That’s certainly a common question that I’m asked regularly these days. The easy answer is that God seems to be at work. But honestly, God has been at work among us for 31 years. This feels different.
It is amazing, powerful, mystical, and sometimes baffling all at the same time. Here’s how it started:
As is our yearly custom, we started a church-wide 21 day fast on the first Wednesday of January. It’s something we do to jumpstart our year spiritually. The goal is to get closer to God and provide distance from the things that get between us and our relationship with him. Shortly before the fast began, my youngest daughter found out that she has breast cancer. Immediately she began treatment and as a family we began to pray for her healing.
Our lead pastor, Josh Surratt decided to end the fast with a prayer and healing service on the fourth Wednesday night of January, partially motivated by the fact that his sister was battling cancer. He invited a couple of friends from Nashville, Josh Silverberg and Wes Pickering, who had prayed for our guitarist, Micah Nichols, to be healed a few months before (You can watch his story HERE). We really had no idea what to expect.
We couldn’t have imagined what happened that night.
We worshipped, Josh Silverberg shared some scripture and a few stories of healing, and then we began to pray. The night finally ended 7 hours later with at least 200 people reporting being healed. We saw some amazing, unexplainable things. Almost every day we receive reports of someone else being healed by God’s power. As a staff we have been following up, calling people to ask, “Are you still healed?” We’ve heard about people watching the Facebook live broadcast days later and being healed. We’ve had people healed in almost every weekend service since.
When we announced a second night of healing prayer a little over a month later, nearly 3,000 people showed up at our Mount Pleasant Campus. Thousands more were at other campuses and online. The same thing happened again, with hundreds reporting healings.
All of this has brought more than a few questions. We as leaders have questions. I’ll try to address a few that I’ve either had myself or someone has brought to my attention in the last few days.
Has Seacoast gone Pentecostal?
I was recently asked, “Is Seacoast going Pentecostal or are we still a nondenominational type church?” Let me try to answer that this way:
From the beginning 31 years ago, we have tried to avoid labels and categories. I’ve never thought they were very helpful. Everyone has their own definition and previous experience of what that label/category means and it may not reflect accurately who we really are. Labels also tend to create an “us against them” environment.
That being said, there are two theological categories or distinctions that characterize most churches: “cessationism” and “continuationism.”
Cessationists believe spiritual gifts like healing, prophecy, and speaking in tongues ended when the Old Testament canon closed at Malachi, and did not begin again until John the Baptist came on the scene. Such gifts again ceased at the close of the New Testament canon.
Continuationists believe the Holy Spirit’s miraculous gifts are still available to us today.
By those definitions, Seacoast has always been in the “continuationist” camp. We believe that all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available and necessary for the church today. Historically, Lutheran, Methodist, Pentecostal, and other denominational as well as many nondenominational churches are “continuationists”.
So, if you had to label us, we would be “nondenominational” (because we don’t belong to any one denomination) “continuationist.” Try saying that three times in a row!!
Are people really being healed?
It appears to be so. Hundreds of people would testify as to that being the case. Many have even gone to doctors to verify the healing. You can read stories of healing (here), (here), (here), and (here).
What about the people who aren’t healed?
This is a question that comes with a lot of emotion. “Why wasn’t I or my loved one healed?” “If everyone isn’t healed, should I even ask?” “How do you explain to those who weren’t healed?”
According to scripture, Jesus healed every kind of disease and sickness (Matt 9:35). At times his disciples weren’t as successful (Matt 17:16). Just because some weren’t miraculously healed right away, it apparently didn’t stop them from praying for the next person.
I believe that everyone we pray for is healed.
- Some are healed immediately through prayer.
- Some are healed progressively by doctors and medicine.
- Some are healed eternally by entry into heaven.
My family has experienced all three:
- As a teenager I was miraculously healed of a kidney disease called glomerulonephritis.
- Both my son and my daughter have been prayed over recently but have not yet received a “miracle” healing. My son’s healing from plantar fasciitis came through surgery shortly after our first healing prayer night. My daughter continues to be healed of breast cancer through doctors and cancer treatment.
- My mother was healed of breast cancer when she entered into eternal life in Heaven.
Honestly, I would rather see a “right now” miracle in my family. At the same time, I am at peace knowing that God is good, and his mercies are new every morning. He will more than sustain us through whatever we face. I also know that the Bible instructs me to always pray for those who are sick (James 5:14), knowing that every prayer potentially contains a miracle.
I am not going to stop praying for miracles of healing just because every prayer doesn’t accomplish what I want in the time table I desire. We are continuing to pray for my daughter. The timing is God’s responsibility, the act of asking is mine. I’m going to do my part and trust Him to do his.
Is everything that’s happening at Seacoast really God at work?
That’s actually an easy one. The answer is “no,” not everything is fully God. We are flawed human beings. All of us. We have our own agendas, weaknesses, spiritual baggage and sin issues, just to list a few. Churches are messy representations of a gracious God.
A friend who studies moves of God told me to expect about “70% God, 20% flesh and 10% evil.” The role of the leadership is to put guard rails up that will limit flesh and guard against evil without limiting the creative work of God. That’s a delicate balance.
It’s okay to say, “Hmmm, I’m not sure about that” when you see something that doesn’t feel quite right. I certainly have. The danger comes from building guard rails so high that you miss what God may want to do. I’d rather err on the side of innocent naivety than to be shut out of God’s potential blessings by hardening cynicism. God promises to bless the pure in heart and to resist the proud of heart.
As leaders, we will do all we can to reign in occasional fleshly outbursts, guard against the wiles of the evil one and welcome the refreshing that comes from an amazing and sometimes surprising God.
Is this a revival?
There have been times throughout history when God uniquely visits his people for a season.
- King Josiah is described in 2 Kings 22 & 23 as restoring worship and leading Israel through a time of national revival.
- The book of Acts describes God visiting his people with a fresh move of his Spirit.
- American society experienced a number of “Awakenings” around the years 1727, 1792, 1830, 1857 and 1882.
- In the early 1900s there was a revival in Wales called the Welsh revival and one in Los Angeles called the Azusa Street Revival (which most Pentecostal movements sprang from).
- In the 1970s there was the Jesus People Movement that spawned contemporary Christian music and several movements such as Calvary Chapel and Vineyard.
- There have been many others down through history. They were usually characterized by unusual visitations from God resulting in a greater passion for his presence and a desire to love and reach more people for his kingdom.
Is this one of those? We don’t know, but we’d like to hope so. We would love to be a part of God awakening his people to his love and goodness.
Only time will tell.
Where do we go from here?
First, we are going to follow Jesus. All that’s happening now flowed out of a prompting from our Lead Pastor to schedule a single service for healing prayer.
Second, we are not going to try to control God. It would be easy to retreat to a comfort zone. We are a little uncomfortable and that’s probably a good thing.
Third, we are going to continue to make room. Thankfully we’ve already had response times programmed in at the end of our weekend services to make room for what God may want to say to us individually. We will continue to empower our prayer teams to pray healing prayers over those in need. We will also use First Wednesdays to lean into what God is doing among us. We may have periodic services specifically for healing prayer. We will not try to recreate what God has done in the past, but we will try to follow Jesus as best we can today. Stay tuned.