Jesus. Real Life.

Vineyard thoughts 1: encouragement via experience

I’m entering into a “looking back/looking forward” series of posts regarding the Vineyard, inspired in part by the guys I mentioned in the last post (check there for links). 

Our church (though not a Vineyard) welcomes people to receive prayer for anything at the end of the Sunday service. I’m one of the leaders of the prayer team. In fact, I just led our last training, which was very ‘Vineyard-esque.’ So I listen to the Holy Spirit when I pray for folks, and just about any other time I can remember to do so. I “do the stuff” as much as I can and the stuff is good and the stuff is very rewarding. Think woman at the well–who wouldn’t be jazzed about that? But you know what? I don’t just do what Jesus did in that story. The Vineyard legacy in my life isn’t just to “do the stuff.”  It’s first and foremost a willingness to “receive”: receive the kingdom like a little child, receive the Spirit, receive help from God through others and through any other means he sees fit to give help.  The priesthood of all believers and the great mercy of God means that I not only get to play the part of Jesus in that story in John 4, but also (thank God!) the role of the woman: religious but broken, and in increasing need and fatigue, plagued with some kind of pain or weight or task or shame or all of the above, and being the one largely to blame for my condition. Then God meets me, usually through a fellow clay pot who knows my pain and is full of his Spirit.  Together, God and this humble pot don’t just give me big important truths (regarding the true nature of worship, for instance), but also the little known truth about me.  As God’s awareness of me becomes obvious, all of a sudden my hope and faith are renewed, and instead of wearily lugging heavy jars of water over and over, springs of living water start welling up in me, and I am totally lightened, refreshed and refreshing others with quickness and ease in my steps.  That’s just from receiving from God, often via a clay pot like myself.  Isn’t it interesting that even though Jesus tells this woman one of the most theologically significant truths about worship–announcing to her a momentous shift in how/where worship will happen in the covenant that is now being made–it’s the little known truth he gives about her that transforms her into an energetic, believing missionary: “Come see this man who told me everything I ever did.”  It’s not the big truth about right worship and temples, hot as that topic was at the time, that sent her running with joy, it was the smaller truth about her.  

I have needed (and continue to need) God to talk to me that way–personalized, customised, through other people, circumstances and Spirit to spirit.  Is there a greater need in the thirsty, agnostic West?  It heals me so deeply.  Energizes me so dramatically.  Convinces me of all kinds of ‘big truths’ so convincingly.  The Vineyard is going to need to hang on to and deepen that legacy and practice in the post-modern era.  My main caveats would be these: 1. experiences like these aren’t mutually exclusive with more traditional means of growth and spiritual disciplines; they are complimentary for disciples; and 2. Get intentional about pursuing “the stuff” outside of the meetings.  Make it missional, make it a way of life, not a way of church services or even just outreaches.  The latter will rot from the inside-out, the former, the way of life, will be like a garden in spring time, teeming with more life than can be contained.

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3 responses

  1. ironic that perhaps the turn of phrase about not “majoring in the minors” has been mis-applied and much of post-Christendom is busy having conversations about where and how to worship – or at least “do church” – which are hot and burning issues of our time, and i like being in those conversations…but perhaps that is a type of majoring-in-the-minors, in that the major-in-the-major at its heart is still me and we connected to God in simple, profound ways that set my heart ablaze…

    i think you are right-on that these types of things happen as the Spirit moves and as we are on our journey, and are not solely for “minisry time” at the end of a Sunday service (although they happen there as well..); which ties into the holistic embrace of the Kingdom that comes in power and humility…in our best and worst times, our most charismatic and our most mundane…in the times when we sense powerfully God’s Presence, and when we are haunted by His felt Absence…

    March 8, 2010 at 2:47 pm

  2. Steven,

    Thanks. And yeah; it is ironic. I’ve certainly been guilty of focusing too much on “this mountain or Jerusalem” type questions rather than the customized, personal restoration God often wants to do right under my nose.

    I often think about Wimber’s line that the Vineyard “never became the evangelistic movement that I hoped.” For him (and, more importantly, for Jesus), looking for people with the Spirit was how he lived, not just how he did church, so it naturally happened as much in one place as another.

    March 8, 2010 at 4:43 pm

  3. hey T –

    i’d like to connect further on some things and maybe chat about your journey a little more. we are currently praying about moving and God envisioning us to land somewhere and foster a faith community (they call it church-planting i guess)…and i know you all have been fairly intentional about being incarnational-missional and the challenges therein, not to mention i have a lot of thoughts about the intersection of Vineyard essence and what we might call “twelve raditions/Twelve Step spirituality” as an essence for a community. anyway, my e-mail is shamilton@vcccm.org

    peace

    March 10, 2010 at 11:07 am

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