What can Anglicans and Vineyard learn from each other?

img_6513Even if you are not part of it, you are probably aware of the influence that the Vineyard movement, led by John Wimber, has had on the Church of England. The latest Grove Worship booklet, Encountering Vineyard Worship by John Leach, explores this and assesses how the two traditions relate to one another.

In a fascinating article, Stephen Hunt suggests that the Church of England is the English denomination most open to, and therefore most influenced by, Vineyard praxis. This influence, I suggest, is more far-reaching and radical even than he described 20 years ago.

Most notably this has happened through two networks: those associated with New Wine (NW), which had its origins in St Andrew’s Church, Chorleywood; and Holy Trinity Brompton (HTB). I will refer to this phenomenon as ‘Anglican Vineyard’ worship. My aim is to write a friendly critique which encourages us to think more deeply about this worship style. I hope that I might ask some hard questions of it, and perhaps help churches which have adopted this model to understand more clearly what they have done.

Given the influence of these two networks, such a critique and understanding is surely essential to understand what is happening in the Church of England today. (If something merits a chapter of scathing parody by Linda Woodhead and Andrew Brown, it must surely be important!)

John goes on to recount his own first experience of Vineyard worship, and explains the background to its development in the life of John Wimber, as well as its adaptation in Anglican settings.

Vineyard worship is a five-stage journey to lead us into the intimate presence of God. Wimber originally articulated these stages as: The call to worship; Engagement; Expression; Visitation; Giving of substance. Whilst this model has continued as the foundation stone of Vineyard worship, it has been refined along the way. So for example Matt Redman, originally an Anglican worship leader, who was heavily influenced by the Vineyard, has slightly different names for the five phases: The call to worship; Engagement; Exaltation; Adoration; Intimacy.

It will be worth taking some time to explore a bit more deeply the five stages of worship, since neither the words nor the experiences might be familiar to Anglican worshippers. Matt Redman helpfully pads out his titles with more information:

The call to worship uses songs addressed to others so that we are mutually encouraged to give ourselves to the period of worship ahead. This will be familiar to more liturgical Christians, although not usually in song.

Engagement occurs when we begin to address God personally; what John described as ‘the electrifying dynamic of connection to God and to each other.’ As this happens the presence of God is manifested among us.

Exaltation is the more celebratory singing which, according to John, we cannot help but offer when we become aware of his presence.

Adoration is the next phase, as the songs become more tender. The emphasis shifts from thanking God or celebrating him to telling him how much we love him.

Intimacy, the final goal of our worship, is an awareness of God’s intimate presence with us. John himself defines intimacy as ‘belonging to or revealing one’s deepest nature to another (in this case to God), and it is marked by close association, presence, and contact.’ Worship leader Brian Doerksen adds, ‘People want to sing intimate songs to God because they say what their hearts have been yearning to say, and many of them have been longing for intimacy their whole lives.’ This phase has also been described as the climax in the love-making of worship, which you might or might not find a helpful picture.

Underlying this shape for worship are three core values: intimacy; integrity; and accessibility. Intimacy seems to be about real heart connection to God; integrity refers to the worship leaders’ own personal heart for worship (the opposite, I suppose, of paid choir members with no faith but an enjoyment of choral music); and accessibility is about the ease with which anyone can join in.

Few, I suspect, would want to argue too much with the Vineyard’s core values in worship. It must be the case that Wimber’s positive background in the Friends denomination, along with his negative experiences of Catholicism and traditional Anglicanism, and his work as a church growth consultant, have made intimacy and experiential encounters with God so important to him, since they are so apparently lacking in the worship of other churches. Typical of Vineyard rhetoric is this from Carl Tuttle:

There is no life for us in much of what traditional Christianity offers us. Apart from God’s presence, the system and structure of the church including its Bible studies, singing, teaching, programmes, and traditions of outward righteousness are only forms without God’s presence and power. We need to turn from lifeless forms and begin to draw near to God and kiss his heart through the experience of worship.

In John’s discussion, he recognises the importance and the appeal of such an approach. But it is not without its disadvantages, and John goes on to offer a critique from an Anglican perspective.

The first thing to note is that in the Vineyard worship equals singing. It is a wry joke in charismatic circles that after having gathered, prayed, confessed, and so on ‘We are now going to have a time of worship.’ But in the Vineyard there simply is nothing else to worship but singing.

Of course I must generalize here, but my experience of Anglican Vineyard worship is that many of the ingredients of Anglican worship have become lost. I have been to many services in Anglican churches where we have not confessed our sins, joined in corporate spoken prayer, joined in psalms or canticles, heard Scripture read, celebrated the tenets of our faith together, interceded for anything outside the four walls of the building, taken bread and wine, joined in the prayer Jesus taught us to pray, or been sent out to work for the kingdom. The worship of most denominations has evolved to include most if not all of these ingredients, but in Vineyard worship they are notable by their absence. So, more specifically, what is missing?

John then explores the role and value of liturgy (in the broadest sense), intercession, symbolic action, musical variation and interest—but I was most stuck by his comments on the role of scripture:

Vineyard churches are nothing if not biblical. Whether or not one agrees with facets of their interpretation, nobody could claim that they do not take the Bible seriously. Yet it is often the case that services do not contain the reading of Scripture in the way traditionally practiced by others. It may be the case that one or two verses are used during the sermon, but often without the congregation having heard or read the context. It is certainly not likely that there will be more than one Bible reading, with a balance between Old Testament, psalms, epistle and gospel. This public reading of Scripture has long been an important element in the worship of the church, dating back even to the New Testament itself, and before that to Judaism (Col 4.16). It used to be a joke in Anglican circles that, however heretical the sermon, one could still gain spiritual nourishment from the Bible itself and the liturgy of the church. But it is also essential in helping the congregation to be biblically literate and to see the big picture if the Bible is read in significant chunks, and not merely used as a quarry for individual proof texts. One thing which marked John Wimber out from US Pentecostalism was his willingness to engage with biblical and sociological study. He would not, I suggest, be pleased with the way in which Scripture is often used. I am not arguing for a return to conservative evangelical expository preaching as the only valid way of handling the Bible; indeed I have argued the very opposite. But the omission of the public reading of Scripture is, I believe, a loss to the church, and a loss potentially detrimental to its health.

