We are so incredibly privileged in the Vineyard to be part of a national and international family of churches all working together to preach and advance the kingdom of God. Part of that is celebrating with each other when things are going well and we see God at work in each others’ lives and churches, so we wanted to devote a little space here to doing exactly that.
Fresh Hope for the Northwest Region
Recently the Northwest region of the Vineyard USA, comprised of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California, has been seeing a shift in the life of their churches and church planting.
We checked in with Rose Madrid-Swetman, the regional leader, and Les Yoder, who assists her in overseeing church planting within the Northwest region. They shared that one big thing that is different is a fresh attitude. In the last few years, a renewed sense of hope has been suffusing the churches across the region. People are noticing God at work around them.
Part of the new sense of hope is the renewed vision that comes with new leadership—Phil Strout, Michael Gatlin, and Rose Swetman have all provided encouragement and inspiration since they each assumed leadership in their different roles in 2012.
It looks like things are beginning to change in a tangible way, too. In the past, the region averaged about one new church plant a year. But four new church plants have been released in the past two years, and they are hoping for 5 to 6 more in the next two years.
Quarterly Days of Prayer and Fasting for Church Planters
Another change that the Northwest region has seen in the last year is the day of prayer and fasting they’ve instituted each quarter. Every few months they publish a prayer newsletter that goes out to the region. They highlight both church planters and the leaders who are in the process of becoming church planters with photos and prayer requests. Those who want to pray can use the newsletter to pray for the church plants, but it also puts the topic of church planting before the whole region four times a year.
Stories from the Church Planting Front
East Valley Vineyard Church in Silverton, OR A young couple, Benson & Joanie Short, were part of the Vineyard in Salem, OR for at least seven years even though they lived 20 miles away in Silverton, OR. Benson was highly involved in the leadership team as a key worship leader and teacher. The Shorts spent a full year hosting a large home group of mainly young married couples. Eventually, they launched publicly and attracted many more young families. Within three years they became an established church.
Eugene Vineyard, OR David & Jenifer Gerlach, with their young adult and teenage children, returned to their native Northwest after having been part of two church planting teams in Tennessee. After one year, they were meeting in a public neighborhood school. Now after two years, they have some middle aged adults, but have attached a huge teen-age group, with up to 50 young people in their home on Sunday evenings.
Vineyard 509 in Spokane, WA They named their church after the area code! After a year and a half, they have moved into a public location in one of Spokane’s ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
Florence Vineyard, OR A vigorous retired couple, George & Beverly Sizemore have planted in an Oregon Coastal retirement community of 15,000. George, who has his Ph.D, had been a leading high school principal in the Phoenix area. They had been hosting and leading an independent home group and became acquainted with the Vineyard and eventually were released to plant a Vineyard. After slightly more than a year they have a good core group of 25 people and are meeting in a leased building. The group is alive with the Presence of God and hunger for the Kingdom.
The Dallas Vineyard, OR Robert and Marlene Friel, a couple on the leadership team of the Hood River Vineyard. For three years they hosted and led a home group 20 miles away in their hometown, The Dalles, a community of 15,000. The home group grew to around 50 people, so they moved to a public school on Wednesday evenings. When their youngest daughter graduated from high school, they felt the timing was right to launch a church plant. After a year they have over 100 attending. Many are new converts and about half are recovering from some type of addiction.
The Northwest is made up of a couple hundred small towns and three major metropolitan areas: Seattle, Portland/Vancouver, and Sacramento. Within these large metroplexes, there are many distinct areas and neighborhoods, each with their own unique flavors and cultures. As the Vineyard in the Northwest continues to press into church planting in the coming years, they hope to keep investing in planters and strategies for both types of areas—small towns and neighborhoods.
For the Rest of Us
First of all, way to go, Northwest! We’re excited for everything God is doing in and among you. And for the rest of us, let’s keep pressing in the way this region has been. Let’s start praying and fasting for each other—imagine if every region did that. What kind of impact would our movement have if we committed to lift each other up this way?