In recent years, there has been an ever-increasing buzz amongst pastors and church leaders surrounding the discovery of creative, new ways to “grow a church” in this ever-changing society where many are checking out of church life (some call these folks “the dones”) at an alarming rate. Phrases like missional church, organic church, and simple church abound, yet when it’s all said and done, most new pursuits in “doing church” have at their core, the nagging need to produce success in what we call the 3-B’s: (B)uildings, (B)ucks, and (B)utts in the seats!
Let’s face it. These 3-B’s grab for our attention on a regular basis, and for most pastors and church leaders, our “success” or “failure” in ministry rises or falls in the measurement of these three attention-getters. And yes, there are those in our midst who are overcoming the odds and finding ways to build bigger and better churches, but sadly, in most regions across the Vineyard family today, there are more shrinking churches than growing ones.
In 2008, Vineyard pastor Bill Faris was experiencing the hardships that many pastors are living with today. His church in Orange County, California was meeting in a traditional setting in a modest, but increasingly expensive facility, with a very slow-growing congregation. Meeting the annual budget was placing a great deal of stress on both Bill and his congregation.
These realities moved Bill to ask some new questions. “If I didn’t do what I’ve always done (as a pastor) what would I do?” Immediately he imagined a Vineyard-affiliated network of house churches. He began to research what had been done already in the Vineyard in this regard as well as what was happening with house churches around the country. Eventually, Bill led the church into a major transition from a traditional “destination campus” church to a house church modality. With the blessing of his Vineyard Regional Overseer, Bill helped another local church take over the lease on the building they had been renting and began what became known as Vineyard at Home with a mission to “empower everyday people to take the ministry of Jesus to everyday places”.
Vineyard-at-Home in Orange County* has now become the first in what many believe to be a growing network of Vineyard-at-Home house churches around North America. These churches are holding tight to Vineyard values, relationships, and missional calling while, in their own ways, “taking the church back home”.
In 2015, our Vineyard church in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (planted in 1998 as a traditional Vineyard church plant) was forced out of our facility due to shrinking attendance and increasing facility costs. At the time, I knew our congregation had one of two options: 1) close the doors and the church itself, or 2) transition into a new way of doing church outside the high costs of using a rented or purchased facility.
After much prayer, we sensed the direction of the Lord to unite with our friend, Bill Faris, and use his model of Vineyard-at-Home, adapting it for our community here in the Heartland. We’re now a year into this transition, and we’re finding a much greater freedom to be the church we originally envisioned back in 1998! The group is indeed smaller than when we were in a building, but I believe our folks are much stronger disciples today than even a year ago. As I see it, Vineyard-at-Home in Cedar Rapids is better equipped to help men, women, and children to follow Jesus more closely, embrace others more dearly, and go out into our world, on mission with the Kingdom of God.
Founding leader, John Wimber, used to tell us in the Vineyard that our churches were called to do an ancient thing in a contemporary way. In a very real sense, Vineyard-at-Home is becoming one of those unique ways Jesus seems to be directing His church in these ever-changing times. As a result, founding pastor, Bill Faris and a handful of other brave church-planting pioneers are now moving forward with…
The Vineyard-at-Home Church Network
The Vineyard-at-Home Church Network is a growing group of churches offering encouragement, community, and resources to Vineyard pastors and church leaders who are transitioning church life from the traditional “church-in-a-building” model to a “church-in-a-home” expression. We believe, that in these changing times, as more and more people are “done” with traditional church settings (i.e. meeting in buildings and programming standardized ministry), it’s necessary to seek different expressions of doing church without sacrificing both biblically-sound and historically-consistent traditions that make the Church of Jesus Christ the Church. It is important to understand that Vineyard at Home is not “big church done smaller”. It is a fresh and new way for believers to relate, engage, grow, and activate their discipleship and their mission.
In the Vineyard-at-Home Church Network, not only has our meeting place changed, but more importantly, we believe that it’s important for us to re-define certain “church” words like Church-life, Community, Discipleship, Mission. Leadership, and the Role of the Pastoral Shepherd. Join us as we, together, explore new ideas in church-life while holding tightly to Jesus of Nazareth and His advancing Kingdom.
So what’s important to the Vineyard-at-Home Church Network?
WE WANT TO EXPLORE new models in Church-life, with John Wimber’s Vineyard Values (1991) at the core of our ministry.
- Clear, accurate biblical teaching. (…using tools like Lectio Divina, etc.)
- Contemporary worship in the freedom of the Spirit.
- The gifts of the Spirit in operation.
- An active small group ministry. (…small groups are the church!)
- Ministry to the poor, widows, orphans, and those who are broken.
- Physical healing with special emphasis on signs and wonders as seen in the Book of Acts.
- A commitment to missions: church planting at home and world missions abroad.
- Unity within the whole body of Christ, a relationship with other local churches.
- Evangelistic outreach.
- Equipping the saints in areas such as discipleship, ministry, serving, giving, finances, family, etc.
WE WANT TO EXPLORE new models in Community, focusing on interactive small-group experiences which are best accomplished in a home-based setting. We want an environment where “everyone can play,” with less preaching/teaching and telling/selling, but more asking of great questions and deeper listening to one another.
WE WANT TO EXPLORE new models in Discipleship, using the ancient tools of spiritual direction and soul-care for our journey together in Christ! We want to lead the charge in moving disciples of Jesus from sitting comfortably in a church building to becoming Christ-centered contemplative activists.
WE WANT TO EXPLORE new models in Mission, encouraging grassroots “the road is our home,” Jesuit-style mission instead of simply programming ministries of outreach.
WE WANT TO EXPLORE new models in Leadership, developing leaders who are true spiritual directors, facilitating ministry instead of leading programs. We want to move away from the 3-B’s, where success is measured in (B)uildings, (B)ucks, and (B)utts in the seats, to the ministry model we call the 3-C’s; where the Christ-centered life follows a well-ordered balance of (C)ommunion with God, (C)ommunity with one another, and (C)ommission for the cause of Christ.
WE WANT TO EXPLORE new models in the Role of the Pastoral Shepherd, using many of the concepts found in Eugene Peterson’s classic book: The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction. It’s our conviction that many pastors need to jettison our corporate approach to ministry found in today’s Americanized church, and become trained and equipped in the ancient art of Christ-centered spiritual direction, becoming true pastoral shepherds with hearts and ministries focused on the care (or cure) of souls. We love the way Peterson describes this transformation…
A reformation may be in process in the way pastors do their work. It may turn out to be as significant as the theological reformation of the sixteenth century. I hope so. The signs are accumulating. The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated themselves in every generation. Discovering the meaning of Scripture, developing a life of prayer, guiding growth into maturity. This is the pastoral work that is historically termed the cure of souls. The primary sense of “cura” in Latin is “care,” with undertones of “cure.” The soul is the essence of the human personality. The cure of souls, then, is the Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane. It is a determination to work at the center, to concentrate on the essential. Eugene Peterson, The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to the Art of Spiritual Direction (1989).
Check out the websites of Vineyard-at-Home around North America:
Vineyard-at-Home in Orange County, California, USA
We invite you to join us in our pursuit of this reformation in church life. Who knows, maybe the Master is calling you and your church to transition into the next Vineyard-at-Home? Or quite possibly, you’re praying about starting a new congregation of believers and are looking at new ways to do these ancient things! Drop us an email, we’d love to hear your story and find out more!
*To learn more about the transition Bill Faris and his church underwent we invite you to get a copy of his quick read book: Homegrown: Our First Steps in Bringing the Church Back Home. It is available directly from Lulu.com or through Amazon.