Questions about the Vineyard church

Finding a good church whenever I’ve had to move is always a difficult thing.  The plus side about living in different parts of the country is that I have gotten to experience many different types of churches and have met amazing Christ-followers in all of them.  The down side is that it takes so long to feel at home someplace – at least a year in my experience.  Husband and I only have a year here, so we have been doing a lot of church hopping for the past several months.  It almost feels frantic, because we know that our time is so limited here.

Just recently, we decided to settle at a Vineyard church.  This movement (denomination? I’m still not clear) was pretty much an unknown entity to us, although I had heard of the music before.  We initially really liked the simple sincerity of the worship, the solid and practical biblical preaching, and the family atmosphere.  Once small groups started for the year, we joined one and have been having some great conversations with people so far.  We still do like all those things.  We have found nothing amiss in the statement of beliefs or values of the church or in the preaching, as we are careful to compare it against scripture.  In fact, the openness to the Holy Spirit is refreshing, and comes on the heels of reading Francis Chan’s book The Forgotten God and also attending a week-long seminar in England through Ellel Ministries.

But there are a couple issues that bother me a bit.  Having never encountered anything like this before, I don’t know if I should be more bothered or not at all.  Also, these things may be unique to our church, so I don’t want to paint all Vineyard churches with the same brush either.

1. Why does everyone talk about Vineyard values and Vineyard ways and the Vineyard movement?
There seems to be such an emphasis on the Vineyard “brand” instead of on Jesus and becoming more like him.  It doesn’t happen during the sermons, but I have noticed this when just talking with people.  In conversations at church or in small group, people name drop Vineyard more than God.

I will admit that I’m probably being judgmental or maybe just feeling uncomfortable with a new thing. Please feel free to offer any words of wisdom if you have them.

2. Why can’t we all just pray together instead of having it always be about ministry?
One thing that David and I miss is just praying together with people — worshiping and praising God, being thankful, praying together for needs.  This could just be our church, but at small group, we don’t pray together unless it’s laying on hands and ministering specifically to someone and their needs.  This bothers me.  While I do appreciate prayer as a direct ministrt, I feel that there is something powerful about the prayers of the church, interceding for each other and for the world, together.  What do you think?

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10 thoughts on “Questions about the Vineyard church

  1. I’ve known a few people from Vineyard churches and I’ve from what I’ve observed I’ve generally been impressed with Vineyard as a denomination, though I’ve based that only from my observations of the people I knew (all missionaries).

    I would try to delve deeper and see if there’s a reason why there’s all the focus on Vineyard values and ways. Has it always been like that at the church or is it just something happening now? Did they just change their core values and are trying to make them known? Did they get off track as a church and are now emphasizing their values to get back on track? If I look at their 5 core values on the vineyardusa website they look to be good values that are certainly a reflection of Scripture. But I would certainly agree, if they are focusing more on their values than focusing on Christ in their lives then there’s an issue, but it may be an issue that can be worked on.

    With prayer I’m actually sort of surprised, Vineyard folks I’ve known have been all about prayer. Perhaps your church needs someone to spur them on to more prayer. Maybe God is calling you there to help disciple His people in this area. 🙂

    Just some thoughts. I would encourage you to ask these questions of your pastor down there, I’m sure he’d be happy to talk through these sorts of things with a new attendee!

    Chris

    • Pastor Chris, thanks as always for your very practical and thoughtful insights. Those are good questions to ask re: the focus on Vineyard ways. We will try and get a meeting scheduled with the pastor sometime soon 🙂

  2. My wife and I have been attending a Vineyard church for about 5 years. She can give a more thorough, smarter answer a little later, but here are my initial thoughts in layman terms. I think if I’d describe our Vineyard church (and maybe the whole of Vineyard…?), I’d say that they try to be authentic. From worship, prayer, and the response time at the end of service, to teaching, home groups, and community, I think there’s a strong desire to be authentic with God and with each other. It’s not written anywhere, but it’s ingrained in the culture. And I’ve come to really value that.

    1. I think I can see where you’re coming from. As a [former] Southern Baptist, I could see how a visitor at my home SB church could get turned off (or at least raise an eyebrow) when someone says “this is how Southern Baptists act”, or when we sing traditional, Southern Gospel songs (which some SBs really LOVE, yeehaw!), or ‘joke’ about how SBs don’t dance. There’s a lot of culture and pride that comes with being a SB. I wouldn’t say that it’s wrong to talk about those things, but there is a definite culture that comes with being an SB.

