Experience and the Vineyard

:
A Personal Account of My Views on Vineyard Evangelicalism by James Smith
Layperson

Camarillo, California Fall 2011

Introduction
Men cannot make Scripture conform to their lifestyle; they must make their lifestyle conform to Scripture. Edwin Louis Cole.

Raised in the church I knew the Lord from a child, fell away as a teen and two years later was reunited on a mountain in Alaska. In 1980 I began a tumultuous journey of the spirit. Beginning from one denomination, then to another and yet another the task of owning this belief in God became very complicated right from the start and then got worse and more intense from there. I joined the Vineyard in 1995 after a terrible divorce. The loving caring group gave all the emotions and support I needed to carry on and the message was strong that we can cast our cares upon God because He cares for us. Here began the next part of my journey and experience this time with the Vineyard church. CRI, the Christian Research Institute states “after several months of extensive research and dialogue, (we found) that the Vineyard is a dynamic and fruitful church which preached the historic gospel of Christ and contributes invaluably to the body of Christ in many ways.” A very favorable description yet they go on to describe some matters of concern. “In conclusion, while The Vineyard is a vibrant, sound Christian church, our concern is that Bible teaching and doctrine are de -emphasized, while experience plays too large a role in determining their understanding of God's Word. At present, we do not regard them as aberrational, nor do we expect them to become such; however, given their emphasis on experience and their"experimental" nature, the potential for drifting away from sound doctrine is there. Our prayer is that God will continue to bless their ministry at the same time leading them to greater faithfulness in the teaching of sound Bible doctrine”. When we choose a place of worship, taken into consideration first and most importantly are theology and doctrine. Secondly it could be said that tradition and culture are very important and thirdly would be other criteria including things like the the distance from home, the personality of the Pastor and Sunday school. A problem could arise with making a decision based on how we “like” a church or if it makes us “feel comfortable” because these are not necessary requirements that are primary when choosing a group of people to serve God with. I know truly wonderful people who are believers and yet when I found out what they believed I have to say it made my hair stand on end. So it can be said that theology and doctrine go before how we feel about a house of worship. The observation by CRI helped to describe what I myself have seen in the Vineyard and so in this treatise I will try to describe my own observations.

A Critique
Doctrine a. Doctrinal minimalists. Very shallow biblical teachings and a desire not to preach what they believe in order to be acceptable to everyone and tolerant. This could lead to relativism and a rejection of absolute truths. b. Distrust of scripture mediated through the church but very attentive to individual direct experience. c. Changes in culture necessarily means changes in the way doctrine is understood, explained and related to the culture. Leaders are seen to need to adjust to adapt to these changes. d. Good works and social activism are encouraged more than learning doctrine. How to live is over what they believe. Education a. There is no official statement or declaration of the desire for all congregation members to become more educated in the scriptures. b. There is no church effort to establish through consultation the spiritual condition and education of a member for their further education and welfare. c. There is in place no structure or curriculum or Catechism to further the members Biblical education. d. This is not in compliance with the first portion of the Great Commission of Mat 28:19 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” e. There is no direction for those who wish to have further education. They are neither directed as to where to go for further education nor are they taught which view the organization maintains and supports, or the fact that there are differing views. f. Members are left to self learn. g. Most if not all have ever read the Vineyard Statement of Faith to understand its meaning as compared to others. The Gospel a. Is not preached very often and when it is it is not complete. b. The Gospel is not preached in the manner of the scriptures. Whereas the scriptures tell it in this way, 1 Corinthians 15:3,4, “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” This method is a historic objective fact and is God centered. The manner in which the Gospel of Christ is preached is more like “God loves you, has a plan for your life, if you will accept Him into your life, He will accept you and help you with right methods and instruction which will bring you success in your life.” (paraphrased). This is humanistic, man centered and not based on any objective fact. This has been deemed as Moralistic, Therapeutic Deism. The Communion Sacrament a. In similar manner to above, the manner in which communion is observed, by having groups of people gather together to pray for one another takes away from the focus of Christ and puts it towards man and the solving of his problems. This is in direct conflict with 1 Corinthians 11:23-32. From the Pulpit a. There is an overemphasis of some subjects of the Bible and the omission of many other subjects of the Bible. b. All sermons seem to lead as a priority to the teachings of manifestations of the Spirit, healing and miracles. c. Man is glorified more than he should and Christ is not reverenced with proper respect due to a lack of teaching on mans sin nature. d. It seems as though proper study has not been done before a sermon is spoken. e. Serious errors in bible teaching leading to an unbalanced view of Gods love for man which ignores the

