Monday, June 27, 2011

Thoughtworks Curriculum - Working For You

Ancient-Future Church Year 1 - Quest for the Radical Middle

Because all theology is done in a context - it is really important for us to know our own context. That is exactly what this course is all about. Here Bill Jackson details the history of the Vineyard movement without glossing over the difficult bits. Case in point is the appendix on Lonnie Frisbee, aka that young man. Bill does the Vineyard a real service with this book.

One of the difficulties with any young movement is communicating exactly what makes us unique. Many have come to the Vineyard because of the great experiences they've had with Vineyard folks. Unfortunately, many of those people also come in expecting the Vineyard to be something other than it really is. I still get surprised looks when I describe the Vineyard as a conservative evangelical denomination. One of the beautiful things about the Vineyard has been its ability to bless a diverse segment of the Church - often without imposing our unique theological perspective on others. Really we've been good at helping the church experience the empowering presence of God's Spirit. I love that. But being blessed by the Vineyard and being Vineyard are not always synonymous.

Jackson delineates important Vineyard perspectives such as a center-set ecclesiology (idea of church) and an emphasis on the inaugurated-enacted reign of God. These things differentiate the Vineyard from its respected pentecostal and evangelical kin. Jackson also shows how this differentiation has played out in the Vineyard's brief history. I'm thinking of our short-lived relationship with the Kansas City prophets. A clearer articulation of the Vineyard's core understanding of Kingdom might have made that moment a bit less painful. In any event it was an opportunity for Vineyards to return to their theological center.

I have used Jackson's book as a basic text in teaching Vineyard history to leaders in training. It reads easily, presents a fair depiction of the Vineyard, and gives us the background each of us needs to understand our own relationship to the Vineyard family. I highly recommend that every Vineyard person read this book, regardless of if you do it as a Thoughtworks course. But if you are going to read it...

If I could recommend a companion to this book it would be Carol Wimber's John Wimber: The Way It Was.

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard, Ottawa.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Family and Stories

We recently had our annual Ontario Regional Vineyard Pastors Retreat. As always it is wonderful to see dear friends, pray and worship together, and just be refreshed. There are always some churches doing really well and others struggling along - this year my own congregation was amongst the strugglers. The format this year allowed each of our churches to share just where they are at - and to have the whole gathered community surround them in prayer. It was incredibly encouraging. I am struck by a few strengths of our region, I want to highlight them here.

Love

Did you ever have someone you respect embrace you and tell you honestly that they loved and appreciated you? The amazing thing is that I get that a lot from these Vineyard leaders. And I feel the love for them right back. The feeling of family is what brought me to the Vineyard, and it has been well warranted. This year I was able to bring my wife and a couple co-leaders, to see them also embraced as family is incredibly enriching. It isn't that these folks are interested in what we are doing, but they are interested in us as individuals. There is something God-like in love like that.

Diversity

The thing about family is that family is not about everyone being the same. Sometimes even I feel like quirky uncle Phil experimenting with what it means to be Vineyard in Ottawa. But wouldn't family without quirky uncle Phil be so boring? Regardless, I need to say that, despite my own flavour of Kingdom risk taking, I have never felt anything but support from this family. I really appreciate that each church is unique. Take it from someone who has pushed a few boundaries (and made more than a few mistakes) the willingness to not reign everyone into a box is amazing. The diversity that flourishes in this environment will ensure that we will continue to be a testimony to our great God for generations to come. I am so grateful for the opportunity to serve such a rich and diverse community of churches.

Faithfulness

You don't get this far by not being faithful. Not only are we genuinely committed to each other, this region is full of leaders who are committed to the long haul in the communities God has led them to. Year after year the same core group of leaders faithfully come and share. Sure there are new faces and a few that drop off, but there is a consistency. It is not all new every year. And what's better still, the new ones that arrive are brought in through the model of faithfulness already present in the group.

I want to end by echoing a proclamation God has made over our region: God is not done with the Vineyard in Ontario. I look forward to seeing God's plans unfold in our region and I couldn't dream of a better group of people to enter into that future with than the folks who lead our Vineyards.

Frank Emanuel, Freedom Vineyard (Ottawa)

Monday, June 13, 2011

New Feature - Now With Mobile Template

Now you can get your Regional Thoughtworks Blog fix on your mobile devices! Don't miss an article ever again.

If you have been inspired by any of our articles then why not consider adding one of your own. This is a blog for the region, by the region. Let's live out Ephesians 4:11-13.
So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (NIV)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Giving Away Your Best

I’ve been thinking about this Wimberism a lot lately. John taught us to give away our best. It is one of those sayings that can either be just a nice platitude or it can really shape everything you do. In retrospect I think it is something we’ve done intentionally and unintentionally in our years with the Vineyard. So I want to offer a few observations about giving away your best.

It hurts. I’ll start with the hard obvious one. We all love the stories of how we give away our savings or a worship leader only to have God turn around and give you something even better. I’ve certainly had quite a few of those experiences. But the bottom line is that you never give to get. And sometimes you don’t get something to replace what you’ve given away. That doesn’t mean you missed God, that means you gave away something really costly. When you get it back it didn’t cost you anything. But when you don’t get it back you can experience a whole different kind of blessing. The blessing of pain. And I am not being facetious, this is a blessing. I don’t think we’d treasure near as much the moments when God gives back if there was never moments when God just accepted our offering. And it becomes too easy to take for granted the gifts you have when they are disposable.

We’ve given up quite a few worship leaders over the years. I was listening to a CD from one of them today even. I wouldn’t give up the time they spent with us blessing us with the gift of heartfelt worship in song. But how much more do I value the gift we’ve given to the church in Ottawa through our obedience. The worship leader I was listening to today has been training worship leaders for another church in the city – he could never have done that if we weren’t willing to embrace the pain of giving him up. Giving away your best hurts.

Would you want to give God anything less? I really think that we need to have this perspective about giving away the best. When we give it is really as an offering to God. I’m reminded of Paul’s words to the church in Rome about what a reasonable act of worship is. Presenting ourselves as living sacrifices means there is no holding back. Whatever God wants is what we give. And anything less is really not an acceptable gift for so great a King. This needs to apply to everything about our lives. God calls us to what theologians call a cruciform life. That is a life shaped and marked by the selfless giving of God’s self through the cross. To be cruciform is to emulate this by offering ourselves fully and completely to God. I think Paul is right, this is the only reasonable act of worship.

Whose Kingdom is it anyway? This is really what it comes down to. We sometimes have this notion that the Kingdom of God is something we build. It isn’t. Sure we get to participate in what God is doing. But the Kingdom is all God’s. So we are really only ever giving what is God’s. It hurts because it is shaping us. It is true worship because it makes us into God’s cruciform people. We give away the best because, that is what the Kingdom looks like. The Kingdom is the selfless love of God made manifest. It can never look like our own selfish little kingdoms. It has to look like Jesus, through and through.