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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Vineyard Megachurch: "Small Things Done With Great Love Will Change The World"

Cincinnati Vineyard Community Church's (VCC) claim to fame is through its commitment to servant evangelism. This ministry is based on the idea that God's love is free and by washing your car for free--no donations accepted (and at times actually paying the drivers $!), we can represent God's relationship with you in a simple metaphor of love. It is about showing God's love in a practical way, no strings attached .

Very cool right? Absolutely. I grew up (and came to Christ) in this predominantly white, middle class, suburban, nondenom (as though Vineyard isn't its own denomination!) megachurch.

But when I went to college, I joined a small (~100 ppl) multinationalmulti-denominational church in Richmond. I loved the intimacy, the accountability, the diversity, and even the holy ritual of the church.

And I became critical of Vineyard: With over 7,000 people here, why do only a handful of faces have dark skin? I thought it was too big to have any meaningful personal accountability; good at bringing new believers to Christ, but not for later in the journey. And why hadn't I ever seen a female worship leader?

All this while I am SUPPOSED to be worshipping God.

This is NOT the response loving Christians should have. But it often how we interact with each other. Sure, it's great to find a new church home and to fall in love with it. But Jesus loves all of the Church and we need to as well.

Maybe a lot of VCC's congregation is white, but the band was pretty mixed and they have started singing songs in different languages (and not just Spanish either), creating an atmosphere that is affirming and welcoming to people of different backgrounds.

And true, it may be a little self-righteous for a white American church to try to march in and 'save the day' in Nigeria (see post: White Savior Complex). But even still 35,000 people now have access to clean drinking water thanks to the 65 new wells that the church helped drill (by employing Nigerians).

Maybe it is ostentatious to build the biggest indoor skate park within 100 miles. But they do it, not for the students that already attend, but with the explicit purpose of drawing kids from the area, and being a center of recreation where kids can encounter God when they wouldn't necessarily be looking for Him.

Sure, VCC has cooshie couches everywhere, but they also gave away over $407,000 last year (not including the funding for the Nigerian wells). They have ministries to the inner-city, the elderly, and the nearby Hispanic communities, and entire new building called the Healing Center, with a clinic and a free store, as well as other resources for those of low SES.

Despite all my qualms about rich suburban megachurches, VCC does really good work. The church fills a need for thousands who have been come disillusioned with the hymns and pews of their parents--and if loud music and fancy lighting/sound system can bring someone to Christ, then it is worth every penny.

In summery, a lot of problems at VCC are legit issues that many churches have. I still struggle when I visit and sit that comfy seat, knowing that at my Columbus church, the people sitting next to me are often homeless. But rather than constantly criticizing/comparing with my previous church (which I seem to do at every new church home), I need to remember that each one is a wonderful piece of the puzzle of God's Kingdom.

Sitting again at my home church, I again allow that critical voice in my head to creep up again. I think of things  I might do differently if I were in charge or how so-and-so really annoys me etc, ad nauseum. But by the grace I hope to receive, may I love my church and The Church, just the way they are, knowing God's not finished with us yet.

See Also:
Why I Love the Church For All People
White Savior Complex


  1. Mel Elizondo Landers:
    Good post! I very much enjoyed it (length and all). One point I have to agree with is that Vineyard with its size isn't good at the personal accountability. And small groups don't work for all people. I think one of the things I appreciate about it now is the way they use their creativity for Christ. They do really awesome artistic stuff and having been in churches where it's very old style and traditional, I very much appreciate it. Also, I think the Vineyard is aware of its problems more so than some churches. But I understand the critical nature...although I think I still have more of a skeptical nature. BTW, we are shooting to come up to Columbus sometime in May. Budget wise, it's been intangible to come up in April. But I'd love to sit down with you and have tea!

  2. Great post, Katelin!

    Yes, I too am skeptical about the "rich suburban megachurches". Indeed, large organizations can be inflexible, and impersonal, and some might even encourage a cult mentality.... etc.

    On the other hand, there is an economy of scale that comes with size. My good friend is a Lutheran pastor. On Sundays she preaches three sermons at three separate churches, each 15 minutes' drive apart, to congregations of about 10 people each. It's tiring. The churches are beautiful old buildings, but one can't help thinking it would be more efficient for the congregations to combine their resources....

    I guess what matters is that there are people like you, and me, who are willing to be critical because we care about making things better, and not blindly follow the status quo. For a church to be healthy, as our pastor says, it's not enough to say "God loves us just the way we are" - we must remember that "God's not finished with any of us yet" and there is still room for improvement!

  3. Another note on megachurches-perhaps they are more susceptible to emotional/spiritual highs that are derived more from group euphoria than the Spirit? I don't know. This can happen in small settings too. I had a major God moment in middle school in the middle of large corporate worship. I have wondered about it ever since. Have to have faith though.

    Ultimately, I have to stand in defense of megachurches, at least ones that are as self-aware as VCC, that try to overcome its issues and works for the betterment of the community. Churches of many sizes often cannot say as much.

  4. I have had many "God moments" playing quiet music alone, when the experience of divine beauty made me realize that He was speaking to me, and that I was not really alone.

    You're a sensitive musician, so surely you know what I mean, but many people in our generation probably haven't had that privilege. It's something I would like to share with them. The modern world is LOUD, which is conducive to certain kinds of God experiences, but not to others.

    Ok, going a bit off topic here, but I thought I would share this: A couple of evenings ago I was walking back to the garage through one of the engineering buildings. The building was empty except for a girl who was wearing a veil and kneeling facing a wall. She was probably a Muslim; they worship 5 times a day; maybe there is a requirement to face a certain direction. Now a lot of people have prejudices against Muslims; certainly many Christians do; but seeing this girl's serene prayer was a God moment for me!

  5. Although ultimately it would be great for people of all backgrounds to mix freely, I feel as long as there is privilege for the members of the majority (including native citizens of a host county), I think there is value it finding fellowship and support in one's own group. Remember sanctuary is not the same a segregation. At least, this has been my observation in my own environment.

    That being said, I appreciate your desire to have your fellow compatriots to aid it breaking down divides. You yourself do a beautiful job of putting yourself out there and interacting with others, relating to people native to the United States. It can be exhausting and I am impressed with your courage and perseverance. I am sure it can be frustrating when others do not follow suite.

  6. And thanks for the spelling check..I know I am bad with that...I am in such a hurry to get my ideas down that I dont check. Embarrassing! In fact spelling just cost me 10% on my last midterm grade. Of course the docked points might have also been related to my rocky history with that particular prof. No way to know!


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