As Empowered Evangelicals, is the Vineyard becoming more evangelical than empowered? Some point to what they see as a gradual drift away from classic Vineyard Holy Spirit ministry. Maintaining a message of power with little practice of it.
Personally I don’t think so. Some of this alarm comes from a narrow, “one size fits all” view of Holy Spirit ministry. True, there are Vineyard pastors that have given up on in-the-moment ministry of the Spirit in their services, but the majority who are not, sincerely want to, they just don’t know how.
I’ve run into at least three reasons why Vineyard pastors shy away from Holy Spirit ministry: 1) Having a thriving church is both a blessing and a challenge. Many conduct multiple services to keep up with growth, taxing their time, space and manpower. The casualty usually is ministry time. It gets squeezed out. 2) Some have been so turned off by unhealthy charismatic models and ministry they’ve thrown the baby out with the bath water. 3) For others, Holy Spirit ministry has been difficult to maintain over time. After all, it takes a certain determination and results are, for most, mixed at best. So it’s easy to ease up on the ministry-pedal and eventually give up, allowing neglect to put out the Spirit’s fire in a congregation. However, as I’ve already noted, I think the biggest reason is 4) We have an increasing number of pastors in our movement who have yet to personally experience the empowering of the Spirit themselves or who haven’t had adequate modeling, equipping or coaching. In other words they can’t give away what they don’t have themselves.
None of this means we’re on the brink of disaster. I believe we have an opportunity. I’m very optimistic about the future of ‘doing the stuff’ in the Vineyard. None of the reasons I mentioned are fatal. As a matter of fact I sense a healthy climate developing among our newer generation of pastors and their congregations who have read the books and heard the stories and eagerly want to experience it themselves.
What can we do to maintain this Vineyard distinctive? I suggest we simply continue to reinforce our naturally supernatural perspective. One big reason the Lord used the Vineyard to usher in renewal around the world, especially among groups that were jittery and in some cases anti-Spirit was the powerful yet thoughtful, balanced, and rather formal-informality of the approach to Spirit-ministry John Wimber introduced.
Although Wimber was an explorer at heart, which led to missteps here and there, he nevertheless insisted that we remain true to our values. And when certain teachings and practices turned out to be at odds with our DNA he was honest about it and steered us back to the main and plain of Scripture, our values and our simple naturally supernatural distinctive.
As anyone who has tried to be a faithful steward of Spirit ministry can tell you, Holy Spirit ministry is tricky. It’s easy to give up on. One of the things Wimber did that helped me stick with it despite the difficulties was to help me understand that as tricky and challenging as Spirit ministry is, it isn’t optional. It’s of vital importance to our mission. The other thing he did was help me understand what my role as a spiritual leader was in maintaining this ministry in my church.
I’ll tackle this in Part II…