Dignify and Deploy 2: Gospel Focus and Fire
Updated: Oct 16, 2022
‘A new teaching--and with authority!’ (Mk 1:27)
Two very different men united in one Gospel—one Polish, the first non-Italian pope in 450 years who became the most influential leader of the Catholic Church since the 16th century; the other, an American evangelical who dared to believe that every Christian could and should preach the Gospel through prayerfully releasing persons from ‘sin-sickness.’
John Wimber’s commitment to closing the gap between kerygma (declaration of Jesus) and praxis (signs and wonders following) is ours, and Pope St. John Paul II’s brilliant articulation of the dignity Jesus grants His human creation outlines our redemption, its direction and fullness.
The saving love of Jesus fueled these men. Both were resolute in following Christ Crucified and Raised wherever He went. Although both faced a host of complexities in their callings, a stunning simplicity of faith in the Gospel defined their legacy.
Karol Wojtyla became Archbishop of Krakow in 1964. He defined his only program and strategy to be the Gospel: ‘The things of eternity, the things of God, are the simplest and the deepest: what we must do is to show increased zeal and readiness in carrying out the things of God and Christ and adapting it to the needs of our day.’ (Witness to Hope… 183)
His Gospel-centeredness deepened as Karol became Pope John Paul II 15 years later. In George Weigel’s humble opinion, John Paul returned the papacy to its evangelical roots. In John Paul we glimpse a Gospel-based leadership that mirrored St. Peter’s who governed through the lens of Jesus: His life, death, and resurrection (Witness…846).
Wimber labored in the wild west of American evangelicalism. Awakened to his own need for Jesus as a husband and father, John got busy quickly for the Gospel. He was sharp, loving and fully committed to giving all to the One who gave all to gain him.
But John began to burn out. Tent-making while raising a family and making disciples took a toll. The Holy Spirit cornered John who began to speak in tongues and experience an upswing in supernatural gifts frowned upon in his fellowship.
The Spirit ignited John’s understanding of the Gospel, and Wimber, an expert on church growth (he worked for an institute dedicated to its study) began to grasp the power Jesus gives the weak to declare an empowered Gospel, with signs and wonders following. He began to seriously wonder: ‘If we believe His words why don’t we believe we can do His works?’
Soon after his wife and he began a small fellowship in which they preached the Word and prayed for the ‘works’ of healing and deliverance. After about two years, the Holy Spirit began to move through their faith; miracles began to multiply as the Spirit ignited young men and women who were learning to pray effectively. In 1982, this church became a part of a new collection of churches called the Vineyard. John became the movement’s leader.
In Wimber and John Paul, the Spirit ignited a fire that made them resolute in declaring the Gospel and its liberating power. Surrendered to Jesus at profound levels, both men cultivated creative and counter-cultural ways of applying the Gospel. Their faith blazed new cultures founded on Christ Crucified and Raised.
“Recenter us O God, in the simple power of Your good news. Ignite the Gospel afresh in our lives, especially where weariness, complications and disappointments threaten our faith. We believe; help our unbelief.
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 to do the same. Deployed to dignify, we ‘harness the John force.’”