Feature

Place of Healing and Grace

Encountering Jesus in our brokenness

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Men and women filled the front of the auditorium in Viviers, France. They had come to Living Waters, an annual conference hosted by a French ministry, to seek healing for emotional wounds that had caused pain and dysfunction in their lives.

Some suffered crippling shame because of negative messages they had heard and believed as children: “You’ll never amount to anything.” “You’re stupid.”

Others struggled to receive the Father’s love because their own dads had failed them. Insecurity, guilt, fear of failure, broken relationships, and lack of forgiveness were themes the conference addressed. Sexual abuse was an especially difficult topic.

Each day of Living Waters included worship, teaching, and individuals receiving prayer. But this time a huge number came forward for prayer because of another kind of abuse: the spiritual abuse received from a pastor or church leader.

Many of them had been crushed by controlling pastors who felt threatened by others’ giftedness. For some, legalistic attitudes and rigidity had drained their joy. They had received condemnation and criticism rather than support and encouragement.

Many separated from the church because the leaders had destroyed their trust. The very shepherds whom Jesus had appointed to feed and care for their souls had hurt them deeply.

As I and the other team members stood behind the men and women praying, sorrow seized me over this breach of confidence. I began sobbing. God was demonstrating His own grief for the brokenness in His Church, and it pierced my heart.

For many years the Father has burdened me to see healing come to believers in France so they can know their true identity in Christ. That day God gave me another vision: to see healing come from the top down—through the leaders.

Healing Prayer

Someone once said, “Hurt people hurt people.” Oh, how we can see this in the church, both here and abroad! “The long painful history of the Church is the history of people ever and again tempted to choose power over love, control over the cross, being a leader over being led,” said Henri Nouwen, a writer and theologian.

A church can be no healthier than its leaders. Even though they love God and desire to serve Him, they may act out of their own wounds. To be used by God to help others find healing, we have to experience it for ourselves. My journey of being renewed began more than 15 years ago. God used Leanne Payne’s book The Healing Presence, but I was alone in the process, and progress was slow.

After a few years, I started a group with a few like-minded women. We went through the book Experiencing Healing Prayer by Rick Richardson. Each week we read a chapter and discussed it together. Then we practiced focusing on Jesus and listening to God as we took turns praying for each other.

One said, “This verse has just come to me.” (It was right on.) Another time: “I have a picture in my mind of you as a young girl standing in a hallway, crying. Does this mean anything to you?” (It did.) Or, “This word came to my mind. What does it mean to you?” (It was the word needed.)

Sometimes what we thought God had said didn’t seem to apply, but it was OK because we were processing together, learning to hear Him.

More Like Jesus

When I discovered that Living Waters was doing this kind of healing prayer in Toulouse, France, I got involved. At the first conference, the Lord spoke to me about shame I had been living with for many years.

I used to have a repetitive, embarrassing dream that I was in public only half-dressed. God revealed to me that this was not my shame but that I had taken on my mother’s. She had always felt unworthy.

I could picture Him removing a mantle of shame from my shoulders and replacing it with His robe of righteousness and then girding me with the belt of truth. I went from feeling that I was bent with humiliation to feeling that I was 10-feet tall. I never had another of those shame-filled dreams after that day.

Other encounters have helped me as well to get rid of baggage and to be trained to help others. God used Terry Wardle’s Healing Care Ministries to show me how to move from seeking to hear from Him for the person with whom I was praying to helping her learn to hear from Jesus herself.

This past May I audited the Soul Care course taught by Dr. Rob Reimer at Alliance Theological Seminary. Rob’s own journey and ministry have gifted him to offer tools that enable us to move from acting out of our brokenness to living with a healthy soul.

As with the other methods, Rob’s book Soul Care has some elements of counseling and uses Scripture to speak truth. Central to each method is a personal encounter with the living Christ. As we become self-aware, we can open ourselves to the Spirit’s transforming power in deeper ways. The goal is always to be more like Jesus, to move in the Spirit, and not just to feel better.

Mentoring Ministry

In France, my husband, Brad, and I have sought to make EPI, the church we planted outside of Toulouse, a place of healing and grace.

Several years ago a gifted French couple came to us from a spiritually abusive church with another denomination. The pastor lorded over the flock with power and control. He was fickle, showed favoritism, and promised things he never gave.

When Jerry and Brenda* first came to EPI, they walked in fear of offending or stepping out of line. The wife was a gifted worship leader, but she was amazed we wanted her to lead worship. In time they realized we weren’t seeking to promote our own kingdom but God’s, and they experienced the freedom of a healthy church.

As Brad and I return to France for our last term, we will transition from being a pastoral couple to turning the church plant over to French leadership. God appears to be raising up a mentoring ministry where we can walk alongside French leaders and model soul care as we have learned and experienced it for ourselves.

Our desire is to see churches filled with believers who dwell in the Spirit and walk in love, unencumbered by emotional baggage. We long to see reconciliation with the estranged, who have been hurt by the church. Our vision is for congregations all over France to be refuges, where the wounded world can encounter the living Lord, who brings light to the darkness and sets captives free.

*Names changed

5 responses to Place of Healing and Grace

  1. Thank you Brad and Tina for the welcome and love we’ve been shown at EPI. It is a wonderful place of worship, refuge and healing.

  2. Thank you for this article. It seems implausible that people are attending our churches for years and are allowed to remain in shame and emotional pain.

    I love you guys

  3. Tina, I am very impressed with this writing, but even more touched by what you have written. you are a gifted leader, in many ways. I am so lucky to call you my sister in law.
    love, Barbi

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