QUESTION: It seems that times in the word of faith “camp” or various charismatics circles, the ministers have been called up to heaven, visited by Jesus Himself, have grand visions etc. I have a few questions concerning this: 1. Why are no other pastors having these experiences ? 2. Are many of these fabricated, exaggerated, or misrepresented or do you believe they’re truthful experiences? 3. How can you sort out who is telling the truth and who is misrepresenting – all while keeping your own heart soft and not jaded… or judgemental
This is a great question and in some way I have been studying on this a lot lately and I believe I can speak about it. The first thing we need to ask is, are these legitimate or not? I believe that supernatural experiences can and should be something Christian’s have. However it will look different for each person. That said, let’s get to your questions.
First, why aren’t other pastors having these experiences? To this I want to say a few things. It’s not just for pastors or ministers to have experience, so what we need to ask is why aren’t more people in general? For legitimate experiences I believe with all my heart that God visits people on a few criteria. We must understand that it is only by His will. 1 Corinthians 12:11 (NASB) says, “But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. Experience with God can only happen on His terms, we can never make it happen.
Another side of this is something I also believe with all my heart, is that God will not visit people who are not open to spiritual things. Hebrews 11:6 (NASB) says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a REWARDER OF THOSE who seek Him.” He rewards the hungry, not the critical. People who are closed minded, like people in some denominations that outright reject spiritual experiences, will likely never have them. Remember Jesus said not to cast pearls before swine? That is not as much an insult as it is the idea that those who will only reject or take lightly spiritual things are not worthy of them. 1 Thessalonians 5:20 warns believers not to despise prophecy, or think lightly of it. If we despise it, we will likely not be blessed with it.
Secondly, as whether these experiences are true or not, I’d say maybe. Early on in my walk I had been burned in some overly experiential churches. As a result, I wanted little to do with any kind of charismatic church. When I came to Family Church, I had no idea of the beliefs. I loved how they put the Word first and I learned so much. As I started learning about spiritual things I got more and more intrigued. I remember having a hard time with the laying on of hands. Then one day the Lord helped me with this.
He encouraged me to look at my pastor. See, after being there for five years, I had learned in that time that I could trust my pastor in these things. I finally said, if he embraces it, knowing he is sincere and knowledgeable giving himself to the Word, then I can too. I did and life has never been the same. I said all that to say this, learn who to trust and trust them in what you can trust them in. Have I ever seen things different than my pastor? Certainly! However, I know his character and there are things I don’t even need to question because of that. I don’t listen to everyone who has experience, but I do with those who have proven character. Even if they aren’t a minister!
Now onto the third question, how do you know who’s legit without being judgy (my rephrase)? I’m going to say something that may shock you. You better be judgy! Notice I didn’t say critical. There’s a difference. A scripture that has changed my life is 1 Thessalonians 5:21 (NASB). “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” Read that a few times and recall it every time something doesn’t sit right with you! God has not given us a brain to forget it and a conscience to ignore it! Remember, God said renew your mind, not throw it out. If something doesn’t sit right with you start asking questions. First of yourself, then of others you trust.
Ask yourself, am I being overly critical or is my concern legitimate? If you truly don’t believe you’re being critical ask the Lord to help you and stay humble (willing to be wrong). Ask people you trust and don’t stop asking until you find peace. I have this policy. If I ask people (like my leaders) a question about something and they can’t or won’t answer it, I have validation for not being settled. However, I make it my absolute goal to be honorable and humble in what and how I ask. I’m always open to being wrong. In fact, I usually go to that first.
I have found something very interesting. If I am concerned about something, usually there are others that have had the same concern. I can’t tell you how many times I have taken a concern about something spiritual to my pastor and he has seen the same issue. That speaks volumes. Any organization that won’t allow or dodges questions is a cult. Some groups can be cult like without being a full blown cult. That’s still wrong.
In the New Testament we are told to follow two things. We follow the Truth, that is God’s Word. Secondly, we follow the Spirit, working through our conscience as it aligns with God’s word. Going to Heaven and other experiences may happen but it is my doubt that someone does this all the time. You don’t need intense experiences to be spiritual, you simply need to follow His Spirit. Where He leads will always bear fruit!
By the way, there’s so many great discussions that could and should be had from this Faith Fix. Not based on what I said, but based on the content itself.