Review of Dr. Rob Reimer’s Soul Care Ministry (Mitch Schultz)

A SERIOUS DEVIATION

I am seeing many people eagerly embracing some teachings that just seem a bit off. I’ve discovered about myself, and perhaps this is just my wiring (I am Dutch after all), that if I don’t recognize something as familiar, I am prone to begin by questioning it. Not everyone is like that. Some are very trusting. Perhaps it’s just their wiring. It isn’t until they are well down the road of accepting something, perhaps because of the position and authority of a leader, that they begin to pick up on areas that just don’t seem right. 

Let me give you an example. I am a pilot living in Toccoa, GA, and just due north of us, is the town I moved from, Franklin, NC. When I take off, I turn a knob on my heading indicator and pretty much head 360 degrees to arrive at Macon County Airport in Franklin, NC. That is due north: 360 degrees. 180 degrees would be due south. You get the point. Let’s say that on take off, I am just a bit off on my direction, but I don’t notice that I am. Instead of heading 360°, I am heading just shy of that at 359°. One simple degree of difference. Since Franklin is only 40 nautical miles from Toccoa, it’s unlikely that this one degree would cause me to miss the airport. In that short distance, one degree would not be enough to move me off track. But, if my plan had been to fly past Franklin and keep heading north for Knoxville, TN, that one degree, by the time I hoped to reach Knoxville, would have taken me way off course. In flying, we call this deviation. A deviation happens when your tracking is not following your bearing. Bearing is where you should be heading; tracking is where you are actually heading. 

It happens, too, in the way we believe. A slight deviation from bearing, TRUTH, can go unnoticed at first. In a short period of time, we don’t see the difference. We keep following the teacher. After all, he’s trained in this stuff. He’s got his doctorate, and more convincingly, he’s running his own ministry. Like the Berean’s, it’s the believer’s responsibility to hear and test that what is said is truth. Our tracking should be consistent with our bearing. They “received the word with all eagerness (tracking), examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (bearing)” (Acts 17:11).

NECESSARY CATEGORIES

If I were to take everything I’ve been listening to and reading, from Rob Reimer and some others who are unintentionally (or maybe intentionally) functioning in an apostolic way in our denomination, I would sum up what I at first think seems just a bit off by placing them all into three theological categories. One has to do with the old notion of sin, hamartiology, being replaced by a new explanation of our problem, that of being wounded. This has a subtle psychological edge to it. Sin versus being wounded might seem like a small, insignificant distinction at first, but the further you go with it, the more off course you will find yourself from your intended destination, the true Gospel. The second theological category has to do with our understanding of the Holy Spirit or Pneumatology, where guidance and empowering by the Holy Spirit for daily living is replaced by an expectation of power and presence as a way of validating the message of the gospel, thus replacing the message of the Gospel that calls for repentance of sin and the receiving of forgiveness, with an experience. Finally, I will discuss the role of faith in the believer’s life, where faith itself becomes the force and object rather than Jesus. I will look here at the role of faith in our Christology. 

HAMARTIOLOGY AS WOUNDEDNESS 

I believe Dr. Rob Reimer sums up more than adequately his entire ministry and teaching emphasis with the following quote from a recent talk he gave. “I think more people are going to come to faith in Christ today because they know they’re broken in need of a healer than because they know they are a sinner in need of a Savior.” (pg.249 SOUL CARE) Now, on its own, that sounds okay. If I were giving a talk on emotional healing, I might say something like this, but I would qualify it by emphasizing our need for a Savior because we are sinners. Let me give you a real example. 

I met with a pastor for coffee. Somehow, the conversation of helping someone struggle with same sex attraction (SSA) came up. We mutually agreed that someone who struggles with SSA has very likely experienced some deep wounds in their life. The pastor liked what I said next so much, he wrote it down in his notebook. “SSA,” I explained, “might be a result of one’s experiences in life (family dynamics, trauma, abuse, etc.), but it is happening in a life that has been deeply impacted by sin. SSA comes out of one’s sinfulness because we are fallen people and living in a fallen world where much about us is distorted. Certainly, there might be a need to help them process through the wounds, but ultimately, their full and complete rescue will come through the new birth, not fully during this life but certainly in the life to come.” When recently counseling a young man suffering from SSA, I was deeply impressed to see him determined to remain committed to Jesus. He grasped onto the hope that one day he will be set free from this and from all the issues he has struggled with. He understood that his primary struggle was with the flesh. He understood that, as the Apostle Paul said, “in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling” (2 Cor. 5:2). One day, my young friend will put on that heavenly dwelling free of all the stuff that comes by being in this sinful tent. 

