During our August ministry trip to East Africa, our team (American and Kenyan) agreed: we had finally arrived at the Starting Line after thirty years of ministry and relationship-building in Kenya.
Richard and I had been introducing the Transforming Prayer ministry model to church leaders in Kenya for five years. While we and the model had been warmly received, before this year the ministry had not taken root.
In part that was due to training and logistical limitations on our side. In part because this ministry requires significant changes in traditional world views and practices. Human nature resists change — particularly philosophical/religious change.
In spite of everyone’s limitations, God gave birth to Transforming Prayer in East Africa last month. We watched God deliver the baby with signs and wonders. The way now appears open for serious training and wider implementation.
So how did we arrive at this point? These post-trip blogs sketch out the journey. And what a journey it has been!
(continuation of Blogs 6-8)
Betty and I had embraced the fullness of God’s Spirit. We were outside the gate. We were starting over.
But how does one start over?
For months we prayed fervently to discern what God was doing with us. If we were going to do something new, what did that new look like?
We traveled and visited churches that ministered in ways that were new (and sometimes strange) to us. We read widely and questioned everyone within reach about life in the Spirit.
Particularly helpful was Pastor Tom Newton. He had recently completed his doctorate at Fuller Seminary and had become acquainted with John Wimber who was a leading figure in spiritual renewal in southern California.
We went to a meeting where Wimber spoke. His message on Activating and Actualizing The Church gave testimony to his efforts not only to do the ministry of Jesus, but to train the members of a local church to do that as well.
John’s famous line went, “When I worked for the devil [when he was not yet a Christian], the devil let me do all his stuff. When I signed up to work for Jesus, I expected to do all His stuff.”
We had finally found someone who was doing Luke 4 and Ephesians 4. The Holy Spirit made it clear. If learning to do the ministry of Jesus was what was truly in our hearts, this man could show us how.
I was scheduled to return to seminary in a few months to finish my Ph.D. in Christian Missions and New Testament. Training with Wimber would take us a very different direction. I had to choose.
The issue: what was truly in our hearts to do?
In the end I couldn’t escape the foundational notion that I — and all of God’s People — are called to do the ministry of Jesus (Luke 4:16ff) in some tangible way. Not even an advanced academic degree (with all the possibilities it suggested) trumped that Jesus-priority. Seminary was going one way – Wimber another.
So we chose. We loaded up our meager possessions in a U-Haul, chunked Matt and Kim in the backseat of the car and headed off across the summer desert to California. We must have looked like the Beverly Hillbillies (less the oil wells) rolling into Pasadena.
We arrived homeless, jobless, without knowing a soul. God settled us in a small rental house (that’s a whole study in the miraculous) and for almost a year we studied daily, experienced God in fresh ways, acquired new skills and prayed-in food, gas, rent and utilities (a even more miraculous tale).
We were not disappointed by our choice. John Wimber was at the apex of his ministry teaching the kingdom of God and equipping God’s People to ‘do all the Jesus stuff’
(Ephesians 4:11-16). He was also pioneering an exquisite approach to worship.
We attended the smaller Claremont Vineyard on Sunday mornings and hosted one of their small home groups. On Sunday afternoons we attended training classes at the Anaheim Vineyard and stayed for evening worship.
Sunday evening worship at the Anaheim Vineyard….
After all these years, I deeply miss those services where worship soared in intimacy with Jesus – where spiritual and physical healing flowed – where God’s Word was taught with practicality and conviction – best of all where God was allowed to be God.
God Country was breaking-in first century style. And God’s People were moving from the role of spectators in the bleachers to on-the-field players.
Our time in California was rich, but soon came to an end. God was clear. We were there to get fully ’into the game’. Our playing field would be elsewhere.
But where was our field? And how would we get there? And who would we play with?
(Continued in Blog 10)