Dealing With Doubt

Dealing With Doubt April 7, 2016

Dealing with Doubt Patheos Andy Gill

20+ years… and I’ve never seen it.

The supernatural. Healings, walking on water, people rising from the dead, the blind seeing, the lame walking…

I know as a guy in ministry I’m supposed to pretend like I’ve seen it or tell stories that others have relayed to me… but the truth is, I’ve never experienced it first hand, and because of that, I’m skeptical.

I’ve been to all types of churches, pentecostal, assemblies of god, nondenominational, baptist… etc.

And I’ve been in services or events (The Calling) where people with sore ankles, or a “bad shoulder” have been supposedly “healed”. Where they run you through the “prayer tunnel”, the pastor comes down off the stage and prays over someone until they fall…

I’ve also been to churches where the pastors openly prophesy from the pulpit, or say something along the lines of

“I’m sensing the spirit tell me that there’s someone in here that _____”

…is struggling with porn.

…is struggling with anger.

…has a bad knee.

I mean these generic, “fortune cookie” prophesies…

Go figure in a church of 500+ college age students and 20 somethings one of the males is looking at porn. It might have been more of a miracle if he knew one of them wasn’t…

Or the most common factor would be at a camp, when you have a week of fun, games, and bad food… Add in moody emo worship, and a dynamically emotional speaker, bring up the topic of “father”, of course you’re going to have 90% of the room filled with teenage girls and guys crying… I don’t think that’s bad, I think it’s great to have an emotional release, a place to get away from reality and be bathed with love from leaders, and to be poured into by a speaker.

But my point is that’s NATURAL, for a teenage girl to cry in a situation like that… but what I’m weary of, is when we create environments like this, and then when the natural occur’s we tell people its the “supernatural” it’s the movement of God…

You don’t need the holy spirit for reactions like this! (There I said it) Go to a Boys and Girls club, Fat Camp, whatever… you’ll see similar things… why? Because it’s natural… but what about the supernatural?

When I read through the red letters, I don’t come across minor healings or generic prophesies, I see Peter walking on water, the blind gaining sight, people rising from the dead, prophecies being fulfilled, things happening that are so big, and out of the ordinary there’s no explanation BUT the supernatural, that being the spirit of God… I don’t see Paul molding or crafting a message, setting up emotionally manipulative situations… no I see him completely getting out of the way, at times boring people to the point of death literally, relying on the power of God… So that when The Spirit moves there is no doubt in anyones mind who it was.

1 Corinthians 2:4-5: “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.”

I just gotta say it… unapologetically:

I don’t see that power when I’m in church… I’ve never seen it. I’m not saying it doesn’t exist, I believe in God, I believe Jesus is God, the ONLY God… I just question if the church has embraced the tools of this world (lights, dynamic speaker, kick mic’s, etc) over the power of the holy spirit…

“As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive our demons. Freely you have received freely give…” – Jesus

Where is that today? Not the natural and expected, but the SUPERNATURAL and unexplainable?

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  • Megan

    “If you pray regularly, IRREGULAR things will happen on a regular basis.” Just pray for it . . maybe you’ll see it more . . .

  • Josh

    i love this post, Andy. your courage to write it shows all the humility and sincerity of a genuine lover of Jesus. thank you. reading your post was better than a cup of coffee for me this morning. :^)

    personally, my conviction is that there needs to be an internal transformation before there is an external transformation. …and i’m mean regarding the church. we seek the works/theology of Christ more than the life/presence of Christ. we seek the resurrection more than the crucifixion. we seek the power of the Holy Spirit more than the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. a lot of times, i don’t feel like our hope is in Christ, but instead, it is in our own church’s way of worshiping Christ and ability to bring people to it.

    i, like you, just want Christ. i don’t want to be obsessed with signs of Christ, which is my tendency, i just want to see Christ “in all and through all.” in all the broken, in all the sick, in all the healthy, in all the hurting, in all the disgusting, in all the beauty, in all, in all, and through it all. most of the time we approach healing as if we need “it” to be fixed and THEN Christ will be present in “it.” maybe that’s why Christ refuses to show up in that way? because we refuse to accept that he is present in this way?

    “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign.”

  • Love it.

  • Megan, you’re students are SO frickin’ blessed to have someone like you… seriously. (random haha, but true)

  • Kayon Watson

    let the holy spirit deal with the doubt for you, he knows what to do with better than us.

