Serving as a chaplain has hands down been the greatest experience of my life.
What we want
It somehow encompasses a myriad of unique aspects from both the pastoral world and the missionary world. The ever increasing variety of philosophical, ideological, religious, denominational, and theological ideas of the people we serve has us constantly searching for new ways not only to serve them but to reach them with the Gospel. We strive to connect, be relevant, bridge the gap… to find the missing link that unites them with their King.
What we do
There is no shortage of ideas concerning various programs, bible studies, apologetic approaches, counseling techniques, etc. that can be implemented in order to connect our people to Jesus. Whether it’s physical fitness competitions, intellectual debates, or the latest “magic question” in solution-focused counseling—they all have their merits.
What we need
Despite their many advantages, I have discovered the most successful connections and the most impactful moments of ministry are not found in any of the things listed above, but in the demonstration of God’s supernatural authority and power through the Holy Spirit. We do not need more programs, positions, innovative postulations, or intellectual prowess; what we need is more Pentecost.
Why it works
The Hartford Institute for Religious Research estimates there are over 350,000 congregations across the US with 314,000 being Protestant.1 If we add up all the various Christian resources in America we end with more than churches. There are roughly 1,600 Christian broadcasting organizations for Christian Radio, a multitude of TV networks and programs, streaming services, megachurches, para-church organizations, YouTube, and the list can go on.
Knowing the Truth
In 13 years of ministry in various capacities, (youth pastor, associate pastor, worship leader, chaplain, etc) I have never come across a person in America who was not familiar with the Gospel. It is true that many are not familiar with Biblical truth, world view, or knowledge of even “basic” Sunday school stories, but they are aware of the Gospel; “Jesus died for my sins and rose from the dead and Jesus loves me”
Knowing the truth is not the issue for the people we serve, believing that the truth is actually true is the issue. Supernatural manifestations of God’s knowledge, will, power and authority through Pentecostal people living actual Pentecostal lives don’t simply proclaim the truth but demonstrate its reality. People need to know it’s real.
Proof is in the “Spiritual Gifts” pudding
Discussing movies and other trivial matters at an organizational lunch I overheard an acquaintance discussing the immense pain in her right shoulder and her desire and longing for the pain to end. The pain was so severe, she explained, that she was constantly embarrassed being a senior enlisted soldier having to explain to military officers why she could not salute them as they passed by.
Overhearing her speak I politely entered the conversation and asked if she wanted to be better, explaining it was God’s will to heal her.
Not really convinced but being kind she skeptically agreed to let me pray for her. With her permission I laid my hands on the injured shoulder and said a very short and simple prayer; “Father I thank you for your love and healing power, I command this injury and all pain to go now in the name of the Messiah Jesus”.
Raise Your Arm
Asking her to test it out, she attempted carefully to raise her arm to no avail. I reminded her it was God’s will to heal her and prayed again the same way giving the same instruction to test it out. This time she noticed a little more movement and became encouraged.
As she slowly moved her arm more I smiled and told her God was healing her. She suddenly began to laugh almost with unbelief as she described a warm “oil” like sensation filling her injured shoulder “as if someone was putting on IcyHot”.
As she was laughing, moving her arm in previously impossible ways, and describing her experience, I saw in the Spirit the Holy Ghost descend upon her like a blanket and suddenly my mind was filled with supernatural knowledge and prophetic word concerning various events in her life, her current state of mind, and questions about life she had been pondering.
Healing is the Norm
As I shared with her what I saw and what the Lord was showing me she began to cry and with a previously injured arm held high into the air in worship she gave thanks to God through tears of gratitude all while proclaiming that she could “feel the presence of God so real”. God healed her that day, physically and emotionally.
This kind of experience is not the only one, and is the norm more than it is the exception. To that soldier that day, and the numerous others who have similar supernatural encounters with Jesus; experience has linked with knowledge and the reality of the truth has been established.
“…my speech and my message were not in plausible words or wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the Power of God…”2
Many have described our current generation as a “post-Christian” one. Then the enemy has taken great advantage of this by reintroducing ancient mysticism and sorceries under the guise of the “new age” movement. Media and entertainment does not lack its movies, books and television ripe with demonic supernatural narrative.
Ominous as the plan may be, it is a strategy doomed to backfire. The enemy has unwittingly created a culture that is not only more aware of the supernatural, but actively craving it. Where darkness offers a counterfeit we possess the legitimate, making the supernatural and Pentecostal expression of faith not only culturally relevant but culturally necessary.
Supernatural encounter creates an instant and undeniable connection between the people we serve and the God we proclaim. Their unbelieving friends and world around them can present all the counter truth arguments and logical scientific evidence they want, but for the one supernaturally impacted – there is no logic or argument that will ever eliminate their experience.
“…this I do know, I once was blind, but now I see…Why this is an amazing thing!”3
Perhaps the greatest advantage of their connection is its contagious nature. There are a great number of people who have approached me in and outside of the traditional “church” realms (office, bible study, church, etc) seeking answers to spiritual questions based on the testimony of their fellow friends and coworkers who had some supernatural encounter with God. In many of those situations, the conversation leads not only to the sharing of solid biblical truth but also to their own supernatural encounter.
Risk the link
Real faith is spelled R.I.S.K. It is uncomfortable to stand in the hospital room with one of your service members, (prisoners, patients, police officers or the like); look upon his brain dead wife after the doctors tell him she will never recover and tell him, “I don’t care what the doctor says, Jesus is the healer and nothing is impossible with my God” and then command healing to her body in the name of Jesus. What if she dies?
Experience the Risk
It is a valid question and I, in no way, intend to belittle the circumstance. In the case above, I took the risk—the wife recovered fully and the two of them are back motorcycling together today. They didn’t find the missing link… they experienced it and you will never convince them God isn’t real.
“…so Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus…”4
I would rather be a wet water walker than a dry boat sitter. I am convinced that the supernatural expression of the Gospel is designed to be the natural life of every Christian. Our people need the missing link to the one true God and we have it in the expression of our like precious Pentecostal faith. It is a new generation of power waiting to be unleashed…
…will you take the risk?
1. Retrieved from US Religious Census 2010 Summary Findings, www.usreligioncensus.org
2. 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
3. John 9:25-34
4. Matthew 14:29
In article photos in order of appearance: 110125-F-VY627-015 by the U.S. Air Force licensed under U.S. Govt. Work
From the Darkness by the U.S. Marine Corps licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0