Vineyard 201 – Disciple-making Jesus’ Way

At the heart of the Vineyard Movement, “making disciples of all nations” has been a core value. At Seacoast Vineyard, we seek to “make disciples” through Small Groups, personal mentoring, leadership development, recovery and healing, conferences, our college-level Vineyard Institute, and ministry training.

A lot has been published about disciple-making; here is an article by John Wimber who contributed much to helping us understand the Kingdom qualities of discipleship found in Jesus’ life.


Jesus had a conscious, single-minded plan to train the Twelve in his way of life.

By John Wimber

A major part of Christ’s ministry was devoted to training the disciples to do the Father’s works and reflect his righteous nature, to preparing them to lead the church that was created at Pentecost. His strategy for winning the world was simple: win a few men and women to Christ, train them well, and release them to repeat the process over and over again. We can learn much about discipleship by studying how Jesus trained the Twelve.

Christ’s method of training is difficult for Western Christians to understand, for it involved much more than the accumulation of knowledge. Twentieth century Christians equate training with accumulating knowledge about God through Bible study. But Christ was more action oriented; his disciples learned by doing as he did, and in so doing they combined right doctrine with changed behavior and attitudes.

Another obstacle to understanding Christ’s method of discipleship is the rejection of signs and wonders today. Signs and wonders, all Western Christians acknowledge, were necessary to authenticate Christ’s divinity. Further, signs and wonders were key in establishing the apostolic authority of the Twelve and Paul. But most Western Christians reject or adopt a generally negative attitude toward signs and wonders after the first century. This diminishes the effectiveness of Christ’s example for us and discounts much of what Christ intended that we do. What Christians are often left to follow is a good moral example, not a dynamic, Satan-conquering Lord. This results in overly intellectual disciples—certainly not a people who cause demons to tremble.

Teacher, Rabbi

A closer look at how Jesus trained the disciples to carry on his ministry after his ascension reveals many of the key elements for learning how to minister today.

Jesus’ method of instruction was the method of the day: rabbinic. A rabbi would minister while his disciples watched; then they would minister with him watching; next they went out on short missions, reporting back for further instruction and correction from the master. After repeating this process for years, and the rabbi was convinced his disciples were formed in his way of life, he released his students to become rabbis and teach others by the same process.

Christ used the same training method with his disciples. Christ, the Teacher, Rabbi, formed his disciples in his way of life, passing on his character. Faith, hope, love, joy, peace, and so on were the goals of his training. Performing signs and wonders—casting out demons, healing the sick, even walking on water—were avenues through which the disciples learned more about God’s nature. The disciples understood and accepted what Jesus expected of them. We never read of them objecting to being asked to do the works of Jesus, only of their sense of personal inadequacy in performing his commands.

Tennessee Walkers

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In my early years, I often visited a horse farm in Illinois where my grandfather worked. He trained Tennessee walking horses. Tennessee Walkers have a remarkable high-strutting gait, different from any other horse in the world. One day I was with him while he worked on a horse with a problem gait. His solution was to hitch a pacer—a horse with the correct gait—to the horse with the problem and let them walk together. After a few days, the problem horse’s gait became consistent, just like that of the pacer. My grandfather explained that when a horse cannot do its job, if you connect it to one that can, soon both do the job correctly.

I have been training men and women for twenty-five years. During this period I have learned that the secret for success with people is the same as with horses: hitch a person who cannot do a job with one who can, and soon both will know how. This is how Christ trained the Twelve: they lived with him, soon living like him. Training today works the same way. Being around someone who performs a certain ministry skill successfully (or demonstrates personal maturity) is the best way for you to learn to do it (or be it) yourself.

A willingness to follow

The primary criteria for becoming one of the Twelve was a willingness to follow Christ— to walk with him, and to choose to become like him. Other than that desire, the only thing the disciples had in common was that they were Jews with middle class economic and social standing living in Galilee (Judas was the exception; the others were mostly fishermen). From a human perspective, one can imagine the Father telling his Son, “If we can train this motley crew to advance my kingdom, we can train anyone.” This gives all of us hope.

Through mutual commitment, Jesus made disciples out of the Twelve. He developed mature character and leadership in them. He trained them to do signs and wonders. They were hitched together for three years, and when released, the disciples continued to walk in his way. They performed God’s works and persevered under the most severe of conditions. And they trained the next generation to carry on in the same way.


