Vineyard Churches
The Vineyard Churches grew out of the Calvary Chapel Movement, a non-denominational Church which began in the mid-1960s, focusing its ministry initially on those whom it felt would not be attracted by the formality of the conventional mainstream Churches. In 1982 a Calvary Chapel pastor, John Wimber, felt that Christians should expect God to intervene in the modern world in precisely the same way He did in the early Church, and because his own congregation's understanding of speaking in tongues, prophecy and direct experience of the Holy Spirit had moved away from that of the Calvary Chapel Movement, they should separate from their parent Church. He joined the nascent Vineyard group, founded by Kenn Gulliksen in the mid-1970s.  Increasingly this group began to look toward Wimber for oversight, and over the following years around 30 other Calvary Chapels also chose to follow Wimber further encouraging the burgeoning Vineyard Movement.  

John Wimber stated, “The Association of Vineyard Churches - for better or worse - is a denomination” and shortly before his death in 1997, Wimber changed the structure of Vineyard from what was effectively a loose collection of independent churches to a more formal grouping, the Association of Vineyard Churches.

The Association of Vineyard Churches currently has around 1,500 churches (600 of these in the USA). Although initially about half of it's congregations came over to Vineyard from other denominations or movements, growth in more recent years has been through a vigorous process of Church planting in response to the great commission of the New Testament.

Following John Wimber, the Association of Vineyard Churches believe that Christians should be active in the world through all the Biblical Gifts of the Spirit (including speaking in tongues, healing and prophesy), and that Christians should expect God to intervene in the modern world in precisely the same way He did in the early Church (including the miraculous and 'supernatural'). For this reason the Vineyard Churches are often seen by outsiders as belonging to the family of Charismatic Churches.  Vineyard Churches UK, however, describes itself as a 'conservative evangelical movement' grounded in a Biblically-based understanding typified in it's 'Statement of Faith'.  In fact members sometimes describe themselves as the 'radical middle’ between traditional Evangelicals and Charismatics, seeing themselves as 'empowered Evangelicals' straddling an unnecessary Evangelical/Charismatic divide. Above all, they see themselves as Christians committed to a Biblical faith.

The Association of Vineyard Churches has a relaxed, informal style in its meetings. Typically these combine both Bible study and worship, and a significant amount of time is always devoted to inspirational prayer.  Contemporary worship music plays a key role, involving a mixture of lively, upbeat songs and mellow, prayerful ones (this musical emphasis owes much to John Wimber, who was formerly the keyboard player in the band 'The Righteous Brothers'). Vineyard Churches UK has it's own record label 'Vineyard Records' to promote its distinctive style of music. 

A Pastor or a lay leader can lead Vineyard meetings.  In fact, Vineyard Pastors are only officially ordained after serving in a lay capacity for an extended period, and their ministry is functional and pastoral rather than sacramental.

In the UK, the Association of Vineyard Churches (Vineyard Churches UK) is governed by a Council (made up of Senior and Associate Pastors and suitably qualified Lay members) that operates through a number of 'Task Forces' (including a Board of Trustees).  The Task Forces are responsible for the day-to-day running of Vineyard Churches UK that includes giving oversight to the Pastors of existing Churches and helping to plant new Churches and congregations. Vineyard Churches UK, however, seek to do this with the working minimum of bureaucracy, wishing to maintain the autonomy of each local Church and wishing to encourage within them the intimate sense of community seen as belonging to the Churches of Apostolic age.

Links

Vineyard churches in the UK

Vineyard churches in the USA

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