“Slain In The Spirit”

About twenty three years ago, Karen and I took our teenagers, John and Julia, to a New Year’s Revival Service being conducted on a Sunday evening at a little Pentecostal church that was attended by a woman who was my secretary at the time.

The congregation was predominantly African-American, and everyone very warmly welcomed our predominantly Caucasian family.  I say “predominantly Caucasian” because I’ve always identified as African American for no particular reason other than that I consider myself kind of “cool.”

Our family loved the up-tempo Gospel music, and the visiting evangelist delivered the best sermon I’ve ever heard on the power of Christian unity for both miracles and evangelism in his exposition of the story about the Apostles Peter and John and the paralytic man they healed in Jesus’ Name that’s found in the Book of Acts.

At the conclusion of his message, while the band played a rousing invitational, my family was clapping and singing and watching a person or two, then more, usually women, walk down the aisle to the evangelist, bow their heads in prayer and receive the minister’s touch on their foreheads. As soon as he touched a man or woman, the person would collapse to the floor in some kind of spiritual ecstasy where they lay as the service continued. Deacons would gently spread a blanket across the lower torso of any woman who had been wearing a dress for the sake of modesty.

This was the first, and so far only, time any of our family had been to a church service like this. I’ve since learned that what we were observing was something called “being slain in the Spirit!” 

What was even more interesting was that as the invitational continued, I felt God’s Holy Spirit softly nudging me to go forward. My initial thought toward God was something like, “You gotta be kiddin’ me!” The Holy Spirit, however, didn’t argue with me, but He did persist in calling me to the altar.

After a few minutes of me both singing to and debating with God, I caught the eye of the preacher who was looking right at me. He made a slight gesture with his hand beckoning for me to come forward. In response, I turned around to see if there was someone behind me that the minister might have been motioning for besides me. There was no one there. When I looked back, the evangelist locked eyes with me again and this time he had a slight knowing smile on his face, and again he gestured me to come to him. I thought something like, “OK, God, I hope You know what You are doing!”

As I started to move out of our pew and toward the aisle, our then-fourteen-year-old daughter desperately reached to restrain me with a panicked look on her face, but she missed laying hold of my arm, and I was already in the aisle before I noticed her fright. I said a little prayer for Julia’s peace of mind as I approached the preacher, and I also told God that I really wasn’t interested in experiencing what we’d been observing, but if that’s what He wanted to happen to me, then I was obviously unable to resist His Will. Hardly, “Not my will, but Thine be done,” but close enough.

When I got to the minister who had a kind but very authoritative countenance, I simply bowed my head in prayer while he and some deacons laid their hands on my shoulders and head. Then the evangelist prophesied something like the following:

“I perceive that you are a man of letters. You make your profession through writing and speaking. I see a computer coming into your life. I see a ministry that God is giving you to work with young people and children. You will speak and write for God.”

The preacher said and prayed some more stuff, but this was the gist of what I remembered. When he was finished, I think that I said a prayer aloud thanking God and saying “Amen” to what had been prayed over me. Then, I returned to my seat, much to our daughter’s relief.

At the time, our family didn’t yet own a computer, and we were only just starting to get them at work. Within a year, however, we purchased our family’s first home computer. Karen and I did work with a Bible club for grade school children at church, but that was about all the ministry I was involved with that served youth. I was in my tenth year as a prosecuting attorney, the first four handling drug cases and the last six with major felony crimes. I asked my secretary when I next saw her at work if she had talked about me with the evangelist before the church service, and she assured me that she had not. Shortly thereafter, while I was in the middle of a three week, six defendant gang-related drive-by-shooting trial, I just happened to argue with my supervisor over some minor, now-forgotten issue in the case I was prosecuting, and he threatened me in his characteristic bluster, “There’s an opening in Juvenile Court. I might put your name in for it!” I called his bluff by telling him, “I might just beat you to it!” The very next day, the elected official for whom we both worked came down to my office and said, “I heard you might be interested in transferring to Juvenile Court.” I think I cussed under my breath but told our boss “That’s right” even while I vowed in my heart to get back at my supervisor who had obviously set me up. In fact, I did get even with my former supervisor, because ovet the next thirteen years I loved working in the Juvenile Court, and I became the supervisor there! I was even named our state’s Prosecutor of the Year one year for the work we did. I found the Juvenile Court to be a great place to pray for and work toward the rehabilitation of the vast majority of young people who get in trouble with the law and just need some guidance in their lives. The very serious crimes were sent to the adult court for others to prosecute but not without my prayers for everyone involved.

