Introducing Vineyard Institute
Back in the early 1990s, Vineyard Columbus experienced extraordinary growth. In some years we grew by over 40 percent. But while we had a growing crowd, we did not have a discipled church. One day I was praying for the church and I said: "Lord, you say in your Word that 'The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to fling out workers into his harvest field.' So I am asking you, Lord, to give us leaders to care for the 2000 people that you have given to us." The words were barely out of my mouth before I experienced a strong conviction from the Holy Spirit. I felt that the Lord responded this way: "Rich, you will not be able to reap where you haven't sown!"
I pondered that word for some time. As I looked at our church, and at the Vineyard movement, it was apparent that we had borrowed almost all of our high level leaders from other movements such as InterVarsity, Campus Crusade, other churches, various seminaries, etc. and then we sought to "Vineyardize" them by injecting into these already-formed leaders Vineyard's DNA. I realized that if we were ever going to create a sustainable church and church movement, we had to develop our own leaders from scratch. We need to sow leadership training so that we could reap future leaders.
In 1994, Vineyard Leadership Institute (VLI) was born. A few years after that, Steve Robbins, who was finishing his doctrinal studies in systematic theology from Fuller Seminary, was hired to lead VLI. And in the late 1990s a few churches asked if VLI could be made available to them to assist their churches in training their leaders. Thus, VLI-At-A-Distance was born. Over the years VLI trained several thousand leaders in hundreds of churches.
In August 2011, Vineyard leaders from across the globe met in London, England. There was a unanimous sense that the International Vineyard Movement was at a crossroads. First generation Vineyard leaders, who knew John Wimber (the Vineyard's founder), were aging and needed to be replaced by leaders who would carry the DNA of our movement to future generations. Moreover, the Vineyard was no longer a movement confined to the Western world. Over the last 20 years Vineyard has rapidly expanded into the Majority World (with various languages, cultures, economic constraints and learning styles). In order to fulfill our part of the mission of Christ to the world, we needed to produce many church planters and support leaders to pastor Vineyard churches all over the world.
At the London meeting we made a crucial decision as international Vineyard leaders. We decided that there would be more fruitfulness if we worked together to educate Vineyard leaders than if we worked separately. We began to dream about what an educational institution would be like which "brought together the best and the brightest" from across the entire international Vineyard family. And we wanted to make training and equipping available to emerging Vineyard leaders all over the world with content translated and contextualized into local situations. In order to further our International Vineyard Movement, our church donated Vineyard Leadership Institute and all of its assets to an independent non-profit created for the entire Vineyard family, but not controlled by Vineyard Columbus, or by any individual national movement.
The international leaders recognized that Vineyard Columbus had the expertise and the experience in leading an educational institution. They asked that our church continue to administrate the newly-formed Vineyard Institute for the benefit of our global family. But Vineyard Institute (VI) is an entirely new educational provider and is not simply a rebranding of our former VLI. We believe that VI with our newly hired Academic Dean, Dr. Derek Morphew, a New Testament Scholar from South Africa, will offer more flexible and higher level training to our church and to our international movement than either VLI or VBI (the Vineyard Bible Institute) did in the past.
Beginning September 1, 2013, Vineyard Institute courses will be offered across the world online and through live teaching in various locations (including Vineyard Columbus). The initial participants include Vineyard United Kingdom/Ireland, Vineyard USA, Vineyard South Africa, Vineyard Kenya, Vineyard DACH (Germany, Austria and Switzerland), Vineyard Norden (Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden) and Vineyard Benelux (Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg). Vineyard Brazil will likely come online next year. And in future years, we hope to add other partners from Asia, Africa, Europe and across the globe.
This is an extraordinary season in Vineyard's history. If you are interested in biblical and practical training for future Christian leadership, contact Vineyard Institute at or visit vineyardinstitute.org. Become even more useful to God's kingdom! Get trained through VI!