John goes on to offer a fascinating reflection on the integration of worship and teaching in the context of Anglican worship which perhaps many Anglicans have not really appreciated. But he also notes the remarkable contribution the Vineyard approach has made to the C of E:

Anglican Christians and Christian leaders have indeed experienced more of God in the context of Vineyard conferences and events than they did though their normal Anglican liturgical worship. This quest for an experience of the presence of God has quite rightly become compelling, and leaders long for their congregations to experience more from God than they have before. They genuinely believe that to drop the liturgy and focus on the quest for intimacy will take them further towards achieving this goal, and in many cases it has.

The same appears to be true in terms of evangelism. HTB and NW churches have proven track records of numerical growth and evangelism, and it appears that this style is worth adopting simply because it works. The church I attend, which has grown from seven to around 250 in just over a year, is a case in point. Of course some of the growth is through transfer, although we have tried to avoid that as much as possible, but a significant amount appears to be from Christians alienated from churches which did nothing for them, but who have now been able to reconnect.

We noted above Carl Tuttle’s sweeping condemnation of church life outside the Vineyard, but the fact is that in many cases he is right. When liturgical worship serves to replace an expectation of the life of the Spirit it is no surprise that it is experienced as a turn-off.

w228_sm_cover_1024x1024What is needed, then, might be a creative synthesis between these two approaches, and in his final chapter, John explores what that might look like.

You can order the booklet post free in the UK from the Grove website—and I don’t think you will be disappointed. It is a vital and fascinating read.

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44 thoughts on “What can Anglicans and Vineyard learn from each other?”

  1. Ian,

    When I read Alistair Roberts four-part series on What is evangelicalism?, I was minded to deem it a wholesale pathologisation of the movement.

    Nevertheless, when I read Carl Tuttle’s disparaging remark that: ‘There’s no life for us in what traditional Christianity offers us…’ I’m now inclined to agree with the hallmarks that Alistair identifies, namely:
    1. Resistance to Mediation;
    2. The Autonomous Religious Subject
    3. Democracy and Egalitarianism
    4. Populist Anti-culture.

    If anything, there’s considerable irony in a movement which lays claim to being rooted in an authentic Christian tradition while embracing the ‘pick-and-mix’ individualism that characterises the post-modernist ethos. Therein lies its contemporary appeal.

  2. I’d like to question the core values: intimacy and integrity? Intimacy assumes the significance of experience, and I read integrity to suggest you don’t sing or do what you don’t feel. Both values are wrongheaded and play into a consumerist model of worship. It’s worth checking out James Smith’s series on worship as cultural liturgies, or at least his popular version in “You Are What You Live”.

    • Richard,

      I’d tend to agree with you. I quote Brian Doerksen adds, ‘People want to sing intimate songs to God because they say what their hearts have been yearning to say, and many of them have been longing for intimacy their whole lives.

      The danger is that worship becomes the fulfillment of a longing to be heard and for intimacy per se: a fix of emotional and psychic fulfillment.

      What happens to such worship when such engagement is replaced with genuine experiences of desolation: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from my cries of anguish? Psalm 22:1.

      • Hi David,
        I’ve just been listening to Brian Doerksen’s ‘Purify my heart’ (Refiner’s Fire). I;ve read your comment and would be interested in any comments you have about this song 🙂

        • Hi Christine,

          In response, I ‘m not sure how far I could go in identifying Brian’s theology or approach to ecclesiology through his music.

          The song resonates with much of my faith because, at first sight, it is completely grounded in the prophetic voice of scripture:
          ‘Let me be as gold and precious silver’: 1 Cor. 3:12; Rev. 3:18; 1 Pet. 1:7.
          ‘My heart’s one desire is to be holy’: 1 Pet. 1:16; Heb. 12:14;
          ‘Cleanse me from within’: James 4:8.

          There is also an absence of embellished language as one would expected of contemporary gospel music

          Without wanting to critique the rich variety of Christian music, my hope is that just as many of Brian’s other songs express the corporate spiritual yearning of the Church being the Body of Christ, and that, as Paul explains to the Corinthians, we are ‘members one of another’.

          Consider this hymn of our shared life in Christ as His Body and Bride:

          ‘The Church’s one foundation
          Is Jesus Christ her Lord,
          She is His new creation
          By water and the Word.
          From heaven He came and sought her
          To be His holy bride;
          With His own blood He bought her
          And for her life He died.

          Elect from every nation,
          Yet one o’er all the earth;
          Her charter of salvation,
          One Lord, one faith, one birth;
          One holy Name she blesses,
          Partakes one holy food,
          And to one hope she presses,
          With every grace endued.

          Though with a scornful wonder
          Men see her sore oppressed,
          By schisms rent asunder,
          By heresies distressed:
          Yet saints their watch are keeping,
          Their cry goes up, “How long?”
          And soon the night of weeping
          Shall be the morn of song!

          ’Mid toil and tribulation,
          And tumult of her war,
          She waits the consummation
          Of peace forevermore;
          Till, with the vision glorious,
          Her longing eyes are blest,
          And the great Church victorious
          Shall be the Church at rest.

          Yet she on earth hath union
          With God the Three in One,
          And mystic sweet communion
          With those whose rest is won,
          With all her sons and daughters
          Who, by the Master’s hand
          Led through the deathly waters,
          Repose in Eden land.

