Exploring Membership with Following Jesus: Session 2


We looked at following Jesus, which meant joining his community: Following Jesus… in community… for others (one reality in three inseparable values). Jesus told them to “go, make followers…” How did the early church do this? What did belonging in community (‘church membership’) mean in this context?

1.     HOW DID JESUS’ FOLLOWERS MAKE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS?  (Working from Acts 2:37-47)

1.1. Theologians call it ‘Initiation into Christian (Messianic) faith’.
What did Christian initiation entail?

1.2. Repentance & faith: the moment of conversion,repentance from dead works and faith toward God” (Heb 6:1f). Jesus preached it as we saw in Mark 1:14-16, and now Peter in Acts 2:38.

1.3. Baptism & laying on of hands: “Be baptized… and you will receive the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). This is the public act of sealing your faith in Messiah, burying your past life, entering new life in his community, and being empowered with the Spirit as Jesus was (Mark 1:9-11 cf. Heb 6:2).

1.4. This was initiation into the local church: Conversion and baptism involved belonging to the local church of Jesus. And this is where discipleship happened – not on your own – see Acts 2:40-42f.

1.5. There’s evidence of an immediate discipleship process or ‘catechism’: The baptismal confession in Galatians 3:38 gave the new followers a new identity in the one Body of Christ, where a ‘foundation of faith’ was laid: Jesus the cornerstone (1Cor 3:10) and his ‘Sermon on the Mount’ (Matthew 5 to 7, an early church catechism), plus the ‘elementary principles’ in Heb 6:1-3. The ‘disciplined learning’ or apprenticeship to Jesus began at conversion and continued till death!


2.1. Many names/metaphors were used for the first followers/community of Jesus: Here are some…

2.2. ‘The Way’ of Jesus (Gr. Hodos, Acts 9:2 cf. John 14:6… Jesus’ way of living the Kingdom)

2.3. Christians (Kristianos or Messianics, Acts 11:26… Jesus’ disciples were called this by others)

2.4. God’s family & household (patria & oikos, Eph 3:15, 2:19, speaks of relational belonging)

2.5. Fellowship (koinonia, Phil 2:1f, speaks of sharing in a common life – God’s life in community)

2.6. The most common was ‘church’ (Ekklesia, Matt 16:18) – from secular Greek usage, “those called out to gather” to decide the affairs of the town/city. Jesus’ first followers used this word to describe those Jesus calls to gather to him to share in his Kingdom authority to transform the town/city. I.e. ‘church’ is a ‘community happening’ in (because of) God’s ruling presence!
Put another way: Jesus’ ekklesia (his calling to us – our ‘vocation’) is to Follow God, Form (be formed in) Community, to Fish the World for the Kingdom of God.

2.7. We have to get away from ‘church’ = meeting; or ‘church’ = the meeting place (the building).


3.1. The way ekklesia is used reveals that it gathers/happens at six ‘levels’ (see diagram below)

3.2. One cannot claim to ‘belong’ at one level (e.g. “I’m part of the universal/invisible Church of Jesus Christ”) without tangible belonging at the levels of local gathering.

3.3. The most basic levels of church belonging is lived out in the two’s and three’s of deep friendship, in relational belonging in house-church (Rom 16) and the local gathered church (Acts 20:20).
Levels of Church

4.     WHEN IS A (LOCAL) CHURCH A (TRUE) CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST? (The Reformer’s ‘Five Marks or Characteristics of the Local Church’ as per the New Testament)

4.1. Where believers gather for fellowship (regular worship, prayer, ministry & mission, Acts 2:42f).

4.2. Where the Word of God is faithfully preached (Acts 2:42; 1Tim 3:15, 4:13, 2Tim 3:14f).

4.3. Where leadership, oversight and discipline are properly constituted  (Heb 13:7, 17).

4.4. Where the ordinances (sacraments) of Christ are properly administered (Matt 26:26f, 28:18f), namely believers baptism and the Lord’s Supper (Communion).

4.5. Where the (local) church is recognized by the broader Church.

5.     WHAT THEN IS THE EARLY CHURCH IDEA OF BELONGING AND MEMBERSHIP? (Theologians talk about ‘The Tangible Signs of Koinonia’ in the Early Church)

5.1. Faith in Jesus and baptism and laying on of hands – what we call ‘Christian Initiation’ (above). This speaks of a clear point of (formal) commitment to Jesus and his (local) community.

