Book Review: Miracle Work by Jordan Seng

The Overview:  The subtitle on the cover of Miracle Work reads, “A Down-to-Earth Guide to Supernatural Ministries.”  This is a perfect description of what this book is all about.  Jordan Seng, the pastor of Bluewater Mission in Honolulu, HI, contends that followers of Jesus should live and minister in two distinct ways: (1) with an everyday awareness and practice of the supernatural power of God at our disposal and (2) in humble proximity to those who most need the miraculous work of God in their lives.  The chapters in his book, after a few introductory pages, alternate between descriptions of five supernatural ministries (healing, deliverance, prophecy, intercession, and the Baptism of the Holy Spirit) and personal anecdotes of those gifts at work.  He labors to give an explanation of both what supernatural ministries are and what it feels like to use and grow in them.

The Good:  This book is immensely practical and relatable.  For someone coming from a conservative evangelical background with minimal exposure to supernatural ministry (or charismatic gifts or practice as it is sometimes called), I came in open-minded but wary of potential red flags that I have often associated with ministries particularly focused on these practices.  Honestly, other than some likely theological disagreement with the chapter on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, I didn’t see much with which my fellow conservative evangelical friends would disagree.  This is simply a primer on what these five miraculous ministries are and practical steps in learning and using them.  Dr. Seng is charming and personable as he explains simple tips and shares stories from his own experiences, including his failures as well as successes.  He is sharp and succinct on the “how-tos” and thorough and pastoral in his explanation of the “what-ifs” (“What if this doesn’t work the first time? What if I use the wrong words? What if things get really intense?”).  The interesting thing about supernatural ministry, in my experience, is that though the listing of these gifts is seemingly always associated with gifts that are used all the time in our church and parachurch ministries (teaching, knowledge, wisdom, serving, evangelizing, etc.), they are almost never talked about, let alone used, in many Christian circles.  I have given hours of my life to being trained as an evangelist; I have never even heard of a training on healing or deliverance.  In this book, Dr. Seng balances this equation and gives us some practical tools that we need to be fully equipped for ministry as those who walk by the Spirit.

The Bad:  This is a book that you will either love or ignore, period.  I wish that Dr. Seng had included a chapter near the beginning that addressed the walls of resistance that many will no doubt have about retooling their ministries or worship services to allow for the utilization of these supernatural ministries.  A five-page chapter entitled “For all my Reformed and Catholic readers…” with some sharp theological critique of the neglect of these gifts and caring pastoral guidance over the stereotypical barriers that exist between certain camps of Christians would have done wonders to help this book appeal to a broader audience.  It is somehow both a relaxing charm and a minor disappointment that Dr. Seng moves quickly out of the station without slowing down to see if he lost anybody who wasn’t already on the bus.

The Transferable:  Literally everything in this book is transferable.  The chapters on each ministry are so incredibly practical and full of little tips and simple steps to take in using supernatural gifts.  I will share one practical tool that Dr. Seng describes as “the heart of this book.”  He (with some self-deprecation) calls it “the power equation.”  According to Dr. Seng, “growing in power is the biggest key to doing supernatural ministry well” (54).  Here is his “equation” for growing in power:

Authority + Gifting + Faith + Consecration = Power

Using Scripture and experience to back up the argument, Dr. Seng argues that our growth in these four areas will lead to greater access to successful uses of the Holy Spirit’s power.  Admittedly, I was a bit skeptical of something so spiritual laid out in an equation but the more I read his explanation, the more I found myself resonating with his logic.  If we grow in our obedience to Jesus, our understanding of and appreciation for the gifts, our willingness to risk and say yes to Jesus, and our willingness to sacrifice our worldly desires for holy living, doesn’t it make sense that we would become more attuned to the voice of Jesus and be able to discern his will and access the resources of the Holy Spirit?  It certainly does to me.

Who Should Read This:  This is a book that should be read by ministry leaders and practitioners who are genuinely desiring to grow in their understanding and practice of the gifts of the Spirit.  This is not a book for those who desire a theological explanation for why these gifts are still usable and useful today (other than the chapter on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, which is quite challenging and theologically well-argued).