The Lord has taken us through a transition time of stripping away old attitudes and beliefs and stirring new vision of simplicity and focus on seeking His heart. This has given new perspectives for us (Tim and I) personally and for this church. We have struggled for a time wondering if we are being effective in the Kingdom view of things and trying to understand how to implement what the Lord has been speaking to us which looks different from the general “church planting growth” techniques. What we feel God is calling us to looks different from present Church methods as a whole and how church is typically done in these days, but they are things Jesus did; they are things John Wimber encouraged. It is scary, knowing we are hearing God’s leading in this direction, but it is new uncharted territory for us and we are not certain how to employ it well. We have had many battles with doubt and discouragement about ourselves as pastors as leaders of this church. Through this struggle we have gained greater insight into who we are individually, designed by God’s specific plan. We have also discovered who we are NOT. We lack certain giftings that are not in us, beneficial for growing a larger church. This has been a freeing experience in many ways, yet we recognize that our lack may have hindered the church in certain ways. We also know God has called us to minister from this perspective. We know that where we lack in giftings gives room for others to share their giftings. Our only hope is that we are making a difference in the Kingdom lives of our Body corporately, as well as all of us individually. Here are some of the things the Father has shown us.
Contrast from Culture and Church History: These next comments are not in harsh accusations and judgments against the Church (as a whole). They are merely observations that break our hearts realizing this is not what Jesus intended for His Church.
The American Church in many ways has become church-centered instead of God-centered. In part this is due to our culture, but also through the practices throughout the development of the Church that have somehow become more influenced by man than by God. The focus is more on function than on the Father. The Church has traded true relationship with the Trinity for religion and rituals, traded life in the Body for thriving buildings, traded programs and position for His presence alone.
In so doing, people have been scattered, brow-beaten by obligations and expectations, committees and meetings, attendance numbers and quantitative growth instead of nurturing a healthy spiritual life in Jesus. Many have lost their desire to pursue their faith any further. The fire stirred in them at salvation has grown cold and dormant. Many have forgotten the dreams and visions the Father gave them, as hidden treasures forgotten beneath the debris of trivial matters and daily routines. Some have turned away from God completely, disappointed or disgusted by the Church – seeing it as a skeleton, bureaucratic bones with no heart and soul or flesh of the Spirit. Though pastors and churches are sometimes unfairly blamed for causing wounds that are actually people’s unhealed issues from their past, we have witnessed people who have rightful accusations against the Church missing its Kingdom purpose. We (Tim and I) as pastors in the learning process have also unintentionally caused wounding to others.
Pastors and Church Planters: Pastors and church planters are now trained to search for a set of techniques to build a church, mostly quantitatively using marketing strategies as in business endeavors, enticing people to come to their church, trying to save a few along the way. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We want people to come fellowship with us. We want to be involved in people’s lives. Yet, somehow the focus has become distorted where polite invitation to “join us” has become manipulation to come to church. Whether this is the intention or not underneath the invitation to come to church, the landscape has been set and many people assume this is what churches are all about. This assumption has haunted us (Tim and I) about inviting people to come to church. We want no part of manipulation.
Competition as believers has somehow taken precedence. No longer are we considered the “whole Body of Christ” no matter where we go to church or if we go at all. Churches and pastors feel this tension of competition and the drive to look bigger and better than the church down the street. Building authentic relationship with people has twisted into marketing tactics to draw people in. “Get a popular vision statement and catchy publicity to grow your church.” The pressure of these strategies has always felt very frustrating for Tim and I. We cannot function naturally in who we are if we do these things.
In the Vineyard, there are 10 core values that hold us together as a Church Movement. These are biblical values to live by and thrive in relationship with the Father. The Vineyard has ebbed and flowed throughout its history. Leadership has made some mistakes. Pastors have made some mistakes, but we still believe in the original intent of the Radical Middle established by John Wimber and others who mentor in these values. But how do we live those out today? Wimber needed to break away from the generic routine of church and do what Jesus did. We believe this is still our call today, though culture and times have shifted.
The Shift: Many prophetic words for this year involve words like: shifting, quaking, realignment. We sense God is causing this shift. He sees and has a plan to fulfill His purposes here on earth. He wants us to be involved just as He involved the disciples.
In the Gospels Jesus modeled for His disciples how to live out their destinies and minister to the world. The early church had its adjustments to make as they ventured out to fulfill our Lord’s great commission. Jesus rocked the culture of His day- the Greco-Roman intellectual mindset as well as the rigid Jewish religious culture. He is rocking the world today, especially the Church. He is tearing down walls of Western Intellectualism and rigid religiosity. A shift is coming. The Father is realigning willing hearts back to His heart. (2 Chronicles 16:9 – For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.) He is inviting those committed hearts to join in on His shift – to break free from the norm into a new normal- a Kingdom normal.
Jesus established an atmosphere for anyone who came would have the opportunity to encounter His presence, to be accepted and healed (physically, emotionally, spiritually), to learn and grow in understanding of the Heart of the Father, to engage in friendship and faith in Him, and be touched by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation and application of what He did/does. He had no manipulative strings attached, no ulterior motives or expectations, no obligations out of guilt to do or be anything other than a child of God, all the while learning how to love (the Father and others) more deeply.
