By Phil and Janet Strout
There are a number of things that come to mind when we are asked ‘What is the Vineyard?’ We are going to attempt to express our thoughts in a very simple way, from our point of view.
The Vineyard is God’s idea. We often refer to the Vineyard as a ‘movement of people’ that God initiated and invited, among many others, to join His mission. In other words, we are recipients of and participants in God’s great grace and mercy.
We are a people who have responded to this invitation to join God’s mission, for His greater glory and the well being of people. In responding to the invitation of God, men and women like the Wimbers, the Fultons, and numerous others found themselves swept up in a Holy Spirit avalanche. These people who were at the beginning of this movement did not sit in a boardroom and draw up a five-part plan to form a movement that would spread around the world. This is very important for our present understanding of the Vineyard.
We were called into being as worshippers and Jesus-followers, grateful and humbled by God’s inclusion of people like us. As we understood early on, we received much from God in relation to his presence – his power, his favor, his fruit. We all heard: “We get, to give.” What God had done in the people of the Vineyard, he wanted to do through these people. We have not moved very far from that simple understanding, nor should we.
Church, church, church! John Wimber’s clear instruction to ‘Love the whole Church’ was a refreshing and liberating invitation. Worship songs with lyrics such as Help Me to Love The Things You Love by Danny Daniels reflected this emphasis. The Vineyard taught us all to not only appreciate, but also to embrace, the great historic traditions of the Church.
God has always had a people. Despite our penchant for viewing ourselves as innovators in the 21st century, we must realize that we aren’t as vogue as we think. Instead of blazing trails with our faith, we have taken the torch that has been passed down to us from generation to generation. We are a family of torch-bearers.
‘Find out what God is doing in your generation and fling yourself (recklessly) into it.’ That is a paraphrase of a Jonathan Edwards quote that caught our attention during the Jesus Movement in the ‘70s. It is not that God changes, or that his message changes. Rather, it is often that a vital truth has been lost or disregarded – and it needs to be rediscovered, revived, and made alive again.
During the time of the birth of the Vineyard, the church was rediscovering the charismata, or gifts of the Spirit. Incorporating them into the life of the church, with all of us participating (‘everyone gets to play’), was one of the highlights of Vineyard understanding. Instead of the ‘one’ getting to play, ‘everyone’ was getting to play. There was no special person, no superstars. Even in our music, the simplicity of the chords and words took music that might have headed into performance back to intimacy, without hype.
First generation Vineyard people came from an incredibly varied set of backgrounds. We ranged from burned-out church leaders from many denominations, to those who had never stepped foot in a church building. Some showed up in suits and ties, only to find out that the casual mode (in dress and attitude) of the Vineyard atmosphere was actually an intentional piece of our liturgy. In those days, the wide range of doctrinal statements was of little importance. We said, ‘Come as you are, you’ll be loved.’ God was gathering a people made up of ordinary people.
The Vineyard Movement has a very unique opportunity to pass on a healthy template of what it means to be the Church to another generation. We will stay flexible and pliable in what is negotiable, as we stay the course in our main and plain, divine assignment to be worshippers of God and rescuers of people.
This article is reproduced from the booklet 'What is the Vineyard?' with permission from Vineyard USA.
The complete booklet and other booklets in this series are available to buy from Vineyard Resources.