Leadership at the Vineyard

This section is intended as a guide to how we currently do leadership and Church Government.

We believe that this issue is important and relevant but shouldn’t be divisive. “At the outset it must be said that the form of church government is not a major doctrine like the Trinity, the deity of Christ, substitutionary atonement, or the authority of Scripture. Although I believe, after examining the New Testament evidence, that one particular form of church government is preferable to others, nevertheless, each form has some weaknesses as well as strengths. And church history attests that several different forms of government have worked fairly well for several centuries. Moreover, while some aspects of church government seem to be reasonably clear from the New Testament, other matters are less clear, mainly because the New Testament evidence on them is not extensive, and thus our inferences from this evidence are less certain. It seems to me, then, that there ought to be room for evangelical Christians to differ amicably over this question, in the hope that further understanding may be gained. And it also seems that individual Christians-while they may have a preference for one system or another, and while they may wish at appropriate times to argue forcefully for one system over another-should nevertheless be willing to live and minister within any of several different systems of church government in which they may find themselves from time to time.”
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

The Vineyard Model of Church Government
Belfast City Vineyard is affiliated to the Association of Vineyard Churches UK and Ireland. The Vineyard Movement has adopted and then adapted an Episcopal system of government, rather than “Congregational” or “Presbyterian”. Thus, the primary responsibility for leadership & oversight in the church is vested in the senior pastor. In the Vineyard, we believe God gives to the leader the ultimate responsibility for the pastoral oversight of the church, for which he will be held accountable (Hebrews 13:17).

In addition, the Vineyard has been influenced by Baptist thinking, in which local churches are run by a Board of Trustees or Directors (who are responsible for finances, buildings, legal requirements etc.). The only difference is that we believe churches should be led by a spiritual leader we call the pastor, & not (as in the Baptist system) where the Senior Pastor is answerable to the Board for all matters, especially pastoral matters.

Authority and Accountability in the Vineyard Movement and Local Church
While the Senior Pastors (Andrew and Harmony Smith) in a local Vineyard church are given primary responsibility for leadership & oversight in the church, they are not despots, dictators, free to do whatever they like. They are under authority form outside the local church, and from within the local church.

The Senior Pastors are under the authority of Jesus Christ, who is head over all the church, the Chief Shepherd. (Ephesians 5:23; 1 Peter 5:4). The Senior Pastors have submitted themselves to the pastoral authority of the Vineyard Movement.

From within the local church, the Senior Pastors are accountable to the Board of Directors, who are responsible for finances, buildings, legal requirements setting of wages, hiring and firing, and ensuring that the local church also functions as a well run charity. Currently the Board of Directors of Belfast City Vineyard are: Jon Johanson, Dr. Darrin Barr, Rob Lewis, David Wright, Andrew Smith, and Jason Scott.

Also, within Belfast City Vineyard, the Senior Pastors have invited a group known as the Wider Community of Leaders to participate in the governance, oversight, vision and direction, and pastoral responsibility of the local church. This group is made up of both lay leaders and paid ministry staff.

In the same way that the Authority of the Senior Pastor is derived from Jesus Christ and the Vineyard Movement, the authority of the individuals in this group is derived from Jesus Christ, the Vineyard Movement, and the Senior Pastor. This seems to be what the apostle Paul is doing in the New Testament: Inviting and appointing overseers/ leaders/elders within the local churches to ensure their health, faithfulness, growth, protection, and survival (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5). Paul and others function apostolically and appoint the elders/leaders/overseers to lead within the local church.

Purpose and Role of the Wider Community of Leaders at BCV:
1. Pray and Seek God.
This group prays and listens to the Lord for the church both together as a group, and as individuals. Those who are part of this group commit to praying for the Senior Pastors, fellow leaders, the whole church, and their own ministries, as well as fasting, and listening for the prophetic voice of the Holy Spirit for the church.

2. Assist the Senior Pastors with Wise Counsel.
This group responds and offers wisdom and counsel to the Senior Pastors particularly in setting of the vision and direction of the church. Again, the primary responsibility for leadership & oversight in the church is vested in the Senior Pastor. He is the primary visionary for the church, and has the final say on direction. The role of the Wider Community of Leaders is not to try and control and dominate the church or the Senior Pastor. They do not seek to vote and form factions, but to serve and be available as a sounding board, wisdom group, listening group. They are “for” the Senior Pastor and the church and will offer their wisdom, perspective, expertise, on vision, direction and a variety of issues. These are people who are invested highly and feel called to BCV, and are also not afraid to challenge, question, and protect the church when appropriate and necessary.

3. When Necessary, Exercise Church Discipline.
Sadly from time to time every church will have to exercise church discipline in areas. As leaders and pastors, this group, under the direction of the Senior Pastor will be the body that undertakes discipline and exercises authority in matters of discipline. The scriptures talk about predators, false teachers and false prophets who are servants of or being used by the enemy to rip apart and damage the effectiveness of the church. Pastors and leaders commit to fighting for the health of the local church and not fearing to discipline when necessary. (Matthew 7:15-23, Acts 20:28-30)

4. Provide a Context for Clear Communication
The larger we grow, the more difficult and essential good communication becomes. One of the purposes of this group is an opportunity for leaders to communicate with the Senior Pastor, and for the Senior Pastor to communicate with the leaders.

