John, I’ve seen your ministry, and now I’d like to show you mine! Jesus to John Wimber
Our Theme: ON CHRIST AND HIS WORD.
John Wimber modeled for me the fine art of living and ministering in the kingdom life of Jesus Christ. Yet when one asked Wimber about himself, he’d often reply, “Hey…I’m just a fat man from Missouri trying my very best to get to heaven!” Folks would always laugh at that line, but quite honestly, John knew full well that his salvation came only by the grace of the Lord and not by anything of worth that he had accomplished in his life or ministry. This was his way of identifying himself as being like everyone else. He did not see himself as special.
John would often say, “I’m just a coin in the Lord’s pocket…Jesus can spend me and my life in any fashion he would like.” Before his untimely death in November of 1997, this ordinary man of faith, one simple coin in the Lord’s pocket, had been raised up as an international speaker, a best-selling author, pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California, and founder of the Vineyard Movement worldwide.
Wimber first gave his life to Christ in 1963 and when he did, he quickly learned that the way of life to which he was accustomed needed to die so that he could learn to walk in the kingdom ways of God. And while you’d think that this turning away from our earthly ways to live in God’s higher ways is a lesson reserved for new believers, Wimber was quick to admit that every step of his journey with Jesus was filled with a continual awareness that his thoughts were not like God’s, nor were his ways always compatible with the way the Holy Spirit was leading. John used to put it this way… “The way in (humbling oneself before the Lord for salvation) is the way on (humility being the key to successful discipleship).”
Wimber served a dozen years in full-time ministry, successfully pastoring a local church in the Los Angeles basin, followed by several years traveling throughout North America, working for Fuller Evangelistic Association where he helped pastors from a variety of denominational backgrounds grow their churches. In 1976 with all this ministry activity, he found himself burned out and weary; tired of working with what author Eugene Peterson calls “the Americanized church.” In his testimony DVD, I’m A Fool For Christ, Whose Fool Are You? Wimber explains that he had reached a point in ministry in 1976 where it no longer tasted like it once did. He enjoyed being used by God in encouraging pastors and local churches in the things of God, but personally he had run himself ragged, worn down to a threadbare spiritual existence.
One night in the spring of 1976 in a hotel room in Detroit, Michigan, John opened the Bible and began to read it for himself. Unfortunately, he had allowed his church growth ministry to become so consuming, he had, for several years running, been opening the Bible daily, but only for others, never for himself. is pivotal evening in the Motor City, God changed all that. As he read from the Psalms, crying out to God for a dramatic change in his hopeless situation, he fell asleep. Suddenly, as he was lying there on his hotel bed, the Lord began speaking to him. While he claimed it was not an audible voice, it was loud enough to wake him up.
“John, I’ve seen your ministry.” the Lord began.
As he told the story, he suggested that the Lord wasn’t speaking to him in a mean tone or in a way meant to be critical, but simply in a way that told him that while Jesus appreciated his many efforts in ministry, the fruit had not been all that impressive!
“John, I’ve seen your ministry (pregnant pause)…and now I’d like to show you mine!”
As he heard this, he broke into a time of deep sobbing. The thought of laying down his own ministry to step into Jesus’ ministry was overwhelmingly joyful to him. The idea that he didn’t need to get up in the morning and make something good happen for the cause of Christ was life-giving, to say the least. The truth that Jesus has a pre-existing ministry, which was already in-place and in-process, and all John had to do was watch for it and join Jesus where he was already working, was absolutely revolutionary.
And you know what, dear friends? This concept of Jesus asking us pastors and ministry overseers to stop doing our own ministry so that we might join him with his is still absolutely revolutionary!
I wonder when twenty-first century pastors, teachers, elders, deacons, overseers, and the like, will learn the same Isaiah 55 lesson John learned back in Detroit in 1976?
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
As it turned out, this one word from God turned Wimber’s life and ministry around drastically. Everything changed for him after that night in a Detroit hotel room when God spoke a hard truth to one of his faithful servants. From this point forward, he knew in his heart that he no longer had a ministry belonging to him, but simply an assignment from the Master calling him to follow in obedience, placing his hands and feet only where Jesus asked him.
Maybe it’s time we re-apply this same powerful truth into our lives and his ministry here in the first part of the twenty-first century? What say you?
“I’ve seen your ministry, (fill in your name)…and now I’d like to show you mine!” Jesus of Nazareth.
Jesus, I quickly confess that my life and ministry can become all-consuming; many times at the cost of losing track of you! Father, when that happens, I ask that you will always send a messenger to me, like you did to John Wimber, reminding me that I, quite honestly, don’t have a ministry and that only Jesus does. Spirit, empower me to always pursue the kingdom ministry of Jesus over and above my own. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- How have I fallen prey to the consuming interests and constant demands of keeping my life and ministry alive and well?
- What might it look like to lay down my interests, decreasing my influence and demands, while preferring and deferring to Jesus and the advancing kingdom ministry of God?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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