Our Heart Connecting with God’s Heart
When I discovered Luhrmann’s book, When God Talks Back, was about the Vineyard Movement I got excited. I grew up in Southern California and was very well acquainted with the Vineyard Movement and even attended John Wimber’s founding Vineyard Fellowship in Anaheim, CA several times while attending Azusa Pacific University. I remember the excitement of being a part of this new way of doing church and experiencing first-hand what the author speaks about when she says: “This style of spirituality has also been called neo-Pentecostal because it represents the adoption of a Pentecostal ethos, and its flamboyant emphasis on the direct experience of God, into a form acceptable to the white mainstream. Another name is renewalist. According to a recent survey, nearly one-quarter of all Americans embrace a Christian spirituality in which congregants experience God immediately, directly, and personally. The Vineyard typifies this powerful new impulse in American spirituality.” The experience of attending John Wimber’s church was definitely a personal one, full of the Spirit and full of powerful emotion and it had a profound impact on my relationship with the Lord.
Also, the worship music that came out of the Vineyard Movement seemed to catch Southern California and the rest of the country by storm. They were some of the first songs to be sung in an intimate way directly to God. The author describes it well when she says, “This God is intensely human in this music, and the singer wants him so badly that the lyrics sound like a teenage fan’s crazed longing for a teen idol she can touch. Unlike older church hymns, you do not sing about God but to God, directly to him in the second person, and with unbridled yearning. “I long for your embrace / Every single day” (“Here with Me”). “Oh, to be a friend of God is all I desire” (“All I Want”).” I ended up collecting quite a few Vineyard Worship CDs back in the day and remember having some of the most intense worship experiences with these songs. In fact, some of the most memorable times were when I was a youth pastor leading middle school and high students at summer/winter camps and the worship leader introduced some of these Vineyard songs to the kids. I was skeptical at first because these kids did not come from a Pentecostal background and they were brand new to them, but seeing and hearing a room full of students closing their eyes and singing these songs at the top of their lungs sent chills down my spine. The Spirit was very present and felt by most everyone in the room and the personal connection everyone was having with God was extremely evident. Here are a few of those songs from the camp I will never forget…
Father of Lights 6:48 Vineyard Worship 25 Top Vineyard Worship Songs
His Banner Over Me 7:32 Vineyard Worship 25 Top Vineyard Worship Songs
Refiner’s Fire 4:05 Vinyard Worship 25 Top Vineyard Worship Songs
It is interesting how the anthropologist author made “the goal of this book is simply to help readers understand the problem of presence more deeply, to understand why it is a problem—why it can be hard for Christians to know when God has spoken—and to explain how, in this day and age, people are nonetheless able to identify that presence and to experience it as real.” Trying to analyze how people communicate with God is just like trying to understand our infinite God. Isaiah reminds us of this…“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” David also declares…“When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” God is an experiential God who desires a personal relationship with us and we will never fully understand Him or how He communicates with us. The author explains this regarding the movement, “The Vineyard Christian Fellowship represents a shift in the American imagination of God. These Christians speak as if God interacts with them like a friend. He speaks to them. He listens to them. He acts when they pray to him about little mundane things, because he cares.” This is why so many were attracted to this movement, people wanted a close connection to God who other denominations put on a throne high in the heavens.
Ironically, in my work as a therapist I am often asked to help people gain a better understanding of themselves and God’s direction in their lives. I feel like a spiritual director sometimes more than a therapist. My clients struggle to listen to their heart and trust the desires God has placed in their heart. They also are often guilty of not guarding their heart from outside negative or abusive influences to the point where they shut down their heart and emotions altogether. This process I take people through seemed similar to what the author described regarding the spiritual director she sat under at the Vineyard Fellowship. “The spiritual director did not think of herself as a psychotherapist. “I’m not trying to cure anything. I’m not trying to solve anyone’s problem. What I’m trying to do is to help a person learn to understand their own interior movements and to cooperate with what’s happening for them on their interior.” I love how she talks about the “interior movements” a person encounters and helping them learn how to understand and interpret them. If I can help people learn to trust the desires and nudges from their heart (assuming God is residing there) and help them increase their confidence and vision for their life, I am a happy therapist. In closing, I would say I appreciated the author highlighting the special contributions the Vineyard movement gave us, and the way she presented it as objectively as possible so everyone can be left to their own decisions.
 T.M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, Locations 223-231.
 Ibid., 364.
 Ibid., 322.
 Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV)
 Psalm 8:3-4 (NIV)
 T.M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, Locations 215-223.
 Psalm 37:4 (NIV)
 Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
 T.M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back, Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, Kindle Edition, Locations 3753.
11 responses to “Our Heart Connecting with God’s Heart”
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SoCal connections!! I was there in the early 80s at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa around the time that Wimber was leaving and launching the Vineyard movement. A powerful time it was and it continues to shape Christianity in the U.S.
I think you are right, it is impossible to quantify a genuine connection with God. Her own eclectic spiritual upbringing certainly influenced her perceptions. Yet, in the end because of her immersion in the communities she has genuine, though inexplicable to her, encounters with God.
Wow that’s crazy Dan, I actually didn’t realize John Wimber started out with Calvary Chapel before joining with Vineyard until I did some of my own research. Definitely a powerful movement for the church at large. I love the fact that people often have encounters with God they can’t explain nor can they explain away. I love how God chooses to touch people’s spirits in unique ways so they know He is real. We will have to share some SoCal stories sometime. Thanks for your comments.
Thanks for sharing your reflections on attending the Vineyard in CA “back in the day.” I am thankful how the evangelical movement has increased the churches Worship, Evangelism, and Mission to their community and world. Now that the world is coming to us, I appreciate a healthy balance of worship music, evangelism-discipleship, and domestic-foreign missions. The ministry leaders who can balance those areas and adapt their leadership style(s) to fit the needs of their congregants while remaining true to the Word is an exciting “God thing” to see.
I am so glad you get to help people connect their interior movements with the Holy Spirit. Conversion is His job anyway, but for some glorious reason, He choses to use us every now and then to reflect Christ to others.
Thanks for your work and witness to the world.
Thanks Mike, I feel honored to walk this journey we call life with people and hopefully be used by God to make an impact. If it wasn’t for the Holy Spirit and the Sword of the Spirit I could never do this job. I too am grateful for movements like Vineyard that have influenced how we worship and how we connect with God and the world. I agree with you, leaders who can balance those areas and adapt to meet their followers’ needs is a God thing.
I appreciated greatly your recollections, and further information on the Vineyard. Isn’t that Dr. Jason’s denomination, and aren’t we going to his church while in London? I look forward to it…and I get to bring my wife Lisa, too. Lots of spouses at the London advance. It will be special to introduce them to each other and us!
I am not smart enough to figure out where everyone else’s post is this week. Just one week of bumps on the technology. No big deal…
Thanks Jay. Yes Jason pastors a Vineyard Christian Fellowship and I think he also holds some kind of national denominational position as well. It will definitely be fun to attend his church in London and compare it to the original one in SoCal. I look forward to meeting your wife and others as well, looking forward to fun times in London. Blessings my friend.
Jake, good post. I like your history with the Vineyard movement. I do think that the author was objective, but she also represented herself in a tone and with a vocabulary that no one from with inside the movement would. Although she was a reporter, she was cringeworthy and I hope anyone who is seeking can find God directly from the source and not from this 2nd-hand account.
Thanks Kyle, I agree with you that the author was definitely an outsider who did a poor job of connecting with the Vineyard culture and language. I would hope the average seeker would find God’s Spirit from attending a Vineyard much easier than from this author or any other 2nd-hand account. Good thoughts my friend.
Thank you for highlighting the good in this book. I got pigeonholed into the negative critique but I appreciate the value her research can bring. I have a dear friend who is a part of the Vineyard congregation in Columbus, and even though she’s moved from the area, she can’t find a suitable new church. That says something about the experiences and connections she has during worship there. Can’t wait to connect soon! 🙂
Thanks Jean, look forward to seeing you guys in 3 days!!! I actually didn’t focus much on the book but on the experience I had with Vineyard and the worship music that came out of the movement. I’m curious to hear what Jason’s thoughts are on the book and why he included it since he pastors a Vineyard church.
Jake, I appreciate your enthusiasm in your post this week; it is interesting how the interpretation of the reading changes from person to person based upon how closes they actually connected with the Vineyard church.
I do have to disagree with you on one level, but perhaps that has to do with the song books we are accustomed to. I was raised on those old hymnal songs and found many of them to have a very personal relationship connection between myself and God; here are just a few titles as example:
Just a closer walk with Thee
I come to the Garden alone…and He walks with me.
My Jesus I love Thee…I know Thou art mine
However, I do believe that our old hymns have become so routine in the singing that this livelier worship has somehow revived worshippers into embracing that personal relationship again.