Wednesday, December 29, 2004

People! Primary Sources, Please!

A recent conversation between Wendy & a neighbour on our street:
The neighbour begins, "Oh, you've been involved in the Vineyard, eh? Wow, there are some serious problems with the Vineyard. I can't believe you'd get taken in by them." She goes on to recount the various false teachings and abberant practices of the Vineyard that disturb her.

Wendy, my beautiful and sagacious spouse, responds, "Holy dis-information, Batman! Where did you get such twisted opinions? The Vineyard doesn't teach or practice any of those things."

Wendy suddenly finds herself on the receiving end of a look that is simultaneously pitying, condescending, and suspicious. "Wendy, you're just so wrong. I read all about the problems with the Vineyard on the Internet..."
On the Internet? You actually believe whatever you read on the Internet?!?

Hello, Gullible's Travels...

It reminds me of something I read in Bill Jackson's "Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard":
"In August of 1986, Christianity Today appeared with a weird caricature of Wimber on the cover and a lead article by Tim Stafford entitled 'Testing the Wine from John Wimber's Vineyard'." (page 152)
I've realized, after all these years, that many of the people who have problems with the Vineyard are reacting to a caricature of the Vineyard, not the Vineyard as it really is. Some authors (like John MacArthur) have written books that claim the Vineyard had no doctrinal statement, which is a lie. But nobody realizes it because, like good cessationist lemmings, they never read anything written by the Vineyard, they only read attacks on the Vineyard from "trusted" leaders (meaning leaders who already agree with them).

My history teacher in high school almost pulled his hair out at times over some of the unfounded opinions which students would offer as "fact". He was ranting before ranting became a spectator event online:
"Primary sources, people! Primary sources!" he would insist, obviously spiking his blood pressure to dangerous levels in his passion. "Don't read what others say about history, read what those who were there wrote!"
I could echo the same thing to critics of the Vineyard, like our neighbour: "Primary sources, people! Primary sources! Read Power Evangelism by John Wimber or Quest for the Radical Middle by Bill Jackson. If you have a problem with what they've written, then let's talk about that. Don't believe everything you read on the 'Net!"

I don't mind if people don't agree or aren't comfortable with everything in the Vineyard, but please, let's get our facts straight, okay?

Okay, Robby, you can relax now. Breathe, breathe...

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Vineyard Pastors Conference 1993

The first time I ever went to a Vineyard Pastors Conference, John Wimber gave the following fatherly analogy to us, which I think would be the words I would say -- if anyone were to ask -- to those who are beginning to deal with critiques (both fair and unfair) about the emerging church. (This isn't a transcription from anywhere, it's just my memory of the event, so any errors in communication are totally mine.)

Sitting in an armchair, as his recent health difficulties had made it difficult to stand while he spoke, John told us, "I feel like a father, sending my kids off to play football in the local schoolyard."

"I tell my kids, Listen -- some of the kids you're going to play with are going to play by the rules, and respect you and watch out for you. And other kids -- well, they're NOT going to do that -- they'll cheat, lie, give you cheap shots, and then blame you. But no matter how they treat you, you play nice."

Leaning forward in his armchair, John admonished us, "Some pastors and churches will play by the rules. Some won't. Some pastors and churches will honour and respect you. Some won't. Some pastors will speak well of you and join you in ministry. Some won't. They'll misrepresent you, lie about you, talk about you behind your back, and falsely accuse you of all kinds of things."

Of all the things I've heard or read from John Wimber, this is the nugget that I remember the most.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Hired Guns

"I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep." (John 10:11-13)
Recently, I've come across a couple of large churches who, because they say they "value excellence", hire worship leaders from other churches (or who aren't part of a faith community anywhere) to come and lead the congregational worship.

Not surprisingly, these worship-leaders-for-hire don't become part of the community of the church, even on a home group level; they only come to services when they're paid to, and remain aloof or absent from all aspects of the church's life the rest of the time. They are simply hired guns.

They do nothing to develop younger worship leaders or musicians, they simply get the best musicians they can find, and exclusively use them. Nothing is ever done to train, encourage, and develop younger or less skilled players -- they are either of no use to the church, or they have to hone their skills somewhere else and come back "when they're excellent".

The ethos that this must set for the congregations at these churches is staggering in its implications. It also reveals a lot about the church leaders who hired these mercenary musicians.

I don't think it's too far of a stretch to apply John 10:11-13 to these hired guns. They don't care for the flock. They have nothing invested in community. They leave when they get a better offer, when hard times hit, or when they get bored.

At the same time, I also value excellence -- excellence in character, excellence in humility, excellence in relationships, excellence in honesty and integrity, and excellence in broken-ness.

That's the kind of worship leader that can be safely trusted with the flock.