Let’s began by discussing what Soul Care is. According to their website, Soul Care is  “a process of getting “unstuck” by cleaning out old hurts, sins, bitterness and secrets to make room for joy, peace, freedom and fullness.” Also, according to Reimer, “Brokenness grasps for the soul of humanity. We are broken body, soul, and spirit, and we need the healing touch of Jesus.” Soul Care explores seven principles that are profound healing tools of God: securing (seven principles) your identity, repentance, breaking family sin patterns, forgiving others, healing wounds, overcoming fears, and deliverance. Riemer often uses the analogy of the soul being like a suitcase. He writes, “Soul Care is about cleaning out your soul from the messiness of life using Biblical principles.  Our soul is like a suitcase, and if it is full of things like bitterness, lies, and secrets, then there is not much room for the good things God wants to give like peace, joy and fullness.”

From his books and multiple talks, I rarely, if at all, hear Reimer speak of our sinful condition, the need for confession and repentance, and accepting God’s forgiveness that is made available through the redemptive work of Christ on the cross. (Soul Care has an entire chapter on repentance, something we cover on our podcast.)  Reimer often uses the analogy of a suitcase to describe the junk that is contained in our soul. In his book, Soul Care, he writes:

“When you start a trip, your suitcase is filled with clean clothes. After a week, the suitcase is filled with dirty clothes. Before you can take the next trip, you have to unpack your suitcase from all the dirty clothes. There’s no room in your suitcase to pack in the nice clean and neat healthy things that creates healthy relationships if you don’t empty out all the dirty clothes. Your soul gets packed up with junk in life, and if you don’t unpack it, you can’t get the good things in life. For example, if you have a lot of anger and bitterness in your soul because of the hurts of your past, and you’ve never forgiven people for what they have done, and you’ve never processed the pain in your life, then there is no room for love and peace in your soul.”

Now, if Reimer offered this analogy occasionally at best and balanced this analogy with a proper doctrine of man’s depravity (see Romans 3:10-18), I would be fine with that. However, it’s the basis for nearly all his talks and again leads predictably to the need for deliverance or rescue by a spectacular intervention of the Holy Spirit. Reimer does more than imply that Christians can be possessed; he assumes it. Many of his conferences end with a time of deliverance. Our problem when we struggle with life, he indicates, is because our souls are stuffed with too many unhealthy things, not because we are sinful people by nature who carry in these bodies (not in a suitcase in our soul) the effects of sin. Reimer teaches that these compartments in the soul become a dwelling place for demons that somehow cohabit with the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life.

A friend of mine is a missionary with the C&MA and has attended multiple conferences where Dr. Reimer leads teams through his soul talk content. After one service, my friend was so disturbed by what he heard, he approached Dr. Reimer and asked for clarification and even challenged some of his points. Dr. Reimer placed his hand on my friend’s arm and said, “I sense you have some deep wounds in your life.” This deflection kept my friend from having a productive dialogue with the speaker who, rather than clarifying his point, responded in an authoritative way that blocked any mutually constructive conversation. My friend wasn’t personally attacking the speaker, but out of discernment was seeking clarification of a new, unfamiliar emphasis on one’s struggles in life. I say it again, if I hear something that is not familiar to me, if it isn’t a reliving and retelling and coming out of that same ‘ole grand story (the Gospel), my discerning antennas shoot up immediately. If I can drop a note of encouragement here, it would be this: Let’s be okay with asking hard questions and asking how what we are saying and hearing fits into the familiar Bible narrative without being defensive. Related to this, it can be helpful to ask someone who is promoting a different emphasis on any doctrine how the church managed to live without this for nearly two millenniums and why it is suddenly now becoming an important doctrine. 

Often in these teachings, the Bible is hardly used. Personal anecdotes are given and stories from other’s experiences are told as the basis for this theological emphasis. I told a friend who shares common concerns over these things that the Bible is not mentioned because these leaders could not say what they are saying if they were exclusively using the Scriptures to argue their point. In many of his talks, Reimer relates how he came to personal faith in Jesus by receiving a vision where Jesus personally and visibly appeared and spoke audibly to him. It makes sense then that the trajectory of Reimer’s understanding and emphasis on living out the Christian life requires sensational and supernatural experiences. It’s how his journey of faith started.

