My wife, Chris, and I were married on June 7th, 1986. A wonderful day! We took a week-long honeymoon (camping at Lake Powell) and came back for another week off to settle in to our new apartment in Colorado Springs. At the time, I was the part time Singles Pastor at a large church in town. We had another Sunday off so we decided to visit this new thing called “The Vineyard.” It was a weird little church with about 40 people meeting in a grade school gymnasium. Metal chairs. A pastor who played the guitar in a rock ‘n roll band – and everyone drinking coffee and eating donuts. Very strange.
And we cried through the whole service. Don’t even know why. We just did! Soon afterwards, we ended up at this church (I think it was the only time in my life I ever changed churches). I eventually ended up on staff at the Colorado Springs Vineyard Christian Fellowship Church – and that’s who sent us off to Beirut in 1992.
While the pastor of that church became a good friend and a mentor in my life as well (Steven Todd is his name – we’re still close friends), who I want to acknowledge here as my 2nd most influential mentor is the founder of the Vineyard churches – John Wimber. He taught me so much.
We met several times between 1987 and 1997 when he died. These are the things I learned from him:
1. “Everyone gets to play in the Kingdom of God.” He loved saying that. There are no rock stars. No specially “anointed men” who have all of the gifts from God to do all of the ministry. Just a bunch of ordinary people who “get to play.” That was revolutionary for me as I came from a background where there was only one – or maybe a handful – of gifted people who did all of the ministry.
2. That worship (the singing kind) was about actually interacting with a personal God in a real-time sort of way. Intimacy was a word I’d never heard in conjunction with God and worship. This was all new – and scary – territory for me.
3. Healing and other gifts of the Holy Spirit were not mine to own, but they were God’s to give as he wanted and when he wanted to whomever he wanted. I could pray for a sick person and they could be made well – not because of me, but because of God. More scary stuff.
4. And…maybe, most importantly – I could be myself. No hype needed. No fancy clothes, big hats, special robes or smoke and mirrors. I could be “naturally supernatural.” God wanted to work through the cracked vessel called “Carl.”
I owe much to my heritage set by my parents growing up in the church (my dad was also my pastor). They could (and probably should) be in every one of these lists. And they believed and practiced all of the above four points – but somehow I never caught them until I heard them and saw them from John Wimber and the Vineyard.
And I am forever different and grateful. Both for the spiritual heritage of my family and for the legacy left to me through the Vineyard churches by John Wimber!