True Story: Toe-To-Toe With The Healing Evangelist

The place: My Full-Gospel, charismatic church located in the Bible Belt.

The time: Early 1980’s.

For weeks our pastor had been building the excitement, preparing his congregation for an upcoming healing service lead by his faith healer friend traveling to us from Alabama.  He was a traveling evangelist anointed by God with the gift of healing. Everyone was eagerly awaiting his arrival.

The evening of the healing service arrived and we welcomed him into our church with hopeful anticipation. We began with a full hour of praise and worship with our praise band front-and-center. Then, with an enthusiastic introduction by our pastor, the evangelist took center stage.

praise

“Jesus said,” he began with conviction and authority, “ If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.” Many in the congregation echoed his words with a quiet, amen.

“Our Heavenly Father does not play favorites. He wants you physically and spiritually well! He wants to heal YOU! Deliver YOU! Not just the person standing next to you! Do you believe God wants you well? The words in the book of James tells us that the prayer of faith will save you!” The crowd burst into applause. Amen! Yes! Praise Jesus! 

“Consider the words of Jesus to us when He said, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” He stood silent for a moment, scanning the crowd from one end to the other, waiting for the applause to die down .

Then he hushed his tone to a near whisper. He took the microphone in his hand, stepped away from the pulpit and closer to the crowd. “How many of you have had a sick child? Don’t you do everything in your power to make him well? Well, your Heavenly Father doesn’t delight in your sickness any more than you would delight in your own child’s sickness! Do you think He takes pleasure in your pain?”

The crowd responded quietly, No. Praise God. Praise Jesus.

I listened intently as the man proceeded to rifle through passage after passage that spoke to the truth of God’s healing power. Faith swelled in me at the same pace as the escalation of his preaching voice.  I quietly whispered in tongues, praising God for his mercies and thanking Jesus for his promises.

By the time he headed into the homestretch of his message, he practically shouted Matthew 18, “Truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven!”

The air grew thick with hope as people praised Jesus and clapped their hands.

“What does the word, anything mean, Church?” He paused only briefly before answering himself, “Anything is cancer!” The crowd roared in agreement. “Anything is migraines! Anything is kidney stones… anything means any sickness you can name!” Praise God! Praise you Jesus!

Then in an instant, the sermon took a turn and the atmosphere of the room changed. He came to a halt, looked down and shook his head before he spoke. “There are things that can stand in the way of your healing, though. And we’re going to face those things right now, together, in groups of two or more just like the Bible says.”

He instructed us, a room full of some one hundred people, to gather in groups of two or three for the prayer of repentance.

Sin will rob you of your healing!” he shouted. “Satan will use unbelief to hinder your healing! Lack of faith will keep you sick! If you want to be healed, confess your sins to one another. Rebuke Satan right now! Confess your unbelief to your sister or brother in the name of Jesus!” The rumble of voices enveloped the room as people huddled together in prayer.

I confessed to my prayer partner to the ‘sin’ of not engaging in routine ‘quiet times’ with the Lord. It was all I could think of in that moment.

“That’s right, Church…” the young evangelist said cajoling the crowd, “Yes… Lay your burdens at the foot of the cross. Shanda-lahundela…” he prayed in tongues.

He summoned the band to play as we prayed. The music, soft and sweet, hummed in the background as the evangelist encouraged us further, “Tell one another now what you need from God. And remember the words of Jesus! ‘Whatever you ask in my name, I’ll do!’

prayer for healingThe room was electric as voices rose saying, “In the name of Jesus be healed!” and “Satan I rebuke you in the name of Jesus!”

For several minutes the evangelist paced back and forth on the stage, praying in tongues. He held his bible in one hand while reaching the other hand out toward the praying crowd. Shundela hundela….

Then he stopped abruptly in his tracks and pointed to a woman nearest the stage. “You!” he bellowed. Everyone stopped praying and looked up. “Did you get your healing?”

His tone took me aback. More like an accusation than a question, he stood, feet firmly planted, waiting for an answer. For a flicker of a second the woman looked confused, but then quickly raised her hand in the air and said, “Yes! Praise Jesus!” and abruptly sat down. “Praise the Lord!” the evangelist beamed! “The works of God are alive among us! Pray, Church! Pray!” The thunders of prayer fired back up.

