Documenting miracles – cultural differences

On our website, the documentaries of God’s miracles abroad far outnumber those of similar things happening in Switzerland.

So people often ask me if God prefers to do miracles for poor people who don’t have health insurance, or if there are more demons in other countries. I have also heard people speculate that falling down is a cultural phenomenon. In some places people think that if they let go they are more likely to experience God.

In fact, what I have found is that people all over the world have the same basic spiritual and emotional needs, and when it comes to manifestations of either the soul or the spirit, it really doesn’t matter where you are. God has expressed His desire to meet the needs of those who come to Him in faith and He has chosen to do this through His Body – those who believe in Him and those whom He has called and empowered to be apostles – the sent ones.

As I have grown more secure in my calling and the authority God has given me, I no longer expect to see a significant difference between what happens at home and abroad.

Attitude Towards Filming in Different Cultures

So why do I have more films of mission trips than of things happening in Switzerland? One of the answers is that Swiss people tend to dress rather blandly, which makes for boring footage that is less interesting to the audience. So I am less interested in filming here. Joking aside, Christians in our culture are much more camera-shy than in Africa or Asia. It is not uncommon to see many members of the congregation filming with their smartphones during worship, preaching or ministry time. This is frowned upon in Switzerland.

When people actually respond physically to the power of God or the Holy Spirit, Europeans, especially Christian Europeans, assume that it would be wrong to share such footage publicly.

In the European mind, your faith is a private matter, but in the African mind, faith is a public matter. It never ceases to amaze me how central the Christian faith is in countries like Kenya and Uganda. No politician or public figure is in the least embarrassed to talk about their faith. Not that everyone agrees on everything: there is a wide range of positions. But the one thing on which everyone agrees is that faith, spirituality and organised religion are essential components of a healthy society.

The other issue we face in Switzerland is the concept of individual privacy. We spend more than half the year indoors and only venture out for a pre-planned, specific purpose. We don’t live as a community any more. So we tend to think that we can and should control what people know about us. This is true, of course. But the disconnect comes when something happens that affects or could affect the whole community. If we privatise the flow of knowledge, for example in the case of a suicide, our society will not receive important early warning signals that something is going wrong.

How can God get the glory?

When a miracle happens and God’s kingdom breaks into an individual’s life, shouldn’t God’s right to get the glory trump our right to decide who should know about it? Wouldn’t it be important that the community hears that the Gospels are coming to life and that people are being healed and delivered from demons. Of course and individual needs to bear witness, and that is what we invite people to do when they get baptised and publicly declare their decision to turn away from sin. Furthermore, churches that have testimony times grow. But Western Christians who have the least to fear from being known as Christians are often the most hesitant to share testimonies. We have given the media a power over us that is quite irrational. We fear the media more than Christians in some countries fear the secret police. So we try to control the flow of information.

Treating individuals with dignity

For all these reasons, we believe that filming services is important and that the filming should not stop when the preaching finishes and we believe that footage of God’s power touching people and the associated testimonies should be published. Just imagine if the Bible was redacted to remove all references to the individuals who had encounters with the power of God working through Jesus Christ or his Apostles. The Bible is so alive because it honestly records the interventions of God as well as the way that people responded to him. It also records the stories of peoples and weaknesses and failings, and I can only assume that few people gave their consent to being mentioned in the Gospels or Epistles.

But God does miracles as signs, which is why we believe that it is important for us to capture footage of God working in and through people.

Having said all that, our approach in the free+healed ministry is never to publish material with consent.

  • Direct consent: if the footage focuses on a person for a significant amount of time in a way that the person might want to give context to, we seek direct consent.
  • Indirect consent: people attending our events are told that they can opt out, i.e. they can come and talk to a cameraman and say ‘please don’t use any footage where I’m identifiable’. We take note and promise not to use that footage, or at least to pixelate it if it is relevant to a broader story.

For further information about our approach to documentary footage, contact free+healed.

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