Tag Archives: Vineyard Leadership Institute

Church Planting: An Interview With Ed Stetzer

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.”).

Continue reading Church Planting: An Interview With Ed Stetzer

I Have Been Accepted To St. Stephen’s University!!!

Ever since the summer of 2001, when God told me that I needed ‘get’ before I can ‘give’, I have been pursuing higher theological training. Sadly enough I almost gave up on this dream a few years later, only to be rescued by my wife and God’s poking and prodding which lead to starting Vineyard Leadership Institute (VLI) in 2005. Upon graduating from VLI in 2007, I immediately applied to and was accepted at Fuller Theological Seminary for a Masters of Intercultural Studies. Over the next three years, I took three distant learning classes, the last being in the Spring of 2010. Distance learning through a christian university online has been such a wonderful experience, and one that you may want to consider if their is no-where nearby to enrol with.

When I had first applied to Fuller, I had originally planned to continue taking distant classes through Fuller for about eight years before moving to California to complete the program (you have to do half the courses on their campus). Things, however, radically changed in February 2011 when I became the senior pastor of the PRV church – i.e. moving was no longer an option. That means that house hunting in California came to a halt. I’d even started looking into some beautiful homes on real estate platforms like https://reali.com/san-francisco-bay-real-estate/, but I had to give up on these dream houses for my new job.

The dream then sat dominate for a few years while I tried to figure out what God wanted to do with my life…then St. Stephen’s University in New Brunswick, Canada, popped up on my radar. Their Master of Ministry program is a module system designed for working pastors – as in, the bulk of the studying is done at home with the students coming together at the end of each module for a two week in-classes teaching period.

As far as the degree itself, the Master of Ministry degree is uniquely designed to prepare spiritual leaders instead of researchers. What I mean is that instead of focusing purely on theory, St. Stephen’s University focus on Spiritual Formation and real questions and life issues facing church leaders today. Early this year I asked Phil Strout, the new Vineyard USA Director, what he thought of the program as he completed it in 2004. He said that the most important thing for a young pastor to learn was spiritual development and that I should feed it, feed it, and feed it. In other words, yes, the Master of Ministry degree at SSU is worthwhile.

To that end, I applied to St. Stephen’s University – not really know if I would be accepted, how I was going to pay for it, or if I would have the time to work on the classes… I just told God that if this dream was His, He was going to have to do something about it or, if I was off course, please have my application denied.

Today I received an email informing me I have been accepted into the program and that all my Fuller classes have been counted towards the degree!! (a HUGE blessing in and off itself!!!)

It is craziness I know (considering all that is happening in my life)…but It looks like God is leading me back to school at some level (most likely I will do one module per year for four years…). What a ride this is!

Church Discipline and Restoration

Over the years church discipline have gotten a bad rap , so much so that most churches no longer hold their leaders or their members to any level of accountable. While some of this comes from abuses (which sadly continue to happen), I think the main reason why church discipline has gone the way of the dinosaurs is because of our hyper-individual culture that says that my life is my life and no one better tell me differently.

Life in the Kingdom under the rule and reign of God is different though… in this new life, which comes about when one bows their knees to the King and follows Him, there is accountability and community as all of our lives are interconnected. C.S. Lewis once used the analogy on ships on the sea. While each of our lives are individual ships, we are all sailing on the same sea and if your boat is in malfunctioning and cannot steer, then everyone around you is in danger as an accident in bound to happen.

As community, therefore, we all need to listen to the Holy Spirit and throw ourselves at the foot of the cross, asking Jesus to repair our ship and help us to sail in unity with those around us. Sometimes this does not happen and the community as a whole has to correct the path of one of its members – especially if that member is a highly visible leader.

About eighteen (or so) months ago I was shocked along with many others at the news that our VLI teacher, mentor, and friend Steve Robbins crashed his boat. He made some bad choices and ended up having an affair….which led to his immediate release from leadership at the Columbus Vineyard and their asking him to take some time off to allow God to repair his ‘ship.’

Continue reading Church Discipline and Restoration

Signs, Wonders and the Kingdom of God by Don Williams

I was first introduced to Don Williams through a Vineyard Leadership Institute (VLI) course in 2005/2006. As I listened to him teach that day, I knew that he was one of those (unfortunately) rare individuals with a theologian scholar mind and a practitioner heart of compassion.

Since that day, I have had the pleasure to meet Don in person as well as to discover that he was the primary architect of the Vineyard Statement of Faith. I also fell in love with his book “Start Here” as it is one of the best (if not THE best) overview of this Christian walk that I have read.

Unfortunately throughout all this time there was one book of his that continued to evade me all the while tempting me through references and quotes. This long sought after book was one of Don’s first books published after he joined the Vineyard Movement in the mid-1980s.

