"Charles, our first meeting took place in March of 1994 at the Holiday Inn Medical Center in Midtown Memphis. You came in town to lead a three-day Conference on the Holy Spirit. I had never been to a meeting like that in my life. I listened to your message Wednesday night, running it through my "Church of Christ/Seminary Degree/ Book/Chapter/Verse" mental filters. I found nothing "suspect" in your message; on the contrary, it was quite faith-building. When you were through, you pointed to my wife and me and said: "That couple right there ..." I surmised you wanted to pray for us, which was fine with me, so we went to you.
"In front of some two hundred people, you first gently prayed for my wife, then moved onto me. I don’t remember your touching me, but I do remember that the next thing I was laying flat on my back on the floor of the Holiday Inn Ballroom looking up at the fluorescent lights in the ceiling. I was thinking: ‘What in the world just happened?!–What am I doing on the floor?!,’ and ‘I don’t believe in this stuff!!’ (Meaning: I didn’t believe in tangible demonstrations of the power of God–since they ceased with the death of the last original apostle– according to my cessationist theology.)
"Well, I got up in a few minutes and determined that I would return the next night intending to pepper you with questions about the incident. When I arrived that next night, you saw me down a hallway and said: ‘Brother, would you help with the ministry tonight,?’ and then you disappeared into a side room. I asked the fellow hosting the Conference what you meant and he told me that you wanted me to help break people’s fall if the Spirit so moved on them."
"Needless to say, I felt quite out of place as I assisted breaking the falls of dozens of people who responded to your message! I wasn’t able to ask my questions that night–so–I returned the third night with a robust list of questions, determined to corner you and to get some answers. Well, around 10 pm as I thought things were winding down, I saw you across the ballroom and headed your way. You saw me coming towards you and with a great big smile on your face you lifted your hands in my direction from about 20 feet away and the next thing I knew I was down on my face again, on the carpet, in the Ballroom at the Holiday Inn. No sooner had I hit the floor than a flood of belly-laughter began pouring out of me from the depths of my being. I lay there for about 45 minutes in non-stop laughter, in a pool of slobber (from all the laughter), carpet fuzz between my teeth, experiencing being filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy (1 Peter 1:8) I experienced first hand Psalm 126:2 "Our mouths were filled with laughter…" That evening opened a glorious new dimension for me in my walk with our Lord. The blinders were taken off and I came to learn about the Kingdom of ‘power’ that Jesus brought, experiencing new life and power in my personal life and in my ministry to others! I cherish the personal friendship you and I have developed through the years, your influence in my life, and the example you set for me in your unquenchable desire for more of Him. I love you!" Shane O’Conner, Tennessee
On that memorable night 20 years ago Shane experienced the baptism-in- the-Spirit and became one of my devoted "sons in ministry.” His experience of falling under the power of the Spirit has happened to thousands of others in every period of Christian history. During America’s "Great Awakening," 1735-1745, in the ministry of Jonathan Edwards, it became a common sight. Again, in the Cane Ridge Revival, 1802 as many as 500 swept down at the same time. Many remained in that suspended state for a full day. Edwards’ wife continued bed-fast for 17 days. When people tell me, "God doesn’t do things like that!" My answer is, "Don’t dare Him!"
While I am preaching, the Holy Spirit frequently identifies specific people in the audience and has me call them out for hands-on ministry. This is what happened to Shane and his wife. Somehow I "know" which one is to be number one receiving ministry. Once in a Word, Spirit, ,Power, Conference with R.T. Kendall and Jack Taylor, when I finished preaching, the Holy Spirit sent me immediately to a woman in the congregation whom I had never met. When I laid hands on her, she dropped instantly. Unknown to me, she was in severe pain that night and unable to move her arm. When I laid hands on her she collapsed to the floor and was instantly healed.
