The last time I tried to do an honest talks with pastors series, I was tarred and feathered from the first post. I dared suggest to pastors not to instantly promote someone in their church just because they have been to Bible College. Most Bible College graduates have a great knowledge of the Word, but they do not know how to serve and function in local church – especially if they have not even been to local church while at college. Well that through the cat among the pigeons, I can tell you. I ended up deleting the post rather than offend our weak brothers in the faith. Maybe I will return to that thought soon enough, but the last two weeks I have had three conversations about dealing with the situation in churches when someone is not healed. One conversation was regarding a pastor who lost over half his church because someone is not healed. We have see people die of sickness at the Tree, but we haven’t lost people when it happened – we are a growing church.
Now I am talking pastor to pastor here, I don’t mind if an elder is reading this, or a new-born Christian, or a teacher or prophet or evangelist, I love the whole body of Christ and all the ministries, in the next month I have two teachers speaking to my people, two evangelists and one prophet, so I love the fivefold. However, pastoring is not the same. The average Bible teacher or evangelist can go to church A, pray for twenty people, and maybe let’s say they are batting a good average, and ten are healed. That’s a good service! So the most dramatic two or three testimonies are written down and put in the folder. The next week the Bible teacher is in a new church, let’s say getting the same results. Within a month he has a dozen great healing testimonies that will bless anyone.
Meanwhile, back in church A, the pastor is getting grief because “why is that person healed and this person not healed?” Those questions are asked. We have to, by the nature of our ministry, get up in front of the same people over and over again, and we have to get involved with those people, we cannot be deaf to that question. So how do we answer it?
I am going to assume – before I give you five keys that will help you answer this – that you know that Jesus bore our sicknesses and carried our diseases (Matt. 8.17), and that by the stripes of Jesus we are healed (1 Peter 2.24). I am not about to start telling you to tell people God did it, that God is behind it. We know that we have a reception problem not a transmission problem!
But in the light of that truth that healing is for all, what do we say when someone is not healed? When what we read in the Word does not manifest. It might be a long term ailment, it might be someone actually dies of a sickness before their time. What do you say and do?
- Point Our That Although We Have Lost a Battle We Have not Lost the War
If someone dies of sickness before the age of 70 or 80, they have lost a battle. They have somehow not believed the Word and not received the healing that was freely theirs at the cross. That is the truth of God’s Word. Now, I do not think it is wrong for us to admit that we have lost a battle. I wouldn’t put the responsibility on the person who died, even if I knew their declarations, their expectations and their actions were all doubt and unbelief.
There was a man in unbelief in Jesus’ day (Matthew 17) and the discples could not heal his son. Jesus healed the son, so we know what God’s will was – healing. God’s will is always healing. When the disciples asked the Lord why they couldn’t bring healing to the boy, Jesus said it was because of the disciples’ unbelief. When someone in our church dies of sickness, that is not the time to point the finger at the individual, it is time to realize we are all together in this. It is our corporate unbelief that has let this happen. And we all need to shoulder responsibility, not to be condemned, not be beat up – but to refocus on the Word. Maybe this shows you as a church you need to study some more, do some more studies on healing, hold a healing conference. Get that Bible teacher in for a few days.
We all share in the victories, we all need to share in the defeats too. And realize we need to all continue to deal with unbelief to create a culture and atmosphere where healings are common place.
- Lean Into the Problem Not Away from It
Do not hide from the issue or sweep it under the carpet, that is no way to run a church, and will always lead to problems. Things in the dark get worse not better. Hold everything up to the light. If you are ignorant as to why that person died, admit it. Tell the people you do not know. Tell the people what you do know – you know God is good, you know God is the healer, you know God never breaks His Word. You know the reason no miracles happen is unbelief, and you know we never condemn people, we train them, we speak life over them, we love.
But do not ignore the problem. Be the shepherd and lead your people into green pastures and still waters. Still waters are clear waters. Make things clear to people.
