Wanting to bring perspective, balance and guidance to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in Toronto in the mid-90’s, John Wimber prayed: “Lord, what do you want me to bring in the way of direction to this whole thing? As the leader of the movement, what do you want me to say to our people?” In the July/August, 1994 issue of a pastoral newsletter called, Vineyard Reflections, John shared that the Lord answered that prayer by giving him a vision of a beautiful mountain lake with its water running into a river flowing down into a large plain with acres and acres of vineyards and people digging irrigation ditches…
John asked what it meant? The impression he got was that the lake was the Spirit the Lord was pouring out and the flowing river was the church. The Lord seemed to be saying, “I’m pouring this blessing into the church first”.
He realized that the ditches were ministry to the poor, sick, broken, and lost. Then the Lord said, “This blessing can either stay in the church, with great meetings that eventually end or you can let the water begin flowing (out)… you can direct the water, the blessing, into the fields.”
The impression he got was that of a co-laboring. God was pouring out his blessing. But if we didn’t dig the ditches – if we didn’t go out into the marketplace of life reaching out to people; if we didn’t do the things God calls us to do – this blessing would dry-up. The flow would stop.
John saw the Toronto outpouring as “unto something”. It wasn’t just for us Christians to enjoy. It wasn’t just to have great experiences and exciting meetings. It was to be taken into the fields in the form of renewal and on-going Holy Spirit ministry. It was power to do the gospel. Power to equip the Church in order to continue the work of Jesus – witnessing to the good news of the kingdom by telling our stories, feeding the poor, healing the sick, setting the demonized free, reaching the lost, planting churches, doing missions…
In all this John saw one of the key roles of leadership being that of pastoring the ministry of the Spirit by correcting abuses while encouraging love, order, clarity and edification and the organizing the church to give this blessing away to the surrounding community.
He counseled that as pastors and leaders we should be champions of Holy Spirit ministry, encouraging and promoting rather than shying away from it even though it was tricky and often messy. He wrote: “We are willing to allow ‘experiences’ to happen without endorsing, encouraging or stimulating them…”
He told us we should resist the temptation of turning the church into an ingrown ‘bless me club’. “Let the fire fall, but remember the fire is for others, as well as for us. If we miss that, we’ve missed the whole point of the blessing.” The blessings of the Spirit are not just for us but unto ministry to our world.
John insisted that no matter what, spiritual leaders must continue to model, teach and practice the gospel of the kingdom. Keeping Jesus central, teaching his Word, making disciples and going to all the world. He wrote, “Rather than promoting, displaying, or focusing on phenomena, we want to focus on the main and plain issues of Scripture. We do not want to establish a new pattern of church life that revolves around renewal meetings…” Sounds like EDLD to me.
It was his strong belief that pastors and leaders should make equipping and training workers to do field work a priority of their ministries. He urged, “We want this renewal to motivate people to the obvious kingdom works of Scripture. (Having come to church and experiencing the Spirit…) People should go home… with a well-rounded story: ‘I got it to give it away!’”
This counsel is just as timely and relevant today as it was during the Toronto Blessing twenty-one years ago.