An effective minister in the area of deliverance and inner healing, Mike Connell shares about the core disciplines of the prophetic ministry and practical ways to hear God better.
Longtime friends of City Harvest Church, Mike and Joy Connell of Bay City Outreach Centre in Hastings, New Zealand were back in Singapore in July to minister to students from the School of Theology in the area of deliverance and inner healing, just as they have done every year for the past 20 years. In this in-depth interview with City News, Mike Connell shares about the core disciplines of the prophetic ministry and practical ways in learning how to hear God better.
What are some key spiritual principles you have learned over the years that you can share with people who desire to pursue a prophetic lifestyle?
I think your inner life with God is crucial.
Spiritual gifts are tools to accomplish the work, but God puts His Spirit in us for us to grow as His sons and daughters—the foundational thing is that we develop our identity in Christ, and then comes the work we’re called to do. Jesus developed as a Son before stepping out in ministry. Your relationship with God is crucial to carrying, for an extended period of time, the anointing of the Spirit. Over the years, we’ve seen those with great giftings and big ministries fail because their inner lives were not right.
One of the things is praying in tongues. I’ve found it to be one of the most powerful things to build, develop and expand your spirit man. Confessing the Word of God is also powerful. But those things don’t do a lot of good if you don’t develop your heart, your faith life, so meditation is crucial for that—where you consciously and intentionally dwell on the Word of God repeatedly until truth forms in your heart and you begin to grow your belief system inside so that it’s in harmony with God.
And then there’s the stepping out and taking risks, stretching out to minister and serve people. Developing a love for people is very, very important. The ministry gifts without love is shallow. Paul writes that it’s like a clanging cymbal—looks great, is noisy and gets a lot of attention but it’s actually harsh on you. I gave myself to encountering the love of the Father so that undergirding all the ministry, no matter what the giftings were, there was always a flow of the love of God: “The greatest of all is love.” And faith is energized by love. So I asked the Lord to help me grow in knowing His love personally so that all the ministry is “flavored” with love. You find that there are many power ministries but not so many who intentionally carry the love of God so it sometimes become harsh, a little mechanical or remote.
So my passion is to bring God to people so they can experience God—but the Bible doesn’t say God is power, it says God is love. For people to experience God, they need to experience being loved, and the power is one way the love of God is demonstrated. But you can always feel the flow.
I had a friend who’s a great teacher in the word of God. He was teaching about Hebrew traditions, and he said it didn’t matter how great a teacher the man was; the primary measurement of the credibility of a prophet or a teacher was whether they manifested the disposition of the Messiah—did they manifest the life and nature that was expected of Jesus Christ? It doesn’t matter how gifted you are or how much you know. So I found it’s been important to develop the love of God and the fruit of the Spirit, which undergird all the ministry and power.
The prophetic ministry is a lot about recognizing where and when God is working. How can we improve our sense of spiritual discernment? How can we learn to hear Him better?
You need to practise listening to God; communing with God is crucial to the prophetic. Journaling is a very powerful way of doing that—write your question down and begin to wait on God for the answer. Journaling cultivates the flow from within. So if we want to grow prophetically, we must grow in listening. Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, more will be given.” If you listen and are responsive to what you hear, it means God will give you more. If you listen but don’t respond, what you seem to have, you will gradually lose.
Most people I have found, want something big and spectacular. But God works with the still, small voice, and He works on the seed principle. Take the little you have and water it, and it will grow. If you want to grow anything in God, don’t look for the big. Take what you’ve got, and have a process whereby you’re consciously exercising the little, and the little grows.
So if you have a goal to save $20,000. It looks like a big goal, but if you’re committed to the process and you save $10 every day, over a period of time, it becomes a lot of money. Set a process in place, taking the little and exercising it, and it will grow over time. It’s just like in training people to discern fake money, they are given real money—exposure to the real sensitizes you to the counterfeit. So in the area of discernment, the more you listen to God, the more you learn to recognize His voice.
People tend to automatically equate discerning of spirits with the demonic, but evil spirits are not to be the focus of our lives—Jesus is. What you focus on affects the way your life goes. So discerning of spirits is also about discerning the Holy Spirit at work—what’s He doing, what’s He not doing? What’s He on, what’s He not on? It’s also about discerning the human spirit, the motivations people have. Peter discerned that Simon the sorcerer’s motivations were rooted in bitterness and inequity. Most people can’t see past the surface. Discernment enables you see to the root of those areas.
And what does walking in discernment look, or feel, like?
I’ll give you a picture example with the river of God in Ezekiel—“Out of the innermost being will flow rivers of living water,” Jesus said. Ezekiel saw a temple, water flowing out, and as he got into the water it was only up to his ankles, but as he began to move, the water got deeper and deeper.
