(This article was originally published in Worship Leader’s July/August 2009 issue.)
Fifty-six years ago Alan Redpath wrote:
There seems to be a tendency for many Christians to imagine that a church can be conducted and led in the same way as a business concern … but the church of Jesus Christ can only be led in blessing and power by men who have been humbled and broken at the cross, and who, through many experiences of their own failure and nothingness, have learned an utter dependence upon God, and have been taught by the Holy Spirit to lay hold of Him at the Throne of Grace.
Busted. After being filled with the Spirit at a Lutheran renewal summer camp in 1962, and 40 years of pastoring, I’m beginning to get it. I always thought of myself as “Spirit filled” because of that early experience, and my subsequent “successes” in ministry. I really did love the Lord, seek the Lord, serve the Lord. I taught pretty well and tried to walk in the light I had. But little by little over a couple of decades I found myself increasingly filled with myself, serving out of self-effort, out of the desire to find value in my performance. I wasn’t aware of it until I grew weary with well doing, lost heart and didn’t like God too much.
We were created to experience an unbroken and intimate love relationship with our Father, and to live and serve from the overflow of that relationship. In His indescribable love, God exposed my heart, and in that place of “failure and nothingness” I began to own what I had been teaching all along.
We have been grafted into a vine/branch union, and prayer is the joint that connects the vine (Jesus) to the branch (us).
Without prayer there is no life, let alone renewal. Prayer is the most important thing we do or fail to do. Norman Grubb used to tell me the goal isn’t frequent renewal, but continuous revival. We’re not pots to be filled with water only to be emptied, but more like hoses that are connected to the Source, constantly being filled, constantly full, constantly being emptied out in service. We can only serve from the overflow if we choose to stay connected to the Source.
- Show up
Choose to accept the invitation to rest, commune, receive; quit making excuses. We make time for what we truly believe is important. As our model, Jesus made time each morning to meet with His Father for intimacy and to see what His Father was doing. Jesus understood He could do nothing apart from His father. His continued to abide all day.
Be honest, confess and repent of self-effort, unbelief, wrong priorities, hidden sin. Invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart, ask Jesus to be your King and to advance His kingdom in you. Graham Cooke said, “The soul (emotions, intellect, and will.) must come to the cross daily, not to be destroyed, but to give up its right to rule.”
Abide in the Vine and let Him truly be the air you breathe, let His Word be your daily bread. Let His mercy and grace flood you with life, forgiveness, the power of the Holy Spirit. Celebrate!
- Serve from the overflow
If you abide, you won’t be able to help giving away what you’re experiencing in Christ.
Ultimately, then, prayer/abiding is our connection to the ongoing work of continual personal and corporate renewal. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Continue (ongoing process) to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will (give you the desire) and to act (give you the power) according to His good purpose.”
Kenn Gulliksen is a leading figure and gifted teacher from the Jesus Movement. After having written one of the first “praise and worship” songs, “Charity,” and being a significant part of the origins of the Calvary Church movement, Kenn Gulliksen founded the first Vineyard church in West Los Angeles.