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…
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.