These last few days I have been reflecting on my choice to join the Vineyard movement. I’ve been rereading many of the books that led to that choice and reexamining my beliefs. I’ve found it refreshing and encouraging. There is something about looking at our past choices and decisions that makes future ones easier. Having a solid “YES!” in our heart makes it easier to say “no!” to other things.
I came into the Vineyard out of the Lutheran church. I loved growing up as a Lutheran. I met some of the finest people I know in my home town church, men and women I still respect and admire. I learned a love for God’s word, the importance of small groups and solid doctrine. I learned to serve, tithe and pull my weight in the congregation – even as a teen.
In college, the Lutheran denomination I was a part of started exploring ideas and agendas I wasn’t comfortable with. This caused me to look into other churches. By divine Providence, I got connected with the Vineyard congregation I now serve as pastor.
I didn’t know anything about the Vineyard at first, so I started reading. I came across several books: Power Healing, Power Evangelism, The Quest for the Radical Middle and The Gospel of the Kingdom. Each book further confirmed something I knew deep within – I was Vineyard.
Vineyard, to me, is just a name for a collection of beliefs and practices, a way of viewing the world. To me, Vineyard means:
Singing simple love songs to Jesus individually and corporately,
The Vineyard is a worship movement first and foremost. We sing songs TO God, not just about Him. Our songs are simple and easy to learn. We know that our personal, private worship in daily life is more important than our corporate times together. We know that Sunday morning merely rides the wave of worship that started the week before. We don’t have fancy light shows or trendy bands, we have love sick hearts and joy in our salvation.
Living with a Kingdom mindset,
In the Vineyard, we know we are just one small piece of the Kingdom pie. God’s Church includes people of all races, all backgrounds and all denominations. We keep in the forefront of our minds that we are on the same team as every other congregation in town. We don’t compete. Rather, we rejoice when new congregations come to town. After all, until everyone is a disciple of Jesus, no church is too big and there can’t be too many churches. We seek to partner and bless.
We also realize that God’s Kingdom is much bigger than Sunday morning. We realize that people are called to minister and advance God’s Kingdom every day of the week, in every circumstance. Some people are stay-at-home-mom ministers, others are ministers in business or education. God’s Kingdom is wholistic in nature, so wherever you are it is a chance for the wisdom of God to manifest.
Practicing the Gospel with humility and compassion,
Christians practice the Gospel like a doctor practices medicine. It is what we do all day every day. We study and learn certainly, but it is for the purpose of bringing that knowledge and experience to bear in everyday circumstances with everyday people. We are constantly learning, growing and field testing our theology. Knowing we can never master our field of study (God and His ways) keeps us humble, flexible and hungry for better methods. We refuse to elevate certain methods, models or sayings just because. If something no longer works (i.e. “Come Holy Spirit”) there is no need to keep it.
I also enjoy that compassion plays a HUGE role in our life together. There is never a sense of superiority or performance in the Vineyard. We realize that we are all in this together and that we all have areas we need special grace and patience in. We are firmly convinced that ministry devoid of compassion is worthless. The only thing we can control is how we love – not if someone gets healed or if someone accepts the Gospel. So we focus on loving well, and letting the people we minister to know that we love them. The focus is on love, compassion and companionship, never results or performance.
Power Evangelism and
We practice a particular kind of evangelism in the Vineyard, what we call “power evangelism.” It is the kind of evangelism practiced by Jesus in the Gospel and the Disciples in Acts. It is a clear and sensible proclamation of the Gospel that God confirms with a miracle, or a miracle followed up with the preaching of the Gospel. However it happens, we believe both parts should be present on a regular basis.
Do we control what God does? Absolutely not and sometimes He doesn’t do anything we can see. But we have found that God does manifest His Presence more frequently when we ask Him to.
In the Vineyard, we fully believe that if someone can be talked into the Gospel, then they can be talked out of it. We also know that people in this culture have all sorts of mental barriers to acceptance. We simply believe that power evangelism is the best means of bypassing mental barriers and speaking to people’s hearts – their truest and deepest selves. We’re not always awesome at it, but we are committed to learning how to work with God to see this happen more and more.
All of the above culminate in our value for discipleship. We’ve found that the only thing that really transforms people is God, and worshipping Him is not only our highest privilege and goal – it is also the most direct route to transformation and long-term life change.
We want to train and equip people to advance the Kingdom all day every day in their families, businesses, communities, schools, etc. so we are constantly on the hunt for the best tools around. We want people to live in accordance with God’s will and wisdom in their finances, marriages, parent/child roles, friendships and careers. We want people to be equipped to do the work of Jesus wherever they are, so we train in healing prayer, evangelism and listening skills.
Our goal is to train people to be like Jesus: able to do the things He did, the way He did them.
That is what the Vineyard means to me. That is what I signed up for when I became a member of the Vineyard and especially when I became a pastor.
I realize that those values don’t cover every aspect of Christianity or Christian discipleship. Yep. We are just one part of God’s Kingdom. We want to do our part well and champion other parts of the Church to do what they are called to do because we LOVE receiving what God has given to other groups. No one denomination can do everything well, but together the Church can be a complete picture of the character of God.