The problem with saying something like this (that we are more wounded than we are sinners, therefore needing healing more than we need a Savior) is it commits you to a certain direction. If you base an entire ministry around the presupposition that man’s essential problem is that he is wounded by life’s issues, likely possessed by demons, and his only hope is to meet a healer, you have to just about stick to this. And often, the appropriate healer is Reimer himself, and the Savior is the Holy Spirit. To say more people will come to faith in Christ today because they know they are broken in need of a healer is far different from saying people are sinners and need a Savior. It might seem like a degree off, but the further you go with it, the more off course you’ll find yourself. In my view, it leads to another gospel. 

What is the problem with this? It tells us that man’s problem is essentially emotional or psychological. If I am struggling with an addiction to porn, for example, this view tells me my problem is that I’ve been wounded in my life. To overcome, I need to be healed of this wound. How do I heal from this wound? According to Reimer, this healing comes through deliverance and through a supernatural appearing of God the Holy Spirit to validate the healing, and this is best validated through some kind of spectacular experience. My help comes from the outside because the problem is not really with me on the inside. I am possessed by something else. You see how very off course you can go with this? The true Gospel tells us that if I struggle with porn, I need a Savior because looking at porn is sinful. The reason I am looking at porn is that I am a sinner, not because I am possessed by something else. 

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2). 

These two verses invite me to come to Jesus for my assurance of pardon. I do not go to the Holy Spirit for deliverance or rescue. The Holy Spirit’s role is to direct me to Jesus for that healing. 

Perhaps I have been wounded, but if I go to porn to deal with those wounds, it’s because it’s what sinful people do. This is why Paul, after struggling with the impulses to do what he did not want to do and to not do what he knew he should do, beat his chest and cried out in Romans 7:24-25: “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Paul was led by the Spirit to find his victory in Jesus, his Savior. If one is broken and needs a healer, it makes sense that there will be more emphasis on the Holy Spirit as our Savior than Jesus being that Savior. I trust that my reader will know where to turn for the passages that clearly distinguish the roles of the person of the Holy Spirit from the person of Jesus. It might help to do a thorough reading of John 14-16 and Romans 6-8. (For an excellent discussion on the work of the Holy Spirit, you can read Daniel Stegeman’s paper on Spirit Dependency here.)

I believe it’s also essential to draw a distinction between how the Holy Spirit acts and moves in the Gospels, particularly in Acts, from Jesus’s very own teachings on what the role of the Holy Spirit is in the believer’s life. Descriptive texts tend to show a Holy Spirit who is powerful and dynamic, who shakes rooms and fills people with awe. The prescriptive texts (Christ’s teachings and the Epistles) introduce us to what A.W. Tozer refers to as the Shy One of the Trinity. If you were to build your theology of the Holy Spirit based on the narratives you read about Him, you would conclude that when He moves among us today, the same things should be happening. The problem is: These experiences are rare and specific. Nowhere in the Epistles are we instructed to bring down the power and presence of God in this way, to see God on display, and even promote and encourage environments to be emotionally charged and high in expectation. However, the normative understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit is less dynamic on the surface. Jesus tells us clearly and specifically, what the role of the Holy Spirit is. 

  • The Holy Spirit reveals the Word of God to us: “The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:25-26)

  • The Holy Spirit glorifies Jesus: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth.He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:12-14)

  • The Holy Spirit helps us live holy lives: “Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.…Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24)

Clearly, the Epistles instruct us on the role of the Holy Spirit as the one who comes alongside us to strengthen us, help us live holy lives, guide us in the truth (God’s Word) and to glorify Jesus. He does not seek attention for Himself. Any emphasis on the role of the Holy Spirit that does not promote the Gospel should be viewed with some level of suspicion. What is shown to us in Acts often does not show up again in any Epistle as the normal thing to expect. Instead, the Holy Spirit seems to be moving in us and through us and for us in unassuming ways (Romans 6-8).

