"And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness." Acts 4:31 (ESV)
It IS possible.
We can, as a Church, "walk and chew gum" at the same time. You've heard that phrase before. I've used it sarcastically when, in an attempt to convince my wife that I can do more than one thing at a time, I play with my Blackberry and watch TV with her and the kids. This leads to lots of family frustration - mostly because of me requesting rewinds every 3 minutes. It doesn't go over well. Ask my kids or Cathy about it.
That being said, the Holy Spirit is not plagued with Attention Deficit Disorder as I am. I've never been diagnosed with this condition - but then again, I was never tested. Back in the 60's if you had no self control, they'd lock you in a closet for a couple of hours. So, I just have a sneaking suspicion. Thankfully, He, The Holy Spirit, CAN walk and chew gum at the same time - and so can we!
But my point is this - there are those who say that a church cannot walk in the fullness of the Spirit and be Word focused and evangelistic at the same time. Some even believe that valid manifestations of the Holy Spirit such as speaking in tongues and spontaneous prophetic utterances must be suppressed during worship services so as not to offend the "seeker" or non-Christian.
Now, if there is a "hill" that I believe is worth dying on - it is this one.
If I have not "heard God" on "doing church" - then I, as Senior Pastor of the Doral Vineyard will give account before God, but all the evidence I see in the Scripture, in particular, Acts, and 1 Corinthians, demonstrate a Church in which "all things were done, decently and in order." John Wimber once commented on this verse pointing out something I've never forgotten. He said that conservative Evangelicals love to quote the second part of this verse - the "decently and in order" - but would conveniently forget the first part - the "all things." Over and over in 1 Corinthians Paul brings correction to a church which was missing the point. They were becoming "spiritual elitists" - believing that some gifted members of the church were more important than others. What's interesting is what Paul does not do. He doesn't do what many pastors and church leaders do today - which is to either shut down completely or limit the expressions and manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the church. If ever there was a church were this censorship or "made sense" it was at Corinth! Yet Paul did not censor - he instructed them. We should do the same. I could say more about 1 Corinthians 14 and what it has to say about believers, unbelievers and the prophetic gifts - but don't want to go down that "rabbit hole" for now.
Granted, there is much to be said on this. As a local church pastor who has labored to maintain an atmosphere of freedom and order and Scriptural balance , I have to constantly address these issues. It doesn't make it easy. Global prohibitions are much easier. Everyone has an opinion on "doing church." There are some, on one extreme who are of the belief that a church service should have no order at all - that any "planning" or measure of preparation is "not of God." Some come with deep issues and needs - seeking attention, titles, or self promotion. God has called us to pastor such people - and many respond in humble and healthy ways. Others are simply church "hoppers" who go from fellowship to fellowship desiring to "pastor the pastors" - they always seem to know more about what God wants and what the Holy Spirit desires than the leaders who have labored for years in that particular local church. One wonders if they have read the New Testament at all, for if they had, they'd realize that no prophet in the New Testament context was outside or above the authority of a local body of believers. But mostly, I wonder why they simply don't start their own churches so that they might eventually experience the utter "joy" of being visited by their own set of self appointed "prophets" with a mandate from God for them! (that being said, I am ALWAYS open and prayerful when a prophet of God gives me a word - but even more so when I know that that man or woman is someone under authority.)
It is not easy leading a local church. It is, without a doubt, a cross-bearing venture of faith. Now, here is the "crux" of the matter for us at the Doral Vineyard. As we look forward to 2011 we've heard the clear call of God to reach out to "make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28) right here where God has placed us in Doral. God has given us all the resources to do this. He has held nothing back. We have, as Pastor Jose Alvarez has pointed out many times, a "church of leaders." This past Sunday, Pastor Leonel spoke God's word to us and told us that were a "vineyard on a fertile hillside." Those words resonated deeply in my soul. It served to "underline" the mandate God had already communicated. What will we do with what God has given us? We have the place, the people, and now, I trust, the will to carry out this mandate in Doral - to reach those around us with the Gospel of the Good News that the Kingdom of God has invaded planet Earth - and the God is here to save them through this Gospel!
I will elaborate more on this in the coming weeks - beginning on the second Sunday of the year. I believe that 2010 was a year of preparation and positioning. From the start God called us to experience his love and taught us more about how to love Him - we spent many weeks "basking" in the presence of a loving Father as Jack Frost taught us through the video series "Experiencing the Father's Embrace." Everywhere we turned this message of the Father's love was highlighted - early in the year we hosted David and Kris Toyne from Agape Fellowship and their wonderful ministry in a conference titled - "Experiencing the Father's Love." The Toyne's conference and the Frost video series set the stage for the year. We could not escape the message the loving Father pursued us with His love relentlessly!
