This morning I was flipping through one of John Wimber’s books and I read the following:
I have a prayer, and a vision: The Vineyard — and the Church at large, whatever Christian stream, tribe or family you happen to belong to — breaking through the walls of the church out into the streets and the marketplace, preaching Jesus and His Good News, accompanied by the Holy Spirit. I see Father reaching out His hand to heal and perform miracles, and our message not ever changing from the Good News to the signs. I will die happy if that happens. The signs show He is here. The message is Jesus Christ in all His fullness — not the signs!” (John Wimber, The Way In Is the Way On)
In typical Wimber fashion, we read here an emphasis on both the demonstration and proclamation of the kingdom. As the Church, empowered by the Spirit, moves beyond the walls of the buildings we gather in, we go to make disciples by showing and telling people about Jesus. It’s the wonderful combination of people encountering Jesus and hearing about his wonderful work on the Cross.
I want to publicly go on record indicating that I want a lot more of what Wimber prayed for the Church at large, especially within my own tradition, the Vineyard. More, Lord… more!
“Come Holy Spirit! More, Lord!”
Recently I was interacting with some folks on Facebook about “revival,” inaugurated eschatology, and the person and work of the Holy Spirit. The discussion turned to the theology behind the Vineyard song, “More Love, More Power.” Some indicated that they had concern that the song may produce a theology and corresponding praxis that overlooks the “not yet” of the kingdom. On this point I can understand why some people may want to nuance the issue a bit and remind us that the “not yet” of the kingdom is an ontological reality, not just our experience of the kingdom. The kingdom of God currently exists as “already/not yet” and won’t find it’s consummation and telos until the kingdom comes at the return of Jesus. Yet while we acknowledge the “now and not yet” nature of the kingdom, I think it’s safe to say that we certainly want more of the in-breakings! We certainly long for the “now” of the kingdom, right?
At this point the conversation turned to something I think we need to spend some time talking about in the Vineyard. What about the idea of “more”? Can we have “more” of God if the Holy Spirit indwells us? What about the NT emphasis on “being filled” by the Spirit? If you were around the Vineyard in the early days or have watched videos of Wimber and other Vineyard leaders praying for people, you’ll likely have heard the prayer, “More, Lord.” Should we pray for “more” of God?
Now some would argue that this Vineyard prayer for the Holy Spirit to come and move and for more people to experience more of God is the Vineyard prayer par excellence. Many of these same people have concern about the current culture within the Vineyard and tend to want to push the movement toward this prayer in order to get us focused on the Holy Spirit.
Others look back on their experience with the “Toronto Blessing” and want to avoid all of the extremes and abuses and are concerned that if we don’t remembered to root our praxis in our biblical-theology of the kingdom, things can get out of hand quickly.
So back to our question: Should we pray “More, Lord”?
“Yes, if by ‘more’ you mean…”
Full disclosure here: I still love the song “More Love, More Power” and I have been known to welcome the Holy Spirit’s presence, pray for the Holy Spirit to come, and to pray the words “More, Lord!” So I have absolutely no problem with the intended theology behind that classic Vineyard song nor with our Holy Spirit welcoming prayers.
But I’m not sure that when other people pray for “more” or when they indicate that the Vineyard needs to get back to experiencing the “more” that we mean the same thing. I’ve heard some people say we need “more” of some stuff that I’m very happy to have left behind (and yes, you can take that as a dispensational intended pun). In my opinion, some of the theology and praxis that has been around our movement hasn’t always been the best. And that’s normal because we’re still a young movement and we’re still developing. Plus, we’ve been super diverse and pretty ecumenical, two reasons why we’re still trying to figure things out in some areas.
“No, if by ‘more’ you mean…”
About two years into my first opportunity to serve as a pastor, I had an older lady, who has since gone to be with the Lord, walk up to me after the Sunday service. She decided to inform me that (1) our church didn’t have the Holy Spirit’s presence and (2) the way she knew that was because no one was being “slain in the Spirit” during prayer.
Well alrighty then!
Never mind the fact that people were coming to faith in Jesus, others were becoming more engaged in Scripture, and people were centering their lives on Jesus. For that lady, the Holy Spirit was only evident if people were laying on the ground.
I’ve also heard and read where people attempt to root “signs and wonders” with other phenomena like “holy laughter” or “shaking” or other more eccentric (for lack of a better word) “manifestations.” And no, I am not saying that those “manifestations” aren’t evidence of God’s activity in the lives of human beings, though I tend to filter the “fruits” of revival through Jonathan Edwards’ “distinguishing marks,” but I digress.
Back to Wimber…
In the Wimber quote previously mentioned, he states:
The signs show He is here. The message is Jesus Christ in all His fullness — not the signs!”
Any and all kingdom “signs” should be pointing toward Jesus. I love that. It’s precisely what I think unites us in the Vineyard, even when we disagree on many other issues. Our values are inter-connected by a love and devotion to King Jesus and his kingdom. I thank John Wimber and the many other early Vineyard leaders who planted “Jesus seeds” that have grown to become so vital for our continued sustainability. Without Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5). And he is far greater, far more beautiful, far more gracious and loving than we often give him credit for.
Having spent the last few years working alongside Vineyard pastors and leaders, I think it’s safe to say that Wimber’s priorities are still concerns shared in the Vineyard. Followers of Jesus continue to partner with the Holy Spirit as they join God’s mission. Jesus is still proclaimed and his presence still demonstrated. The Father continues to do miracles among his people and the great news about what Jesus has done and continues to do is being shared around the world.
By the way, I do want more!
Anyway, back to the Facebook conversation. Here’s how I clarified what I mean by “more”:
For my part, I want more of the kingdom to break in, resulting in healings, salvation, people sharing prophetic words, worship and affections toward Jesus raised, pushing back against darkness and other aspects of social justice, mentoring, more spiritual gifts being manifested by *everyone*, more fruit of the Spirit, and people becoming more like Jesus.”
So yeah… I want more. More love. More power. More of Jesus in my life.