But the disciples had difficulty in cooperating with Christ in their training. They often misunderstood Christ’s teachings (Matthew 13:36; 15:15; 16:6-12). They never fully understood his mission until after the resurrection—and even then they were in need of further correction (Mark 10:35-40; Luke 9:46-48). But Jesus was patient with them, for his goal was to build men who did the Father’s bidding.

For three years the Twelve were in a learning environment. They not only learned new ideas, but they developed new skills and abilities. They were teachable because they saw a large gap between Christ’s life and their own. Progressive growth came through trial and error.

Frequent failures characterized the early ministry of all the disciples (Luke 9:37-43; 5255), especially Peter’s. His abortive attempt to walk on water (Matthew 14)) is one of many examples. As the disciples continued to live with Christ, their failures diminished

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and their successes became more frequent. Each new step of faith was a springboard for their Master to push them further, enlarging their worldview and expanding their understanding of God.

Disciples today

I believe our challenge for training today is no different from or less critical than it was for the Twelve in the first century. We, too, are called to be like Christ and to do his Father’s works. But, unlike the Twelve, we cannot live and work with the incarnate Christ. Also, the rabbinic method of training is rarely found in Western society. So how can we apply Christ’s training methods to our lives?

First, any training and formation that we receive from other Christians must be subordinated to Scripture. We worship the living God of the Bible, and it is his image-not another man’s or woman’s image—that is the goal of all discipleship.

Second, we have access to Christ through the disciplines of prayer, worship, meditation, and study. The cultivation of these “inward disciplines,” as Richard J. Foster calls them, is the most significant means of formation in Christ.

Third, we have older brothers and sisters to whom we may look for models of maturity and guidance. Saying Christ is our pattern of maturity does not exclude learning about him from more experienced Christians. Paul was not afraid to say to the Corinthian Christians, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul clearly says that Christ is the supreme example (1 Peter 2:21), that he (Paul) follows Christ’s example, and that we follow him only to the degree that he reflects Christ.

You may ask, “Where are my contemporary examples?” and “How can I be sure that they will not abuse me?” The answer to the first question is that most churches have many mature Christians from whom you can learn. But you must be involved in the church, for example, in a small group, before you can discover them and take advantage of their example. Look for someone you admire, respect, and trust. Then spend time with him or her; most of what you learn comes through association.

The answer to the second question—how to avoid abuse—goes back to the basics: Our goal is to become like Christ, and he is revealed in Scripture. If you abandon the hard work of checking out everything you are taught by others with what Scripture teaches, you place yourself in jeopardy of being deceived and hurt by Satan. In other words, while we have a responsibility to show honor and respect toward the leaders who train us, our highest responsibility is to Jesus.

Of course, the greatest joy of all is when God uses you to train others. And that is my prayer for you; that if you haven’t already grown to that level of maturity, someday you will be used by God to train others.

Adapted: Power Evangelism by John Wimber w/ Kevin Springer, Harper & Row, pub.



Vineyard 201 – Reaching Out in Jesus’ Name with Compassion

Churches throughout the generations since the First Church have preached and practiced Outreach; after all, that’s what Evangel in “Evangelical Church” means – those who declare, or tell the Good News. Some generations shared the Gospel with compassion; others, not so much.

What most people don’t know is just a few decades ago, a whole movement – the Servant Evangelism Movement – coalesced around Vineyard pastors. Steve Sjogren, for instance, began giving out bottled water, cleaning barroom toilets, washing cars, and raking yard – all for free – to, as he says, “show God’s love in a practical way.”

Reaching out is words; it’s also action.

Read what John Wimber, one of the Vineyard Movement’s first pastors, says in the article about Reaching Out – or download Wimber_on_Reaching_Out here:


Jesus said, “Ask the Lord of the harvest…to send out workers into his harvest field.” But how many of us actually pray this way?

By John Wimber

About twelve years ago I attended a Christian funeral that changed my life.

The funeral was unique in several respects. First, it was quite large: about 20,000 people-mostly of Puerto Rican descent- representing 56 churches gathered to weep, rejoice, and worship as they reminisced over a lost friend.

Second, the deceased was a church. That’s correct, a local church. And those at the funeral were her spiritual descendants. Third, they loved the church! None of them had split off from it. They had all been equipped, encouraged, sent out, and supported in their new works.

I remember an older gentleman—the pastor of the church—at the front of the meeting who cried through it all. It had been his vision to start churches, and for him this gathering was the fulfillment of his calling. He could go home to the Father knowing he had accomplished what God had placed him here on earth to do.