Then he did it again. He stopped his pacing and praying and pointed his finger, “You! Are you healed?!”

The young man on the front row hesitated for just a second and stammered, “Y…Yes, I think so.”

“You think so?!” the evangelist barked. “God is not a God of speculation. Pray until you know so! God has promised healing in His Word. Keep praying, Church! Pray in the name of Jesus until you get your miracle!”

I grew nervous… God, please don’t let him call on me. Even if I HAD been healed, I was growing more and more intimidated by the maniac on the stage with his big, booming voice and accusations phrased as questions. I secretly decided that if he called on me, I’d just say, “Praise Jesus” and quickly sit down. Surely, God could see how tense this had become.

The man went back to pacing and praying. And then…

“You!” he pointed in my direction, “YOU! Are YOU healed?!”

Adrenaline shot through my system landing like a cannon ball to the stomach. Then I realized, he wasn’t looking at me. He had addressed the woman standing right next to me, thirty years my senior, and one of the church’s largest financial givers. A fixture in our church.

She didn’t flinch at being singled out, “No. I’m not healed,” she said. The praying stopped throughout the sanctuary as silence fell hard with a thud.

A look of dismay crossed the evangelist’s face. Finally he said in a tone of disgust, “Why not?!”

She looked him square in the eye and said, “I don’t know why. I’ve done what you said.” For a moment, the two stood toe-to-toe, just looking at each other in a sort of stand off.

Slowly, I eased myself down into the pew, asking God to make it swallow me.

Sermon“Something is standing in the way of your miracle! And it’s not God.” the evangelist accused looking down at her as much figuratively as literally. He turned to address the entire congregation.

“Our God is the God of restoration and healing. If we are not healed, the problem lies with us!” Then he looked back at her, “What is it that’s standing in your way?”

“I’ve repented of my sin,” she said. “I have faith and I do believe. But I’m not healed. I don’t know of anything that’s standing in my way.”

He took a couple steps in her direction and looked at her prayer partner, “What about you?” Everyone waited, breathless. But the woman just stood there, saying nothing.

Finally the evangelist took a step back, let his shoulders fall in defeat and said, “Look, people. You must stand before God pure and holy, cleansed of all sin. Full of faith. Ready to receive His blessings! You can’t let Satan rob you of what is rightfully yours!” Then in seeming exasperation he added, “Let’s take some time in worship right now. Band… keep playing. People of God… keep praying. Don’t let Satan have a foothold.”

worshipWithin a few minutes, arms were raised and eyes were closed and in short order, people ascended back into a state of fully involved praise and worship.

For a few minutes, I stood among my brothers and sisters in Christ, completely nonplussed. What had just happened?

The boxing match was over, but the woman didn’t budge from her spot. She stood keeping her eye on the evangelist.

At the earliest possible moment, I quietly collected my purse and slipped passed her, out the side door and went home.

The following morning I arrived at work at the church office. The woman who had sparred with the evangelist the night before arrived shortly after. She marched up the steps of the church, directly into the church office demanding an audience with the pastor. She came back the next day and the day after that, too.

I wasn’t privy to the discussions behind closed doors between the two. What I know are these things:  I was also not healed that night. Many others said the same. The evangelist/healer never returned to our church. And our pastor never again spoke his name to our congregation.

Whatta ya think-Share your thoughts about this postin the comment sectionat the bottom.Scripture references:

James 5:14-15: “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.  And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.”
Matthew 7:7-8: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
Matthew 7:11: “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”
Matthew 18:19: “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
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7 thoughts on “True Story: Toe-To-Toe With The Healing Evangelist

  1. Hi Ms. Way. I have a question that I think I asked you once before, but you did not answer it. I attend a United Methodist Church. In the middle of a hymn being sung by the congregation, three or four people will raise their hand up in the air like it is some sort of antenna that will allow them to receive special messages from “Own Ha.” I figure these people must have come to our church from some other church background. Whenever I see them, I would like to go over, smack them across the face, and say: “What in the heck are you doing? United Methodists don’t do bullshit like this. Put her down!!!!”

    What sort of church background do these people come from and what is this raised hand crap all about? What does it mean?

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    1. Gosh! Sorry if I missed this question previously. Can’t seem to find it.

