One of the elders at my church, Vineyard North, gave me an old set of cassette tapes by John Wimber and friends. It’s from 1986 and is full of good stuff. There are 14 tapes in all. About midway through tape 12, Wimber makes this statement:
Organizations conform to historic ideals. A statement has been made. A founder has been elevated. We are the such-and-such church. We are the Wesleyan church. We’re the… and on and on and on. It could be any founder at any period of time in the centuries past. The further we get removed from that founder, the more structured, the more traditionalist we become. To the point we write great volumes of books trying to strain out every nuance of thought that man had during his lifetime. Trying to figure out everything he meant by everything he said. In that process we become rather dead. In those traditions we begin taking on the traditions of men.
Keep in mind that most of the men who founded most of the great churches that are existing today would not be in those same churches today for the very reason they left their churches in their day. If you think Martin Luther would go to a Lutheran church today, you’re out of your gourd (to use a theological term). Because they were men after God, not after traditions. They were men hearing God and moving with God and doing what they could do to actualize God in their lives. And that’s what we need today.
I love that. What we need today (whenever today happens to be) is people who are after God. People hearing from God and doing what we can to actualize God in our lives. That is the theme this blog is built around.
His statement also leads me to a question. If it’s true (and I think it is) that Luther would not go to a Lutheran church, then probably the Wesleys would not go to a Methodist church – Charles would want fresher music for sure, and Roger Williams would probably not go to a Baptist church. This rings true to me because my own studies included an in-depth look at R.G. Spurling, the founder of the Church of God, who did leave and explained why in his book The Lost Link. So my question: would John Wimber go to a Vineyard church in 2014? Would he see the church I pastor as stuck in a tradition following what he said (and may or may not have meant) or as a place where people are learning to listen to God and do what God says?
Also, be sure to read my follow up post reflecting on the next point Wimber made in that talk: bloom where you are planted.