biblical view that reveals not only Gods Love but also describes mans evil, Gods wrath against sin, mans lowly condition and the necessity of Grace, which creates a proper desire for Christ, thankfulness and humility. No Unifying Confession of Faith a. Since there is no clear church doctrine put forth or catechism to which all learn the basic bible teachings of the church, there then is no central doctrine to which members agree or apply themselves, leaving each individual to learn and understand doctrine on their own creating disunity and confusion. The Emerging Church The definitions above are also those beliefs of the Emerging Church which is a type of post modern church. They rely on a pragmatic approach to serving in a church community, have drifted further away from orthodox belief and would rather have a conversation about biblical truths than accept them as authoritative. The anti traditionalism represented by the birth of the Vineyard is evolving further from biblical exegesis and denies any value of hundreds of years of history taking another step towards a complete rejection of the authority of scripture which would be likely to create an entirely new paradigm for the church. Experience over Scripture a. Human experience is the center and grounding of faith. With the teaching of the scriptures focusing mainly on manifestations of the gifts of the Spirit to validate the church, these experiences are desired more than the sound orthodox teachings of scripture with a healthy connection to church history as a help to clarify the problems involved with understanding the scriptures from examples. b. Not putting doctrine or theology over experience leads to individual subjectivism. c. There is a general sense that experience trumps scripture. When a pastor or elder has an inner guidance, an emotional experience, a feeling, a message, a word of knowledge, a dream, or a prophecy, and a layperson questions it by pointing to scripture, they could be suspected of not being spiritual or labeled a trouble maker. d. A history of experience over scripture. The Vineyard was birthed over a disagreement between Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel and Ken Gulliksen who desired more emphasis on manifestations of the Spirit. Smith said the greatest gift was love. When John Wimber became leader, Smith wanted to downplay experience and Wimber continued forward separating from Calvary Chapel. e. John Wimber writes about Calvary Chapel “Calvaryites are sometimes a little too heavily oriented to the written word.” f. John Wimber used the idea of testing the scriptures through experience to see what would work, “It was in this environment, a small group of fifty people, that I first tested my theories of power evangelism.” Leaders Have No Oversight a. With no obvious doctrinal confession and no direct oversight, pastors can end up in biblical error and heresy and have no system in place for correction. b. Pastors and leaders resist theological complaints or criticisms from the lay person. c. There is a tendency to hide past sins and problems in the church from the lay people. When brought to the attention of the Pastor, it is not taken seriously, not explained or examined and disregarded. d. Pastors and leaders are left to their own feelings, desires and personal biblical preferences to lead the congregation rather than a full plan established by a group of theologians who have proved themselves in their gifts and are known for their sound doctrine. e. Leaders may not have proper skills and training for their position in the church. Cultural Relevance a. With a view that the Gospel of Christ as explained and taught in the bible is in need to be made acceptable to the culture in which it is given, the clear straight teachings are softened or manipulated so as not to be hostile to the hearers. This lies in direct contrast to the fact that the Gospel is, in its very nature, hostile to the natural man and an offense to their ways. Rom 8:7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 1Pet 2:8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” By omitting aspects of Gods Character such as anger, wrath, justice