          O happy ones and holy!
          Lord, give us grace that we
          Like them, the meek and lowly,
          On high may dwell with Thee:
          There, past the border mountains,
          Where in sweet vales the Bride
          With Thee by living fountains
          Forever shall abide!

          And here’s another hymn expressing a similar aspiration to spiritual purity:

          ‘Search me, O God,
          And know my heart today;
          Try me, O Savior,
          Know my thoughts, I pray.
          See if there be
          Some wicked way in me;
          Cleanse me from every sin
          And set me free.

          I praise Thee, Lord,
          For cleansing me from sin;
          Fulfill Thy Word,
          And make me pure within.
          Fill me with fire
          Where once I burned with shame;
          Grant my desire
          To magnify Thy Name.

          Lord, take my life,
          And make it wholly Thine;
          Fill my poor heart
          With Thy great love divine.
          Take all my will,
          My passion, self, and pride;
          I now surrender, Lord,
          In me abide.

          O Holy Ghost,
          Revival comes from Thee;
          Send a revival,
          Start the work in me.
          Thy Word declares
          Thou wilt supply our need;
          For blessings now,
          O Lord, I humbly plead.

          • Hi David,
            Thank you for your comment which is so rich in Scripture references – and for the two fine hymns you quoted.
            When I read your post, I thought of both mature Christians, and Christians who are new to the faith. I am aware that some of the people who are drawn to, for instance, Trent Vineyard, are/were homeless, addicted to drugs and or/alcohol, and so on. With these people who are new to the faith I think that one-step-at a-time is a good thing and that the relative simplicity of songs such as ‘Purify my heart’ enables them to share in corporate worship even while they are still new (baby) Christians. This is not to say that I think that baby Christians should never encounter hymns such as those you quoted. I just thought of infants who eat baby food while they watch their parents and maybe older siblings eating meat and veg or whatever – one day the infants will grow up and eat more ‘grown-up food’ themselves 🙂
            Christine :

  3. Interesting- I’m a pastoral secretary wrestling with the implications of the clergy retirement cliff and a predominantly rural diocese. I am always concerned when I see churches struggling to turn themselves into a poor imitation of something that attracts a lot of people elsewhere (whether that be a mini cathedral or a mini HTB) BUT what is interesting here is the thinking about liturgical shape which could enable a small community of Christians to gather, experience God
    and learn from scripture and each other with the close support and input of the ordained minister but without that minister needing to be there every time people gather… Thus, weekly worship can take place in more churches and communities can be reached by small groups of fed Christians…

    • Hi Emma,

      Your comment here prompts the question of the level of mutual support and input that lay Christians can develop among themselves without *complete* reliance on an ordained minister.

      It’s interesting that you appear to emphasise identifying a suitable liturgical shape as a potential enabler, whereas scripture focuses on developing teaching ability among any who respond to the gospel with genuine commitment: ‘And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.’

      The favoured liturgical shape or worship style is not nearly as important as real challenge of identifying lay volunteers with the commitment to lead the small groups regularly and reliably.

      Once those people have been identified and asked, it is the ordained minister who has the responsibility for developing their spiritual insight and leadership qualities.

      • I think I’m thinking that it’s that litugical shape in its proper place i.e. Held by & understood by those present and not something to be done by an “expert” that will enable people to develop spiritual gifts, amongst them teaching, which will build up the body of Christ…I say “I think” because it was just a gut reaction as to how what John/Ian are writing about could do that in the context in which I work…

        • Emma,

          I wonder whether the liturgical shape might involve structuring devotional material to support Common Worship through the Introduction to Daily Prayer (Morning, Evening and Night Prayers) on the CofE website.

          At present, the combination of psalms and readings (which can be downloaded via the app) is complex, although it provides a framework for community worship for any specified day.

          How would it work to have a FB page with guidance on key aspects of praying the Daily Office for a particular day?

          For instance, the Daily Office for today might be posted like this:

          O God, make speed to save us.
          All: O Lord, make haste to help us.

          A prayer of thanksgiving:
          Blessed are you, Lord God, creator of day and night:
          to you be praise and glory for ever.
          As darkness falls you renew your promise
          to reveal among us the light of your presence.
          By the light of Christ, your living Word,
          dispel the darkness of our hearts
          that we may walk as children of light
          and sing your praise throughout the world.
          Blessed be God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

          All: Blessed be God for ever.

          a suitable hymn,
          or A Song of Entreaty, (e.g. Psalm 143.1- 2, 4, 6-8, 10, 11)

          All: Glory to the Father and to the Son
          and to the Holy Spirit;
          as it was in the beginning is now
          and shall be for ever. Amen.

          This opening prayer may be said

          That this evening may be holy, good and peaceful,
          let us pray with one heart and mind.

          Silence is kept.

          As our evening prayer rises before you, O God,
          so may your mercy come down upon us
          to cleanse our hearts
          and set us free to sing your praise
          now and for ever.

          All: Amen.

          The Word of God

          Psalmody: Psalm 102

          My help comes from the Lord,
          Have pity on our frailty, O God,
          and in the hour of our death
          cast us not away as clothing that is worn,
          for you are our eternal refuge;
          through Jesus Christ our Lord.

          All: Glory to the Father and to the Son
          and to the Holy Spirit;
          as it was in the beginning is now
          and shall be for ever. Amen.

          OT readings:

          1 Maccabees 4.26-35 and/or 2 Chronicles 22.10-23

          A song of the Justified (based on Romans 4.24, 25; 5.1-5, 8, 9, 11)
          or Number 61 (page 619) based on Phil. 2:5-11
          (Refrain:Our hope is not in vain because God’s love has been poured into our hearts.)

          All: Glory to the Father and to the Son
          and to the Holy Spirit;
          as it was in the beginning is now
          and shall be for ever. Amen.