  • Guest

    I’ve never seen a miracle. Yes, I’ve seen subtle miracles (circumstances falling into place, etc), the ones that should definitely not be ignored, but I’ve never witnessed the supernatural. If miracles were part of Jesus’ life and were also part of the disciples life, why aren’t they part of mine? Is it because I am not close enough to God? Is it because I didn’t have the right upbringing where I was surrounded by people who not only believed in the possibility of miracles, but also performed them through God’s power? I believe that they are real and that they are a part of Christianity in THIS generation. I have heard too many stories from people I trust about the miracles they have witnessed or been a part of. Miracles are almost, dare I say it, “common” in their lives! And yet you find whole churches of Christians who have rarely or never experienced the supernatural. How is this possible?

  • Matt Scanlan

    Hey Andy, long time no see. Perhaps we don’t see major signs and miracles very often in the West because it’s just so spiritually dead. People have become so cynical and underwhelmed, even us Christians, that we are almost immune to the supernatural. A guest pastor came to my church last week and preached about this. We can’t even worship as God intended us to because we seem to lack the ability to be in awe…of anything.

    I think what we lack is crazy faith. I’m talking bat-crap crazy faith that the world scoffs at. The Bible is a book of wonders. Just read Genesis or Revelation. It begins and ends with things so profound, all you can do fall on your face and worship God. Somehow, we can read about the creation of the world and victory over death itself, call it a nice story, and watch the basketball game.

    I don’t know where this is coming from. Maybe it’s a byproduct of the wonders that man has created. We live in a world of wonders, so perhaps we are numb to it? Many of us have flown higher and faster than any bird, all while sitting down and sipping a soda. I do that at least 6 times per year. We’ve put a man on the moon and we’ve dug up mountains. Having seen these things, maybe we are comfortable with the wonders of man and nobody is seeking the wonders of God?

    I don’t think the wonders of man are inherently bad. Knowing that the universe is so big, we can’t even measure it or make a guess as to its size really gives some uumph to our view of how big our God is. We literally don’t even know whether or not it is infinite and limited by the speed of light, we can’t even try to explore it. We need to look at the world like children, who are amazed just to see a bulldozer or a model plane. If we start looking at God like children instead of as cynical, old and bitter men, perhaps God will respond with wonders of His own? Why would God give us signs that we can’t appreciate if Jesus didn’t give signs to people like us?

    You have to check out some of the sermons that my pastor has given. God is totally using this man. I go to City Church in Seattle, by the way. http://thecity.org/archives

    Check out “The Wonder of Worship” (guest pastor). They’re all good, but I put particular emphasis on “Jesus is Bringing Sexy Back” and “Jesus is the Glory of God”. These are must-see’s.

    God bless you, Andy. I will pray for your ministry.

  • Johnprickett

    I’ve seen both the supernatural and the unexplainable (although unexplainable is the wrong word for it I think, because it is actually not that hard to explain since we are talking about the same God who was alive and well during the time of the Bible when plenty of this stuff happened). My favorite part of experiencing it is usually the way people are so blown away by the personal way in which God touches them because of it. It is so fun when Jesus personalizes his love in such a way. Of course I wish I saw more of it though that is for sure! I think we will continue to though if we really are pursuing Jesus. Because you are certainly correct that it was so common in Jesus and the life of the early church. You could always fly to Mozambique and hang with Heidi and Rolland Baker and the orphans and pastors at Iris Ministries for a few weeks and you’d probably see so much unquestionably supernatural 1 Cor 2:4-5 type stuff, you’d hardly have the blogging space for it. Which raises the question, why so much of the “miraculous” and “supernatural” in places like Mozambique and seemingly so much less here? The best book I’ve read on the topic is called “Turnings” by a guy named Guy Cheavreau. Not sure if you are a big reader or not, but if you are, I think you would enjoy it.

  • I’ll check out that book, but your question is great! “why so much of the ‘miraculous’ and ‘supernatural’ in places like Mozambique and seemingly so much less here?”

  • great, yet frustrating questions… I think it almost makes the journey more exciting in a weird way. This doesn’t make me doubt God, so much as it makes me doubt myself, my own faith, and I hesitantly say… the church. great questions!

  • Johnprickett

    Just for fun, here is one of the “deaf hearing” and a spine being straightened from a friend of mine at the harbor, Carmen Elisa Lynch. Not sure if you have met her. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pw-yT4GaFjw

  • I think you wonderfully summed up the very same thoughts, feelings, opinions, views, and experiences I’ve been dealing with for a couple years now. I’m 22 years old and have grown up in the church. It seems like the older I get, the more I hear about and see the “supernatural,” when in reality, it’s little more than the natural. I, too, am not saying I don’t believe in truly supernatural. I, too, believe in God, in Jesus as God, in the ONLY God, but the “supernatural” that so many churches seem to rave over is not the same supernatural I read in Scripture. I guess we’re all entitled to our own perspectives, experiences, and opinions, but I’m with you on this one…

  • Andrew Peterson

    Makes me think of a sermon I heard by Sam Wells while he was at Duke. You should look it up; most of their stuff is still available via their podcast channel. The title is ‘Does God Heal?’

