Why Vineyard? Part 2
"I am the vine. You are the branches."
If you look closely at the above pic, you'll see an elderly vine that is very much alive and fruitful. The leaves and the fruit are thriving and beautiful. Both the vine and the branches are doing what they were created to do TOGETHER.
This pic depicts the church in God's kingdom. Jesus is the vine; He fulfilled the will of God. We are His branches; our duty is to stay connected to the vine (to Him) and to also fulfill the will of God.
John 15: 4-5
Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. Just as no branch can bear fruit by itself unless it remains in the vine, neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine and you are the branches. The one who remains in Me, and I in him, will bear much fruit. For apart from Me, you can do NOTHING.
This verse is pretty much the backbone of Vineyard philosophy.
In the Vineyard movement, I found the "more" I was looking for. I found the "living" kingdom of God. I spent the first half of my life blindly living for God, but when I encountered the Vineyard movement, I met the KING and immediately fell in love with ALL that He is. From then on, I no longer served out of a sense of Biblical duty; I now serve because I love HIM. I love the King, and I love what and whom He loves. I don't know how good I am at this, but I am trying.
The Kingdom of God
John Wimber's life message was about the Kingdom of God. He taught it, lived it, and demonstrated it all over the world in all kinds of churches (yes, even the ones that handle snakes). He loved the King, and He loved what the King loved - the kingdom, the people of God - the church, the Bride of Christ.
Again, it would take a book to communicate what John valued. He was notorious for repeating these values in his sermons. I remember hearing him say in one sermon after another: "I'll stop teaching on this when you get it. Okay? "
For instance, I cannot remember how many times I've heard him say the phrase "time, energy, and money." He would say something like this: Show me how you spend your time, energy, and money, and I'll show you what you truly value and love.
He just told things the way they were. What follows are a few of the values that really shaped me and my life.
Biblical Literacy vs. Biblical Obedience
John taught that it was not enough to know the Bible. We should seek to know the God of the Bible, to have a living, personal relationship with Him which will result in a love that freely desires to obey Him (to be fruitful).
Throughout the first half of my life I was probably Biblically literate and was as obedient as I could be with the truth that I had. However, something was missing, the "more" I was searching for. I found that "more" in a personal, intimate relationship with God. Having that kind of relationship with God will change you. It will transform your heart and life and your values.
Worship and Service
A personal relationship with the living God will result in love - love for God and love for what He loves - those whom He has created. This being with God and loving Him precedes the doing. The being and the doing are both important, but it's difficult to do the doing without the being first occurring.
Jesus said that the greatest commandment of all was to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. He didn't stop there. We are also to love our neighbor as ourselves. He said that doing these two things fulfilled the entire law of God.
John taught that worship was a choice we make to honor God with all that we are and all that we have. Music is only a small part of that. If we love God, we are to do everything as if we are doing it for Him. It's all about Him. Everything we have is a blessing from Him, and everything we do and say should bless and honor Him.
Koinonia - Kinships
John valued community. A kinship is really just a small group of people who usually meet in homes once a week or a couple of times a month. These groups provide community especially in light of all the things trying to tear us apart in this world.
John's first church actually began as a home group which grew and grew until they had to split to form two groups. This continued to happen until they were large enough to hold a weekly service usually in a rented facility at first.
Thus, the Vineyard Movement was born.
These home groups were usually comprised of three or four parts: fellowship and some sort of food, a brief teaching, worship, and a time of prayer and ministry. The majority of work accomplished in a church was done in these meetings. Things could be said and done here that couldn't be said and done easily in large a morning service. Most of the leadership in the Vineyard churches at large was identified and trained in these safe, small settings.
It has been my privilege to have been part of numerous home groups over the past 34 years, and I thank God for each of those. During those times together, I have seen God move mightily. I love the people I met in these kinships and am so thankful for them.
FYI: The word "kin" actually means "to know." Our American Indians used the words "kin" and "love" synonymously. To love someone was to know them; to "kin" them was to love them. There is intimacy implied in the terms, the kind of intimacy shared by husband and wife. As we kinned each other, we grew to kin God more and more. It was all interconnected.