          All: Our hope is not in vain,
          because God’s love has been poured into our hearts

          NT Reading:
          Mark 16.1-8 (may be followed by a time of silence)

          Guided reflection: God’s OT and NT faithfulness to the son of David

          A suitable song or chant, or a responsory in this or another form, may follow:
          From Psalm 38 (e.g. the song ‘Faithful One’)

          Forsake me not, O Lord;
          be not far from me, O my God.
          All: Forsake me not, O Lord;
          be not far from me, O my God.
          Make haste to help me,
          O Lord of my salvation.

          All: Be not far from me, O my God.
          Glory to the Father and to the Son
          and to the Holy Spirit.
          All: Forsake me not, O Lord;
          be not far from me, O my God

          Gospel Canticle
          The Magnificat (The Song of Mary)
          You have scattered the proud in their conceit and lifted up the lowly.
          Glory to the Father and to the Son
          and to the Holy Spirit;
          as it was in the beginning is now
          and shall be for ever. Amen.
          You have scattered the proud in their conceit and lifted up the lowly.

          Thanksgiving may be made for the day and Intercessions are offered:
          * for peace
          * for individuals and their needs

          All: Lord, in your mercy hear our prayer

          Silence may be kept.

          The Collect:
          Almighty and everlasting God,
          increase in us your gift of faith
          that, forsaking what lies behind
          and reaching out to that which is before,
          we may run the way of your commandments
          and win the crown of everlasting joy;
          through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
          who is alive and reigns with you,
          in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
          one God, now and for ever.

          All: Amen.

          All: The Lord’s Prayer

          All: The Grace

    • The current thinking re. Reader ministry includes the possibility that a Reader might lead a team of lay people in the kind of scenario you describe. And CW in the Service of the Word provides a liturgical framework. I have written for Grove on the former (with Phillip Tovey) and there are several Grove books on the latter!

  4. Hi Ian,
    Thank you for this – I will order the booklet. I won’t comment too much for now other than to say that my younger daughter and her husband have worshipped at Trent Vineyard for more than ten years and I have attended several services there with them. I am struck by the extent to which Trent Vineyard is an outreach/mission church – it has a big heart for the lost. For instance, a few years ago my daughter helped in what was called the ‘Cabin’ in a park, offering a hot drink, a snack, companionship and prayer to homeless people. I could go on – including making comments about the worship, but I will chat with my daughter and her husband first – and buy and read the booklet! By the way, I have worshipped for more than 20years in a CofE church which has been described as ‘low evangelical’, and my daughter and her husband have joined us several times at services at our church and our sister church.
    Thank you again.

    • Hi Ian,
      My copy of ‘Encountering Vineyard Worship’ arrived today and I have now read it. – a really good read, full of wisdom.
      I am one of the musicians at our church. I play the digital piano and I have recently been asked to help to choose some of the hymns and songs (we have three services each Sunday).I love the Lord, I love the Scriptures and I love music (though I am no concert pianist), and I can sing a joyful (though not lark-like!) song to the Lord. Confession, Creed, Communion and prayer are very important to me, as is listening to sermons. Much of what John Leach wrote resonated with me.
      So, in response to your title-question ‘What can Anglicans and Vineyard learn from each other?’, my simple answer is: ‘A lot!’
      Thank you for your piece and for bringing the Grove booklet to our attention.

  5. What a fascinating article. I must get the booklet.

    If I was cynical, I would say that the Vineyard worship model is simply using music to manipulate people into having an emotional experience, and then sticking a label saying “encounter with God” on the top.

    If I was really cynical, I would talk about the psychology of religious experience, how music hypnotises people, how the human mind is wired to have spiritual experiences in trance states, and how charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity are just additions to the list of religions where an altered state of consciousness is equated to a divine encounter, including Sufi Islam and its whirling dervishes, syncretic faiths such as Santeria and Vodou, and all manner of primitive religions with their drumming rituals.

    Brian Doerksen’s comment was bizarre, because the idea of singing intimate love songs to God was been absent from Christianity until the Vineyard invented it perhaps 30 years ago! I doubt that any of the great people of faith from previous ages felt a yearning in the heart to sing intimate songs to God.

    And as far Carl Tuttle’s breath-taking arrogance is concerned, is he really saying that the presence and power of God were absent from the lives of Luther, Wesley, Spurgeon, etc? What about all the missionaries that travelled the world (and often paid with their lives) to spread the gospel? Even in the last century, people like Billy Graham, John Stott, and Martyn Lloyd Jones had powerful ministries that bore much fruit. I doubt Tuttle would have any time for them. God has greatly used the traditional Christianity that he shamefully disparages.

    Got to go out now… more to come!

    • ‘I doubt that any of the great people of faith from previous ages felt a yearning in the heart to sing intimate songs to God.’

      I would suggest that perhaps a re-reading of many of the Psalms might be in order?

      • Hi John,

        Well, if,by intimate, we mean ‘ ‘belonging to or revealing one’s deepest nature to another (in this case to God), and it is marked by close association, presence, and contact.’, we are talking about the inner man revealed to God.. Here’s such a Psalm:

        As the deer pants for streams of water,
        so my soul pants for you, my God.

        My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
        When can I go and meet with God?
        My tears have been my food day and night,
        while people say to me all day long,
        “Where is your God?”

        These things I remember as I pour out my soul:
        how I used to go to the house of God
        under the protection of the Mighty One
        with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.

        Why, my soul, are you downcast?
        Why so disturbed within me?
        Put your hope in God,
        for I will yet praise him,
        my Savior and my God.

        My soul is downcast within me;
        therefore I will remember you
        from the land of the Jordan,
        the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.

        Deep calls to deep
        in the roar of your waterfalls;
        all your waves and breakers
        have swept over me.
        By day the Lord directs his love,
        at night his song is with me—
        a prayer to the God of my life.

        I say to God my Rock,
        “Why have you forgotten me?
        Why must I go about mourning,
        oppressed by the enemy?”

