Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Yeah, What Ray said!

After my last blog a good friend of mine, I will call him Ray,(could be his real name:) left me this on my facebook page: “I've never thought it was either-or, this or that. Power Evangelism and Spirit-filled church planting is what we're about!”  I think he made my point for me really or at least helped me sort it out a  bit more.  Yes, church planting is a big part of the Vineyard and my point would be it needs to be more from the leading of the Spirit than just a numbers kind of deal, trying to reach a quota...and we have been a movement, a kingdom of God movement, that should have signs and wonders following.  Shouldn’t we? Isn’t that what Jesus said?  I was talking with a friend just yesterday who is on staff at a church, not a Vineyard, but very much in the vein of a Vineyard church. I remember a time when he brought some of the people from his church body to one of our worship nights and he had a word of knowledge for someone with a fibula problem. No one came forward and we still laugh about it...but he was going for it...and they look grow bigger. He said they are now realizing that even though they began with inviting the Holy Spirit and moving in the things of the Spirit, they had moved away from that to become a little safer for those visiting.  Kind of like, “Sure we speak in tongues and pray for the sick but you won’t find that out for quite a while.” Now they are moving back towards the move of the Spirit...where they began.  At one point he sensed the Spirit said this to him, “ Remember the scene in the garden where Peter cuts of the ear of one of the soldiers?  This is what it has been like for Me trying to move around are always protecting others...from Me!  From what I was trying to do!”  That cut close to the heart there.  
So sure church planting is part of the Vineyard movement...but so is is experiencing God and His is ministry to the poor.  It should all be the part...even the part we cannot control...His Spirit.  I love what Bill Johnson has to say about the move of the Spirit.  It kind of goes like this, “People always want to quote 1 Corinthians to us, you know everything done decently and in order...well what if we used Acts 2 to define what decent and orderly looked like?” (not perfect quote but close) My friend yesterday said it is time for us all to recognize the real trinity...Father, Son, and Spirit...not Father, Son, and the Bible.  I think we have become a bit embarrassed by the Spirit, you know like He is our odd relative that we have to kind of apologize for ahead of time...but He is God! Not like God...or a part of God...GOD!  He does not move on His own, randomly, He moves in complete unity and coordination with the Father and Son...a dance like no other dance.  And we have been invited to join this be loving community with them.  What an invitation!  
So my little rant concerning my Vineyard family is just a cry to let God out of the box! Remember He is a supernatural God and we desire to be naturally supernatural...let Him be supernatural...and let’s join Him. Dust off “Power Evangelism” and read it again...dig out “Power Healing” and give it a whirl.  Then read “Empowered Evangelical” and remember that is who we said we were...with an emphasis on “empowered” . Then as we work to save our planet we are ready for the Spirit to lead us into divine we fight for social justice we also heal the we become “Vineyard scholars"  we can also prove from scripture how the Spirit still moves today.  It should not be an either or as Ray is a both and.  Look up the series, “Signs and Wonders and Church Growth” (something like that” and remember that teaching as we go.  
So I love my Vineyard family...and I am too old to make much a difference in the movement now...but I can sure try, can’t I?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

How did I get here?

