When it comes to doing the things Jesus did and that Jesus sent the 12 and the 70 out to do (preaching, teaching, and even healing–in churches that still do that), churches tend to be like one-man hamlets–most of the parts are still there, but with only one guy on the stage. There are still lots of backstage jobs that need doing and get done, but I think it’s fair to say that few modern congregants resonate with Jesus’ prediction: “Anyone who believes in me will do what I’ve been doing.” Most of the “what-Jesus-did-jobs” in each church are reserved for the sacred (the sacramentalized) few–the reverends, the priests, the ones set apart for God. Doing what Jesus routinely did was not my experience of mere “faith in Jesus,” having been in churches and in Christian schools from birth. It certainly wasn’t what church was like. Church was more like going to watch Michael Jordan talk about basketball than getting into a scheduled game or even drills with him and some friends. That is, until I joined with a Vineyard church.
“Everybody plays” was the phrase. By this they meant that everybody who wants to can learn to work with and through the Spirit to “do the stuff” that Jesus did, namely, be an instrument of the Spirit to prophesy, to heal the sick, to cast out demons, etc., for the building up of the Church and the redemption of the world–no degree required. While many churches affirm this, the Vineyard was the first church I had been a part of that actually practiced it so intentionally and so widely when it came to doing the things Jesus actually did. In this sense, the Vineyard took a unique sacramental view of each believer as a priest and a temple of God’s Spirit, and of participation with (or obedience to) Jesus in the ministry he modeled and led in the gospels and Acts.
As always, the proof is in the practices. Vineyard churches, because they sacramentalize the believer, routinely make space in their gatherings (usually called ‘ministry time’) for large teams of people (generally not including the pastor) to “do the stuff” with/for anyone that wants someone to pray and listen to the Spirit for them, for one kind of healing or another, and routinely offer trainings/workshops (I have given them myself) for people who want to participate in this kind of ministry both in the church meetings and outside of them.
I should probably also mention here that the practice of actually seeking or asking for God to be uniquely present or active is also viewed as sacramental in the Vineyard, in that it is commonplace in the Vineyard to expect God to be uniquely active when people ask or welcome him to be. Even though the Vineyard does not teach that God’s response is at all dictated by people, they do teach and practice that sometimes God is not “uniquely present or active” because we don’t ask, expect or really want him to be. Therefore, in the Vineyard, the practice of “asking, seeking” goes hand-in-hand, often literally, with the sacrament of “anyone who has faith” in Jesus.
Next post will be AA’s unique view and practice of the sacrament of “the priesthood of the believer.”