"Love God. Love people. Period."
This is the motto of the Vineyard Church in Duluth, Minnesota that I visited from August 5th through the 9th, for Cause Conference 2009. It was life-changing. My girlfriend Vanessa and I made the 8 hour trip with strangers from another Vineyard church, who turned out to be really cool people. We realized we were going to be early to the conference but had no place to stay, so we called ahead to inform the church. They said it wouldn't be a problem. We arrived at midnight, and one of the staff members was waiting to open the doors for us. That's service! Upon entering the church, we came into a large room dotted with several black leather couches, and also equipped with several small tables and chairs, plus a fireplace. The sanctuary, used for worship and teaching, was beyond. Soon all of us guys were sprawled out on a leather couch of our choosing, fast asleep.
I woke up early, as is my custom, and was rewarded with a beautiful, cool Minnesota morning. Stepping outside the church, I got to see the awesome scenery that had been shrouded in darkness the night before. Thick conifers greeted me on every side, their thick trunks thrust into the lightening sky like spears. Down the long paved driveway I saw a large boulder. "Perfect place for an early-morning Bible study," I decided. Out in the cool Minnesota air, without distracting peers or rigid schedules, I felt closer to God than I had in a while. It was a morning of refreshment, revitalization, and rejuvenation as I sought the Lord and his purposes for me.
Later in the day I entered the church, and observed several people fellowshipping and chatting over coffee at the small tables scattered throughout the room. It all seemed so everyday. And then it hit me: "That's why it's so different; it's just everyday people fellowshipping and swapping stories of God's grace, mercy, and power in an ordinary, everyday environment." I realized that what I was seeing was a fleshing out of Acts 2:42-true Christian community. No church masks or fake smiles displayed by plastic people living a fairy tale in an environment sterilized from the harsh reality of life. Strangers could (and did) stroll in and feel welcomed, while being loved on and presented with the gospel, in a comfortable atmosphere similar to Starbucks or Borders. The simplicity yet also the depth of fellowship and sharing that went on was truly awesome to behold.
I made myself comfortable on one of the black leather couches set off to the side, against the wall.
("Observation without interaction," I thought ;-)- For a few hours I really dug into my newly purchased copy of Power Evangelism (a truly inspiring and challenging book on evangelism by the founder of the Vineyard Church, John Wimber). It intrigued me, as it delved deep into the topic of evangelism through church history, but mainly dealt with what John Wimber dubbed Power Evangelism. (There is not enough time or space for me to explain it here; but I highly recommend the book) It gave me a solid understanding of evangelism that I craved.
In addition to the fellowship, we were also given the opportunity to do some kayaking, hiking, and sightseeing. One of the church members graciously took us out to breakfast and showed us some incredible sights we no doubt would have missed had we explored on our own. We got to see the breathtaking panoramic view of the city from the top of Enger Tower, for example. Again, a profound spirit of servitude was exemplified.
We also went Frisbee golfing. It was my first time ever. My disc went almost everywhere except where I wanted it to go, but it was still a blast. ;-)-
One of the nights the church decided to do an open-mic night, where those with musical talent performed their favorite songs for us. Vanessa actually got up there and sang "You and Me" by Lifehouse, one of my favorite songs by one of my top three favorite bands, and dedicated it to me. ;-)- That was really sweet of her. I took pictures with my phone. ;-)-
After a few days devoid of any agenda, devoted to relaxation and fun out in the beautiful Minnesota wilderness, the conference began in earnest. Christy Wimber, the daughter in law of Vineyard founder John Wimber, was the main speaker featured. I was totally blown away by the depth and power in her teaching. The first main session, she focused on the life of David. She began her sermon with Acts 13:21, which reads, "I have found David son of Jesse a man after my own heart; he will do everything I have asked him to do." (God speaking) She then jumped to Samuel 16:7, which tells the story of Samuel anointing David king over Israel to replace Saul, and it also explains that God looks at our heart rather than any outer qualities we possess. David's family didn't even believe in him, but God did. And then, skipping down to verse 19, Christy highlighted something I had never considered before. In this verse Saul asks David's father Jesse, "Send me your son David, who is with the sheep." Wait a minute! Back in verse 7 of the same chapter, David was anointed by Samuel. This indicated that God looked on David with favor and had ordained him as King over Israel. But now, we learn that David is back where Samuel found him-tending his father's sheep! Did I miss something? Tell me if I'm wrong, but doesn't kingship entail a crown, a position of authority, rule over a kingdom, perks of being royalty? Why then, after being told of this fantastic destiny that God had ordained for him, is David stuck in such a lowly, dead-end position?
