The Real Jesus: What Happened?
We recently completed our third discipleship campaign at Vineyard Columbus. The first was titled “The Good Life”; the second, “Fully Alive”; and the third, and most recent, campaign was titled “The Real Jesus”. Our goal this year was to deepen our understanding of who the Real Jesus is and how we can better respond to him in his various roles. We considered the Jesus of History, and Jesus as Teacher, as Healer, as Social Revolutionary, as Suffering Servant, as King, and as Savior. As in our prior campaigns, we aimed at discipling our whole church from toddlers to empty nesters. By multiple objective measures and by anecdotal responses, this was our best campaign ever!
The Real Jesus Campaign by the Numbers
We began 2018 with 405 small groups. During the campaign, we added 494 new HOST groups – and more than half of the host groups are planning to continue. So, as a church, we ought to have between 650 and 700 small groups on an ongoing basis as a result of the campaign. More than 7,000 adults attended one of our Real Jesus gatherings. This year, we even had HOST groups in different cities and other countries!
We also heard multiple stories of individuals making first time commitments to Christ at one of our HOST groups.
The Real Jesus Campaign and our Kids
As one of our outreach goals, we sought to collect 5,000 cans of food from our children in a modern-day reenactment of the “Feeding of the 5,000”. Children from all of our campuses exceeded our goal by collecting 5,353 cans! It was great seeing our kids focusing on the needs of others by replenishing the food supply at our local food pantries!
We also had 35 elementary school children graduate through our prayer model training and participate in prayer ministry time in big church during the “Jesus our Healer” week.
The children leading worship during the Palm Sunday celebration is always a highlight of the campaign. This year, they added a drumline to play along with a kid-friendly version of “Hosanna” that was played by our youth band while hundreds of kids waved palm branches throughout the auditorium. We had a true celebration of Palm Sunday!
Families were given a special six week devotional to be intentional during the Lenten season with their children as Moms, Dads, and children together reflected on the person of Jesus. We received many extremely positive responses from families who have made going through our Lenten devotionals a new family tradition.
The Real Jesus Campaign serving our Community and Schools
The service challenge portion of this year’s campaign was titled, “Give and Go!” The GIVE portion was designed to restock our Transitions Ministry with household goods. Transitions serves to assist homeless veterans, women and families escaping domestic violence, refugee families, and individuals who are being released from incarceration as they move into more permanent housing. Some of the household goods our Transitions ministry supplies include: pillows, sheets, blankets, alarm clocks, pots, pans, dishes, silverware, towels and shower curtains. This campaign we collected more than $40,000 worth of household goods which will serve at least 200 families as they move into more permanent housing.
In addition to giving, our congregation was encouraged to GO to 16 Central Ohio Public Schools to mulch, plant flowers, paint inside the buildings, build playground equipment, and build gaga pits. We had over 1,000 volunteers registered to serve at our city schools. We don’t have an exact count because many more people showed up that morning than we expected. Building custodians had many compliments for our efforts. They said they were amazed at the number of volunteers that we had and how hard the volunteers worked. One custodian asked for and received prayer from some of our volunteers. Many asked for information about our church. Indeed, we have several people who came to our Membership Class because they saw our volunteers that Saturday morning and “wanted to be part of a church that served our community!”
Diane Agnes, the Principal of Woodward Park Middle School, said this: “Thank you so much for all of the work that you completed on your service day at Woodward Park Middle School and Woodward Park at Walden. We have had gaga pits on our wish list for several years now, and your generosity and service brought them to fruition for our 900 middle school students! We appreciate all that Vineyard Columbus does for our students and staff, including your mentoring program, these service projects are above and beyond what we ever expected. Thank you again for your dedication and service to our students and staff, as well as their health and their happiness.”
Mayor Andrew Ginther and interim Superintendent John Stanford also spoke incredibly positively to our volunteers about their contribution to Columbus Schools during our day of service on April 7!
The most encouraging responses, however, came from the children at the public schools we served. We received over 200 thank you notes from the children. One of my favorites was this note from a little elementary school girl:
”I go to a church too. At my church, we never go to a school and clean it. You are a different church. A different church is a better church. Thank you.”
I love being part of a different church!
The Real Jesus Campaign and Stories of Risk taking, Healing and Encouragement
A teacher in Dublin City Schools wrote this note early in the campaign:
“I’ve been a teacher in Dublin for 13 years and always wanted to have a small group at school, but never felt the timing was right or that I was ready for the task… My co-worker and friend, also a Vineyard member, approached me and asked if we should lead a [Real Jesus] group. I told her I would think about it… I began to beg God for signs of NOT leading a group, praying “Lord, I know you do NOT want me to do this. I’m not a strong leader. I’m just not ready to share about my faith in this setting.” There were confirmations from God so I sent an email to the staff of almost 70 people inviting people to The Real Jesus small group after school. Within hours, 20 staff members had said they were interested in participating… On Wednesdays, 10 teachers meet before school and then 10 different teachers are meeting after school to complete the study…
Two people in attendance have outwardly spoken against Jesus (one specifically saying that Jesus is not the Son of God) and they both approached me today saying that they loved learning about the Jesus of History and cannot wait to attend next week to learn more. God is working in my school and I am so thrilled to be along for the ride.”
I love stories of people who take risks for Jesus and who see how mighty a Savior he is.
This year, we also had stories of healing during our ministry time during the week titled “Jesus our Healer”. We even had a story of a marriage proposal (from last year’s campaign). A woman named Jen wrote this:
“Kevin and I attended a Fully Alive group last year as our first small group together. It was amazing. He proposed to me at the front of Vineyard Columbus on Christmas Eve. He knows that the church is “my happy place”. This year, we led a Real Jesus group together. Our wedding is in May. God is so good.”
Yes, he is!