Vineyard Articles

Remember the poor

By David Ruis

I have a distinct memory of sitting in my study one day as I was pulling together thoughts and materials related to stepping out on yet another church planting adventure. I was quite excited, feeling that rush of risking faith that these types of pioneering ventures demand, ready to pull together my demographics, cultural analyses and various and sundry cool ideas that I was envisioning for this new emerging community.

In the midst of the swirl of documents, scribbles, ear-tagged books, notes and the latest DVDs – on everything from relevant communication trends to systems and community development – was my Bible. Open.

Staring up at me were the words given to Paul as he was launching on his first foray into church planting and mission. Peter, James and John, considered to be the pillars of the early Church in every regard, agreed that it was time for Paul to step out. To risk. To put his hand to the call on his life to participate in the expanding kingdom of heaven through missional endeavors out into the Gentile world far out of the reach of Jerusalem and Samaria.

Their words of instruction to Paul were there on the page burning not just into my eyes, but into my heart as well.

As Paul would step out he would become the first intentional missionary and church planter in the history of the Church. The gospel had spread to many places of the world through persecution and the dispersion of believers for various reasons. But this was a first. This was important. The key elements of the gospel of the kingdom must be proclaimed and modeled.

Pretty big stuff.

The thing Peter, James and John said to Paul was not just gripping my heart, but shifting my thinking. In fact, the more I pondered what I was reading, I began to get somewhat angry as I looked up in my study to see, as Wimber would say, ‘words, words, words, words’ – so much instruction; teaching; training information about faith; life and the church. I couldn’t remember anyone in the midst of all these ‘words’ telling me what Paul was told.

I was ticked. Why had I never heard this before?

‘All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing that I was eager to do all along’ (Paul the Apostle, Gal. 2:10).

That’s all they asked. Full stop. At the one-year evaluation as to how things at your church are going, there is only one question on the exam. At the two-year point, just one question still. At the 10- year mark, there is just one requirement that cannot be lost in the midst of all the challenges and hurdles of living out faith and building community:

Did you remember the poor?

The more I walk this journey in my own life and in the midst of the community of faith I realize that this one simple request is more and more central than I ever dreamed to the understanding of the gospel, the call to follow Christ, and the mission of the Church.

Remember the poor. Don’t forget the poor.” 


This article is reproduced from the booklet 'Come, Holy Spirit' with permission from Vineyard USA. 

The complete booklet and other booklets in this series are available to buy from Vineyard Resources.

Click here to purchase

Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should!

Victoria & I recently climbed the Tongariro Alpine Crossing – the first of our list of Great New Zealand walks that we intend to do over the next few years. I asked the owner of the lodge we were staying at what were some of the more memorable climbers he had had stay there. And the stories started to tumble out.  At one point he used a saying I often use. He was talking about how people would come completely unprepared (E.g. the young woman who appeared in the morning ready for the climb in her high heels clutching her handbag… “Umm, there are no shops on the mountain. And high heels aren’t really the right shoes to wear…”). He said sometimes people presented as perfectly capable, but they really shouldn’t do it. “Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

One of the tragedies of our culture is overcommitted people rushing from place to place, opportunity to opportunity, meeting to meeting, person to person, and not actually enjoying the incredible gift of being alive and present to the moment.

“Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should” is such an important saying to remember, perhaps even more so at the beginning of a new year. The temptation is always to take on a few too many things because we are fresh from holiday, and itching to get in to the year. But a very helpful piece of advice I received a long time ago becomes really important at this stage. “If you are going to add something new to your life, what are you going to take out to create the space?” Our “stop doing” list is just as important as our “to do” list. (And while I’m mentioning lists, our “have done well” list is also pretty important to celebrate as well.) We simply can’t keep adding more to our lives without cramming our lives too full and overloading them. One of the tragedies of our culture is overcommitted people rushing from place to place, opportunity to opportunity, meeting to meeting, person to person, and not actually enjoying the incredible gift of being alive and present to the moment.

This is not just applicable to us as individuals. It is equally important for churches and ministries to pause for a moment before saying “yes” to a new opportunity, and remind ourselves that even though we can, doesn’t mean we should. It is such a hard thing to say no to some incredible opportunities, because they are just that - they are wonderful. Perhaps all of us have to confront our FOMO (Fear of missing out). Maybe it is a moment to remember that it frees up others to pursue the wonderful opportunity.