    On the Vineyard front, though, mostly when I hear about the Vineyard movement, it’s coming from the pastors when they preach. I think there’s a certain pride that comes with it, but not the pride of the bad/evil sort. It’d being proud of the where the Vineyard has come from, looking back at the Vineyard’s roots and at the lives & examples of the early Vineyard leaders like John Wimber. Everywhere I’ve heard of the Vineyard movement being spoken of, it’s not about anything ‘cultural’ about Vineyard (except maybe how “Vineyard time” means starting 10 minutes late, like Asian time), but about inspiring stories of faith, prayer, healing, gifts, the Holy Spirit, etc., and drawing on those ‘traditions’ in the Vineyard movement to help us to grow, step outside ourselves, and challenge our comfort zones and the status quo. I suppose in one sense, the desire is to continue the Vineyard’s pattern & practices.

    That’s not to say that Vineyard is all about gifts, healings, and miracles; there is a strong emphasis on the Word and on Jesus. And there’s a strong emphasis on being changed by what we read in the Bible. I’ve never felt that they say “do this b/c it’s what a Vineyard would do”; instead, it’s “do this b/c it’s what Jesus would do”.

    2. Do you mean, praying for less ‘personal’ things? I think Vineyard people try to be sensitive to deep, deep things that affect your person (like spiritual/emotional bondage, physical ailments, depression, hurts from your parents, identity issues, etc.). But for asking for prayer for a non-personal issue like a particular job opening, or some discernment for something you’re thinking about — is that what you mean?

    I’m glad we’re talking about this! 🙂 Even though we’ve been at our church for a few years and have been serving in leadership in various capacities, I personally still feel somewhat new to Vineyard. For instance, prayer is huge in the Vineyard, and I’d like to grow in how I pray for people and in how I listen to the Spirit. On that front, maybe wifey is more Vineyardy than I am 😉 and would love to talk about it.

    • Sam, thanks so much for such a detailed response!

      Re: #1, I think you actually better articulated what bothers me, which is that the “Vineyard” is the identity instead of just being known as Christ followers. This could be my spirit prickling in response to being part of a denomination again where I’ve been non-denominational (and therefore kind of without label, although that in itself is a label) since high school!

      2. Yes, what I meant was praying just to worship God, thank God, and yes pray for even the “small” things instead of always praying only for one person and for the deep soul issues. This is the pattern that I’ve noticed in our small group thus far, and actually we visited the small group of a sister Vineyard church and found the same thing.

      This is really is a good discussion and I appreciate your openness and willingness to talk about it! I wasn’t sure if I was going to post this at first for fear of offending someone… 🙂

      • Hey Eleasa,

        1. Ahh, I see what you mean. For most of my life, I’ve attended churches that belong to a denomination. Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, Assemblies of God, Christian and Missionary Alliance, and a couple non-denominational churches (which I guess are ‘labeled’ evangelical — so there’s still some link between them!). At least from my experience, I don’t see the ‘label’ itself as something negative, but as a way to be able to fit the particular local church into a framework. For instance, we attended churches in Mira Mesa that were down the road from our home. We didn’t know much about them, but we could easily find out by looking up info on those denominations (Assemblies of God, C&MA) — to see their stance on issues and how they align with what we believe. So it was helpful for us to find out about them in that way. That’s not to say I don’t have issues with some particulars in each denomination, but generally speaking, it’s nice to be able to see where they each stand on issues that are important to us. Maybe it’s harder to find out for non-denominational churches… ?

        2. In the Vineyard, I think it depends on the people in your home group. Like MaryAnn said, there’s a spectrum of beliefs and practices, not only from church to church, but from home group to home group. At our Vineyard church, some home groups do more hand-laying than other groups. Our home group didn’t do it as much (we did sometimes), but there was still a definite, strong focus on prayer at the end of each home group meeting. It was always more than the “ok, let’s pray just to close” or “let’s break up into small groups for 5 minutes”; we’d pray for each other, and in the smaller groups of 3-4, I think each person felt like they could share and be prayed for. I wonder if this is something you can ask for or discuss at your small group.

