As we’ve been moving through this series of re-imagining Vineyard distinctives, early on there was a snippet of conversation where a few of us were referring to the wisdom of AA, and as Jason Clark commented: “As you say we could learn a great deal from AA.” Well, I want to return there today in re-imagining our Vineyard distinctive: naturally supernatural.
As I see it, the heart of being “naturally supernatural” is an authenticity borne through deeply embracing humility to partner with what God is doing. John Wimber had hard things to say about people who used what he saw as manipulative ways or the development of an unhealthy bifurcation.
David Linhart - an erstwhile musician at the Greater Boston Vineyard - recently was talking about authenticity and how people relate to or are much more open to authenticity as opposed to some sort of self-righteouesness that doesn't let you be yourself. He says:
"It's ironic when someone who loves Jesus and also Led Zeppelin decides to become the Christian Led Zeppelin. Meanwhile, the original isn't trying to be the secular Led Zeppelin, they are just being themselves. They live out who they actually are through their music. People get into them for their authenticity more than their binge drinking and partying, and the authenticity is exactly what can make the latter attractive to someone who isn't into those things in the first place. That's why it can be awkward when musicians clean themselves up for church and try to do the right thing by playing traditional worship, but then reserve the night clubs and listening rooms for letting their hair down and making the music that is most sincerely who they are. That disconnect can make for unconvincing worship leading." This sort-of-thing can make for poor ministry as well.
Our friend T Freeman wrote a short series called “Naturally Sacramental” on his blog, and I think this helps us move toward re-imagining this core authenticity with respect to being naturally supernatural:
“There are several ways that the practice of honesty shapes what Vineyard churches do and, more so, how they do it. The most obvious is the casual, come-as-you-are approach to dress, style of speech, and style of music. Even when performing the miraculous or experiencing intimacies with God the Vineyard is known for speaking in the native language of the people involved. The phrase "naturally supernatural" came to embody this value in the movement. Whether in teaching, healing, praying, singing, or expelling demons, no one needs to put on airs or be what they aren't or speak in King James English or a different tone of voice. And tracking with the great commandments, transparency in the Vineyard is seen as facilitating close relationships among people as well as with God. Many critics of the Vineyard assume that all the above practices are marketing-driven. While it's true that has played a role in varying degrees, churches and times, the value is more driven by a desire for true intimacy-people sharing what they really are-with God and others, and this value has shaped everything in the Vineyard movement.”
It’s about a deep honesty that engenders deep humility. It is about being more human, not less human. But this kind of humility and honesty does not lead us into stagnation, but rather propels us more and more to seek Jesus and the Kingdom of God, not only “in church” but everywhere we go in our lives in naturally supernatural rhythms. We have begun to experience a new reality of the in-breaking Reign of God, in part but not in whole, at our most charismatic if not at our most mundane – thus perhaps we need to re-assess our experience of the Reign of God in Christ, because it directly affects the way we live in this world. Too often the approach of the Church has been in either/or categories, not seeking to understand the tension inherent in our present reality, and I think this tension keeps us humble and promotes the way of being naturally supernatural. When the work of the Spirit is embraced but naturally supernatural humility is not embraced, we tend to want to break the tension and either become gloriously myopic in the 'now' or ride off chasing after the 'not yet'. Seeking genuine wisdom, we want to move toward the essence of the mystery of the gospel of the Kingdom of God in Christ Jesus, and we embrace the tension and cruciform-shape to our formation and discipleship lived-out in our present reality as the people of God in Christ Jesus and as Spirit-empowered catalysts of the in-breaking Kingdom who journey through this present age as wounded healers in naturally supernatural ways.
We’re all wounded and broken, and we minister from this place of weakness and brokenness. My teacher – Dr. Terry Wardle – at a recent formational prayer seminar spoke about “brokenness, brokenness, brokenness”. He was referring to three types of brokenness:
- congenital brokenness (from the fall);
- communal brokenness (we are wounded and broken and we all go about wounding others and breaking others – Al-Anon has a saying resonating with this: “Hurt people hurt people.”);
- but the third one is sacramental brokenness: we minister healing from a posture and place of humility and weakness as Christ lives and heals and moves through us via His Spirit.
This keeps me humble, and I think it seems to position all of us in a mutually transforming posture. It is not I who live, but Christ lives through me. It also seems to me that in a culture of self-promotion humility becomes a primary spiritual discipline and a naturally supernatural lifestyle of following Jesus while embracing all that it entails becomes utterly counter-cultural. I see this relating to the wisdom of the 12th tradition of AA: “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our Traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”
Thus, in this way, I think our distinctive of 'naturally supernatural' can be embraced as non-hyped but significantly life-changing via Christ Jesus with unlimited possibility and hope as we humbly submit and surrender to His Reign impacting us, moving through and on to others. We're merely broken vessels that leak, and in seizing the authenticity inherent in brokenness, and acting on the wisdom of AA - that 'alcoholics need other alcoholics', i.e., the broken need others who are broken - we need to always endeavour to be mature, humble 'pray-ers' and as those receiving ministry to give good feedback and communication so that we move together in mutuality. In this mutuality, we give ourselves over to Jesus to move and have His Being in and through us, trusting that the subsequent transparency and humility will affect mutual transformation and mysteriously - as Colossians 1:24 hints at - bring the sorrows and sufferings of Christ to wholeness.