Missions Leadership Team Introduction:
Bob Harper

Bob Harper   Regional Coordinator for Eastern Europe Senior Pastor, Ventura Vineyard Ventura, CA  bob@vmteam.org

Bob Harper

Regional Coordinator for
Eastern Europe
Senior Pastor, Ventura Vineyard
Ventura, CA

VM: Thanks for agreeing to an interview so we can get to know you a bit, Bob. What are you up to in the Vineyard these days?

Bob: I’m pastoring the Ventura Vineyard in Southern California and doing some coaching and mentoring with church planters and emerging leaders.

VM: That sounds fun. When did you first start with the Vineyard?

Bob: I first visited the Desert Vineyard in Lancaster in October 1978. I was totally unchurched.   The Jesus People movement still had life in Lancaster in those days and many people were getting saved. The Desert Vineyard was maybe 100 people strong and 1 ½ years old at the time. The big idea at the time was the rapture and the end times. I did not own a phone, a television, or a clock in those days. Daylight Savings ended eight days after my conversion, but I didn’t know it. When I got to church that day, an hour early no one was there and I assumed I’d been left behind.

VM: Oh my goodness, that would certainly turn your life around! That’s a terrific story. What is your favorite memory with Jesus?

Bob: The instant connection that I felt with Him the moment I responded to an altar call in October 1978.

VM: Sweet. I hear you’ve had more than a little experience in Russia. Tell us a little about that. Have you, a California boy, ever visited Siberia in the winter?

Bob: *Chuckling* I did serve as the Russia Partnership Leader and led the church planting team in Krasnoyarsk, Russia from 1992-1993. That is located right in the middle of Siberia. The average January temperature there is a balmy -33 degrees Fahrenheit in the north. Russians say that you’ve never visited Russia unless you come in winter.  Siberian winters are bitterly cold outside.  However, inside the country is very warm.  The housing certainly is, and so are the people.  Like many people who live in the northern regions of the earth, Siberians face life differently in winter.  We enjoyed great times and deep friendships over tea and cookies on very cold days and nights.

VM: That is beautiful. It makes me shiver to consider -33 degrees...especially as an average! But you’re right, deep calls out to deep over tea and cookies on cold nights in the northland. What is your highest priority for your region this year?

Bob: I want to build up leadership and strengthen the Vineyard identity.

VM: What do you mean by “strengthen Vineyard identity” and how are you working toward that?

Bob: There is nothing like the Vineyard in Eastern Europe, other than similar churches planted by foreigners. The Pentecostal side of the “radical middle” is easier for people to connect with. Plus, the cultures there, generally speaking, are less individualistic than American culture so people want to belong to something greater.  I try to do all I can to connect people to the larger Vineyard movement including Vineyard resources and various initiatives such as Vineyard Institute. This creates a stronger bond with the “mother” and helps our churches embody Vineyard values.

VM: I see. Connection with our Vineyard values is important for all of our partnerships to share. As you are working in so many arenas, how do you unwind as you take a Sabbath rest?

Bob: I read.

VM: Nice. Can you recommend a book to challenge leaders to the next level?

Bob: Sure. They should try The Advantage by Patrick Lencioni. It describes how an organization’s success has more to do with its unity and health than how much they know or how smart they are. Lencioni says, “A healthy organization maximizes human potential and aligns the organization around a common set of principles.” This is especially helpful in church planting and missions partnerships.

VM: That is really good. What is your favorite attribute of God?

Bob: I am fixed on the mission of God. I understand the God of the Bible not as a judge who is busy keeping tally of moral failures but as one who labors to make Himself known to his creation.  We Christians stand in a long line of people cooperating with Him in this endeavor.

VM: Now a few rapid-fire questions. Are you a football or futbol guy?

Bob: Football

VM: Chicken, steak, or fish?

Bob: Steak

VM: Sweet or salty food splurge?

Bob: Chips and salsa

VM: Favorite new app or technology?

Bob: Pray.com. It's an excellent resource for building community with prayer.

VM: Perfect! And you’ve given us a great lead in to our last two questions: What is a prayer you are praying daily?

Bob: “God help me!”

VM: Amen! And Bob, I know we all go through different stages where the Lord draws us to different truths, but tell us, what is your favorite book of the Bible right now?

Bob:  In the past 12 months, I've drawn more inspiration and illumination from the book of Romans than any other book. I am convinced that the so called “New Perspective on Paul” is right about Paul’s life and Romans in particular. I am enjoying my study of it from that point of view.

Paul is saying some radical things about God’s mission.  For instance, a key thought in chapters 9-11 is that God calls some, but not all people. They enjoy the benefits of relationship with him, but they are called to the task of advancing his mission, of calling others into relationship with him.  So, in a sense, if God’s people are faithful, everyone has the chance to enter relationship with him. This is very different than the classic arguments about this issue.  I find Romans has other riches like this.

VM: Romans is rich! Thanks for your time, Bob. It has been a pleasure to chat with you. Many blessings as you coordinate Vineyard efforts in Eastern Europe.

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