Five days ago, Olive Heiligenthal passed away very suddenly and unexpectedly. She was two years old, and the daughter of Kalley, one of Bethel Music’s key worship leaders, and a personal mentor to my daughter Jordyn. Of course, this has rocked all of us and is the latest in a string of tragedies.
But what happened next really kind of rocked my world. Olive’s parents asked the church to join with them in praying for resurrection for their little girl.
You heard me right.
To date, the church has been praying, holding nightly worship gatherings, and calling their whole house to come alongside this couple and believe for Olive to “wake up”. For some great insight into what is happening, check out this short video from Pastor Bill Johnson. Among other things, Bill gives a compelling Biblical basis for asking Jesus to raise the dead.
Of course, as with anything unusual in the Body of Christ, be it the recent phenomena with Kanye West’s conversion and subsequent Sunday Services, or Bethel’s resurrection prayer request, the critics in church-world are loud and proud about their “inspired" insight.
So frickin' typical.
Let me respond with a couple of thoughts.
First, these kinds of things are not "black and white", especially around secondary issues like healing, gifts of the spirit, and the miraculous. There are many shades of grey and nuances, yet we have a tendency to treat some of these mysteries as if they're straight-forward. At the very least, both critics and enthusiasts alike should acknowledge that it’s a possibility (even if remote) that the Jesus of the Bible might direct someone to believe and pray for resurrection. That's what I mean by "shades of grey".
Additionally, we outsiders sit back and pass judgement, thinking we see clearly when clearly there are aspects we do not understand about any specific situation. All of our observation is second-hand, and this should at least give us pause before flippantly throwing our opinion into the ring. I’m as guilty as anyone in doing this. A few years ago, I wrote a piece in defence of Mark Driscoll when he was booted out of his church in Seattle. Although I stand by what I wrote, there were things I had no idea about behind the scenes, and parishioners of Marshill, including some of their staff, were too happy to “straighten me out”. Ha, I still get emails from that particular blog and have been called a "jackass" more times than I can count :).
Sadly, passing judgment without the facts is prevalent in our society. Facts don’t even seem to matter anymore. Emotions rule. Feelings trump truth. And truth - this is important - is tough to nail down when your sources are second-hand (or third-hand, etc.). I’m not suggesting this doesn’t mean you can’t have an informed opinion unless you’re an eye-witness. You can be smart about things, intelligent, using good ol' horse-sense. But remember that there’s a HIGH probability you’re not getting the whole picture.
That’s undoubtedly the case with what is currently happening in Bethel. And because my daughter and son-in-law are actually there, attending BSSM, participating in prayer meetings, involved in leadership, intimately connected to this story, I can assure you that what you hear in the blogosphere and what’s actually happening are often two different things.
Secondly, and more importantly by far, I’m deeply thankful that there are churches like Bethel that aren’t afraid to step out, be audacious, go where no one's gone before (this specific scenario is a first for them), and pave the way for the rest of us to experience more.
You can think they’re crazy, but at least acknowledge that they also have great faith - even if misguided (which I don't for a second believe) this is laudable.
And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it. It shall belong to those who walk on the way; even if they are fools, they shall not go astray. Isaiah 35:8 (ESV)
God, I wish more of us would - without compromising our integrity - be fools for Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:18). With an authentic heart for God and desire to follow His Word, the promise in Isaiah is that you'll be okay.
Just look at Peter being willing to step out of the boat and walk on water, or Abraham obediently taking his son to the altar, or Peter and John pulling a lame man to his feet with the command to "rise up and walk”.
I want to be counted with those that took chances, banking on the "luck of the Lord", as my friend Ian Green would say. I would sooner error on the side of risk-taking than playing it safe, confined to my stuffy comfort-zone.
And yes, faith believes without seeing. It’s the substance of things “hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). We don’t hope for what we see or what we’ve seen (Romans 8:24-25). That’s where I want to live my life. Not in the shadow of my own finite experience and limited understanding.
Put another way, I’d rather take leaps of faith and fall on my face a time or two, then play it safe when it comes to my relationship with God. This kind of attitude pleases him (Hebrews 11:6).
Further, the worst that can happen is that Olive doesn’t “wake up”. Which means she’s with Jesus. The worst that can happen is you aren’t healed. Which means you’ll be given the grace to handle that illness, and if it takes your life, you’ll be with Jesus. The worst that can happen is God says “no” to your request, which means he has something BETTER in mind and will give you the grace to persevere, to endure.
And that's not all that bad.
I say it's totally worth the risk to ask big.
Like Andrew and Kalley, and the people of Bethel, we’ve made our choice, and we trust Jesus in all things. If the biggest fear is unanswered prayer, we’ve weathered that before and it’s only made us stronger, more committed, and more convinced than ever that Jesus can be trusted in all things.
So what have we to lose? We win in death. We win in resurrection.