Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Meat Is In The Street

In between finishing Exiles and starting The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirch, I've been thoroughly enjoying The Way In Is The Way On by the late John Wimber, founder and leader of the Vineyard movement.

Wendy remarked that this book should be required reading for all future DTS students in YWAM.

One of the many contributions that I think the Vineyard could make to the whole concept of living missionally is Wimber's emphasis on "doin' the stuff" outside the four walls of the church. Wimber was known to at times become frustrated with local Vineyard churches that became insular and invested more time in attending or promoting conferences than in actually going out and, well... "doin' the stuff".
"To continue Jesus' ministry requires that we adopt His lifestyle. Unfortunately, Christians in the West would rather implement programs. We are blind to our mechanistic assumptions when we reduce ministry to reproducible components and try to apply them indiscriminately." (page 168)
Part of the whole charismissional impulse would include getting out of just "doing church" and being more incarnationally connected to our communities, where Wimber's original concept of "power evangelism" was meant to function. Wimber envisioned a movement of people who would be regularly engaged with their community on a relational level, and anticipating/interceding for opportunities (divine appointments) to pray for and with those they were in relationship with.

But many Vineyard people seemed more content to focus on programs and worship times, and not as many were intentional about ministry the poor and the marginalized. Perhaps when these same churches observed a perceived lessening of the Spirit's power and presence, they should have done the quick math and realized that, as Wimber repeatedly emphasized, "the meat is in the street"; when we focus on the power and presence of the Spirit in a selfish and insular manner, we lose something of virtually all of the incarnational presence that Jesus modeled throughout the Gospels.

And as people who are filled with the Spirit in order to continue partnering with Jesus in the advancement of the Kingdom, it should really come as no surprise that when we over-busy ourselves in programs and "services", that the result is LESS genuine God-stories of the Spirit's work and intervention (instead we hear increasinly bizarre "proofs" of the Spirit's presence in our meetings, like gold dust or fillings).

This quote also brought me up short:
"There are painfully few members of Christ's Body who are responding in obedience to Him by choosing to move into the realm of the miraculous." (page 185)
What? "Choosing" to move in the miraculous, coupled to "obedience"? Dang, but that's an arresting show-stopper of a statement!

At times, those of us exploring a more missional worldview need to be brought up short with these kind of questions; the danger missional types need to be aware of is the possibility of doing a lot of good works and having people think that we're really nice people, but that's it. Without the demonstration of the reality of the Kingdom of God -- good works AND the power & presence of the Spirit of God -- we'll just be a politically-correct bunch of nice people doing politically-correct nice things (I.e. why is eradicating poverty such a popular passion of emerging/missional people, yet opposing the slaughter of the defenseless called "abortion" is not?).

If Wimber is correct, and the meat is in the street, then we have a great opportunity in being missional and incarnational ("earning the right to be heard", as George Mercado used to say) if we will choose to consciously seek to be Spirit-empowered in our interactions with our surrounding communities.