Released into the Spirit: Guest Post by Dr. Vivian Johnson

On Friday, December 2, 2016 during a Holy Spirit Seminar held at United Theological Seminary, I was “slain in the Spirit.” This phrase, at home with Pentecostals and other charismatic Christians, refers to people who fall to the floor during intense worship services because they are influenced or overcome by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Dr. Vivian Johnson, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs and Professor of Old Testament, United Theological Seminary 

This force of the Holy Spirit had an impact on me that seems more positive than being “slain.” The word “slain” connotes a sense of violence that was absent from my experience. It felt more like being “released into the Spirit.” Mentally, I held tightly to the disbelief that the Holy Spirit would manifest in that way. So strong was my conviction that all of the people lying on the floor were “faking,” I approached a leader of one of the sponsoring organizations to tell him what I thought. As a person who serves in a leadership role at my seminary, I was appalled that such mockery of the Holy Spirit was taking place at the seminary. The leader had a very gentle demeanor and said that my suspicion was rational as he at one time felt similarly, until the “release” happened to him. He was part of a prayer team of three people at the altar and they all prayed for me. I however was not “slain” in the Spirit after their prayer and I went back to my seat convinced of the fallaciousness of the worship kinetics occurring at the altar.


During a break, my friend and colleague persuaded me to participate in the impartation by the speaker at the end of the Holy Spirit Seminar. I agreed, reluctantly. When the time came for the impartation, I went up to the altar and was told that I had the gift of wisdom. The energy emanating from me was so intense, according to the speaker, that I needed to take special note of it. Even though my eyes were closed, I managed to sneak in an eye-roll under my lids. I was very conscious of anyone trying to push me to fall back and was highly resistant to the questionable acts occurring around me. Then, there was a moment when I focused on God and just prayed. My attention shifted from my surroundings to the Holy One and instantly, I was “released” into the Spirit. It was as if I let go of the strong grip I had on the tether of disbelief and rested in God. I sang, “I Will Make You Fishers of Men,” for about a week after that experience, especially the words in the verse that say, “Hear Christ calling, ‘come unto me’, I will give you rest.” I felt weightless, peace, trust, and revelation. There was a scintilla of divinity revealed to me and I’ll never be the same. Perhaps, one message is that God has anointed me to fish for people? Or, perhaps,  for me to let God do the heavy lifting, but do my part in undistracted and fervent prayer?

When I traveled to Morocco years ago, I admired how people stopped their day to pray. Though the people there were of another faith, I had holy envy of the public, physical expression of their devotion. Perhaps, my encounter with God was a call for me to submit in a public and physical manner. As I write this, the song, “I Surrender All” is imbued with new meaning. I am not where I want to be, but I know that God is not done with me yet.

All to Jesus I surrender
All to Him I freely give
I will ever love and trust Him
In His presence daily live
All to Jesus I surrender
Humbly at His feet I bow
Worldly pleasures all forsaken
Take me, Jesus, take me now,
I surrender all
I surrender all
All to Thee my blessed Savior
I surrender all
All to Jesus I surrender
Make me Savior wholly thine
May Thy Holy Spirit fill me
May I know Thy power divine

14 thoughts on “Released into the Spirit: Guest Post by Dr. Vivian Johnson

  1. I enjoyed reading your experience. I’m thankful for everytime God is revealed to us. It takes away the wonder or unbelief. It is the sweetest experience to be present together with the Holy Spirit.

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