The first time I received such an instruction was at a Conference in Indianapolis. All the while I spoke, it was as if the Holy Spirit were saying about a young woman in the congregation, "This one! This one! Now! Go to her!" Whatever my excuse was, I allowed fear to stop me. She left without receiving ministry. God never let me forget my defiance–nor did He let me forget her need. Even today, I vividly recall her face in the congregation.
Later, at Belmont Church, Nashville, in a most surprising way, God gave me another test. I was alone in the building one afternoon, walking up an aisle praying, when the Holy Spirit stopped me, pointed out a specific seat and said, "She will be here." The location was precise. I knew I had heard God but that night the woman was not present. Nor did she attend the next service. Each time someone else had been in that seat and the "sign" was not on them. To my disappointment–and confusion–the meeting closed, I went home, without ever ministering to this special person. The whole experience was disturbing and I thought I had failed the Lord’s message.
One year later I returned to Belmont, was concluding the sermon, when I glanced toward that spot and to my absolute shock she was there! A little white haired lady was in that seat whom I knew was she. The "sign" was clearly on her. I was amazed! God had not only told me about her, where she would be sitting, but had done so a year before she came. I left the pulpit, hurried back to her row–still preaching–called her out, and laid hands on her. She instantly dropped under the blessing of God.
When that happened, Al and Peggy Fielding, conservative Baptists who were sitting on the opposite side of the building, thought it was an act and wanted to walk out. Fortunately, they stayed and before the evening had ended both of them were on the floor with their church-life changed forever. The healing-gift exploded in Al and he was soon traveling all over Nashville praying for the sick and ministering in the power of the Spirit. As with Shane O’Conner, he, Peggy, and I, have been bonded ever since.
That year-long wait for the woman in Belmont’s special seat was a turning-point in my ministry. In a greater way, I realized ‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!" Romans 11:33. More than ever, I realized God’s method is always alive, unpredictable, surprising. Religion wants everything fully predictable and controlled. Many church bulletins have everything outlined except the "yawns."
God wasn’t finished testing me–or Belmont Church–with "signs and wonders." At the nine o’clock service on Sunday morning so many people fell under the power of the Spirit that the deacons had to lift them from the floor and lay them on the pews. Many were immobile, unable to move. When people began arriving for the 11:00 service there was no place to sit down. The pews were already filled. For many the sight was alarming and the service was slow getting started. Not everyone in church leadership was happy. Until then, I had been a frequent speaker at Belmont. That was my last visit; after the Holy Spirit’s strange invasion that Sunday morning I was never invited back. Later I thought about James Glendening, a 17th century Puritan Pastor, who had the deacons remove the fallen from his meeting house and lay them under trees in the church yard. Perhaps I should have don’t that.
Derek Prince knew how God was using me and sent a fax urging me please to come to his Pastors Conference in Amarati, Turkey. Representatives from 27 different nations would be present; many were former Muslims who needed a strong encounter with the Holy Spirit. At the time I was in a month-long revival in Georgia but changed my plans, flew to Istanbul, then to Amarati, and joined the Team. After Derek’s message on opening night many went forward for hands-on ministry and prayer. I was in the rear of the building but suddenly had a "word of knowledge" that a young man (whom I could not see) was standing to the right of the pulpit. I was to lay-hands on him.
Pushing through the crowd I went forward and knew immediately which one God had intended. Later, I learned he was a converted Moslem, ministering in an extremely dangerous situation, and in urgent need of what Paul identified as an "imparting of spiritual gifts." Romans 1:11. When I laid hands on him it was as if he had been struck by lightening. In all my years of ministry, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone more impacted by the power of God. Half an hour later he was still vibrating unconsciously on the floor, bathed in the Glory of Heaven. Finally, several young men carried him from the pulpit area and laid him down in the rear of the auditorium.
Without realizing it, they had placed him in the walkway where Moslem waiters were passing from the kitchen to the dinning room. This was significant. The man was still unconscious, jerking as if electrified. Many of the waiters stopped, watched him in amazement, then continued on their way. But all of them were deeply affected. They knew they were seeing a genuine manifestation of the power of God in a Christian meeting. Several returned, asking questions and wanting to know more about Jesus. One was saved. I have often wondered about the safely of that young man. Turkey is 99% Moslem and violently opposed to Christianity.