5.2. The common meal (the Lord’s supper): ‘holy communion’, church love feasts (Jude 12), shared meals in homes, etc. This was a tangible sign of a deeper sharing of life or koinonia  (‘common life’ or community), sharing material resources as in giving and receiving, seen in Acts 2:42f. Therefore belonging or membership was relational, functional, participatory, specific.

5.3. The ‘right hand of koinonia’ (Gal 2:9): receiving recognition of (local) family belonging

5.4. The ‘kiss of peace’ (Rom 16:16): it’s a ‘holy’ kiss of family… how’s that expressed in our culture?

5.5. Regular gathering together (Acts 2:42 cf. Heb 10:25) at both small group level (home churches) and in public celebrations (congregational level) – see Acts 2:46, 20:20; 1Cor 14:26. 

The point of this session was to show that formal commitment and belonging (what we call membership) was present and practiced in the Early Church. How does this translate into our postmodern world and local church – and specifically our church Following Jesus? (Next session)

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Exploring Membership with Following Jesus (Notes)

As promised, here are my notes from session one of Exploring Membership with Following Jesus. The audio will available this week on http://www.followingjesus.org.za (or check http://www.valleyvcf.org.za).


What does following Jesus have to do with church belonging and membership?

To answer the question we begin with Jesus’ basic/generic call to all people, then we look at his commission to those who respond to his call, and then the experience and understanding of the early Christians as to following Jesus and church belonging. This will explain why we call our church Following Jesus, and why we believe in belonging to a local church in committed membership.


1.1.Jesus began his ministry by first proclaiming the Kingdom of God:
“The end has come, God’s rule is here defeating evil’s tyranny, liberating people into God’s reign of love. Therefore repent… and believe this good news!” (Mark 1:15 cf. Matthew 4:17)

1.2.Then he immediately called people into his Kingdom community – to experience God’s rule: “Come and Follow me, and I will Form you into Fishers of people” (Mark 1:16 cf. Matt 4:19). Jesus’ basic message (the Kingdom) and his call is applicable to all people in all generations.

1.3. Therefore, our life’s vocation (or ‘calling’… ‘to call’) is to Follow Jesus, by being Formed in his Community, in order to Fish the World for God’s Kingdom… just as Jesus did
Jesus a) followed his Father (in intimate relationship through prayer and Torah obedience)
In b) community formation (forming and being formed in his little disciple community)
To c) save the world.         His core values were: Following, Forming, Fishing!

Our calling is a whole-life and life-long journey… following Jesus… in community… for others.

1.4.An explanatory note on being a follower of Jesus:
A ‘disciple’ is a disciplined learner – pupil or apprentice – in a committed relationship with Jesus Messiah, learning from him how to live your particular life just as he would if he were you. Discipleship / Apprenticeship is ‘living with, to learn from, to become like…’
We ‘learn from Jesus’ (Matt 11:29-30) by coming under his yoke… the yoke of his Word (his teachings, see John 8:31-32), his Spirit, his Kingdom Community and Mission in the world.   

1.5.A second explanatory note on Jesus and his community:
Following God, Forming (being formed in) Community, and Fishing World, happens…
1) in a context – as fits our particular life situation (Fitting Context)… and
2) with a view to growing into our identity as God’s beloved child(ren) (see Mark 1:11).
I.e. the ultimate goal of following, forming and fishing, as fits our particular life context, is to be free to love as God loves (Freeing Love) – to love God and others as ourselves (Mark 12:29-31)

1.6.Therefore… see our basic framework/diagram showing the core values of Following Jesus

FJ Framework

2.1.Before Jesus ascended into heaven he commissioned his faithful followers (disciples):
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:10-20 NIV)

2.2.As followers of Jesus we are commissioned to go and make followers of him… we can only make followers (true disciples) to the extent that we ourselves are followers (true disciples of Jesus)…

2.3.We make followers of him from people of all types, reconciling all cultures, nations, etc

2.4.We’re commissioned on the basis that Jesus – due to his death and resurrection – has been put in charge and given the say over everything in the heavens and the earth (Kingdom authority!)

