In the church planting boot camp that we went on, one of the questions that we got asked was - why do you want to plant a Vineyard church? The emphasis being on why ‘Vineyard’ rather than any other breed of church. The simple answer is that we flipping love it. We love the Vineyard. We love its values, we love its national directors and we love the people who are in it. So this is a shameless rhapsody to our movement - and explains a bit about what we would love our church plant to look like. Here are our 5 favourite things about the Vineyard (in no particular order and probably missing out some crucial ones and not claiming that the Vineyard are the only guys who do this):
The Vineyard truly lives the bible. I’ve loved the bible for years. I’ve probably read it through 10-15 times. But for so long I didn’t live it. I didn’t pray for the sick, I didn’t ask forgiveness of my brother when I’d sinned against him, I didn’t feel overflowing with joy. I knew the stuff but I didn’t do the stuff. In the end that just got a bit boring. I just got frustrated with myself. Then I walked into a Vineyard church and saw men and women of all ages who prayed for their neighbours and had integrity at work and who suffered well and who seemed to exude contentment. These amazing people lived the bible. Not every bit of it - I grant you that - but I could see that parts of the living word of God were really being expressed in their lives.
The Vineyard truly loves people. I knew churches that were very effective organisations. I knew churches whose leaders got stuff done. I knew churches that ran effective ministries or preached good sermons. I also knew churches that didn’t do any of those things. Ever. But what I longed for in my life was love. I was tired of seeing people as objects or as projects or as tasks. I was sick of my own inner tendency to cast aside friends or hide my true self. I knew I was made for more than that. I knew that I was made to love people. And in the Vineyard I found a movement that really loved people. The Vineyard celebrates people, embraces people, listens to people and challenges people. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m fully aware that the Vineyard also has its fair share gits. And people who sometimes act like gits. The kingdom hasn’t come yet so gits will always be among us and will sometimes be counted among their number. But from what I’ve seen, they are the tiny exception to the rule. The Vineyard stretches further than anywhere else I have seen to truly love people and show them their value to God.
The Vineyard truly loves Jesus. Maybe I should have put this first. I bet Ele Mumford would have done. That’s another reason I love the Vineyard but it is not the main thing I’m trying to say here. Now, I know that loving Jesus is pretty much the qualification for being a Christian. Lots of people - and most churches - say they love Jesus. But the love I am talking about is not just a sweet feeling every now and then. In the Vineyard there is such a sense of admiration for Jesus, there is such a sense of aspiration to be like him, there is such a sense of yearning to have him come and walk alongside us every single day that it is utterly inspiring. And this desire isn’t just spoken about - it is actively pursued through sung worship, through seeking to hear the words of Jesus, through waiting for Jesus to pour out his Spirit upon us. Jesus is everywhere in the Vineyard - and that is something I love.
The Vineyard is truly an international family. I feel so massively privileged that I have got to meet Vineyard pastors and people from Africa, America, Europe and even from Scotland. And every one of them has really felt like family. They have listened to me, valued me, laughed at my jokes and shown me a new and inspiring aspect of Jesus. Each one has massively encouraged me in my faith. I love the diversity of Vineyard. I love the way the global Vineyard stretches my horizons and challenges my assumptions and enriches my experiences. It really is amazing.
The Vineyard truly is fun. In the Vineyard I have met so many Christians who are just great fun. Not fun in a show-off-look-at-me kind of way but just a genuine, assured delight-in-life kind of fun. People who are loud and fun and people who are quiet and fun. I love it so much. So often church can become so unbelievably earnest and serious and I just can’t cope with that. I love Christians with a mischievous glint in their eye and a willingness to go to ridiculous lengths to enjoy others and to affirm the goodness of their God. And what this really means is that the Vineyard is a place not only where I feel like I can truly be myself - but that it is a place that I can enjoy being myself.. and enjoy others being themselves. That is such a rare and beautiful thing I would not swap it for the world.
So there you go. 5 things. I didn’t mention the Vineyard’s focus on the poor, which I should have done. And I didn’t mention church planting or Holy Spirit ministry or loving the whole church either. But I can’t be bothered to re-write this whole post. And I don’t suppose anyone in the Vineyard is going to kick up a fuss about what I’ve said. That is what I love about it as well.