Can Churches Perform Miracles?

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. – John 14:12

I’m trying to imagine being one of the 12 disciples and hearing this. They had witnessed Jesus performing signs and wonders: Healing the sick, raising the dead, multiplying food and controlling the forces of nature.

That’s a pretty high bar, and Jesus was being serious in John 14:12. These greater works were related to both Jesus’ going to the Father, and the Holy Spirit’s coming (John 16:7). When the disciples received the Holy Spirit, they healed the lame, the blind, the paralyzed, and the sick, just like Jesus. They cast out demons. They spoke in unknown languages, were unharmed by poisonous snakes, and the ground shook when they preached. Even their shadows, and the handkerchiefs they touched produced miracles.

Peter and John Healing the Lame ManNicolas Poussin

Peter and John Healing the Lame Man, Nicolas Poussin

These works of the Holy Spirit are described throughout the book of Acts, as the church took root and grew rapidly (e.g. 2:4; 5:15; 8:39; 9:36-42; 19:12; 20:9-12; 28:3-6).

What if Jesus’ words were also meant for the modern Church? Not just his theology and ethics, but also His promises that His people will perform signs and miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit? His words in John 14:12 seem incredible to me, but not just because they test my faith in the supernatural and mess with my theology. They also force me to examine my own weaknesses, sins and shortsightedness.

I have seen churches use modern technology, management techniques, and creative programming, and they can produce positive results. They can also offer security and predictability. They allow the programmers a certain amount of control over the outcomes.

Is this what spirit-filled ministry is supposed to do? The Holy Spirit, as Jesus told Nicodemus, is like the wind – although we know it’s there, we don’t know where it is going (John 3:8). In other words, when and where the Holy Spirit moves is neither predictable nor controllable.   

There are no prepackaged programs that allow churches to set aside our seeking the direction and power of the Holy Spirit. We should take very seriously the implication of the book of Acts: ministry should not be attempted without the Holy Spirit.

Consider the inspired words of a Eastern Orthodox bishop:

Without the Holy Spirit…

God is far away, Christ stays in the past, the Gospel is a dead letter, the Church is an organization,  mission a matter of propaganda, Christian living a slave morality.

With the Holy Spirit…

The risen Christ is here, the Gospel is the power of life, the Church shows forth the life of the Trinity, mission is a Pentecost and human action is deified.

About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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1 Response to Can Churches Perform Miracles?

  1. Pingback: Can Churches Perform Miracles - HUNTINGTOWN UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

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