and punishment the hearer then is left with only one side of His character, love, mercy, kindness, intimacy. This denies the hearers acquirement of a balanced view, a correct and biblical view of their position in Christ. b. Not an example. The Sunday morning service tries to be like the world/culture during service rather than being a living example of Gods culture to the world/culture around us. The fear is that to not look like society is to be religious and that looks like the hypocrisy and piety of the Pharisees. They believe the traditional church does not relate to society. c. Post-Modernism and Humanism. Unknowingly the Vineyard has played to these ideologies and not against them. Foundational truths have been left for a conversation about them, It is felt that they cannot be understood and are not relied upon as universal. There is a distrust of mans ability to know, perceive and teach absolute truths. d. A disregard for the past. It seems that anything new is to be highly considered. The old ways of the church are believed to be filled with error, heresy, and all forms of mans evil and shortcomings. There is no knowledge of church history, early church fathers, their teachings or of the reformation. It is not taught nor considered important. This leaves no foundation for the church, and no understanding of the circumstances of its birth or history leaving the church easily manipulated into error. Man Centered a. Trying to become sensitive to the culture, not preaching the complete Gospel and disregarding tradition and history has left the church being man centered. The symptoms of this are in the teachings of Scripture blatantly manipulated to say the very reverse of their intended instruction or revelation such as the treasure in the field Matt 13:44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure, hidden in a field, that a person found and hid. Then because of joy he went and sold all that he had and bought that field.” The orthodox meaning has been that a person upon finding Christ will sell all because of the value he has found in Him. This has been changed to mean that God gave His Son to obtain a person and that the person is the treasure, the opposite of the the scriptural meaning. b. There also seems to be an overarching theme that Christ serves the person rather than that the person is to submit to His will. One of the reasons for this confusion comes from the wrong teaching of Psalms 23 “You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows.” and another John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life and life more abundantly”. But these verses deal with the inner man and the great abundance of life of the Spirit which is given to the believer that he had not had before. This is done to bring glory to God and does not necessarily speak to God pouring out material wealth or blessings to man. c. Jesus as the means. There is a difference between putting Christ as the end of our desire and putting Christ as a means to our needs, wants and desires. One submits to Gods will for our life, the other sees God as a co operator in our own design and will for our life. If this is not properly divided, believers could easily be enticed to using God for their own plans, and not realizing they need to seek Him for His plan for them. This is not to be confused with the freedom God gives us to do things such as choose work, school, a wife etc. d. It has been taught that God is like Santa Clause wanting to give out gifts. The scriptures are not written with this picture, rather that we should strive against evil and serve the Lords will and He will equip us to do so and that we should watch out for the pleasures of this world. It is not fitting to put God into this view, it is much too small with a deviation of the teaching of Gods provision. Misunderstanding of Mans Free Will a. Because of a man centered view of the Gospel, there is the teaching that mans freedom of will obtains salvation for the man as well as Gods giving of grace. The scriptures teach what is known as sola gracia, grace alone, man can do nothing for himself to obtain favor from God, God must do that for him, and no man will boast. This is not taught here. What is taught is something known as prevenient grace, not grace alone. Prevenient Grace (Wesley) is a grace given to the person to help the person during the decision process, but still allows the person some part in salvation which is the accepting of the salvation from God. This is not in scripture and is in fact in conflict with scripture John 1:12,13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, He gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. John 6:44,65 "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day." And he said, "This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Romans

