Probably the most significant lesson that (we) and the early Vineyard Fellowship learned was that worship is the act of freely giving love to God. Indeed, in Psalm 18:1 we read, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” Worship is also an expression of awe, submission, and respect toward God (see Ps 95:1-2; 96:1-3). Our heart’s desire should be to worship God; we have been designed by God for this purpose. If we don’t worship God, we’ll worship something or someone else. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON WORSHIP.
John and Carol Wimber, in their mutual ministry, restored many kingdom truths back to the church of Jesus Christ. God-truths that had been covered over with dust for many years, ancient gems that, when dusted off and practiced anew, renewed God’s people back into Jesus-centered, Spirit-empowered lives.
Was Wimber a saintly prophet sent by God? No, not really. He was quick to remind people that he was just a fat man from Missouri doing his very best to get to heaven.
Was he perfect? Far from it. In fact, from all I’ve read, he seemed a bit remorseful near the end of his life over times when he missed it, going one way when he might have gone another.
But, with that being said, John and Carol Wimber, while not saints, were reformers. And like other reformers who went before them, John and Carol will be remembered as devoted followers of Christ who were willing to color outside the lines of Christian tradition, especially when their artwork would assist the average man or woman sitting in the pew in finding help in getting closer to Jesus!
Probably one of the finest gems that these reformers offered the larger body of Christ was the restoration of intimate worship, or as John says it here…”the act of freely giving love to God.”
A careful read of John and Carol’s story reveals that this discovery of the fine art of singing intimate love songs to Jesus as a part of worship happened nearly by accident. At this point, it might be good to share with you Carol Wimber’s own colorful description of what happened back in the earliest days of the Vineyard.
We began worship with nothing but a sense of calling from the Lord to a deeper relationship with him. Before we started meeting in a small home church setting in 1977, the Holy Spirit had been working in my heart, creating a tremendous hunger for God. One day as I was praying, the word “worship” appeared in my mind like a newspaper headline. I had never thought much about that word before. As an evangelical Christian, I had always assumed the entire Sunday morning gathering was “worship” – and, in a sense, I was correct. But in a different sense there were particular elements of the service that were especially devoted to worship and not to teaching, announcements, musical presentations, and all the other activities that are part of a typical Sunday morning gathering. I had to admit that I wasn’t sure which part of the service was supposed to be worship.
After we started to meet in our home gathering, I noticed times during the meeting – usually when we sang – in which I experienced God deeply. We sang many songs, but mostly songs about worship or testimonies from one Christian to another. But occasionally we sang a song personally and intimately to Jesus, with lyrics like “Jesus, I love you.” Those types of songs both stirred and fed the hunger for God within me.
About this time I began asking our music leader why some songs seemed to spark something in us and others didn’t. As we talked about worship, we realized that often we would sing about worship yet we never actually worshipped – except when we accidentally stumbled onto intimate songs like “I love you, Lord,” and “I lift my voice.” Thus we began to see a difference between songs about Jesus and songs to Jesus.
Now, during this season when we were stumbling around corporately in worship, many of us were also worshipping at home alone. During these solitary times we were not necessarily singing, but we were bowing down, kneeling, lifting hands, and praying spontaneously in the Spirit – sometimes with spoken prayers, sometimes with non-verbalized prayers, and even prayers without words at all. We noticed that as our individual worship life deepened, when we came together there was a greater hunger toward God. So we learned that what happens when we are alone with the Lord determines how intimate and deep the worship will be when we come together.
About that time we realized our worship blessed God, that it was for God alone and not just a vehicle of preparation for the pastor’s sermon. This was an exciting revelation. After learning about the central place of worship in our meetings, there were many instances in which all we did was worship God for an hour or two.
At this time we also discovered that singing was not the only way to worship God. Because the word worship means literally to bow down, it is important that our bodies are involved in what our spirits are saying. In scripture this is accomplished through bowing heads, lifting hands, kneeling, and even lying prostrate before God.
A result of our worshiping and blessing God is being blessed by him. We don’t worship God in order to get blessed, but we are blessed as we worship him. He visits his people with manifestations of the Holy Spirit.
Thus worship has a two-fold aspect: communication with God through the basic means of singing and praying, and communication from God through teaching and preaching the word, prophecy, exhortation, etc. We lift him up and exalt him, and as a result are drawn into his presence where he speaks to us.
Over the next five blog sessions, we will unpack a bit more detail on all the Wimbers eventually learned and taught us about practicing the fine art of worship: the act of freely giving love to God. I hope you’ll join us.
Father God, I thank you for the experiences in worship you gave the Wimbers in those earliest days of the Vineyard. I, for one, was radically transformed as I learned this fine art of freely giving love back to you. Now, all these years later, I’m so thankful that this gift of intimate worship has been restored to your church, but now I say, Abba Father, teach us more! For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- Am I allowing myself and others around me to have the freedom we all need to freely express our intimate worship to God?
- Carol Wimber speaks of not only singing intimate love songs to Jesus, but also the use of bodily expressions in worship such as bowing down, bowing our heads, lifting our hands, kneeling, or even lying prostrate before God. Are these acts of worship “permissible” in my church as acts of worship or do our “traditions” say that well-behaved Christians can’t worship in this manner?
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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