Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Getting Familiar with the Vineyard

When I came aboard ThoughtWorks I shared a concern that churches in our movement need to get back to our roots. The reality of being a young movement adopting great people from many different streams of evangelicalism means that many of our churches came from quite different roots. What we all have in common is that we've seen something in the Vineyard that inspires us to cry out for more of God. We might say that what they saw was the Kingdom, but a more helpful answer is that we saw what happens when a group of people commit to the vision of God's Kingdom presented in our Kingdom theology. It is this theological basis that makes us different than other Pentecostal and Charismatic movements. The way that this theology framed our practice really made it easy for evangelicals, of many different stripes, to embrace a more Spirit orientated faith. Even though there was a great felt kinship, the reality was that many of our churches did not address the growing theological disparity in our movement - and as a result we all end up longing for the Kingdom but going about walking out our desires for the Kingdom in different ways, ways that sometimes take us away from what the Vineyard was and is all about. In order to meet this need the ThoughtWorks team has included several modules in our curriculum that provide an adequate introduction to the theology and ethos that produced the Vineyard. If you are looking for a set of Vineyard basics, these courses are a great place to start.

God Thoughts Year 1 - Naturally Supernatural

Using Gary Best's great little book on the subject, this book gives you fundamental insights into the practical outworking of the Vineyard's Kingdom theology. Best of all, in the assignment you are asked to put the insights from this book into practice.

God Thoughts Year 2 - Breakthrough

Using Derek Morphew's introductory theological text this book provides the Biblical and theological foundations for the Kingdom theology that Gary Best writes about in Naturally Supernatural. This theology is the biggest difference between Vineyard theology and other Pentecostal/Charismatic theologies. Our emphasis is not on God restoring something lost or fulfilling covenant, rather it is about the eschatological reality that broke into history through Jesus and continues to show up in our midst. Morphew does a great job of identifying this theme through both Testaments and tracing out implications for Kingdom living.

Biblical Foundations Year 3 - Nothingsgonnastopit

Bill Jackson provides an engaging biblical survey through the hermeneutic (fancy word for interpretive) lens of Kingdom. Nothingsgonnastopit is available as a book or DVD set.

Kingdom Encounters Year 3 - Doing Healing

Alex Venter is one of my favourite writers on how Kingdom theology works out in practical action. Doing Healing explores the way that the Vineyard approaches healing prayer. Again, this is an area where theological differences are important. In many covenant approaches a failure to see healing is usually attributed to a lack of faith or hidden sin, but in a Kingdom theology framework it is more often attributed to the tension of the now and not yet that we live in as we await the return of Christ. It frees us to pray with expectation but without condemnation when we do not see healing. It also provides a framework for everyone to participate, because healing is not dependent on our actions but on God's inbreaking.

Ancient Future Church Year 1 - Quest for the Radical Middle

Rounding out these courses is Bill Jackson's wonderful history of the Vineyard. It is important that we remember where we came from so that we do not lose sight of the course we are called to pursue. I love, in particular, Todd Hunter's AVC USA address "The Church that I Would Build: The 21st Century Vineyard..." which is a call to all the Vineyard can be as a unique contribution to the Church for the sake of the world God so loves.

These five courses are a helpful starting place for anyone wanting to know more about who we are as a movement. You can find them and all our curriculum at the ThoughtWorks website.

Frank Emanuel - National ThoughtWorks Chairperson

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