“Even now,” declares the Lord,
“return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
I love that the Lenten season has not been hijacked by the culture. We don’t see Ash Wednesday midnight sales, there are no Good Friday disguised as Black Friday specials advertising internet sales sites, there are no cute displays at the malls or in the midst of our town centers featuring young children in sack cloths and ashes. No, we get this season all to ourselves and for that I am grateful.
Vineyard churches are known for many things — some identify the Vineyard with worship music and others know us as a church planting movement. Though there is much diversity within the Vineyard, we share a common set of values and distinctives that make us unique (not better!) when compared to other sisters and brothers in the global church. And while we like guitars and drums and we definitely believe that planting churches is an effective way to join God’s Mission, if the Vineyard is anything, it is a theological movement.
Though theology can be scary to some, largely due to how some theologians have made thinking and talking about God unhelpful and disconnected from the practical aspects of life, theology matters. What we believe about God, Scripture, and how to engage with the world matters, right? Plus, if theology is simply the study of God, everyone is a theologian… they just might not be a very good one!
I’m convinced that one of the primary roles that church leaders serve in is to help people understand how to think theologically and to make great theology accessible. We in the Vineyard have a rich heritage to draw from and have been significantly shaped by some brilliant thinkers who have helped us develop our theological foundation. Our future is only going to become brighter as women and men, young and old, from ethnic groups all over the world, are called and empowered by God to serve our movement by engaging in the life of the mind.
But I digress.
While it’s likely that the majority of Vineyard churches do not celebrate the Christian calendar, an increasing number of churches are beginning to see the wisdom of introducing aspects of the liturgical world into our communities. This is partly due to the fact that these spiritual formative practices provide significant help in our quest to keep the tension of mission and discipleship, rooted in our love for the kingdom of God.
Many folks may assume that Ash Wednesday is just a Catholic thing, it’s important to note that Ash Wednesday is celebrated by Lutherans and many other non-Catholics such as Methodists, Presbyterians and even some Baptists. In the Vineyard, one of the most well known Vineyard churches to participate in this Christian holiday is in Columbus, led by Rich Nathan (see this video as an example of how Rich Nathan leads this).
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, a season of prayer, fasting, and repentance. During Lent, followers of Jesus traditionally give up a luxury until Easter (e.g., desserts, social media, etc.). In the same way that Jesus prepared himself for the beginning of his public ministry, the Church has encouraged his followers to prepare theirselves for celebrating his resurrection by abstaining in order to thoroughly grasp the beauty of Christ’s victory over the grave.
So while the Bible does not demand churches to celebrate Ash Wednesday, if done well, I believe that Ash Wednesday can be a powerful space where the Spirit draws the attention of Jesus’s followers to see the sacrificial nature of his life and death and to fully celebrate and appreciate his powerful resurrection! As we intentionally create space for people to invite the Holy Spirit to shape and form us by the reality of the Cross, we are given an opportunity to join the historic and global church to say, “Come Holy Spirit... help us see the beauty of the Cross and to embrace the truth that though we have not luxuries, with Jesus we are satisfied and full.”
Blessings on you this Ash Wednesday, and may you experience the love of God,
I am thrilled to introduce a series of blog posts for the Northwest Region! These blog posts will be written by folks from within the region. We will also have guest posts from people who have experience in topics we can all learn from!
The topics will vary. Some of what we are working on:
There will be weekly posts with comments open in order to interact and dialogue with one another. Our hope is we can learn, resource and spread the wealth of information and experience from people who live out the gospel every day in different contexts.
We want to hear from those around the region. God is moving and it creates faith, imagination and inspiration to hear the stories of how the gospel is making a difference in ordinary lives.
Our hope is this will be a space for encouraging and help equip people throughout the region on how to have healthy churches and ministries.
If you have topics you would like to see explored or if you would like to write for the blog, please send your ideas to JenniferATredbluffvineyard.church or contact us.
This is just a step in our continued effort to communicate, connect and care for our churches. I hope you will tune in weekly and contribute to the conversation.
All this for the King!
We're super excited to have a new website up and running! Stay tuned for more content and regular blog posts! Lots of great stuff will be featured here, including posts on ministry, theology, events, and much more!
Let us know if you have ideas that you'd like to see us include!