Ok as I think back to our coming into relationship with the Vineyard there are a few thoughts I would like to put out there.  Barb and I were coming out of a charismatic church that had been quite large at one time and at the time of its closing was still running around 300.  As we visited the Vineyard in Cincinnati we found a group doing many of the things we felt the Church should be about.  They were feeding the poor, evangelizing, praying for the sick, and loved worship, everything we felt like a church should be about.  Our good friend Doug Roe began coming up to start a small group that would be a church plant.  He was  a mad a good way of course.  He and Marci would come up on a Saturday and they would bring groceries that we would take and pass out in some low income housing area.  Doug would find the apartment complex for us to go to even though he was not from the area...and I did not know they were there!  Then they would drive home and then Sunday afternoon they wold drive back to hold a small group and talk about Vineyard values. 
This went on for a few months and we thought they were going to send Doug up to be the pastor...but back in Cinci they changed their mind.  At this point one of the conversations we had was about me maybe being the pastor.  I shot it down very quick...I did not know much at all about the Vineyard and really did not want to start just another church in the area...sooo they sent another guy up.  I still believe I was right to say no at the time...but this did not work out so well.  After five years the guy decided he did not want to be in the Vineyard anymore and that caused us some real pain.  We did.  Long story shortened way up, he pulled the church out (it eventually died) and we began in our home again, to plant another Vineyard Church...this time I said yes.  WIth about fifteen to twenty people we started over...but by this time I knew the values of the Vineyard...they were mine also...I could do this...hopefully!  
Being a pastor had never been a goal of mine least not the lead guy...but here I was...well here I am.  Now when I said no the first time I said no because I was not interested in the church being just another charismatic church...and that is what I knew.  We wanted more than that...not being critical at all but if you go back to the late 70’s into the 80’s there were lots of charismatic churches began...and flourished...for a while.  Many of them do not exist today...if they do they are a shadow of their past...and many of them do not even believe in the things that made them charismatic to begin with.  That was our problem...many of these churches, including the one we belonged to...did not know what they believed...what their theology was...and they floundered and wandered about trying to find an indentity. Most were independent works with no accountability or structure...chaotic.  
As we came into the Vineyard we found a that valued worship, healing the sick, going to the poor, and valued the move of the Spirit today.  As we dealt with the first pastor wanting to leave the Vineyard, he wanted to leave because he was no longer comfortable with the idea of the Spirit moving in the church least in things like prophecy, healing, well just signs and wonders in general.  So I asked him how he came into the Vineyard in the first place, since these things were so prominent in the Vineyard.  He replied, “ I came in because of their church planting focus.” Well I won’t tell you exactly what I said but it was something like, “You are full of....” (you fill in the blank) He had been on mission trips and saw many healed...he had friends that were gifted prophetically...and so much more...and he came in because of the church planting philosophy? Give me a break. Well a big part of the church planting philosophy at the time was signs and wonders and church planting!  
I guess the odd part of this story is as a movement the last 10 years or so, after John Wimber passed, we began to hear from the leadership about how we are a church planting movement first and foremost. Hmmm. Same thing this guy told me as he left...he was very uncomfortable with things like the Toronto Blessing and stuff like that.  And we as a movement became uncomfortable with it to.  So we really became a church planting least in words...helped diffuse the lack of Holy Spirit movement I suppose..become something else.  Now we have always planted churches as a movement, as I said we were a plant from Cincinatti and we ourselves planted a church in Bowling Green.  But if you asked guys like my friend Roger Miller from St.Paul’s Lutheran Church he has always viewed the Vineyard as a signs and wonder movement.  I hated to burst his bubble.
So I write this to get it off my chest (it is my blog) and to explain a bit why Barb and I so aggressively pursue and defend the move of the Spirit in and around the church today.  The need to walk in power...We see no Church without the Spirit moving and touching...we are people of His presence.  We don’t pursue manifestations...well other than healing, if that is a manifestation.  We do not hype it up or try to fake it...if nothing is happening then we go home.  But there is a passion for a genuine move of God...I don’t think it stopped right after Pentecost...or Azusa Street...or the charismatic movement...the Jesus movement.  Jesus said in John 5, “My Father is always at work to this very day, and I, too, am working.”  I do not think there are stops and starts to God moving among us, rather I think it continues all of the time...we just need not try to control it. Acts 3 talks about “times of refreshing coming from the Lord.”  Jesus talked of “streams of living water” flowing from us. Why would I want to stop that?  
Now some will question our desire for the lost to come to Jesus...I have two words for them...”Power Evangelism.”  

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Really!!! They are?

