The letter of Debby Wright to the UK Church
Debby Wright, national director of Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland, says Christians are called to be a kingdom people
Let me tell you a story about a young man called Dom, from Trent Vineyard church in Nottingham. He and his friends felt God nudge them to go and stand outside the local hospital. While they were there they met a man named Charlie, who was in a wheelchair, and asked him about his life and thoughts on Jesus. Wonderfully they had the opportunity to pray with him. Then they shared a word of knowledge, which led to Charlie opening his heart to Jesus. He had an experience of the Holy Spirit and was so excited that he asked Dom to call his mother, who wasn’t well. As Dom was leaving a voicemail praying for her, a chap called Matt came over and asked ‘What’s going on?’ Charlie said, ‘Let them pray for you, it’s amazing, it could change your life!’ Matt received prayer as well, and soon after a lady came up and asked what was happening. She too received prayer and also opened her heart to Jesus!
Signs and wonders
In the Gospels we read that Jesus built his kingdom with power; he healed the sick, raised the dead, gave prophetic insights, fed thousands of people miraculously, and set captives free. These signs and wonders glorified God.
Jesus proclaimed that ‘signs will accompany those who believe’ (Mark 16:17). This applies to all who believe! Mark 16:19 says, ‘they will place their hands on people who are ill, and they will get well.’
Living a ‘kingdom life’ means we live every day with a sense of urgency, a sense that the kingdom of God is advancing. Our call is to pay attention to God’s leading whenever and wherever we are. We are all invited to participate.
In Luke 10 we read of when Jesus sent out the 72. He told them to heal the sick and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ The 72 went, saw amazing things and returned with joy because of what they did in his name. Likewise the Kingdom is close to us, it is around us and it is advancing.
Every day is an opportunity
Many churches all over the country are involved with the Healing on the Streets (HOTS) initiative. A HOTS team from our church went into town to pray for people and met a young lady with a mouth full of ulcers. They prayed but nothing seemed to happen. Three weeks later the young lady and her mother arrived at our church (after catching three buses) to thank the team that had prayed for her. One hour after she had received prayer, all her ulcers had disappeared!
As disciples of Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, every day is an opportunity where we may see healing, every crisis has a potential breakthrough, and every broken heart has the potential to experience God’s healing power.
‘When do we get to do this stuff?’
My father, bishop David Pytches, used to say, ‘the meeting place is the learning place for the market place’. What he meant is that part of the purpose of meeting together as a church was to learn how to go out into the world and do what Jesus did.
The late John Wimber told a story about how he and his wife, Carol, visited a church soon after he started following Jesus. He had spent time reading the Gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Following the service, John asked the pastor, ‘So, when do we do the stuff?’
Living a ‘kingdom life’ means we live every day with a sense of urgency
‘The “stuff”?’ said the pastor. ‘What’s the “stuff”?’
‘You know,’ John replied, ‘the stuff in the Bible, like healing the sick and casting out demons. The stuff!’
‘Oh,’ replied the pastor. ‘We don’t do the stuff. We believe they did it back in biblical days, but we don’t do it today.’
With a rather confused look on his face, John could only say: ‘And I gave up drugs for this?’
As we lay down our lives for Jesus and seek to follow his lead we will see the kingdom of God being extended everywhere in every way. We all get to do ‘the stuff’. It was not just for then, or for the future. It is for today!
From across our nation we are hearing incredible stories of the kingdom of God breaking into people’s lives as God’s Church does what Jesus did.
A young man named Connor in Nottingham received prayer and had sight restored to his right eye. Having only been able to see vague shapes, he was able to read the smallest of text! A young boy in Coleraine named Josh had been given just weeks to live. After prayer he got out of his wheelchair and has not used it since. He also received healing from cancer and has been interviewed in the local newspaper about this experience.
In Taunton a church has been sharing their faith regularly on the streets since January and has, so far, seen 74 people open their hearts to Jesus. And in a church in Northern Ireland around 5,000 people have opened their hearts to Jesus in just over two years, most of them on the streets of their town.
Starting the adventure
on the cross the sinless Son of God paid the death penalty we deserve for our sins. He wants us to accept him as our saviour and become his disciples. What does that life look like? As the Westminster Catechism puts it: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.’ This is a great description of what our lives are to be about, and it applies whether you are new to the Christian faith or have been following Jesus for decades. It is our identity and it is life-giving. Such a lifestyle will certainly glorify God and bring wonderful joy to his servants, and will help to grow his Church.
Wherever we are in the world, our commission is to preach the kingdom of God as Jesus did, and to do what Jesus did. To do this we need to receive the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, we need to be filled and empowered regularly – because we leak! Jesus was full of the Holy Spirit. He showed us the potential of an empowered supernatural life. We can’t do what Jesus did by ourselves. It is only as empowered believers that we can live this kind of life.
The disciples were thrust out to witness to others after the Holy Spirit came on that first Pentecost day. As we experience his empowering we will be compelled to reach out to the lost, to share the gospel and to pray for the sick.
It’s never boring to take risks for God’s glory
That means taking risks. Sometimes we won’t get the reaction or the result that we would like or expect. Recently I was waiting outside B&Q with my husband, John, looking for people to approach and pray for. I chatted to one couple about God and offered to pray for them, but as I was in mid-prayer they walked away. How embarrassing!
Sometimes risks pay off in the moment and sometimes they don’t. People don’t always get healed, they don’t always open their hearts to Jesus. But if we never take the risk we’ll never find out if they are open to experiencing God’s love.
The ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’
As the Body of Christ we live in the ‘now’ and the ‘not yet’ of the kingdom. Jesus said that the kingdom was both ‘here’ and ‘coming’. We live in a tension between the kingdom being present yet not fully here, which helps to explain why some are healed and some not. We have all lost loved ones we have prayed for. We have to bear the tension, the disappointment. Healing is a sign of God’s love but it’s not a measure of his love. We do not measure his love by whether we are healed, or how much ‘success’ we see.
A kingdom risk is never boring
Then we are going on this adventure with God, we can expect to receive words of knowledge, prophetic guidance, see the sick healed and captives delivered. God might ask us to give money, spend time with a friend, provide shelter, feed the poor, or even attempt to raise the dead. It’s never boring to take risks for God’s glory.
Church, many of us are already doing this.
We must keep at it. If you’re not already doing this I encourage you to read what Jesus did in the Bible and see how the early Church was empowered through the Holy Spirit. Then pray for the Holy Spirit to fill you and ask God what he wants you to do. God is looking for hearts of obedience. We must keep alert to hearing his still small voice. We must offer to pray for healing and we must introduce the lost to Jesus. Why? For the glory of God.
Debby Wright and her husband, John, are the national directors of Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland