Spiritual children are like natural children. Each one is a surprise. When they come into relationship with Christ, it’s like being handed a newborn. You rejoice in the new life, but before long you realize someone has to change the diapers and feed the baby. Someone has to protect the baby. Having babies is hard… but rearing children is where the real work begins. Likewise, winning people to Christ is exciting, but nurturing and loving them to a state of mature Christian adulthood is hard work. Yet, that’s what leaders do. Unfortunately, everyone who comes to Christ, comes with all kinds of emotional and spiritual baggage. In some cases that baggage will make the job of spiritual formation extremely difficult. They come angry, confused, and bruised. Some of them have been chewed up and spit out by life’s difficulties. Many people come from very nominal church background. They may mistrust the church. They may be individualistic, cocky, and arrogant when they walk in the door. That’s the raw material we deal with. Furthermore, as leaders we have what seems like an impossible goal. In describing his labor for the church, the apostle Paul writes: “We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ” (Col. 1:28). Paul wasn’t interested in presenting everyone reasonably OK in Christ. His goal wasn’t to present everyone sort of together in Christ. I’ve been tempted, at times, to write off some people. But Paul aimed to present everyone he had any degree of influence over perfect in Christ. Paul said to that end he labored and struggled. But Paul’s strength was not his own will, but “his [Jesus’] energy, which so powerfully works in me” (Col. 1:29). As he told the Philippians, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” When you start working with some of the people the Lord brings to you, you’ll need his strength. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON DISCIPLESHIP.
At our church in Cedar Rapids, we say that we put the “fun” in dys-fun-ctional!
Let’s be honest, just because I gave my heart to Christ doesn’t mean that I’ve got my life together. For heaven’s sake, I made my decision for Jesus years ago when I was just a fat kid with pimples. Now I’m an old fat guy with a receding hairline, and while Jesus has been faithful to me all that time, I still wonder at times if I’ve made all that much progress toward Christ likeness. What about you? I believe that’s why one of Wimber’s favorite prayers over the years was, “Father God, help me to grow up before I grow old.”
As we get closer to the end of this blog series, let me give you one of the best life lessons on discipleship that I learned from hanging around John Wimber during those early years. As I see it, when it comes to discipleship, we who serve as pastors and leaders in the church have to stop trying to make disciples and followers of Christ.
Stop the presses. What did he just say?
Yes, you read it correctly. We, who serve the church, leaders and shepherds alike, must stop the madness of trying to make disciples, step aside, and allow the true disciple-maker to take over a job that, quite honestly, was never ours to pick up in the first place. The world doesn’t need any more disciples made by the church. There are way too many of us out there right now stirring pots that Jesus never asked us to touch.
If I read my New Testament correctly, Jesus didn’t ask his disciples to go out and reproduce themselves. He commanded them to 1) stay in God’s presence until the transforming power and presence of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed (baptized) them; 2) go out in his agape love (not our own strength), loving “the hell” out of people around us; and then 3) bear “witness” (giving testimony) about how the true disciple-maker, Jesus of Nazareth, has worked in our lives, transforming us from being “dys-fun-ctional” sinners to becoming much-less “dys-fun-ctional” followers of Christ.
Quite honestly, this concept that we, as followers of Christ, are to go out and make disciples, reproducing ourselves in others, is about as screwy of a notion as one can find. Our role in building the church of Jesus Christ, as Wimber saw it, was to simply become faithful servants in service to the king. The idea that you and I have a ministry is nonsensical. Like he used to tell pastors who would come to him asking for the secret to a successful ministry, “Guys, you don’t have a ministry! You’ll never have a ministry! There’s only one ministry out there and it belongs to Jesus!”
I can still see pastors scratching their heads when he would say that to them. Some would eventually get it, but sadly many didn’t. Many would come to his “Signs and Wonders and Church Growth” conferences thinking that they could pick up a few pointers from him on how to go back home and make their church start growing. Sadly, many pastors are still going to conferences today with the same mindset.
So, please, my friends. I’ll say it as nicely as I can, but I must say it clearly and concisely.
Stop it! Stop trying to build your church. Stop trying to make disciples for Jesus. Stop trying to get your ministry to become successful. Stop trying to assemble a programming format that will keep people in your church.
For heaven’s sake, you and I don’t have a church! Only Jesus does! And as Wimber used to say to us, “Guys and gals, Jesus wants his church back!”
I guess the questions still remain. Are you and I willing to give the keys of the church back to him? Are we willing to stop making disciples in our own image so that the true disciple-maker can have a crack at it instead? Are we willing to become second-bananas to Jesus, allowing him to lead and not us? Are we willing to sit in the passenger seat for a while and let Jesus drive the car where he wants to drive it?
Well, nuff said. I hope I offended you just a bit with my rants and ravings. If I did, I know Wimber, if it were possible, is probably looking down from heaven and smiling. And maybe, just maybe, so is Jesus!
Father, thank you for the reminders you’ve given me that you never intended for me to be a leader, but simply a first-follower of Christ. Jesus, I lay down my holy pursuit to make disciples for you and allow you to do that as I do my part of simply bearing testimony of all you can do, if we allow you to do it. You, Jesus, are the true disciple maker. I, Lord, am simply your servant. Empower me to do my humble part. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
- What am I doing in ministry today that is actually taking power out of Jesus’ hands and placing it in mine?
- Am I indirectly trying to make disciples, build impressive ministries, and do great stuff for Jesus while ignoring the fact that it’s the Master alone who makes disciples, builds churches, and gathers people to himself ?
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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