  • Savannah

    You should watch ‘Finger of God’, ‘Furious Love’ and ‘Father of Lights’. It’s a series of documentaries directed by Darren Wilson and produced by Wanderlust Productions. Wilson made these movies because he had the same questions as you did about the supernatural today. He not only didn’t see it in any of the churches, but actually doubted whether it existed. So he set out to the travel the world and film the miraculous in action. The results are amazing. They left me speechless and greatly impacted my life. I highly recommend them.

  • Aaron Norris

    I love the transparency you are approaching this with. I tend to agree with you. I also appreciate the attempt to facilitate a discussion rather than an argument because I think this is one of our more “open-handed” topics, if you will.

    The question I would challenge you with is the application of context of the scriptures written. A hermeneutical analysis implies the idea of Jesus being the son of God as revolutionary to the culture. In other words, any man claiming to be Christ must be capable of extraordinary things. That is not to downplay the power of the Holy Spirit in today’s setting, I fully believe in the power we all possess, through Him, to heal the sick, etc. But this way of thinking is sadly less revolutionary and more familiar to our culture. A lot of people, believers and unbelievers, are familiar with the premise of Christ.

    Therefore it is not shocking the miracles we see are less flashy.

    We must approach from a lens that asks to whom these miracles were meant for; believers, non-believers, neither?

    Thanks for sharing,
    Aaron

  • Joe

    Do you remember that night when You, Bobby and I were on Glacier Point and there was no moon. It was just black. So black that we couldn’t see our hands in front of us. We sat down on some rocks and just talked and listened. The waterfalls in the distance, the wind. I really think the supernatural is around us all the time. The problem is that we are so involved in ourselves that we have lost sight of it.

  • Can’t believe you remember that moment! Out of the two weeks we vacationed, that is the one moment I probably, will never forget.

  • Rachel Hebert

    Andy
    I love your honesty. Your questions are always like a breath of fresh air. Perhaps because I think you bring forth some serious questions for the Church. This (like so many other issues) is something I would imagine many struggle with, but we push it under the rug. Pretend this doesn’t exist. It makes me wonder what would happen if the Church were better about talking about these things, about all the questions and doubts we have. To take a look at them and then look at the Church. As for the supernatural…Do we not see these supernatural occurrences because of technology? Is it a result of culture change? Modern medicine? Questions exactly like what you raise race through my mind. I want answers. I want a formula–Lord, what must we do so that a + b will give us c? And I think that’s something you hit on here: the beauty of the church residing in the unknown. The church as striving towards the kingdom in the best way a group of fallen people known how to, with various bumps and turns along the way. Could we see the Church as having survived for thousands of years as something which is Supernatural? That despite various wars and genocide and apathy and technology and persecution and anything else you want to add!–that Church is still alive and active in the world? That it has so many different facets, that there are so many different parts of the body at work? Could that not be considered Supernatural? Ok, I’ve rambled on long enough. Thank you so much for your insights friend! I’m grateful!

  • escott6151

    I thoroughly enjoy reading the humanness in your articles Andy. They are in-depth and you can tell that you aren’t just throwing out “random thoughts” – you’re putting a lot of yourself in there. I’d love to see you talk up the church and encourage us a little more though, ya know? I think you are encouraging, it’s just masked sometimes.

  • Glad you enjoyed what you read :) And I’m sorry that you don’t find these posts as encouraging as you’d like… Though I’m glad you can see some encouragement. Possibly for different people with different cultures and experiences the encouragement can be masked. Though – In regards to the recent guest posts (bringing other voices in to speak into topics, that I can’t, to encourage a broader demographic, i.e. marriage, homosexuality, etc), and the several posts I’ve written (such as the post titled “Hope,” and many more) I’d say my blog is saturated with encouragement, that is clear and unmasked for many. But I think some feeling this way is inevitable – for me growing up in churches that only coddle and “encourage” to a detriment, I want to be a voice that encourages, challenges, and yes at times makes others feel uncomfortable.

