David Ruis - When The Church Seeks First The Kingdom

David Ruis, Aug 7, 2018, 4:05 PM
David Ruis National Director

Some reflections on what happens when the Church seeks first the Kingdom, on where the Vineyard has been, and where the Spirit is leading us. July 25, 2018, at Portage, the 2018 Vineyard Canada National Gathering, in Montréal.


Speaking notes:

"While we in Vineyard have embraced the kingdom story, we have embraced the version as told by G.E. Ladd thirty years ago and applied it mostly to the issues of why we should be doing the deeds of Jesus and why our success rate in doing them is not 100%. In most other aspects of our theology, we have taken over typical Evangelical theology (or, in some cases, Charismatic theology).

Now at the stage when our movement developed, this was a major step forward. It was indeed a third wave of the Spirit. But a step, even a major step, does not make a journey. The road goes ever onward or, to change the metaphor, the wave rolls on beyond us.

What we need to do now, is to embrace living the teaching of Jesus

(not just doing the deeds)

and to appropriate the updates of the kingdom story that show

how countercultural, or counter-this-age,

the teaching and symbolic actions of Jesus really were.

Then we need to apply it consistently to all of our community life.

What might this look like? How could a full embrace of the kingdom story make us a community effectively apprenticed to our King?"

— Peter Davids
, "Who Is for the King?" 
Fall 2004 edition of Vineline - Boots to Our Roots: Rediscovering Kingdom Theology.

Peter Davids

I mentioned the other night being so impacted by the Kingdom Message the VIneyard was articulating when I first encountered her in 1987. That the church and the kingdom were not synonymous. That the Sermon and the Beatitudes were to be lived. Breathed. Incarnate.

The other really disarming thing for me was the current fruit of a Quaker branch, this capacity to wait. To rest. To not hype or coerce not only the work of the Spirit, but our engagement in the church. All of this impacted the worship. Not only the songs themselves, which reached for a level of intimacy and authenticity like I had never experience, but "why" the songs were not only sung, but set in this certain sacramental way full of expectation and hope, yet not afraid of an almost uncomfortable ease with the place of brokenness.

"Oh Lord, have mercy on me. And heal me.
Oh Lord, have mercy on me. And free me.
Place my feet upon a rock.
Put a new song in my heart. In my heart.
Oh Lord. Have mercy on me."

We were to continue to grow up and into these aspects of "our lane." Peter Davids, I think, nailed it in 2004.  We were not to camp here. The racial middle of 2018 is not perhaps the radical middle of 1987. The incredible need, and vacated space, of a "quakeresque" approach to healing and the Spirits power was severely lacking, and its awakening created a way for many cessastionists and conservative christians to take a risk and believe. Signs and Wonders. Amazing. But the end game was never to be signs and wonders. The end game was never to be the published song. The end game was to be "Jesus getting his church back" as Wimber used to say and the love and respect of people. Again, this informed and shaped the way we engaged with "power ministry." Big time. It informed and shaped the way we stepped into instrumentation and the presentation of music. It shaped and informed the way we dressed. The way we cared for the poor. The way "did church" and "did the stuff."

I believe, our intent was to seek first the kingdom. This trajectory was to take us into a deeper understanding of mission. A deeper understanding and administration of justice. A more fleshed out ecclesiology.

But some things began to shift. Prophecy slowly became now from the stage and "wowed" us. Words of knowledge that sparked the entire gathering into prayer for one another gave way to "High level words" that only a few prophets seemed to have access to and the platform grew quite large. Wimber was constantly pressured to, in his words, "put on the T-Shirt with the capital A for Apostle" which he absolutely refused to do. This upset many. There were even prophecies that he was one of the "end times" witnesses talked about in the book of Revelation and he needed to take his place. Obviously that was not a "right word."

I remember being with John one time as he was ministering. "can you pray for my ministry" or something of the sort I would here over and over again. Patiently, yet firmly John Wimber would say again and again, "no." People would look shocked and even offended. He would say, "there is only one ministry - it's the same one for all of us - it's the ministry of Jesus. Now that I can bless."

Another dynamic was that of a subtle waning away of robust equipping, teaching and engaged learning. There was a growing posture of waiting for the "silver bullet" - the "word" - the extraordinary breaking in of tangible manifestations of Gods presence that started to be not only a sign post of the kingdom upon us, but a believe that this was actually the kingdom itself. If the healing didn't come, the kingdom hadn't come. If the breakthrough didn't come, the kingdom didn't come. If the feathers didn't fall, or the gold didn't appear, the anointing was gone. Like addicts constantly needing another "hit", another "fix" for a better high, a better experience we too began to be addicted.

We were perhaps becoming susceptible to looking for "a presence", or the evidence of the kingdom among us and making that the goal, instead of the presence of Jesus himself. The autobasiliea, the Kingdom personified.

At the closing of the book of Acts, the pinnacle of that chapter of the story Paul is under house arrest. He cannot leave, but there are people that to see him. I love how it is described by Dr. Luke:

For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!Acts 28:30-31 New International Version (NIV)

What is our Portage?

