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Spiritual Bait & Switch

Years ago, a man walking the streets of Manhattan came across the cornerstone of an old church on which these words were engraved: “God has anointed me to heal the broken hearted, liberate the bruised and set the captives free.” The man marched into the church demanding to see the pastor. He plowed past her and burst into the pastor’s study and confronted the surprised Reverend saying, “I read your cornerstone. When do you do these things?”


The bewildered pastor sputtered at this unexpected intrusion, then replied, “God doesn’t do those things any more.” His indignant visitor spat out, “If you don’t have the goods, you shouldn’t advertise!” He then spun on his heels and left, never to return.


Healing the hurting is still controversial. During my midlife crisis, I struggled because God was calling me to share my healing ministry with the broader Church. Previously, I strictly limited this to my own congregation and a few churches pastored by people I knew well. You see, though it shouldn’t be, healing something as ‘messy’ as emotional pain scares people. Male pastors often look askance at such efforts; so-called ‘Bible believing’ pastors consider it to be too ‘New Age’; even liberal churches find reasons to dismiss it. Like the Pharisees who attacked Jesus, some fundamentalists teach that healing is ‘of the devil’. Yet, I knew I had ‘hidden my light under a bushel’ and the Lord was calling me to burn the bushel!


I was grappling with this when I attended a conference where Robert Johnson, renowned author and Christian Jungian analyst spoke. His book HE helped me with my midlife crisis more than anything I read. I yearned to learn more from him.


Robert befriended me immediately. At every meal, women besieged him seeking a free consultation. He posted me next to his good ear at mealtime so we could talk. When a woman approached, he pointed to his bad ear and said, “Sorry, can’t hear you.”


I described my healing work and shared my fear that I would risk my credibility and be slandered and misunderstood. I mentioned a man who said, “If you’re a year ahead you’re considered a prophet, if you’re two years ahead you’re a martyr.” Robert scowled at me and bluntly muttered, “You are five years ahead and you must live with it. Go ahead, burn that bushel.”


At first, as I let more people know of my healing ministry, my fears seemed unfounded.   Doors opened for me to lead retreats and seminars in churches across the US and even the Bahamas. I was even asked to head up the Counseling Department for the largest Bible College in the world where I taught courses on Sacred Psychology. Invitations flooded in from large churches across America and around the world but eventually, my fears were realized. As pastors and lay people from those churches began to attend retreats and ask their churches to host events in their area, I was summarily dismissed from that position. They refused to say why.


I know why. Churches mistrust anything new, especially if it threatens their comfort zone. Because of this, I fear that many large prosperous churches resemble the church in the book of Revelations that has “a name that you are alive but you are dead” (verse 3:1). Most of these churches depend on a flawed system of bringing people to church so the pastor can evangelize them. Few truly equip their members to make disciples. Most do not train their people to love sinners. Hardly any do anything to fulfill Jesus’ mandate to heal the hurting.


It’s been said the last seven words of a dying church are “We never did it that way before.” William Barkley, the great Bible commentator said that most churches use methods that are 300 years old. He wonders what would happen to medicine if it were stuck with techniques from the 17th Century. 


This suspicion afflicts both liberal and conservative churches only for different reasons. A liberal church that had “healing the hurting” in its mission statement hesitated to try my retreat because a psychologist who interviewed me there didn’t believe such healing was possible. Ironically, she informed me that she liked to believe people got healed through her work which was strictly limited to talk therapy. Since they don’t teach healing in Ph. D. courses and I wasn’t licensed, she felt what I offered couldn’t be valid. I suspect another motive may have factored in. Healing work is so efficient it threatens every therapist’s income stream. Many fear they would go broke if people could get healed in three to six sessions instead of years worth of fifty minute counseling ‘hours’.


A church recently asked me to help write a program for them. I labored many hours on it and was proud of the work. Though writing friends said it was well written and powerfully presented, they declined to use it. They said they needed to watch me and get to know me better. Resumes, references, degrees and people I already knew well there were all unimportant. In the name of protecting the sheep, much of what God’s people really need never gets to them. I fear that egos and turf wars plague the modern mega church.


I learned in the Methodist church that Church boards exist to put out the fires God starts. If Jesus showed up in most American churches, they probably wouldn’t let Him preach. After all, He was theologically untrained, His methods were totally unorthodox and, worst of all, He hung around with some very unsavory characters! Besides, He made the rabbis look awfully bad. He could heal when they couldn’t. He even had the audacity to warn them that they, of all people, were in danger of hellfire. Just think of the trouble He could do start in any self-respecting synagogue.


Ironically, in the third world church, people’s zeal for Christ burns far more brightly than here in the complacent US. They can’t afford the luxury of denying their peoples’ poignant needs. Consequently, they are far more open to healing ministry. The only criterion they use to judge the appropriateness of ministry is the Bible. Church leaders in Pakistan, India and Africa have all asked me to help train their people. They are hungry for healing. If I had the funds for plane tickets, I would be there now.


Secular people here who are no longer enamored with either religion or psychology also clamor for healing. Eating disorders, abuse, emotional neglect and substance abuse have left our entire society with a sad legacy of unhealed pain. Sadly, they can seldom find what they need in church. They have no choice but to turn to the cults who gladly offer them help – for a very steep fee. I saw a brochure last week that offers people retreats that I am quite sure do far less than mine. The cost to attend? Over $1,600.


My favorite professor in seminary used to say, “The cults are the unpaid debts of the church.” He meant that cults pick up on a valid truth that the church ignores, and then base a religion on it. People who need healing should instead be reached for the church. And make no mistake. Any congregation that feeds their hunger for healing will grow. Most churches I trained to “Liberate the Wounded” doubled within a year.


Healing the brokenhearted and setting the captives free is the Churches’ truth. It’s central to Christ’s mission and vitally important in the latter days, yet we ignore it. Very few churches are equipped to even help let alone heal the walking wounded who surround us. While people flock to New Age groups that offer a distorted version of healing, we condemn them but the Church is full of hurting people for whom we do nothing. 


 If that’s to change churches need to offer their people encounters with God that truly transform them. Christians don’t need more lectures and sermons. They’re heads are already full of religious data they can’t use. They hunger for real change and a relevant faith. So does the world Christ wants us to reach. Modern people won’t waste their precious time on phony baloney religion, long irrelevant sermons or guilt laced sermons. Do you blame them?



Ken Unger is President of and founder of, where you can learn more about him and his transformative ministry. click here ,
 "Ken's new book, The Ultimate Breakthrough, goes beyond self help to self healing. You can preview it at  The Ultimate Breakthrough "
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