John Wimber of the Vineyard Movement was fond of reminding his followers that "the meat is in the street". In saying this, he wasn't reporting the results of a truck accident a few blocks from the Jimmy Dean Sausage plant. He was, in fact, expressing his core philosophy of ministry -- that the best and most satisfying places to share in the ministry of Jesus are the everyday places of our lives, i.e. "the street".
To understand this notion, it would help to understand three things:
1. Wimber was a biblical literalist. He believed that the "stuff" (his term) we read about in the Gospels and Acts is the same kind of "stuff" that should be happening through and around Christ-followers today. This belief continuously impacted his view of church life, evangelism and contemporary Christianity.
2. Wimber lived as a totally non-churched "pagan" until he was well into his adulthood. In fact, were it not for the outreach of a persistant and bold layman from his neighborhood, it is hard to imagine how a man like him would have ever become a believer, much less a highly-influential church leader. In other words, his own encounter with Jesus as Lord began in the "everyday" place of his house.
3. As a church consultant for a prominent Church Growth institute, Wimber had an intense personal knowledge of the mainstream evangelical church of his time. What he personally saw and experienced through his interaction with thousands of pastors and church leaders only deepened his convictions that churches were too often functionally and philisophically at odds with their own stated mission.
The movement John Wimber led is now more than twenty five years old and he himself has passed on to Glory. Throughout its development, the Vineyard movement has had to struggle to retain the outward, everyday vision for ministry that informed John's sensibilities. But if he were still with us today, I believe he would be pointing us back to "the street" -- calling us to take risks by initiating "street level" contact with people who need Jesus.
Frankly, I don't know if he would have totally understood or even approved of our VCMN network. John was a church planter and a great believer in the local church as it is usually constituted in America. But one thing I DO know, is that he would love to hear the stories we are beginning to tell of how our members are taking the ministry of Jesus to neighborhoods and other everyday places.
These stories of loving God and loving neighbor smack of the down-to-earth discipleship John insisted upon. Maybe, just maybe, it would bless him to see that we agree that "the meat is in the street" and are willing to take the kinds of risks that go with sharing the Gospel in word and works in the places people live, work, learn and recreate (our VCMN mission). And, we're just getting started!
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