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Needed: A Place Of Healing

Mal Fletcher
Posted 08 February 2007
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The confirmation a few days ago that the strain of avian flu which killed 2,600 turkeys at an English farm was in fact the H5N1 virus, caused great consternation among consumers and farmers alike.

In the days that followed, more than 159,000 birds were gassed to death within a tight exclusion zone in Suffolk. Experts were quick to point out that the outbreak had been contained and posed little danger to people.

The increase in world population, combined with the high mobility brought about by world travel, have already exposed us to a growing risk of global epidemic. We are seeing rapidly changing viruses emerge in different parts of the world, of which H5N1 is just one example.

AIDS is, of course, the most tragic example of a viral strain which began its life among animals and then mutated to attack human beings. Patrick Dixon, futurist and physician, writes: '[With AIDS] we are seeing one new infection every 15 seconds... Ninety percent of all new infection is among heterosexuals. In 1996 more people died of AIDS in the US than in the entire ten year Vietnam war.'

In 1918-1919 Spanish flu swept the world. It wiped out 30 million people. SARS (severe atypical respiratory syndrome) appeared in 2003 and sent shock waves around the world. In the end, it didn't affect more than a small number of people but new viruses continue to emerge. Scientists have long warned us that another virulent strain of flu could emerge at any time. Dixon continues: 'Every time a new person is infected [with a virus] there is a small risk of a significant mutation… We have no medical protection against viral plague, no equivalent of penicillin for viruses...'

By 2020, though, finding cures for fast-mutating diseases may become a matter of human survival.

In the face of this, extensive research, into gene technology among other things, will aim to find life-saving antiviral treatments. This kind of research will become bigger business than ever, leading to great breakthroughs and, inevitably, to great abuses of corporate power. The church of 2020 will also make its voice heard on issues such as this, calling and modelling a righteous use of human skills and medicines.

For Christian churches, the threat of viral plague and other fast-spreading types of disease, represents a special challenge. The ministry of Jesus Christ was, in his own words, about 'proclaiming the year of the Lord's favour [or, literally, the year of Jubilee].' Jubilee was a special year when all debts were cancelled, people jailed because of debt were set free, and those who'd lost land through debt were able to see it returned to them. It was, if you like, the year of the second chance.

Yet the spirit of Jubilee, the spirit that motivated Jesus, is not just about financial conditions. Jesus showed that Jubilee and the opportunity for a second chance must be extended to all levels of human need. His teaching, including its extensive instruction on money, was aggressively backed with the working of miracles and signs - most often involving healing. He promised that the same signs would follow those who believe in him.

Like Jesus, churches in our age will need to extend the Jubilee spirit to cover human health. The church that seeks to truly serve its community will need to become a centre of divine health. It will believe in and for divine healing. People with sicknesses - even of the worst kind - will be welcomed.

This church will place great emphasis on prayer as the medium for miracles. Being an agent of divine healing will not be the sole prerogative of gifted 'expert practitioners', but the right of every Christian who will stand together with others in faith. Those with a special manifestation of this gift will equip the Body as a whole to minister healing in a humble but authoritative way.

We can expect a trend where more medical treatments are offered by health professionals outside the traditional doctor's surgery or hospital. Already in nations like Britain some treatments are offered in small clinics within railway stations and pharmacies, to relieve the pressure on hospitals. In line with this, many churches will run professionally staffed clinics.

The influential church of the next decade or so - I call it the church of 2020 - will also be involved in providing places of comfort, restoration and assistance for people who are undergoing medical treatment and need practical support. Churches will, often in alliance with other community groups, provide local hospices. These will develop positive links with state-run hospitals.

The church of 2020 will go one step further, bringing back to church life a belief in the power of natural restoratives. It will not become a dispensary for pseudo-scientific 'cures', but a place where there is emphasis on proper diet, exercise and other factors which promote ongoing health. This church will carry the spirit of John Wesley and other early evangelists who practiced and taught on the power of herbal remedies and healthy lifestyle choices.

As the Boomer generation grows old, this so-called 'youth generation' will refuse to lie down and die. Already, Boomers are spending more than any previous group on plastic surgery and other enhancement techniques including hormonal treatments and a plethora of nutritional supplements. There are 77 million Boomers in the US alone and they will continue to reach for the illusive nectar of everlasting youth. Health will be a huge issue for them.

The church of 2020 will offer Boomers health guidance, prayer for healing and new levels of support for the aged.

Along with the opportunity to invest their latter years in kingdom activity, leading to peace of mind.

In its giving and its care for the sick, the church of 2020 will pioneer a new expression of Jubilee.


For more on this, read 'The Church of 2020' by Mal Fletcher. Click here.

What’s your view?

Are you worried about the spread of viral diseases?

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Keywords: H5N1 | bird flu | viral plague | AIDS | Spanish flu | flu | turkeys | Mal Fletcher | Jubilee

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