        My bones suffer mortal agony
        as my foes taunt me,
        saying to me all day long,
        “Where is your God?”

        Why, my soul, are you downcast?
        Why so disturbed within me?
        Put your hope in God,
        for I will yet praise him,
        my Savior and my God.’

        Now that’s a soul with needs laid bare before God. Intimate.

        • Yes, Psalm 42 is gutsy.

          The modern settings seem to take the first verses and turn it rather flowery and sweet. Yet to me, the whole psalm reveals real head banging heart ache that results from real life and knowing, to an extent, our God.

          I doubt any of us know how to do the relatively small part of life that is worshipping for an hour or so together – let alone the larger part of living a life of worship.

          Grace towards one another in our quest to be worshippers must abound.

      • I think there’s a huge difference between the psalms (inc 42 as quoted) and the following examples..

        Song 1:

        I sing a simple song of love
        To my Savior, to my Jesus
        I’m grateful for the things you’ve done
        My loving Savior, my precious Jesus

        My heart is glad that you’ve called me your own
        There’s no place I’d rather be

        Than in your arms of love
        In your arms of love
        Holding me still
        Holding me near
        In your arms of love

        Song 2:

        Father, I want You to hold me
        I want to rest in Your arms today
        Father, I want You to show me
        How much You care for me ev’ryway

        I bring you all my cares
        And I lay them at Your feet
        You are always there
        And You love me as I am
        Yes You love me as I am

        Father, I know You will hold me
        I know I am Your child, Your own
        Father, I know You will show me
        I feel Your arms holding me, I’m not alone

        I bring you all my fears
        And I lay them at Your feet
        You are always here
        And You love me as I am
        Yes You love me as I am

        Song 3:

        Take my life, I lay it down
        All my sins and all my crowns
        Take my life, I lay it down
        I am Yours

        Take my hand and lead me through
        The glorious fields to be with You
        Take my hand and lead me through
        I am Yours

        I wanna be a laid-down lover
        Filled with You
        I wanna be a fearless lover
        Filled with You

        I feel my way down this undiscovered hall
        I run my hand along the wall
        I’m waiting here for Your call
        And I will follow You to the center of Your heart

        Song 4:

        I’m in love with a Man I’m in love with a Stranger
        I’m in love with my Maker whom I have never seen
        I’m in love with the Lamb I’m in love with the Lion
        I’m in love with my Savior whom I have yet to know

        O won’t You let me love You more, this is all that I desire
        Won’t You let me love You more this is all that I require
        Won’t You let me love You more this is my deepest heart’s desire
        Won’t You let me love You more still more and more

        You could give to me the gift of walking on water
        Maybe I will raise the dead
        I have one life to live all I have to give to You is love
        I have one life to live all I have to give to You is love

        If I never walk on water if I never see the miracles
        If I never hear your voice so loud
        Just knowing that You love me is enough to keep me here
        Just hearing those words is enough is enough to satisfy
        You do You do You satisfy I couldn’t leave even if a tried
        I must have You I must have You

        Example 5:

        Jesus I need to know true love
        Deeper than the love found on earth
        Take me into the King’s chamber
        Cause my love to mature

        Let me know the kisses of Your mouth
        Let me feel Your warm embrace
        Let me smell the fragrance of Your touch
        Let me see Your lovely face
        Take me away with You
        Even so, Lord, come
        I love You Lord
        I love You more than life

        My heart, my flesh yearn for You, Lord
        To love You is all I can do
        You have become my sole passion
        Cause my love to be true

        The deep longing of the Psalmist is far removed from the romanticised language of the above!

        BTW three of the above examples originated with the Vineyard churches

    • ‘Brian Doerksen’s comment was bizarre, because the idea of singing intimate love songs to God was been absent from Christianity until the Vineyard invented it perhaps 30 years ago! I doubt that any of the great people of faith from previous ages felt a yearning in the heart to sing intimate songs to God’

      Jesu lover of my soul?

        • Anon – I beg to differ! I think that there is intimacy in the words ‘let me to Thy bosom fly’ and also in the words ‘cover my defenceless wing with the shadow of Thy wing’. I agree that the imagery it is not ‘romantic’, but then ‘intimate’ and ‘romantic’ are not synonymous, and I must say I don’t actually know anyone who wants to have a ‘romantic’ relationship with Jesus – though I do know people who long for an intimate relationship with him, as expressed by Charles Wesley in this fine hymn.

  6. I think I might have to get the book as well!

    One significant issue with this approach to worship is connection with intimacy. Having been in Vineyard influenced churches for some years I have come across one reason for this, which is based on saying that the Greek word ‘proscuneo’, often translated ‘worship’ comes from ‘kiss’ and ‘towards’. ‘Kiss’ is taken to imply intimacy. But this is, I think, the etymological fallacy. The kissing in the origin of the word is kissing the feet or perhaps a symbol of authority such as a ring. Thus it comes to mean ‘bow down’ or ‘give honour to’. The biblical posture for worship is to have one’s nose to the ground, not standing with arms uplifted (that’s how you pray!)

    One might also comment that if the aim is intimacy with God, then a meeting with many people and with (very) loud music does not seem to be the right place for this. I don’t think there is biblical evidence that the temple worship, for example, was a place for intimacy with God. Jesus gives the place for such an encounter: go into your room, and close the door, and meet with your Father in secret.

    Another significant issue, for me, is that the spirituality is based on having an experience, and that experience seems only to be possible in the context of the large meeting. This generates a dependency, as an intermediary, on the worship leader, who is, literally, centre-stage. If ‘worship is singing’, as seems to be the equation, then it is also worth noting how many of those present at such meetings, are not singing.

    • Hi David,

      I generally agree with the thoughtful remarks which you make here.

