Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Some Key Wimber-isms 25 Years Later (Huh-Oh)

I loved many of John Wimber's pithy statements and mottos. They had a way of cutting to the core and stating profound things simply. Here are some of his sayings followed by my follow-up observations 25 years later:

1. "When do we get to 'do the stuff' (that Jesus and the Apostles did in the N.T.)"?

The full context of that statement is that Wimber, the new convert, was puzzled as to why the church didn't just divide up the city on a map and replicate the Acts of the Apostles (so-to-speak) in everyday places around them -- "doing the stuff" he saw being done by Jesus-followers in the Bible.

That's still a great question for our churches today. When do we get to "do the stuff" in the community we see being done by the church of New Testament days?

My observation is that, with some notable exceptions, doing the stuff "out there" was abandoned in favor of getting people to come to us (at church) so we could "do the stuff" to them on our turf. What a bait-and-switch!

2. "The meat is in the street".

This was Wimber's way of saying that we needed to take the gospel to everyday places, i.e. "the street" where people who needed to encounter the Living God through power evangelism, mercy ministry and various other ways and means could be touched with the gospel of the kingdom.

My observation is that, once again, based on how churches really prioritize spending their time, talent and treasure, too many actually believe that "the meat" is in the sanctuary.

3. "Everyone Gets to Play"

This goes to the idea that churches had become too focused on ministry done by highly-trained professionals or ultra-anointed spiritual superstars and had not been released to the people, by and large.

John's vision for church life was one in which "everyone gets to play" (so to speak) -- meaning that the ministry needed to be released back to the everyday man, woman or child in fulfillment of passages such as the prophecy of Joel quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost wherein the Spirit is seen as being poured out "on all flesh" -- "your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams". "Even upon my servants, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy".

But in fact -- with so much emphasis on professionally programmed worship services (even in so-called "Spirit-filled" churches) everyone does not "get to play." And that makes sense -- if worship services have indeed become the primary arena for doing ministry. Indeed it is obvious that "everyone" can't speak, sing or otherwise effectively engage a captive audience.

My experience is that the real message of the church (in far too many cases) is that "everyone" gets to give money, gets to listen to the best music and teaching we can muster, gets to eat donuts after the service, gets to volunteer for ushering, Sunday School and youth group, but "everyone" does not really "get to play" with the big boys (the highly-trained or ultra-gifted) at all.

Sadly, John's original notion took a serious hit once the philosophy of ministry exemplified by the Kansas City "Prophets" (so-called) that he had invited into the Vineyard took hold.

4. "Let the children do the healing".

The context for this statement is an experience John had involving a public healing prayer time for a woman in need in which the Spirit of the Lord spoke to John's heart, saying: "Let the children do the healing".

John took this to mean that the Spirit was calling for the adults to step aside and, after a bit of instruction, feature the children as the agents of the healing prayer in order to illustrate how profoundly simple and powerful healing prayer ministry was meant to be -- even "the children" could be used! That's because it wasn't about the giftedness of certain people but it was about the mercy and majesty of God and the reality of the kingdom. As I recalled, John obeyed and arranged for the kids to lead the healing prayer with the result that the woman recieved a notable healing.

Too often, it seems the church's unintentional message to children is that God has called them to be "cute" (not too hard for most kids!), or entertained, or instructed in a classroom at church, but not really called to "do healing" or other such kingdom works. "Real" ministry, once again, is too often the province of "specialists" who have little value for imparting or giving away any gifted-ness they have become known for.

There are more such sayings, but these will do for starters. Perhaps you remember a few of John's slogans, sayings or mottos and have a comment or two of your own!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

How Healed About to Happen (Really!)

How Healed do You Want to Be?, my first book, was accepted for publication 1 1/2 years ago. I am happy to say that I have recieved word that it is now due to be published in April -- as in this next month! No, really (some of my friends and family have heard me project publication dates before). I've even okayed a cover, reviewed galleys (the typeset version of the manuscript that is the last chance for corrections) and written the dedication and acknowledgements.

I feel like I imagine it would feel to deliver a baby after a two year pregnancy: "Congratulations, Mr. Faris, you have succesfully brought a 23 pound child into the world". To quote a line from an old commercial: "How do you spell relief?"

Getting to this point has already been an adventure and major learning experience. But now, the real adventure begins. Step One of this new leg of the journey will take place on May 2nd at the Walsh home in Laguna Hills when we will have our official book release and signing party. More on this later, but take note: there is a rumor How Healed? may be sharing space with Robin's famous homemade Baklava. A win-win if there ever was one!

A primitive form of the dedicated website www.howhealed.com is up. Lots will be added in the days just ahead, but first-adopters are welcome to peek now.

