I knew a man who would know people’s secret sins the moment he laid eyes on them. From what I know this was not a gifting he wanted or sought after, it was just something he experienced. It was a testament to the character of this man that he was also one of the best lovers of people that I’ve ever known. I know quite a few people who, from a young age, saw into the spiritual realm like you and I see into the physical realm. They see angels and demons constantly, without actively looking for them.
I don’t know about you, but until a couple of years ago this was different to how I experienced the supernatural. I’ve never seen someone’s secret sin written across their forehead. Until a couple of years ago, I had never seen demons and angels flitting about, going about their business. I’ve never fallen into a trance, and I’ve yet to be supernaturally transported anywhere. Spiritual gifts manifest differently for different people, and there are those out there who have very unique manifestations of spiritual gifts, and very unique relationships with God as a result.
People label them as mystics or seers. Personally, I believe this is what should be normal for Christians, and is actually accessible to all of us.
Christianity should be inherently mystical, because that’s God’s nature.
I’m going to use the term seer in this post, simply because it’s easier to attach a label, even though I don’t think it fully describes or captures the gifts I am speaking about, and I think it makes it seem like it’s an experience that is limited to one set of people when it’s not.
I’ve met quite a few people in the Bethel environment that came here because they felt weird elsewhere. These people felt like they didn’t fit in, had their giftings misunderstood in other environments, and often didn’t understand their gifts themselves. So they came here looking to learn, and looking for others like them. What they discover upon getting here is that they are still the weird ones in this environment too; the majority of people don’t understand their experiences, and don’t talk about those kinds of experiences often either.
Often these people have been misunderstood and hurt by the mainstream church, so they come looking for a safe place to learn about their gifts and to be healed from the pain their gifts have caused them. I know many of these individuals, and have done life at a deep level with quite a few of them over the past five or so years. Pastoring them can be unique, because their experiences are potentially different from what many people know is possible, and being misunderstood has hurt them in the past, so what they need most is understanding. They don’t need you to understand their experiences, but rather to understand their hearts.
Seek to Understand
The fact is, if you don’t experience the supernatural like these individuals then you potentially won’t understand their experiences. I’ve heard about experiences that I had to really take to Holy Spirit and determine if I agreed with from a theological standpoint. It’s important that you don’t do that in the moment with them. In the moment, be open and seek to understand, but don’t get caught up on your understanding of theology or belief/disbelief. Ask questions, but from a perspective of openness, rather than trying to prove it wrong. Use discernment, and look for the fruit of the experience. Do not react out of fear or confusion. So many seers have shared their experiences and had it go really poorly, so if you want to be able to learn about them and speak into their lives it’s important that you listen in an open way without causing them to shut down. If they notice you freaking out, they will be unlikely to want to share more.
The Spiritual realm is full of mystery, and God uses language we can understand to represent concepts. Jacob saw angels ascending and descending into Heaven via ladders. This was likely a representation of a spiritual truth rather than angels actually requiring ladders to come and go. Because of this, experiences like this can be quite confusing, and seemingly very bizarre and beyond our understanding. But if we don’t seek to understand and close ourselves off to things that don’t make sense, we will miss out on learning from these encounters and experiences.
Sometimes seer giftings can be quite overwhelming. You are seeing and hearing things that you don’t feel like you should have access to, and sometimes don’t even want access to. It’s often information overload! While not a regular experience for me, I’ve had several moments where I’ve heard the thoughts of people around me. It’s always a jarring experience, and one that makes you wonder if you are going crazy. For me, I used those moments to minister to people, and they gained freedom and healing through it. Understand that while these gifts are exciting, learning how to use them and not let them rule your life can be a process. I passionately believe that gifts from God are positive, and shouldn’t turn into something that makes your life more difficult. I totally believe that, but have seen too many instances of gifts making things difficult for people to say that it doesn’t happen.
The Church has often not known how to deal with people who experience the spiritual realm like this. We’ve either not believed them, demonised them (pun not intended), given them a platform they shouldn’t have had, or prayed for their gifting to go away. I’ve seen all of these options play out, and seen the damage they all cause. Just like any other person in our church or school, we want them to feel safe.
I’ve seen it happen that people get excited by the gifts on someone’s life and create a platform for them. Gifts are not the same as character. Spiritual gifts are not an indication of Godly character. Do not give someone a platform simply because of the gifts on their life; it will damage them, and it will damage people around them if their character is unable to sustain the platform they find themselves in. I think it’s important that you create pathways for communication where seers can inform you of what they are feeling in an atmosphere, and ideally you want that pathway for all of your students to be able to communicate what they are sensing.
I have also seen it play out where a seer gifting was causing a young person pain. They communicated the things they had experienced to people who reacted out of fear, or were simply terrified by the things they were seeing. The Church, genuinely wanting to help the person but not knowing how, prayed for the gift to be shut down.
Pastoring someone in their gift is always a better option than shutting it down.
In shutting down a gift you are shutting down part of that person; they are still going to be experiencing things, but their awareness of what they are experiencing is going to be limited. In the long term it’s more sustainable and life-giving for them to learn how to operate in their giftings and simply to be pastored, loved, and covered in that gifting. You do not need to understand their gifts in order to love and encourage them.
Community where they are loved, where risk is celebrated, and there is room to fail is going to provide the best environment for someone to learn and grow in their seer giftings. Create safety by listening, seeking to understand, and providing them with tools to process and get healing from any pain that their giftings may have caused them.
Normalize Their Experience
If you have never experienced anything like what they are experiencing you will not be able to personally relate to their experience, but it’s helpful and freeing for them to know that they are not crazy, and that people have been, and are experiencing similar things. My wife and I meet with a group of similarly gifted people each week, and it’s been incredibly helpful. As we listen to each other’s experiences, we learn about the spiritual realm, we learn things we didn’t realise about our giftings, we grow in them, and we also have a group that we can be accountable to if what we are experiencing doesn’t sound like Jesus.
If possible, help seers find other people like them, so that they can normalise their experiences together. If that is not possible, there are hundreds of books you can point them towards to help them understand what they are experiencing, as well as numerous passages in the Bible that describe supernatural experiences that can help them understand their experience. Studying the lives of people such as William Branham, Maria Woodworth Etter, or St Teresa of Avila can also help them understand themselves.
The exciting truth is, even if you don’t experience the spiritual realm like these individuals do, you can not only pastor them and learn from their experiences, but you can begin to cultivate and experience those giftings for yourself in your own lives. A friend of mine recently said “The age of the mystics is over, it’s time for the Church to grow in mysticism.”