At appropriate times we enjoy extending open invitations for God's Spirit to come and minister to us as His people. We recognize that some may be less familiar with this "charismatic" aspect of ministry and that all of us would benefit from a shared perspective. The following is offered as the basis and principles by which we enjoy such ministry together.
God spoke prophetically saying...
'And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth. Joel 2:28-30
Jesus said to his disciples...
"If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever - the Spirit of truth. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. John 14:15-17 & John 16:14
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:1-2,4
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, Eph. 3:14-16
Our commitment as the Vineyard Christian Fellowship is to welcome the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to reveal, release, and refresh the in-dwelling work of Christ in our lives. It is our desire to move in an atmosphere which neither reduces our relationship with God to any particular experience, nor refuses any such experience. In this light we recognize ...
1. The ongoing ministry of the Holy Spirit is SHARED by all who receive Christ.
The Holy Spirit is part of God's personhood (Father, Son, Spirit.) As the Son of God serves as the reconciling life between God and humanity, so the Spirit of God serves as the reconciling power by exalting, extending, and empowering the life of the Son in the world. Everyone who receives Christ is in-dwelled by Holy Spirit. (Matthew 3:11; John 3:5-8; John 14:15-27; John 16:5-15; Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 6:19; 1 John 4:13-15)
On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him." By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. John 7:37-39
For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 1 Corinthians 12:13
This continuous work of the in-dwelling Spirit may be complimented by experiences of heightened presence or "in-fillings" of special empowerment. (Luke 1:35,41; Luke 4:18; Luke 11:11-13; Acts 4:8, 31; Acts 9:17; Acts 11:28; Ephesians 5:18)
Sometimes the idea of a second "baptism in the Holy Spirit" and the significance of speaking in "tongues" can lead to confusion and even alienation. Some thoughtful interpretation of scripture may help clarify these areas of confusion. In the book of Acts there are three subsequent groups which are similarly "baptized" in the Holy Spirit as a sign to the first disciples \ church leaders declaring God's intent to include all people in the ministry of the Gospel. (Acts 8 - Samaritans who were only partly Jewish; Acts 10 - Gentiles; Acts 19 - Disciples of John the Baptist.) These transitions do not make a change from a "carnal" state to a "spiritual" one, but from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant under which a new work of God ushered an invitation to all humanity to be His people. Moving beyond that initial historical context, the idea of a "second baptism" in the Holy Spirit as a sign-event develops into a broader understanding of a more continuous "filling" as a strengthening experience. Those first filled with the in-dwelling Spirit at Pentecost note continued experiences of special in-fillings. The ongoing work of the Spirit is understood as God's ever-present source from which we are to "drink" (1 Cor. 12:13) and "walk-in" (Gal. 5:16); an alternative controlling power to drunkenness for which we are told to "be filled" (Eph. 5:18 using the present tense to imply more than a one time experience.) Similarly, speaking in foreign "tongues" is no longer understood as a "sign" but as one "gift" among many (1 Cor. 12, 14.)
Therefore, rather than noting a particular experience that sets apart some believers into a different class we believe all who receive the work and person of Christ into their hearts are to seek an ongoing intimate relationship with the Holy Spirit, discovered in both our personal and shared settings.
2. We may approach and anticipate further experiences of the Holy Spirit's power out of a deep abiding SECURITY rather than as a means to security.
Our experience with the Spirit's power and gifts does not establish our relationship with our Father God, but rather is an outworking of that relationship, serving to strengthen us in our calling. (Romans 8:15-16) Rather than the anxiety of being "left out" or "let down," let us go forward in the joy of our salvation.
Luke 10:17-20 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven."
3. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit's presence and power are Biblically SOUND.
Tangible manifestations of the Holy Spirit's presence and power are consistent with experiences of God's people throughout Scripture (1 Samuel 19:18-24; Acts 2:1-21; Acts 4:30-31; Acts 8:7; Acts 9:17-19; Acts 10:44-46; Acts 13:9-12; Acts 15:8; Acts 19:6; Acts 21:10-11; Acts 22:17-21; 1 Cor. 12:1-13; 1 Cor. 14:2)
The experiences are more descriptive (explaining the "what" and "why") than prescriptive ("how.") The limited details of these descriptions provides only a basis for our practice, accepting our freedom to learn and grow through further experiences and observations. The manifestations most often noted include the release of warmth, tingling, shaking, crying, laughter, and a weight of presence under which we may fall down.
(To refute these experiences because certain manifestations are not described in Scripture would seem to follow the same foolish reasoning of the sixteenth century "reformers" who destroyed church organs because they were not "found" in the Bible.")
4. Particular manifestations of the Holy Spirit are SECONDARY and SYMBOLIC to the inner work He is doing in our lives.
We encourage neither the way of fear which refuses these experiences altogether, nor the way of fanaticism which confuses these experiences as an end in themselves, but rather the way of freedom which uses these experiences towards God's purposes in us. Manifestations may help guide our facilitation of the process, but the ultimate focus is on the internal work in our inner beings. While the manifestations may serve as "signs", it is the lasting "fruit" by which we will be known. (Eph. 3:14-19; John 15:9-17; Gal. 5:22; Matt. 7:16-20; 1 Cor. 13)
5. We receive the tangible ministry of the Holy Spirit as SOVEREIGNLY bestowed.
As a sovereign work of God we accept and enjoy diversity in our experience and seek to manipulate nothing. Our role is to ask (Luke 11:11-13), and then bless and encourage what God does (John 5:19.) This does not mean that there is no human element to our experience of God's supernatural work. Our own emotions and personalities are going to be involved. This of course is true of all Divine-human interaction. We accept this interplay and simply do our best to discern and embrace the Divine amidst the human. (John 3:8; John 21:20-22)