So sometimes with miracles, you have a plan, and then you see something and you’re moved with compassion to act and as you do it, God moves and you say, “Oh God told me”. But actually all that happened was you felt touched in your heart and started to step out, and the river of God starts to flow with you. Because the river in Ezekiel always goes to where people are in dry places and in need, to help them and to minister to them.
So it takes a step of faith and believe for God to move with you. When there’s only a little water, it feels like it’s mainly your effort and you can move around freely. But if you continue to work with the Holy Spirit, the water gets deeper—there’s more of God working with you, to a point where you the water’s so deep you can’t walk. In other words, all you can do now is guide your direction, but you’re carried by the flow.
Putting this simply, sometimes you’ve just got to take steps of action, believing for God to come with you. And as you do that, you start to feel things and see things happening. And if you keep going, you’ll find yourself in so deep that your drop your plans and you look to God for what you have to do next.
So again, the important thing is to have an inner life where you’re conscious God is with you. This is very important, and meditation helps for this—for a moment you stop, be quiet, start to experience praise and gratitude and become conscious that “God is with me.”
With this, I make my plans, but then I make myself sensitive to the little impressions along the way that indicate God wants to draw my attention to this or that. And if you let God interrupt you, then you see more of Him working. You’re still responsible to plan, but they’re subject to God’s interruption. And if you watched Jesus’ ministry, a lot of it was inconvenient. Along the way, He perceived, or He was moved with compassion.
How did your friendship with City Harvest Church start?
I was invited by (New Zealand preacher) Kevin Dyson to be part of a presbytery at another church in Singapore, and as a part of this, they asked us to pray with the leaders of City Harvest and to prophesy over them one evening. I had the chance to speak for five minutes. I made a connection with Pastor Kong and Sun, who were not yet married, and the church only had about 400 people … must have been 1990 or 1991.
And I felt God speak to me very clearly that I should make a commitment to help Pastor Kong for as long as he wanted me to come. I felt it in my heart—when I heard him, saw what he was doing— the kinship of spirit, and I felt God witness to me as clearly as I’ve ever heard, “make a commitment to help him,” because in those days City Harvest was considered to be just like a big Sunday school, it was despised by everyone. There were just no resources, nothing. So during those times, we met at the Mackenzie Road (CHC’s first office), and mostly what I did was teaching about the prophetic, the laying on of hands, and then we did deliverance as well.
And the relationship began to grow. In those days, Pastor Tan was still doing his National Service. I remember prophesying over him, what God was going to do in his life. We were right there in the early days!
It was very, very exciting. A most unusual church to come to, because the energy in the praise and worship—there was reviving taking place. There was a unique faith and spirit life dimension in the church, so to come here was very reviving. It was my first missions trip to Asia, really, and this opportunity came: to connect, and from that connection, Pastor Kong kept asking me back, and I just kept coming. We did camps, we did Bible School ministry, trainings, and the church got bigger and bigger, and Pastor Kong made other connections but we just continued coming each year. For a majority of the leaders, we’d given input into their lives at one point or another.
I’ve never felt God say to stop coming—in fact, I love coming here, we love the atmosphere, the “feel”. It’s been a great joy to be part of the vision of the church as it expands and touch nations, and especially to know that many of the students have gone out to so many countries and done great things.
Pastor Joy, do you follow Pastor Mike on his trips often?
Pastor Joy: We have a large family, so for many years, I was happy to stay home and release Mike to this. And as the kids got older, it was wonderful for them as teenagers and young adults to see what their dad is doing. Even our grandchild came with Mike last year—it was a real delight, she was only 10, and she came back so pumped!
Now all our children are married, and so if the trip is longer than a week, we both come if it’s possible. If the children have babies and they need me, I go there—or if they want to come, I stay and look after the kids! Last year, I looked after three little boys under six years old while our daughter came over!
Outside of ministry, we like water sports—we had boats for years, we love beaches, go to shops, have coffee by the sea …
Pastor Mike: And go for walks, go to the movies! This season of our lives, we’re wanting to be away from church responsibilities, so that we’re free to help people globally, develop resources that will help them be equipped, and also spend time with our grandchildren. We want to get to know all our 21 grandchildren individually, have experiences and create memories with them. That’s why we’ve taken several of them on trips, we want to be intentional in engaging them, we want to invest in the next generation, not just let them grow up and they don’t really know us because we’re too busy doing God’s work. They are God’s work.
Lastly, what’s your favorite local food in Singapore?
Pastor Mike: Hahahah,that’s a tricky one …
Pastor Joy: Oh, yesterday we had those things with soup inside them—
Pastor Mike: Oh yes. Oh my. Dim sum.
Pastor Joy: You take a bite and all this hot juice comes out!
Pastor Mike: I don’t know what the proper name is … all I know is when I got ‘em, I love ‘em. I eat them all (laughs). We love all the Chinese food!