Dignify and Deploy 15: Kingdom and Community
‘I am convinced that the starting place of love is the realization that I am needed by another. The person who objectively needs me most is also for me, objectively, the person I need most.’ Karol Wojtyla
The launch of John Wimber and Wojtyla into globe-changing ministry was founded on community. Both men instinctively grounded themselves in gathering with likeminded members of Christ. Without denying his leadership, each man learned to love. That involved understanding the real needs of people, enjoying the gift of others’ humanity, and giving all to provoke them to love as Jesus would.
For John and Carol Wimber, community life flourished in freedom and on creating an atmosphere where every person felt free to bring his or her gift. Theirs was an upside-down kingdom that eschewed ‘hierarchy’ and believed the best things may just come from the lowest place.
They were on their own. Having been asked to leave their Quaker church due to the ‘disrupting’ power of the Holy Spirit, Carol (John came later) gathered with friends and laid down the rules. ‘One: no prayer requests for anyone else; you are here for you, not for anyone else. Two: we are going to sing to God, not about Him, and we are going to learn to worship, whatever that means. Three: different ones will share, and no one will monopolize. Four: no bringing up church problems and no church criticism. Five: let’s leave our places and positions and trophies and badges and honors at the door and come together on equal ground while God teaches us about Himself’ (The Way It Was, p. 117).
John relented to this model as the Spirit ignited him. He followed his wife’s lead and encouraged many such gatherings until numbers necessitated a church building.
Young priest Wojtyla could have busied himself in academia or with fellow priests. Instead, he immersed himself in the laity. The Srodowisko community that grew into 200 members started as a small group called Radzinko, ‘the little family.’ Doubtless, Wojtyla longed for the tight fellowship he had known as actor/activist, as an athlete, and as an intellectual seeking mutual refinement. Another key: Wojtyla forged ‘family’ for others but also for himself in the absence of his own family of origin.
This new ‘family’ met as a house group defined by prayer and worship, visiting shut-ins, and partying together. Joy mattered to Wojtyla in the face of Soviet oppression and the academic pressures faced by many members. Young couples predominated. As he walked and talked through engagement, marriage issues and children, ‘Love and Responsibility’ began to germinate. Wojtyla’s classic on aligning one’s passions for another’s good (‘law of the gift’) came from real life via this celibate on fire for chaste, fruitful love.
Wimber and company ‘gatherings’ ground-swelled via John’s coordination---he had unique sight as to the Spirit’s lead. Carol likened the ripening of their efforts with the first Franciscans who rebuilt San Damiano in the 13th century, a fitting metaphor for the Yorba Linda band who just tried to please Jesus through yielding together to His Spirit.
Carol writes: ‘Have you seen the film Brother Sun, Sister Moon? Do you recall the scene in the ruins of the happy little chapel where they worshipped? The stained-glass windows long gone so the sun itself could shine on them—those first Franciscans. The joy, the guilelessness as they danced barefoot with the children laughing and all the babies there with them and no one reverently quiet, but everyone talking and laughing out loud, bringing gifts to share with one another? The expectancy and the wonder of it all. The Franciscan crucifix with Jesus alive and His eyes wide open, and the light that filled that place was God’s evident favor? That was us! We thought we were just like that!’ (The Way It Was, p. 141)
“Thank You for making us members together. Help us to heed these examples of joining as one in the Spirit and daring to bring gifts to build up one body. Heal us where a community has hurt or disappointed us. May we, like the Wimbers, Radzinko, and the first Franciscans re-gather in holy love, expectant of new life.
Come Holy Spirit, liberate what is true and beautiful from what debases us. May we not settle but aspire to the dignity of our sexual humanity. May we grow into ‘mature expressions of the gift’ by helping others do the same. Deployed to dignify, ‘we harness the John force.’”