Pastor after pastor and elder after elder stepped up to the microphone to give homage to the mother church, describing how the church’s generosity and vision were responsible for the planting and flourishing of their churches. One of the speakers pointed out that the previous year the church had started eleven new churches, and as a result of that “childbirth” the mother congregation had died. It had given away all its leaders, workers, and people. There were now only a handful of people left, so they decided to lay it down.

A passion in my soul

That day God burned a passion into my soul for renewal and growth. I knew then that whatever God called me to do, it had to be marked by a willingness to give everything away. I prayed, “Lord, if you ever call me to minister in another church, I promise it will be a sending church.”

Jesus trained his disciples to be just like him, to reflect his nature and do his Father’s works. This meant they were men and women of action, sent out to demonstrate and proclaim the Kingdom of God, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35). During his earthly ministry Jesus was a man on the move with a purpose: to teach, preach, and heal, starting with the people of God.

In Matthew 9:35-38, Jesus tells the disciples that there is a great need for more workers to go out into the harvest field (v. 38). What most readers often miss, however, is the motivation for going out: compassion for sinful and hurting men and women. “When he saw the crowds,” the text says, “he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 36)” He had compassion on them¼” are words that capture Christ’s heart best. It was his love for the people that caused him to endure the cross and send out the disciples. And it is that same love and compassion that should motivate us to go out.

Bloom where you’re planted

Western civilization is similar to first century Israel. Sin abounds: greed, idolatry, disrespect for the elderly, religious pluralism, child sacrifice through the practice of abortion. We aren’t too different from ancient Roman civilization, though we mask our paganism through modern technology.

God’s heart is full of sorrow when he looks on Western civilization, and even more when his church fails to go out with the good news that his Son has conquered sin and death. But the harvest is plentiful, if only we will look around us and minister to the needs of the people.

The most important lesson to learn about being sent out is we first must bloom where we are planted. Whenever I talk about being sent out as a missionary I am deluged by people whose personal lives are not in good order. They don’t understand that an airplane ride to Africa or Latin America won’t make them more spiritual. “If you want to be a missionary,” I tell them, “start where you live: with your family, among your friends, among the homeless in your local park. Do good works, and invite non– believers along with you. The world knows the genuine from the fake, and if non-believers see you feeding the poor, they’ll listen to your message. That’s power evangelism.”

“In fact,” I tell them, “I’ve got more news for you. The workers that Jesus talks about in Matthew 9:38 -the ones who did overseas missionary work- were his best trained and most mature disciples. And it was the same in the early church; in Acts 13:1-2, the Holy Spirit set apart Paul and Barnabas, the most mature leaders in the church at Antioch.” In other words, God calls people who are already walking with him, not those who are running away from their problems.

Specific instructions

In Matthew 10:1-16, Jesus provides the Twelve with specific instructions about their calling. In Matthew 28:20, the great commission is handed down to all generations, so these instructions apply to us as much as they did to the Twelve. Here are the key elements of his instruction:

First, he granted the Twelve authority to carry on his ministry: “to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness” (v. 1). They knew how to do this, because they had walked alongside the Master, and now they received authority and power to overcome the evil one and preach reconciliation in his name.

Second, he called each one of them by name (vs. 2-3). They were sure of their calling, so they went out with confidence that God was with them, no matter what the response was to their ministry. People who enter ministry for the wrong reasons-and any reason other than God’s calling is the wrong reason—cannot withstand the trials that inevitably come with being on the front-line of spiritual warfare.

Third, he gave them specific instructions about where they should go. “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go, rather, to the lost sheep of Israel” (vs. 5-6). Old Testament Israel is analogous to the church. Jesus was saying the renewal of God’s people, calling them back to the Kingdom of God, comes before going out into the world. Our second priority is going into the marketplaces and practicing evangelism and church planting.

Now, I do not imply that the renewal of God’s people and personal evangelism are mutually exclusive activities; both should take place simultaneously. But Christ put a higher priority on renewal. Why? Because when God’s people are renewed, explosive evangelism and church growth inevitably follow.

In our ministry here at VMI we feel called to the renewal and equipping of the saints. In 1986 we ministered directly to over 300,000 people world-wide, mostly Christians and many of them leaders. Further, our focus is interdenominational, to the entire body of Christ, and we pray that each part of the church we minister to will experience renewal and growth.

Preach the Kingdom

Fourth, he told them what to preach. “As you go, preach this message: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is near'” (v.7). Jesus wanted both the works and the words of God’s reign proclaimed. Without an explanation of the gospel, good works, signs, and miracles have little lasting benefit.