      However, there is no contradiction between ‘proskuneo’ and St. Paul exhortation for us ‘to lift up holy hands’ (epairontas hosious cheiros) in prayer (1Tim. 2:8)

      In line with the importance of prayer in secret, the Father seeks worship in spirit and in truth (en pneumati kai aletheia). The truth is that only the Holy Spirit can engage us in offering ourselves to God in this way through the inner man. A true worshipper may not consciously reflect the external posture connoted by ‘proskuneo’.

      Christ pinpointed the deceptiveness of religious posturing among the Pharisees, whose traditions negated the very intent of the scriptures: ‘This people worship me with their lips, but their heart is far from me.

      Worship should indeed be expressive of our awe of God’s majesty. Nevertheless, our submission to His majesty is revealed by whether religious customs and church culture are elevated to a level which contradicts and negates conformity to God’s revelation through the precepts of scripture.

  7. As someone who up until recently was involved and largely brought up into this ‘Anglican Vineyard’ style of church in central London I think Carl Tuttle’s comment borders on being the case of a man in a glass house casting stones.

    Whilst many of these churches do pull numbers the numbers are often down to transfer and the effect I think is similar to the US with the impact of Mega churches on smaller, sometime rural parishes. It drains them and the overall net presence of Christians in an area dissipates. Also the pastoral elements in these churches often seems to be significantly lacking and the spiritual life of these churches in contrast to more sacramental traditions seems positively pale. Charles Taylor’s writings come to mind on this topic.

    Andrew Wilson also penned a good point on causes to be wary regarding Anglican Vineyard worship in his piece ‘The New Center for British Evangelicalism’. He’s a fan but outlines three areas of concern..

    1) Declining unity of ‘confessions, creeds or catechisms’ in favour of ‘shared conferences, courses and choruses’.

    2) Unspoken theological assumptions hidden behind practical arrangements (Andrew mentions the roles of women as a contentious example). A ‘hidden curriculum’ which is belies particular theological outlooks but is never discussed publically.

    3) Declining levels of doctrinal clarity in both leadership and laity. You have no idea where leadership or your fellow congregants stand on hot button issues in the church as they tend to avoid talking about them.

    These three things personally lead to me actually going in the opposite direction. I’ve been involved in Vineyard when living in other cities but now I’m back in London the idea that we’re going to cast off our Anglican heritage in favour for the Vineyard really gets me depressed. When Anglican ministers try and defend the move whilst also claiming to be classically Anglican. They’ve struggled, particularly on the meaning of the term ‘catholicity’ as mentioned in the creeds. The Vineyard style compared to classical Christianity is staunchly individualistic and personalised. Maybe this is too harsh but at times it feels syncretic, merging Christian beliefs with the individualism and self-centeredness of our materialistic age. I know since I let go of the Vineyard style approach to faith in favour of a more classical conservative anglicanism with a place for the BCP I’ve become acquainted with scripture, prayer and discipleship in ways I never thought would happen. Its been a real joy. I don’t think I could ever go back, it seems so shallow now.

    • I agree with a lot of this. I attended and worked for an Anglican Church that at the time was very influenced by Vineyard/New Wine. I am grateful for much during my time there, but over several years became increasingly frustrated at how so much of what would be classically evangelical became eroded. The amount of Scripture in services diminished, the preaching became largely topic rather than text driven, and doctrinal areas that were previously clear became blurred. I have heard it said that the first generation of Anglican charismatics were largely well-taught conservative evangelicals who were drawn into the deeper experience of the Spirit precisely because of their biblical foundations, but they were poor at passing on the faith to thei next generation.

      In recent years I too have found myself more and more returning to a more classic evangelicalism- it seems much richer and more rigorous, as well as being arguably more consistent with Anglicanism as represented by the Prayer Book. I do also wonder whether that more Reformed brand of evangelicalism is also better equipped to deal with the increasing hostility to Christian faith in this country. Far too many charismatics believe that it is spring and summer is only just around the corner, but increasingly I’m wondering if it’s actually autumn, with winter fast approaching. If so, then equipping believers to live in such a world will be critical, and I’m not sure that the Charismatic Movement as I see it is well placed to do that.

      Funnily enough we have also seen a lot of growth in recent years from students who have moved to us from other Charismatic churches but who have openly admitted they are looking for something deeper. As one told me, “the music’s a bit rubbish but you take God seriously”!!

  8. OK, here’s the second part of my original comment (timed at 10:59)

    There is obviously another side to the coin.

    In the 20th century, it became apparent that evangelical worship had a number of shortcomings. It was basically a product of the culture of previous generations, it was very formal, it lacked joy, and it communicated that Christian faith was only a matter for the mind. All this seemed a long way from the Bible.

    It’s before my time, but from what I can tell, Billy Graham’s visits to the UK in the 1950s and 60s started the winds of change. Graham’s approach was markedly different to that of the British church – it was happy, informal, vibrant, and it worked! Millions attended the crusades and tens of thousands came to faith. Britain had not seen anything like it since the time of Wesley. I reckon the “Graham effect” created a dissatisfaction with the status quo that fed into the charismatic movement and the resultant transformation of worship that we’ve seen in the past 30 years. Whilst this has plenty of negative aspects, it has also been a force for good, as Ian’s article discussed.

    So my views are a bit of a mixture. Contemporary worship can be very problematic. I believe that people who have “an experience of the presence of God” in charismatic churches, including Vineyard (and I attend a charismatic church) are simply spiritualising an experience which is music-induced and man-made. However, I can’t accept that traditional worship is without its problems either.

    There must be a middle ground (as Ian mentioned at the end) which takes a more balanced approach. I think the church is still trying to find it.

    One final point – what goes on in church is only a small part of being a Christian. Faith is about all of life, not just what happens in a couple of hours on Sunday. So in one sense, it’s not that important. But, on the other hand, what we get up to in our meetings does a great deal to define our faith, both to ourselves and to the world. So we need to think carefully about it. I’m pleased that John Leach (whose book Liturgy and Liberty was an excellent contribution) is continuing to do so.