OK...I did not write this as quick as I thought I would...actually I did but I wanted to sit on it for a while before I sent it out.   
I was trying to think how I could begin to put into words my concerns for the Church and our political involvement and I ran across this quote in another blog so I thought I would borrow it to kick my blog off.  Sometimes it is nice to run across someone else who can follow your train of thought and help you realize you are not crazy or back slid:) I want to make a statement right out front here...I love the fact we have political choices here in our country...and I dislike...strongly...what has happened to the Church by others who bring politics inside the church.  The church has been brokered as a special interest group for one political party...and we have been compromised and weakened by this union.  Phew...glad I got that you can either read on...or bail now!             
In an article written by Brian Sahnd, End of the Line, he writes about God shifting the church from one seasonal platform to another. In the article he addresses many of these issues.
Have we embraced, due to our frightened response to uncertainty and shifting culture, an angry “Ann Coulter Christianity” and made apostles of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity without recognizing they are simply entertainers and profiteers in America’s culture war? If so, we had better disembark the protest train before we are marginalized into complete irrelevance.
Now that we are a full decade into the third Christian millennium, it’s time to take stock of a movement that in Western culture isn’t moving forward much anymore. How then have American evangelicals come to be identified?
Largely by our protests and our politics. We are mostly known for what we are against and what political positions we hold. We have unwittingly allowed our movement to be defined in the negative and to be co-opted as a useful tool in the cynical world of partisan politics.”
I would say in answer to his comment about being “ marginalized into complete irrelevance.” that is may be too late for most situations where the church should be involved...the lives of people who do not yet know Jesus...we are irrelevant to many.  I hear all the time people quoting Limbaugh or Beck and assuming they speak for the Church in some way.  NO THEY DO NOT!  They are entertainers who would not be on the radio or TV if they did not have an audience to sell products to.  Earlier in the year Beck had a big rally in Washington with Christian artists performing and such and I heard people claiming it was one of the most spiritual events ever...and he is such a godly person...a Christian leader we could really get behind...speaking for us.  He is a Mormon...he says so...He is not a my life Mormonism has never been accepted as being Orthodox Christian and yet today we are now ready to close our eyes to scriptures and creeds and wave them in.  
Mitt Romney is a candidate for President and he also is a Mormon...and now there is debate on is he a Christian. Romney said at one time in an interview,”I am not a creedal Christian, I am Biblical Christian.” Really? Then why the Book of Mormon?? So God had to put an addendum onto the Bible...other people get angry looks when they say they have written more scripture... Joel Osteen and Pat Robertson say “sure he is”...others say “no he is not”.  Now I have to tell you I am on the “not” side here.  Does not mean I would not vote for him...but making him a Christian does not mean I will vote for either.  Rob Bell gets into all kinds of trouble for writing a book espousing the virtues of universalism...where everyone gets in because of the work of one misses out.  Well, here we go again...we are willing to ignore scripture to embrace a whole group of people...and this part makes me the most we can have a political candidate to vote for.  Or we can have successful talk show hosts on our side...PLEASE JESUS....COME QUICKLY!  
My personal feelings...these talk show host are mean...they call people names...they mock others who disagree...they become fear mongers trying to stir up fear and worry.  And they are ENTERTAINERS....nothing else but actors and talking heads.  I have tried, as a good evangelical follower of Jesus, to Limbaugh...Hannity...Beck...and I just cannot do it...sorry...just can’t.  Don’t find mocking others, asking questions then interrupting, scaring people, yelling, entertaining.  And they do not speak for me...they at times feel like bullies and I do not like bullies of any type.
So please Church wake up before it is too late.  Don’t sell out to the politicians around us. Don’t compromise a biblical standard to find a candidate you can endorse...if they support your values go for it...just don’t do what only Jesus can them.  
Now I have this dream or hope that Mormons could become followers of Jesus...they have a prophet that speaks to the whole group...if one of their prophets got revelation of who Jesus really is...and who Joseph Smith really was not...multitudes would come to knowledge of Christ...the religious group itself would split...but many would come to know Jesus as He truly is...the Son of God.  So I pray for them...for the Truth to be known... 
So there...hopefully not an angry rant...but a concern over the condition of the church in the’s people.  So as a regular guy who has turned 60  just this year and happens to be a leader...I have to speak out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