5. Pastoral Care of the Church
Another role of this group is to ensure that as we continue to grow the people are cared for, have ministries that benefit them and lead them close to Jesus, and that we are developing responsible, reproducing, Bible-based, Kingdom-orientated, Spirit-empowered disciples.

6. Empower One Another to exercise Godly authority in areas of ministry in which we lead and serve.

7. Influence and Lead the church community into a deeper relationship with Jesus, and a closer walk with Him.

8. Worship and Minister to one another, and encourage one another to grow and lead well together.

What Is A Leader?
The primary model from the New Testament is that a Biblical leader is a Servant. New Testament leadership is not about flashy public relations and platform personalities, but about humble service. The work of God is to be carried on by spiritual power, not personal magnetism, as Paul clearly pointed out in 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. Some leaders may serve by teaching the word and other by serving tables, but all leaders serve. The heart of spiritual leadership is service, not headship. Leaders are not headmasters or controllers but ministers.

According to 1 Peter 5:3, leaders must be “eager to serve, not lording it over (their followers).” To serve Christ, the head, is to serve his church. Therefore, biblical leadership is always servant leadership. Leadership is under the headship of Christ and exists for the express purpose of serving the church, equipping God’s people for works of service and facilitating their ministry to the world.

Christ’s teaching (after washing the disciples’ feet) is indisputably clear: “I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:15).
Paul taught, “Your attitude should be that same as that of Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant” (Philippians 2:5-7)

A secondary aspect of leadership in the New Testament has to do with function. A leader is someone who others actually follow. It’s not just a title; it’s a functional reality. In the case of BCV, a leader is someone who others follow towards Jesus and intimacy with Him. Leaders in the Vineyard are given authority to influence and lead people into change, health, hope, obedience to Jesus and His Word, and deeper into relationship with Him. Leadership must always have a functional reality to it (Acts 20:28). The person in leadership actually has to lead, not simply have a title (1 Peter 5:1-4). A leader must not only have people following them, they must be leading and influencing others towards Jesus in a healthy way. It’s not about titles, jobs for life, or rank or importance. It’s about influencing people and calling them to be responsible, reproducing, Bible-based, Kingdom-orientated, Spirit-empowered disciples.

Some Characteristics of Servant Leadership

1. Servant leaders never intrude themselves between an individual and God. They believe in the priesthood of all believers and hold to the one unique mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ.

2. Servant leaders must have a team spirit and use their influence to build a team. They seek to promote the whole, not just their part of the ministry.

3. Servant leaders have a passionate desire to understand the hurts, desires, temptations, sins, joys, and real needs of their people.

4. Servant leaders are God-centred and others-centred, not self-centred. They are to seek God’s pleasure and others’ best, not their own convenience.

5. Servant leaders are models for the church. The New Testament repeatedly advises leaders to “set an example for the others in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). No gifts or abilities can make up for a lifestyle that betrays one’s call and profession. One’s character and role are blended inseparably in ministry.

6. Servant leaders develop others to lead rather than do all the ministry themselves. They guide people, not drive them. They lead from love.

7. Servant leaders lead out of relationship, not out of coercion.

Who Is Invited To The Wider Community of Leaders Group and Why?
Leaders and influencers (and their spouses if applicable), who actively pastor, govern, lead, or oversee different areas and groups of people within BCV. Since we place such a high value on the functionality of leadership, the group will be at times fluid, with some leaders moving on to other things, and new leaders starting their journey.

When are you not a leader, and stop attending this group?
1. Voluntary choice. The leader decides for whatever reason they need a rest, or are in the middle of a season of life where leading is difficult and should not be the focus of their attention (Birth of a baby, preparing for marriage, focusing on marriage, season of grief, etc.)
2. Sin. The leader enters into persistent sin, and does not engage with a process of repentance, or time of ministry is needed for the leader to battle and emerge victorious over sin issues.
3. Stop leading and influencing for whatever reason. Leaders may decide to stop leading in an area of ministry for a variety of reasons. They may feel God calling them to something else, or wish for a break, or to seek the Lord. Also, they may actually find that the leadership position they are in isn’t working practically, they may wish to stop leading and find where the Lord has them. In any of the above cases the leader would not then come to the Wider Community of Leader’s meetings.

How Do You Become A Leader?
1. The Person Demonstrates Good Recognized Character. The New Testament leans into character the most when it talks about those who lead/oversee. (1 Timothy 3:1-15; Titus 2 and others) Often in the Vineyard we say leaders and disciples are FAST (Faithful Available, Servant Hearted and Teachable).
2. The Person Has Recognized Ministry/Pastoral/Leadership Effectiveness
3. The Person Demonstrates and Professes a Calling to Leadership, and a willingness to engage in it joyfully.
4. The Person Is invited into leadership after testing. 1 Timothy 3:10