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Table of Contents
The Church exists for the sake of those who are exiled from God. We are called to bring the gospel of the Kingdom to every nook and cranny of creation, faithfully translating the message of Jesus into language and forms that are relevant to diverse peoples and cultures.
We seek to be diverse communities of hope that realize the power of the cross to reconcile what has been separated by sin. This requires us to move beyond our personal preferences to engage those who are perceived to be unlike us and to actively break down barriers of race, culture, gender, social class and ethnicity.
We are convinced that the Church, locally, nationally and globally, is meant to be a diverse community precisely because Jesus is Lord over every nation, tribe and tongue. We are not satisfied with the status quo when it doesn’t reflect this Kingdom reality, but are eager to pray for the coming of God’s Kingdom here and now, and to realize this mark of the Kingdom in our midst.
INTRODUCTION: SPIRITUAL EXPERTS OR KINGDOM DISCIPLES?
Is being a Christian about believing the right things, or living a new way?
One of the weaknesses of the Church in the 20th century was the direct result of what scholars call modernism. Modernism was based on the idea that if we just gave people the right ideas, the right knowledge, they would then have happy and satisfied lives.
In the 21st century, we are coming to terms with the emptiness of this argument. Simply having intellectual knowledge does not lead people to live meaningful, satisfying lives.
John Wimber, the spiritual father of the Vineyard Movement, intuitively understood that much of the church had given in to this error of modernism. That is, they were more concerned with telling people what to believe than showing them how to live.
There’s a famous anecdote about Wimber going to church for the first time after coming to faith in his friend’s living room. After a fairly dry sermon and singing time, he asked his friend, “When do we get to do the stuff? The stuff in that book? I gave up drugs for this?”
This intuition goes to the heart of one of the most important distinctives of the Vineyard: that we are a movement of people who want to learn to live like Jesus lived, not simply believe what Jesus believed. And we don’t want this limited to the professional clergy — we believe that anyone can learn to live the kind of life that Jesus did.
The phrase that has come to embody this value is everyone gets to play – which is another way of saying that the Holy Spirit will empower anyone to do what Jesus did.
- What is the difference between believing what Jesus believed, and living like Jesus lived?
WHAT DID JESUS DO?
Jesus’ Way Of Leading
The life of Jesus of Nazareth is recorded in the four canonical books we call the Gospels. Each tells the story from a different angle, and the books fit together to paint a striking image of the man Christians believe was simultaneously human and divine. Thus there are aspects of his life that we can never emulate – his moral perfection, his perfectly clear wisdom, his redemptive death. And there are also aspects of his life that, through the empowerment of the Spirit, we can seek to emulate. So, focusing on those parts of his life we can pursue … what did Jesus do?
First of all, Jesus welcomed. His welcome was as broad as the people he encountered. He was not a power broker; he was not strategically (or cynically) “networking” so as to maximize his potential influence. He did not see any one person as more righteous or valuable than another. Rather, Jesus’ welcome was total. He hung out with people, especially with the marginalized. He loved to be with the poor and the outsiders. He liked to be with prostitutes and drinkers, doubters and thieves. These people found in Jesus someone who saw past their flaws to their inner person — the core part that the God whom Jesus called Father had created in his own image.
Second, Jesus healed. He healed the sick in every way imaginable. He brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead. He made people to walk again, speak again, feel again. And he brought spiritual healing. To those oppressed by evil spirits, to those who were manic or depressed, to those whose inner demons had led them to isolation and alienation, he brought remarkable freedom. There is scarcely any clearer New Testament witness to any other aspect about Jesus than that he was a healer.
Third, Jesus summoned. His call was for people to repent and to follow him. He welcomed and healed anyone, but he did not invite them to stay in their painful lives — he called them to change. He gave them hope that there was a different way of life available. He taught them what spiritual power without religious oppression looked like. He showed people what it meant to be convicted by God without feeling condemned. Jesus was remarkable in his spiritual genius, which could draw people to transformation without him having to exert pressure or power.
Fourth, Jesus commissioned. The gospels are replete with language about how Jesus’ ministry, while in some ways utterly unique, was in other ways definitively intended to be imitated. His final words in the gospel of Matthew were “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you” (Matt. 28:19). This was not a religion for a single cultural moment.
Rather, it was intended to launch a global movement of the kingdom of God, bringing life and hope to all people.
- Why did Jesus do miraculous things?
- In other words, what do you think motivated Him?
WHO DID JESUS COMMISSION TO DO IT?
Jesus Taught A Way Of Life To His Disciples
The ability to do what Jesus did was never something that happened to people in some kind of instant spiritual download. Jesus taught a way of life, of intimacy with the Father and empowerment by the Spirit, that issued out into kingdom living and could be passed on to the next generation.
Jesus had three close friends named Peter, James, and John. They spent more time with him than anyone else did, and they all played significant roles of leadership in the early days of the Church. Then Jesus had another wider circle of 12 friends, including the first three, that have been known as “disciples” or “apostles.” He often withdrew from public ministry to spend time teaching, mentoring, and developing these leaders. They were a motley group from various walks of life and social spaces.
