Here’s something that happened to me one time. A group of believers in another city invited us to come for a visit. A family there was opening a dry cleaning business, and they didn’t have enough help to get it going. So several of us went for a few months to visit and to help them out.
You mean practical help?
Yes, we washed clothes in the washing machine and learned how to use the dry cleaning machine and helped them for a few months to get their business started. This is a family we’ve known for over thirty years now. So we helped them, and of course in the evenings the laundromat was closed, so what did we do? We just tried to serve God and meet people.
Some nights we would end up with a living room full of people, and we’d have conversations just like the one we are having now. Then the next night somebody would say, “Will you come to our house?” And we’d get there and the house would be packed with people. The only person we knew was the one person from the night before who said, “Can you come to my house?”
We thought we’d just be there for dinner or something, and it would end up that they had invited a bunch of people. And that happened night after night after night. People from every different background and denomination in that city were very hungry for the kinds of things we’re talking about right now. There were no planned meetings. It was all very organic.
About a month into our time there in that city, a charismatic church asked us to come visit. It ended up being an example of the principle we were talking about of there possibly being four other people with something to share. The way it ended up unfolding was perhaps even more influential.
So this group of believers at this charismatic church asked me to come speak. I brought several brothers and sisters along with me. Some of them had come and were helping in the laundromat. Others just came for a week because they knew about the things that were happening every night and they wanted to share in that. “As we rise up, as we sit down, as we walk along the way.” So we went to this place, and I knew before we went that I had absolutely no plans to “give a sermon” because I don’t give sermons.
I don’t give sermons.
I believe that’s possible for us in our situation too.
I believe so too. So I’ll describe what happened. We did the songs and the worship and the prayer and then the pastor said, “And now Mike has come and he’s going to speak to us.” Of course I was willing to if I felt that was where the Life was.
Maybe I would have…
Yes, but there was no Life.
Well, I felt something and just said to the pastor, “You know what? You have many, many dozens of other people here that may have something to say tonight. Why don’t you ask them? Ask anyone.”
I turned around to the whole congregation and said, “Anyone who has something you’re sure the Lord would have for us tonight—if you’re truly a follower of Jesus and your life belongs to Him and you’re living in holiness and you’re not a hypocrite—if you have something you’d like to share, feel free.”
And the pastor said, “No, no, no. We want you to speak. We invited you here to speak. There are even unbelievers here that heard you were coming.”
One such unbeliever talked with me afterwards and asked me to pray for him. He didn’t have a withered hand, but he had been very deep with sickness so it was almost as bad as that. He said, “I’ve stayed away from organized religion because I think it’s nonsense. But I heard what was happening and I wanted to know about it because I believe it’s about Jesus.” That was said by an unbeliever that wanted to come.
There are folks like that all over the world.
The pastor kept insisting that I speak. I said, “Well brother, you know these people far better than I do, obviously. I’m only a guest here. So you can do what you want, but I don’t really feel the liberty to speak.” I didn’t say the “life” word, but that was it exactly. I knew that speaking right then was not what Jesus wanted me to do.
I didn’t know why. In a way it made sense to go ahead and speak because all of these people were there. Why not use the opportunity? But I just couldn’t do it. It was similar to how it was yesterday. Even if there are 1,500 of us, I’m not going to speak if I shouldn’t.
This could happen?
It should be a possibility. Not that it would have to happen that way, but it should be allowed to happen that way.
We had this happen a few times. Once the leader came and said, “I don’t have anything.” He used the word flaute which means “no wind” in German.
Yes, no wind. What if no one ever expected any certain brother to speak unless there was wind (which might be often enough)? What if everyone was equally looking at Jesus and everyone considered how they might spur one another on to love and good works as it says in Hebrews 10:24? That verse comes right before verse 25, which says, “Don’t forsake gathering yourselves together.” Both of those are about gathering together. There are no little numbers in the Greek text, so these verses are part of the same idea.
What if everybody prepared their life in such a way that they came prepared to encourage one another? It could be on a larger scale or perhaps on a smaller scale. If everybody did that, then the ones with wind would be the ones who would speak. Everyone looks for the Jesus within and to all the brothers and sisters with various gifts.
Jesus said, “I don’t want you to be like the Gentiles where you’re the bosses up front. I want you to be like Me—in the midst as one who serves.” You would be coming as a brother amongst brothers. “Call no man father or teacher or leader because you’re all brothers.” That’s what Jesus said even to the twelve apostles of the Lamb. “You are all brothers. You’re just brothers. That’s all you’ve got. I’m your leader. I’m your teacher. I’m your master.”
These are all principles that you’re familiar with, but apply it on one more teeny, tiny, little level. The one or ones to share are the ones with the wind at that moment with no expectation or burden on anyone to be the “official bringer of messages.”
I’ll tell you what happened next, because the story actually gets even better. It turned out that this pastor was a very evil man. We of course didn’t know that when we showed up.
The one who wanted you to speak?
Yes, the one who wanted me to speak.
It was a setup.
That’s right, it was a total setup. He had interviewed dozens and dozens of people who had been all over the city listening to these explosive revival things that were happening. These people had been in the living rooms where people were going out weeping and laughing from the experiences that they’d had. And he listened to all the things people had to say and apparently—according to some who knew him best—he got more and more angry. So he took notes on all that was being said about the teaching and the sharing that was going on back and forth. He took notes on all that and prepared himself…
To speak against it?
Yes, he prepared a sermon against it all to try to attack. He actually created a written sermon in advance, against what he thought I would say.
He wanted to have the last word.
And when I wouldn’t get up and speak he was very frustrated. So you know what he did? He got his notes out and decided to preach his sermon against the things anyway! He would say, “And another thing Mike said…well, he would have said it….” He kept catching himself in mid-sentence. It was embarrassing!
What was interesting was that his own congregation was getting very upset with him. You could see people getting agitated. Older women were crying, and they would walk out into the hallway. These were members of his own congregation that were very grieved and disconcerted by what he was doing. They could hear that this was not the voice of God. The pastor had gotten off track with jealousy, competitiveness, his own ambition, and his ego. He wanted to own his kingdom. He knew we were talking about exalting Jesus and freeing God’s people to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests—but he wanted to be in control.
He could see that this was leading to a place where he would need to become a gift amongst brothers rather than “own” the congregation and the purse-strings (the money). Instead of being the one who could control everything and everybody, he would need to become a brother that would offer his gifts in humility. And that was aggravating and angering to him, so he prepared a sermon against what he thought I would say. But I chose to never say anything like he wanted me to. He went on for 30 or 40 minutes preaching from his notes. Probably five or six times he said, “And another thing Mike just said…uhh…well, he would have said it…” He trapped himself because it came from his notes. When he was finished speaking, many of the congregation sat with their heads in their hands. They were very upset, disconcerted, confused, frustrated, and heartbroken.
Then the wind came. : ) I said, “Brother, you asked me here to speak. Is that invitation still open?” And the people in the congregation started saying, “YES! YES!” And he stood back and said, “Yes.”