Most of us suffer from attention deficit syndrome when it comes to God's voice and presence. We're so overstimulated, that even the most profound moment is stifled and forgotten under the layers of our helter-skelter lives, leaving a foggy numbness in our souls. Every now and then though, there are those defining moments when God arrests our attention with compelling clarity. I had one of those moments last week and I've not been able to shake it. I've not known how to write about it either, because it's a sensitive story, which can do more harm than good if clumsily told. Careful wisdom is needed.
I had the privilege of having coffee with Carol Wong, who was married to John Wimber and founded the Fellowship of Vineyard churches towards the end of the 1970's. John died towards the end of the 90's but by then, God's work in the Vineyard had left an indelible mark on the church worldwide - in worship, in healing and the prophetic.
Carol re-married a close family friend who had also been widowed, a number of years after John died. She and her husband Ken live in Yorba Linda. They had recently been invited to Yorba Linda Friends Church's 100th year anniversary. It's a remarkable thing to be able to celebrate a century of Gospel impact. YL Friends has an amazing record of faithfulness, extending as far as India, where they are the largest builder of schools among the Dalit caste in that nation. Like any church though, their tapestry has a few dark strands woven into the stunning pattern of their story. One of those strands was their request at the end of the 70's, that the 12 families holding a bible study in Carl Tuttle's mom's lounge best leave the church. It was a group led by John and Carol Wimber who'd begun to explore intimate worship, saturated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. (more details in Carol's book, "The way it was") It was an intoxicating time for these folks, and uncomfortable for a church more cautious about the charismatic. And so the Vineyard was planted out in fertile soil, but rather messy circumstances.
Sitting in their lounge, Ken and Carol told me how delighted they were, more than 30 years later, to be invited to YL Friends' centenary celebrations,and to be publicly honored as a movement that God had birthed and multiplied. I believe this kingdom gesture will have immense redemptive ripple effects in time to come.
But here's the comment that arrested me. Carol pauses and says,"You know, we had all the miracles but they must have done something right. They've raised amazing sons and daughters, who love and serve God."
It was a statement of honor towards YL Friends, and a humble admission that as people hungry for the power of the Spirit, we've often been guilty of valuing anointing over character. Of suddenlies over slowlies. Of converts over disciples. Of revival now over heritage next.
I don't believe we are called to ignore one at the expense of the other. An expectation of the power of God breaking in now is vital to capture the imagination of the next generation. But I wonder how differently we would live and lead if we thought, "What would this mean in a century's time?" And I wonder how differently our churches would look if we placed as much value on a lifetime of faithful plodding as we did upon one moment of power?