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Seeking to be a biblical church, they now pray more for healing

EDMOND, Okla. (BP)–“Was blind, but now I see.” This phrase in one of Southern Baptists’ favorite hymns is more than just words to Nita Surritte and members of Henderson Hills Baptist Church, Edmond, Okla.
Surritte, a kindergarten teacher at Clegern Elementary School in Edmond, developed an eye infection on a Caribbean cruise which was causing her to go blind.
With medication not improving the condition, Surritte’s husband, an elder and pastor of ministries at Henderson Hills, suggested prayer for healing.
Although it was a first for the seven-member elder counsel at the church, the elders anointed Surritte and prayed for her healing in a private setting at the church.
Surritte said that night was terrible for her and she could not fall asleep because of a headache. However, the next morning when she got out of bed, she could see everything crystal clear.
An appointment to the doctor that morning revealed no sign of the amoebas which had caused the infection nor any scarring which would have been present if the condition had cleared up with the use of medication.
“This is not something medicine could have done,” said Brad Farris, professor of opthamology at the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine who works at the Dean A. McGee Eye Clinic, and who had been treating Surrite. “This was from the Lord.”
“If the Lord starts a work with someone as high profile as a pastor and his wife, others want in on it,” said Henderson Hills pastor Dennis Newkirk. So at the Edmond church, prayer for physical healing has become a regular occurrence.
“We aren’t trying to create a healing crusade or a religious carnival,” Newkirk said. “We have also seen God say no to physical healing.”
Newkirk explained that Henderson Hills is striving to become a true New Testament church trying to determine what it means to succeed in being a church.
In 1995, Newkirk gathered a group of spiritually mature Christians to get together to read through the New Testament to find out what the Lord affirmed and what he criticized about the church.
“We asked the questions, ‘Do numerical growth, baptisms, giving determine a church’s success, and is it possible to be larger than last year and not be succeeding?’” said Newkirk, whose church is the fastest-growing in Edmond.
He said the study group discovered what was found in the Gospels, Acts and Epistles was summarized in Revelation where John talked about the seven churches in Asia.
“Prayer for people in the first church was handled differently,” Newkirk said. “How many times do we take our Wednesday night prayer list, and pray for the people who are sick, in the hospital, and pray asking God to heal tonight and expecting he will?”
Luke 4:16-19 has come to mean a lot to the Edmond church, Newkirk explained.
“In this passage, Jesus mentions four things — the preaching of the gospel to the poor, healing of the brokenhearted, deliverance of the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, Newkirk pointed out.
“Baptists have said the church is the body of Christ and he left us here to do the things he did. We don’t want a ministry of Henderson Hills Baptist Church, but of Jesus. We believe ministry regularly uses all of the areas of spiritual, emotional and physical healing.”
Newkirk said the New Testament uses two terms for the miraculous power of God to heal — “therapeuo” and “iaomai,” which means to heal to bring glory to God.
“It is a cure that not only reverses the condition, but physically brings glory to God,” Newkirk explained. “Jesus healed for both reasons. He cared about people, and he wanted to bring glory to his Father.”
A passage which Newkirk admits brought conflict between what it says and his prejudices is James 5:14-15 which calls for the elders of the church to pray over the sick and anoint them with oil that they may be healed.
“I’m much more comfortable with John 3:16 because I’ve seen it happen lots of times,” Newkirk confessed.
“But the question remained, ‘Are we going to do what the Bible says?’” he asked.
Surritte, of course, was an encouragement to the ministry, but “we have seen other miracles occur,” Newkirk noted.
He told of two women, Debbie and Sandy, who were having severe headaches which rendered them both incapacitated. Debbie also had a gynecological problem, and after praying for each of the women, their problems ceased within a week and have not recurred.
“Fervent, expectant prayer can do more than most of us have ever experienced,” Newkirk said. But he noted that God does not say yes all the time.
“We prayed for a man in our church who has three cancerous tumors,” the pastor recounted. “He’s currently in the hospital trying a new treatment, but so far, he’s not better. God hasn’t promised every person is going to be healed.”
Newkirk himself is the recipient of a healing prayer. Diagnosed with prostate cancer, he elected to have surgery to deal with it. Only three hours after the 1 p.m. surgery, he was wheeled back to his room sitting up, waving and talking to people. He started walking the night of the surgery and was hospitalized only two days instead of the expected four to five days.
“I felt no pain at all,” Newkirk said. “The doctor said I was the poster boy for prostatectomy, but I told him I was the poster boy for God’s healing.”
“I know from personal experience, from observation and from God’s Word that prayer works.”
Newkirk, who said he expected some resistance or at least skepticism from church members, said Baptists should not be afraid to be involved in all four of the ministries of Jesus.
“All I’ve heard from our members is ‘We wondered why our church didn’t do this,’” Newkirk commented.
The church’s responsibility is to pray for the person, Newkirk said, and it is God’s responsibility how he answers that prayer.
“We try not to make healing the issue, but intimacy with God,” Newkirk emphasized.
Newkirk said he does not feel qualified to give advice to other churches, but he would encourage churches to get a group of spiritually mature Christians together to determine what the church should and should not be doing and then have courage to do what the Bible says.
He said Henderson Hills is not about Sunday school, preaching, music, missions or evangelism, although “we do all those things.”
“Our heart is to be a thoroughly biblical church that passionately seeks God’s presence. For us the highest value is not numbers or money, but helping people improve their relationships with God.”

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  • Dana Williamson