I am not saying expose someone’s nakedness – if you know someone did not have faith for healing, don’t tell everyone the issues. Tell your leaders what you know if you need to – but just keep reminding the people that God is good.
If someone has died, preach on heaven. Let them know that person is with Jesus and happier than they have ever been. We might have lost a battle and lost a precious friend and relative twenty years before we should have, but in a billion years from now, no one will care, it will be so minor compared to the eternity we will share with Jesus.
But do not ignore the problem, get up and face it head on. If you need to, and if there is a ground swell of confusion in your church, if people are saying “well it must be God’s will that person is sick or died”, you need to get your leadership team together, make sure they all know what the Bible teaches on healing, and make sure if they are asked, they are all singing the same song.
- Do Not Let People Compare
Someone will blame you, and they will compare you to another minister. Nearly always a travelling minister, because they just have never considered the dynamics of travelling ministry. I already said above why it is different for pastors, and that is just it – pastoring has the greatest cost and greatest reward of all the fivefold ministries. Someone will mention a big healing conference, but they probably in that conference by statistics have a lower percentage of healings than you in the local church. They will mention another pastor who never buried a church member while pastoring, and fail to mention his church was only 10 people and he only pastored for a few years.
You are a pastor, and do not let people compare. A lot of what happens to a pastor is what I call “uncle syndrome”. Children love their uncles, they want to ride in Uncle’s car, they get excited when Uncle gives them a bar of chocolate or a fiver. But dad loves those children, cares for them, looks after them, gives them everything they have, but they go crazy for uncle. Christians love their travelling ministries and conference speakers, and often – especially when things go wrong – they will start to praise their uncles and ignore their fathers. I always say “they buy you the CDs of the speakers they wished you sounded like and the shirts of the speakers they wished you looked like” – and if you haven’t encountered this yet, pastor, it’s only a matter of time!
So, there is a time for teaching on the role of a pastor and why local church is so important, but maybe during a time of mourning it isn’t the right time, but store it up for later, but at the moment you might want to remind your people that “We love (Bible teacher), we love (guest evangelist), we love (other pastor), we love (that bloke off the telly) but God, for better, or for worse, has put us together as family, and we need to support each other right now, rather than get someone else in”. Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you – “hey, can you just help encourage people that God is still good, and still loves us all, even though we clearly lost this one”.
- Speak the Truth in Love
The truth is clear – God’s Word promises all who believe healing. We are healed by grace through faith. We also know when someone fails to receive their healing the “by grace” is never in question, the “by faith” is. Maybe someone never accepted their healing was complete, maybe their imagination never got in on the faith and they never saw themselves healed, maybe their faith never had corresponding actions. But how we communicate that is paramount. We must speak the truth in love.
What does the truth in love look like in situations like these? There are three elements:
- It is kind, as kind as it needs to be but still communicate its messages. Say it gently, softly, with open arms and an open heart.
- It is patient. It takes its time and speaks at the right time. You get that kind of patience from fellowshipping with the Holy Spirit and being led by His peace.
- Finally, it is human. Don’t do this over WhatsApp or from the pulpit, sit down with people face to face and tell them the truth.
- Play the Long Game
As a pastor you are there for the long-term. The pastor who continually moves to bigger churches and plays the denominational game is not a pastor, they are a hireling. You are going to be with these people for a long term. Resist the urge to sweep this under the carpet, mumble something about the mystery of God’s will and tell your people that you never know what God will do. Make sure that in all your kindness, love and pastoral care, people know that healing is always turned on and always there for anyone.
We have seen situations where someone has died, but because we did not compromise the Word, within weeks or months someone is healed of the same condition. We did not let unbelief have a voice, and we did not make excuses. That way when satan attacked again, we could stand and having done all stand.
Be the good shepherd, lay down your life for the sheep. One of the ways you will do that is give up your right to be understood all the time, to be the nice guy all the time. You have to lead your people forward and into truth, and we are in a world of war, and sometimes we have casualties. We need to mourn with those who mourn and at the same time stand on the Word. No other minister has to do both like pastors do, but it can be done.