So, how do you know if you're Vineyard? We used to use the phrase "Vineyard DNA" to refer to the core value system that establishes what Vineyard stands for. I think in order to answer the question I will highlight a few of the things that I saw as I came into the Vineyard almost 15 years ago that set Vineyard apart from other denominations or churches. This is not saying Vineyard is superior to these churches or that they have more truth... just that these are some of the values that make Vineyard unique... their DNA.
- The first thing that comes to mind when I say "Vineyard" is their focus on worship... not just music but a genuine desire to "touch the face of God" through intimate encounters with Him by the Holy Spirit. Although worship is certainly valued at most churches in all denominations there was something unique about the way Vineyard emphasized worship... and their music was more modern and exciting than even the contemporary stuff I was hearing elsewhere. Vineyard calls this being "Culturally Current", doing ministry in a way that is consistent with the culture we're in, and it is primarily evidenced in their music and worship styles. It was the first thing that I noticed about the church and the thing that drew me initially.
- The focus on seeing genuine, powerful moves of God was definitely unique. I had been in many churches that talked about power and a few demonstrated some evidence of the Gifts of the Spirit operating, but I saw more real miracles and healings in my first few weeks at Vineyard than all the rest of my experience combined. Along the same line... Vineyard taught that this was a normal expression of Christian life... that it wasn't for the super-holy but for you and me... "These signs will follow those who believe..." Mark 16. This radical idea was instrumental in changing the course and focus of my life.
- Tied to this demonstration of power was an emphasis on personal evangelism. Now certainly Vineyard is not at all unique here... but they added a new perspective for me. John Wimber's book "Power Evangelism" offered the concept that the Power of God... the gifts of the Spirit were primarily given for the growth of the church through evangelism. Suddenly all of the power had a purpose beyond my own health and wealth.
- "Naturally Supernatural" is probably my favorite spiritual concept I learned through Vineyard. The value of authenticity... I was tired of the contrived, manipulated "moves of God" I had experienced in the past. I actually left ministry at one point because of the total disconnect with reality I sensed in much of the "ministry" I had seen. Vineyard was the most serious movement I had ever seen at trying to avoid a hyped, platform-oriented display of God's power. In fact, it seemed most of the healings, "signs and wonders" were occurring in home groups and individual settings rather than being performed by one person. I found in this an opportunity to allow God to use me without having to draw attention to myself or without having to be terribly weird... as if telling someone God wants to heal them isn't weird enough.
- In Vineyard I found an awareness of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Suddenly the Holy Spirit wasn't an "it" but was a person walking with us. Ministry and prayers were dotted with phrases like "Come, Holy Spirit" and the sense of Him being right beside us, even inside us was tangible. Church wasn't about going and hearing, it became about coming and experiencing... I had an expectation of having an encounter with God whenever we got together.
- The teaching was powerful with a focus on the Kingdom of God that gave me a foundation for all that I was experiencing. The theology of the Kingdom explained many of the questions I had carried for years... why isn't everyone healed?... why doesn't God speak today?. There was a serious emphasis on the Word of God, again, not unique to Vineyard, but the combination of teaching and experiencing made church more like a college lab... learn then do.
- There was an expectation that God would speak. I had never seen "personal prophecy" before. What I thought of as prophecy was somebody in a church service speaking a "thus saith the Lord" message using King James english that was usually generic and uplifting. But in Vineyard I found people who would speak to very specific things with amazing insight and accuracy. Although of everything in Vineyard in my early days this single thing made me the most uncomfortable I always marvelled at it and grew to love and appreciate the fact that God speaks through his people.
- And finally, there was an overriding sense of purpose... training to send. Vineyard calls it "Recruit, Train, Deploy". We are all in boot camp learning what we need in order to get fully employed in the battle. The vision for planting churches at home and abroad is derived from this vision.
This is by no means everything and there are places to go read more about the formal doctrinal distinctions, and I recommend doing so, but these are the areas that most impacted me. The things I listed are certainly all still true and relevant in varying degrees and still drive who we are and what we strive to be.
Hopefully you can see the things I highlighted and you'll be able to say of yourself with certainty, "I'm Vineyard!"