This is a wonderful moment to stop and remember that we are finite humans serving an infinite God. That the need and the opportunity will always be bigger than our capacity to take them on. Probably we will all die with an incomplete “to do” list. Jesus said ““Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.””

(Matthew 11:28–30 MESSAGE)

There is something beautifully redemptive about simplifying our lives, our work, our churches and our families to the essential, to the important, to the lasting. There are so many good and worthwhile things we could spend our hours and days on, but we must pause and remind ourselves that saying “yes” to this opportunity, actually mean we are saying “no” to another at the exact same time? Even though you can, doesn’t mean you should! 

There is something beautifully redemptive about simplifying our lives, our work, our churches and our families to the essential, to the important, to the lasting.

Perhaps take a moment right now and ask yourself and God that question. And then ask Him for the grace and the strength to say no to the extra and yes to the essential.


For more leadership thoughts, see growingthinking.com

Come, Holy Spirit

By Steve and Cindy Nicholson

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a direct, bold request for the Spirit to do the work the Father wants to do in us, and to be the fire that propels us out to do the work the Father wants to do through us.

“Come, Holy Spirit." We remember the first time those words were used by us as a conscious invitation to the Spirit to come, with an expectation that we might see evidences of the Spirit’s presence. It was at our young church’s annual dinner-come-slide-show-come- worship celebration. Everyone was standing. There was a deep, unnerving, very long silence.

Then in the cavernous acoustics of a church gym, the sound of a metal folding chair flipping over and the unmistakable wail of a man whose emotional pain had just gotten uncorked by God. More flipping chairs, more crying, laughing, shouting, people shaking, people ending up under folding chairs, and all through the room, such a sense of purposefulness to it all, of God doing things and saying things, as though we had finally opened the door and let Him in. Which we had!

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ did not originate with John Wimber. We are merely the latest generation to embrace it. It has its roots back in the earliest prayers of the first Church Fathers and Mothers, the first generation after the apostles to carry the flame of the gospel forward. This prayer is not just some oddity of 21st century Western Christianity. It is part and parcel of Trinitarian theology, a beloved prayer of every generation of believers before us. you are in very good company when you pray, ‘Come, Holy Spirit.’

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a direct, bold request for the Spirit to do the work the Father wants to do in us, and to be the fire that propels us out to do the work the Father wants to do through us. The words are not magic (oh, how many times have we found that out the hard way!); we have to actually expect the Spirit to accept our invitation! Otherwise it’s a bit like standing inside our home saying ‘Come on in!’ to someone standing outside, but never actually opening the door.

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a prayer best prayed with willingness to welcome surprise and unpredictability.

‘Come, Holy Spirit’ is a prayer best prayed with willingness to welcome surprise and unpredictability. When we pray this prayer, we never know what will happen next! Most of us love the image of Aslan, in the C.S. Lewis Narnia books, as ‘good but not tame.’ It’s another thing entirely to be met by this not-tame Holy Spirit in real life! But nothing beats the joy of seeing the Spirit come and do what we are powerless to do in our own strength.

Go ahead – pray this prayer. Your life will never be dull again.


This article is reproduced from the booklet 'Come, Holy Spirit' with permission from Vineyard USA. 

The complete booklet and other booklets in this series are available to buy from Vineyard Resources.

Click here to purchase

What is the Vineyard?

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.

Click here to purchase

Te Rongopai and the Vineyard

by David MacGregor

"The Treaty of Waitangi is a document of profound importance to Christians in New Zealand in the 21st Century.”

This was the message I clearly felt God speak to me during my Sabbatical in 2009. I had been travelling around the North Island, not looking for any cultural experience, but rather feeling the Lord say “Let me show you what I am doing in this nation, and what I want to do.” I was taken completely by surprise when I felt led to visit Waitangi, and there, for the first time I discovered that the Treaty of Waitangi had been birthed in the hearts of the early christian missionaries, heavily influenced by William Wilberforce and the Clapham Sect. Their desire was to see Maori people not ripped off by the European settlers who were arriving in boatloads, eager to get land at a cheap price.