    I wonder at times, if Churches such as Corinth always felt “uplifted” after reading or hearing the words of Paul, or if the Pharisees felt loved after dining with Christ and being told, “the prostitutes will enter the kingdom before you” I think we’ve become so used to being coddled – that we forget about the harsh words all through both the old and new testaments, and search for churches and blogs that will only give us these “Jer. 29:11 posts…” (Ironically Jer. was killed for his harsh, seemingly untamed words, and a lack of lifting up oppressive religious leaders…)

  • Leonard Thompson

    This post is so timely for my life! I am going to be running a senior high summer camp literally next week and had been praying for the Spirit to move.
    Subconsciously, i realize now, what I meant by ‘the spirit moving’ was for the kids to visibly display certain emotions during the camp worship services.

    My take away from this article is 1) I am going to do my best not to put on a show- For me this means that when I am preaching, try not to use as many emotional trigger words, and for when I am playing the keyboard, to try not to use emotional trigger chord sequences ( as much).

    Not because these things are bad, but because in a way it is kind of a disservice to the kids if they are thinking that the emotional reaction they are having to the message and the music is the holy spirit, when it might be mostly hype.

    I think the Holy Spirit sometimes will use hype and heightened emotions as a way to connect with us, but it just becomes problematic when our worship experience becomes contingent on whether our emotions are aroused.

    Thanks for the post!

  • I don’t know…I’ve heard prophecies come out that are spooky accurate, like “here’s the street numbers of the house you grew up in…I say that so you’ll believe what comes next…”. I’ve seen a tumor the size of a softball retract. My wife had an incurable disease called Endometriosis. a doctor later told her that she never had it because there is no evidence whatsoever of it in her system.

    I’ve seen all these things and my faith is still weak. I still limp towards the Father rather than run to Him. I still forget that I’ve seen all these things when things get tough. Natural or supernatural, these words we make up to classify our human experience…regardless, I still need Him on a daily basis.

  • Anthony Steele

    I know I’m late to the party, but I was intrigued by this post and wanted to respond. I, too, appreciate your honest questioning and your desire to see more of what Christ wants to do in your life and in the world. That is an awesome desire and aim for your personal walk with Christ, but my question is, “What will that look like when you find it?”

    Jesus came to break into a world of hopelessness and sin with a message and a demonstration of redemption that was to change lives and change the world. He came with signs and wonders that were prophesied about Him. He came with faith lessons for his band of twelve which included the miraculous. He demonstrated the fact that, as Nicodemus said, “no one can do these signs you do unless God is with Him.”

    But, what did Jesus have when He got to Gethsemane and Calvary? He had demonstrated His power to thousands and only had a handful of followers. He had proved His divinity to a group of skeptics who chose to blame all of his marvelous works on the devil. He had gained followers who abandoned Him when the free meals dried up. He even had disciples who had seen it all and still didn’t get it that He was God in the flesh and who at His time of greatest need couldn’t keep their eyes open.

    Yet, when it came to times of real need in His own life, such as the temptation in the wilderness, the agony of Gethsemane, and the physical and spiritual torture of Calvary, Jesus didn’t have a miracle in his “bag of tricks” (as some at the foot of the cross considered them) that he could call upon.

    The point I am making is that Jesus came demonstrating through these signs and miracles that He truly is the Son of God, sent from God, and doing the will of God, and all of the miracles garnered Him very little credibility and very few true, faithful followers. When it came to the times when Jesus could have used a miracle or two, though He could have, He didn’t avail Himself of them.

    Andy you read like a man who wants to draw closer to Jesus. My perception of all this is, though the miracles are real and though they are probably still done in today’s world in areas where God chooses to demonstrate Himself to unbelieving men that way, for someone like you who just wants to see more of Jesus and be like Him, miracles really aren’t what you need. Jesus didn’t need a miracle to hear and obey the will of the Father. He didn’t need nor use miracles to get Him out of a jam, though He was severely tempted to do so multiple times. And the more like Him you choose to become, the less you will need them as well. Just walking with Jesus is good enough to keep you going for a lifetime even without a miracle here and there.

    If you choose to keep on with Jesus, as I believe and hope you will, let it be enough to just be close to your Savior. But, keep your eyes open for a miracle every now and then!
    Tony
    @gozacmission

  • dave

    Andy, I feel the same way about supernatural “evil”. To be honest, after 20+ years as a Christian I no longer believe in “demons” or “devils”. I believe humans can do things we describe as evil or “bad” but I no longer believe there is a spiritual force involved. I DO realize this is problematic for my reading of scripture. My justification is that “demons” was a a part of the 1st century mind-set and not 20th century.