Christy went on to explain that “David was just anointed to be king, and then he is sent back to the field. Afterwards, he is sent to the palace to fulfill that anointing. It is a PROCESS that God wants to take us through. We have to yield to the process and see the big picture.”
Ouch. This hit me like a ton of theological bricks. I realized how lately my attitude had been one of restlessness. I was chomping at the bit, begging and pleading God to show me what he wanted me to do. There is nothing wrong with seeking out God’s will for your life; but I was not yielding to His timetable.
She continued. “Something had to be worked out in David so that he could carry the responsibility of his anointing.” She went on to describe David’s attitude of servitude before Saul. This got me thinking of how alien and foreign this attitude of David is to us, especially when examined through the lens of our Western mindset of a dog-eat-dog world where we seek to elevate ourselves above everyone else. Think about it. David has just entered into the service of the king. I don’t think many of us would be surprised if he did all he could to consolidate power, stage a coup, usurp the throne, depose Saul and take his rightful place as king. Especially considering his ascension into the spotlight after killing Goliath, it was clear that he had won the hearts of the people. And after all, God had ordained his kingship, right? So why not capitalize on this and speed up the process a little?
Instead, we see David selflessly serving Saul. The thought of prematurely accelerating his rise to power doesn’t even cross his mind. David clearly understands the Law of Process, and has willingly placed his destiny in God’s capable hands. Even much later, when Saul is hunting David down to kill him and David is presented with the opportunity to terminate Saul and neutralize the threat to his life, he doesn’t take it. He even pays homage to Saul and calls him his lord and king. All these instances paint the portrait of a deeply humble leader secure in God’s ability to raise him up at the proper time. Rather than getting bitter and rendering himself useless in service to God, David blooms where he’s planted.
In chapter 18 of 1 Samuel we’re told that, “Whatever Saul sent him to do, David did it so successfully that Saul gave him a high rank in the army. This pleased all the people and Saul’s officers as well.” David didn’t mope around lamenting the fact that he hadn’t achieved the pinnacle of his career yet. Instead, he developed his influence with the people around him and cultivated his potential as a leader. Saul’s officers and the people must have seen strong leadership, diligence, and humility flowing out of David’s close relationship with and dependence on God. He honored what came before him, and honor came to him.
As Christy said, “there are no shortcuts to maturity and character. David had to kill the lion and the bear before he could kill Goliath; we have to have private victories before we have public victories.”
David’s dependence on God was radical and unwavering. Even in the one time where he trusts in the strength of numbers over the strength of God and is disciplined for it, he says, “Let us fall into the hands of the Lord, for his mercy is great.” Even in times of punishment, David stayed close to God because he knew Him and trusted in Him:
“The Lord is my light and my salvation-whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life-of whom shall I be afraid?
When evil men advance against me to devour my flesh, when my enemies and my foes attack me, they will stumble and fall. Though an army besieges me, my heart will not fear, though war break out against me, even then will I be confident.”
Several verses later David pleads:
“Teach me your way, O Lord; lead me in a straight path.”
All this points to a humble leader who continually looked to God for strength, and strove to do the best job he possibly could no matter if he found himself in the field, the palace, or the throne.
Another pertinent point Christy made:
“Man cannot stop what God initiates. We serve a big God who does big things, who is just waiting for someone who will let Him do whatever he wants. When you let God do whatever he wants, you change the world.”
So, in closing, my questions to you are: Where do you find yourself today? How you can you maximize your effectiveness and develop your influence for God’s kingdom in that place while yielding to the Law of Process? It is truly an amazing thing when we relinquish control of our lives to God and let him do with them what He wishes. I encourage you, as I did, to change your prayer focus from restlessness to relinquishment.
Adopt David’s attitude of servitude and see what happens. May God Bless you as you seek to represent his Kingdom and depend on him, wherever you are. God Bless.
P.S. I would really like to get some feedback/discussion on this.