Fifth, he told them the nature of their ministry: to “heal the sick, raise the dead, and cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons” (v.8). It is worth pointing out here up to the time Jesus gave these instructions there is no reported incident of his raising the dead.

Sixth, he told the disciples how to handle receptive and unreceptive people. If the people receive you, he told them, they will receive God’s peace and blessing. And for a town that may reject you, “it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town” (v. 15).

Finally, he warned them that their calling was full of danger. “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (v. 16).

All Christians are called as workers in the ripe harvest fields that can be seen if only we open our hearts to the world. For all of us this work begins at home. Some are called to minister in our churches, encouraging fellow Christians to turn more wholly to God in faith and obedience. All are called to evangelism, no matter where we live or work. A few of us are called to extra local ministries—missions, renewal groups, even church planting teams. What part should you play? “Ask the Lord of the harvest,” and he will show you.


Vineyard 201 – Worship God With Passion

It’s not a coincidence that when most think of the Vineyard Movement in general and their experience with specific Vineyard Churches, worship is the top notable characteristic. Since the first Vineyard Fellowship was launched, worshiping Jesus has been the highest priority. Our first session of Vineyard 201 is all about making worship the steady heartbeat of Seacoast Vineyard Church.

I can’t think of a better way to “get the feel” of how worship is valued across the Movement, historically and globally, than to read what John Wimber wrote some time ago. Here’s his essay, Worship: Intimacy with God. (And if you’d like to download a copy, it’s attached at the end, too.) Enjoy.


Worship: The act of freely giving love to God, forms and informs every activity of the Christian’s life.

By John Wimber

Many people who visit Vineyard Christian Fellowships around the country remark on the depth and richness of our worship. This has not come about by chance: We have a well thought-out philosophy that guides why and how we worship God. In this article I will communicate that philosophy.

To understand how we worship God, it is helpful to learn about our fellowship’s history, which goes back to 1977. At that time my wife, Carol, was leading a small group of people in a home meeting that evolved into the Anaheim Vineyard. I’ll let her describe what happened during that time.

“We began worship with nothing but a sense of calling from the Lord to a deeper relationship with him. Before we started meeting in a small home church setting in 1977, the Holy Spirit had been working in my heart, creating a tremendous hunger for God. 0ne day I was praying, the word ‘worship’ appeared in my mind like a newspaper headline. I had never thought much about that word before. As an evangelical Christian I had always assumed that the entire Sunday morning gathering was ‘worship’ -and in a sense I was correct. But in a different sense there were particular elements of the service that were especially devoted to worship and not to teaching, announcements, musical presentations, and all the other activities that are part of a typical Sunday morning gathering. I had to admit that I wasn’t sure which part of the service was supposed to be worship.

“After we started to meet in our home gathering, I noticed times during the meeting (usually when we sang) in which I experienced God deeply. We sang many songs, but mostly songs about worship or testimonies from one Christian to another. But occasionally we sang a song personally and intimately to Jesus, with lyrics like ‘Jesus, I love you.’ Those types of songs both stirred and fed the hunger for God within me.”

“About this time I began asking our music leader why some songs seemed to spark something in us and others didn’t. As we talked about worship we realized that often we would sing about worship – except when we accidentally stumbled onto intimate songs like “I love you, Lord,” and “I lift my voice.” Thus, we began to see a difference between songs about Jesus and songs to Jesus.”

“Now, during this time when we were stumbling around corporately in worship, many of us were also worshiping at home alone. During these solitary times we were not necessarily singing, but we were bowing down, kneeling, lifting hands, and praying spontaneously in the spirit-sometimes with spoken prayers, sometimes with non-verbalized prayers, and even prayers without words at all. We noticed that as our individual worship life deepened; when we came together there was a greater hunger toward God. So we learned that what happens when we are alone with the Lord determines how intimate and deep the worship will be when we come together.”

“About that time we realized our worship blessed God, it was for God alone, and not just a vehicle of preparation for the pastor’s sermon. This was an exciting revelation. After learning about the central place of worship in our meetings, there were many instances in which all we did was worship God for an hour or two.”

“At this time we also discovered that singing was not the only way to worship God. Because the word worship means literally to bow down, it is important that our bodies are involved in what our spirits are saying. In Scripture this is accomplished through bowing our heads, lifting our hands, kneeling, and even lying prostrate before God.”