There is only one reason to Portage - it's because you're going somewhere, and you know its not time to settle ... not quite quite yet.

You're part of something that is in motion and will not stop in its violent commitment to reach, to dream, to prophetically embody and cooperate with, surrender to and engage in in the transforming power of this kingdom coming. This kingdom here.


Think again.

Reach again.

Believe again.

Dream again.

The kingdom is upon us. It is here, now, and yet with still a whole lot more to come.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus. The Spirit and the Bride cry out. Creation groans. Can you hear the cries of the oppressed? The hurting? The dying? Those entangled by the power of their greed? Their need to consume? Their need to belong? To be something?

The endless cycle of the oppressor and the oppressed. The relentless whirlpool of wounding and revenge. The crippling disease of a consumerism that will never. Never. Be enough.

Come. Come all who thirst. Come all who bleed. Come out all who are hiding. Come all who long.

Rich and poor - together. First Nation. Metis. Inuit. Cacausian - Asian - Black and Australoid. One.

These mountains are being made low. These valleys are raising up. The crooked paths are becoming straight. There is level ground at the feet of Jesus. At the foot of the cross. Come. Stand. Together. Solidarity. Eternal life. It is here.

Come to Jesus. Come to Jesus. Surrender.

Everyday. Every month. Every year. Every decade. Every century. Advancing. This kingdom. With our without us? Perhaps.

It, rather someone, is leading us. The Messiah King. The image of the invisible God. The firstborn among creation. The Alpha. The Omega. The morning star. The Lamb, standing tall and slaughtered, ever interceding for those His kingdom has yet to reach. Those yet to conquer by its love.  He pulls us in his wake, toppling all in our forward path that stands against the beauty. The grace. The upside down glory of God that will cover the earth, shimmering on the islands, dancing across the mountains and releasing the trees in the rhythms of freedom and righteousness that will release the thunderous sounds of praise and a clapping that will bring rulers and kings to their knees. All that oppresses and stifles the image of the Creator, you are done here.

To all who lie dead. Diseased. Dormant. Unanimate and still. The resurrection power of the Lamb is here. And it is within your reach. The kingdom is here.

So, blessed are you when you mourn. Blessed are you when you break. Blessed are you when you bleed. The kingdom is here! The lies of the enemy have been exposed. You are not lost. You are not forlorn. You are not alone. The kingdom is here. The King is here.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.

The Spirit is upon us. Now.

To proclaim good news to the poor.

He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."Luke 4:16-20

We can do this thing. We can step in. For His Spirit is here. Come Holy Spirit.

His strength is perfected in our weakness. His glory shines in our surrender. His power is here to be given away, again and again and again. Freely received. Freely given. Not to be grasped. Not to be held. But by the transforming power of the mind of Christ we turn this world - yes, this world - upside-down with the healing that drips down from the stripes on His back. The beauty that is sculpted from the ash heap. The oil that is glad, the laughter that heals, though it springs from the wells of heaviness and pain. Oh how the oppressed teach us this. The humour of the oppressed of the earth is the most rich. The most real. The most disarming on the planet. The Irish. The African American. The Jew. The dancing of those who mourn. The freedom of movement that moves in those who most need liberating is contagious. And real. And powerful. And liberating in itself. The praise that rises from those who have seen the kingdom break the power of despair.

A hut. In the deepest regions of the Congo.

A friend who was there. Terrified of the War Lords. Huddled with a handful of believers who were longing for a word of comfort. Something. But he could not speak. Overcome by the horrors he had witnessed. First outside visitor in over 5 years. He could not speak but only weep.

Then she spoke. An old woman still hurting from the multiple rapes she had been succumbed to that day by her oppressors. I have something to say. I am so thankful that you are here. I am so thankful that our God is with us.

Then she sang. Beautiful Swahili.

I've heard it, captured on an iPhone who's battery was almost gone, a nervous thumb pressing record hoping to capture something of this gift, this moment as he would be "rescued" by 2 UN convoys very soon to extricate him from this hell on earth. Yes. He told me that, "David, I've been to hell." Some months of trauma therapy after his return to Europe.

I recognized the song, but I couldn't believe it. An old hymn.

"There is none like the lowly Jesus. No not one. Not not one.

He will never leave or forsake us."


How could they sing that.

Because the kingdom is here.

Because the kingdom is here.

Because the kingdom is here.


Zeus. Poseidon. Aphrodite. Mammon. Consumerism. Racism. Privilege. Abusive power. Lust. Rage. Insanity. Greed. The Lamb has disarmed you, making a public spectacle of you at the cross. We will not bow. We will not submit.


New Democratic Party. Progressive Conservatives. Social Democrats. All authoritie's. We bless you in the name of the power that is higher. The Lord of Lords. We do. But we will not bow. We pray for wisdom and that you will see the ultimate source of your power and not use it for your own ends. Your own careers. Your narrow platforms. We pray for you. But we will not bow. We will not bow.

Rulers of the darkness. Spiritual forces of wickedness.

