In 1993, about three years into the planting of Heartland Vineyard Church, when we were about 100 people meeting in the Chalet Center basement, a group of leaders spent a day together and constructed a mission statement.
Heartland Vineyard Church exists for the purpose of equipping an army of fully devoted disciples who extend the Kingdom of God as they experience and express the compassion and truth of the Lord Jesus.
That mission statement has stood for twenty years and we are still seeking to accomplish this mission.
Years later, the Lord gave us more definition as to what a disciple looked like. For the past several weeks, I’ve been discussion the characteristics of a disciple. God showed up the metaphor of a hand with five fingers, each finger representing a characteristic of a fully devoted disciple.
The pointer finger represented worship. Since the beginning, our church has purposed to be a people of intimate, sincere and enthusiastic worshippers. We want to sing songs and then live lives that speak of our love for God our Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
The middle finger, the longest finger on the hand represented compassion driven outreach. We have always wanted to be what some church leaders might call a “missional” church. A “missional” church does not measure results based on how many people come to the church on Sundays. Rather, a “missional” church measures results based on how many people leave the church on Sundays, prepared to spread the Kingdom of God into their neighborhoods by acts of love, praying for the sick, encouraging the broken-hearted, preaching the wonderful message of the gospel. This happens, as we stay alert to opportunities and remain restfully available to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
Today, I want to discuss the ring finger. It is the finger on which I wear my wedding band. It speaks of a commitment to express love. That’s why the ring finger represents the characteristic in a disciples life of being willing to roll up their sleeves and enter into hands on, Spirit led ministry. Hands-on, Spirit-led ministry. This is one of the most unique aspects of the disciples we are raising up in Heartland Vineyard Church. On numerous occasions, Jesus reached out his hand and touched lepers, the blind and deaf, the loveless, the lonely and the broken. Jesus was a hands-on minister. He didn’t stand afar from people. He stepped up into their lives and placed his hands on them.
A few years ago, I was shopping for lettuce at Hy-Vee grocery store. As I was trying to select the best head of lettuce so my wife would be proud of me, I noticed a man looking over the tomatoes. As I glanced at him, I could see swollen, red eyes and a face that looked pained. I stepped toward him and said, “Are you feeling well?” He replied, “No, I’ve been sick for a few weeks and can’t seem to shake this.” Without thinking too deeply I asked, “Could I pray for you?” He looked at me for a moment, trying to size me up and then said, “Sure, why not?” I then asked, “Could I place my hand on your shoulder as I pray for you?” In a whisper he said, “Are you going to pray here and now?” I said, “Yes, is that OK?” In a moment, I had my hand resting on his shoulder and I began to ask God the Father to touch this man and heal him of his illness.
It was simple, it was clear and it was certainly hands-on and I hope Spirit-led. I prayed for about 20 seconds and then I asked him, “Do you feel any better?” He was now bolder to speak because everyone had now left the fresh vegetable section due to the prayer meeting happening in front of the tomatoes. The man said, “I think I do feel better.” I gave him a wave and said, “I believe God will completely heal you.” And with that, the man said one more thing. He said, “Thanks so much!”
Several things happened all at once in the tomato section of Hy-Vee grocery store. I was stretched out of my comfort zone, a man received pray for an illness and there was not doubt, he knew that all this happened because of God’s love.
Some of the most powerful words in your vocabulary are, “Can I pray for you now?” Does it take courage? Yes. Does it make you feel a bit uncomfortable at first? Again, yes. Are you extending the Kingdom of God? Absolutely!
John Wimber, the founding pastor of the Vineyard Church movement once asked this question, “How do you spell faith?” His answer, “R-I-S-K.”
Take a few of those. I promise you won’t die. In fact, you will find it is good for you.