Yesterday we introduced the Vineyard’s new four step church planting process. Today, I would like to make a few comments on the first two steps: “Get To Know Us” and “Let Us Get To Know You.” (and yes, I will be posts some thoughts on the last two steps tomorrow.)
When I first read this step I was confused as to why the task force included. I mean, isn’t it obvious that if you want to plant a Vineyard church, you should already know and like the Vineyard?
However in thinking about it over the past 24-hours, it I’ve come to the conclusion that even though it may sound obvious, the reality is that the structure of Christianity in the USA lends itself to a non-relationship mentality. Add to this mentality a declining church attendance across most groups and a church culture to send everyone who has a desire to follow God to seminary (something, by the way, that while good, is NOT necessary for following Jesus!), and you get a surplus of ‘trained’ pastors and leaders with no congregation. These folks end up looking around outside of their particular group in an effort to find a job. Hence, step one – before you can get ‘hired’ by the Vineyard, you better get to know the Vineyard.
(I might add that within the Vineyard, you don’t get ‘hired’ in the normal sense of the word – as in the Vineyard national office does not pay you. They will help you, love you, train you, pray for you, cry with you, rejoice with you and hang out with you, but they do not pay you. No, planting a church within the Vineyard Movement is an act of love towards King Jesus and a passion to join Jesus in His mission to release people from the chains of evil, sin, and injustice.)
Step one also reflects the understanding that priorities and practices are caught, not taught. You can sit in a class room all day long – or in a church pew for that matter – and ‘learn’ all kinds of information, but unless you start practicing what you learn in the real-world among real-people (as opposed to theoretical people on paper), you will never really LEARN anything. Christianity is not a theory or doctrine or statements of faith; it is a way of life.
And as a way of life, each broader church group (think denominations) have their own quirks and oddities. Not everyone is comfortable in a Vineyard church just like not everyone is comfortable with the Methodist, Assembly of God, Catholic, or Lutheran tribes. This is why we need ALL the churches out there – each one shows a part of who God is. (and yes, I hold this view in tension with the desire for all Christian groups to be in full union with each other…)
As it has been said many, many times before: you don’t join the Vineyard, you find out that you are Vineyard. And when you do, I encourage you to jump into your local Vineyard church and find out what makes it tick. Catch the personality, quirks, priorities and practices of the Vineyard tribe – and then go out and plant a church to the glory of King Jesus!
You will notice that both step one and two are very relational in nature – this is because the Vineyard is a very relational movement. You get to know and be known by the people within the movement by showing up at area, regional, and national events. In doing this, you get to know the Vineyard in all is strangeness (step one) and the Vineyard gets to know you (step two).
This step also includes four ‘conversations’ between the church planting task force, the local church and the prospective church planter. These conversations are basically a series of questionnaires, assessments, and interviews designed to help everyone involved get to know each other and see if what Jesus is doing. Step three, “Get Some Training”, is based upon the results of these conversations as strengths and weaknesses are identified and talked about.
I would also imagine that it is during this step that some folks find out that church planting is not for them…while this may sound sad, it is actually a good thing as church planting is HARD. Folks need to know that right up front before going out and crashing and burning. =?
My only hope is that someone somewhere is keeping an eye on those who start the process and then stop as the Lord may call them back to church planting after giving them some down time. They also may be perfect for going WITH someone as a team member and not necessary as the leader. Joining a team was exactly how I got involved in church planting as I was not ready to lead a church at that time – but I was a great support guy! Just goes to show you that planting a church is not an individual effort but a team journey following the King.