    • ?
      Responding to your ‘five songs’ comment, Mr. Anon, I certainly would not disagree that the lyrics of a good number of Vineyard songs do overly romanticise the relationship between God and the worshipper. However your first song, the classic Vineyard song “Arms of love” is an interesting example, as the idea of being held in God’s arms is an entirely biblical one, and I would consider the rest of the concepts in the song are too. As well as this, the song fits together and holds together in a coherent way. It’s a beautiful, biblical song and although it teeters on the edge of sentimentality I don’t think it falls into it. It works, in my view.

      For me the problems arise more with the song like your third example, which is full of clashing metaphors (all my sins and all my crowns!?) and biblical combined with sub-biblical language, and really hardly makes sense. What glorious fields? What is the last verse supposed to mean? However having said all that, I’ve no idea where you sourced this song from, it doesn’t appear to be Vineyard. But it is songs like this that really don’t make a lot of sense, except in the vaguest possible way, that I find more troubling.

      • Peter,

        The third song is by a Canadian worship leader called Heather Clark – she has quite a following in some charismatic circles – she’s probably in the same genre as people like Rick Pino, Roy Fields, and Jason Upton. I just picked a few songs that came to mind as romanticised, maybe even eroticised or sexualised. There’s obviously degrees to this, and yes, I agree with you that Arms of Love does actually works quite well. But plenty of men will find it difficult!

        However, it still represents an approach which (to the best of my knowledge) goes far beyond anything contained in the Psalms, and is a new development in the church.

  9. I have an internal tension. Following vicar training I now know where liturgy came from and what it’s trying to achieve. I recognise it’s strengths. BUT I so rarely find people who are passionate followers of Jesus who are really into liturgy (I accept that phrase alone reveals my tradition and bias’ & the classic statement that everyone has liturgy it’s just some write theirs down). Also in spite of stories I keep hearing about young people rediscovering liturgy, every one I speak to finds it boring (again that may be more representative of the company I keep.) And I think I’ve raised it before, but why do low churches seem to produce more passionate disciples than liturgical ones ? If liturgy is meant to form us, ground us, reorient our loves etc why for so many does it appear (& I realise this is my assessment ) to be lifeless (as Tuttle describes.) Furthermore is it that many have no idea why we do what we do liturgically and therefore it’s only when they find out (& become more educated) like at vicar school they begin to appreciate liturgy more? Sorry this is like a brain dump, basically why does liturgy so often not seem to do what it says on the tin?

    • Andy, as a layman with an interest in theology, I am also very much aware of the sound and carefully written content of liturgy. But I struggle with the fact that liturgical worship seems far removed from today’s culture, and people don’t seem to relate to it.

      Regarding your comments on “passionate disciples”, I’ve come across plenty of people who appear very passionate in their faith, but actually have very little depth and understanding. I’ve known a few people who were once “passionate” but are now atheists – I wonder if a diet of charismatic froth contributed to this? I often wonder what being a disciple means, and I’m sure it’s OK for it to mean different things to different people. For some, their faith is expressed by teaching the Bible, for others, it’s helping the poor… I could go on – the list is endless. But they’re all devout followers of Jesus. Perhaps the “one size fits all” approach to faith is unhelpful – some Christians will be best suited to HTB or St Andrews Chorleywood, others will find All Souls or Christ Church Fulwood more helpful.

      I think your comment suggests you’re fairly fresh out of training. The fact that you are willing to ask the hard questions makes me confident you’ll be a great vicar!

      • Hi anon, out of training for a few years but still in curacy. In a church which is more liturgical than I am used to and constantly weighing and reflecting on it all. Thank you re: the future – I pray so 🙂

    • Hi Andy,

      I found your comment interesting. I concur with your lament of how rarely those who are ‘passionate followers of Jesus’ are ever really into liturgy. And your (rhetorical?) question: ‘is it that many have no idea why we do what we do liturgically?’ probably comes closest to the truth on this issue. I believe that the purpose of liturgy needs to be explained.

      Perhaps we should turn to the Book of Common Prayer in addressing those for whom liturgy arouses boredom, since it’s best at explaining its own purpose. In reading its preface Concerning the Service of the Church’ and Richard Hooker’s discourse on the purpose of public prayer, I was impressed by how well they both describe the results of a haphazard approach to corporate worship, many of which are addressed by a common liturgy.

      Firstly, the preface explains that Common Prayer: ’ was not ordained but of a good purpose, and for a great advancement of godliness, so the focus is not on just engendering passion, but on developing a resolute reverence for God.

      In order to accomplish this, one outcome of liturgical order is ’ that all the whole Bible (or the greatest part thereof) should be read over once every year The benefit of doing this is explained as follows:
      1. that the Clergy, and especially such as were Ministers in the congregation, should (by often reading, and meditation in God’s word) be stirred up to godliness themselves, and
      2. be more able to exhort others by wholesome doctrine, and to confute them that were adversaries to the truth; and further,
      3. that the people (by daily hearing of holy Scripture read in the Church) might continually profit more and more in the knowledge of God, and be the more inflamed with the love of his true Religion.

      So, if there is little or no discernible evidence of the clergy being stirred up to godliness by meditation in scripture, and, if the clergy have little belief that scripture is essential to sound teaching, we can hardly expect that the liturgy will by itself render parishioners inflamed with the love of his true Religion.

      The BCP preface also contrasts the abject results of neglecting common prayer: ’ that commonly when any Book of the Bible was begun, after three or four Chapters were read out, all the rest were unread. And in this sort the Book of Isaiah was begun in Advent, and the Book of Genesis in Septuagesima; but they were only begun, and never read through: After like sort were other Books of holy Scripture used.

