by Theodore Wright.
I had become a minister in the Church of God and served as church evangelist then as assistant pastor. My wife and I visited her family in the Philippines while I also had a number of opportunities to preach starting from Manila then moving on to Iloilo. It was after that the season of life and times changed. My wife and I had our first child. I experienced from the Lord a burden for missions to the Philippines. The denomination I was with was completely ineffectual for any adequate communicate with their missions department. I was growing in the depths of my Biblical understanding about the one Spirit baptism all believers in Jesus experience while believing in the pro-active emphasis of Spiritual gifts. The congregation was changing into a different environment from what it once was while ministry doors there were closing. I was not pleased about all of this at the time but the times had seriously shifted and it was time for me to move on.
For a number of proceeding years, I ministered among Filipino Baptist congregations. Although I was previously becoming more uncomfortable with doing ministry amongst Pentecostals during that time, the Baptists were growing more uncomfortable with me about my charismatic beliefs. Ministry, again, was becoming more difficult among them even while not being emphatic on charismatic teachings. My background was enough for their discomfort with me. “What is God doing?” I asked. My convictions were becoming burdensome.
We were getting stuck, emphatically, in a middle place denominationally between Conservative and Charismatic churches. At the climax of this I said to my wife in my frustration, “This day we are Baptecostal!” since we had no association to be a part of like that was quite like unto our faith. We were Evangelicals but yet caught in this profoundly central place doctrinally. Normally, this would not be a big deal but it becomes a larger matter when it comes to doing active ministry.
In the midst of the 10 years after leaving Church of God I was busy doing ministry in the pulpit but also doing street and internet evangelism. Among other articles, I published my article “Holy Spirit Baptism into Christ and the Spirit-filled Life“. This page explains from the perspective of the New Testament book of the Acts of the Apostles.
So, after matters shifted again as mentioned, I started to search on the internet for any church that came anywhere close to convictions held. It was then I found a church called “Vineyard” moved to New Jersey right in our area. I suddenly recalled an old conversation I had with my lead pastor at the time I was in Church of God when I was in the process of getting licensed in ministry. He briefly mentioned that there was a church that believed like I did called “Vineyard” that was in California. He mentioned, though, there were no such churches in New Jersey. Apparently, enough time went by and Vineyard had arrived near us. With the internet, I could easily look up if they believed such as me. So, I researched about it and found out it was true. We did share beliefs but I did not know yet how closely. After looking up the office address of the Vineyard pastor there for Craig Simonian, I quickly went to his office.
After arriving at Craig Simonian’s office he said that he was on the phone and asked me to wait just a few minutes. I told him, “I have waited twenty years. I can wait a few more minutes.” When speaking with the pastor I told him my beliefs and asked him if he would bring up my webpage “Holy Spirit Baptism into Christ and the Spirit-filled Life” on his computer. I wanted to know how closely my beliefs came to theirs. He read the page and affirmed to me that the majority of ministers in Vineyard would agree with what I had written. Then came my big question. “Pastor”, I said, “do you realize that when you believe in one Spirit baptism for all believers but believe pro-actively in Spiritual gifts that it entirely changes the model of church ministry?” He replied saying, “Oh yes. We know!”
Craig then invited me to come to for Sunday worship at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship to which I agreed. I said to myself, “It is going to be very interesting to see this form of church in action. Together, with my family, we came that Sunday to Vineyard Christian Fellowship. I found that Vineyard not only followed the pattern of ministry I expected but it continued to follow that pattern in further areas which I had not anticipated. I went to the book table at Vineyard and found a book titled something that spoke straight to me about where I was at. It was called “The Quest for the Radical Middle” by Bill Jackson. My experience was like coming home. The sense of isolation had been broken.
Later I found out that this form of ministry was referred to publicly as the “Third Wave Movement”. The “First Wave” of the modern movement of the Holy Spirit is called Pentecostalism which was, of course, in Pentecostal churches. The “Second Wave” is the Charismatic renewal movements which began in the 1960s and 1970s which spread inside existing conservative Evangelical churches as well as Catholic churches. The “Third Wave” started April 6, 1983 which, consequently, was 10 days before I was saved. This was when the movements of the Holy Spirit led to the formation of Conservative/Charismatic Evangelical churches. 2003 was the year that Vineyard Christian Fellowship moved into my area in New Jersey. I was a believer in Jesus for 20 years then when I discovered the Third Wave Movement of the Holy Spirit which I was already living since I was saved. There is a saying in the Vineyard… Vineyard is not something you join. It is something you discover you are.
I now fellowship widely in the body of Christ among Evangelical believers as I continue to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ wherever the Lord leads. My active call in the Lord as a Gospel Evangelist continues. At this time now, denomination means very little to me. Still, there is this Vineyard church I attend frequently which reflects the faith I have had for so long.