So…. why, if Jesus loves all kinds of churches, are we only planning to plant ones that carry the Vineyard DNA and immediately become card-carrying members of our movement?
The answer is that we want all the churches that we plant to thrive. The dream is for a growing number of growing, healthy churches to be established in our generation, that will outlive us and serve their communities for many generations to come. We believe that planting Vineyard churches will give each church a really great start. Here’s why we believe that:
The Vineyard movement has been established for 40 years, and has grown from a handful of churches in California, to a gloriously diverse group of around 2,400 churches around the world. The Vineyard knows how to plant healthy, growing Vineyard churches and draws from all those years of experience every time we plant a new church.
Having learned much from the successes and failures of church plants over the years, the Vineyard has developed an excellent discernment process for potential church-planters. This means that if anyone in our church family feels called to plant a church, the Vineyard brings a huge amount of expertise to the table to ensure we only release people when (and if) they are ready.
There are a number of pieces of the training jigsaw which will come from our Vineyard family. A Cause to Live For, Hub, Vineyard Institute (theology), Church-planting intensives (like boot camps) are all easily accessed. Of course there are also about 120 other churches in the UK and Ireland family from whom people can learn.
Expert Oversight and Coaching
One of the main reasons that we joined the Vineyard in the first place was because we couldn’t imagine how City Church could be solely responsible for loads of other churches. The glory of belonging to a church-planting movement is that all pastors and church-planters have the opportunity to be overseen, coached and mentored by people who have been there, seen it and bought the t-shirt.
Perhaps the most significant reason is much less about pragmatics, and much more about belonging. For many years our church was independent. And whilst we didn’t feel lonely (because we had friends) or vulnerable (because we were fairly self-sufficient), we did often reflect on a longing for a wider family. Since joining the Vineyard we have LOVED being part of a family. We have been the recipients of all kinds of encouragement, blessing and banter (as well as some pretty direct conversations) that only happen in families. We want that for all our church plants.
What I’m really saying is that if we were to send out anyone to plant a church which was not to be a Vineyard, we could have little confidence that it was going to thrive. On the other hand, by planting Vineyard churches we give each one a great chance of health, growth and longevity.