      Anyway, lifting hands in worship for us in our Charismatic/Full-Gospel church was described to me in a couple of ways. 1). It’s a gesture of childlike faith saying, “Daddy, pick me up!” to God. You know, like how a toddler runs to mommy with her hands in stretched toward her. And/Or 2). It’s an act of surrender.

      When people stretched their hands out toward someone being prayed for, it’s usually because they aren’t close enough to actually touch them, but the act of stretching the hand toward them while they’re being prayed for was a simple act of faith… of joining your faith with theirs in prayer from a distance.

      My background makes me a mutt. Early childhood was spent in the UMC. Then I got mixed up in the Full-Gospel movement at around the time that a new Charismatic church formed downtown. Once it was up and running, I went to both the UMC AND the new Charismatic church depending on what was going on. Eventually I dropped the UMC altogether and went full throttle Charismatic. But after I got sick to death of the sexist BS and the drama over women preachers and stuff like that, I told my husband, “No more charismatic crap” so we returned to the UMC at that point and he eventually became a UMC pastor.

      Every now and then someone would show up at worship at our UMC and raise their hands. People were okay with it but it didn’t catch on. I never did that … once I left the Full-Gospel movement, I left the hand raising and tongue talking for private moments when “the spirit moved me.” Blech.

      Anyway… hope that clarifies.

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  2. During the summer before my senior year in high school, my mother asked me to take some clothes to the coin laundry down the street and wash them for her. I had been sitting there only a few minutes when this old lady came into the laundry all excited and floating on Cloud 9. In the midst of all this personal excitement churning within her, she shot over to where I was sitting and out it all came:

    “You know why I is so excited? Have you ever heard of the Penny Cost? I heard about it in Church yesterday. They called it the penny cost because it only costed a penny. But back in them Bible times, a penny was a plenty. All the disciples was sitting together in this thing called The Upper Room. And then all of a sudden, the wind was blowing hard in that room, tongues of fire filled the room, and they started a talkin’ in all kinds of strange languages. They called this the Penny Cost for some reason? (Pausing briefly) You know what? I bet the real Penny Cost was that bill them disciples had to pay for a rentin’ that thar Upper Room.”

    Ever since that day, I have never been able to look at the word “Pentecost” without thinking “Penny Cost.”

    She did not break out into speaking in tongues in the laundry. However, I felt almost certain that if I were ever trapped in a Penny Costal church, and i was feeling the pressure all of you were in that healing service, I would just crumple up, pretend to be having an epileptic seizure, and start yelling: “Yabba Dabba Doo!!! Yabba Dabba Doo!!! Yabba Dabba Doo!!! Yabba Dabba Doo!!!! Heck, if Fred Flintstone can do it, why not me too?”

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  3. There’s much to say about this!

    – I definitely see the group pressure to conform. You obviously picked up on it as people hesitated to report healing.

    – As strong as the pressure is to conform, it is also very fragile. It only takes one person who doesn’t go along to impact the whole operation. I’m glad that woman stood up to the “healing” preacher. I wish I could have heard her at the church office.

    – I don’t like how the pastor brought that “healer” into his church. I don’t like that “healer’s” manipulative and accusatory tone. Worse, I’m frustrated and even angry at the congregation who don’t have the guts to stand up for themselves. They willingly waste something very important: their intellect. Yet, I’m torn because I also understand how the congregants can be victims here.

    – Undoubtedly, a collection was taken and it was all tax-exempt. No refunds were given for those unhealed. No one was arrested for fraud. Christianity has privilege in our society.

    (Way, I love your posts! I can’t always read them as soon as they’re published but I always look forward to them).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Marty! Hi!

    Thanks for commenting! So encouraging!

    I gotta say, this post stirred things up in me. Recollecting how we all sat there on those pews like bumps on pickles, NOT standing with the one woman who had the guts to do it just makes me sick! I give myself a tiny pass on this as I was such a young woman. Not much of a pass, but I see our pastor as the one with the power who should have put a stop to the entire thing.

    That sheeple mentality… the pressure to conform… we are pack animals, after all. To be that one lone voice is a very difficult role to play. I didn’t have it in me back in the day and even now, that would take an enormous amount of courage.

    I’ve wondered about the woman in the story many times over the years. How I would love to sit down with her now and talk about this incident. Wonder what she’d say?

    Thanks again Marty! Love your observations!

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