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.

13 comments:

  1. Hey Robby, great post my friend...I will definitely have to look for the book. It's a great reminder that we can to all the " missional " stuff and completely leave the Kingdom behind. It made me think of a Vineyard guy years back, I'm sure you know who it is but my memory fails me. He wrote a book about his journey of playing music in pubs and run down bars, and actually doing worship sets. And the Spirit would move, the Kingdom would manifest itself. Hmmmm makes me wonder? Whoops!!! sorry I'm gettin' a little charismatic. Pax...Ron+

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  2. You're expressing a whole lot here that resonates a whole heck of a lot with me.

    I'm in the Vineyard currently, but also listening to and engaging in the missional conversation out of some frustration with where things are right now. And yet, I can't ignore so much of the Wimber-style roots of the Vineyard that pull me into a radical life of faith and service.

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  3. Great post Robby, Alan's Forgotten ways is a ripper of a book. I'm looking forward to your thoughts on it.

    Cheers Scott

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  4. Ron,

    I'm not sure who that might be, although I know Kevin Prosch was doing that kind of thing in the late 90's. My friend Norm Strauss -- who just phoned last week in an attempt to recruit me to the Kelowna Vineyard to play bass -- wrote a book that touched on that, entitled The Witness of Worship. I've got a copy but was unable to find any source online that has it, or I'd provide a link to it.

    There's a funny story behind that: Norm had mailed me a copy of the manuscript when it was 75% finished (about seven years or more ago), and got me to proof it and give some feedback. Months went by, and I didn't hear anything further, so I sent Norm a pithy email with the title "What Happened To Your Book?"

    What I didn't know was that Norm had pretty much decided to not pursue publishing it, but was at a gig in Vancouver BC where some prophetic dude told him about some "unfinished business" that he needed to take care of. Norm wondered if that meant the book, and he and his wife discussed while driving home.

    When they got home, they found they'd only received one email all night long -- mine.

    The book was published a few months later.

    Cool how God works sometimes, when we don't even know He's using us!

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  5. Matt,

    I'm no longer in a Vineyard, but reading this book makes me wish I still was.

    Except...

    I've seen the same frustrations that you've mentioned as well. It almost seems like very few Vineyards are truly being... "Vineyard".

    But Wimber's values and emphases, to me anyway, seem IDEALLY suited to a 21st century, culturally-postmodern society. I'm baffled that so many Vineyards don't seem to realize this, if they would only get back to their early roots.

    Scott,

    I'm really looking forward to Forgotten Ways, as well, but right now Wimber's book is totally inspiring, encouraging, and challenging me. I'm gonna camp on it for a few more days and let it sink in. Truly an inspiring read.

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  6. Hey Robby, I think you hit the nail on the head, it was Norm Strauss. The book was given to me by Trevor Haug, or Gord Cheney from East Saanich Vineyard in Victoria. I thought it was such a great book, I passed it on to someone else...and haven't seen it since.
    If you ever happen to hear of how to obtain a copy...please pass it on. Peace...Ron+

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  7. Hey Rob I was just reminiscing about the concert you played Bass at in Selkirk for my parents church along with Dale, Adria and myself. I know it seems weird to note this now but thanks again for helping at that time. Since then my dad passed away and thus the reminiscing. That was a great time and Adria and I miss you guys. Continue pressing into the truth.

    Marcel

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  8. Ron,

    Hey, if you see either Trevor or Gord, tell 'em robbymac sez hi. Great guys!

    Hmm. Since Norm lives in the same town as me, I guess it would only make sense that I could just phone him and ask if he's got any more copies... (dang, but I'm slow sometimes; did I ever mention I'm hopelessly middle-aged?)

    Marcel,

    I remember that time! I remember particularly how honoured the congregation and leaders were to have you "back" leading worship in the church you grew up in. It's a cool community of faith in Selkirk.

    I'm sorry to hear of your dad's passing. I only met him that time at their church, but he seemed like a really cool dad.

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  9. Hey Robby, thanks I'll do that. I see Gord fairly often. It's been awhile since I've talked to Trevor, He's down south doing ministry with John Paul Jackson. And if you anything from Norm in regards to the book, if you could e-mail me at (labmanster at gmail dot com ), that would be great. Peace...Ron+

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  10. Great post, Rob. Imma chew on this stuff for awhile. I was particularly struck by your question: "why is eradicating poverty such a popular passion of emerging/missional people, yet opposing the slaughter of the defenseless called 'abortion' is not?"

    It's a fine line to walk between relevance and (wishy-washy) PC. I struggle with this myself everyday at a university noted for its strong political views and opposition to the idea of "God". For fear of representing myself as a dogmatic bigot, perhaps I try too hard to create a "presentable package": cool, stylish, intelligent, but still "moral"- one of those soulful types- believes in God but more so in the way that Oprah does than, say... Jerry Falwell.

    It's as if we don't trust God to reveal His own glory. Jesus didn't just get on board with the socially acceptable causes- He was willing to offend for the sake of the Kingdom. But He "offended the mind to reveal the heart", right? Perhaps we've got to stop trying to fill all the cracks in these earthen vessels; save some spots for the light to shine through...

    (By the way, Ron- I don't know if you've heard but Trevor Haug and his family returned to Victoria from New Hampshire last month; they felt it was time to come back "home")

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  11. I've wondered some lately about whether all our teaching about how we need Christians in every walk of life is accurate. The "go and be Jesus in the workplace - that's your mission field" mentality. I think it is true, but it seems we fail to live like Jesus as we do that. Instead we buy into the entire Western model of life, simply becoming another consumer without purpose and then we struggle because we try to serve more than one master.

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  12. Robby,
    This post was very interesting.

    There is an awkwardness for many of us learning how to intentionally intersect our lives in the community. Many of us are looking for opportunities and examples of how to live in ways that enable us to develop these relationships.

    I totally agree that we want to go beyond just being nice people doing nice things, but isn't that our door into the relationships that will eventually lead to opportunities for spirit-empowered ministry?

    I hope that you will continue to write more on this topic.

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  13. Jules,

    That's exactly what I was getting at -- that we may need to look a little more closely at our motivation for what cause(s) we're willing to speak up about (or shut up about). I share the same struggle to be relevant but not allow PC-ishness to overly influence me.

    Brian,

    Hey, as someone who's played (repeatedly) in secular bands, I can definitely concur with your concerns here. More than once, I've looked in the mirror and asked myself if I was really making a difference for the Kingdom, or just trying to have my cake and eat it too. Your question here is a crucial part of the wrestle in this area!

    Grace,

    Yes, I agree that we must deliberately seek and pray about the Spirit giving us "divine appointments" where the goodwill and "earning the right to be heard" will open doors for praying with people, telling our story, and sowing seeds of Jesus' story (however many times this may take).

    Your comment really ties in with what Jules & Brian were just saying as well. It's a vital part of our incarnational presence in the world, and yes, I plan to keep writing on this.

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