On Saturday, October 28th, one of the largest churches in Toronto – People’s Church, hosted a “Serve the City Day.” The day was focused on evangelism, outreach, and missional leadership and included a plenary session in the morning with the famous charismatic evangelist and author, Patricia Bootsma. I have heard Bootsma speak on more than one occassion, and every time I listen to her I am reminded of how much of a woman of God she is.
Here is a woman who has experienced and helped to bring about healings, prophecies, visions, and more. It is evident when you meet her that the Spirit of God is upon her and the most impressive thing of all, is her humility towards this. She is not someone who does any of these things in order to amass fame and fortune, but rather she is someone who only seeks for God to use her as His evangelistic instrument.
At the conference, Bootsma spoke about the need for intercessory prayer and prayer evangelism. She explained how before we are able to go out and reach the masses, we must first bring the masses to God. For example, before we ever evangelize to a friend, we need to pray that this friend will be open and receptive to what they will hear. We need to become people who plead with God for lost souls and who truly are so deeply disturbed about the lost and the dying that we cry for them.
If there ever was a “Mic Drop” moment in the history of Christian sermons, it would be this line from Bootsma: “Do you love souls or do you just love your ministry?”
What an incredible question to consider. In Matthew 7:21-23, Jesus Himself cautioned that not everyone who calls Him Lord and Master is truly His disciple. In an almost scary way He even mentions that there will be some who will posses charismatic gifts and perhaps even do much good because of them. These individuals may practice gifts of healing, prophecy, or even casting out demons and raising the dead, but in the end times, God Himself will say “depart from Me, I never knew you.” How can this be? How can someone who has practiced the gifts of the Spirit not be in-line with the Spirit of God to the point that He even says He doesn’t know who they are?
The answer is then clearly laid out for us in verse 21 where Jesus explains that only those who do the will of the Father are truly His disciples. In other words, only those who truly love souls, who engaged in ministry for the sake of the Kingdom (rather than for reasons of wealth, pride, fame, or prestige) are those God wants to associate with. I believe this is a great warning for anyone in ministry, but especially for those of us who have the charismatic gifts. A gifted preacher or evangelist such as Billy Graham may gain attraction and a following, but we also live in a day and age where people are impressed by signs and wonders.
Therefore, when someone comes along not just claiming, but actually proving that they have the ability to raise someone from the dead or to heal the sick, our attention is piqued. And so, those of us with this gift, need to be cautious of how we use it and how it will be interpreted. If it is not for the saving of souls and for evangelical purposes – we should forget about it. The Lord gives us gifts in order to use them – not to abuse them. They are never there to draw attention to ourselves, but only to draw attention to God, and the minute we forget that is the moment we risk being one of the goats rather than one of the sheep.
I know not everyone agrees with the charismatic gifts. There are some Christians who feel those gifts were only for a certain time period directly after our Lord came to this earth. In this case, my heart is saddened because I feel these individuals are missing out. When we take the authority of Jesus Christ and use His power to accomplish His mighty acts and deeds, we are not only seeing revival in our own hearts and lives, but also permitting others to experience this revival as well. To hold it back is not only to cut ourselves short, but potentially to leave out great opportunities for evangelism and witness.
At the end of the sermon, I approached a young woman named Ruth, who is Patricia Bootsma’s intern. Ruth is Scottish and I have a heart for Scotland (having lived there for a year) and as we talked Ruth felt the Holy Spirit upon her heart and asked if she could pray and prophesy over me. I agreed. Ruth prayed that God might use me to bring a great revival to the country of Scotland and to intercede for the needs of the Scottish people even right here in Canada. Upon hearing this great prayer, my heart was glad. I was thankful to have attended a day where I was to minister to others, but I was the one who ended up being ministered to!
Everything about this day was a great experience, but as they say, unless you choose to implement something from a conference or a sermon within the first three days, it will never happen. There is a big temptation to be fed at a conference, but to not feed anyone else in turn. To be inspired, but then to not inspire someone else.
I hope and pray that I continue to implement what I learned about prayer and intercession. That I continue to live out the specific gifts and callings God has given to me not for my own sake or to achieve fame or status, but for the sake of the Gospel. I hope to join the Apostle Paul in saying that whatever I have gained, I now count it all as loss unless souls are saved in the process. Thanks be to God for this indescribable gift of salvation found only in and through Jesus Christ and His shed blood and atonement alone.
Deborah Ruth Ferber is a theologian, panda lover, adventure seeker, and nerdy scholar. A graduate of Tyndale University College and Seminary (BRE, MDiv), Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (Certificate in Theology and Peace Studies) and Harvard Divinity School EdX (Certificate in World Religions). Deborah’s writing has been featured in numerous online publications and print magazines including Mennonite World Review, Purpose Magazine, Premier Christian Magazine, and the Canadian Mennonite.