2.5. How do we make followers (disciples) of Jesus?
By 1) plunging them into the Reality of the Trinitarian God… baptism is more than immersion into water to publicly symbolize joining Jesus and his community. Its deeper reality is being immersed into the Trinitarian Community of God’s Life and Love… incarnated on earth…
And 2) by teaching and training them to obey all that Jesus taught and commanded;  i.e. to be (trans)formed into the kind of person that routinely obeys Jesus, that lives a life of love just as Jesus loved (all he commanded is summarized in the double love commandment, Mk 12:29f)

2.6.  Therefore, the implications: 1) Jesus’ first followers (the Early Church) clearly followed him in community – join Jesus and you join his community; and 2) they made followers of the ascended Christ by baptism and teaching – baptism as a public initiation into the Trinitarian Community of the Father, Son, and Spirit, synonymous with joining God’s people/community. It was unthinkable that one can separate faith (following Jesus) from initiation into and accountable belonging in Jesus’ local specific community – called ‘church’.

The next session will examine what belonging and membership meant in the Early Church.

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Invitation to a Key Vineyard Leadership Institute Teaching Course

Please bare with me in a little foolish boasting (as Paul said and did!)

In God’s sovereign design I was privileged to work with John Wimber in 1982 for 8 months as a pastoral and research assistant. I researched and wrote the healing courses that John taught – now summarized in my book Doing Healing, and in the 2 Healing courses that I teach at VBI and VLI.

Perhaps more important was a 40 page document that I wrote with John, “Building from the bottom up: A 5 year plan for Church Growth”. It was a systematic explanation of John’s (the Vineyard’s) philosophy of ministry; i.e. how we do church, ministry and leadership, from a Kingdom of God paradigm – practically applied in the local church for health and growth.

When John died in 1997 my first thought was to put this most important of materials into book form (now called Doing Church). By God’s grace it has become a basic textbook for Vineyards – and some other churches – around the world, having been translated into many languages. I am humbled and honoured by this development.

Now VLI in the USA has asked me to teach a comprehensive course called Vision and Planning: Developing a 5 year plan for church growth – based on John’s philosophy of ministry as laid out in my book.

After 37 years in full-time paid ministry (as a church planter and pastor) I’ve concluded that many churches don’t grow simply due to a lack of vision and planned implementation. Leaders fail to envision their people with the Kingdom as a workable plan, and then to work the plan. Some say that’s unspiritual, “just pray and God will grow the church”, while others are so desperate for growth that they adopt the motivational and success ideology of business, the technology of push and pull, of performance and programs, to grow the church.

The course I will teach in early February is the radical middle between these approaches. It will be videoed for the VLI students in the US and internationally, AND IT WILL BE FOR FREE! Seriously, no payment – we will provide tea and coffee and YOU bring a lunch… to share!! And furthermore, I will offer my book Doing Church for R40 (my cost from the publisher, it retails at R85 to R95).

Why am I doing this, why this ‘long’ invite? I REALLY want you, and your leaders and people, to come – because I believe with all my heart that if we learn to do church, ministry and leadership as John taught us, we will see the Kingdom of God come with power. Therefore, invite your leaders and people – and feel free to send this invite far and wide, all are welcome from any church!

DATE:  Friday 1ST FEB and Saturday 2nd Feb

 TIME: Friday 19h00 – 21h00, Saturday 09h00 – 16h00 (four lectures in total with tea/coffee breaks and Q & A times)

VENUE: Vineyard Community Center, 379 Spionkop road, Northriding, Johannesburg.

Phone: 010-222-0582/6.
Email: office@followingjesus.org.za or office@valleyvcf.org.za
Website: www.followingjesus.org.za
FaceBook page: ifollowjesusvcc
Twitter: @ifollowjesusvcc

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A Call for a Week of Fasting & Prayer

We’re calling our church to a week of fasting and prayer in preparation for the launch of Following Jesus on Sunday 20 January @ 09h00 at the Vineyard Community Center.  We begin today Sunday 13th Jan and will end Saturday night 19th Jan.  Keep this page in your Bible to motivate and guide you this week in your personal prayer, in the two’s and three’s who pray together, and in our corporate praying (see below – try to make it!)

