Today, I’m going to kick off a five or six week series looking at who we are because I believe it is extremely important that we know who we are and why God put us here in this valley – in the Payette River drainage.
Then over the next few weeks I am going to be talking about the five values of the Vineyard Movement – one at a time:
- The Theology and Practice of the Kingdom of God
- Experiencing God
- Culturally Relevant Mission
- Reconciling Community
- Compassionate Ministry
This should bring us up to mid-April, just in time to celebrate Easter. Following Easter – say, the beginning of May – I would like to take a look at the big picture of the Bible. What has been God been doing all this time? What is the central motif or framework that supports everything throughout the Old and New Testament?
A lot of time we hear stories about Abraham, Noah, David, Ruth and Joshua – but we really don’t know how they all fit together. They can become isolated stories that may or may not have an impact on our lives….
Starting in May, I would like for us to start on a journey through the entire Bible (don’t worry, we will be moving a lot faster than we did with Acts!) – looking at its unity and focus and how we can join with God in His mission. Sounds good?
The Payette River Vineyard Christian Fellowship
So who are we? Well, let us start with our name for it tells you a lot about us.
- Payette River Vineyard – When we first started 2006, our name was the “Sweet Vineyard Christian Fellowship” – “Sweet Vineyard” for short (this is still on some of our Bibles). However we soon found ourselves ‘trapped’ by this name – we had a heart for the entire Payette River drainage not just Sweet. So we changed our name in 2008 to reflect this heart change.
- Christian Fellowship – It is important to remember the last half of our name as folks may think we are a winery! This actually happened this week…
- Fellowship – We could have called ourselves a ‘community church’…we didn’t because we are a people drawn together for a purpose. We are a Fellowship – like the Fellowship of the Ring – a group of people from diverse backgrounds moving towards a common goal, or in our case, a common person, Jesus of Nazareth.
- Vineyard –We are part of the Association of Vineyard Churches, a worldwide movement of over 1,500 churches in countries like Chile, Paraguay, England, Canada, Europe, Nepal, New Zealand, Japan, Philippians, etc..
Speaking of the Vineyard Movement, I would like to take a few minutes and give a brief history of the Vineyard. You see, history is crucial – it grounds into reality, it tells you who you are and where you are going.
You will notice that I always refer to the Vineyard as a “Movement” rather than a denomination – that is because we are always moving – we are not static; we are a dynamic group following King Jesus (more on this later).
The Vineyard was started by a group of radical Jesus followers from South California – the most famous and influential person of this group was a man named John Wimber. He was a saxophone player with the Righteous Brothers when God zapped him. He once described himself as a “beer-guzzling, drug-abusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible study”.
Giving up this career, John poured himself out for God – eventually becoming a Quaker pastor; then a church growth consultant at Fuller’s Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. During this time, his wife (Carol) started a Bible study in their house (John was traveling around the USA at the time). The Holy Spirit began to move in this group – so much so that the Quakers asked John and the group to leave. Now, this is huge in my mind – they were not ‘kicked’ out, nor did they rebel against their authority. Their leaders released them to follow God into places they were not willing to go.
John then joined the growing Cavalry Chapel movement – where they thrived for a time. Eventually there were some differences concerning the Spiritual gifts – mainly, John and his church wanted to experience the power of the Spirit through healing and other gifts. The leaders of Cavalry Chapel did not want to go down that road, so they released John.
When this happened, there were several churches in the area that decided to follow John in his pursed of Christ. Among these churches was a leader named Kenn Gulliksen, a prolific church planter, who had started a church in Los Angeles in 1974 named the “Vineyard”. Kenn saw the hand of the Lord on John and gave over authority to him in 1982 – launching the movement we now know.
What Hold Us Together?
From the very beginning the Vineyard has been a mixed bag of people. Bert Waggoner, the current Vineyard USA director, recently sent out a letter to the movement describing the current state of affairs. In this letter, he outlines multiple theological and doctrinal issues within Christianity today – before telling everyone that we have folks within the Movement from all sides!
Think of an issue – and there is probably someone in the Vineyard holding on to that position…this, as you can guess, can lead to some interesting conversations….
That is why we must hold on to Proverbs 14:4:
“Where there are no oxen in the stalls, the stalls are clean, but there is much power in the oxen.”
If you want to have oxen, you have to be prepared for the mess that comes with them – it is a package deal!
Yet so many groups – so many people – want to have the oxen AND clean stalls. They do various things to accomplish this – to draw a line between them and ‘others’ so that only the ‘clean’ oxen can get it. And those unfortunate oxen who have to go…well they better slip outside and make it quick!!
The Vineyard….well…we don’t operate that way. We tend to embrace messes. This is why we have such interesting talks within the men’s study. We are ok with folks holding different viewpoints…
So what holds us together? In the words of Bert Waggoner, the current Vineyard USA National Director:
“….we became a diverse movement by a work of the Spirit. It was the Holy Spirit who drew us in from all kinds of theological, ecclesiastical, cultural, and political backgrounds. We came together “warts and all.” It was the Holy Spirit who molded us into a people. We were hungry for God. We didn’t want to put on religious fronts or give ourselves to hype. We wanted to walk in integrity without pretense. We wanted to experience the Kingdom of God. We wanted to do the works of Jesus. We wanted to prophesy and heal the sick. We wanted to walk in freedom. We loved the King and we loved His Kingdom. That’s what brought us together and has kept us together.
