Q: Dear Pastor: What does "slain in the Spirit" mean?

A: Great question. It sounds like a violent spiritual act, doesn't it? Many of us didn't grow up in church culture so we have no idea what it means. At the same time, conservative denominations may have heard something about it from their brother or sister churches in the Pentecostal camps, but they attribute the idea to the lunatic fringe who dramatize their worship. Rest assured, being slain in the spirit; falling down in the presence of the Lord, is both biblical and normal.

You see, God's presence (his sudden nearness to us when we call) is like experiencing a Boeing 747 landing on the roof of your house. The two things are not compatible, rooftops and airplanes, because their physical forms don't fit together. Likewise, God's electrifying, surging power is no match for the tiny, fragile circuitry of a human being. When the Holy Spirit takes the hand of someone in need, we may see them literally collapse under the weight of his benevolent touch. As far as I know, there has never been a documented case of someone being harmed or endangered by being slain in the spirit. Quite the contrary, there are countless stories of radical healings, demonic deliverances and sweet, restorative sleep for those who have succumbed to God's power in this special way.

We're not talking about a goose-bump or two. Nor is it the same as sensing the peace-filled presence of God reassuring us that we are in his hands and everything will be alright. The encounters which spawn Holy Spirit slayings are unique and different. Let us go to the scriptures to review a few examples:

Revelation 1:17, 18: "When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, 'Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.'" (NASB)The Apostle John is journaling his experience about the moment when Jesus appeared to him on the Island of Patmos - at a time when Jesus has already been crucified, resurrected and returned to his heavenly home. John collapses instantly. Jesus then touches him to proclaim and reassure, "It's me, Jesus. Don't be afraid."

2 Chronicles 5:13, 14: "...then the house, the house of the Lord, was filled with a cloud, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the house of God." Here we find King Solomon, David's son, dedicating the freshly built temple to the King of Glory. At last, the Ark of the Covenant will have a permanent home! While the singers began to sing and the priests began to praise Almighty God; God responds, filling the temple with his Holy Spirit in the form of a cloud so intense it knocked everyone to the ground. Being slain in the spirit during Christian worship is not unusual in many today.

Matthew 17:5, 6 "While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice out of the cloud said, 'This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him!' When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground and were terrified." Jesus decides to hike up a mountain to a secluded place, which was his custom. This time, he brings Peter, James and John along with him. Jesus is several paces ahead when suddenly he is transfigured into a gleaming white, other-worldly apparition. The Holy Spirit descends again in the form of a cloud and Daddy-God booms aloud, "This is my son!" The men hit the deck in response.

When it comes to the supernatural side of God we often have two responses: skepticism and fear. I assure you there is no need to fear when God is involved. He always means to help, not hurt. He longs to draw near to us, but doubt and unbelief often prevent his coming. God won't enter where he isn't welcome.

Adrienne Greene pastors two Christian churches in southeastern Indiana.