The question arises, "But why is ‘hands-on’ ministry so powerful? What does it mean?" First of all, there is absolutely no power in the human hand. None. Nor is "laying-hands" a mere Christian formality. Power comes from the "Temple of the Holy Spirit" which is inside the human body. I Corinthians 3:16. The hand has value only because it is an extension of the Temple. Of the 27 times the New Testament talks about "laying-on-hands" it devotes only four references to the ordination of pastors and deacons. Unfortunately, the modern church has relegated hands-on ministry to that subject alone. When early Baptists came to America they practiced the "laying-on-of-hands" on every baptized believer. Unfortunately that practice was not maintained and modern Baptists observe it solely for ordinations. When I was ordained in 1949 it was only a formality–beautiful–but still a formality. No one in the Presbytery believed there was any impartation of spiritual gifts. II Timothy 1:6.
I am grateful for my original ordination. Those were godly men and I loved them dearly–but the "hands-on" ministry that brought a hell-shaking impartation came to me when a Spirit-filled prisoner in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary laid-hands on me. In 1977 with the Mafia all around us, he placed his hands firmly on my head in the Visitor’s Room and pronounced the message Ananias spoke over Saul of Tarsus: "Brother Charles," he said, "The Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road as you came has sent me that you may receive your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit." Acts 9:17. When I got home, the power of God exploded in me. I was filled with the Holy Spirit. Nearly 40 years later that impartation is still changing lives everywhere I go. "It is not I but Christ in me!"
Dave Calyn, tells about his encounter with the Holy Spirit at the Pastors Conference, January, 2002, at the Toronto Airport Fellowship. Jack Taylor, R.T. Kendal, and I spoke. Thousands of pastors from more than 63 nations were present. Dave worked for the church, was camera-man # 2, and stationed in the congregation. His platform was nearly two feet above the floor. He writes:
"I came to the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in mid-1999–have had many Christian experiences–but none changed me like the day Charles impacted my life with something so chaotically-beautiful that it literally blew me away ... I was so engrossed in staying on my camera I never heard much of his sermon. But I do remember something about his visiting a prison–and then, suddenly, God hit me like a bolt of lightning. It felt like someone stuck a cattle-prod into my belly and I literally flew off my platform backwards. I mean–I saw both my legs and feet in the air in front of me as I crashed to the floor. I lay there for a second before I audibly said, ‘What happened!?’ I was in total shock.
"Wherever Charles moved–and he moved all over–people were being blasted by the power of God. Every time I would shoot I saw crew members and others knocked down by the Holy Spirit. I grabbed my water-bottle and splashed it on my eyes and forehead ...Then I fell off my stand again, this time stumbling back and grabbing the pole behind me ... By this time the Director thought that I was a lost cause and as I replaced my headset, I heard him say, ‘Camera # 5, go help Dave.’ ...When cameraman # 5 got close to me he touched my elbow and we both fell to the floor. The Ministry Team member tried to catch him as I crashed down again with no one to help. There was a big bang and another wave of Heavenly Glory hit the audience ... By this time our hand-held cameraman had fallen down again and camera #5 was not working. The Director was pleading with us to stay alert even though all of Heaven was breaking loose...I don’t understand. I just conclude that ‘God uses the foolish things to confound the wise’ and I was his fool that day. But, I love Him for it and give Jesus all the Glory." –Dave Calyn, Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. (Now called Catch the Fire)
Someone says, "I am laying-on-hands and nothing happens. What do I do?" Keep doing it! You and I are not responsible for the results. You are responsible only to obey. At some point the Holy Spirit will move publically and in power. Our duty is to trust Jesus who said, "These signs will follow those who believe. They will lay hands on the sick and they shall recover." Obey Him! Ignore what the critics say! Amen and Amen!