Courtesy The Australian
By Spencer D Gear
The Australian newspaper (story from the Sunday Mail) reported on ‘Teen God squad Culture Shifters’ miracle cure claims’ (April 15, 2012). The account began:
CHILDREN as young as 13 claim they have instantly healed hundreds of people using the miracle powers of Jesus on Queensland streets.
The Pentecostal group Culture Shifters in Queensland says it has healed people suffering from cancer and multiple sclerosis and is developing a large youth following.
Children from the group have been approaching people at random on the street, prompting alarm from parents and warnings from doctors for the sick to seek medical attention.
“Anyone who has a medical condition should always seek advice from their doctor,” Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Richard Kidd said.
Leaders, aged in their teens and 20s, claim they have also healed an entire football team’s injuries, given hearing to a deaf woman and brought sight to a girl’s blind eye.
What is the verification for this kind of healing? Have the football team’s injuries been checked by a medical practitioner to confirm that the healings are legitimate? What about the healed deaf woman and healed blind eye? How do we know they are valid healings?
The story went on to say that this 160-member group of Culture Shifters is from Christian Outreach Centre, Bridgeman Downs (a northern Brisbane suburb) and is led by Grant Shaw, 27, and his wife, Emma, 23.
It claimed these Culture Shifters were even talking to teens in busy places like the Chermside Shopping Centre.
Some live action
If you want to see these people in action, live, see the report on Today Tonight, ‘Teenage God squad’ (Yahoo!7 News). Viewing these images caused me some concern. It is typical of some of the scenes I have seen in Pentecostal and charismatic churches with people falling and lying spread out on the floor after ‘falling under the Spirit’.
Here are some of my concerns:
- It is rare for the mass media to report in an accurate and sympathetic manner in most ordinary circumstances with the church. Viewing something as extreme as this is hardly going to attract balanced journalism, in my view.
- The mass media can give Christianity a bashing on too many occasions. See ‘Gay rights protest outside Court’s church’; ‘Sometimes. love, even if a gift from Jesus, is not good enough’; ‘Sunday nights with John Cleary: Bishop Shelby Spong’. Therefore, with the Culture Shifters (Teen God squad) there could be a possibility that the media have taken a true event and given some media spin to make it sound like the deluded fanatics are involved in this event.
- From the news item and the TV program, there is no way to know if the media are reporting accurately. However,
- As a former Assemblies of God minister and Bible college teacher, I can say that I’ve seen some fruit-loopy things happen in the name of being ‘slain in the Spirit’. I have to admit that some of what I’ve seen could have involved another spirit.
- I have known a very few people associated with various Christian Outreach Centres and have found them to be reasonable, committed evangelical Christians who love the Lord and are available for the Lord’s ministry through the gifts of the Spirit. They are sane people whose relationship with Jesus is sound.
- By the very nature of Pentecostal-charismatic churches, we can expect to see some extreme behaviour – depending on the extent to which the pastors and elders maintain the biblical requirement, ‘But everything should be done in a fitting and orderly way’ (1 Cor. 14:40 NIV). We have seen out-there behaviour associated with the alleged Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Pensacola Outpouring.
- However, charismatic manifestations have extended to other churches. An example locally to me is Burpengary Baptist Church (northern Brisbane).
What we need
Part of the problem, as I see it, is the need for verification of what they are doing in a very secular Australia. I do not find anywhere in Scripture where God promises physical healing to all who are prayed for. The secular media love to report failures. Is doing this on the streets risky and could it give false hope? Also, Today Tonight reported that it has not seen any certificates to verify the healings. This is a valid request.
I believe in the God who can heal, but we must never order him when to do this. He’s the sovereign Lord. What do secular people think when they are prayed for and nothing happens?
This raises another issue. It seems to me that the Scriptures teach that the ministry of healing is to be within the church and not taking it to the secular mainstream. The gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:9, 28, 30) and praying for the sick, anointing with oil (James 5:14) are church ministries within the church. There are good reasons why the Lord has made it this way in a pastoral, caring environment where there also is further support.
Was healing ever an evangelistic tool after the Lord’s resurrection? I know some will turn to Mark 16:15-18 where proclaiming the Gospel is associated with ‘these signs will accompany those who believe’, including laying hands on the sick and they will recover (v. 18). However, Mark 16:9-20 is not in the earliest Greek manuscripts and some other early Greek NT witnesses that we have. It could have been an insertion that was not in the original documents. However, it does seem to indicate that this was an example of the continuing ministry of the church after the death of the apostles.
To address this textual issue, I commend, ‘Irony in the end: A textual and literary analysis of Mark 16:8’.
The gifts of the Spirit do continue into the 21st century. See my articles,
- ‘The Rhema barb and its poison’;
- ‘The gift of prophecy as non-binding revelation’;
- ‘Does the superiority of NT revelation exclude the continuation of the gifts of the Spirit? Is cessationism biblical?’
- ‘Are miracles valuable?’
- ‘Are the dead raised today? Pastor’s resurrection in Nigeria’;
- ‘Can cessationism be supported by Scripture and church history?’
We need to take seriously the exhortation of Scripture to ‘weigh carefully’ the content of the gifts of the Spirit. The ‘weigh carefully’ message was particularly related to the gift of prophecy. See my article, ‘1 Corinthians 14:29: Weigh carefully’.
There is no way to know if the healing ministry of the teen God squad of the Culture Shifters is genuine without verification of the reality of healings. There is a danger that a wrong emphasis can be given to secular people when there is prayer for healing and no healing takes place. God’s gift of healing is sovereign and according to his will. See my article, ‘Should God heal all Christians who pray for healing?’
Care must be taken to avoid Pentecostal extremes. However, the mass media are not likely to deliver a balanced view of what is happening. Extreme behaviour will attract the media, but balanced treatment can’t be expected from the secular journalists. They have a different agenda. When God heals, it is designed to bring glory and attraction to the Lord.
‘But all things should be done decently and in order’ (1 Cor 14:40 ESV)
Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 16 October 2015.