The Vineyard Church began with a personal season of renewal our lead pastor and his wife experienced after attending a Vineyard healing seminar in the summer of 1989. Seminary-trained and solidly evangelical, Ray and Carol Befus were touched unexpectedly by God's Spirit in ways that were completely new to them. Owing to their conservative upbringing, education, and pastoral experience, they were quite impervious to theological arguments regarding the ministry of the Holy Spirit. They were undone by a dramatic encounter with God's power. They had no doctrinal categories for their experience.
And, they weren't alone. Through word of mouth and friendship connections, they started meeting a variety of people who longed to know God more intimately and to experience the power and presence of his kingdom. Soon, these new friends were meeting regularly in homes for worship, Bible study, and prayer. It wasn't long before they were traveling across the country together, from Kansas City to Toronto, to visit Spirit-filled churches and attend Vineyard conferences. With tireless enthusiasm, they spurred each other on to learn to hear God's voice, to sense the Holy Spirit's leading, and to pray for others in ways that bring life and healing.
In January 1992, this small group of men and women launched a new church, Living Water Ministries, in a hotel basement on Grand Rapids' northeast side. Though the church was independent, it's pastors and leaders looked to other Vineyard churches for leadership, resources, friendship, and accountability. By 1994, Living Water Ministries had become a mid-size congregation, filling several banquet rooms in a local hotel basement every Sunday morning. At that point, the church completed the required adoption process and joined The Vineyard Movement. Five years into the church planting process, several businessmen and women began to suggest that it was time to begin thinking about constructing a permanent facility. The process of prayer, evaluation, planning, fundraising, and construction took several years, and God provided for us in remarkable ways. We moved into our present facility the summer of 2000.
Vineyard North's journey has been difficult and wonderful. We've consistently seen Jesus' Kingdom works with our very eyes: conversions, healings, deliverances and restorations. We've felt his power flow through our own hands as we've prayed for the sick and oppressed. We've seen the hopeless find fresh vision and purpose. We've welcomed the disenfranchised into a new family of faith. We've seen our children grow up to love the Lord Jesus and join his cause. And we've taken mission trips around the world to share the good news with the people on several continents.
Along the way, we've learned firsthand that planting and growing a church is hard work, much harder than we anticipated. We've been around long enough now to see young and old friends fall sick and die. We've seen passionate disagreements separate ministry partners, and divorces break up families. We've seen church members drift away from their faith. And, we've seen our own humanity and weaknesses painfully exposed. Real church happens in the midst of real life.
But, don't get the wrong idea. We're still here, standing and serving with a grin that just won't quit! We're more grateful than ever for God's sovereignty and grace. We're grateful that Jesus is our Good Shepherd and our true pastor. We're grateful to be part of the Vineyard, an international Community of Hope. We're grateful for our pastoral staff and ministry leaders; right now they're leading us through a very fruitful season of church life. And, sincerely, we're grateful that you're here. We hope that you decide to become part of Vineyard North's story: growing up and growing old with friends who are trusting and following Jesus.