Matthew Lincoln is a man of faith. One evening last June, Mr. Lincoln attended a prayer service at his church, Lakewind in Knoxville, TN. The visiting preacher, Robert Lavala, was offering private prayers for people in which he touched people’s foreheads thereby initiating the practice of being “slain in the spirit.”
I have seen this many times. People are filled with the Holy Spirit, slip into an ecstatic state, and fall backward to the ground. To keep them from hurting themselves, “catchers” are assigned to help the slain land gracefully.
Chances are Mr. Lincoln has engaged in this kind of behavior before, but this time was to be different. Yes, the pastor was powerful; yes, the spirit came unto Mr. Lincoln; yes, he fell backwards, but no, there was no one there to catch him. Mr. Lincoln fell back hard, and hit his head on the carpeted concrete floor.
This would have been bad enough, but Mr. Lincoln has a pre-existing spinal condition that the fall exacerbated.
Normally one to give generously to his church, Mr. Lincoln and his attorney thought it time for a little pay back. So Mr. Lincoln is suing his church for $2.5 million. The church is liable, his attorney says, because they should have provided catchers for each of the soon to be slain.
Lakewind Church turned as we so often do in times of spiritual crises to their insurance company, which in turn turned as they often do to their lawyers, who as they so often do, turned down Mr. Lincoln’s claim saying he should have noticed that there was no one there to catch him.
There are many challenging issues in this case. For example, it was the Spirit of God that knocked Mr. Lincoln down, so why is suing his church? He should sue God. And why would God slay Mr. Lincoln knowing, as God always does, that there was no one there to catch him, and that the fall would damage him severely and make it impossible for him to care for his disabled daughter as he alleges in his lawsuit against his church? And what is Pastor Lavala’s obligation in all of this? What is his defense, “Pastors don’t slay people, the Holy Spirit does”?
I feel for Mr. Lincoln and worry about his daughter. I also sympathize with Pastor Lavana and Lakewind Church. It seems to me there are no winners here (except of course the lawyers). What is the just thing to do?
Honestly, I have no idea. But I do have a suggestion as to how Mr. Lincoln should invest his money if he wins his case. He should design special clothing for people choosing to be slain in the spirit. It would be like an airbag sown into a shirt, or blouse, or jacket that would deploy when the pastor hits your head (ala, “Oh I could have had a V8”). Not only would this benefit the slain, but it would cut back on the cost of catchers. Everybody wins.