God’s Spirit has brought us into this family. We are not Vineyard by choice, but were conscripted by God. God placed us together. He did this by placing desires in us regarding the church. We wanted to be a part of a group that preached the gospel – who believed the words of Jesus and did the works of Jesus. We wanted to plant and grow Kingdom churches that were reconciled and reconciling communities. We wanted to be a people where everyone gets to play. We wanted to be essentially missional through being culturally relevant. We wanted to experience God and not just think great thoughts about God. Those are the things that brought us together and continue to keep us together nearly thirty years later.”
We are a center-set movement… a movement that places King Jesus in the center of our lives. We are all about a thriving relationship with the living God who cares about every part of our lives – nothing is too small or too big.
He is trustworthy – He is not a cruel King forcing His will upon us. He is a loving King who we can trust with our lives – with our jobs, families, kids, spouse – our dreams and desires.
He is a powerful King who can and will bring out what He says He will do…He can and does equip us in our journey. One of the earliest Christian creeds or sayings was simply: Jesus is Lord or King.
Let’s look at this from another viewpoint.
Has anyone here played golf? I tried it once…but I just couldn’t get the hang of that cow pasture pool…too much playing with lighting rods to me…
What’s the goal in golf? Get the little white ball into the hole…right? You may hit the ball into the rough, the sand trap or on the green – depending on the day… in the end all that really matters is if you are headed towards that hole, the center of the game.
If you are standing on the green and you hit the ball away from the hole – well, you are going the wrong way. If you are standing the parking lot and you hit the ball towards the hole – then you are on the correct path.
The Vineyard is like that – our lives are like that. Our proximity to the center does not matter as much as our direction of movement – are we headed towards or away from Jesus?
Now, it helps to be on the green as you are less likely to miss the hole then if you are in the parking lot…but again, it comes down to whether or not you are aiming at the hole…
A lot of times we – as individuals or as groups – try to place a boundary around the center. We tend to say, “if you belief this, then you’re in. If you don’t, then you’re out.” Kind of like saying, “if you are a member of the golf club, then you are in.”
The problem is that you can be a member of the golf club and still not be hitting the ball towards the hole. In fact, you could be sitting at the club house enjoying all the benefits of a ‘wholesome’ life – or you could be on the green at Hole 18…. Yet if the center is Hole 1, then you have a problem…
Yet, over and over and over again we – as people – try to make boundaries about who is part of our group and who is not. There are “confessional” churches in which you must believe and agree with all the words in their confession.
A pitfall with this is line of thinking is who is right? Which group’s statement of faith or confession is the correct one? Which group is more biblical?
Another pitfall is that this way of thinking leads one to be more concerned about what you think then what you do. In other words, it doesn’t matter if you are hanging around the golf club’s fence – chatting with non-members as long as you have your ‘club card.’
Remember how I said that the Vineyard is a center-set movement? This means that as long as you are headed towards Jesus Christ – no matter where you are on the journey – whether you are on the green or in parking lot or in the next town – as long as you are moving towards Jesus, then come play with us. You are ‘in’.
Yes, we have a statement of faith – but you don’t have to believe every word in it. It is there simply to place us in general, basic, framework of orthodox and Evangelical Christianity. If you are not sure about a word or two here or there…that is ok – come play with us. Join us as we walk towards Jesus – as we move towards the King.
You know the interesting thing about placing all your focus on King Jesus? If everything about you is focused on Him, you tend to miss the sand traps, water ponds, trees and other hindrance. If you are so worried about missing them, you will tend to hit them – the way that your car drifts the direction you are looking out the window…
1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Heb 12:1-3)
This is who we are.
We are a people who are focused on following King Jesus – He is in control over every area of our lives. This is not an intellectual mind game – this is reality.
Jesus rose from the dead and is alive today. He is seeking a loving relationship with every person here today. He wants to lead you through the minefield of life – will you follow?
Today as we end, I feel that the Lord wants to ministry to three groups of people:
- The first step on any journey is to point the right direction. If you have never made Jesus Lord of your life, if you have never asked for His guidance through the minefield of life…well…today is your day. I pray that you will follow Him.
- It is easy to lose focus, to place something else as the center of our lives – money, fame, pride, human wisdom and theological pursued …. Jesus is calling us back to Him. He is here today wanting to be the Center of your life – are you willing to give up everything and follow?
- Sometimes we can get caught up in determining boundaries – try to figure out who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’…. I think that God wants us to repent of this mentality and start focusing on Him. I think He is telling us to let Him worry about who is ‘in’ and ‘out’ and just start obeying Him – “If you love me, keep my commandment” John 15:15
Let us pray.