I’ve been part of Vineyard Churches UK for the past 25 years, more than half my life.
One way I understand my cycles of engagement with life and relationships is the ‘romance-disillusionment-joy’ motif. The first flush of a relationship that gives way to a realisation that the honeymoon is over, where false understandings fall away, that then leads to the rebuilding of relationship around better understandings, insight, growth, and joy.
I’ve found there is no way around this process, no matter what we are engaged in and with. Church planting has seen me go through many cycles of romance-disillusionment-joy, and the same goes for being part of a denomination. And I think that process is normal and healthy, the move from dependence to independence and into interdependence.
In our post-Church environment where participating in a church for Christian identity and formation has been going the way of the dodo, the relevance of denominations has become even more remote and unpromising.
Yet I find myself 25 years later discovering again the ‘joy’ of being in a denomination, and making a quick list of some of the immedaite benefits that I am re-discovering:
1. Shared beliefs & values: Having others who share the basics of what you think church is about, is so vital. Some of the most important values our community has, are the DNA of our denomination and movement.
2. Shared story and history: The vineyard movement is over 30 years old and interpretations of our history are much contested. But I’m finding the comfort of having my 25 years of memories to share with others who have been along similar roads. There is a comfort in reaching back over nearly 25 years of church planting experience around shared stories.
3. Shared Mission and action: Doing something things with others within our denomination comes quickly and easily. There is a short hand from your shared values and story that enables action around these values, that is easy to take for granted.
4. Accountability: Having a group of peers who will and have asked what I believe, and why I’m doing it, is a life saver. I’m talking about mutuality in accountability here, the asking of hard questions for life and support, not control. I know my heart can be deceitful above all things, and needs questioning by people who are for me.
5. Training and Resources: I’ve been the beneficiary of some amazing resources over the years that only a denomination can put together and deliver.
6. Support for Personal Convictions: Then there are those issues of deepest personal conviction for working out my faith and mission with others, that I find my denomination nurturing. The supporting and releasing women in all levels of leadership, a charismatic experience of the Kingdom, the centrality of social justice/ministry to the poor and care of creation within discipleship and the gospel, cultural and contextual mission, non-foundationalist epistemologies, and a belief in the church as natural habitat for discipleship, to name a few.