Monday, December 17, 2007

Vintage Worship Gathering

Church Field Trip #22

The name alone would suggest that Vintage Worship Gathering (VWG) is, without a doubt, an emerging church. More so, that they would especially have a Dan Kimball influence - as Kimball supposedly coined not only the term "vintage worship" but "emerging church" as well. I must admit that when I first read Kimball's book, The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations, I didn't quite get it. I struggled to grasp why and how an almost "Catholic" atmosphere would work within a postmodern worship experience. Having experienced this atmosphere at VWG, I now get it. Take the beauty and serenity of the Catholic experience that we had months ago, and infuse it with postmodern relevance and you have a service that is beautiful, serene, and NOT boring. Go figure. It actually works.

We arrived about 15 minutes early to find that they have a 1/2 hour of "hang time" before the service. They all arrive early, eat breakfast (quiche, pastries, cookies, bagels, juice, coffee, etc.), and build relationships. During this time, we were engaged in conversation with at least 5 different people, including Albert - the preacher. I never once heard him or anyone else use the term pastor, so I won't either. There were candles everywhere, as well as plenty of comfortable chairs to sit in while everyone just hung out. It was a very inviting and comfortable atmosphere. Also, everyone wears a name tag, which has both its advantages and disadvantages.

VWG shares a small playhouse theatre called Mos'art with a theater company that performs plays there as well as an art gallery. It was a really cool set up for a church service; sorry, worship gathering. Albert started the church about a year ago with 15 other people who were tired of "church as usual". They now have about 50 people each week gathering in the small theater that seats about 100.

The worship was acoustic (two acoustic guitars and one djembe) and introspective, though we were told that their worship experience can often run the full gambit from small and acoustic to full-blown electrical onslaught requiring them to hand out earplugs at the door. I neglected to take a picture of their stage setup because the theatre company was putting on a show that afternoon and the stage was set up accordingly for the play itself. The worship leader introduced himself only as "Captain." I didn't inquire about the name's nature or origin.

Before preaching, Albert brought two soon-to-be missionaries, Nick and Jesse, up to the stage to discuss their missionary calling. In the spring they will be going to a Muslim country that is hostile to Christian missionaries, so they will actually be working for an NGO there and spreading the Gospel on the sly. I'd like to also note that during the entire service, I believe we were lead in prayer at least half a dozen times by at least three different people.

Albert used Matthew 2:1-12 for the basis of his sermon. Here are some notable excerpts from his teaching:

"Every day that you submit to God, you become more like Jesus."

"I always find myself wanting to build up my own kingdom, rather than live in God's kingdom."

"Repent and believe, because the kingdom of God is near."

"The Gospel is Christ breaking into this world, bringing God's kingdom. This presents us with a choice - whether or not we will submit to His rule and authority."

"The Gospel is this: God isn't on a power trip. We are on a power trip. He let us kill Him. And yet He still invites us to join His kingdom through mercy and forgiveness. Is this Good News to you? Or is it Bad News?"

"It is God's desire to have a relationship with you, even to the point of self-sacrifice."

We had a great time at VWG. It was very relaxed, authentic, and easy to engage despite us being first-timers. Having to drive an hour away to find a church like this is just heart-breaking in a metropolis with more than 5 million people.

I'd like to remark on something that I noticed at both VWG and also at Epic Remix last month. While both of these churches definitely have their fair share of twentysomethings, they are by no means solely made up of youngsters. Kelly, at 48, and Albert, at 40, have both managed to find a faith that appeals to all ages, if the makeup of the congregations is any indication.
Follow-up: We received a personally written email from Albert.


Philip said...

Thanks for the encouraging words. Keep up the revolution.

Guy in the pink shirt

JM said...

vintage worship gathering FTW

the8thperson said...

In what ways did VWG take on a Catholic atmosphere?

Albert said...

I think there is a difference between what Kimball means by emerging and emergent. When Kimball describes the emerging church he is describing a movement that is happening amongst post-moderns who are seeking a faith that is practical, authentic, genuine, filled with grace and lived out. This is in contrast to the faith they witness in many churches (especially, mainline denominations) or the faith their parents (dogmatic, legalistic, stale, lacking grace). I would chalk this up to a movement of the Holy Spirit calling people to follow Jesus and live in His Kingdom under His Lordship.

Like most great movements there are always those who like to jump on the bandwagon, hijack, go to the extremes or whatever you want to call it. Unfortunately, some of those people have labeled themselves emergent thereby, coloring the view of all those who could consider themselves part of this movement.

If Lew is critiquing VWG as emergent and if that is akin to what Dan Kimball (who I think is about as orthodox as you can get) is doing then I am pleased to be in that company.

the8thperson said...

Is Dan Kimball "orthodox" according to the Bible or according to Emergent movement?

"Do not be deceived: "Bad company corrupts good morals." - 1 Cor. 15:33

revolution said...

having read Kimball's books, and being a regular reader of his site, I'd say that he is orthodox according to Scripture.

Also, I would like to differentiate between Emerging (the movement) and Emergent (the group led by Jones, Paggitt, and McLaren) but at this point it is almost pointless.

McLaren, Jones, and Paggitt have pretty much ruined the movement for everyone else (with their poor theology) much like a political candidate can sour a person on an entire political party.

Don't sweat it, Albert. You presented the Gospel just fine. And in a post-modern package to boot.

the8thperson said...

You accidentally left out Rob Bell. Sorry... just try'n to help.

Albert said...

Lew, Thanks. I would never sweat it. I just wanted to love on Dan Kimball. I've heard him speak a few times in person and I think he's a genuine guy whose trying to reach his culture for Christ. I love his hair. Isn't the guy a presbyterian?

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