Beginning the Journey
This blog piece is part one of what will be an ongoing, monthly series, as we journey with Red Bluff Vineyard in their process of discerning the specifics of their global missions engagement. Stay tuned for future installments.
Vineyard Missions has asked me to share how our church, the Red Bluff Vineyard, is discerning and working toward joining a Missions Partnership. Our goal is to spend the next two years (or less) exploring where God is calling us, who God is calling us to, and how to best engage in global missions! I imagine we’ll pray a lot, have a lot of conversations, take a few trips, and really work hard to get more involved. Since Vineyard Missions has invited me to share this journey with you all, once a month you’ll have an opportunity to read about where we are at.
Over two years ago my wife and I moved to northern California in order to co-pastor the Red Bluff Vineyard, a church that’s been around since the early 90’s. One of the reasons we were excited to transition into leadership here in Red Bluff was because the church had a rich history of mission involvement. The church’s former pastor (Steve Igarta) and mission teams had traveled to Ecuador and China numerous times, and the congregation had a deep value for global missions. However, it had been a few years since members of the church had participated in church-sponsored missions work. Like many churches, our Vineyard had gone through a season of decline, so funding and opportunities for mission participation had understandably become less of a priority. I know many Vineyard churches who are in the same struggle, and it’s helpful to know that you are not alone!
As we began pastoring we went through a season of exponential growth and many people began asking us about whether or not we’d be doing more mission work in other countries. As we started to pray and discuss global missions, we quickly discovered that we needed to focus our attention on local engagement and build some capacity in our church’s culture for both localized outreach and global missions. One common concern we heard from some new people coming into the church was whether or not our Vineyard was going to be focused on making a difference in our local city or if we’d be focused exclusively on global missions. Of course, being a Vineyard church means that we would answer that question with a resounding “Yes” because on this issue, we are definitely “both/and.”
In fact, I think a helpful model for local churches to consider implementing when it comes to missional engagement is found in Acts 1:8:
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere-- in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (NLT)
Notice that the missional work is grounded in the coming of the Spirit. This is why we love to pray “Come Holy Spirit” in the Vineyard. Without the work of the Spirit, we are hopelessly ineffective for the kingdom! But Jesus reminded his disciples that they would receive power from the Spirit to witness. This missional activity of spreading the message of the Kingdom would take place both locally, trans-locally, and globally. The missional movement, according to Alan Hirsch, “starts locally and mushrooms into a global phenomenon.”
The church actually exists for the purpose of missions, both local and global.
As a pastor-theologian, I’m definitely concerned with our local church following Jesus’ model because I believe it is absolutely crucial to the cause of Christ that we do all we can to participate in localized missions. After all, Jesus cares deeply for the people in our city and the surrounding communities. But Jesus also has called the Church to work toward the evangelization of the entire globe because the world is the scope of God’s mission... a mission that He initiated. The church actually exists for the purpose of missions, both local and global. If you are looking for two great resources that you can use to better understand the church’s relationship to God’s mission, I’d recommend you check out Christopher Wright’s The Mission of God and The Mission of God’s People. These two books will help you grasp why it’s been said that the only organization that exists for the sake of its non-members is the Church!
Back to Red Bluff.
We’re 28 months into our transition and have recently begun some serious discussions about how to best figure out what country (or countries) God is leading us to connect with in relationship. I have previously done mission work in Nepal, Kenya, Tanzania, England, and Scandinavia, doing everything from construction work, helping start several seminaries and Bible schools, and doing “open air” evangelism. Yet we sense that God is inviting our church to prayerfully partner in some other countries that I have not previously been involved with.
We’re attempting to follow a simple process:
Identify a number of people to help us prayerfully discern the direction we sense God inviting us.
Develop a strategy and commitment level for our church (e.g., where we will go, when we will go, how often we’ll go, and what we’ll be able to contribute).
Plan mission trips and develop mission teams, with an emphasis on discipleship, for the future.
The people we’re looking to include in this discernment process are people who have a strong value for world missions and a strong commitment to localized ministry. Our philosophy of missions guides us toward planting indigenous churches in other countries, churches that are present in their local communities. Our mission team has to buy into this commitment and methodology because we want to resist the common approach of parachuting into a country and participating in “missions” in a way that causes us to feel good about ourselves and, unfortunately, leaves little lasting or sustainable ministry behind.
Thus far we have two people who are a part of the “team,” Michelle Ackley and Cheyenne Houghtby. Michelle and Cheyenne are two of the most “mission-minded” people I have ever met. Michelle has been involved in many mission trips and gets excited when she dreams about seeing the kingdom of God break into communities all over the world. Cheyenne is a twenty-one-year-old Jesus-loving radical who wants to spend the rest of her life on the mission field and become a Vineyard missionary. You’ll hear from them in the future.
Our first “official” meeting is scheduled for the end of October and we plan on talking a bit about our desire to identify where the Spirit is leading and to think about where and to whom we can commit the next ten years.
The major question we’re trying to figure out here in Red Bluff is this…Where are we supposed to go?
By the way, you might have a lot of questions about Vineyard Missions and I’d like to suggest you reach out to them! The kind folks at Vineyard Missions (Christie Costello and Kim Frolander) took the time to talk with me over Zoom and to answer a bunch of my questions and provide some really helpful guidance. The major question we’re trying to figure out here in Red Bluff is this: where are we supposed to go? There are so many countries that have needs, how do you pick? Having travelled to numerous places around the world, I can attest to the fact that it’s easy to fall in love with people pretty much everywhere!
Christie and Kim were so helpful! Not only did they answer all of my questions, they explained how Vineyard partnerships work and were able to answer questions about all of the countries and regions that I was curious about.
So we’re at stage one here in Red Bluff, but we’re excited about moving forward and exploring where God would have us plant seeds, water soil, and watch trees grow that end up bearing lasting fruit that multiplies.
If you have any questions about the process of joining a Missions partnership, I’d encourage you to contact Vineyard Missions! And if you have any questions about our journey, feel free to message me on social media!
Luke Geraty is a pastor-theologian living in Northern California, and he and his wife, Dawn, lead the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing children, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family or doing church stuff, he enjoys reading and writing theology, fly fishing, and listening to underground hip hop. He blogs at SpiritChurchMission.com and can be followed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.