“When we say ‘everyone gets to play’ we sometimes overlook youth, and we usually aren’t referring to the kids in our churches. At best, we let them be spectators as we participate in the ministry of Jesus. But, Jesus told us, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14b).
“Is it possible for a child to be used by God to deliver a prophetic word? I heard of an instance just recently where a child told her mother, ‘One, two, three, four… that’s how many there are of us. But one is missing. He’ll be here soon.’She was telling her mom that their family wasn’t complete. They would have one more brother. Within two years that brother was born.
“Could a child speak a word of wisdom to an adult? A single mom who had angry blowouts with her children came to see me one day because her three-year-old daughter told her the night before, following an emotional outbreak, ‘Mommy, Jesus doesn’t like it when you treat us that way. Ask him and he will help you change.’
“Could a child’s prayer bring healing? A four-year-old child prayed ‘Jesus heal cancer’ for a woman diagnosed with breast cancer. After a trip back to the doctor she learned that she no longer had a cancerous mass in her breast.
“What if a child started a ‘God talk’ with his or her friends? Several kids from our church have. They have shared Jesus with their friends on the playground at school. One of our teenagers started a ‘God talk’ with a homeless man one very cold winter night. He ended up buying that man dinner, bringing him into his warm truck and praying for his foot condition, and then, rather than turning him out to sleep in the cold, he took the man home for the night. (The next morning his parents were very surprised.) Now that sounds like something Jesus would do!
“We know that the Holy Spirit has distributed his gifts to all believers. Does it matter that a significant portion of believers are kids and teens? After all, one out of every four people in the world today is 14 or under. Could we be missing out on 25% of the ways God would like to see his kingdom advance because we have overlooked including a whole population of youth when we say that ‘everyone gets to play?’”
The life of Jesus of Nazareth is recorded in the four canonical books we call the Gospels. Each tells the story from a different angle, and the books fit together to paint a striking image of the man Christians believe was simultaneously human and divine. Thus there are aspects of his life that we can never emulate – his moral perfection, his perfectly clear wisdom, his redemptive death. And there are also aspects of his life that, through the empowerment of the Spirit, we can seek to emulate. So, focusing on those parts of his life we can pursue … what did Jesus do?
First of all, Jesus welcomed. His welcome was as broad as the people he encountered. He was not a power broker; he was not strategically (or cynically) “networking” so as to maximize his potential influence. He did not see any one person as more righteous or valuable than another. Rather, Jesus’ welcome was total. He hung out with people, especially with the marginalized. He loved to be with the poor and the outsiders. He liked to be with prostitutes and drinkers, doubters and thieves. These people found in Jesus someone who saw past their flaws to their inner person — the core part that the God whom Jesus called Father had created in his own image.
Second, Jesus healed. He healed the sick in every way imaginable. He brought sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, life to the dead. He made people to walk again, speak again, feel again. And he brought spiritual healing. To those oppressed by evil spirits, to those who were manic or depressed, to those whose inner demons had led them to isolation and alienation, he brought remarkable freedom. There is scarcely any clearer New Testament witness to any other aspect about Jesus than that he was a healer.
Third, Jesus summoned. His call was for people to repent and to follow him. He welcomed and healed anyone, but he did not invite them to stay in their painful lives — he called them to change. He gave them hope that there was a different way of life available. He taught them what spiritual power without religious oppression looked like. He showed people what it meant to be convicted by God without feeling condemned. Jesus was remarkable in his spiritual genius, which could draw people to transformation without him having to exert pressure or power.
Fourth, Jesus commissioned. The gospels are replete with language about how Jesus’ ministry, while in some ways utterly unique, was in other ways definitively intended to be imitated. His final words in the gospel of Matthew were “Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you”(Matt. 28:19). This was not a religion for a single cultural moment.
Rather, it was intended to launch a global movement of the kingdom of God, bringing life and hope to all people.
Is being a Christian about believing the right things, or living a new way?
One of the weaknesses of the Church in the 20th century was the direct result of what scholars call modernism. Modernism was based on the idea that if we just gave people the right ideas, the right knowledge, they would then have happy and satisfied lives.
In the 21st century, we are coming to terms with the emptiness of this argument. Simply having intellectual knowledge does not lead people to live meaningful, satisfying lives.
John Wimber, the spiritual father of the Vineyard Movement, intuitively understood that much of the church had given in to this error of modernism. That is, they were more concerned with telling people what to believe than showing them how to live.
There’s a famous anecdote about Wimber going to church for the first time after coming to faith in his friend’s living room. After a fairly dry sermon and singing time, he asked his friend, “When do we get to do the stuff? The stuff in that book? I gave up drugs for this?”
This intuition goes to the heart of one of the most important distinctives of the Vineyard: that we are a movement of people who want to learn to live like Jesus lived, not simply believe what Jesus believed. And we don’t want this limited to the professional clergy — we believe that anyone can learn to live the kind of life that Jesus did.
The phrase that has come to embody this value is everyone gets to play – which is another way of saying that the Holy Spirit will empower anyone to do what Jesus did.