Leaders are often under pressure to create new realities. They are hired, essentially, to generate new outcomes. This can create a space in which pastors may be tempted to try and talk the spiritual economy up. A pattern that can lead us into worlds of unreality. Pastors may be tempted at times to hype up expectations in the hope that these expectations will somehow create the right environment for the creative work of the Holy Spirit. I fully understand these temptations. But I don’t see Jesus or his apostles employing these strategies.
Pastor John Wimber was a very significant agent of renewal in the churches in the UK through the intersection of Vineyard and in particular the Anglican churches. The well-known ministries of New Wine and Soul Survivor have their roots in that intersection.
What Vineyard brought to the mix in the 1980s was an environment that created access to the things of the Spirit for many believers and church leaders hungry to engage with the power of God, but anxious of some of the excess, poor theology, VIP orientation and hype of other brands on offer at that time. That is why people flocked to Vineyard conferences as they did. The theological thoughtfulness, the rootedness in Scripture, the gentleness of approach, the respect shown to churches and individuals made such conferences a safe place to explore. And the absence of hype.
John Wimber admitted to his own temptation to exaggerating and talking things up. However ministry without hype was probably one of the most important and vital lessons I drew from the gift of his ministry. I want to illustrate that with one simple anecdote.
In 1985 John Wimber brought a Vineyard team to a renewal conference in London, England. By this point in the renewal in the UK the credibility of Vineyard was very high. Vineyard’s fruitfulness in bringing people to Christ and moving in healing, deliverance and the prophetic set the network apart as a source to be drawn from. So the thousands of us who flocked to that arena were hungry and thirsty and expectant…
After one particularly powerful and inspiring time of worship, led by Carl Tuttle the atmosphere in the room was extraordinary. The sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, the atmosphere of hearts lifted together in prayer, praise and expecation was absolutely palpable. We were all on tenterhooks to see and hear wat ministry would begin to flow in this place of pregnant silence. We had felt this silence before. We knew what kind of ministry might follow.
To our incredulity John Wimber stepped up to the mic and said, “OK we’ll break there for coffee and come together again in 20 minutes.” No-one could believe it! Whaaaaat???
Twenty minutes later the crowd re-gathered. John quietly stepped up to the mic again and said, simply “Come, Holy Spirit…”
And he came.
And the ministry that flowed from that moment was the kind that only the Holy Spirit of God can create. It was a powerful lesson in the difference between the power of hype and the power of God. When the Holy Spirit is present to minister no hype or manipulation is needed. Simply engagement. It is a lesson in leadership that I will never forget.