Miracle Work, Jordan Seng. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2013.
Summary: A description of how God wants to work through us to do things in the world, including supernatural things like healing, delivering people from demons, prophesying, or intercessory prayer.
Jordan Seng contends that the whole work of Christian ministry is God partnering with us to get things done in the world. In all of those things, God is the one empowering, and we are the ones doing–preaching, serving, calling people to faith. His contention is that this extends to the things we might call “supernatural”. God wants to partner with us in healing people, delivering them from the demonic, or speaking prophetically into people’s lives. He argues that God wants to work in these ways in a very “hands on” fashion literally–one person with another. It can be amazing, and it can be messy.
If you don’t come from a church where these things happen, this could be uncomfortable reading because it seems kind of wild, a bit out of control, or as Seng says, “weird.” But if we are convinced that God still wants to partner with his people in miraculous ways, as in other ways, then he suggests life could get pretty interesting.
One of the things about Seng’s book, as alluded to in the subtitle, is the “down to earthness” of his instruction. For example he describes his model of healing as follows:
- Locate a sick person.
- Place a hand on the person’s shoulder and say, “In the name of Jesus, be healed.”
That’s pretty much it.
I also appreciate his wisdom when healing does not occur to not look for a problem or lack of faith in the person prayed for, but to encourage people to return for prayer.
It’s similar in his instructions about the demonic, when one discerns the demonic(and he gives instruction on discerning), he simply says, “Demon, Jesus is Lord, and it is time for you to go. Now!” What I like here is that it is not elaborate rituals or formulas but the simple word of command in the name of Christ. This seems to conform most closely with biblical practice.
It is the case this does involve preparation in the life of the person ministering in these ways. All of this has to do with partnering with the God who is powerful so that his power grows in our lives. He proposes an equation that may seem over-simplistic to some, but that he unpacks in ways that make sense:
Authority + Gifting + Faith + Consecration = Power
Authority grows as a fruit of obedience to Jesus. While we can minister without gifting, gifting amplifies our ability to pursue that ministry. Faith grows as we believe (and invite others in our context to join us) God genuinely wants to do these good things, or rather wants us to do them in his power. Consecration involves separating from worldly practice and setting oneself apart by prayer and fasting. I had a mixed reaction to this “formula.” I absolutely affirm these elements. But he seems to speak in an almost quantitative way of amounts of each of these elements adding up to the amount of power and that lacks in one area can be made up for by plenty in other areas. I think I would simply want to pursue more of each, and nothing that hindered God’s work.
He also teaches in this book on ministries of prophecy and intercession. Each of the major teaching sections is inter-leaved with personal narrative. The book concludes with a discussion of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, marked in many instances but not all by speaking in tongues or some outward manifestation. This may be the most controversial for some, including myself, who would affirm that conversion and Spirit baptism go together. Yet I do think there is an important point in what he teaches. In many of our churches, we are effectively binatarians and do not instruct people in the presence and power of God’s Spirit in their lives, nor affirm the value of laying on of hands and praying for the fullness of the Spirit’s work in our lives. We would agree that this empowering presence is meant for all of the people of God.
I know of places where such things as Seng describes happen regularly. They believe God can work in power and they act in light of this knowledge. I wonder if what may hinder us in the places where this is not so is a combination of a very naturalistic outlook, and maybe more than a hint of fear that we really don’t want God to be that real. Maybe we fear abuses or excesses, but it always has seemed to me that the remedy for abuse is not disuse but proper use. What most persuaded me though was that God’s partnership with us in miraculous works is really no different from his partnership in the things we would deem more ordinary, and yet would seek to do in the power of God.