Tag Archives: Vineyard USA

Abrahamic Denominations Active in the United States

handbook of denominationsThis Christmas I had the pleasure of reading through the Handbook of Denominations in the United States (13th edition). For those who are not familiar with this book, it’s an encyclopedia of sorts giving a brief history and overview of the theology/practice of the Abrahamic religious denominations active within the USA as of 2010. Granted, the Handbook only lists those groups with at least 100 congregations and/or five thousand members so there are some smaller denominations/groups that are not listed.

The Handbook itself is split into three major selections according to the three major Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. As to be expected, the Christianity selection takes up the bulk of the book with the various denominations listed alphabetically according to the major traditions within Christianity (i.e. Lutheran tradition, Reformed, Congregationalist, and Presbyterian tradition, Holiness tradition, Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox Churches tradition, etc.).

Under the Judaism and Islam section, the Handbook lists out all the major traditions of those Abrahamic religions. This to me was one of the coolest parts about the Handbook as it was nice to understand a little more about the different sub-groups within Judaism and Islam.

For example, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) was under the “Holiness Churches” tradition within “Christianity.”  The Union for Reform Judaism was placed under the “Judaism” selection just like Sunni Islam and Wahhabism was placed under Islam.

Interestingly enough, the Vineyard was listed under “Pentecostal Churches” tradition within “Christianity” section. This is odd to me as the Handbook includes a “Community and New Paradigm Church” sub-group that would have seemed a better fit for the Vineyard…  I guess the editors of the Handbook look more towards the Charismatic actions of the Vineyard rather than our theology (which my Pentecostal family members would quickly point out!) is not Pentecostal. This grouping may change in the 14th edition as Roger Olson, the new Handbook editor, is considering creating a “Third Wave” or “Renewalists” sub-group in which the Vineyard will fall. Time will tell.

Another cool thing about the Handbook was that it showed me that it wasn’t just Protestant churches who was dividing up over various issues. Under the Catholic tradition sub-group, the Handbook listed 11 different Catholic church denominations! Some of which split off from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1900’s while other were older splits from Europe. Each of these groups, however, followed the basic theology and practice that one would think about when referring to the Catholic church. They just don’t all agree with Rome.

All in all, I would recommend church leaders owning a copy of the Handbook of Denominations in the United States as it would allow one to quickly find out the basic history and theology/practice of the different groups within the USA. For example, if someone in your church asks you about a group – or you pick up a book and want to under the background of the author – or if someone new joins your church and you want to understand where they come from… in all cases the Handbook would give you a quick glimpse into the denomination in question.

Now to put the Handbook on my wish list as I borrowed the library’s copy for the holidays… 😕

The Light That Leads Us Home

[box]The following text is an excerpt from the recently released “The Light That Leads Us Home” booklet published by the Vineyard USA.[/box]

“’Twas the night before Christmas…” the 19th century poem begins, and goes on to say, “…the stockings were hung by the chimney with care, in hopes that Saint Nicholas soon would be there.”

Saint Nicholas. Known in many countries for over a thousand years as Father Christmas, Pere Noel, Weihnachtsmann (“the Christmas Man”), and, of course, Santa Claus, the name of Saint Nicholas has become synonymous with the ideas of winter, generosity, festivity, presents, children, box stores, outrageous sales, and last, but not least – Christmas.

The-Light-That-Leads-Us-Home.190A Generous Man

Though legends abound, Nicholas was a real person who lived in the 4th century AD. Nikolaos of Myra, as he was known, was the Greek Bishop of that city (now known as Demre, part of modern day Turkey).

Born on March 15, 270 in the port city of Patara (also in Turkey), he died on December 6, 343, and was the son of wealthy, Greek Christian parents. Nicholas grew up in a home full of faith, and after his parents died in an epidemic, he went on to become a priest, and later, a Bishop (a pastor of pastors).

In his lifetime, Nicholas was respected for his acts of kindness and generosity. He was known especially for giving gifts in secret. It was said that he would put coins in the empty shoes of those who were poor when they left them out for him to see.

Legends grew around this great man of faith into the story of the chimney-descending Santa Claus we tell to children today.

The Stories We Tell At Christmas

While our thousands of tales about Saint Nicholas are imaginative, and maybe even fun, are they true enough to give us guidance, to give us light, for our everyday lives

And we have other stories of the season we enjoy at Christmas, each with its own bit of light to shed on our path. Maybe your favorite, like mine, is one of the following:

• It’s A Wonderful Life (“Teacher says every time a bell rings…”),
• A Christmas Carol (“You may be an undigested bit of beef, …a crumb of cheese…”),
• Miracle On 34th Street (“I believe, I believe; it’s silly, but I believe…”),
• White Christmas (“’How do you do?’ ‘Mutual, I’m sure.’”),
• A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”), or
• Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (“…Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”)

Stories That Give Limited Light

While all of these stories (and the memorable songs attached to them) are endearing and heartwarming, conveying beautiful truths about family, friendship, and generosity, they all have a limit to their ability to offer real guidance to our lives.

