After going through Bible School and serving in ministry on several different levels for several years, I have spent some time now away from what many would call “full time ministry”. Four years ago I made a decision to focus my 9-5 efforts in other directions, while still serving God but not in a “positional” or staff kind of way.
When there’s no paycheck attached to your relationship with God, or your capacity for ministry, you tend to see things through a different lens. In all honesty, I’ve begun to be a little cynical and critical of how we do church, at least in my local context. My wife and I have been plugged in for 5 years to what many would call a healthy church, but all the while I’ve been reading ministry books, visiting many other churches, reading and re reading the book of Acts’ account of the start of the church…
…and at the end of the day I feel like I have more questions and frustrations than I do solutions. Maybe a part of you is in this same place. You read about the apostles starting movement in Acts, and then look up at the hundreds of churches in your city – they don’t seem to match up. I try not to cringe or judge when I see new church growth “marketing campaigns”, bloated church staffs, and concert-esque worship experiences….but I wonder if we’re missing the mark.
If you’re on this discovery journey and you feel question marks nudging at your soul ( in the area of local church), I’d love to push you in the direction of the late John Wimber. He pioneered the very explosive Vineyard movement back in the day, and much of his writing makes my heart leap – including this excerpt I’m about to leave below. Like I said, I wish i had more answers or solutions. But there’s something life-giving about the way John Wimber words things in his book “Everyone Gets To Play”.
All too often people search for the perfect church, with perfect people with perfect lives. The problem is we all know that’s not a reality. It’s a choice decision to say “yes” and commit ourselves to what Christ loves and is coming back for. All families have their squabbles from time to time, and the Church is no different. At the end of the day, with all its imperfections the Church is still the best place to be! The world knows what this is supposed to look like.
Years ago in New York City, I got into a taxi cab with an Iranian taxi driver, who could hardly speak English. I tried to explain to him where I wanted to go, and as he was pulling his car out of the parking place, he almost got hit by a van that on its side had a sign reading “The Pentecostal Church.” He got really upset and said, “That guy’s drunk.” I said, “No, he’s a Pentecostal. Drunk in the spirit, maybe, but not with wine.” He asked, “Do you know about church?” I said, “Well, I know a little bit about it; what do you know?” It was a long trip from one end of Manhattan to the other, and all the way down he told me one horror story after another that he’d heard about the Church. He knew about the pastor that ran off with the choir master’s wife, the couple that had burned the church down and collected the insurance—every horrible thing you could imagine.
We finally get to where we were going, I paid him, and as we’re standing there on the landing, I gave him an extra-large tip. He got a suspicious look in his eyes—he’d been around, you know. I said, “Answer me this one question.” Now keep in mind, I’m planning on witnessing to him. “If there was a God and He had a church, what would it be like?” He sat there for awhile making up his mind to play or not. Finally he sighed and said, “Well, if there was a God and He had a church—they would care for the poor, heal the sick, and they wouldn’t charge you money to teach you the Book.” I turned around, and it was like an explosion in my chest. “Oh, God.” I just cried; I couldn’t help it. I thought, “Oh Lord, they know. The world knows what it’s supposed to be like, and we as the Church don’t get it most of the time!”
When you joined the Kingdom, you expected to be used of God. I’ve talked to thousands of people, and almost everybody has said, “When I signed up, I knew that caring for the poor was part of it—I just kind of got weaned off of it because no one else was doing it.” Folks, I’m not saying, “Do something heroic.” I’m not saying, “Take on some high standard, sell everything you have and go.” Now, if Jesus tells you that, that’s different. But I’m not saying that. I’m just saying, participate. Give some portion of what you have—time, energy, money, on a regular basis—to this purpose, to redeeming people, to caring for people. Share your heart and life with somebody that’s not easy to sit in the same car with. Are you hearing me? That’s where you’ll really see the Kingdom of God.
Wimber, John; Wimber, Christy (2013-12-18). Everyone Gets to Play (Kindle Locations 1371-1392). Ampelon Publishing. Kindle Edition.
Serve God, live quietly, love your family. Let’s figure out this church thing together and get back to the basics.