Missionaries, contrary to what we were taught in school, were great friends of the Maori, and were desperate to ensure that iwi (tribes) were able to keep their land, possessions and resources, and treated fairly in all transactions. They appealed to Queen Victoria to sign a treaty, ensuring Maori were able to keep their land and resources, and be treated lawfully as British Subjects. Many Maori chiefs were hesitant about signing the Treaty, for fear of being ripped off, but in the end most of them signed for one simple reason… they trusted the missionaries.

One of the leading chiefs, Hone Heke, who was the first to sign the Treaty, made a rousing speech the day before, encouraging chiefs to put aside their fear and just trust the missionaries. He felt that while Maori didn’t really understand all the implications of the Treaty, their friendship and trust with the missionaries was enough know that they would not be betrayed. Heke remarked:

Maori believed that the Treaty would give them a special relationship with Pakeha that they call “Kotahitanga”… living together in one accord.

“The native mind could not comprehend these things: they must trust to the advice of the missionaries”

Maori saw that Treaty as a sacred covenant where two peoples would come and live together peacefully. Maori had converted to Christianity in huge numbers across the country, and some estimate that as many as 70% of Maori people had become committed christians in the mid 1800s. Maori believed that the Treaty would give them a special relationship with Pakeha that they call “Kotahitanga”… living together in one accord.

Sadly the Treaty had the opposite effect. To the dismay of both missionaries and Maori, the Treaty was used by the British to enact corrupt laws, and enable the widespread confiscation of land, resources and destroy livelihoods.

Five years after the Treaty was signed, the same Hone Heke, wrote to his close friend Henry Williams, the missionary who had persuaded them to sign the Treaty, and said:

“The Treaty is all soap. It is very smooth and oily, but treachery is hidden underneath it.”

Another missionary, Octavius Hadfield, wrote to his mother in England, two years after the Treaty was signed: 

“But now that a footing has been made here, a different ground is being taken and it is broadly hinted that the treaty was not a bona fide act but a mere blind to deceive foreign powers. The Queen takes possession of the soil and the natives looked upon as nonentities, and what the result must be requires not any extraordinary foresight to determine.”

It is heartbreaking to read letters of protest written by Christian Maori chiefs to Parliamentarians, using many scriptures to appeal for justice and fairness, and to work things out in a christian way.

In the years to come, Maori became very disillusioned with christianity, as they felt betrayed by the missionaries, the church, and Pakeha in general, and left the church in great numbers. This is such a tragedy, because Maori had been impacted by Christianity in such huge numbers, and New Zealand had seen some of the largest revivals ever known in the world per capita.

Today, many Maori still feel very bitter towards the church, and feel that it was just a tool for colonisation. They feel that their trust in the missionaries was a betrayal, and that after the Treaty, missionaries and church people had no interest in friendship and working together.  This was not helped by the fact that some leading church ministers betrayed Maori to the British in the Land Wars.

The first 40 years of the gospel in New Zealand are an astounding record of revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The years after the Treaty are a staggering reversal of all the things God had been doing in the nation.

This year is the 200th Anniversary of the preaching of the first sermon in New Zealand by Samuel Marsden, in Oihi Bay on 25th December 1814. The first 40 years of the gospel in New Zealand are an astounding record of revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The years after the Treaty are a staggering reversal of all the things God had been doing in the nation. Alistair Reese has a term that sums it up well… “Mission Interrupted!”

I was so profoundly impacted by the Lord speaking to me on my Sabbatical in 2009 that my view of history has been completely changed.  I now realise that the Treaty is a sacred document, birthed through the prayer of godly people in both England and New Zealand and signed in good faith by a group of trusting chiefs who had put their faith in the integrity of missionaries, and their new found belief if God.

The following years of unjust land confiscation, genocide, corruption, deception and rampant evil amongst the European settlers and early Governors and Governments makes our nations current racial problems totally understandable. In those early years, most of the well known Christian pioneers and missionaries fiercely fought for Maori rights, and for justice in the face of extreme evil and betrayal. Sadly over the years, much of the church has joined the rest of “white New Zealand” in wanting to “just move on.”

This 200th Anniversary is a wonderful opportunity to learn our own history, to read the incredible stories of massive revival and miracles, which are extremely well documented, and to capture the excitement for what God could do again in this nation. 

