Something that stirs my heart more than most anything is reconciliation and acceptance within the Church. A few years ago, the Lord placed it on my heart that my job wouldn’t be done until the unification of the bride was complete. Funny thing about that is, well, the bride is supposed to come together when Jesus returns. Needless to say, I will be working hard to bring the Church together until the end of time.
That being said, Crestwood Vineyard is a part of the Vineyard Church Movement that started under the leadership of John Wimber in the 1970s. Today there are roughly 1,500 churches worldwide. Something the Vineyard chases after, in a beautifully challenging way, is the “Radical Middle.” The marriage of spirit and truth, or the evangelical church and the pentecostal. The challenge lies in valuing both sides of a spectrum people have died to protect. Being Vineyard is one beautiful mess.
When I was 14 years old, I was broken. Defeated. I had nothing, neither good nor bad to give. I was at the end of my rope, and honestly, there was no more me to be me. It was then that the Lord set up some opportunities for my path to be set straighter. He began to reveal himself to me, in a way where I began to recognize what it meant to follow Jesus. And it all started with an encounter at the Cincinnati Vineyard, now ten years ago. God called me out of the brokenness, spoke identity into my heart, picked me up, wiped me off, told me it wasn’t going to be easy, and said “if you make life about Me, your life will be complete.” That is how radical faith was instilled in me and why I seek Jesus first in everything I do.
Now, I tell you all of that because July 6-9th, 2015 were historic days in the life of the Vineyard. In Columbus, Ohio, a couple of hours from where I was initially called to pick up my cross and follow after Jesus, 4,000 leaders from 60 countries gathered as a representation of the Vineyard Global Movement, to worship, be encouraged, connect, and love God! It was a picture of heaven and Abba let me be there. Each nation brought with it tradition, language and a story of the faithfulness of Jesus from their own turf. The worship covered the expanses of the tribes, tongues and nations involved, singing songs in German, Swahili, Spanish, English, Nepalese, Portuguese, Native Indian and beyond.
Entering into worship the first day, my heart was overwhelmed and the tears poured down my face. Forming the words to worship was nearly impossible. It’s important to recognize how much I felt the Lord in that place. A paradigm was being restructured in my mind. 4,000 people of 60 tongues made me so undone in worship that all I could do was lift my heart to the Father and tell Him that I am is His. Imagine then how much more radical the choruses of heaven will be! How much more beautiful are the songs of a million tribes, tongues and nations. And that is just the sound radiating from the congregants, connecting to one of the mere senses we have in our finite body. Multiply it now by the radical being that stands before you. My heart comes to life picturing it in my own brokenness. That, my friends, will be every day, forever!Heaven is going to be awesome. Jesus knows what’s up!
Something the Vineyard does not lack is wonderful teachers. This conference helped solidify that. Rich Nathan taught on the traits of a leader, Dr. Derek Morphew, Costa Mitchell’s teaching on the Father’s heart and how to be a father, John and Eleanor Mumford, Martin Buehlmann, Phil and Janet Strout, and Dr. Charles Montgomery Jr. to name a few. It was a treat getting to hear such a wide perspective in such a respectful way. As one who doesn’t always desire to learn, there was a craving instilled by the teachings, an honest desire to love Jesus better and be more active in what He is doing in me.
On the last day of the conference, there was a worship lunch where worship leaders, directors, pastors and the like came together in the gym to fellowship. This is where the Lord impacted me the most. First let me set the scene. Circular tables sprawled out across the multi colored gym. The separating wall was half rolled up allowing for the whole basketball court to be utilized. Huddled around each table sat between 8 and 10 individuals, ranging in race, gender, age and nationality. Tales of successes, failures and intrigue bubbled out of their mouths and traced into the ears of whoever would listen. A small stack of speakers sat in front of the crowd, humming with anticipation, as a couple of individuals graced the microphone with a word or a joke. Laughter struck the room as David Ruis, one of the worship forefathers in the Vineyard movement, prepared to share a very impactful word. He shared a story about how John Wimber would never bless the ministries of individuals. “Jesus has a ministry, and you have a role in it! Would you like me to pray for that?” The reality of that statement hit me like a ton of bricks. In the grand scheme of things, I have nothing to offer outside of what Jesus has given me. The great commandment “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” came to mind as my heart was refocused on the real reason for everything.
Was it the most profound word shared? No. Was it the most put together at the conference? No. That is what attracted me to it even more. Our hearts can so often drift from the reality of what is truly important. The Triune God! Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We are nothing without the community of the Godhead. If there is a hill I want to stand and die on, in terms of its importance and impact for eternity, I choose Calvary.