Then one day this Summer the unthinkable happened…. Vineyard Resources decided to reprint the Moby Dick of Don Williams’ books – namely the classic book “Signs, Wonders and the Kingdom of God: A Biblical Guide for the Reluctant Skeptic.”

And, after reading said book (thanks by the way to CJ who blessed me with a copy!!), I have to say that I fully understand why this book is considered a classic in the Vineyard.

Using his life as a background, Don pulls the reader into the journey he took as God broken into his life and expanded his worldview. As such in some ways, this book is more of an autobiography then an ‘true’ theology book.

Granted, this is one of the true strengths of the book as theology should never be divorced from life. Instead we must walk out what we believe and allow the Lord to shape our lives through the Bible and theology (which, BTW, simply means the ‘study of God’). Don does this beautifully – interweaving his life story with the biblical concepts that helped shape his live and ministry.

“For the Bible, God is King and we are called into his kingdom where he wants to reign directly and dynamically in our lives and extend his reign through us to this hostile, fallen world. Only when we have been established in this biblical worldview both intellectually and experimentally, will be rid of our bias against miracles. In this way we will be prepared for God’s direct actions to break in upon us, even if, at times, we wish they wouldn’t.”

What Is Not assumed….

Andrei Rublev, Gregory the Theologian (1408)
Andrei Rublev, Gregory the Theologian (1408)
“What is not assumed, is not redeemed”

I came across this great quote by Gregory of Nazianzus (329-390 AD) today while re-listening to some old VLI lectures.

Gregory made the statement during the great fourth century debate on the nature of Jesus Christ in an effort to stop the budding Apollinarism heresy.

Apollinarism came about as a way of explaining the Council of Nicene’s (325 AD) decision that Jesus was of “one essence with the Father” In effect, this heresy stated that Jesus had a human body and soul, but a divine mind.

As a response, Gregory coined the phrase “what is not assumed is not redeemed” as a way of saying that Jesus had to have been fully human in order for Him to redeem humanity.

If Jesus was somehow less then fully human, then the parts that were not “assumed” were not “redeemed” – whether those parts be the mind, soul, body or spirit.

The result of this debate was the Nicene–Constantinopolitan Creed of 381:

We believe in one God, the Father  Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Only-begotten, Begotten of the Father before all worlds, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made; of one essence with the Father, by whom all things were made:

Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven, and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father;

And He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead, Whose kingdom shall have no end.

And we believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, and Giver of Life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke by the Prophets;

And we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

We acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.

We look for the Resurrection of the dead, And the Life of the world to come. Amen.

Original Sin: Revisted

original-sinFour years ago during a systematic theology class through Vineyard Leadership Institute, I started to question the doctrine of original sin. Specifically, I started asking the question, “Is original sin was genetic or social?”

This questioning lead to a two part blog series in which I talked about Augustine and Pelagius view on original sin (Augustine – genetic; Pelagius – social). The end result of the series was to grudgingly follow Wayne Grudem’s conclusions, which was the best view I had heard at the time.

Fast forward a few years.

Yesterday I was reading about the Creator God in the book The Orthodox Way by Bishop Ware. This is an Eastern Orthodox theology book which has really watered my soul over the last few weeks.

In this selection, Bishop Ware talks a bit about original sin and the Eastern Orthodox view on it. As I read it, my heart jumped because it was very close to the view that I had to hold over the last four years. This, however, was the first time I have ever seen it written down – hence the excitement of my heart. Continue reading Original Sin: Revisted

Why I Study…

kogbooksI have been thinking a lot lately about why I read the books I do and why I working on an International Studies masters degree at Fuller. In a lot of ways, the things I do don’t make sense; shoot, some of you reading this blog have even expressed confusion as to why I read the book that I do and why I pour myself out studying theology, missions and history. If you’re struggling with your studies, do you know there is probably a custom research paper for sale on your subject?

Well, I guess it all goes back to the summer 2001.

I spend that summer with my new bride volunteering with Latin America Missions in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. We lived with a local family for two and a half months while helping a local Christian organization love on their neighbors through microfinance loans, computer training and youth Bible studies. It was a fantastic summer that fueled my love for international missions. Studying is so much fun and I enjoy every second of it, I would like to study in canada next, possible in the Northern part of Canada, it is supposed to be such a beautiful place and will be the perfect location to further carry on education…

One day that summer I remember sitting in our bedroom at our host home talking to the Lord when He told me something close to the following (I don’t recall the exact words):

You can’t give what you don’t have.

At that moment it hit me – if I wanted to change the world for God; if I wanted to help people – I would have to have some kind of skills, training or knowledge to give away. While I was going to college for a business degree, there was something about that day that sparked an interest in studying theology. I don’t really know why that thought came across my mind that evening as “theology” was a cuss word to me at that time. Shoot, growing up we always joked that seminaries where cemeteries! Continue reading Why I Study…