Extending The Ministry Of Jesus
Jesus’ commissioning was not limited to his closest three friends or to the disciples. Some biblical passages talk about a group of 72 people that he commissioned and empowered to be ministers of the kingdom. Other passages mention larger groups of “followers” who also seem to have been commissioned not only to experience the ministry of the kingdom, but also to extend this ministry.
After the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are told a group of 120 believers obeyed Jesus’ instructions to wait for the Holy Spirit to empower them for further ministry. The remainder of the New Testament makes it clear that very quickly, thousands more were commissioned with the power of the Spirit. Jesus had promised this would happen: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere – in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
On the day of Pentecost, thousands were baptized into the ministry of Jesus. Churches began springing up all over the Roman empire – in Ephesus, Colossae, Antioch, and even the imperial capital of Rome. Among Jews and Gentiles, men and women, poor and rich, educated and uneducated, people came to faith in Christ and discovered through the Holy Spirit the empowerment to do the same kingdom works as Jesus.
The Church Is Not Always Perfect
2,000 years later, we have a rich record of how the Church has expanded all over the globe through everyday people being empowered to extend the kingdom of God. Of course, it hasn’t always been pretty. Jesus promised that one day he would return and bring the kingdom in all its fullness. Until that day, we experience the kingdom of God as an “already and not yet” reality. We have stories of God using his people to bring healing, salvation, and hope down through the generations. We also have stories of the Church being corrupt and hijacked by the powers of the day. People of faith mourn the “not yet” moments of the kingdom, but believe that God still has hope for the Church to be the community of power and love Jesus meant for it to be.
- If Jesus taught a new way of life to His disciples, what does that mean for us as 21st century Christians?
WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR ME?
You Get To Play
Jesus commissions anyone who wants commissioning. His kingdom ministry is for everyone; there are no disqualifications. Regardless of your personality, your history, or your gifting, Jesus wants to involve you in his plan for the world.
A group of teenagers and early 20-somethings gathered in a living room, led by a not-much-older couple in the late 1990s in suburban Chicago. Most of them had some kind of faith background but found themselves jaded and skeptical about religion. But over the weeks, the wife of the not-much-older couple would play her guitar and sing simple songs of love to Jesus. The husband would teach simple, helpful truths from Scripture. And then they would take time to lay hands on each other and pray for the presence of the Spirit.
Person after person in that group would find themselves unexpectedly touched by the presence of God. Sometimes a sickness would be healed, but most often, they would simply find hardness in their hearts softened into love for Jesus. They often found themselves emboldened to do ministry. Some would head to the mall to share Christ. Some felt called to overseas ministry. Some of them became lay leaders in local churches, leading small groups that cared deeply about reaching those around them. Others became pastors or missionaries or leaders of faith communities on college campuses.
People Empowered By The Spirit
This pattern repeats itself again and again throughout the Vineyard, and we believe it is simply a continuation of what Jesus was doing with his three close friends, his twelve disciples, and many beyond that. This is why it’s impossible to stop the movement of Jesus through persecution, political oppression, or legal action.
The movement of Jesus does not depend on institutional support – it happens organically through people empowering other people in the power of the Holy Spirit in the same way they themselves were empowered.
- Does the movement of Jesus depend on institutional support, our moods, or our financial situation?
EVERYONE GETS IN ON THE PARTY
So, how can you experience commissioning from Jesus? It’s really worth the effort. No two people experience this commissioning in the same way. Jesus is our creator and knows our hearts better than anyone else. He formed us with a particular destiny: to carry on the work of his kingdom in the midst of a complicated, difficult world. Here are three steps to start on this journey:
First, look for some people who are experiencing Jesus’ call in a way that is compelling to you. Go be around them. Watch how they live. They’ll never be perfect (remember the “already-not yet” concept?). Don’t let their imperfections disillusion you. But when they are at their best, pay attention. Ask questions.
Second, ask for them to show you how to “do the stuff.” Ask to pray for the sick with them. Ask to serve alongside them in church or in the community. Ask if you can try leading for a week in the group they are heading up. You’ll find that Jesus’ people are typically pretty enthusiastic to show others how to do what they’re doing. If you pursue some who aren’t, move on until you find some who really want to include you.
Third, be ready to give it all away. It’s surprising how quickly Jesus can turn us from trainees to trainers. Be on the lookout for people you can help grow into the destiny that Jesus has for them. You’ll be amazed at how ready God is to empower the next group of people to do his kingdom ministry.
Don’t expect your Jesus-ministry to look like anyone else’s. Everyone gets to play, and we all have a different part. We all have vocations, or callings, that are meaningful to God and reveal his heart to the world in a special way. Whether we join God’s kingdom work in our workplaces or neighborhoods, we can engage with what God is doing in those unique environments. The beauty of the kingdom is that everyone has their own roles, and it can all come together to reveal the beauty of what God is doing in the world – and what he will one day bring to completion.
- In Eph. 4:12a, the Scripture says that the saints are to be “equip(ped) for the work of ministry.” What does that mean in light of Jesus’ call to every Christian to do what He did?
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