“A result of our worshiping and blessing God is being blessed by him. We don’t worship God in order to get blessed, but we are blessed as we worship him. He visits his people with manifestations of the Holy Spirit.”

Thus worship has a two-fold aspect: communication with God through the basic means of singing and praying. And communication from God through teaching and preaching the word, prophecy, exhortation, etc. We lift him up and exalt him, and as a result are drawn into his presence where he speaks to us.”

Definition of Worship

Probably the most significant lesson that Carol and the early Vineyard Fellowship learned was that worship is the act of freely giving love to God. Indeed, in Psalm 18:1 we read, “I love you, O Lord, my strength.” Worship is also an expression of awe, submission, and respect toward God: “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song” (Psalm 95:1-2). “Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psalm 96:1-3).

0ur heart’s desire should be to worship God; we have been designed by God for this purpose. If we don’t worship God we’ll worship something or someone else. But how should we worship God? There are various ways described in the 0ld and New Testaments:

Adoration: Praising God simply for who he is-Lord of the universe

Thanksgiving: Giving thanks to God for what he has done, especially for his works of creation and salvation

Confession: The acknowledgement of sin and guilt to a holy and righteous God

As Carol pointed out, worship involves not only our thought and intellect, but also our body. Throughout the Bible there are such forms of prayer and praise as singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, kneeling, and bowing down, lifting hands, and so on.

A key passage for understanding worship is found in John 4:23-24 where Jesus said: The true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth. Jesus was saying worship must be in keeping with God’s nature, which is spirit, and it must be rooted in truth, which is found in Christ. In the New Testament we find several important elements of worship that are not found in the Old Testament. First and most important, we worship the Father through his son, Jesus Christ. Our worship is Christ-centered. Singing is Christ-centered: to him and about him. Second, Jesus commanded us to remember and worship him through the Lord’s Supper. Third, the Holy Spirit leads our worship (1 Corinthians 14), speaking to us through prophecies and tongues and interpretation (see Acts 13 and 14).

Phases in the heart

Not only is it helpful to understand why and how we worship God, it is also helpful to understand what happens when we worship God. In the Vineyard we see five basic phases of worship, phases through which leaders attempt to lead the congregations. Understanding these phases is helpful in our experience of God. Keep in mind that as we pass through these phases, we are headed toward one goal: intimacy with God. I define intimacy as belonging to or revealing one’s deepest nature to another (in this case to God), and it is marked by close association, presence, and contact. I will describe these phases as they apply to corporate worship, but they may just as easily be applied to our private practice or worship.

The first phase is the call to worship, which is a message, directed toward the people or toward God. It is an invitation to worship. This might be accomplished through a song like “Come, Let Us Worship and Bow Down” or it may be jubilant, such as through the song, “Don’t You Know it’s Time to Praise the Lord?”

The underlying thought of the call to worship is, “let’s do it, let’s worship now.” Song selection for the call to worship is quite important, for this sets the tone for the gathering and directs people to God. Is it the first night of a conference when many people may be unfamiliar with the songs and with others in attendance? Or is it the last night, after momentum has been building all week? If this is a Sunday morning worship time, has the church been doing the works of God all week? 0r has the church been in the doldrums? If the church has been doing well, Sunday worship rides on the crest of a wave. All these thoughts are reflected in the call to worship. The ideal is that each member of the congregation be conscious of these concerns–praying that the appropriate tone be set in the call to worship.

The second phase is the engagement, which is the electrifying dynamic of connection to God and to each other. Expressions of love, adoration, praise, jubilation, intercession, petition— all of the dynamics of prayer are interlocked with worship—come forth from one’s heart. In the engagement phase we praise God for who he is through music as well as prayer. An individual may have moments like these in his or her private worship at home, but when the church comes together, the manifest presence of God is magnified and multiplied.