9:16 - “So then it depends not on human will or exertion , but on God, who has mercy.” 1 Corinthians 1:30 “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus.” b. The will does not have the power to obtain salvation. The teaching that the will can take from God the gift of salvation, or that we are a co operator in the salvation process can lead to all sorts of error. If mans will becomes that which can take from God then we can logically in similar manner be a co operator with God with the ability to obtain from God many things through the human will such as healing, knowledge, wealth or some form of power, and such is not the case. 1 Corinthians 12:6-11 “There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. But to each one is given the manifestation....as He wills.” It is God who works in man miracles as He wills. 1 Peter 5:10 “the God of all grace, who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen and establish you.” Paul says in Romans 7:18 “For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.” The will does not have the power to help Paul in the flesh to do good, how can it help him with Spiritual things? The will cannot obtain the good, it is connected to evil. Our will must be usurped by Gods will, “Let Thy will be done.” Sin Consciousness The Omission of the Teaching of the Sin Nature a. There is a tendency to disregard the importance of the teaching of mans sinful condition. The term Sin Conscious has been used in church to help the person not become aware of their sin, rather than to be aware of it. It has been taught that to be aware of sin is to harm the faith one has in Christ who has forgiven our sin and is allowing us to do His will in spite of our sin. Scripture tells us just the opposite, Romans 3:4 “May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar”, Matthew 23:12 “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” And in James 4 we find the description of those who while in the world should “Submit to God, ...be miserable and mourn and weep...Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord.” How then do we stand as if we have no sin of our own when any righteousness we do have is not from ourselves? How do we rid ourselves of the fact that we live in sin and are equal to unbelievers but for the gift of grace? This does not conflict with the fact that we are to try to obtain a clean conscience, this just fills out the complete picture so we understand our correct position in Christ. b. Without a view to our evil natures, a person may begin to think more highly of themselves than they should causing them to go incautiously into the work of God where the Lord says He resists the proud. 1 Peter 5:5 “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” c. To admit sin is a lack of faith. Although it is well known that we are sinners and that sin is with us Romans 7:17 “But now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.” This is explained as something that can prevent a believer from obtaining blessings or doing miracles so instead are taught that we are great in Gods eyes, devoid of sin and co workers in Gods Power on earth. A Gospel of Works a. Salvation by works. If the gift of faith and salvation are taken from choice (the will) inside the heart rather than given by grace, then the door opens to the entire experience with God being accomplished upon the same basis. The idea that faith is an inner action and is not passive then begins the foundation for a salvation of works. The opposite is actually the case in scripture. Romans 12:3 “ God has distributed to each of you a measure of faith .” Ephesians 2:8,9 “For by grace you have been saved through faith and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Salvation is from Him only, faith is given to us, there is no work, we believe, that is our work. John 6:29 “Jesus answered and saith unto them, this is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” The Gospel is a God centered teaching where no work of man will be glorified. b. Faith and works. The teaching that believers can use the power of God through faith. The teaching should be that God will use us as He wills. This error is expressed in the teaching of “There Is More”. What it was saying was that if the church by some internal intensity brought up more and better faith, God would bring miracles, healing, and all good things of the Spirit. What they really were talking about were physical things (thought to be brought on by the Spirit) like those observed at the Toronto Blessing or the Azusa Street Revival. It created a hype, to stir one up to expect something. In this view if adequate works are not done, and there is no “More”, a person could end up feeling that they are falling short of Gods plan for them. When nothing came, the congregation was told stories of how it may take months or years to begin as God tested the church. After many years the congregation was left baffled, disturbed and confused but yet most still agreed this was going to happen. A sense of not good enough

rather than There Is More could be discerned and condemnation could soon follow. The pastor did not believe this was harmful. He was fully convinced of the teaching of There Is More. It was a matter of faith to him. His desperate desire was for the same occurrence of the Toronto blessing to be at church and until then there was no satisfaction. I began to wonder if many left the church sensing this. c. No sense of satisfaction. There is more has told us that we are incomplete. It is the job of the Pastor to help the congregation have a sense of wellness in Him, Colossians 2:10 “and in Him you have been made complete”, We are not to work Hebrews 4:3 “For we who have believed enter that rest”. Philippians 4:11 “I have learned to be content in all things.” and we should “be anxious for nothing”. They have taught to expect our desires from God and if they do not appear it is a lack of faith or goodness in us. In history great calamity was the “There is More” of many of our brothers, and their rewards on earth were suffering and death. We must learn from them Gods will. There is More is a book by Randy Clark who has left the Vineyard because of even more extreme views than those of the leadership in the Vineyard Church. Randy Clark defines the power of impartation as receiving divine grace to do be able to do in the natural what humanly can't be done – it's a supernatural gift from God. It comes by faith and is rooted in Jesus' death on the cross and the complete work of the cross. Jesus died not only to give the gift of salvation and eternal life, but also give the power of signs and miracles. This is not an addition, but the completion of the work of Jesus' cross. (cbn.com). To Randy Clark and the Vineyard, the work of the cross is not complete without signs and wonders. This is the reason for the There is More message and the constant wonder I personally had at what I was sensing about the Pastors messages and actions. It seems that until manifestations of apparitions like those of the Toronto Blessing appear, the Church is not complete. This is also a works based belief as it relies heavily upon the faithful works of the congregation or Pastor for this to occur. Sickness and Healing a. A desperation for the miraculous has caused an emphasis of teachings on healing. While many many sick people have not been healed and others have died, still the focus on healing remains a top subject of sermons. There have been no obvious healing in the congregation. The Lord considers our life like a vapor, Psalms 39:5 “ Look, you make my days short lived, and my life span is nothing from your perspective, surely all people, even those who seem secure are nothing but vapor.” And the scriptures reveal His attitude towards our life on earth as being short. He tells us not to cling to it nor any material thing and put Him before all things. We are not to put such emphasis on our life here beyond what the Lord has intended. John 12:25 “The one who loves his life destroys it, and the one who hates his life in this world guards it for eternal life.” b. A misunderstanding of Isaiah. Isaiah 53:5, “...and by His wounds we are healed.” 1 Peter 2:24 “who himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness, by whose stripes you were healed.” The context of these verses makes it clear that it is speaking to spiritual rather than physical healing. We do know that Isaiah 53:4, refers to Christ and does involve physical healing as mentioned in Matthew 8:17 “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases.” But that refers to Christ healing others while in His earthly ministry. Neither of these verses rule out Gods ability to heal nor His desire to do so, these verses just cannot be used to confirm that He will heal us physically now as a promise. To think that disease is eliminated by the cross through faith is the same as saying sin is eliminated by the cross through faith. Sin is still with us and so is disease. Both of these will be eliminated in the future. The cross is not promising perfect health for the believers and we can see that that is obvious yet it is sill taught that healing is promised to all who believe. It should rather be taught that His will is involved and He will heal whom He will heal as our lives our in His hands. We need to have peace in any situation we are in, whether in health or sickness. Their teaching is wrong and way out of balance. Faith a. Misuse of faith. If there is a misunderstanding of the nature of faith and faith becomes an internal mechanism whereby God connects with His people through thoughts and impressions then that leaves room for their own thoughts to be interpreted as Gods word and work in them. This could lead to disunity at best and complete chaos in the church at worst, denying the authority of scripture and usurping the intention of God for the church and supplanting it with the whims, dreams, moods and desires of the persons mind. These problems have always been with the church through the gnostics and