  3. This is a great post and I’ve enjoyed reading the replies. I’ve never been to a Vineyard church but I have heard people say things like “Oh, he’s a Vineyard artist” or “Oh, that’s a Vineyard church” and I’ve kind of just wanted to say “What exactly does that mean?” I’m glad to know you have found a church that is teaching the Word and I appreciate you acknowledging that something can be different and still be orthodox. But the questions that you raise are important. I think Sam is right that a lot of people use labels for themselves and others and this is something we should be careful with. On the other hand, labels can be helpful for identifying sources that you trust. It’s important to find a balance but we should err on the side of being know as belong to Jesus first! I look forward to a follow up post as you delve into these questions. 😉

    • Liz! So good to hear from you! Haha, a followup post could be months down the line, so don’t hold your breath! 🙂 I just replied to Sam that I have been in non-denominational churches for the past 16+ years now since my family left the Southern Baptist church that we used to attend. And maybe I’m bristling at being “labeled” again as you said. But you’re right in saying that labels are not necessarily a bad thing.

  4. Hi Eleasa! It’s great to hear that you guys have chosen a Vineyard church! I’m happy to hear that you’ve found sincerity in worship, solid and practical biblical preaching and a family atmosphere, for these are certainly essentials in a church family. Being in a new church environment, though, it is good that you are still in the evaluating stage. This is excellent and I am happy that you are doing that. It’s important to make sure things are lining up with your understanding of God’s ways.

    That being said, I can try my best to explain more about Vineyard. Though I’m currently a pastor at a Vineyard church, I certainly don’t know it all. I would suggest seeing if you can read one of John Wimber’s books to learn more about Vineyard, as that will help you learn the roots of the Vineyard movement (and set your mind at ease). Here’s a short description of him I just found: “John Wimber wasn’t interested in religion — he was interested in a relationship with Jesus and discovering how that impacted the way he lived his life and the people with whom he shared his life. He viewed community as a great opportunity to put into practice the teachings of Jesus and felt following Jesus wasn’t a spectator sport.” The idea of him not interested in a religion, I think, shows the roots as to why Vineyard persists in being called a movement. Following Jesus is dynamic. I think that the desire has always been that the Vineyard churches would continue to follow Jesus and not become culturally outdated, too structured, too controlling, too bureaucratic (this is my interpretation of the reason, not the official word from Vineyard). Though it is called a Movement, for all intents and purposes, it is in actuality a denomination. 🙂

    As within any denomination, there is a lot of variation from one local church to the next. So, regarding what you mentioned in the first point, I haven’t really witnessed that in our Vineyard church. I haven’t really heard anyone going around talking about “the Vineyard way” and such. There is a clear emphasis on following Jesus. In response to what Chris said in the first comment — Vineyard did get a new national director at the beginning of this year, and just a few months ago, we had a national conference. At the conference, there was a “call” (a new vision set forth, if you will) to be an “all in” community for the Kingdom of God — “Reaching the hearts of 21st century people will take everything we’ve got, with no holding back.” Are there conversations around being Vineyard around this vision? In any case, hope you will get to talk to your pastor about that question.

    Re: prayer. Putting a person in the middle and surrounding them with prayer for a deep need is definitely a Vineyard trait. It’s one of the things I love and value about Vineyard because it is truly awesome to have everyone pray for you like that. However, in my experience, that is not the only way that prayer happens at our church. In our home groups, we definitely go around and ask for prayer requests and everyone would take turns praying for someone in the group while everyone else listens in and agrees in prayer. Also, after a Sunday church, there is always in invitation to come up to prayer ministers for any needs that you have. Vineyard is all about prayer.

    Hope this helps. Please feel free to ask more questions.

    One last thing, when I took my church history class at seminary, my professor Dr. Smith reminded us a few times that within every denomination, there will always be churches on one end of a spectrum and some churches on the other end. There is variation within churches within every denomination (it makes you wonder why there are even denominations!). So there are many things I love about Vineyard, but I will be the first to say that it is not without flaws — as are all denominations and all churches.

    • Thanks so much for your thorough response!

      Re: the emphasis on Vineyard ways, I suspect that it is partly due to our church being full of people who have been there for at least 20 years, so it might be very much a sense of pride in it? But yes we will find time to talk with our pastor about it.

      Re: prayer ministry. Even in the week since posting this I feel like I’ve experienced more of the power of the prayer ministry that goes on here. So I’m getting it 🙂

      • Re: prayer ministry. Yay! That’s great that you are experiencing the power of the prayer ministry at your church. I hope you will experience some healing too!

        Re: emphasis of Vineyard ways. That makes sense if they have been there for 20 yrs. That’s a long time! 🙂

        How are things going now at that church? Hope all is well for you guys! (also, and kinda happy that you are a part of our movement!) 🙂

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