Why pray? 

To bathe the beginning of our journey as Following Jesus in prayer, in God’s presence. Without him we can do nothing. As Moses prayed, “If your presence is not with us, among us, leading us, then we will not go anywhere! What else distinguishes us from all other people except your Presence?” (Ex 33:15-16). This church is HIS church, we follow HIM – as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, in his life and teachings, death and resurrection. Prayer is following God in Jesus – we pray in Jesus’ name. Prayer is invoking God’s Presence. Prayer is total dependence on God. Prayer is partnering God, waiting for his initiative in all things. Prayer is working with God in what HE is doing in our church and in the world around us. God calls us to become “A House of Prayer for ALL nations” (Is 56:7). This is where reconciliation and discipleship begins. We pray because it’s our only and ultimate means of entering and participating in the Trinity, in their conversing and working, by the indwelling interceding Holy Spirit (Rom 8:26-27 cf. Heb 7:25).   

Why fast?

By abstaining from (certain kinds of) foods, and even (certain kinds of) liquids, we “amplify” our groaning to God. Every time we feel hungry and weak, we’re reminded to cry out to God and pray for the issues listed below. By denying ourselves food we discipline our bodily appetites and turn them to God; e.g. take the time you’d use to prepare the meal and eat it, and give it to God in focused prayer. Fasting humbles us to live not by bread alone but by every word that comes from God (Deut 8:1-5). More so, fasting empowers prayer by confronting and defeating evil opposition (Lk 4:1-14). So decide before God what foods or meals or treats (even TV!) you can fast this week.

What to pray for?

1.     God’s Presence: Above all that God fills the gathering with an extraordinary visitation of his Presence, to bless the launch and to put his divine favor on Following Jesus.

2. Alexander’s leadership: The launch of Following Jesus is also my induction service. I desperately need and want God’s anointing and gifts as team leader, to guide the church into God’s calling and dream for us, to develop leaders and build teams, and facilitate the spiritual formation of our people and the growth of the church.

3. Church’s Mission: To pray for the meaning and fulfillment of God’s call on us – our reason for existence as a church – to follow Jesus and make followers of him from people of all nations, learning to live a life of love just as Jesus loved us. Pray that a) we will become fully devoted followers of Jesus, that b) God will bring those whom he is calling to join us in this journey, that we may form them into true followers of Jesus.

Times for corporate prayer and intercession at VCC in the main hall:  An hour of prayer every night from Monday to Friday from 19h00 to 20h00

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End of the Year Update

It’s the last day of 2012 and we are all still here. The world has not ended. Despite all its publicity and hype, the Mayan prophecy was a hoax, a false doomsday deception. We have the privilege of yet another year of living and sharing in God’s truth, telling the world that Messiah Jesus is God’s answer to the human crisis: the One who came to save the planet, who daily changes and transforms people – in anticipation of his soon coming Kingdom on earth.  We participate in its coming to the extent we daily follow Jesus, and live and pray and act as he did, “as it is in heaven”.

God’s Kingdom comes into play and breaks into our reality as we do his will here and now, “as it is in heaven”. The darker the clouds of human depravity and planetary despair – as 2012 has once again shown – the brighter the opportunity for Christ’s Kingdom to break through with hope and transformation. May 2013 be a year in which you experience this Kingdom reality in far, far greater measure. So… Happy NEW Year!

The latter half of this year has seen the most dramatic changes that Gill and I have been through for decades. Things go along fairly okay for a long time. But when things change, it’s often quick and radical – even revolutionary. December two years ago I had my near-fatal heart attack, with my heart stopping and being revived three times. Three months into my recovery it became clear to me – for various reasons – that I must lay down my leadership in The Field farm community. This I did, with great sadness. The ensuing discussion led to a process of the community unbundling it’s life-sharing commitments, legal structures and financial arrangements. Thank God that we honoured one another in this process and kept good relationship through it all, despite the pain that it entailed. 2011 was a very dark year for me – the lowest I’ve been for decades.