So, it was clear to me that God had a plan - to reveal how much He loved us first and foremost. In subsequent weeks, we launched the House of Prayer, in a joint effort with another David, my good friend, David Futrell, and we hosted IHOP Miami at our facility. As the year progressed we soon discovered that our particular visions of the House of Prayer had evolved and, ultimately, we mutually, respectfully, and most of all, lovingly agreed to each pursue our particular callings and visions - but not before this local body - the Doral Vineyard has been utterly infused with a spirit of prayer and intercession that "infected" all of us! Looking back on the year, plainly and clearly, God was establishing foundations for what He has for 2011!
This is a long post - so I'll come to the point. Matthew 22:37-39 provides a basis for what God has been doing and what He will continue to do at Doral Vineyard in 2011 - listen to these words:
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'
There is no circumventing the mandate of loving God - verse 37 - we cannot and must not jump the first to go to the second. In other words, the Great Commission, is not greater than the Great Commandment. The Great Commission of Matthew 28 - essentially loving our neighbors, by "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (verse 20) comes under the Second Commandment - "love your neighbor as yourself."
As I prayed and sought God together with my wife and our team of pastors at Doral Vineyard, we became increasingly convinced that we had to provide a "place" for our Doral area neighbors. But how to do this? Do we totally modify the Sunday morning celebration? I thought, agonized, and even experimented with a second Sunday morning service for 5-6 months. What we learned was this - that most of our core people - the vast majority, wanted the full on, celebratory, prophetic, love fest of the second service - and that it was very difficult to bring new people to a 9 am Sunday morning service. John Wimber had a lot of wisdom in a lot of areas...he said two or three things which have been formative and foundational for me:
1. Sunday morning is for believers primarily. John was not for placing the "cookies on the lower shelf" on Sunday morning. He taught us that Sunday worship gatherings are for the edification of believers. He clearly was not in favor of "seeker sensitive" worship services. While many churches within the Vineyard have opted for this model, we've decided that evangelism should be done primarily outside the walls of the worship service and the church facility. God has raised up among our number some wonderful, people, under the leadership of Pastor Danny Galasso - who are going out to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom - a full gospel which includes the fullness of Salvation - not just the New Birth - but also healing and deliverance. I will say more on this in the coming weeks - because evangelism, the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom - means a lot more than leading people into a prayer, and then baptizing them. God's Good News includes that and much more.
2. Secondly, John would often say that the Vineyard way of discovering God's strategic purposes for the local church included a process that basically can be described as "Ready-Fire-Aim" - that we should not be paralyzed by indecision, and that, from time to time it is best, when it comes to methodologies and ministry models, to NOT spend a lot time "aiming" or agonizing about whether to do this or that - but to JUST GO - to try it and discover for ourselves. He said over and over "take the best and go."
3. He taught us the principle that faith is spelled R-I-S-K - so I've never shied away from trying new things. Some have really flopped, some have worked well.
So, what to do to fulfill the Second Great Commandment and the Great Commission in 2011? I, and other Doral Vineyard leaders are convinced that the Alpha Class is the best way to do this. Alpha is a proven resource that provides all of the elements which are essential for us to carry out this mandate - it is a a fellowship meal, a small group, and also a safe place for people in Doral to find community and to be free to ask questions and find answers to their faith questions. Alpha is great in so many ways, and not just for the non-Christian - but also for the new believer that needs the basics. I've been a Christian for over three decades now and I've completed four Alpha Classes - I can honestly say that, each time, I've been greatly blessed and edified.
I am convinced that God is calling us to Alpha - this will mean a lot - it will mean taking an evening - in the middle of the week - to host and serve those who will be attending the class. There is much to be done in preparation for this - please begin to pray about Alpha. And more than anything else - pray for those you will be inviting - your friends, co-workers, family members, new Christians you know. Alpha will teach them about Jesus, His Father, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, Prayer, Physical Healing, Hell, Eternal life, and many, many more crucial topics and issues of Christianity.
Alpha is set to start the second week of February and will run for 10 weeks. For more information see www.alphausa.org. More information will be posted on our website in the coming weeks. www.doralvineyard.org
Can't wait to see what the Lord does in 2011!
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