Ministering with Power: a book review

I met Jordan Seng once. I  have friends who attend his church and have wonderful things to say about him, but our only meeting was while I was part of a leadership class at Bible Institute Hawaii.  Seng came and lectured on supernatural ministry and had us pray for healing for our classmates.  While I questioned parts of what he shared with us that evening, I remember feeling disarmed by his humble and gracious demeanor.

Seng’s new book, Miracle Work describes his approach to supernatural ministry.  Seng encourages Christians to pursue the power to work miracles–to heal the sick, cast out demons, deliver prophetic words and intercede with power.  Seng admits that talking about the supernatural is kind of ‘out there’ (7), but he sees the value in trusting God to work his power in people’s life. This book is subtitled “a down-to-earth guide to supernatural ministries,” and Seng is relatively down-to-earth, you know, for a prophetic type with a PhD.  He weaves together practical advice for doing direct supernatural ministry with anecdotes of the Lord’s power at work in his ministry and congregation.

So how does one get the power to work miracles? Seng presents what he calls ‘the power equation” (and apologizes for how cheesy and infomercial-like that sounds)(55). The power equation is

    Authority + Gifting + Faith + Consecration = Power

Seng isn’t arguing that power comes with mathematical precision, but his approach acknowledges multiple variables in effecting miracles (contra some ‘word of faith’ teaching). ‘Authority’ is derivative and comes through walking in obedience to God. ‘Gifting’ denotes that people are uniquely gifted by God for particular ministries (i.e. the gift of healing, the gift of prophesy, etc.). The ‘faith’ of the minister and the recipient also  impact our capacity for miracles. ‘Consecration’ describes a process of self sacrifice by which increases our ability to minister with power. Seng’s equation illustrates that a multiplicity of factors combine together to make up (Christian) spiritual power. A person may not have the gift of healing, but because of their faith, their consecrated life and their lifestyle of obedience, God may work healing through them. Conversely, a gifted prophet may ‘lose’ power by not attending to their spiritual health or healing can happen even when there is a lack of faith. The Bottom line is the things that help you cultivate intimacy with God also increase your power to minister in His name (74).

There are lots of stories through out the book but in five practical chapters Seng describes the various supernatural ministries. There is a chapter on healing, deliverance ministry (casting out demons), prophecy, intercession and receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. What sets Seng’s book apart from other primers on supernatural ministry, is his avoidance of prescribed method or technique. He doesn’t have ‘magic words’ or ‘special prayers.’  Even when he does give a ‘technique,’ he is careful to note the secondary importance of method. In his chapter on healing, he writes:

Technique is not the key  to healing; having the Supernatural power of the Lord is the key.  But we have to go about healing in some fashion and we will probably benefit from some basic approach to build and adjust as opportunities for power present themselves.

So, here is a model

1. Locate a sick person.

2. Place a hand on their shoulder and say,  “In the name of Jesus, be healed.”

That is pretty much it. (87)

Of course there is a lot of practical advice given along the way and some of it sounds suspiciously like ‘technique.’ For example. Seng commends ministers of healing to  build the faith of those we are ministering to by  sharing testimonies of healing (88-90).  This sounds like a technique to  me. But mostly Seng just encourages readers to set about practicing supernatural ministry and growing in it by doing it.  Because he values authenticity in ministry, Seng exhorts pastors to share both their victories and defeats (i.e. failed healing, botched prophecies, etc). because it builds trust and helps teach ‘the congregation to help with confirmation and discernment’ (158-9).

This is a thoughtful book and and I enjoyed reading some of Seng’s stories. Because I have trusted friends who attend his church, I find I trust Seng’s account of supernatural ministry. I believe he has participated in healing, deliverance and prophetic ministries and has been fruitful in doing it.  Reading this book makes me excited about what God can and will do for those who risk following him in this type of ministry.  This book made me hunger for more of the Spirit’s presence and power in my life.

That being said, I didn’t always buy his theological account of miracles and how to gain spiritual power. Occasionally I thought his use of scripture was more ‘proof texting’ than helpfully illustrating his points.  I also wonder if he gives any space for a ‘theology of weakness.’ For Seng, ‘healing is the default position.’ However I think of the thorn in Paul’s flesh he describes in 2 Corinthians 12 and how his wounds taught him the sufficiency of God’s grace. But I can agree with Seng that Christians sometimes are too quick to excuse their powerlessness in the face of suffering rather than risking to alleviate it..

My misgivings aside, I still give this book four stars. Seng has written one of the most thoughtful, practical and accessible guides to supernatural ministry.  While I demur from aspects of his theology, he still inspires me to pray bolder for more of the Lord’s power in my life and ministry. I value his witness as a practitioner more than his theology. If you read this, I promise you will be challenged to minister in the power of Christ.

Thank you to InterVarsity Press for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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