history

A Brief History (newly edited)

This local church began in 1984 as Praise Fellowship. It first met at the YMCA. The name changed to New Covenant Community when the property at our current location was acquired in 1986. In June of 1991, Jack Johnson was hired as pastor.

In January of 1995, a fresh move of God occurred here. Many in the congregation were touched and revived by the presence of God. Worship music from the Vineyard was one of the catalysts for this outpouring along with several visiting ministers. Jack decided to look into joining the Association of Vineyard Churches because of their particular style of ministry, and in order to have a greater accountability to others. The congregation and church board, as well as the Vineyard Association agreed, so in January of 1996 the name was changed to Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Springfield.

In the midst of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, 1995 through 1999, we had some experiences with God that most modern church literature did not address. Only as we began to read the mystics of contemplative writings, going back hundreds of years, did we find scriptural teaching and explanations for what we had experienced. Much historical information from the great revivals of the world also spoke of these experiences, but with less scriptural guidance.

The contemplative writers spoke of specific disciplines that should be practiced in the Christian life and of the fruit of those disciplines. These included daily prayer, silence, solitude, waiting on God, listening (as opposed to always having something to say). Just like after the new birth, you begin to find out what happened, we had wonderful blessings of His Presence, and later began to search the Bible to learn what had happened.

Many Christians and other churches experienced the same things during these years and yet did not choose the same path we have. I cannot speak for them, I can only try to follow in obedience where God has led me. The Lord told me we were to not only be a church, but also a contemplative community, a people with a set, clearly defined prayer life as our core. The heart of our church is daily intimacy with Him, through prayer, one hour a day, every day. My mandate was to take God seriously, at least as seriously as I take everything else, and to lead others along the same path.

Along with this shift to a contemplative community we determined we were seeker insensitive, meaning our focus would be on pleasing God rather than pleasing visitors. We believe Jesus can build his Church, and that most churches are not mega corporations filled with the rich and famous, but small communities of weak and broken people trying to love God and each other, with a desire to share that Love as opportunities arise. Incorporating the disciplines provides a space, an opening at the onset of every day, where God has us, our attention, our time, and our energy, before anyone or anything else. From that place lives can be built, direction comes, an equipping and a process that keeps the demons at bay. Time every day, in prayer before the Living God, a high tower, a refuge from the storms of life, a place to find help, a place to go forth from – this is a foundation stone here at Vineyard Christian Church, a Contemplative Community.

In September of 1986 what used to be P.T.’s topless dance club became Praise Fellowship. (See related article, State Journal Register, Springfield, IL, Friday, Oct. 31, 1986, P.T.’s Has Been Born Again – As A Church) Believe it or not, one of the former names of this building was ‘N Ferno. If restaurant (you eat there) and local bar (everybody knows your name) are metaphors for church, then the history of this property has had something to say. “Once controversial” nightclub, let’s see, we all have  a past, and to come into relationship with God a necessary repentance and conversion experience are required. The original stone fireplace remains a permanent fixture in the sanctuary but the altar has replaced the former dance platform.