 To bring back the issue of discernment, I long that we ask hard questions of our pastors when they take descriptive passages and form a theology out of it or insist that it is an expectation for us today. It certainly might be, but I don’t want us to assume it too quickly. What you do with the Holy Spirit (I know that sounds rough) has much to do with the view you have of yourself. Again, if you see yourself as wounded, your rescuer will be the Holy Spirit, and you will know you are healed when something dramatic or sensational has occurred. Otherwise, how will you know? This lends itself to emotionalism or enthusiasm. We’ve all heard it; many of us have said it. During a moving service, where the music has been so spot on and the message related to the songs, we say what? “The Holy Spirit really moved today.” Our experience determined our theological assumption here. What if truth determined our experience, though? You can have a service where everything went wrong, but the Word was opened, and the pastor might even have stumbled through it. But truth reminds me that where two or three are gathered, that is when God is present (Matthew 18:20). This is also why I want to encourage pastors to a high commitment to preaching God’s Word with the belief and assumption that when he does, the Holy Spirit will promote Christ and the Gospel. 

“I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction. For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires. So they will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” (2 Tim. 4:14).

Paul implicitly warns here that neglecting the preaching of the Word of God will cause people to look for something else. Neglecting sound doctrine and seeking more from the Holy Spirit is the perfect set up for false teachers to emerge, causing others to turn “away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” 

POWER, PRESENCE & PROCLAMATION – OUR PNEUMATOLOGY 

Related to that last point, I do want to raise the issue that I hear come up a lot, not just in the C&MA but also in the evangelical context at large, of POWER AND PRESENCE over PROCLAMATION as the motivation or drive in our understanding of the Great Commission. In fact, Reimer says that particularly in our “pluralistic syncretistic society, the only way people will come to Jesus is through the display of God’s power.” (For source here and  here.) 

According to Reimer, for people to turn to Jesus, they must see God’s power first, not simply hear a message that explains the Gospel, that wonderful story of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and His subsequent call to repentance. Reimer writes the following that reveals his Suitcase Theology: 

“In a pluralistic, syncretistic society, where all deities are considered equal, only the unequal display of Jesus’ power will convince people of the supremacy of Christ. We will not convince people of the Gospel as readily with words only in this day and age. We will not argue people into the Kingdom. People must see to believe. We must demonstrate Jesus’ power like the early church did in Acts.”

“The Healing Presence One of the ways the Spirit brings healing is for the person to become aware of the presence of Jesus in a hurtful memory. Jesus is always with us, even if we can’t see Him or aren’t aware of Him. We need to become attentive to Him.

Read the previous statement again. People must see to believe. We must demonstrate Jesus’ power like the early church did in Acts.” Contrast that to Peter’s invitation to the crowd, who were cut to the quick by his message: 

“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37-38). 

In contrast to this, Jesus warns that even given the most convincing evidence will not be enough for the hardened sinner.  And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Lk.16:30-31)

Notice the gift of the Holy Spirit follows repentance and baptism. Those in the crowd responded to Peter’s convicting message, not to any display of God’s power. What fell on the disciples was the empowering of the Holy Spirit to speak the languages of those in attendance to tell the story of the Gospel. The gift of the Holy Spirit they were promised in this context was their salvation. (See Jesus’ explanation of salvation and the role of the Holy Spirit in John 3.)

The danger with this need to demonstrate the power of the Holy Spirit is that it can lead to disappointment when there is no clear demonstration of power to validate the message. Reimer also implies here that simply preaching the Gospel (words only) rarely works today. Does this mean, as I witness to a passenger next to me on an airplane, that he will not come to Jesus if all I do is explain to him the Gospel? With words only? If Reimer had said, “There will be times (they will be unusual, but it will happen), where people will come to Jesus through the display of God’s power,” I would have accepted that. Yet, consistently in his writing and talks, he points to this as the norm to embrace today. Reimer explains: 

“The Kingdom is a message that must be accompanied with power. Power to change lives. Power to forgive sin. Power to heal the sick. Power to cast out demons. The Kingdom of God is the reversal of everything that went wrong when sin entered the world. It is the dismantling of Hell. This is Kingdom normal. This must become church normal once again. We are living far beneath our King’s intention and our Kingdom potential when we preach words without a demonstration of power. It is becoming more important than ever as we shift from modernism to postmodernism.” (See source  here.) 

When I read this, I wonder if for him and others, the power of the cross is not sufficient. More on that later. 

