church and ministry
Heidi Baker’s Uncomfortable Message to America
By J. Lee Grady
CBN.com American missionary Heidi Baker is not a normal preacher. When she spoke at a conference last week in Ohio, she delivered half of her sermon while lying on the floor. She was clutching the microphone while her forehead was resting on the carpet.
“I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,” she said, quoting Philippians 3:8. She interrupted her message several times with the high-pitched giggling that has become her trademark.
This was not your average, seeker-sensitive sermon.
Still, my heart cries: “Lord, do it again.” Next time He does, I pray we will carry the ark the way God intended—and keep our hands off of it.
A petite, 46-year-old blonde, Baker told the crowd at the Encounters Network conference in Cincinnati that those who want to be used by God in powerful ways must learn to relinquish power. She said: “God told me once, ‘I want you to come up to the lowest place.’”
Baker easily could have positioned herself as a Christian superstar. Fluent in several languages, she is a gifted communicator with advanced educational degrees. She also has seen astounding miracles during her 30 years of ministry, especially in Mozambique, where she and her husband, Rolland, have planted more than 7,000 “bush churches,” five Bible schools and four children’s feeding centers since 1990.
Just days before she arrived in Cincinnati, Baker prayed for two blind beggars who wandered into her tent meeting at her base in Pemba, Mozambique. Both men instantly received their sight after Baker wet her fingers with saliva and touched their eyes.
Such astounding miracles are common to Heidi and Rolland. They have seen God supernaturally multiply rice and chili to feed hungry orphans. Heidi has watched paralytics walk for the first time after they received prayer. And indigenous pastors the Bakers trained in Mozambique have raised 53 people from the dead so far.
But Heidi Baker does not carry herself like a celebrity evangelist. She does not wear designer clothes or arrive at conferences in limousines. She does not wave her hand over audiences, throw her coat on people or mail slick magazines with photographs of her standing in front of crowds of Africans.
When it is time to minister to the sick, she often calls her trained team to do most of the praying. Sometimes she asks children to pray for the crippled and dying.
She knows that ministry is not about her.
“It is a privilege beyond price to see the joy and affection of the Holy Spirit poured out like a waterfall on people who have known so much severe hardship, disappointment and bitter loneliness in their lives,” Baker wrote recently in her online ministry report.
“From the freezing cold gypsy huts of eastern Bulgaria to the 115 degree heat of Sudanese refugee camps, from the isolated native Inuits of arctic Canada to the dirt-poor subsistence farmers along the Zambezi River, we see ravenous desire for God among the poor and lowly. Jesus knows their suffering, and He will make it up to them. He will be their God, and they will be His people. He will use them to shame the wise and make the world jealous of their wealth toward Him.”
At the Cincinnati conference, which was sponsored by charismatic ministers James and Michal Ann Goll, Baker rebuked the American church in her sweet and disarming way. Because she lives “in the dirt” among the poorest people in Africa, she says, God has taught her principles from the Bible that sophisticated Western Christians struggle to understand.
“God wants to tweak some things” in the Western church, she said, noting that we place too much importance on position, intellect and human ability.
She then demonstrated the solution to our dilemma by kneeling on the floor again. “God wants laid-down love,” Baker said. Hundreds of people—myself included—put our faces in the carpet and asked for the humble heart of Jesus to wreck our pride.
Being with Heidi Baker last weekend helped me reorder my priorities. I was reminded that ministry is not about visibility; it is about serving in secret. Ministry is not about giving people a slick, culturally relevant presentation; it is about offending the mind to reach the heart. Ministry is not about making rich Christians feel good about themselves; it is about seeing the face of Jesus in the face of a starving, AIDS-infected child.
Baker’s message made me uncomfortable, but the squirming was all worth it. I’ve decided I want to go lower—into a place of humility where the presence and power of God can be known.
I hope all of us will take that plunge.
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J. Lee Grady is the editor of Charisma and an award-winning journalist.
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Reprinted with permission from Charisma Online. Copyright Strang Communications Co., USA. All rights reserved.
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