry and probably cooked for them when they weren’t being served elsewhere. What they did is speculation, but the Word does tell us that women went too on their travels. Must have been quite a troop of folks. The point I’m making here, is that trekking around the country, you get to know one another really well. Yeshua was in no way higher than, more elite, out of touch, or distinct from the rest, except that He was the one speaking and doing miracles. For Him to have become a man was to have Him in the natural have nothing to commend Him to any notoriety. It was God’s intention that “He had no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him” (Isaiah 53:2). Plus, He wasn’t pontificating, or aloof or untouchable or superior as, say, the Pharisees were. Quite the contrary. He shared His stories and talked and touched and hugged and healed. He was intimately, closely involved with those around Him. He partied and ate with them; maybe He even helped clean up. Surely He must have helped fix Peter’s roof after the paralytic picked up his mat and went home. After all, He was a master carpenter, wasn’t He?
Many pastors today live lives of relative isolation in comparison, unable to relate to their congregation beyond a certain number of people, who turn out to be the elite if the congregation is large, as only they can generally get to the pastor. And too often they are a source of conflict rather than support, making demands on the pastor one man was never meant to carry. Gleanings from several recent surveys* reveal that 18% of pastors suffer from stress and burn-out. The Southern Baptist Convention reports that up to 100 pastors leave the ministry every month! A reason pastors give is lack of support. They have to go it alone. Do congregations expect too much from our pastors and give them little encouragement or support? Evidently so. The leading cause of pastor “fallout” was “the control and power factor” and the second was “lack of unity.” One fourth of the drop-out pastors report that conflict was a contributing factor. Additionally, because churches are doing more advertising and there is more pressure to perform, entertain and succeed, the pastor is crushed under the weight of it. Or a group of members with power pull the strings or factions in the church cause the crises. These do not apply to all churches, of course, but far too many. For those who do jump ship, 76% of ex-pastors no longer worship on Sunday and 33% never use their ministry gifts again after leaving the pastorate. Something is definitely wrong.
So we have sheep who are uncared for and isolated, whose wounds are not healed and whose confusions about why their lives don’t line up with the Bible are crippling to their walk with Him. And we have pastors who are likewise isolated and having to bear far more responsibility than God ever intended for them. Something is very wrong indeed. It seems to be coming to a crisis point. And since the air is charged with “change” atoms lately, and with this new “indigenous believers” precedent occurring in Israel, I wouldn’t be surprised if there isn’t a change on our horizon in how we “do” church.
Could something governmentally trigger a return of the church to “the people” of which the pastors are a part in America? It’s not out of the realm of possibility, so keep in mind that no matter what else may change, God says, “For I, the Lord, do not change” (Mal 3:6). His Kingdom is not affected one iota by the changes men make. What He does change is us. We see changes happening in the Body throughout the world. While some are more “professional,” others are migrating back to a more organic meeting of people such as the one Joanie found healing in.
Such groups are Scriptural and designed by God so that we live our lives with one another, to love each other, to bear one another’s burdens and joys, to apply the balm of Gilead to one another’s wounds, including for the pastors when needed. The Lord once told me that the reason there are so many Believers seeing psychologists and in counseling is because there is no Cross in the church, where people can come and be open, to let their hair down and repent and lay their sin at the foot of the Cross and then be restored. We may pray for them, but if we don’t hear their repentance and confession of sin, the prayers kind of do some hoeing in the soil around the weed but we don’t allow it to be pulled out. We pour ointment on a splinter instead of pulling it out.
Peter’s transparency in the Gospels is an example of the transparency that even our leadership should be able to have and be healed. Peter had to give permission to Mark, the first Gospel written, to tell on him and expose his weaknesses and failures like that. Most likely, Mark heard Peter use His own weaknesses as examples of God’s redemptive powers of forgiveness and restoration. No wonder God added people daily to the number of Believers. No doubt neighbors and family were hearing about how someone was healed or set free and they wanted the same kind of freedom. But we sit week after week, year after year with the same pains and confusions. Something is definitely wrong.
God’s original church structure was for a five-fold ministry, or a four-fold if you consider pastors and teachers as one calling (I personally know people who can minister hope and healing to the sheep but who aren’t gifted teachers and the other way round so I’m going with the five-fold model.) The ministry of the leaders was for them to be among the sheep to equip them. How do you train someone to be a care-taker if you’re not care-taking? How can only a weekly sermon from a stage (pulpit) impact someone’s life when it’s just information and not relationship? Can’t. Doesn’t. So we look for more programs to do more of the same that still leaves people writing emails to someone they don’t know but who sounded transparent so they think there might be help because at least they’re accessible, even if from mouse click of a distance.
