We believe that the purpose of church, as summed up by John Wimber, the founder of the Vineyard movement, is the ‘Kingdom of God’, that is that church exists for the King, and for His Kingdom.
In a very familiar passage in Matthew 28, Jesus gave the Great Commission to his disciples, and ultimately to us. The first picture we see is that of the church seeing the risen Christ and worshipping him and hearing His words… ’I have been given all authority in the heavens and the earth’. This is the ‘for the King’ part. This is the King of the Kingdom, triumphant through His death and resurrection, and having been given by the Father, all authority over everything in the seen and unseen world. And this is the vision we must live and die for, to see and worship Jesus in all his Kingly power and authority, which means we are firstly for His pleasure. So our vision is to be a church ‘for the King’.
But secondly, we see the message of Jesus, the ‘go’ with the delegated authority of the King to ‘make disciples of all nations… baptising them… (and) teaching them… (knowing that He is)… with you always, to the very end of the age’. This is the ‘for the Kingdom part’. It has to do with evangelism and power encounter and integrating and training right on through to the end of the age. The church is ‘for His Kingdom’. In other words, the purpose of the church, as established and clarified in the Vineyard movement right back at the beginning, was for us to see the King in all His Kingly authority, and then go out with this vision of the King, and His Kingdom, to ‘do the stuff’ in the communities around us, and even to the ends of the earth, until the end of the age. And so our vision is to be a church ‘for the Kingdom’ as well. In this way, it’s a vision not so much for a church, but for a town, our town of Taunton, which is how God spoke to Simon and Rachelle in June 2012 at a cross sitting majestically on the edge of a cliff, approximately 900 metres above sea-level, high above the Andalucian countryside in southern Spain.
So to sum up, we phrase our vision like this – ‘Transforming Taunton with the love of Jesus’.
‘Transforming Taunton’… that’s the ‘for His Kingdom’ part; seeing Taunton changed for the better as we partner with Jesus in bringing his Kingdom, which we think works best in partnership with the wider church and with ‘spiritually-neutral’ organisations in our area. ‘With the love of Jesus’… that’s the ‘for the King’ part; seeing the King and what He’s done and ‘going out’ in the power of it to do the stuff.
For more on this, why not listen to our latest vision talk from October 2018 here
If we’re building a church ‘for the King and for His Kingdom’, then our values as a Vineyard church are what underpin not only everything we do, but how we do it, in order to see this happen.
We have 6 core values:
The value of the Bible
The value of Jesus and the Holy Spirit
The value of relationships (and through this the value of reality)
The value of the individual
The value of healing
The value of the Kingdom of God
The value of the Bible
This means we value a particular approach to Scripture that sits within the Conservative Evangelical tradition, and that is that all of Scripture is inspired by God, and is our authority for faith and for life. To us the Bible is not just a book of doctrines, it is alive with God’s presence and wisdom as we seek to prioritise it. We want to hear, know and experience God through His Word. We believe that the Bible has the best information on living life as God wants us to live it. But…we will only experience what it teaches when we apply it or practice it in our daily lives. So in our church it’s never about on a Sunday saying ‘that was a great preach’; but rather as Wimber used to say when people said that to him, ‘no, I’ve just given you the menu, now go and eat… the meat is on the streets’. And what he meant by that is we are not fed on the meat of the Word by doing mental gymnastics, or by attending the next conference, but by obeying it, by putting it in to practice. We do that by caring for the poor, by praying, by worshipping, by healing the sick, amongst other things. It’s no use knowing the truth if you don’t live it.
The value of Jesus and the Holy Spirit
This means we value the Headship of Christ and the Administration of the Holy Spirit. We give them their rightful place, and this is what places us within the Charismatic renewal. We’re ‘empowered evangelicals’, to coin a phrase first used by Rich Nathan. So we seek a thoroughly Trinitarian experience of God and church. We love the Father and seek His face by knowing Christ’s Headship and by being fully dependent on the Holy Spirit. We learn to love His Presence and worship His glory. We structure church in such a way that the more the Presence of God is not here, the more everything else collapses around us. And we have a healthy and fearful reverence for the Lord’s control and initiative in our church. We believe that church does not belong to the Senior Pastors, or even a group of elders or leaders but to Jesus. So, in turn, leaders who are chosen by God need to learn to hear His voice and be truly filled and led by his Holy Spirit. This doesn’t negate or undermine leadership, but rather it births it, empowers it, qualifies it, and determines it.
