Church is a wonderful place for Christians, where people are healed, delivered from their past excesses, meet their mates, learn the scriptures and get doused in the Holy Spirit. Often, movies and critics mock such church happenings with exaggerative skits and scenes that demonstrate ladies dancing down isles and people falling to the ground, convulsing as if enduring a holy seizure. But some would credit the jokes to lack of understanding, or even to fear.
There are times when the preacher allows the Spirit to move and the laying of hands precedes miracles. And it’s during these times, newcomers and even those who’ve grown up in the church sit back, amazed in utter confusion and curiosity, wondering what supernatural intervention is transpiring.
J. Stephen Lang describes being “slain in the spirit,” or what some call “falling under the power,” in “1,001 Things to You Always Wanted to Know About the Holy Spirit.”
It is not new. During the field preaching of John Wesley, people sometimes fell to the ground as if they had been knocked down, and other evangelists saw similar occurrences. In some cases the people did not move or speak for several hours… Those who were “slain” seemed to have experienced a loss of feeling, and collapsed…. The experience is positive, not pleasant, and many people come to the platform at evangelistic rallies in the hope of having the experience. Paul seemed to have been “out” following his conversion (Acts 9), but the book of Acts does not indicate that it happened to other believers.
Other scripture, according to Loren Standford, senior pastor of New Song Fellowship and author of “Purifying the Prophetic,” gives evidence of these events as well.
“Biblically, you see the phenomenon mentioned in Revelation 1:17 when John encountered Jesus, ‘When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man.’ You find it again when the 24 heavenly elders become so caught up in worship and in encountering the power and presence of God that they fell down and worshiped (Revelation 5:14).”
Standford also mentioned evidence in Daniel 10, when Daniel encounters Gabriel the angel. The scripture describes him having a vision but having no strength in his body. He fell on his face in a deep sleep.
Angie Wyatt, associate pastor at Gateway Church in Texas and granddaughter of Robert H. Schuller of the Crystal Cathedral, says the Bible doesn’t say anything about being “slain in the spirit.” But she does draw comparisons of events and experiences that have been documented in the Bible.
“The Bible doesn’t say anything about being ‘slain in the spirit,’” she wrote in an email. “It’s certainly not a biblical term. There are instances of people being overwhelmed by God’s presence, such as Zechariah who couldn’t speak after a divine visitation. These instances are the closest parallels we can draw.”
She added that being slain in the spirit is a spiritual experience in which believers are “overcome by God’s presence” and they often fall to the ground. Although she’s unsure of the exact scientific and spiritual events that are taking place within in the individual, she said some come to with revelations, messages, or visions from God, and others just feel an ever-present peace or rest. She also added that there are psychological and emotional factors involved as well.
But then there are those within the faith who shun the “practice,” saying it’s merely a psychological game between preachers and parishioners.
David W. Voyles, author of “A Shepherd’s Trial: Feeding or Fleecing the Flock of God?” calls the phenomenon a “virus.”
“Slain in the Spirit is the newest fad to hit the church. It has been around in many forms throughout the years but has come up like an epidemic within the past few decades,” he wrote.
“Pastors are readily accepting and spreading this virus in their congregations without having any firm scriptural basis for this practice. It infects the members with a fever that desires to have an experience rather than a relationship that has any relevance with God.”
He further describes the experience as pagan, comparing it to religious practices of the Far East, in which people mock animal sounds and ultimately experience altered states of consciousness and unconsciousness.
He writes, “The members have unwittingly opened themselves to their suppressed imaginations and every kind of devils dwelling in high places.”
He continues, “The Apostle Paul warns the young Pastor Timothy to ‘Lay hands suddenly on no man, neither be partaker of other men’s sins: keep thyself pure’ (1 Tim. 5:22). Today’s pastors feel that they do not need scriptures from the Holy Bible. So, they lay hands on every Tom, Dick and Harry without preaching the Gospel… It is all about what new demonic manifestation will take place that they can contribute to God.”
Being slain in the spirit is still a great mystery, even one in which scientists have taken the duty of attempting to understand the events that occur in the mind and body. And while some have been infamously known to pretend, evidenced by them routinely falling out every Sunday, some believe it is just another way God makes his presence known to his flock.