Having been in house church for a number of years, I can tell you that there are wonderful satisfying experiences when we minister to one another or when we share what we think or what we’re struggling with or what we wish we understood in the Word with people who share back, at eye level. Or better yet, how about when you get an incredible revelation from the Lord and you can’t wait to share it and you take it to your small group who just loves it and a great discussion follows that brings further revelation. That is the best fun, I can tell you. Especially when you come together and find out that God has given several of you pieces of the same puzzle and it all goes together in one joyful whole! That can’t happen in a traditional Sunday church setting. It’s not only the people who can’t express themselves, it’s the Holy Spirit who is unable to express Himself through His people, with the exception of one or a few persons at best. When you think of it that way, there is something definitely wrong here.
Yet is there still a place for traditional church? Absolutely, but there needs to be room for both. And pastors need to share the yoke of responsibility with others and encourage the giftings of others to edify the church as well as take some of the pressure off of themselves. And they need to be a part of the family of the church, not elusive or a tad bit distant from it because of some false idea of ministry. The five-fold ministry gifts will remain until Yeshua comes. Leadership will be with us until the end. And we are to honor those who lead us. But the hierarchy that is so artificial to the church as God intended it will likely not continue as it is. I expect we will experience a return to the egalitarian society the Body of Messiah was meant to be and was originally, in which each person plays an effective part and we have no professional ministers.
Please know that I am a person who respects God’s authority. I am not anti-pastor. I have a great deal of respect for my own pastor. What I do believe is that we all have inherited a system that looks more like Rome than Israel, and functions more like a business structure than an organic family. This applies to some churches more than others, of course. There is a great deal of pagan stuff in our churches that we think is God-ordained, but isn’t. The burn-out rate and the isolation rate described above will let you know that because when we’re doing what isn’t God’s will, we’re stressed.
But in the midst of it all, groups such as my Kosher Gospel group are happening and people are finding a “home” they can trust. If these words have triggered something in your own heart, be you a pastor or “pedestrian,” leadership or a lay-person, may I suggest you find a few friends or even acquaintances and just get together and begin to share your lives in the Lord. Set yourselves apart unto Him for that time. Ask Him to come into your midst. Begin to share what’s on your mind and heart. “Let the words of Messiah richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing each other…” (Eph 5:19). Someone will have a Scripture verse, someone will have a word of wisdom or comfort, someone may even have a word of knowledge. Lay your hands on one another and ask the Holy Spirit to speak through each of you for what He wants to say. Sing if you’re so inclined, “with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs…with thanksgiving in your heart to the Lord” (:19) One caveat: Don’t talk about what’s wrong with the church or the pastor! Talk about “whatever is true…honorable…right…pure…lovely…of good repute (or of) excellence” (Phil 4:8). If you let your group be divisive in any way, it’s not of God and you should shut it down.
It is in small groups where the Lord can begin to teach each of us what our own gifting is, and to show us how what we have to say or rather what He would say through us can minister to others. This way we learn that each of us is a valuable and integral part of the Body. We will become more and more whole and feel more confident to reach out. Perhaps we will be the one to bring the next Joanie to the meeting so that they may be healed. God has set up the body to function together “so that you may be healed.” It is the healed ones that can be the effective leaders among the people in relationship and as the soldiers in the underground army of God, both working together for the advancement of the Kingdom in the earth. Before Yeshua returns there will be a “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). Not the least of this restoration is that each person be an instrument through whom the Holy Spirit can speak and act. No governmental decree or the ways of man can thwart what God is doing any more than Israel’s Sanhedrin or later Rome’s Caesar could intimidate the disciples of Messiah or shut them down. That’s where we’re headed, for that kind of boldness and trust in the Lord. Sounds a bit like that new generation in Israel, doesn’t it?
Like that new generation, God may be asking many of us to step up to the plate and fill in the vacuum that has developed through foreign structures which have been imposed upon the church over the centuries. This may simply mean meeting house to house in simple church life. What does that look like? Sharing our lives with each other much more than we have. As someone in my Kosher Gospel group said last week in a similar discussion to this one, “You can’t have a relationship with the back of someone’s head,” meaning with someone sitting in front of you in a pew when you never really relate on a personal basis, no matter how many years you sit in your respective pews. There is much to be regained in relating as the family of God. May each of us, including our pastors, find rest for our souls in the fellowship of the saints, that we may all be healed. Amen.
* This report can be found on the John Mark Ministries website: “Pastor Dropout Rate.” http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/8084.htm.
Reprints of this article is permitted but must include: Reprinted by permission of Messianic Vision, www.sidroth.org, 2008
Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible Copyright ©1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation, La Habra, Calif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.