We had breakfast with some friends at the hotel, and then made our way to the church for the last day of our conference. John & Marie Barnett, along with Steve Jones led us in worship.
After some announcements Dave Workman was introduced. Dave has been the senior pastor of the famous Cincy Vineyard for a number of years now. I guess Dave was with Steve Sjogren as a worship pastor, eventually taking the helm of this great outreach focused church. To be honest with you, I kind of thought,”Oh, man. here we go. How to be a mega-church by handing out water on the street corner.” I’ve done it, and we never got to be a mega-church! But I was pleasantly surprised, and somewhat rebuked (by the Spirit), for my less than stellar expectations.
We were asked, “What’s the invitational factor at our churches?” Dave explained, (1) we need to create a safe place for people to hear the dangerous message of Jesus. (2) You’ll have an eternity to “get your praise on,” but only one life to reach others for Christ…which I have heard him, or someone else say before. He also talked about practical stuff that many, if not all of us, have heard before, i.e. do we have signage saying the coffee is free? Our hospitality should scream that we love strangers.
He then asked us if we expressed the Kingdom outside of our church. He showed some humorous video clips, and a bumper sticker that played off of the old WWJD…”WWJD? He’d tip you freakin’ cheapskate!” Personally, I loved that sticker because we give out what we call, “Waiter Survival Kits.” They have breath mints, a lighter, an ink pen, & a bottle of water. That sticker would be great to put in there as well! I’m going to work on that one!
He showed us scratch-off tickets that revealed what you could do that day to serve someone (they give these out to their church members).
He showed a video of a $1.00 Car Wash. When the people started to give their 1$ for the wash…instead, the washers gave THEM a dollar!! I loved it! How awesome is that?
Dave said he doesn’t care about the “big show” anymore, only making church a safe place, an accepting and hospitable place for the unreached.
He showed a video of their Good Sam Ministry to the homeless. Seems the homeless they minister to recently turned the serving on them. When the Vineyard’s team showed up to minister to the homeless, the homeless had prepared to wash the team’s feet, and anoint them with oil! I can’t even imagine what that did to those volunteers. Amazing!
He shared on their “Open Journey” bible study process and made it all available to us by going to a selected web site and downloading it all for free.
He asked, “Do we need different nets?” Maybe the reason we are not catching a lot of “fish” is that we are using the wrong nets. They have opened a Healing Center, 40,000 square feet of building to help minister to the community. It is operated by volunteers! Dave said, “Innovate or borrow ideas from others!” He talked about starting “micro-churches” where they watch a video of the weekend sermon, and talk about it.
There was much more, but the most touching thing he shared with us was “The Prom.” This was an event for those rejects, unpopular, maybe even mentally challenged kids who never get asked to go to the prom in their normal High Schools. Tony Compolo shared this idea many years ago when a Lutheran youth pastor fed up with the pomp and circumstance of regular proms that excluded the not-so-beautiful had a “Reject Prom.” It became more popular than the regular prom.
Seems at Dave’s church, a young lady went through a very difficult time, and came up with the idea. The church had 1,200 dresses and suits donated. That way no one was without some proper apparel, and it was free! They called it an “Evening With The Stars.” They had a red carpet, interviews, and I have to say, I could have cried a river if I had let myself go. It was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen a church do. They had planned for 600, but had 800 show up! The church had 1,000 volunteers help pull this off.
What can you say to something like that? You can be critical about the size of mega-churches, but it took resources to pull this off, and they had it to do it…so, I say God bless the Cincy Vineyard and all of its thousands of people. You guys are awesome! Keep it up!
There was ministry time, and everyone went to lunch with their heads and hearts full!
The workshops were held in the afternoon, we grabbed dinner and went back for the last session.
Our old friend Casey Corum, Anabeth Morgan, and Matt Turrigiano led worship. That’s the first time I’ve seen Casey play keyboards…way to go, dude! Sweet!
Then Bert and Evelyn took the stage to many rounds of applause from a very grateful group. I think Bert has done an outstanding job. I have watched him navigate many a minefield theologically. He’s a warm man, a friendly man, and I will forever be grateful to him for his leadership, and the example he gave of how to carry yourself as a leader. Here’s to a job well done, Bert & Evelyn!
Bert said he kind of felt like the guy in the “Life of Brian,” and then they played the clip where the bodies were being thrown on the wagon, and one guy exclaims,”Wait a minute…I’m not dead yet!” Bert spoke eloquently, as always, about the bittersweet taste of leaving the helm of our tribe next year. He does feel like he has accomplished what God called him to. I agree! He’s not retiring (amen!), just stepping down as national director. He’ll be around the Vineyard. He gave us statistics: 115,576 are reported as having been saved during the past 10-years. We have 157,000 members in Vineyard churches. He then asked, “What kind of leadership do we need in the Vineyard to reach the unreached?”
Bert read from Micah 6 and Amos 5. In Micah 6:6-7 he said we need leadership that will (1) do justice (2) love kindness (3) and walk humbly with our God. He then preached us a sermon that was challenging, rebuking, and encouraging. As ministers we are in a high-risk vocation. We need to be careful.
He said we have entered some rough waters theologically, and the TCD is going to be tough (Theological Cognitive Dissonance).
We all felt the challenge. It was with some regret that I made my recommendation days later for national director. I thought Bert did a wonderful job, and would have loved for him to lead another 5-years. But vote I did, and we will see how the powers-that-be interpret the little voices from all over this nation.
In closing this long blog, I want to say, I am so very grateful to God for the Vineyard. In it I have found friends, dear friends. In it I have been challenged, and probably learned more theologically than all of the years prior to coming into the Vineyard. We are certainly not perfect. We disagree, fuss, make mistakes, you name it…but we love Jesus, we love his church, and we want to see the kingdom come to the unreached so they too can know what we know – our Savior. God help us as we enter this next, new, and important phase if our history. Amen.
Thanks for sharing your observations, reflections and heart about how the national conference went, who spoke, what the Spirit was saying, etc.
I appreciate it!
You are very welcome, Karl! It was a great time. I love our “tribe!”