• We never hear someone going through a divorce reciting lines from It’s A Wonderful Life to help them walk through their pain.

• We never hear parents, whose teenager is estranged from them, singing Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer to console themselves that everything will be okay.

• We certainly never hear the child of a parent dying of cancer praying to Santa Claus as their hope for healing.

Why not? These are not stories from which we can find sufficient light for our entire life’s journey. Sure, these stories shine some rays of truth on our situations, but they still leave deep shadows unaddressed. They can never truly guide us, with a bright Light, to safety, to peace, to harmony in relationships, to life that lasts forever – to Home.

The Light That Leads Us Home

God’s Word is called a “…Light to my path” in the Bible (Psalm 119:105). For billions of people over thousands of years, the Scriptures have provided vital guidance to people walking through life’s hardest challenges.

The New Testament in the Bible goes further to say that there is a Light that can live in us and be with us as we navigate life’s difficult terrain.

As the truest Christmas Story ever told opens in the book of Matthew, Jesus Christ steps on the scene of human history and says these seven, simple words recorded in John 8:12:

“I am the Light of the World.”

The Light we all need for life’s journey must transcend the passing comfort of Christmas lights, and even the soft glow of family and friends. We need a lasting Light, a guiding Light, that shines in the shadows of our darkest fears and deepest failures, penetrating them with truth and life and faith – and Hope for the future.

The Light that we all need to experience this Christmas season is the Light of the World – the Light whose name is Jesus.

He is the One that Saint Nicholas bowed down to worship. He is the Light that is available to us through our brightest days and darkest nights. He is here to shine on you this Christmas, to lead you Home.

Enter The True Story Of Christmas

You may be facing some challenges that a cup of egg nog and Christmas cookies can never fix. If that’s true, embrace the lasting Hope of Christmas once again, with fresh faith – the faith of a child.

From Pastor to Mister: A Transition Story

PRV Plague and flowersI’ve started to write this post several times over the past few weeks but failed to do so due to either life circumstances or raging emotions…

Twelve days ago on June 1st Emily and I officially stepped down as the pastors of the Payette River Vineyard Christian Fellowship (PRV). At the same time the King and the church body commissioned Richard and Mardie Engelhardt as the new pastors.

Wow…I’m amazing at the emotions that came with typing that statement… it is all kind of crazy and hard to believe… a year ago the thought of leaving Sweet was a distance thought…now it is a reality.

And the way in which it all happened is just amazing…

Last year I was privately wrestling with trying to balance my day-job, leading the church, being a husband and a father…not to mention trying to maintain a health spiritual life… I was, quite frankly, very close to burn out and was starting to be ineffective in all areas of my life as I was simply reacting to events rather than having time to process and plan ahead. At the same time there was a growing desire within Emily and mine hearts to start a new church somewhere or, at the very least, to engage in ministry in a different cultural context.

Yet for all the discontentment and pain, I really couldn’t see a way out of this crazy catch 22… Then a series of event took place which ended up with me attending the Vineyard Missional Leaders Meeting (MLM) last October. At that meeting the Lord connected me with several people who helped me pray through and process the growing discontent in my heart.

These folks helped reveal the two big issues within me that tried to block all the wise counsel I was receiving – the first was the lie that if I stepped down I would be a failure; yet another statistic of a new pastor who couldn’t make it… the second was a strong desire to make sure the people of Sweet had a solid pastor to take care of them, which, at this point, seemed like a HUGE problem as there was no one in the wings to take over…

The first issue was resolved through the constant encouragement of Craig Simonian and Ed Loughran – both of whom literally beat that lie out of me!! (Thanks guys!!!)

The second issue was a tad harder…or so I thought… Karen Fields and Jared Boyd both encouraged me to think out of the box and trust God to take care of the people, as He loves them far more than I ever could. Accordingly, I mustered up some courage after I returned from the MLM and talked to the PRV Elders about the possibility of stepping down. They, in turn, surprised me in saying that they knew this was coming and that they full supported Emily and me moving on to something else. All they asked is that we would stay with them until June 2014, after which they would release us to follow the call of God on our lives.

Then in a move only God could orchestrate, I found out that the Vineyard USA had decided to host their very first pastoral transitions conference in Boise…and, if that wasn’t enough, the speakers included my sending pastor (Tri Robinson), area leader (Trevor Estes) and regional overseer (Allen Hodges). It was like God was saying, “You are on the right path.” So Emily and me went – taking with us one of our Elder couples – and had a great time learning about how to help lead a congregation through a leader change.

Then on January 5, 2014 I bite the bullet and told the church body about what God was doing in Emily and my heart. The church’s response was amazing as pretty much every person there confirmed to us that we were indeed supposed to move on. Folks were telling us stories about how God told them that we were leaving weeks before as they were walking up to us in church…or how earlier that week God had told them during their devotional time… it was, quite honestly, unexpected and thrilling at the same time!!

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