The Vineyard Initiative

My beloved had a vineyard on a rich and fertile hill.
He protected the land,
cleared its stones,
and planted it with the best vines.
In the middle of the vineyard he built a watchtower    
and carved a winepress in the nearby rocks.
Then he waited for a harvest of sweet grapes.

~Isaiah 5:1-2

In this Old Testament passage found in the Book of Isaiah, we witness the first time in Scripture that God refers to his people as a vineyard.  Almost 800 years later in the New Testament we will see Jesus directly quote this verse on multiple occasions (Matthew 21, Mark 12, Luke 20, John 15) as he rebukes the religious leaders of the day for precisely how they had failed to teach God's people the two most basic elements of discipleship:  who God is, and who he created us to be.  The vineyard parable serves as a simple description of the ideal environment required to establish a healthy relationship with the Lord.  Based on this environment, and more importantly the actions it takes to create and maintain such an environment, we see that effective discipleship can occur in seven practical action steps. 

7 VERBS OF DISCIPLESHIP

The Vineyard Initiative is a tool used by the WoodsEdge Student Ministry to make disciples.  It consists of seven principles describing the personal action steps required to be an effective disciple for Jesus Christ.

  • STEP 1 | RECEIVE THE RICH AND FERTILE HILL

    LISTEN TO THE SERMON
    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?


    In order to build a vineyard, you first need a good piece of land to build on.  The rich and fertile hill in the vineyard parable is God's love and all that it entails.  When we receive God's love, we become part of the vineyard. 

    HOW IS THAT AN ACTION?

    God's love is available to all.  Jesus' salvation is available to all.  Our identity in Christ, our God-given purpose in this life, is available to all.  The first and most necessary step in being a disciple of Christ is to claim the rich and fertile hill, to receive what God has to offer, to accept Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior; this is the foundation of discipleship.  Once this is accomplished, we must then be willing to learn who God is and who he created you to be.

    HOW IS THAT ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WOODSEDGE STUDENT MINISTRY?

    Jesus is the center of all that we do in the WoodsEdge Student Ministry.  Jesus is the cornerstone of every Sunday teaching and every small group discussion.  Pointing people to Christ and leading them into a saving relationship with Jesus are our highest priority.  Before, during, and after that happens we are also committed to helping students discover not only their identity, but their purpose, by learning who God is and who he created them to be.

  • STEP 2 | PROTECT THE LAND 

    LISTEN TO THE SERMON
    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?


    The first work in preparing a vineyard is to make it a safe place, traditionally by building a wall, fence, hedge, or trench around it.  Similarly, the first work in preparing to be discipled is to establish healthy boundaries.

    HOW IS THAT AN ACTION?

    If you have been given something of great value, you protect it.  What is of greater value than our relationship with Jesus Christ?  Once we place our faith in Jesus we must establish some healthy boundaries to help protect us from falling back into the sin we've been rescued from.  Assessing our personal environment helps us understand how and where we might need to protect ourselves from potential sin struggles.  As a disciple, some good questions to ask yourself are:  “What is there in my physical living environment or my social sphere that might tempt me to sin?”  For example, if you know you struggle with an addiction, you would want to remove anything and everything from your personal space that would tempt you toward acting on that addiction, such as drug paraphernalia.  Similarly, if you struggle with a behavior like gossip or bullying, you would want to take a hard look at some of your relationships to decide if any changes need to be made there, too.  In addition, getting immediately plugged into a community of faith is a great first step toward generating a healthy environment. 

    HOW IS THAT ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WOODSEDGE STUDENT MINISTRY?

    God has not called us to tackle life alone.  The best way to grow as a disciple exists in the context of healthy community.  This occurs through regular Sunday attendance and participating in student trips and special events.  But the single greatest way to do this in the WoodsEdge Student Ministry is by joining a Wednesday night small group.

  • STEP 3 | CLEAR THE STONES 

    LISTEN TO THE SERMON
    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?


    After securing and protecting the vineyard, the next step is to prepare the soil for receiving the best seed available.  In order to plant good seeds that take root, you must first clear the land of stones.  As a disciple, in order to receive all that God has for us we must first recognize and remove any potential strongholds in our hearts.

    HOW IS THAT AN ACTION?

    After assessing our exterior environment for any potential stumbling blocks, the next step in becoming a healthy disciple is to look inward.  Where are you “missing the mark” for God’s best in your life?  What's holding you back from taking that next step of faith?  Do you struggle with any unforgiveness, habitual sin, believing lies about yourself, etc.?  Any of these could prevent you from receiving all that God has for you.  Learning how to recognize and remove anything that may obstruct fruitfulness is vital to fully receiving God's love and obeying his commands.

    HOW IS THAT ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WOODSEDGE STUDENT MINISTRY?

    At WoodsEdge we seek to continually and lovingly challenge all of our students to grow.  One of the key ways that we do this is by fostering an environment of vulnerability and accountability.  Each and every week in our Wednesday night small groups we help students learn how to identify potential stumbling blocks and then challenge them to create personal challenges and goals designed to bridge those spiritual "gaps" and abandon any fruitless behaviors.  And then, every following week we discuss how each student did with their previous weeks' commitment.

  • STEP 4 | PLANT THE BEST VINES

    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

    When you’re building a vineyard, you don’t want to plant mediocre vines, you want to plant the best vines.  The best vines come from the best seed.  The best seed you will ever plant in your heart is the living and active word of God.