wonderings about my vineyard family

I think I am feeling a bit feisty today so I want to let my feelings be known on a couple of subjects.  Now I want to say this is my personal blog and the things I write here are my personal feelings...but really most of what I say I tell my church family.  But it is still my thoughts and my thoughts only.
So let me begin with this...I am part of and association of churches called Vineyard...we are kind of in denial about whether we are a denomination or not but...if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a is a duck!  As we connected with the Vineyard the leader, John Wimber, was still alive and giving leadership tot he movement...and it was a movement.  We were part of what was labeled the “Third Wave” movement in which the things of the Spirit were being embraced by more evangelical churches and people were not leaving their churches, just allowing the Spirit to have more freedom. (very simple explanation)  So we did not see ourselves as pentecostals or even charismatics just empowered people.  Two fellows in the Vineyard wrote a book titled “Empowered Evangelicals” to give a little more background on how we saw things in the church and the things of the Spirit.  
I can remember when we would get together it could get kind of crazy really....laughing, crying, jumping, falling all going on at the same time.  Us crazy Empowered Evangelicals...we are so much more civilized today...calm...accepted...loved. At one point the prophetic moved powerfully in and around us and now most of the prophetic voices have moved on to other families...places where they are accepted and not looked down at.  Todays modern prophetic movement could use some leadership I wonder if we did not miss out on what we could have had there if we would have stayed with it and gave them some care...hmmm...oh well. So let me tell you what I see now a days...we are no longer “Empowered Evangelicals” we are evangelicals...period.  Not a bad thing really...but we had so much more...and others have gladly ran with it while we choose to look more together.  My friend Roger from the Lutheran  Church asks me questions about the Vineyard and assumes we are a signs and wonder movement and I have to tell Him no not really...we are just a group I wonder about...not many signs.  We were birthed out of a power evangelism move and one where healing was out in front and even servant evangelism was spawned out of us and yet others have taken the banner of healing and evangelism and run with it while we point to our books about it and remind them we started it...we might not be doing it now...but once we did.  Even servant evangelism at its foundation was supposed to be immersed in the Holy Spirit looking for divine encounters as we passed out drinks or washed cars.  We were not just trying to be nice people, although that isn’t all bad, but we were empowered people serving those that Jesus loves.  Anyone can give away a coke but not everyone can give away  a coke and also have a prophetic word for the person that might unlock his heart and let God move.  
So we are now a group of churches where it used to be if someone visited from another Vineyard they would know they could expect passionate worship, helpful message and allowing time for the Spirit of God to move.  Now if they come to us they are expecting short worship time, funny videos, short message and to be home in under an hour or maybe 65 minutes.  So we worship long, allow God to speak, read lots of scripture and more ministry...and we may be there for 90 minutes or even longer! OH NO!!!! 
So what happened on the road to success? Well, maybe that is the problem...success...being accepted by the larger church family.  Having our books read and loved...being more seeker sensitive than Willow Creek...where did we go?  
We had a guy in a couple of weeks ago on a Sunday morning while I was out of town. Dave wanted Him in and I trust Dave so we went with it.  Now this guy was pretty much classic Pentecostal in his approach to the Holy Spirit and tongues...he was gifted as an evangelist more than a teacher so he offended a few.  But some were healed...some were filled with the Spirit and spoke in other tongues...yes tongues...I said it...and on a Sunday morning!  Some went out door to door doing evangelism man lead his neighbor to Christ after helping him work on his lawnmower and then helped the fellow pray to follow that does not happen every least around here. So when we got back home there were some questions that needed to be addressed and such...but that is like the old days in the Vineyard...let God move in someone...explain some stuff later...but enjoy the move of God.  Some of my friends may be more grown up than me and do not need the mess to clean up...cause it is about souls you know...souls being saved. Well after they are saved what do we tell them...hey there is this secret thing we did not want you to see before but now that you are look at this. I forgot to tell you this part of that Sunday...two people came to Christ that the midst of people being healed and being filled with the Spirit two souls were rescued...three if you count the lawn mower story.  Imagine that...God rescued people in the mix of all that commotion...imagine that. 
Now before this sounds just like a cranky old 60 year old let me say I see some signs of life in our family of churches.  There is a real dissatisfaction with where we are concerning the Holy Spirit...we have some young guys and gals wanting more and going for it. Sadly we also have a lot of young leaders who have never had any experience with a move of the Spirit...don’t really even know what I am talking about right now.  How did that happen...we have a ministry school...we have large churches...why don’t our young leaders know these things?  You tell me....God move among us now and forever...remind us of our heritage who you called us to be.  I am not looking back longing just for the old days...I am longing for the God of the old days...the todays...and the tomorrows.  He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow...come Holy Spirit.  Will write more tomorrow on my other thoughts....