Jesus' Mission Is Our Mission
What was Jesus' mission? The first time Jesus spoke at synagogue, He made this announcement: The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me because He has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor, to proclaim freedom for the captives. The blind will see; the oppressed will go free. (Luke 4: 18-19 / Isaiah 61: 1-2)
As believers, we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. He did what He saw His father doing; He said what He heard His father saying. We are to partner with Him and to follow the leading of His spirit - to do and say what we see and hear Him doing and saying.
And to quote John: "Everyone gets to play." This "doing the stuff" is not for pastors and worship leaders and elders and leadership only. It is for ALL of us. Each of us has an important part to do, and no part is small or less important than the other. Each part is vital to the health of the body and to the mission.
One of John's most powerful sermons was on the power of Holy Spirit. He taught that the Spirit's power is for a holy purpose. It's not just an experience.
It's not to be sought to build ourselves up. It's to be used to further the Kingdom's business is some way. "We are just a coin in God's pocket to be spent as He desires."
Equipping the Saints - Ephesians 4: 11-12
I realize that many churches today have jumped on the motto "equipping to serve," but I honestly believe the Vineyard Movement was the first to express this. This phrase sort of became their motto.
Christ Himself has given gifts to the church. These gifts come in human form in the guise of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers. Yes, your pastor and mine are gifts from God. So are your elders and teachers. So are your worship leaders.
Their main responsibility is to equip God's people, not their people, to do His work and help build up the church, the body of Christ.
Why equip the people? So that we ALL can attain maturity in the Lord. In other words, so that we would GROW UP. John loved to say, "I want to grow up before I grow old." Attaining maturity and pursuing holiness in Christ should be our goals.
Jim, Wayne, and I took this seriously. In the beginning we bought three of everything, one for each of us. Then we would read it and have long discussions about what we had read or heard. If we couldn't purchase three, we bought the one and shared it. We would each mark the book in a specific way. (I recently found a book that had all three markings in it.) Then we began to purchase literally hundreds of books, tapes, tracts, albums and music cassettes and gave them away or allowed people (usually students) to borrow them. We gave away Bibles. We attended meetings and conferences and took people with us. We invited people to help minister with us. We taught classes at the church and in our students' homes and churches when their leadership allowed.
I could go on and on, but I won't. I think you get the picture. The Vineyard Movement with its teachings and songs and people have been a very important part of over half my life. I found the "more." Don't get me wrong. I'm still seeking, still trying to grow up in Him, still searching, but there is a contentment in resting in Him and knowing Him now. I still have a lot of growing yet to do.
I don't know if I could ever share half of what I've seen and learned during these past 34 plus years. But I do have a few closing remarks.
- Being full of the Holy Spirit is not just exhibiting certain behaviors associated with being filled with the Spirit. Being full of the Holy Spirit is synonymous with mature character (another Wimber sermon). I [Debbie] firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is in the character-building business.
- In John's weekly leadership meeting he would ask, "How are we doing? Did we care for the poor this week? Did we pray for the sick? Did we teach the book with no strings attached?" The things John offered always were offered with no strings attached.
- I close with Wimber's thoughts on maturity in Christ. "The test of spiritual maturity is not gifts . . . It's the ability to love God and others. It's learning to serve others by loving the unlovely, the less fortunate, the lost, the broken. This is the highest call."
Thank you for travelling down memory lane with me. I really feel like John Wimber will one day be seen as one of the biggest influences on the church today. You can even find "Isn't He," one of John's original songs, in modern church hymnals right along side the much loved Gaither songs.
If you would like to read more about John Wimber and his teachings, Marty Boller has a wonderful book entitled The Wisdom of Wimber. You might also enjoy Everyone Gets to Play and The Way In Is the Way On both about Wimber and his teachings. I am sooooooo thankful to God for this man ("just a fat man trying to get to heaven) and his ministry to the church at large.