Then end of December 2011 God began to speak to me through Isaiah 40 onwards. He restored me from my psycho-emotional exile, renewed my life-calling, and promised to “make all things new.” So with the blessing of the community I made myself available for a call to pastor and lead a church again. In May the leadership of Valley Vineyard asked me to come and help them – the church had been in a serious protracted struggle. My re-engagement at Valley Vineyard from June onwards led to a call to become the team leader (in September). Gill and I then looked for a home nearer to the congregation. God gave us a lovely town-house which, thanks to The Field community arrangements, we were able to buy.

So we have spent October, November and December, doing three things: 1) fulfilling my commitments to certain translocal ministry trips, including an extended overseas trip with the most intensive teaching schedule; 2) moving house after 23 years on the farm; and 3) beginning to work in Valley Vineyard as the newly appointed team leader.

We did not realise the stress of all this change and hard work. We have come to the end of this year totally exhausted, really needing God’s strength for 2013. The psycho-emotional trauma of the community unbundling and our relocation from the farm, has been enormous – besides the stress of moving home and downsizing (quite radically) after 23 years. But we are now settled – except for still having to unpack my library of books from boxes in the garage! We love our new home.

In terms of the church, I knew from the beginning of my engagement with Valley Vineyard that I would be called to lead. I also knew we had to “bury” the name with its journey of pain and broken self-image from years of struggle, and that we had to have a “total make-over” with a new name representing a new journey with a new identity and church-psyche. I knew all along that the new name must be Following Jesus. My life-passion and calling is to follow Jesus and make followers of him (as in Matthew 4:19 and 28:18-20). And for me that means – in the words of Paul in Ephesians 5:2 – learning to live a life of love just as Jesus loved us and gave himself up as a sacrificial offering to God. This is precisely what we want to do and become as a local community of God’s people.

So on 3 November we had a day church retreat. We buried Valley Vineyard, with tears and gratitude, remembering the joys and victories, as well as the pain and hurts. I have seldom presided over a church funeral – but this was special. We all told our stories, and then laid it all down at the cross, broke break with each other and shared the cup, and hugged and forgave and blessed and affirmed each other. Then we raised up Following Jesus, declaring the new name for a new identity and (re)new(ed) journey. We’re simply an intentional community of followers of Jesus, learning how – and helping each other – to follow him, and to make followers of him from people of all types. Anyone who wants to follow Jesus, to learn how to follow him, is most welcome to join us in this journey.

I remain a Vineyard pastor and Following Jesus is a Vineyard church, formally in the Association of Vineyard Churches, South Africa. We’ve been working on all the implications of the name change and preparing for the public launch of Following Jesus. This will take place at 0900 on Sunday 20 January 2013, at Vineyard Community Center, 379 Spionkop road, Northriding, Johannesburg. It will also be my induction service as the senior pastor, when the elders and other Vineyard colleagues will lay hands on me for this work to which God has called me. I’m excited about this important day!

Thank you to all my family and friends who have walked the journey with Gill and I in one way or another over the past years. Thank you for your faithful prayers, love and support. I believe with all my heart that God saved me, brought me back from death, and gave me a gift of life to… 1) live in ever increasing relational intimacy with him, being evermore conformed to the likeness of his Son, as I follow Jesus daily… and 2) to lead this church into a living incarnation and model of what it means to follow Jesus, living a life of love just as Jesus loved us. God bless you!

Follow us on twitter @ifollowjesusvcc, and on our Face Book page  by the same name. The new website (www.followingjesus.org.za) is under construction – check it out shortly!


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Following Jesus @ VLI in Columbus, Ohio (USA)

Gill and I had a wonderful but intense weekend in Amsterdam and Brussels, teaching 25 ardent students at Vineyard Leadership Institute (VLI) from the Vineyard churches in the Benelux countries (and a few that flew in from Lithuania). It was Friday night and all day Saturday ending at 2100 and then driving home to Amsterdam!! We had wonderful ministry times with God touching a number of students, some quite significantly!