In my view, it is important that we wrestle together over these kinds of pronouncements and over our understanding and application of them to our missiology.  What happens when you put this Holy Spirit moving with powerful expectation next to Jesus’ promise that it is truth, the truth of the Gospel, that sets people free (John 8:32)? How do we understand Jesus’ claim that He came to fulfill Isaiah’s promise that “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…” (Luke 4:18). How do we reconcile that the Spirit fell on Him with power so He could accomplish on the cross our freedom? How do we balance accepting this with the further expectation that an accompanying display of God’s power is needed for that remarkable truth to somehow become a reality in people’s lives? Is this not adding to the cross? Is not embracing and believing the promise that this has been accomplished on the cross enough to see people come to faith? That what Christ did was sufficient, and all I now need to do is believe it and that settles it? Does the expectation that the Holy Spirit needs to move with more power not diminish the sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, where according to Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him?” Am I okay simply believing that it’s the Holy Spirit’s power that leads me to use “words only” when I witness to someone? “…for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12). 

Isn’t there power in the message alone? After all, the Great Commission is about being witnesses of what Jesus did and taught. 

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age’” (Matthew 28:19-20). 

Note the outcome of this command: teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. There is no mention in the Great Commission of the need for further display of power to validate this powerful Gospel story. The cross is the only necessary display of power to validate our witness. Yes, “words only” are enough, as the Holy Spirit is powerfully convicting the unbeliever and powerfully empowering me to share the story of the Gospel. 

On the Soul Care website, Reimer highlights several testimonies of those who have been impacted by his Soul Care seminar. Here is one, by Jessica. 

“Before I went through the process of Soul Care, I was doing a thousand different, very good Christian activities. I was digging into Bible studies, memorizing scripture, attending church constantly… you name it.I had two major presenting issues that I could not reconcile however – I could absolutely not access stillness in God’s presence and I could actually feel a block between me and the deeper, “Living Waters” that I knew were there. I knew those Waters were there because I had read my Bible, but I was stuck with only my toes touching the ebbing flow of the tide. After these months of processing and a total life confession, I experienced deliverance…and I accessed stillness…I heard His voice and I tasted sweet, Living Water. I urge you, press in, fight the battles that need to be fought, process your own Soul Care and find the Deeper Waters on the other side of this journey.”

It saddens me that someone would find “digging into Bible studies, memorizing scripture, attending church constantly,” as insufficient. This person failed to understand that “accessing the stillness of God’s presence” is received by way of the Word of God. This is a clear and concerning example of how Reimer is influencing vulnerable believers. 

Another participant (David) offers this testimonial. 

“The principles of Soul Care unlocked some major things in my life that led to an exponential growth in my spiritual formation, freedom and walk with the Father…I walk more firmly and securely in my identity knowing what is a lie from the enemy, and knowing the truth from God. I have been freed from bitterness and anger by understanding the power and necessity of forgiveness. Soul Care led to my deliverance session, that freed me from a lifelong attack of sleep paralysis…and now I am helping fellow brothers & sisters get freed from their soul issues and spiritual issues…”

Again, we have an example here on how Reimer is the expert who alone has the ability to bring about deliverance. Bitterness and anger are soul and spiritual issues, not the product of sin. 

A NECESSARY FAITH AND OUR CHRISTOLOGY

It is intriguing to me that the above assumption or expectation is based solely on several passages from Mark and John’s Gospel, with no reference at all from the Epistles. In fact, there is one passage that Reimer and many others from what is called the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR – see article explaining the NAR here) use to argue for a greater expectancy of the Holy Spirit having to do with faith.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:12-14)

It is how one understands Jesus’ reference to greater works than these will he do that is up for grabs in our interpretation. How we interpret this verse determines the direction of much of our missiology. On one hand, this verse is understood to mean that what Jesus did in saving people, in bringing new life, will exponentially increase as the Gospel spreads across the world. Jesus traveled little. He taught and worked with a small group of people. Following His resurrection and during the diaspora, the Gospel spread in both extent and scope. 

Or, these greater things can mean literally that what Jesus did in signs and wonders ought to be done in greater magnitude through us today, even greater than what Jesus did. Raising the dead. Walking on water. Healing the sick. Giving sight to the blind. Restoring limbs. I have yet to see any of these happen, and I have witnessed hundreds of people come to faith in Jesus by simply embracing the message of the Gospel. In my view, Reimer’s interpretation of this verse deviates from truth by at least one degree, leading to a far different practice and commitment to missiology. Once you start with the understanding that we will do more miracles and expect far greater movements of power than He did, you have to be committed to this. There is no turning back other than to start all over again. Reimer’s book, Deep Faith, offers a full treatment of this understanding. Here’s an example that Reimer gives in his Soul Care book on the way his greater than these theology manifests itself in an encounter with a hurting man, and a woman struggling with . 

