Growing up in the Vineyard Movement, I have these phrases and expressions etched into my mind. To be honest, these expressions are so second nature to me that I didn’t know that they were uniquely Vineyard. I have had to explain some of them to non-Vineyard people. But what struck me was that some within the Vineyard Movement itself do not know what these expressions are let alone what they mean. This somewhat prompted me to write on these Vineyard idioms. From “naturally supernatural” to “come, Holy Spirit,” these Vineyard-isms are the core of not only what the Vineyard does but what the Vineyard believes. John Wimber was an authentic, charismatic leader. He led the Vineyard up until his death in 1997, and he was more concerned with the practice more so than with the theology. This is not to say that Wimber did not value orthodox (or traditional) Christian theology. But when thinking through topics and theology became a stumbling block to participating in the Kingdom of God, Wimber would argue for a simpler understanding of living out the Christian life.
I think that the crux of Wimber’s practical theology was this famous expression, “The meat is in the streets.”
This is to say that for John Wimber, the church found its mission, its identity, and its purpose in not what it does inside the church doors. The mission of the church is to be one outwardly focused.
Darrell Guder, a professor emeritus at Princeton Theological Seminary, describes the church as the gathered, built up, and sent community. It is in the sending out, the ekk of the ekklesia, where the church truly begins to be what God intended it to be.
If the church ceases to be missional, if the church only looks inward, and if the church fails to recognize the other, it is no longer the church. It might be a religious institution, but historically, it is not a church. Because mission belongs to the essence of the church (Bosch 504). It is not simply an activity, something relegated to one Saturday a month, but it is who the church is.
Karl Barth calls mission as an activity of God himself. The mission of God, missio Dei, was that God the Father sent the Son who both sent the Spirit: this movement then included the Triune God sending the church out into the world. The church has always been one created and sent by God. It is not a human creation, but it is an extension of grace from God. The God who sent his Son gave instructions to his disciples to “go out and make disciples” (Matthew 28:16-20). So we have to go out.
To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love towards people since God is a fountain of sending love (Bosch, 400). The movement that we participate in, i.e. the Christian walk, is not to puff us up. Christianity isn’t about making us into better versions of ourselves. We are not saved from the world in some kind of escapist, this world sucks kind of way. We are saved by God for the world. God is in the act of redeeming the world. Constantly. Over and over. The biblical canon can attest to this.
We are called to be witnesses.
We are called to be partners with Christ in the ongoing redemption of the world.
We are called to preach the good news to all people.
Sure, it is great if the church has killer worship, solid preaching, and strong small groups. I think these things are wonderful, and I am not asking for them to go away. They are vital for a healthy church. But God calls the church to not only exist for itself but for others. We have been blessed to be a blessing. If we hoard the gifts that God has given us freely to ourselves, we fail in being the church.
We evangelize. We proclaim and demonstrate. We proclaim that God saves, and then we demonstrate to the world that he does. If we think that God is only interested in being involved on Sunday mornings at local churches, we might have a problem. If we think that God is only concerned with our wants and needs, we might have a problem. If we think that God is only our God…
The church should not withhold the gospel truth from anyone.
There are millions of people in need of hearing the good news of a God for them. They need to hear that God loves them. They are tired of hearing the thundering “no” that the church keeps yelling at them. They need to hear that God is actively seeking them out, saying “yes” to them.
The meat is in the streets because the church’s identity is found not only in what it believes but what it does.
Bosch, David J. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2014.
Nathan, Rich and Insoo Kim. Both-And: Living the Christ-Centered Life in an Either-Or World. Downers Grove, Il: IVP Books, 2013.