The exciting part of our history is that the story is not over! It started with amazing revival… plunged into war and betrayal, but God’s story is not finished!  I truly believe that God wants to move again powerfully in this nation. The mission has only been “interrupted.”

So what will happen on our watch? What part will our movement play in the story?

At Grace Vineyard, we have spent 7 weeks telling the stories, the good the bad and the ugly, and it has been a very positive time of gaining understanding for how to move forward as a nation.

My prayer is that our whole Vineyard movement would have a desire to know the story of Aotearoa, understand what has gone wrong in our nation, and be part of a movement to see God move powerfully amongst our Maori people again, as reconciliation and forgiveness become our passion.

Our resolve as a church has been to learn our history well, come to value our Maori brothers and sisters and their language and culture, and to dialogue together as to how we can move forward in a spirit of “kotahitanga”.

The best book I have read on this subject is called The Bible and the Treaty by Christian author Keith Newman. There is also an excellent DVD called Te Rongopai (the Good News) put out by Presbyterian minister Stuart Lange. Prayerfully studying these materials may give us all a sense of what God’s plan is for the future of our nation.

My prayer is that our whole Vineyard movement would have a desire to know the story of Aotearoa, understand what has gone wrong in our nation, and be part of a movement to see God move powerfully amongst our Maori people again, as reconciliation and forgiveness become our passion.

I know that God is part of our journey, because he has been visiting us recently with exciting supernatural signs. 

During ministry times, some of our team have prayed over Maori people in tongues, and it has turned out they have been praying fluent Maori… even though they haven’t learnt the language. We have one young woman who felt led to get up and give a word in tongues, and Maori people present said she was speaking in fluent Maori, in an old formal form of the language (which she had never learnt). This was the message:

“I am calling you all as Maori and Pakeha to go forward together as my warriors.”


 

Everybody Gets To Play

The goal of the Vineyard has always been to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Eph. 4:12a). To train ordinary people to do extraordinary things – that has always been the idea behind the calling of the Vineyard movement in the world.
— Jay Pathak

By Jay Pathak

Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? Flying through the sky, wind blowing in your hair, bending steel bars in your hands – admired by everyone and feared by your enemies? Maybe you weren’t into comic book characters. Maybe rock musicians are your cup of tea. Or the walls of your room were covered with sports heroes. We all have someone that we look up to and admire. We admire them because we believe that they are different than us, and with some of our heroes, they seem unreachable.

In churches that believe in the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit, and want to see the kinds of miracles we see Jesus and the apostles doing, we create a whole different kind of superhero.  We stand in rapt awe watching the ‘man of God’ on the platform delivering prophetic words proclaiming healing into the microphone. They exude such confidence and charisma, they seem far removed from the petty doubts and fears that normal people experience. They have stories that amaze and power that is obviously from God himself.

Just like the gifted athletes we watch on television, we begin to watch these leaders with awe and admiration.  The more we watch them, the more convinced we are of their other- worldliness. We are more convinced with every moment that what they do they do easily – and we should never even attempt to try.

The phrase that John Wimber was known to say often was ‘everyone gets to play.’ His goal was to create opportunities for normal people to do extraordinary things. The action wasn’t always on the stage, but all around the room. In those Vineyard meetings he would give opportunities for people to learn how to pray for one another and begin discerning how to hear God’s voice.

As that practice built confidence, faith would spill out of the room, travelling everywhere those people went. The goal of the Vineyard has always been to ‘equip the saints for the work of ministry’ (Eph. 4:12a). To train ordinary people to do extraordinary things – that has always been the idea behind the calling of the Vineyard movement in the world.

That sense of confidence and faith must have been the same feeling that the 72 felt after being sent out by Jesus (Lk. 10). These ordinary men and women came back amazed at what God had done through them. They couldn’t believe that it worked. The sick were healed, and even the demons submitted when they prayed in Jesus’ name. And Jesus’ response to their excitement? Joy. Pure joy.

I bet he still feels the same way. He loves watching normal people do extraordinary things in the power of his name. Everyone gets to play.


This article is reproduced from the booklet 'Everyone Gets To Play' with permission from Vineyard USA. 

The complete booklet and other booklets in this series are available to buy from Vineyard Resources.

Click here to purchase