(When discussing spiritual gifts) Paul does not give the impression that in the Christian life some people are players and others are spectators. Christians are all players. Some of us might prefer to be spectators because it is safer just to watch. Sometimes it can be fun to watch because it is a good chance to criticize others. It is easier to be a spectator than a participant. But Paul does not give us that option. He indicates that everyone is to participate. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON GIFTS OF THE SPIRIT.
For Wimber, it was not good enough to have a church with just a few select leaders operating in the gifts of the Spirit. In fact, he would go to great strides to prove his point that, indeed, everybody can play when it comes to healing the sick, casting out darkness, and caring for the broken-hearted.
I recall the very first Wimber conference I attended in Columbus, Ohio, in the spring of 1985. After about thirty minutes of intimate worship, Wimber sat at his keyboard and taught us about the healing ministry of Jesus. His favorite passage was Luke 4:18-19. He called it Jesus’ job description.
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.
Then, for the next forty minutes or so, Wimber worked his way through the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts, showing us numerous examples where Jesus modeled this same job description and then released his friends and comrades to go in his name to do the same. At that point, when most conference leaders who operate in the gifts of the Spirit would heal the sick, speak prophesies over people, and impress the audience with their spiritual prowess, he closed his Bible and began to do just the opposite.
In Columbus that day, as he sat on a stool next to his keyboard he first asked people who wanted prayer for healing to come forward. Then, rather than getting up and praying for these folks, he asked for any children in the audience to come up front with him. I recall a handful of kids bravely came up on the stage, gathering around him. And with the patience of a loving grandpa, he encouraged the children to gather round those who needed prayer and after about five minutes of simple instructions, folks who needed healing were being blessed big time as the powerful presence of the Spirit began moving across the room. Later that day, he asked for those who received healing that morning to come tell their stories and I recall a large number of folks sharing amazing testimonies on how the Lord touched them powerfully as these kids prayed for them.
“You see,” Wimber proclaimed, “Everybody can play!”
For years, as he traveled across the USA and Canada, he would often do such things like this in order to teach the church at large that God isn’t looking for superstars with great spiritual prowess but simple, everyday folks who will humbly act in obedience to Jesus’ transferrable commission to go, pray for the sick, cast out darkness, and love “the hell” out of those who are looking to Jesus for help.
At times, this approach to the spiritual gifts would spark anger from conference goers. I recall one evening in Detroit, when he turned the entire meeting over to one of his associates and went back to his hotel room, leaving thousands of people who came to see the great John Wimber greatly disappointed. My good friend, Pastor Steve Nicholson of Evanston, IL, was a recipient of one of those kinds of evenings with Wimber. As Steve tells his story, he called him up onto the stage, said, “Steve, I don’t have anything, do you?” Steve took a deep breath and said to John, “Maybe you could pray for pain in people’s backs.” Wimber said, “ That’s a good idea…you take it from here. I’m going back to the hotel…and Steve…welcome to the healing ministry of Jesus!”
Some thought it laziness or carelessness on the part of Wimber to do such things, but in all honesty, it was all strategically calculated to prove his point that when it comes to operating in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, literally everyone can play.
Too bad the church at large has forgotten this important message over the years. I still cringe when I see big-name preachers and healers call attention to themselves behind the podiums of churches across America. Just recently, I was at a meeting where a “great man of God” was talking about the powerful gifts of the Spirit and then he spent the next forty minutes bringing people up so that they could be healed by the laying on of his hands. Meanwhile, we in the audience were left to sit and watch the great healer of God do his work. I sat there that day, remembering my first Wimber conference in Ohio back in 1985. I leaned over to Sandy and whispered, “Gosh, I sure miss John and his amazing, “everybody can play” approach to ministry, don’t you?”
Father, I thank you for the amazing truth that the powerful gifts of the Holy Spirit are for everyone. May I always be generous and otherly when it comes to the operation of the gifts of the Spirit and may your entire church work together in utilizing these amazing gifts to bless you and your kingdom. May we all learn to play together and share freely. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- How has my theology on the gifts of the Spirit been askew?
- Am I acting as though these powerful gifts are reserved for just a few or am I teaching and modeling a lifestyle where these amazing gifts of God can flow through all, at any time and in any place?
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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