On a very recent trip to train pastors in Africa, I was reminded again of the critical nature of this ministry for the well-being of the church. Upon arrival at the airport, we drove an hour to the capital city. All along the way were many-colored banners reading, “Healing Jesus Crusade.” They were all over the city as well. During our six-hour drive the next day to the small town where we were to teach, the banners colored the dusty roads and plastered the town. That evening, I learned that this country is only one stop for the crusade. Evidently, the preacher from Nigeria is crisscrossing all of Africa with his crusade.
As I looked at the title, “Healing Jesus Crusade,” I wondered what it meant and what was the connection between “healing,” “Jesus,” and “crusade.” Was this going to be a crusade about healing Jesus of something? With interest, I asked my students what they understood the crusade to be about. They were full of praise for the fact that it was coming to their town. I was informed that the preacher is a rich former medical doctor from Nigeria and since he is rich, he is not looking for money. That he loves God and only wants to serve him. Then I asked, “What do you know of the message he preaches?” They answered that he heals many people at his crusades. I tried in vain to get an explanation of the message preached. I then asked what they hoped to be accomplished at the crusade. The resounding answer was that many healings will take place.
This answer is exactly the problem, isn’t it? Crusades are supposed to be about preaching the gospel and calling people to repentance and salvation in Christ Jesus through the power of the cross. Yet, in this one place, and throughout Africa, crusades are more an occasion to perform healings. They are remembered more for the healings received than for the message preached, more for the preacher than for the person preached (Christ).
For example, a day after the three day crusade ended, one key pastor who attended was asked, “In one sentence or two, can you summarize for me the gospel that was preached at the crusade?” He answered that truly the gospel was preached because many people were healed. He was again asked, “Can you please not tell me about healings first but about the message that was preached?” The pastor replied, with a smile on his face, “Oh, yes, the preacher did a very good job preaching and so many people came forward and received healings.” The exchange went on for several minutes but in the end, a summary of the gospel was not given. A man with a hunchback was totally healed. A lady who sells in the market and has never spoken was now speaking. So, it was a wonderful successful crusade.
What are we to make of the response of this pastor? See the next post.