Finally, I was praying for the last person in line, and this man stood up and started coming down the aisle toward me. I checked to see if there was a back exit just in case! When he got to me, he put his hands on my shoulders and leaned his forehead within inches of my forehead and whispered, “From the moment you started speaking, I have had such a pain in my chest that I thought I was going to have a heart attack.” I thought, Oh, I’m sorry. My bad. That was pain on your face! My own soul care issues had affected my view of this man—they are the lens through which we view life. Instantly, two words came to my mind: Father abuse. I said to him, “You were abused by your father.” He nodded. Another impression immediately flowed and I said, “You have a specific memory right now of a time when you were tortured by your father.” He was crying. He told a terrible story of horrific torment. Again, the Spirit gave me direction and I said, “Jesus was there with you that day. I’m going to pray that you can see[…]

We prayed for some sick people. And then I made my way over to the woman in the wheelchair. As I was walking toward her, I heard the Spirit of God whisper to me, “The woman who touched the hem of my garment.” I told her to picture herself as the woman in the story, and to reach out and take Jesus by the hem of the garment. I asked her to close her eyes and just picture herself holding Jesus’ hem and then to wait on Jesus and watch what Jesus did and listen to what He said. That was all I had, and I waited with her. I have nothing. So I just kept my eyes on Jesus. Only Jesus heals—whether body or soul. Only Jesus heals. After waiting a little while, I asked her what was happening; she said Jesus had stopped. I thought, Well, of course he stopped, you grabbed the hem of his garment. She said, “He turned around, and he’s touching my legs.” This is good. My faith started building a bit, and I prayed for divine heat; often when God heals someone they feel heat. I wasn’t praying out loud; I was praying this silently, and suddenly she said something in Spanish. I asked for the interpretation and the translator said, “She said she is sweating. She feels like her legs are on fire.” I said, “Tell her this is good! This is good.”

 This is a bold approach from Reimer. Is anyone questioning this sort of practice? When questioned, is there grace and space to dialogue? It’s fascinating to me, when I examine my experience and history of sharing the Gospel with people, that I have not once, yes even in this postmodern syncretistic society, done so with an accompanying sign of power. I served as a pastor and missionary in Europe for ten years, and we saw a good number of people come to Jesus. All of them came to Christ by responding simply to the truth that they were sinners, and they then embraced the wonderful Gospel story that Jesus died for them and offered them forgiveness and new life. They were discipled, baptized and joined the church. The only sign I have observed that brings about salvation is the miracle of salvation that comes from the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross. There is truly wonderful power in the cross of Jesus Christ. 

In my story, it was suffering, loss and seasons of silence that led others to be drawn to our faith as we continued to trust in Jesus. When they discovered the basis of our ongoing faith and trust in the midst of suffering, some even came to faith. We left Europe in pain. My wife suffered a terrible setback from brain cancer surgery, and just weeks after returning to the USA, my oldest son was diagnosed with and died of brain cancer. Those whom we loved and knew in Europe were deeply moved by our testimony of trusting Jesus in the absence of healing and despite the lack of power shown. Perhaps the real miracle here is when people continue to trust Jesus while enduring hardship in which there is actually little evidence of His power and presence. 

I also am intrigued by the notion that we are the ones who are somehow responsible to move God in such a way that He will display that power. Earlier, I quoted Reimer as saying, “We must demonstrate Jesus’ power.” Think about this for a minute. We, His creations, are somehow expected to get HIM, the Creator of the universe, to do more for us than what we are seeing. It’s up to us to demonstrate the Spirit’s power. God is at our beckoning. The responsibility of God to move in power is up to us and dependent on our faith. When Reimer writes that we must demonstrate Jesus’ power like the early church did in Acts, it’s the, we must that throws me off. How do we reconcile this with Jesus’ instruction to Nicodemus in John 3:8? “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” 

Here’s where discernment can sound like arguing or challenging. How is it that we must do this, I want to ask? How does that work? How do I, a mere sinful being, get God to do what He’s apparently not been doing? Doesn’t that put the onus fully on us? Does this not make me a small god of sorts? Reimer and others will say that yes, in a sense, we are responsible by having the appropriate faith. In his book, Deep Faith, it is essentially Reimer’s thesis that it is by having a right kind of faith, a deep faith, that these greater things that actually happened to Jesus will happen for us. “He dwells in us, and when we walk in the fullness of the Spirit, we can do the things that Jesus has been doing” (Deep Faith, p.7). I have yet to meet someone who has walked on water, raised a dead person or performed a miraculous healing. An excellent treatment of the misuse of faith to get God to move with power can be viewed in a conversation that Justin Peters had with Benny Hinn’s nephew, Costi Hinn. (Check that out here, and go to minute 14. Although, I would recommend you listen to the entire video.)

