I love listening to worship music. Those who know me know that I primarily listen to worship music (with the occasional Bieber, but hey, the kid’s a Christian, right?!). A couple of years ago, God convicted me because I listened to rap more than I listened to worship. I know that’s a weird thing to be convicted of, but I know that God told me to stop listening to it. So for the past few years, I’ve strictly listened to worship music. I like to listen to everything from Will Reagan to old Winds of Worship albums. I’ve found that since I’ve started this “fast” or “cleanse,” I’ve grown in my relationship with the Lord. I guess there’s a correlation between worship and relationship?
Richard Foster in Celebration of Discipline writes, “To worship is to experience Reality, to touch Life. It is to know, to feel, to experience the resurrected Christ in the midst of the gathered community. It is a breaking into the Shekinah of God, or better yet, being invaded by the Shekinah of God.”
The Vineyard is a worshipping community. We always have been, and we always will be. Our primary place of experiencing the presence of God is in the midst of worship. I’ve always loved this about our tribe. We haven’t tried to be the best worshipping community. We’ve simply tried to be authentic.
John Wimber said, “Worship is not about us. It’s about him. It’s for him.”
We are a people driven by encountering God in worship. We sing spontaneous songs that come from the heart. These are songs by the church and for the church.
Marie and John Barnett were both worship leaders at their church in Orange County. At a small group meeting, they spontaneously broke out into a song that almost every church across the country if not the world knows. “This is the air I breathe…” This wasa heart song written for their present moment in their church, but it quickly became a song that churches all over the world would sing.
The gift that God has given the Vineyard has always been to bless the whole church. Of course, these are songs that written by the community for their own upbuilding. But God has specifically allowed the Vineyard to write songs for the world.
When the Vineyard first came about, it was one of the only movements writing new songs. This is not the place to argue for or against hymns because, absolutely, hymns have their place in churches. Hymns are not going anywhere. But there is something powerful in a song that comes from within. It will, because of its very nature, touch on issues that the local church is concerned with. As a movement concerned with the immediacy of the presence of God, worship songs touch people’s hearts. The Vineyard did (and does) an excellent job of writing songs that connect with current needs in churches. These are songs about what God is doing in a local community.
For years, churches believed in the power of the preached word, but they didn’t teach, either by practice or through their messages, that biblical preaching needs to be complemented by biblical worship (Rich Nathan speaks of this in his book, Empowered Evangelicals). The Vineyard saw a need in the church, and it desired to write songs to bless thewhole body. For years, churches had been singing songs about God rather than to God. The power that comes from a Vineyard song is not in its arrangement, chord progression, or even the theology behind it. The power is in the conversation that is being had with God.
At the time, Vineyard was “cutting edge” in this approach to worship. I say this sort of tongue in cheek because there was a magazine that Vineyard Music used to release with the same title. Now, other churches and movements are writing their own songs for their own churches and for the world. They’ve seen the value in what the Vineyard has done, andthey want to write songs by the community for the community.
This is not a bad thing.
We aren’t Bethel.
We aren’t Hillsong.
We aren’t Elevation.
We aren’t United Pursuit.
We aren’t IHOP.
We’re the Vineyard.
We bless what God is doing in those congregations. We thank God that he’s stirring up schools and communities of worship to write new songs.
I’ve had many conversations over the years about Vineyard Worship and its future, and I’m not pessimistic at all. We may not be the best worshipping group. We may not be the primary source for other churches as they look for new songs to sing.
And this is okay.
God is not done with the Vineyard. We have always been his church, and God is raising up a new generation of worshippers within the Vineyard who are writing new songs, covering old ones, and constantly seeking his presence.*
This is who we are. Vineyard worship will continue because we value intimacy with God. We are a people that wants to experience God’s presence, and as we rest in his presence, new songs will rise.
God bless Bethel.
God bless Hillsong.
God bless Elevation.
God bless United Pursuit.
God bless IHOP.
And God bless the Vineyard.
*Seriously, go check out some of the songs being released. Campbellsville Vineyard is doing amazing things about creating worshipping groups. The Northeast Vineyard region just released a CD doing updated versions of Vineyard classics. Vineyards are still writing songs from their local communities for the greater body of Christ. Vineyard UK has been releasing new CDs over the past few years. I especially like their Spirit Burn and anything that Sam Lane touches.