    HOW IS THAT AN ACTION?

    Reading God’s word and spending unhurried time with him each and every day is vital to being a disciple.  It is absolutely essential to our spiritual growth.  Do you need wisdom?  Spend a week in the Proverbs.  Do you want to learn how to pray?  Spend a month in the Psalms.  Do you want to be more like Jesus?  Read the Gospels.  Do you want to grow in your faith?  Obey the commands of the Bible and discover the beautiful truth that God’s word works!

    HOW IS THAT ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WOODSEDGE STUDENT MINISTRY?

    Everything we do in the WoodsEdge Student Ministry is firmly rooted in the word of God.  From the curriculum we use in our small groups to what we teach on Sunday mornings, it is all based on the Bible.  Each and every week we do all that we can to encourage kids to spend time with God on their own.  Our great desire is to not only teach them how to accurately handle his word, but to help them recognize how God has uniquely wired them to meet with him.

  • STEP 5 | BUILD A WATCHTOWER

    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

    Maintaining a vineyard in 800 BC was dangerous work.  You were constantly out among the elements, and in addition to jackals, wolves and bears, thieves would often try to come in and steal, kill and destroy.  As a result, a strong, tall watchtower made of stone would be built in the center of the vineyard so that those working it would have a place to go.  Watchtowers were used as a place to go to get a good understanding of all that was going on in the vineyard, and to keep an eye out for danger.  They were also used as a place of rest, and as a place to meet with God.  In the spiritual life, the watchtower represents our personal faith in God.  It’s our place of peace and rest; our assurance of safety.  It’s where we wait on and watch for God.

    HOW IS THIS AN ACTION?

    Great understanding comes from looking at life through the lens of faith.  Great security comes from believing God’s word and doing what it says.  Great peace comes from knowing that Jesus was God in the flesh and that he gave his life as a sacrifice for all mankind, once and for all setting us free from sin and death.  Great joy comes from sitting alone with God and sharing your burdens with him.  Great testimonies come from living a life so surrendered to God that it is evident to everyone around you.  A disciple needs a strong, unshakable faith in God and his word.

    HOW IS THAT ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WOODSEDGE STUDENT MINISTRY?

    Because we are all called to enjoy a personal relationship with God, it is our desire to help each and every student discover how, when, and where they are personally wired to meet with God and then continually encourage them in that direction.  Some of us love to sit alone and just read the Bible, others love to meet with God in nature.  Still others connect best through worship, or journaling, or creating art.  We also want to help our students learn how to wait on God, how to rely on his word, and how to expect him to respond to their prayers.  And finally, because watchtowers were often made from the stones that were removed from the vineyard itself, we want to help every student learn how to tell their own personal faith stories.  How did God first save you?  What did he do to deliver you from a stronghold?  Where has he done a miraculous work in your life?  God loves on us in these ways not only because he adores us, but because he wants to give us stories to share about how great and awesome he is.

  • STEP 6 | CARVE A WINEPRESS

    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

    Every good vineyard requires a winepress.  This is where the fruit produced by the vineyard is taken and converted into something useful.  As disciples, we too were made to produce fruit.

    HOW IS THAT AN ACTION?

    Each and every one of us is born with natural talents.  The purpose of these talents is to provide for ourselves and our families, and to contribute to the community at large.  Likewise, when we receive the Holy Spirit we are imbued with new supernatural talents called spiritual gifts.  These gifts are to be used to testify about who God is and what he’s done for us, to edify his church, and to glorify and praise the Lord.  Likewise, as disciples we are also expected to go forth and make new disciples ourselves.

    HOW IS THAT ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WOODSEDGE STUDENT MINISTRY?

    At WoodsEdge, we want to help all of our students recognize and use their spiritual gifts and talents.  We want to help them recognize how they are wired to serve and then give them plenty of opportunities to do so.  And as we disciple our students, we want to do so in a way that is completely reproducible so that every student that passes through our ministry will be fully equipped to go forth and disciple others.  

  • STEP 7 | WAIT FOR A HARVEST

    WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

    Building and maintaining a vineyard takes a monumental amount of effort.  However, at the end of the day, no matter how much blood, sweat, and tears go into this good work, the vineyard worker has no control over whether or not anything grows.  Only God has that power.  As disciples, we must learn to watch and wait for him to act, and be ready to respond accordingly.

    HOW IS THAT AN ACTION?

    Most people don’t associate waiting with action, but anyone that has every truly waited for something knows that it can be hard work indeed.  Our God is a God of seasons.  He is the God of the right place at the right time.  He doesn’t rush things, and he won’t be rushed.  Therefore, every disciple must learn how to wait on God.  Waiting on God implies a constant state of peace, trusting that God is always in control.  It also implies a constant state of readiness, knowing that God’s timing is always perfect.  

    HOW IS THIS ACCOMPLISHED IN THE WOODSEDGE STUDENT MINISTRY?

    Discipleship, learning who God is and who he created you to be, takes faith and action.  It’s a beautiful balance between believing the right thing, and then putting that belief in action.  And as with building a vineyard, it takes time.  The WoodsEdge Student Team exists to make disciples.  We know that doesn’t always happen overnight.  Jesus himself spent three years teaching his disciples before releasing them into the world.  Our commitment is to take our time with our students, to be intentional in all that we do, and to give them continual opportunities to walk out their faith and to trust God for the rest.