The Fortunate Fall


Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? (1 Corinthians 1:20)

On one of my many trips to Ghana I spoke for a series of meetings at the United Bethel Pentecostal Church. They met in a simple, open, cement-floored sanctuary. Arriving each night near the end of their worship time, I sat with the church leadership on an expansive platform right next to a giant loudspeaker. Between us and the pews, some 100 feet away, stretched a vast open area. It was an unusual set up, but I soon discovered its purpose.

The first night, after delivering my message and sitting down, the pastor took the microphone in hand and called all the people to come forward. The entire congregation moved into the open space before the platform. He then initiated a kind of interactive prayer/exhortation time unlike anything I’ve seen before. His high-powered homily (in the native dialect) blasted through the sound system, taxing it to distortion and scorching my ears. It was punctuated with carefully timed shouts from the others. Then on certain cues from him the whole group would erupt in energetic prayer. This pattern went on for a half an hour or more.

Near the end, the pastor walked among the worshipers and then led one person into the center for ministry. There he launched into fiery prayer over that person, earnestly joined by the surrounding congregation. I couldn’t understand a word of it so just observed from my pastoral perch-with a protective finger secretly jammed into my poor distortion-thrashed ears.

The same thing happened the next night. This time, however, I had brought my ear plugs. Because they were neon orange, I only dared to use one in the ear next to the loudspeaker. To cover, I turned my head a bit. Then, once the post-sermon festivities got underway, I closed my eyes (prayerfully, of course) and rode out the gale.

On my last night at the church, I delivered my message as usual, then returned to my throne. As expected, the pastor took the microphone and commenced the afterburn. I discreetly inserted my ear plug, turned my head, closed my eyes, and drifted off to a quiet place.

The next thing I knew, I was being nudged. A friend, who had been sitting next to me, leaned toward me as I quickly pulled out my ear plug. He politely informed me that the pastor wanted me to pray for somebody. Suddenly aware of the utter silence in the place, I looked up to discover the pastor out on the floor standing next to a young woman. He and the entire congregation were gazing fixedly at me.

I rose from my chair and, pocketing my plug, did my best to appear confident and spiritual. As I came down the platform toward the sea of faces, my mind reeled. These people were pumped. They were African. Singing Kum Ba Ya seemed out of the question.

I approached the girl like a man heading for the gallows. O God, I thought, I do NOT want to do this! The pastor handed me the microphone, then stepped back. I was on my own.
My mind was blank. I had no idea what the young woman’s problem was. All I knew was that I was surrounded by a couple hundred Pentecostal on nitroglycerin who were expecting me to actually do something. I was toast.

I looked at the woman in silence. And looked. And looked. I heard the pastor shift behind me. As I stood there speechless, the congregation’s rumbling anticipation began to falter. The white guy was evaporating before their eyes.

I felt like a porcupine in a balloon factory. How could I explain that I was a talker-a mouth-not a Benny Hinn clone? My calling was to tell everybody else what to do. If there was ever a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, this was it.

The worst thing was that I knew that my anemic arsenal would call into question the authority of my teaching. They didn’t want wise and persuasive words but a demonstration of power. I figured there’d be no rush for sermon tapes after this.

Not knowing what else to do, I lifted my arm and gently placed my hand on the woman’s forehead. The microphone dangled uselessly in my other hand. Nothing, absolutely nothing came to me-no word, no divine revelation, no scripture verse, no nothing. It was like giving myself the last rites.

But then the young woman tottered a bit. She caught herself. Then, like a tree in the wind, she began to sway. With my hand suspended in the air, I watched as the woman fell backwards. An elder standing by caught her and gently lowered her to the floor. Two women rushed away, returning with a modesty covering which they draped across her. She was out.

I have never been so glad to see somebody fall down in my life.

I knelt beside her in the amazed hush. In a still voice I whispered, “Peace.” After a quiet prayer, I stood. Then, without another word, I handed back the microphone and returned to my chair on the platform. No problemo.

It was all I could do to keep from doing a jig and whooping my bloody head off. I sat on the platform like Pharaoh. The toppling lady had conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood. I was fire and ice, baby.

And God laughed.


One Response

  1. I absolutely love that story. Laughed my fool head right off! I, for one, am thankful you are not Benny Hinn-like. I think that’s a good thing, bud.

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