Saturday, February 23, 2008


I was watching an old video of John Wimber on Youtube the other day. In it, he has just finished teaching about divine healing and begins a "clinic" where he demonstrates how to pray for the sick. There is no hype - Wimber encourages everyone present to relax, be natural and wait on God.

It brought back memories of when I first attended the Vineyard in Denver 24 years ago. The mid-week services on Thursday nights were downright scary. You never knew what was going to happen after the extended worship set that began the evening. Often the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit was so strong and heavy that worship would segue right into ministry. The ministry was performed by and upon one-another. It was a bit messy, a bit chaotic, somewhat open-ended (in that we didn't know where the meeting was going to go) and, as I said, scary. It was scary because it was holy.

Gradually, things became more organized. The worship set was shortened and then immediately followed by teaching. The ministry was moved into the "prayer room" behind the stage and was conducted by trained "ministry team" members who wore plastic badges like the staff at hotels and restaurants do. It stopped being scary. We had gained control.

With the exception of some house-church and Quaker meetings, pretty much all church services I have attended since that time have followed a very tight format that goes something like this:

Worship music (20-30 minutes)
Announcements (5 minutes)
Collection (2 minutes)
Sermon (30-45 minutes)
One more worship song (5 minutes)
Optional prayer in the "prayer room" (5-15 minutes)
Optional fellowship in the foyer (5-15 minutes)

There is little room allowed for spontanaety. There is little, if any, time given to waiting upon God to see if He wants to do something. Instead, the meeting is shaped by the agenda of the pastor and worship leader. Their desire is to worship God but--let's be honest here--it is also to control God. God will be worshipped by the songs we have prepared and by the sermon I have created. We will ask God to bless these songs and this sermon and then to hover quietly on the periphery while we perform our ministry. We hope, in our hearts, that He won't get in the way or make a scene and He generally complies.

But what if we changed the agenda from delivering a great worship set and sermon to simply encountering God? What if we just waited to see what He might do? Even if it meant sitting in expectant silence for an hour? What if we allowed that He might, at any given time, use anyone in the room to minister with a prayer or word or song or scripture? Is God capable of conducting a church service apart from our agenda?

Or would that be too scary?


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