This is a hot-off-the-press, largely extemporaneous (read: stream of consciousness) report of the Vineyard USA Eastern Region Conference which just concluded yesterday in South Hackensack, New Jersey. The theme of our three days together was: Navigating our Culture.
Monday evening, the church lobby was a-roar with 300-ish Vineyard East leaders milling around, hugging, laughing, acting like a typical Vineyard family (read: loud, friendly mob), waiting to enjoy the catered dinner at round banquet tables set up in the sanctuary, all set with fall décor and candles.
We kicked the evening off with worship. I mean kicked off like Vineyard events do every time!
Monday evening’s speaker was worthy-of-much-fame-but-refusing-it, Rich Nathan, Jewish lawyer turned pastor, author, church planter, 48-years-and-counting, husband of Marlene. Rich spoke of the church’s biggest resource in responding to today’s culture – community. We are, because of Christ, a community of love, united.
Tuesday saw more worship, ministry, workshops on pertinent issues, and another talk by Rich. To our resource of community, he added our identity which is only found, and is fully formed in, Jesus Christ – full stop. That evening, Rich’s third and final talk, added the resource of guaranteed-to-be-successful hope – our hope in the resurrected Jesus.
Wednesday’s closing session speaker was our US Vineyard National Director, Jay Pathak. His text was just 2 verses about the woman working yeast into 60 pounds of dough. His point was that just a little potency eventually makes a big difference. He encouraged us that we were the ‘yeast’ in the Eastern Region and our humility and repentance were the ‘yeast’ which, when coupled with perseverance, would produce great results. Prayer ministry followed. We were dismissed, richer and fuller and more buoyant than before. Heads packed to the brim with good stuff. Hearts rejoicing. Bodies exhausted.
Here’s my personal, thrilling, takeaway, from Eugene Peterson’s The MESSAGE: “[Jesus] has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world, the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence. Eph. 1:21-23. AMEN PD