The value of relationships, and through this the value of reality
This means we value the primacy of building deep, open and honest relationships. At various times in various places, organisations and institutions have replaced relationships as the basic expression of the Kingdom, and the result is a subtle withdrawal from reality. We believe that relational Christianity is focused on reality – on real life, real struggles, real joys – because that is what life is all about. So we seek ways to build open and honest, and real relationships, and to keep things from escaping into spiritualism or religiosity. We avoid religious pretence – in our speech, our dress, our attitudes, our behaviour (by that I mean doing meaningless religion stuff). We also recognise that our person-hood is defined by community. We are defined as persons, in our individual identity and calling, through loving and trusting relationships. In other words, who I am and what I stand for is not commonly discovered by myself as my own private project or in isolation from others but through community. We seek to do everything therefore in a relational way – environment and structure, worship, Sundays, small groups – as opposed to ‘having meetings’.
The value of the individual
This actually means that we value the particular importance of grace and mercy, not the law when it comes to the way we treat others, not least ourselves. We avoid legalism, categorisation, performance, and we keep the main thing the main thing – that is the Gospel; that we are more broken than we could ever imagine, yet more loved than we could ever imagine. Therefore, the answer is never just to work harder, but see what Christ has done more clearly. So we work towards a clear understanding of the practice of grace and mercy in all that we do. We create an environment of grace towards others, and towards ourselves. What does that look like? Practically that often means comparing how an environment of legalism and religion versus an environment of grace might deal with certain common issues. So take the issue of salvation. In an environment of legalism it is by works, in an environment of grace it is by faith. What about the issue of motivation? In an environment of legalism it is by guilt, in an environment of grace it is out of gratitude. Growth? In an environment of legalism it is by performance, but in an environment of grace it comes by yielding. Operations? (how we do things) Legalism says by rules, grace says by freedom. Leadership? In an environment of legalism it is by control, but in an environment of grace by serving. What about achievement? In a legalistic environment it’s by manipulation, in a grace-filled one by being and acting responsibly. What about how we evaluate? (how do we measure success?). In an environment of legalism it’s by externals, but in an environment of grace it’s by inner reality and change. What about belonging? Legalism says it comes by conformity, grace says it comes by relationship. Identity? In an environment of legalism it’s by doing, but in an environment of grace it’s by being. Hopefully you get the picture! In summary, the attitude we seek to nurture is always one of mercy over judgement, because we operate out of the grace of God for our own brokenness and out of our own need for Him, and because of that we treat each other as unique individuals
The value of healing
This means we value the particular effect of an environment and practice of holistic (or whole-istic) healing. We believe that salvation and healing shouldn’t be separated. We believe in the shalom of God, the wholeness that Christ’s death and resurrection bring, spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, socially, economically, politically, even ecologically. This is what we mean by the kingdom coming in our church and in our town. Healing and restoration and redemption in all these areas. It’s all the result, we believe, of the life and work of Jesus Christ. We recover the value of whole-istic healing as a work of God’s full salvation for humanity, and in doing so we tap into the growing need and search for this whole-istic healing in the world around us today. We believe that healing, health and wholeness is God’s desire for everyone, whereas sickness, oppression, disease and death are expressions of evil. And yet healing is both an act and a process for us. We practice it! – by the laying on of hands, by ministry, by prayer for the sick, by working for the needs of the town, but we also, because it’s a process, create an environment of self-disclosure, of love, acceptance and forgiveness. We expect supernatural signs and wonders by exercising the gifts and power of the Holy Spirit, and we have a heart for a pain-filled world. We’re especially focused on evangelism and social concern
The value of the Kingdom of God
This means we value changing the world through a whole-istic approach to equipping the saints for ministry and mission. We believe in the primacy and essence of God’s rule and reign in the world, and we live for that cause – His cause to save the world. We believe in the now and the not yet, that the Kingdom can break in at any time. So we have a heart for mission, but not only that, for church planting too. One of the methods we believe is sanctioned and empowered by God to extend the Kingdom is church planting. That might be planting like-minded Vineyard churches or works, but also includes, again, a love for the whole church; a heart for the renewal of the whole church, and for working together. Wimber’s ‘whole church love’ meant that he forfeited an early opportunity to plant UK Vineyard churches in deference to the renewing influence of the Vineyard on the Anglican church. The very heritage of the Vineyard is this aspiration to place the larger Kingdom mission of God above the need to build and populate individual churches, which is why we often say our vision is for a town, not a church. It’s much bigger and wider than ourselves.