About that same time, Karen and I began teaching the teenagers’ Sunday School class that our own kids were in mainly because no one else wanted the job. Although it was a little awkward for our son and daughter, they lived through the experience, and some of our best family memories came from that class we taught for the next five years, as well as some of the outside service and evangelistic activities we led with the teens at our church.

Karen and I also became involved in a ministry called Young Life, an outreach to teenagers who have no church experience in their lives. During those years, we worked very closely with the Young Life staff and served on the local support committee for it. Some years later, one of the two pastors co-officiating at our daughter’s wedding was the Young Life director with whom we had once worked and prayed and shared our lives.

When our own kids were grown and moved out of our house, Karen and I took a brief hiatus from youth ministry. Karen retired from teaching in our church’s Christian school after our son and daughter graduated from there so that she could watch our grandson, Aron, when he was born while our daughter went back to work.

But eventually, we offered to help with the growing youth group then meeting at our small, struggling church because our new pastor and his wife needed a break with all the other ministry needs calling for their time and attention.  We were invited to help by a young man named Chester, who reminded me of me when I was a new believer in Jesus.

One week, Karen and I told the twenty or thirty teens about how we each came to believe in and to follow Jesus Christ. Karen’s story is a sweet one about a good, church-going girl whom God faithfully led in her young life through many important life choices beginning with Him, to her chastity she had promised God during her teenage years, to her work as a young adult with handicapped children which God led her into and which she loved, to her marriage with me, to helping raise our family, to her then new and much loved grand-motherhood. My story was one of a prodigal son whom God had called out of darkness into a life of light with Him, and my beautiful bride of then thirty years, and an ever-increasing family in a life of trials as well as joys wherein our God has always proved Himself Faithful and True.

Both Karen and I thought beforehand that these young people, some from our church and some from neighborhoods around our church, might find us boring. To our great delight, however, whatever they thought of us the teens didn’t find Jesus boring! Instead, they listened in rapt attention, and when we were finished speaking, many of these kids who’ve seen too much in their young lives were softly crying and wanting more of Him. In the pew right in front of us were four teens who got a ride to our church from a rough neighborhood, and they looked by their dress, tattoos, and facial piercings, like they’ve had a hard childhood. One of the four was a young girl who looked like she might be in a gang. She was one who was softly sobbing after Karen told her story. When we tried to speak with her after the other kids were excused, she could only hang her head and shake it “No” to the questions we asked about her relationship with God. Two weeks later, this same young woman had a beautiful transformed look on her face that we knew only Jesus could have provided. 

That same week, I talked about the descriptions of Jesus from the first chapter of the Gospel of John, about how the Baptist called Him “the Lamb of God” and how Jesus called people to follow Him. The Holy Spirit used that little picture of Jesus to great effect! A brother and a sister who had just started attending the youth group stayed after to recommit their lives to the Savior they’d known as children but Whom they had left behind in the last year or so after some hard family sorrows and great difficulties.

The sister who’d been deeply hurt in her life told Chester and our Pastor, “I miss Jesus!” Chester told her, “I bet He misses you too.” The next week, that same young woman was singing in our teens’ worship band, leading actually, because our usual lead vocalist was at a youth camp. Jesus had apparently healed this young woman, or at least He had given her the strength to resume the life He’d always intended that she have. I also spent time counseling with her older brother who was battling bitterness and an inability to forgive the family member who had hurt his little sister whom he loves dearly. This young man was miraculously knowledgeable of the Bible and very gifted by God, but he was at war in his soul. As I write this decades later, I hope this young man let Jesus help him win his war against unforgiveness, that hardest and most damnable sin.

Later that eventful week, Karen and I went to lunch with the new Young Life director and his wife, and we instantly formed a fun friendship. Mark and Glenda were our age, and we learned that we had so much in common. They have a special needs adult daughter in their home and a heart for the special needs programs Young Life had just started in the previous ten years. I watched my wife’s eyes light up when she spoke with Glenda about these children and adults. We went on to work another five or so years with Mark and Glenda in the local Young Life ministry and Karen also did work with the special needs youth.

When I retired as prosecuting attorney, I worked for two years with a curriculum of crime-prevention education for teens and young adults.

And for the last six years, I’ve been working full time in my so-called “retirement” as an assistant attorney general in the juvenile court representing or state’s Department of Child Safety.

Looking back over the last couple of decades, all I can say is I guess that evangelist all those years ago sure “wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie!”

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