Before the Vineyard I had never heard the term “ministry time” used. I was familiar with altar calls and how they worked but ministry time was something new to me. I remember the first time I heard John Wimber say, “Now we’re gonna have clinic time”, at one of his early healing seminars (before the Fuller Seminary course and those big Healing Conferences). This was strange language. I was half-expecting a nurse to wheel out a patient on a gurney so John could perform some weird experiment. But clinic time was his naturally supernatural way of drawing us spectators out on to the field and turning us into players.
Clinic time was Wimber’s routine of demonstrating, explaining and then getting us to give the newly developed five-step prayer model a whirl while he gave a kind of running commentary so those observing could follow and absorb what they were seeing. He extracted this from Jesus in the gospels. It was remarkable how effective this tell-show-try method was in passing on the healing ministry on to others. Like John said, “its more caught than taught”. It was like we were catching it by some sort of spiritual osmosis. We found ourselves getting pretty good at doing it without having figured it all out.
Having been initiated in this way, many of us did to others what had been done to us. We took this model of setting aside specific time to intentionally do, experience and release ministry in others back home with us and continued to tinker and get comfortable with it in our services with surprisingly good (sometimes spectacular) results like healings and deliverances, power evangelism, and equipping and multiplying disciples. Thus the Vineyard staple we now call “ministry time” was born.
Facilitating ministry time whether in a home group or in large meetings has never become something I feel I have “down pat”. In spite of the countless times I’ve done it I’ve yet mastered it and never will. I’m always a bit nervous. It always feels risky. Wimber likened Holy Spirit ministry to walking on water – both exhilarating and scary.
There are several books that Vineyard Resources has made available that I would highly recommend if you want to delve into this subject in more depth. But I here’s my (very) short list of ministry time tips:
- Pray, pray, pray as you go along (“Lord what are you doing? What do you want to do?)
- Resist the temptation to make things happen. The trick is to empty yourself and give up control.
- Don’t be in a rush. God never seems to be in a hurry. Learn how to wait.
- Pay careful attention to the Spirit. Watch and ask him what he’s up to.
- You’ll have to take some risks. Get used to it.
- Make messiness and disappointment your friend
- Be mindful of the uninitiated. Explain, explain, explain as you go along…