Even a cursory read through the Gospels and Acts could lead one to embrace that what Jesus did should be the norm for us. However, again the descriptive texts alone should not form our theology, or in this case our assumptions, about mission and the Gospel. 

What is it then that brings people to Christ even in these pluralistic and syncretistic times? The same thing that was required in the Gospels, Acts and throughout the Epistles. Jesus tells His disciples this in Luke 24:46-49: 

“And He told them, ‘This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and in His name repentance and forgiveness of sins will be proclaimed to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending the promise of My Father upon you. But remain in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.’” 

When the disciples were clothed with power from on high, it was to give them the courage, ability and supernatural guidance to take that message to those without Christ.  

When Reimer and others urge that people will not come to Jesus unless they see dynamic signs and wonders, they not only commit themselves to assume that as a constant expectation, it also places a burden on others to believe that to be effective witnesses, they need more than to just share the Gospel. In some cases, they seem to substitute the message of the Gospel for extraordinary manifestation. I have seen firsthand this impact in how our denomination is doing its missionary work. The hundreds of international workers who sit under Reimer’s conferences cannot help but feel like failures, while others work overtime to promote a Gospel of high expectancies where before someone comes to Christ, they need to see dramatic things happen. I am hearing more and more testimonies from missionaries that include prophetic revelations. In one case, a revelation from God was the substance of the message a missionary gave on a particular Sunday morning in my church, not the Scriptures itself. It almost feels to me like the manifest presence and power has replaced the story of the Gospel. Man’s primary problem, and the reason he has yet to put his faith in God, is essentially that he has not seen enough of God. Seeing himself as a sinner who needs a Savior is not enough for him to come to faith. As I stated earlier, this slight deviation ends up with the Holy Spirit being the Savior, not Jesus. Of course, the Holy Spirit is dynamically involved in one’s new birth, but His role is to point us to Jesus through the conviction of our sin and bringing about repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

Of course, we know it is not an issue of doing more, since Christ has “done” it all through His death and resurrection.  Nor is it an issue of experiencing more presence or power, since we have all the Holy Spirit at salvation. It is, however, an issue of maturing in the Lord through submission, trust, and obedience to Him and His Word. The result is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, in other words, Christ-likeness through the power of the Holy Spirit.  

I will end with a recent Facebook post by Reimer himself that sums up well the unhealthy reliance he has on what it means to obtain spirituality. 

I am really enjoying, listening to my book Spiritual Authority again. There are so many insights in this book that I must periodically revisit to revitalize my relationship with Jesus. So often I read books to ignite spiritual passion within my heart; I must intentionally feed my heart’s hunger for God, and I read and re-read books that do that for me. Mostly, I do not need new information in my relationship with God. I need fresh inspiration, I need a fresh visitation, I need renewed passion. I have to refresh my longing and renew my first love for Jesus.

A friend who interacted with me on this paper wrote the following: “It is fitting to close with John 6:28-29 to remind us that in the end, it is our simple faith-response to the gospel that saves us. “Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.””

God’s manifest presence, his display of power necessary for salvation, happened at the incarnation of Jesus and on the cross. Nothing more is needed. As the great hymn says, “It is enough that Jesus died and that he died for me.” 

One thought on “Review of Dr. Rob Reimer’s Soul Care Ministry (Mitch Schultz)”

  1. Thank you these well written and supported thoughts. I share these thoughts as well. In the past, I have wrongly identified with my hurts and misplaced where healing comes from. I found that no matter the wounds or the wrong that have been imposed, beneath the feelings and reasons for damage lays a desire that rivals God in my life. Beneath trauma, anxiety, or PTSD, lies desires that wrongly are driving me, or sin patterns that only the cross can break. Thank you for your discernments.

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