others and are harming the church today. b. Faith used to usurp doctrine. Similar to experience over scripture. Faith, supposedly being a conduit to Gods revealed will, or a method of special revelation without scripture, does not use scripture to determine the order and instruction of the church, but creates new doctrines such as the impartation doctrine by Randy Clark, or the teachings of slaying of the spirit or Open Theism which rise to such a level of emphasis of the importance of man that the cross is left behind and a room full of noisy people entranced becomes the great desire. c. With the new teachings of the church the orthodox teachings of Christ take a second chair and the Gospel becomes a means to an end, the end being the More and received not through salvation but through an Impartation. Salvation is a stepping stone by which one can get to the real desire, the impartation and gifting to obtain power. This again leads not to a humble thankful and satisfied Christian but for the odd sense that everyone is striving to become a prophet or seen as great and gifted. I would call this everyone wanting to be a rock star. Notice the spiky hair on the 60 year old pastors. Pragmatism After evaluating the post modern tendencies and the experimental nature of the Vineyard, it is interesting to note that the pragmatic approach to scripture has led them to teachings of the power of mans will, truths obtained through experience, anti traditionalism and the importance of man because they have been tested and seem to work for now. It is also interesting to note that with their teachings on miracles, signs and wonders and healing the fact that in the 17 years I have attended the church none of these manifestations have occurred has not changed their approach to those teachings. A New View of the Church a. What does this new type of church look like? If we look at the Toronto Blessing, Florida Outpouring, Azusa Street Revival, the Impartation Services or the Benny Hinn miracle meetings perhaps we can begin to get an idea. What we see are people who say they have been given a gift by God, have had a miraculous experience and are now doing His will. They operate like wizards, believing Gods power works through them. Confessing the power belongs to God they feel they are innocent of pride or arrogance and are operating on faith. The results are physical experiences thought to be spiritual. b. I have heard anti traditionalists quote the verse 2Timoth 3:5 “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.” It is used to describe the old church being void of the life of the Holy Spirit because they were cessationists and did not believe that God worked in the miraculous anymore. Trying to bring life into the church by ridding itself of theology and doctrine has left it running blind and not taking a look at history has left it falling into the same problems and heresy it has fallen into in the past. I would use 2 Timothy 3:5 to say the church in America has fallen into a heresy and is having the appearance of godliness but denying its power, and that power is the power of the Gospel and the power of salvation, of a sound mind and sound teaching. The church has discarded Christ as their end and is using heretical teachings to usurp the scriptures, uplift man and create new doctrine which leads the church away from Christ.

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