"The Lord rebuke you."

We will not be distracted. We will not fall for your guise of masquerading as angels of light and taking advantage of the vulnerabilities of our humanity and causing us to fight against each other, instead of seeing that it is not flesh and blood whom is our enemy, but you.

"The Lord rebuke you."

Have we drifted? Have we created a binary, where there is none. Well, we didn't see the breakthrough we believed for. That healing. That job. That resource. That partner. Then, well the kingdom didn't quite come, but you know, it's coming. Have we created some "all or nothing" expectation that makes us vulnerable to gnosticism, power and the yeast of the Pharisees? Perhaps Charismatic Pharisees are the worst kind.

The kingdom has come. And is coming. But it has come, so look for it. In the midst of the praying for the sick, watch for it. It may be someone leaping out of a wheel chair. Hallelujah! More of it Lord. But it may be and incredible peace, and the capacity to discover the beatitudinal blessing that is present - now. Somewhat disguised, somewhat hidden, not because its a secret of any kind, but because we are blind. And never loosing the longing for the appearing of our Messiah in the clouds. The longing for the new heaven and the new earth. Zion. The city of our God. The heavenly Jerusalem.

Open your eyes. The kingdom is here. And its coming.

So rest and reach.

Rest and reach.

Do you get it?

Rest and reach.

We seek First the Kingdom

We seek First Jesus

The Canadian Vineyard has limited resource. Limited man power.

But blessed are we.

Blessed are we.

We have Jesus who takes the loaves and fishes and multiplies them to feed the multitude. We have Jesus who guides the innovation of our slingshots to fling the smooth stones in our hands into the face of the giants that face us and watch them fall. And fall hard.

So, how is the kingdom impacting us now?

If we truly are to become "ecclesiologists" and not "churchologists" as we look to how we see our shape into the future, what is the landscape that we are walking through so that we may place our canoes in the waters again, and find the sweet rhythms of paddle, boat and birch gliding through the waters of the Spirit. Who will be with us out the other side as we find the ease again to float, rather than trudge.

Where are we in the Portaging? I don't know if its one more step, and we're free and clear tomorrow for the next leg. There are signs of this across the family. Campbell River, after a hard spell, is seeing growth and a sense of flourishing that they haven't seen for a long time. Our newest church plant in the country, Vineyard Ottawa has had a building given to them, some good healthy initial growth and a very healthy leadership team. Regions are beginning to gel again. The sense of "we" across the country is remarkable. I looked at the panel today, and I was kinda surprised. We didn't really think through who we needed to represent on the panel, we just thought of people that should be present. Rohadi. Dawn, the Brit and an amazing apostle and innovator in our community. Drew Hart, our African American prophet. Rick Bergen, Canadian home in Brazil. Sukit our dear friend and faithful leader to not just the Vineyard Church in Thailand, but to so many others, and indeed across all of Indo-China. I don't think we've seen that kind of diversity just naturally bubble up  So grateful.

But we're still wrestling for health in many of our systems. Many of our leaders. And the rebuilding, especially at Regional levels of care, sharing, accountability and equipping are a challenge to say the least.

Pray for the NT was we try to glean from you, dialogue, wrestle and pray together what is good to us and the Holy Spirit about were to put our focus in the what I hope is the final stage of this Portage. The key question is "what is God saying?"

Here's a few thoughts

  • We cannot be driven by financial, political or cultural pressures.

    We are being thrust into wrestling with the different posture between sharing and giving. Pray for the Board of Directors. Wisdom. Grace. Where do we rest and where do we reach?

    We are needing to rethink the usefulness of using "cultural relevance" as our modus operandi, to that of embedding in faithfulness, courage and humility the presence of Jesus. Not just using his name, but actually living like He transforms us to be. Many will come and say, "I did it in your name" and Jesus really has no relationship with them at all.

    We must not shy away from the difficult dialogue and process around our understanding of soteriology, sexuality and hermeneutics.

    Centred set? Who's the Jesus we see?

  • Church planting, mission and Community Development

    grass roots, let the tent be as wide as we can be. Ideas. Risks. Go for it. But where do we put our resources nationally? Chasing the kingdom first. Responding to the Spirits leading. Allowing dreamers and innovators to rise to the surface like a fine cream. This will demand partnership, especially in the urban environments. This will require a new sense of unity and love for the whole church. Not some "old wineskin" of unity, but the humility to be able to cheer each other on, rather that try and co-opt one another into what we're doing.

    this includes our growing reconnection with the US VIneyard family. Something very special is happening there. We need to look at what that should be. What is the Spirit saying?

  • Discipleship: On Ramps; sustainable models and off ramps

    Think Tank pulled together

    Best Practices Series

    "Why Vineyard" material

  • Health Begets Health; Spiritual Formation; Contemplative Justice

    Portage: Best Practices Series

    Baptism vs. Sign up Sheets

    Common Language, Common Liturgy, Common Legacy

  • Metanoia Conversations
Our Father, sanctify your name. Let your Kingdom Come.

Holy Spirit Come.

Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus.