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!

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