      Also concerning the lapse of the ancient tradition of daily Psalm reading/singing, the BCP continues:
      And furthermore, notwithstanding that the ancient Fathers have divided the Psalms into seven Portions, whereof every one was called a Nocturn: now of late time a few of them have been daily said, and the rest utterly omitted.

      I do wonder how many of those who claim to be passionate followers of Jesus have ever read through most of the Bible, or prayed/sung most of the Psalms in one, or even two years. Instead, what has become prevalent is anecdotal preaching and teaching that latches onto particular stories in the gospels and devotional verses. The consequence is that Jesus becomes a self-styled palatable parody of a few bible stories and prophecies.

      The scriptural comprehensiveness in biblical reflection and biblical prayer provided by the liturgical year will never be compatible with this ascendancy of ill-informed ‘sound-bite’ spirituality-lite, however passionate the latter might be.

  10. This evening I prayed.

    Then I read Revelation chapters 1-3 . I kept re-reading this:

    ‘Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches’
    ( Rev.2:7,11,17,29; Rev.3:6,13,22)

    • Hi Christine,

      I’m reminded of how St. Paul described his fellow Jews: ‘For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge.’ (Rom. 10:2)

      There is also a zeal for God, which is based on listening to God superficially, as described in the Parable of the Sower: ‘someone who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. (Matt. 13:20-21)

      Correction forms a large part of what the Spirit say to the seven churches of Asia Minor, so ‘ears to hear’ signifies a responsiveness to such reproof.

      Do we have ears to respond to God’s call for us to rely on the assurance of our Messiah’s sacrifice more than religious tradition, to offer of reconciliation to any and everyone through the word of our testimony before reciting creedal formulas, and to forsake our former lives for that call, even if it incurs lethal hostility? (Rev. 12:11)

      • Well said, David.
        The first time I read what the Spirit asked John to write to the angels of the churches, I was struck by the fact that, with the exception of the church at Sardis (‘The Dead Church’), the Spirit opened with praise, and a rebuke* came later. I think we could all do well to follow this example when we discuss differences between one church and another.

        * I was also struck by the fact that the Spirit gave no rebuke to the church at Philadelphia, ‘The Faithful Church’. I don’t think I will ever tire of reading Revelations 3:7-13.
        Thank you so much for your comment.

  11. I was in Sheffield and my wife and I ordered a Taxi to go to a wedding reception being held at the Hillsborough football ground. As soon as we got into the car the taxi driver (whose driving was a lttle hap-hazard) started to tell us of his great experience that day. He had met with his fellow worshippers and he was still feeling the buzz of excitment from the experience. He recommended that we should try it as he found it so fulfilling. It was a Friday and he hadt just been to prayers at the local Mosque.
    It made me want to calibrate what was genuinely of God and what was just the atmosphere of being in such an environment.
    So much of evangelicalism is individualistic. My experience, how I feel, how I use my time. I am not sure simply going to a place where other like minded people reinforce this prejudice is helpful. Christ’s message is surely about community and walking together.
    Certainly mainstream Anglicanism my not reach the parts that need to be reached but I am also not convinced that the largely transfer growth experienced by Vineyard, Newfrontiers etc is the way we should go.

    • Chris, you are spot on when you talk about atmosphere etc.

      This is why I get concerned when Christians talk about how amazing church (or a conference) was, and they typically say something like “we really felt the presence of God”. In reality, people of other faiths, like your muslim taxi driver, have identical experiences, as do those whose 90 mins of weekly worship involves watching 22 overpaid men kick a football around.

      Your comment about transfer growth is also well-made. I’m old enough to remember when the restoration or house church movement (a number of groups including New Frontiers) was growing hugely by attracting people from more traditional churches. But this can never be sustained, and within a decade or two they were in decline (I wonder if this corresponded with the growth of the Vineyard churches). New Frontiers has lasted longest, but they are now splitting up as Terry Virgo is getting on in years, and their future looks less certain.

      I would love to know if there is any decent research on church attendance in the UK. My feeling is that, at best, the number of new people coming in is just enough to counter the losses. I certainly don’t think there are significant numbers of conversions happening in any branch of evangelicalism.

  12. I’m wondering what Vineyard has to offer for those Christians who worship God in an intuitive, rational, or liturgical form and who find that emotional, ‘intimate’ worship repels rather than attracts them?

  13. I will never forget my first encounter with the Vineyard in the mid 1980’s when Wimber was being welcomed by the Charismatic Anglicans. Many things struck me about the man and his ministry, but perhaps the biggest impression came through the worship songs and style they brought. Intimacy and simplicity. We moved from singing hearty hymns and a few ‘contemporary’ bouncy and wordy songs ‘ABOUT’ Jesus to singing simple love songs TO Jesus. It was this shift in orientation that struck me. 30 years on, I still listen to the old Vineyard songs – and almost every day in my devotional times, I listen to the acoustic verison of Brian Doerksen’s ‘Eternity’. I thank God for the Vineyard and their worship even more than their models of ministry and ecclesiology. Simon Ponsonby

  14. I also wonder whether there is something about intentionally providing the space for the work of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. Of course the Holy Spirit is not limited to contemporary music and when the pads are playing (and I do think there is an overuse of that these days.) But in my experience things like praying for healing, prophetic words, speaking in tongues etc are usually (and i know there are exceptions,) are less likely to be encouraged in more liturgical services. And the Vineyard style deliberately tried to make space for that with a “naturally supernatural” approach. And I think Ian this is what you were getting at here “When liturgical worship serves to replace an expectation of the life of the Spirit it is no surprise that it is experienced as a turn-off.”

  15. “It used to be a joke in Anglican circles that, however heretical the sermon, one could still gain spiritual nourishment from the Bible itself and the liturgy of the church. ”

    That’s how I was converted. Now a free church minister I still value those Anglican roots.


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