Expressing God’s love

As we move further in the engagement phase, we move more and more into loving and intimate language. Being in God’s presence excited our hearts and minds and we want to praise him for the deeds he has done, for how he has moved in history, for his character and attributes. Jubilation is that heart swell within us in which we want to exalt him. The heart of worship is to be united with our Creator and with the church universal and historic. Remember, worship is going on all the time in heaven, and when we worship we are joining that which is already happening, what has been called the communion of the saints. Thus there is a powerful corporate dynamic. Often this intimacy causes us to meditate, even as we are singing, on our relationship with the Lord. Sometimes we recall vows we have made before our God. God might call to our mind disharmony or failure in our life, thus confession of sin is involved. Tears may flow as we see our disharmony but his harmony; our limitations but his unlimited possibilities. This phase in which we have been awakened to his presence is called expression. Physical and emotional expression in worship can result in dance and body movement. This is an appropriate response to God if the church is on the crest. It is inappropriate if it is whipped up or if the focal point is on the dance rather than on true jubilation in the Lord. I have been in some congregations where people try to create the jubilation level without doing the works of God, especially the works of salvation and restoration. But inevitably they fall short of true jubilation. The former worship expression is fabricated, the latter genuine. If we do not exalt God in our private lives, jubilation becomes a phony exercise in corporate worship. Expression then moves to a zenith, a climatic point, not unlike physical lovemaking (doesn’t Solomon use the same analogy in the Song of Songs?). We have expressed what is in our hearts and minds and bodies, and now it is time to wait for God to respond. Stop talking and wait for him to speak; to move. I call this the fourth phase, visitation: The almighty God visits his people. His visitation is a byproduct of worship. We don’t worship in order to gain his presence. He is worthy to be worshipped whether or not he visits us. But God “dwells in the praises of his people.” So we should always come to worship prepared for an audience with the King. The church must be quickened to the fact that the God of the universe will visit us if we but worship him in spirit and in truth. Much of the time when Christians come together, they don’t expect God to do much. But God is like an anxious bridegroom outside the bride’s door. And we, as the bride, frequently forget what we are there for, because we are scattered in our thoughts or preoccupied with concerns. We should expect the Spirit of God to work among us. He moves in different ways-sometimes for salvations, sometimes for deliverances, sometimes for sanctifications, or healings. God also visits through the prophetic gifts. 0ften the genuine prophets in the church are too timid to speak up. The Lord needs to deepen us in the prophetic inspired scripture reading, which has a prophetic meaning for that moment. Exhortation–it is a word of encouragement–can be given this way. We need to learn to wait on the Lord and let him speak.


The fifth phase of worship is the giving of substance. The church knows so little about giving, yet the Bible exhorts us to give to God. It is pathetic to see people preparing for ministry who don’t know how to give. That is like an athlete entering a race, yet he doesn’t know how to run. If we haven’t learned to give money, we haven’t learned anything. Ministry is a life of giving. We give our whole life; God should have ownership of everything. Remember, whatever we give God control of he can multiply and bless, not so we can amass goods, but so we can be more involved in his enterprise. Whatever I need to give, God inevitably first calls me to give it when I don’t have any of it-whether it is money, love, hospitality, or information. Whatever God wants to give through us he first has to do to us. We are the first partaker of the fruit. But we are not to eat the seed; we are to sow it, to give it away.

The underlying premise is that whatever we are is multiplied, for good or for bad. Whatever we have on our tree, is what we are going to get in our orchard. As we experience these phases of worship, we experience intimacy with God, the highest and most fulfilling calling men and women may know.


Lavish Grace

I revisited the parable of the seeds today, and I expected a rerun. Hey, I can be lame when I read the same passage. The farmer scatters seeds; then it falls first on rocky, then shallow, thorny, and finally fertile soil. The seed and ensuing sprout, in turn, is stolen, burns in the sun, dies from strangulation, and grows to produce fruit.

Preachers have outlined this passage mnemonically starting with nearly every letter of the alphabet (I had a friend who embarked on alliterating the Bible in “P”s – I think he’s somewhere committed now.)

I choose “W.”

But, when I read this, it’s the soil that has issues and not the seed. God’s Word is consistently powerful. We have problems with our soil.

The first soil is “without defense.” The enemy steals it like pigeons at a Central Park seed-fest.

The second soil is “without depth.” The heat of temptation and the pressure of tests can be brutal, like the Amazon sun.

The third soil is “without devotion.” Sin strangles and cuts off the life like a thick and thorny greenbrier.

The fourth soil that Jesus points to is “with dedication.” It’s a good word the means devotion and declaration. A tree full of fruit says, “come and get me.” (To quote one of my movie heroes.)

But two things stand out in the parable.

The first is that God is lavish with his Word… and with his invitation to life. Today’s farmers would say foolish. He throws the seed to the wind, and everyone gets a chance to embrace it, and grow to full spiritual potential. Jesus is extravagant with grace and gives it away even to those who reject it.

The second is what follows in Luke. Another metaphor called the parable of the lamp. “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made know to all.” (8:17) Real fruit can’t be faked. Let that seed sink down deep.

Enjoy the sunlight.