Ed Stetzer has a long and very impressive resume full of planting, revitalizing and pastoring churches across the USA. He has also taught and mentored tons of pastors over the years as well as spend many a hour researching and surveying in state of the local church. Currently he is the President of LifeWay Research and a member of the International Mission Board’s Church Services Team.
Accordingly, his comments on church planting in North America have some weight… as in, they are worth listening too and thinking about. Which is why I recommend reading this article detailing a recent interview with Vineyard USA.
To help spur you on in reading the interview, I have posted some quotes from Ed along with some of my thoughts below.
Reflections on the Church Planting Scene in North America
“I think church planting is exploding. But I think it’s also important to note that the focus of many of these movements, and even the methods that they have used, have been influenced by the gifts that the Vineyard gave us all: a heart for church planting, new network approaches and strategies, and a passion for reaching the lost.”
Yeah…I couldn’t pass up quoting this piece as it is nice to see such favorable press for one’s tribe. Granted, Ed is talking to the Vineyard USA so it could be a simple ‘don’t bite the hand that is feeding you’ statement…but I seriously doubt that as Ed, who is not part of the Vineyard, doesn’t have a motivation to suck up to the Vineyard. If he didn’t like us, he could simply say so and walk away.
Therefore, the fact that he, as a noted missiologist and church researcher, publicly acknowledged the influence that the Vineyard has had on the wider church is amazing! I personally think that one of the reasons the Vineyard, which at 554 churches in the USA is not a large denomination, has had such a large voice in the greater church is because of our love for the whole church. From the very beginning, John Wimber and all the braze souls who started the Vineyard constantly gave way the gifts the Lord in trusted to them to the wider body. It has never been just about the Vineyard; it has been loving Jesus and His Bride (i.e. the WHOLE church).
What Opportunities Would You Say The Vineyard Has Now?
“I think the opportunity here is, will the Vineyard rediscover its roots without feeling it necessary to relive its past? I think the roots of the Vineyard are birthed in a passion for the kingdom of God, church planting and evangelistic engagement, and yes, societal concern. And I think many would say that focus has been diminished and might have a desire to go back to the glory days…. So the underlying principles that made the Vineyard an explosive movement could be rediscovered, but perhaps some of the methodological practices would not be as helpful in the future.”
I think these comments by Ed are interesting to say the least. They seem to echo the words of warning given to the Vineyard years ago from Bill Jackson in his 1999 book “The Search for the Radical Middle” and Bert Waggoner in his address at the 2008 Northwest Leaders Gathering. The warning primarily being that we are to continue to follow Jesus wherever he takes us while being careful not to fall into a cycle of routine (i.e. “we do this because it’s what Vineyards do” vs “we do this because it is what God is doing at this time and place.”).