God doesn’t seem to be known for “doing the stuff” anymore, at least in the United States. It seems we’re much more impressed (and brag about “the power of God” more) when there is a high percentage of guests at our weekend services (even if most of those people simply left their prior church disgruntled, drained from years of meaningful service, or deliberately running from the inconvenience of dealing with a broken relationship with another believer), when we reach budget, or when we add a new staff member. We shout it from the mountaintops when the organization grows, the institution has more money in the bank than was expected, or additional staff is added. We are energized when a new staff member is joining the team even if his/her only role is to make sure the growing organization is a well-oiled machine. Their real role in many settings… to help organize the chaos so the church can gather more people who give their tithe so the church can fund the programs that keep the present members coming and new ones checking her out.
Don’t get me wrong… I have no problem with any of this. We should celebrate milestones. But when this is all we have to celebrate, there may be an unfortunate perversion with our paradigm of church. Do one more read of the gospels (any one of them). Take the time to do a quick review of the book of Acts. When Jesus does something that could only be attributed to Him (the gospels) or the body of Christ experiences Jesus doing something through His name (Acts), people believe and faith grows. Miracles are on God’s agenda but they seem to be very low on the totem pole of public discussion in the average church today.
I wonder… If we believed and prayed would God “do the stuff?”
John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard church movement, will be remembered for many things, one of which was his unrelenting commitment to “doin’ the stuff,” as he often put it. As John Wimber told the story… he and Carol visited a church early in his spiritual journey, immediately after he had spent considerable time reading the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Following the service, John approached the pastor and asked him:
“So, when do we do the stuff?”
“The ‘stuff’,” said the pastor. “What’s the ‘stuff’?”
“You know,” John replied, “the stuff in the Bible, like healing the sick and casting out demons. The stuff!”
“Oh,” replied the pastor. “We don’t do the stuff. We believe they did it back in biblical days, but we don’t do it today.”
With a rather confused look on his face, John could only say: “And I gave up drugs for this?”
A dear friend of mine and one of the people I respect as much as anyone in the world once said to me, “It’s awkward when we put God on the spot in front of other people.” That is, when we request a miracle in a small group meeting or a worship service. I agree. But I would also say that John Wimber was right when he said, “I would rather pray for 1,000 people, even if only one gets healed, than not to pray for any and none gets healed.”
Jesus hasn’t misplaced His authority over all things; we seemed to have lost our aptitude for acknowledging it. And even if God answers the prayer “No” (your request is not in my will so you will not see the response you’ve requested), “Grow” (your request is in my will but this is not the right time, I will answer your prayer in the way you’ve requested it in the future.), or “Go” (your request is in my will right now at the time you prayed it so you’ll see the miracle right now), you can use the way God responds, no, go, or grow, to help your members learn of God’s character. You really can’t go wrong when you “put God on the spot.”
I don’t know that God is going to instantly heal someone in your group who has cancer or if He’ll drop a million dollars in someone’s lap for that new building your church needs or if He’ll bring the wayward daughter home after fasting and prayer. But I’m fairly sure He won’t do “the stuff” unless your group is asking for it and believing God is capable of doing it.
And what if He did? What if God did heal someone in your group or if He did bring the money your church needs through an anonymous donor or if the wayward daughter did roam into a worship gathering and make God the Lord of her life and in that instant was never the same again? How would that affect the transformation you so desperately long to see in your group members?
One final thought… I have the opportunity to do conferences and preach in many churches. Often times I ask this question of those in attendance, “How many of you either have a friend or family member who has experienced a miracle, something that could only have been done through the power of God?” In every instance at least 90% of those in attendance immediately throw their hands in the air. Just sayin’…