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.