Bill Johnson, senior pastor of Bethel Church, addressed critics who've accused him and his church of interfering with the sovereignty of God by praying for the resurrection of his worship leader’s daughter who was pronounced dead on Saturday.
Johnson explained that he and his church family believe God has called them to follow the precedent that Jesus set forth by commanding His followers to raise the dead.
"Saturday, just a few days ago, we had a great tragedy, one of the key individuals in our world, their 2-year-old little girl died, quite unexpectedly, just out of nowhere. So we've been praying for the miracle of God. Mom and dad, Andrew and Kelly, have asked us to pray for resurrection. We've joined with them," Johnson said in a video clip posted on Wednesday.
In an Instagram post on Sunday, Kalley Heiligenthal, a worship leader with Bethel Music asked all of their supporters to pray for her 2-year-old daughter, Olive, after she stopped breathing and was pronounced dead by doctors over the weekend.
“We’re asking for prayer. We believe in a Jesus who died and conclusively defeated every grave, holding the keys to resurrection power,” Heiligenthal wrote.
“We are asking for bold, unified prayers from the global church to stand with us in belief that He will raise this little girl back to life,” she said, adding, “Her time here is not done, and it is our time to believe boldly, and with confidence wield what King Jesus paid for. It’s time for her to come to life.”
Heiligenthal's pastor linked arms with the "Ever Be” singer and her family because, he said, Scripture proves time and time again that resurrection of the dead is possible. Even though Olive is at the morgue they are still praying for a miracle from afar, he added.
"We have a biblical precedent, Jesus raised the dead! Not only that, He introduced Himself as the resurrection and the life. In fact, in John 11 verse 40, He says, 'If you believe you will see the glory of God,’” Johnson said.
"So seeing what Jesus has accomplished, what He did in His lifetime, and then when you add to that He commanded His followers, His disciples, in Matthew Chapter 10, verse 8, ‘to heal the sick, to raise the dead, to cast out devils, to cleanse the lepers.’ None of those are things that we can actually do. Yet He commanded us because somehow, in our Yes, He gives us the ability to carry out His mission. Being commissioned means we've said yes to His mission,” the Redding, California-based church leader continued.
Johnson said he and his church members are committed to living with a conviction and a devotion to what Jesus taught them to do. While in this period of believing for a miracle and hosting worship services to pray for Olive to “wake up,” some have criticized the church and its leadership for giving the family “false hope” or interfering with God’s will, but the minister says he believed this death was not God’s timing.
"Some have asked, 'isn't this interrupting the sovereignty of God?' And my response is, 'First of all, we don't ever want to violate the sovereignty of God. God is sovereign. He chooses what He wants and we cooperate with Him. There's no question.' But then my question is, why did Jesus raise the dead? Did He violate the sovereignty of God? Did the Father will one thing, and Jesus will another? Of course not!” Johnson emphasized.
He added: “The reason Jesus raised the dead is because not everyone dies in God's timing. Jesus could tell, and He would interrupt that funeral, He would interrupt that process that some would just call the sovereignty of God. And He'd raise the little girl, he'd raise the adult person from the dead.”
Johnson maintained that Jesus set a precedent for the church to follow and that is what they are doing at a time when they are unsure of how to proceed other than believing for a miracle.
"There's no manual that tells us to fast this many days, pray this many hours. We don't have any of that. What we do have is a biblical precedent, Jesus' lifestyle and Jesus' commands,” he said, adding, “Someone asked, ‘How long do you pray, when do you quit praying?’ I don't have a good answer. We're kind of in the middle of that journey right now.”
Many popular fellow worship leaders and groups from around the world posted prayers and encouragement for the family.
"Dear praying friends ... let’s go ... pray without ceasing for sweet Olive to be filled with the breath of God and rise back to life," said Darlene Zschech on Instagram.
Hillsong’s Brooke Ligertwood wrote a comment to Heiligenthal's declaration of faith amid the tragedy, saying, "THIS. IS. WORSHIP. In awe."
Kari Jobe added, “Praying Kalley, warring. In JESUS NAME.”
The family is now on their fifth day of believing for a resurrection miracle for Olive. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help the family.
"Along with the overwhelming shock and devastation of losing their daughter are the unforeseeable expenses the Heiligenthal family will incur, medical and otherwise," the page reads.