I’m reading this book twenty years after it was the big thing. I remember my dad had it on his shelf; as a child I was confused by the flowers on the front, which are, of course, fireworks. I don’t know that my dad took much of it on board, but it was on our bookshelf for many years before one of my mum’s book culls.
The book doesn’t answer either of the issues that I thought were the burning faith questions for me (atrocities in the Old Testament and the delayed return of Christ). So I don’t know why I started reading it. But as I’ve been reading I’ve felt a sense that this is the right book for me to be reading right now. It’s a joyful excitement, a buzz that Wimber is onto something here.
(This has happened before: once I went to see Ian Packer while I was in the grip of doubt over the Old Testament. For some prophetic reason, he started talking about an unrelated topic – eschatology, the new heavens, new earth stuff – and it was exactly the word I needed to hear. I came away renewed even though the questions I had weren’t answered.)
From the first few chapters, my understanding so far is that Wimber is saying that the most effective evangelism is preceded by signs and wonders – healings, prophetic words, encounters with the Holy Spirit – which overcome people’s obstacles to believing in a way that years of rational argument might not.
His argument makes sense of something that has troubled me for years – the amount of space given over in the gospels to Jesus healing people. He says that of 3779 verses in the four gospels, 727 relate to healing – 19%. It was a huge part of Jesus’ ministry and the apostles’ ministry, but not how much of contemporary Christian mission happens.
Having said this, I’m suspicious of healing services and much pentecostalism. I can see all the dangers that Sydney Anglicans and conservative Baptists would warn us of. (You don’t really need me to go into that. You know, I know, let’s just leave it at that.) Even if what Wimber is saying is true, I think that true ‘power evangelism’ is rare. I want to see it happen, but I want it to be genuine and a lasting way of life.