Sunday morning I preached at Amsterdam Vineyard and again we had such a great time. The worship was filled with joy and tenderness. I felt a real presence of God in my teaching on the Praying the Psalms. An good number of people responded to receive ministry with laying on of hands. And the Spirit came with power. Many wept as they were touched by God’s forgiveness and healing. One lady said she felt the words that I spoke entered her chest and moved around in her, working deep inside. She broke down as God gave me specific words of knowledge about her unresolved pain in relation to her past. It is simply awesome to see God healing people with such specific and tender mercy.

We flew to Columbus (USA) on Monday 10th Sept, and I taught the first class of about 45 VLI students last night (Tuesday). I am teaching Healing 1 on the theology and praxis of Christian healing ministry. Once again, I am moved by the openness, hunger and willingness of those present. I find it a wonderful privilege to be teaching God’s Word and to demonstrate ministry in “equipping the saints” to do the stuff of God’s Kingdom! I’m preparing for a very full weekend of teaching, so I am trusting God for his anointing and sustaining strength!

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Prayer Request: Following Jesus to Netherlands & USA

Today, Wednesday 5 Sept, Gill and I fly to the Netherlands and the US to teach at the Vineyard Leadership Institute. VLI operates in both Europe and the US. I will be lecturing a few courses: Healing 1 (Equipping to Minister Healing in the Power of the Spirit) and Healing 2 (Receiving Healing in Six Dimensions), and Doing Reconciliation (The Gospel Mandate of Reconciliation in regard to social transformation, and specifically in regard to racism, classism and sexism). This will be besides ministering at the weekend services in Amsterdam Vineyard, and in Columbus Vineyard in Ohio, USA.

I want to share our itinerary and preaching/lecturing times (below) as a request for prayer – and this schedule includes our trip to do a weekend conference at Newton Park Methodist Church and to speak at the Vineyard National Conference in Port Elizabeth at the end of September. I will be stretched to the outside limit of my stamina in taking on this intense teaching and traveling schedule (Gill has berated me for accepting so my commitments!! But she is traveling with me as a support and especially to keep me in check!! Help me Jesus!!)

So we covet your prayers for God’s protection and supernatural strength, stamina and good health. And of course pray that God may anoint me to teach his Word with great boldness and authority, and that he will stretch out his hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders in the name of his holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:29-30). Thank you! We are very grateful for prayer – we can do nothing without Jesus!

Sept 5: Fly to Amsterdam.
Sept 7: Travel to Antwerp (Belgium) and begin teaching at Vineyard Leadership Institute (VLI) on Fri 1930-2200 Healing 1.
Sept 8: Continue teaching Healing course 1000-1230, 1430-1700, 1900-2100.
Sept 9: Preach Sunday service at Amsterdam Vineyard 1100-1230.
Sept 10:  Fly and arrive in Columbus, Ohio, USA.
Sept 11:  Teach Healing 1 at VLI, Lecture 1, 1900-2130.
Sept 12:  Teach Doing Reconciliation 1300-1600.
Sept 13:  Continue teaching Doing Reconciliation 1300-1600.
Sept 14:  Teach Friday night gathering of the leaders of all the Columbus Vineyard’s Small Groups – about 300 of them!! 1900-2130.
Sept 15-16:  Teach Healing 2, Saturday 0900-1600, Sunday 1400-1900.
Sept 15-16: Preach three weekend services, Sat 1900-2100, Sun 0800-0930, 1030-1200.
Sept 18:  Teach Healing 1, Lecture 2, 1900-2130.
Sept 19:  Pre-tape Healing 1, Lecture 3.  1900-2130.
Sept 20:  Pre-tape Healing 1, Lecture 4, 1900-2130.
Sept 21:  Teach at Holy Spirit Empowerment Evening for the church members – and lead ministry in the Spirit, 1930-2100.
Sept 23:  Depart Columbus and arrive home on 25th Sept

Sept 28: Fly to Port Elizabeth to do “New Wine Weekend Conference” with Newton Park Methodist Church… beings Fri 1900-2130 Session 1.
Sept 29: 0900-1230: Session 2 & 3; and 1900-2100 Session 4.
Sept 30: preach the Sunday services, 0800-0930 and 1000-1130.
Oct 1-4: The National Vineyard Conference in PE, I’m teaching Tues, Wed and Thurs the “Word Encounter” from 0900-1000. I’m doing “Lectio Divina” which is an experiential encounter with God’s Word.

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