Okay, Lord, delivery is in sight. I'm dying to know where You will be taking it -- and me -- from here.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Say Goodbye to the "Wubbie", Bill

In the film Mr. Mom, Michael Keaton's character (that would be Mr. Mom himself) has to help his youngest son say goodbye to his beloved "wubbie". The wubbie, of course, is a special blanket that the little fellow takes everywhere with him in the manner of Linus of Peanuts fame. My thesis is that we all have our Wubbies, if you will, and that there is a time we too may need to let go of them in order to, well, grow up.

I speak of this because the time has come for us to move out of the 1,000 or so square feet we have been subleasing since last August after we left our Crown Valley Vineyard Church space in Rancho Santa Margarita. The new (and much smaller) office / storage space represented my last grip on traditional church as I have known it. We may have deconstructed our worship center and other remnants of a destination campus and moved to house church mode, but at least I still had my own office and Pam, our administrator, had her desk there, too. So, now that our obligation to stay there is finished and the time has arrived to move out, I automatically began looking for replacement office space -- smaller and cheaper, of course -- but we would naturally need to retain an office location for the Vineyard Community Mission Network (or so I thought). Turns out, not so much...

Before long I came to the sobering realization that having my own church office space was a "wubbie" I needed to surrender. Given our mission, our operational needs and our calling to be community - based, an office no longer makes sense. So it's "say goodbye to the wubbie, Bill" and keep saying hello to the new way of being in the ministry that this whole journey represents.

I wonder: is there a "wubbie" in your life that needs to be surrendered?

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Best Place I've Found to Talk to God

... is Silverado Canyon.

For those of you who are not acquainted with the South Eastern edge of the OC, the way to Silverado is to turn off Santiago Canyon road where Silverado Canyon Road connects to it about halfway between Irvine Lake and Cook's Corner.

The two lane road twists gently toward the base of Saddleback Mountain with only a few structures along the way. Without fail, I can feel myself relax a bit as the simple road pulls me deeper into what feels like another time and place far, far away from the Orange County beehive.

After a few miles, I gently roll into the town center. There is little more than a small post office, a tiny convenience store, a simple library and a few other buildings before you arrive at the dirt parking lot of the Silverado Cafe.

I first stumbled onto this funkiest of cafe's in the 1980's when it was still called the Pali Cafe. Nowadays, Felix runs the place. He is the owner and also the cook. Inside the Silverado Cafe you are likely to find a few locals chatting about this and that while drinking out of one of the mugs they just leave there to be washed and hung from a peg on the wall until their next visit. A "tab" is posted on the frig, just inside the front door, where the accumulated dining bill of some of the regulars is updated until the time comes for them to pay up and start over again. Oh, and just in case you're wondering: everything at the cafe is good, but the pancakes kill.

Once back in the car, the Canyon road twists on from there deeper into the heart of Silverado. In the wet season, the creek runs strong as it plays hide and seek with the roadside. Eventually, I find my special spot and pull the car just off the pavement. My cell phone is useless here. It's just me, the aspens, the creek and -- often enough -- a quiet breeze. I pluck my way down to where the water is running, Bible in hand. It's a great place to pace back and forth among the rocks and talk out loud to God. It's a great place to read the Word and to journal a few thoughts and insights, too. Once back at the car, the thought crosses my mind that it is a perfect day for a quick nap. More than once, I have given in to that temptation (without regret). Eventually, the time arrives to turn and head for home again.

Reluctantly, I pass the Cafe -- now from the other direction -- and emerge into the wider places of the Canyon until I arrive again at the junction with Santiago Canyon road. My cell phone, now alive again, may show that the larger world is awaiting my return. It makes me miss "my" Canyon all the more.

Often, I have dreamed of renting a room or buying one of the rustic homes along the simple roadside. I covet the privilege of having a mug of my own hanging on the wall of the Silverado Cafe -- a true local at last. But I don't suppose the Canyon will ever be my first home. But, whenever I can, I will be return there to talk to God, say "hi" to Felix and grab a bite to eat, and maybe fit in a little nap, too. If you ever come to the Canyon, look for me in one of these places. Don't worry: if I'm there, it won't be hard to find me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Help: I Don't Understand Rock Band or Guitar Hero

Okay, see if you get this concept: you pay money and spend time on a form of entertainment that involves staring at a screen while listening to the same mediocre rock songs over and over while tapping a "guitar" that has no strings or frets and makes no actual music. You do so as prompted by little dots that appear on the screen and explode if you tap correctly. If you're "good at guitar" (or drums, or voice), the screen tells you so. If you're not "good at guitar" then the onscreen "band" stops playing and the "crowd" boos you. Mind you: you are not actually making any "music" at all. You are tapping. This whole concept reeks, right?

Now get this: this "game", which obviously stinks and has no potential, has taken over my once quiet and peaceful home (okay, my home is never quiet and peaceful, but that's a different issue). The issue at hand is (a) how could this happen? and (b) why have I actually participated in this mockery of musicianship on several occassions?

My only consolation is that this generation can now claim to have something with the power to provide a personal sense of accomplishment as satisfying as the one delivered by properly tending a Chia Pet.