There is an intrinsic link between our values and our priorities – what we actually spend our time, energy and resources on. This is best explained diagrammatically (above)
We have 6 priorities:
So in our church our value of the Bible means that we actively seek to train and teach people in the Word, not just for Bible knowledge but for being formed by God’s Word in our worldviews, in our thinking, in our feelings, and in our acting. That’s our primary goal. So we prioritise the Word in gatherings, sometimes in a expository way where we can systematically preach through a book or a passage which we believe takes account of the original context and intention, and sometimes in a topical way. Whichever way, we believe all preaching and teaching is to be relevant, non-technical, life-related, with specific application.
Our value of the Headship of Christ and the Administration of the Holy Spirit means that in our church we prioritise worship. This is interesting, because when we think of the Holy Spirit and His Administration in the Vineyard we automatically place that in the context of the Kingdom now, and His gifts in operation. That’s great, and we want that, but actually, a value of the Headship of Jesus and the Administration of the Holy Spirit leads us first to a priority of worship…worship as a non-negotiable Trinitarian priority, a priority to the giving and receiving of love to and from God, because worship gives tangible expression to the value of Jesus’ Headship and the Holy Spirit’s Administration. What that worship then looks like, goes deeper still into our practices…the how we do what we do, and why, which in turn links back to our values.
Our value of relationships means that in our church we prioritise fellowship, actually doing relationships, operating relationally, and sharing a common life. First and foremost, this means small groups are central…getting in one and structuring them in such a way that they allow time to build relationship, to share openly with one another, to minister to one another in an environment of loving acceptance and forgiveness. But on a wider scale, this also means that we prioritise the building of relationships with the wider church. Building Vineyard values and being an integral part of the wider of the church are not mutually exclusive. Deep within this value of relationships is the Vineyard desire to be a blessing to the wider body of Christ, but even more than that. In our opinion, our church, how we do things, and what we think, in fact ideally places us to not only bless the wider body, but to be a catalyst for the unity of the wider church. Why? Because we hold what is known as the ‘radical middle’ when it comes to the spectrum of churches. We hold, in Vineyard, tensions between various things that mean we can just as easily relate to the more traditional, conservative churches, than we can with the more extreme charismatic churches. Here’s some of the tensions we hold which place us in the middle…Word yet work, reverent yet casual, spiritual yet non-religious, intentional yet spontaneous. It is our belief that God has birthed the Vineyard to be champions of the whole church and given us the theology and the practice we so dearly love to help us to do it!
Our value of the individual means that in our church again we prioritise fellowship. But also it means that we prioritise ministry…to the poor, to the sick, to the lost. It all comes from our value of the individual and our environment of grace. We also operate church from a centred-set model – everyone on a journey to the centre in one way or another, where Christ can be found – rather than a bounded-set model – where our rules and beliefs are what form our community. In this way, we hope, it’s easy to belong.
Our value of healing means that in our church we again prioritise ministry to each other, to the sick, to the poor, to the lost, but also it means that we prioritise training. Training gives visible expression to the underlying value of healing. We’re committed to equipping the saints for the works of ministry; and we use the show and tell method. We model it, and in different contexts. We believe that everybody gets to play!
And our value of the Kingdom of God means that in our church again we prioritise training, but also it means that we prioritise sending. Sending God’s people in all sorts of ways…to plant churches, and in other mission collectively. And not just people, but money and time and resources. It’s giving away our best for the building of His Kingdom and the glory of His Name.
The church year
We press into this seeing this vision worked out, seeing these values worked in, and seeing these priorities remain priorities, through normal church life which we structure around three terms, and which guide our teaching focus, small group activity, and other things highlighted in the life of the church
Autumn – Building Authentic Community (the IN)
Spring – Strengthening Relationship with God (the UP)
Summer – Engaging, Shaping and Transforming Culture (the OUT)