How supernatural does our faith need to be? – John 6:1-21, Preview

Over a decade ago, Faith Church sent a mission team to work with sister churches in another country, during which time we attended worship services in a couple local churches.  In the middle of the first worship service, the entire congregation was vigorously singing praise to God, and a worshiper one row in front of me starting swooning, and then she fell to the ground.  My immediate thought was, “We have a medical emergency here!”  But no one around her seemed the slightest bit concerned. Instead they just kept worshiping. I would soon learn that I was witnessing not a medical emergency, but a manifestation of the supernatural power of God. A miracle. A miracle? Was it really?

In our study of the life of Jesus in the Gospel of John, the miracles are piling up.  Now in chapter 6, Jesus’ miracle-working powers are taking center stage. Think about him changing the water to wine.  Or healing a lame man. Don’t you wish you could have seen Jesus in action, healing people left and right?  Maybe you wish you could see just one miracle? Did I witness a miracle on that mission trip?

While there are people in our world who talk about miracles as if they are happening nearly as frequently as during Jesus’ ministry, I suspect most of us don’t believe it.  Not only have we seen the stories of fraudulent televangelists, we’ve been raised in a scientific culture that has often disproved miracles.  We live in skeptical times.  Have you seen a miracle?  Are you skeptical?

On that trip, more and more people fell during that worship service.  I learned that what was happening was not medical, but people were being slain in the Spirit.  When someone is slain in the Spirit, the Spirit fills them to the point where the people simply cannot stand and they slump over, as if unconscious.  But how do we know if it is the Spirit at work? Could it be a manufactured experience?

The occurrence happened so frequently in our sister churches, that the church had volunteers ready to catch people so they didn’t injure themselves during the fall.  The volunteers also had small blankets used to cover women’s mid-sections, should their skirts not do the job skirts are supposed to do as a result of the fall.

But that was just the beginning.  I was even more shocked when some people in our group, people from Faith Church, fell during worship!!!  Worse still, I wondered, would it happen to me?  I didn’t feel like I needed it to.  But if God wanted to give me that miraculous experience, perhaps I needed it more than I realized.

At a worship service a few days later, the church members called our team members to come forward for prayer, group by group.  First the women, then the men.  During the prayer, some of our women fell, and I was very nervous watching.  What would the people back home think?  This never happens in our worship services. And especially, what would the parents of our teenagers think?  Should I intervene to stop this?  Then they called the men to come forward, and I didn’t want to go.  Imagine, though, the awful optics if the visiting pastor didn’t go forward for prayer.  I felt loads of pressure.  

As I slowly walked forward I thought, “Lord, if you want to knock me flat, I trust in you…but I don’t think I need it.  Well, here goes nothing…”  For the next few minutes, I had a great prayer time, but I didn’t fall.  Afterwards, some of our team members who fell described that they felt God’s Spirit had miraculously met with them.  No one felt they had a negative experience.  I was very glad to hear that, but still I wondered…Was this a genuinely miraculous experience?  Was it just a manufactured worship experience in the Pentecostal/Charismatic tradition?

We don’t read much in the New Testament that might related to being slain in the Spirit.  In John 18:6, when Jesus reveals himself to the mob who had come to arrest him in the Garden, we learn that “they drew back and fell to the ground.”  In Acts 9, verse 4, Jesus flashes a light from heaven and speaks with Saul, knocking him to the ground. Maybe they were slain in the Spirit? Maybe, but why don’t we read about being slain in the Spirit as a worship experience in the New Testament writings? In my denominational heritage, that of the Evangelical Association in the USA, there are numerous accounts of people falling to the ground during revival meetings. Should we expect being slain in the Spirit to occur with any regularity?

My point is that whether miraculous manifestations of the Spirit, healings, or other miracles, while we pray for them and desire them, we can have a very hard time verifying if they are true.  We can doubt. We can explain it away.  We can think, “I don’t need a miracle.”  The result is that our faith can become less and less supernatural.  Evaluate your own life of faith.  How supernatural has your experience of discipleship to Jesus been?

As we continue studying the life of Jesus in John 6, verses 1-21, Jesus does two more miracles.  Check it out for yourselves ahead of time.  My guess is that most of you will be quite familiar with these two miracles, as they are two of his most famous.  But what I encourage you to pay attention to is not so much Jesus or the miracles, but the disciples.  How did they interact with the miraculous?  How did they experience the supernatural?  I believe we have much to learn from the disciples in these stories.

We’ll start talking about the disciples’ reaction to the miracles next week.

And if you want to dig deeper into the specific practice of slaying in the Spirit, consider reading this article.

Published by joelkime

I love my wife, Michelle, and our four kids and two daughters-in-law. I serve at Faith Church and love our church family. I teach a course online from time to time, and in my free time I love to read and exercise, especially running,

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