Sometimes people ask: “What’s that?” They’re curious that I didn’t stay with the denomination that my parents were part of. Then I went to a college that was part of another denomination. I had friends who were part of even another group. But why the Vineyard?
For me, it was a place where people valued me as an individual. My talents and skills (though limited) were considered important, accepted, and welcomed. When I was accepted and incorporated into the life of the church, it was an unexplainable feeling of being part of the team. The prevailing concept is that all believers are ministers. The clergy is just a function of leadership. All believers are to be trained and equipped for ministry.
In addition to this, I was never a good actor. I don’t know how to be someone else. The Vineyard was a place where I could be myself and still be accepted. But that “myself” wasn’t and still isn’t all that great. God is still working on me to change me into the image of his son Jesus. At whatever place of spiritual growth I was on, I knew I belonged and was accepted. That sounds like home. That sounds to me like the Vineyard.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit is not a conceptual, metaphysical, and abstract idea. It is expected to be the norm. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are taught and expected and welcomed as part of the life of the church. You may not see all the gifts of the Spirit active in all Vineyard churches, but they are definitely part of the framework.
Although the entire worship service may be structured, there is a built-in flexibility to allow the Holy Spirit to disrupt and to have the freedom to do His work. It may be people-structured, but Spirit-led.
There is a special place for ministry to the poor, widows, orphans, and the broken. Many Vineyards have special budgets dedicated to such outreach ministries. People from such backgrounds are welcomed, ministered to, and cared for just like everyone else.
And I was really excited that we didn’t have to “create” an atmosphere for God to work. His Spirit is active and we just needed to be expectant and allow space for his work in our midst. The music didn’t have to come to an expected level or “flow” to get the Holy Spirit to move. The sermon doesn’t have to build to a certain level of momentum to allow for God to work. There is no need to create an “effect” in the worship – simplicity is the norm.
Jesus spent a lot of time talking about the Kingdom. It seems that his teaching and miracles were done within the framework of the kingdom of God. Maybe the Epistles missed it because they were focused on particular issues in local churches and communities. That perspective of the kingdom did a lot to explain some of my confusions regarding church and ministry.
There is no sense of “us” and “them” when it comes to speaking of other churches. It is understood that there needs to be unity within the whole body of Christ. All churches that profess salvation through Jesus Christ are valued.
I’ve struggled with the congregational model of my parents’ denomination and couldn’t cope with the confusion of trying to please everyone. The Vineyard has been known for an episcopal model where the pastor functions like a bishop with elders, deacons, a board, or a similar mix. Although this model also has limitations, it works well with a good a accountability structure beyond the local church.
Hope this brief explanation helps. Although imperfect, the Vineyard is where I fit in and belong.
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