It’s an often-overlooked detail that power ministry in the Vineyard was not the result of a group of people deliberating pursuing healing or spiritual gifts, or power evangelism or even a fresh outpouring of the Spirit. It was actually a rather unintentional thing. To hear the story told by those that were there, it was something that caught them by surprise!
The Vineyard wasn’t established by a group of young, successful, spiritual rock stars looking to start a new thing. It started with a bunch of burned out Quakers that realized that they were missing something – life-giving connection with the living God! So in desperation they gathered in a house group to read the Bible, pray, and mostly worship. As Carol Wimber put it, “We were so tired and broken all we could do was cry out to God and worship.” As they sang and wept before the Lord, sometimes for an entire evening, a strange, unplanned and wonderful thing started happening – God would show up and they began experiencing his felt-presence, especially when their worship got personal and they sang songs directed ‘to’ God rather than ‘about’ God. Their worship was for God alone. They weren’t trying to make anything happen. You might say they ran into God’s supernatural power and all the goodies that accompany it almost by accident by way of what has now become the Vineyard trademark: intimate worship.
It seems simple and obvious but somehow it’s so easy to forget the way it works. We touch God’s heart by welcoming him with (literally) open arms in worship. This ushers in the presence – God touching us – releasing his power and all heaven breaks loose. I remember Carol Wimber once exhorting us, “Seek God’s presence. Everything happens in the Presence…” The “everything” she was referring to of course was new life, forgiveness, deliverance, empowerment, calling, gifts for ministry, healing, deliverance… all the blessings that God has for us. But it seems often in our zeal for power we put the cart before the horse by seeking first his hand rather than his face. Making the mistake of trying to make things happen. Trying to manufacture the Spirit’s presence and power through human soulishness and theatrics, which can itself produce powerful effects but not the Presence. It’s not the kingdom and it doesn’t last.
There is a connection between intimate worship, the felt-presence of God and the releasing of his power among us. How it actually works, I don’t know. I haven’t figured out the mechanics of it and I suspect there isn’t any. After all these years this remains a mystery to me but there is a connection and it seems to be all about him. All I know is God, who is the ultimate party thrower, keeps graciously inviting me into the joy of it all. It’s up to me to accept the invitation on his terms, which seems to be “Come as you are Mike and trust me to put on a great shindig”.