All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 1 Corinthians 12:11
6. The Spirit's ministry to us serves as a SOURCE of empowering ministry through our lives.
Experiences of God's love and power refresh and release further ministry and particular spiritual gifts are to bring encouragement both personally and to others. (Zech. 4:6; John 15:26-27; Acts 4:29-31; 1 Cor. 13:1-3;)
Since you are eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in gifts that build up the church. 1 Corinthians 14:12
7. The presence and power of the Spirit are most often received out of an open and SURRENDERED posture.
Humility is the most consistent and central quality which God chooses to work with. He chooses to reveal himself by that which confounds much of human wisdom. This does not mean that spiritual life is anti-rational but merely that it will often be beyond our rational means. In this way we are called not to be childish but to be child-like in our posture; not to be foolish but to be willing to be perceived as fools. This receptive humility is born of a hunger for God that is deeper than our desire for comfort (2 Kings 5:1-14; Acts 2:15; 1 Cor. 1:27; 1 Cor. 2:4; 2 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 5:18.)
We believe God's Spirit is actively moving through His Church. Our desire is to share in this together by nurturing an atmosphere that is both sound and receptive. Let us keep our rudders in the water and our sails raised high.
(*An addendum with all Scripture references written in full may be available as well.)
In RECEIVING MINISTRY from an open invitation for prayer...
- Come humbly and hungry.
- Feel free to acknowledge your fears (i.e.. of deception, disappointment, losing control, etc.)
- Focus on the abundance of God's grace and power.
- Accept the limits of analyzing certain experiences. (Some liken God's touch to the experience of kissing. There is a relational dynamic which is more emotionally than cognitively processed, yet no less real.)
- Sometimes those involved in praying for you will offer specific words they sense from God. Usually these words will surprisingly touch upon an issue in your heart. Sometimes they won't. Don't feel obligated to receive every word spoken to you. Encourage that which resonates as accurate and helpful.
- It's a busy world. Enjoy these times of focusing your soul before God. As you experience a special presence and work, continue receiving and then resting in this for as long as possible.
In exercising PROPHETIC WORDS...
- We believe prophetic gifting and words remain a part of God's means of communicating and encouraging His people. (1 Cor. 14)
- The exercising of this gift needs maturing as it can be clouded and confused with our own motives and thinking.
- Therefore, apart from a specific invitation, generally prophecies should not be given in the larger public Celebration Services without pastoral approval. This means "holding onto a word" and submitting it to the leadership during or after the gathering (preferably in writing.) All prophecies will be given careful consideration according to the following criteria:
a. Does it line up with the written Word of God? (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1 Cor. 14:37-38)
b. Does it exalt Jesus Christ? (John 16:14; 1 Cor. 12:3; 1 John 4:1-2; Rev. 19:10)
c. Does it line up with reality? (Deut. 18:20-22)
d. Does it bear witness and is the character of the "prophet" biblical and Christ like?
(2 Cor. 11:13-15; 2 Pet. 2:1-5; Mt. 7:15-20; Gal. 5:22-23, 1 Cor. 13:2; Deut.13:1-5; Rom. 8:15; 2 Cor. 3:17; 1 John 2:20,27)
e. Does the eldership, as shepherds of the flock, bear witness and receive it?
(Acts 20:28-30; Titus 1:9)
- Words of Knowledge concerning specific physical or emotional conditions of individuals and words of encouragement may be released more freely than harsh or directional words. This is not due to prejudice but to the greater ramifications involved.
- Prophetic gifting does not substitute pastoral leadership in the church. Submission to leadership and willingness to have words tested, held, or possibly rejected is crucial to the health of the Body. (This includes respect for the pastoral leadership in Home Churches and similar groups.)
- Recognize that God can and does use others in the Body who do not have gifts of prophecy to validate or confirm a "revelation" or direction.
- As with all gifts, prophecy is to be exercised in faith and love. Worry, anxiety, pride, haste, urgency are out of the sphere of faith and love.
- In other meetings beyond Celebration Services, particularly in the context of Home Churches and praying for others, those sensing God's prophetic leading and insight are encouraged to express such leading when appropriate, with a spirit of freedom and openness of response.
In exercising HEALING PRAYER...
- We uphold the place of healing prayer for all areas of life - physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual.
- We believe that the coming of Christ marked the conquering invasion of God upon an earth given over to spiritual hostility. This invasion did not abolish all evil but declared its ultimate end. In Christ we discover God's desire to enter our suffering and His grace, which strengthens us in the midst of all we face. Furthermore, in Christ our prayers are summoned to serve as our invading agreement to God's ultimate rule, which may be demonstrated in healing as a "sign" of the Kingdom of God at hand.
- As the centrality of the "Fall" (original alienation between humanity and God) was relational and only secondarily reflected in particular manifestations, so we recognize that the centrality of the work of Christ is relational reconciliation, and only secondarily reflected in the outworking of restoring wholeness. We believe the greatest healing of all is our relationship with God through the forgiveness of sins. We believe that God's sovereign hand may be at work to bring further wholeness as well; bringing glory to Him as a sign of that day when "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things (will have) passed away." (Rev. 21:4)
- We recognize that evil is born of an interplay of the "world" (systemic spheres such as family, culture, etc.), our "flesh" (sinful personal choices contrary to God), and the demonic (spiritual powers which may take hold of areas of our lives.) Accordingly we appreciate the role of social change, personal response-ability, and the power of power as dimensions of spiritual warfare and healing.
- In full respect of each individual, (and God), we encourage honest interaction and assessment.