When looking back in what were the early distinctive that made the Vineyard what it was, was primarily our understanding of what the Christian life was. In the Quaker church in which John and I were saved, there was no higher call than to be a Christian. The man who led us to the Lord used to talk about the responsibility and the wonder that we walked around with the presence of God dwelling in us.
Also, in that Quaker church there was simplicity, and a lack of ambition. The man who led us to the Lord was a welder. The foundation of the church was everyday, simple people. They dressed down; they drove Chevy’s instead of Cadillac’s, even though some of them were quite wealthy. Anybody felt comfortable and welcome in that church. There was no great gap between the clergy and the laity. We didn’t even use those words in the Quaker church. The big thing was whether we would love people and how we led our lives before them, and whether our faith was real.
The truth is the Holy Spirit really began to visit us in the Quaker church. It sometimes sounds or comes across as if nothing was happening before this time, but that wasn’t the case. There had been an increased hunger in us for God and for his Word. But there was also a huge increase of hunger to worship. In the Quaker worship, they have what they call “communion”. It’s a time of silence, where they just wait and soak in God, unless someone felt like they had a song from the Lord, or a word, or even a teaching. If they felt like they had received something, they were supposed to speak it out. Every once in awhile someone would sing out some beautiful song or have a short teaching or some sort of revelation—though they wouldn’t have called it that.
So we were no strangers to the move of the Spirit—in fact the later outpouring was merely an increase of what had already been happening.
I believe our foundation, how the Vineyard was formed was by Quakerism. Most people don’t realize that; in fact they believe the Vineyard came from Calvary, when in fact, we’re Quakers.
When we look back and see Gods presence moving on us; forming us; worship had such an intricate part through all this. Over the years we’ve seen things change-shift, but from the very beginning we understood that worship wasn’t “for” anything, except for the Lord. Sometimes I get the feeling that we’ve shifted a bit too, “We worship in order for this to happen.” Whatever “this” is —a great move of the Spirit perhaps. But that truthfully is the opposite of what we’re doing in those early days. We were worshipping simply because God is worthy of worship. The wonderful things that happened were as a result of his presence. But we didn’t worship so that his presence would come; we just worshipped!
We didn’t even really know about trying to ‘make’ things happen, or “we’ll worship until the ‘big’ thing happens, or when the Spirit begins to move. That wasn’t why we were meeting together. We were meeting together out of love for God. It was odd to us that suddenly in the middle of John teaching a course at Fuller for seasoned missionaries [MC 510: Signs, Wonders & Church Growth] that the course would become world famous and we would become these great ‘healers’. That sure wasn’t what we were doing. That’s just something God did when he showed up.
But we somehow through God showing up; got this reputation, so many churches became or wanted to become Vineyards around that time, and that’s what their idea of the Vineyard was. But that was never what John and I set out to do. John used to say, “I do what I do. I preach the Gospel. I lay hands on the sick. Either God will heal them or He won’t. I just do what I do, and God does what He does. Shame on me if I don’t do what I do, but He’s responsible for what He does or doesn’t do. We’re just following directions.”
John had this ability to see what was coming in the days ahead. So he would often prepare or warn us what would be coming next. Concerning the Vineyard, John used to always say that an outpouring has about a twenty-year life span. Then hinges will get too much in cement and we’ll start building monuments to ourselves. He said, “I don’t expect us to be any different. But the Lord is faithful, and he’ll pour out his Spirit again and again. It may not be here, but let’s all be watching and listening, and as soon as that happens, let’s go where He is!”
John had a great respect and regard for the whole Church and believed that the Lord’s hands are on the whole thing. He knew it was possible for a movement to be sustained for hundreds of years. Look at the Moravians. John didn’t have any huge concern that we had to protect anything. He really didn’t think it was that important. He figured our grandchildren would find where the Lord was pouring himself out if the presence of Jesus wasn’t here anymore. And that’s what we would want.