What would this kind of ministry be like today? Committees, programs and titles would not be the focus, rather learning how to function as unique individuals in the Body, serving each other out of love and relationship. Ministry would be a natural outflow, watching what the Father was doing. Everyone would be encouraged to learn how God designed them personally and given a place to exercise and develop their giftings in a safe environment to learn and grow, taking the risks to step out in faith. Mistakes would be seen as learning opportunities not faults, and everyone could practice and grow in grace for each other through this learning process. Peter and Paul were learners too. They made some mistakes, but God had mercy on them and their lives and faith changed the world. None of us can do this in our own strength. It will/does take God in us to love in this way.
“Sunday” or weekly gatherings would be an encouraging place to be spiritually filled in order to share all the Father has given to us with those in our daily lives, people we encounter in our spheres of influence. This requires us all to step away from church consumerism or the spectator seat and jump into the Kingdom to receive personally and to receive to give away – to share what God has given us with people in church and out of church. It would be like a free flowing stream with fresh water moving inward (to us personally) and outward (giving away what we’ve been given), like a fresh mountain lake not a stagnant pond. Manna grows stale and rotten if horded. Evangelism would be a natural result of connection with people in real ways without ulterior motives to “get them saved or into our church doors.” We would want to interact with
people in our own churches as well as from other parts of the Body without feeling competitive boundaries. We would not be afraid to build relationships with people who don’t know Jesus yet or may never come to our church.
The enemy wants the Church to have a bad reputation. His aim is to exploit our faults to the world as proof that the whole Jesus thing “ain’t worth it”. He does his job well enough on his own, we don’t want to contribute by investing in things that don’t have Kingdom potential. Though Tim and I have made many mistakes of our own, we don’t want to live under the worldly mindset and pressure anymore to “grow the church” using methods that Jesus wouldn’t follow.
The Practical Functions of the Church: There are certain practical details of a gathered group that somehow need to be met. – Simple Service – making coffee/food, setting up or cleaning up the place of meeting. – Giving – tithes for the pastors compensation, rent of the meeting place, general supplies, educational materials, ministry guest, benevolence, missions
There are ministry needs and opportunities: – Ministry – children, youth, adults, family, marriage, singles – worship – prayer
Ministry does require a few things – 1. Calling of the Lord to serve in certain areas – His direction not ours 2. Practical Training – understanding how to minister to others: This training is learned through mentoring and practice (by doing). – Listening to the Holy Spirit 1st – Respecting others with grace and mercy (the person receiving prayer – – others who are also praying with you) – Listening is key- to the Holy Spirit and the person More listening than talking – Character & Integrity- we are always accountable for this, before God and before other people. (Remember Rob Mazza and Streams Ministry)
These practical details are not expedited through a sense of expectation or obligation but by a personal desire to contribute to the Body as the Lord leads each person. The details are shared throughout the Body as they develop naturally. Sharing the load prevents anyone from getting burned out. If someone is not available or has not volunteered for a certain detail, then we will not do it. We (Tim & I) want to serve in equipping and providing opportunity for people to exercise their giftings. We need your communication-expressing your desires and ideas, as wells as your willingness to exercise these giftings – not just IN church but OUTSIDE as well.
The Father’s Redirection: These are specifically some of the things the Lord has been stirring and stripping away in Tim and I as we learn through this process of walking out our values and faith in Him.
Stripping Away: Changing our View/Mindset – A religious mindset. Tim’s experience in Uganda in 2010 , literally pulling a religious spirit out of him. (I also have been delivered of a critical spirit and controlling spirit) We are standing guard so they don’t/can’t move back in) “Church” is not the focus, but the Kingdom/ the Father Our church is not “IT”, but the whole body of Christ is important (No Cats vs Griz mentality – we are all believers not certain titles of churches)
“Man”-centered church, but the Father-centered body – Guilt expectations – pressure on others to serve or come to church – Traditional church methods of committees, programs, obligations taking precedence – Mistakes are a negative thing- Mistakes (our own and others’) are learning opportunities Some of the most life-changing moments are results from mistakes Clarify – Mistakes are unintentional blunders Mistakes are not wrong choices (wrong choices are willingly spoken words or actions that hurt others, ourselves and ultimately God) – Quantitative growth focus- Attendance numbers do not necessarily equal success in the Kingdom or a healthy /Spirit-filled church exhibiting and practicing Kingdom character.
Stirrings: – 1st and foremost seek the Father’s heart (even when this contradicts the Build Your Church Manual) Nothing else can take the lead but God Himself – Learning who we truly are – Identity as Abba’s child – our personal design – how we are wired and how we are NOT – our giftings (spiritual and redemptive) – identity is not based on performance but relationship We are already His child – our specific calling in the Kingdom
Shift: Prophetically there have been numerous words from the Lord that a shift is coming, already taking place. God is shaking the foundations of the earth in these times, shaking the foundations of the Church that man has built throughout history. He is calling His Body into a new thing, and I believe He is trying to get our attention (all of us). See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.” Isaiah 42:9
We are trying to shift, but things look different. This is new territory. This is a transitional stage for us and that can be a bit scary. We know that our identity as leaders is not based upon our performance or upon your approval. But we long to be affective in making a difference in your Kingdom lives.