An Interview with Doug Erickson

Could you just say a little bit about yourself? 

Sure. I’m been married to my best friend for 23 years- Sandi brought me into the movement. When we started dating, I was attending a 3rd wave church, and she was attending a Vineyard. Thankfully, she told me that if I wanted to get to know her, I would have to be Vineyard. That seemed like a pretty good deal to me. We now have three kids- 19, 17, and 15 years old that love the Vineyard as well. We’ve been around a number of Vineyard churches but have been at the Duluth Vineyard church for 10 years. I currently pay the bills doing I.T. but lots of things tug at my heart, like fly fishing for trout and steelhead, and books. Love books.

So, you’ve written a book. What’s the elevator pitch? 

The book is basically a more-readable version of my Doctoral dissertation, which I did at Marquette University. When I got into the program, I asked a number of Vineyard pastors and leaders what would be helpful at this time for the movement. One of the best responses I got was from Derek Morphew, who told me something like this: “what we really need is for someone to put our inaugurated, enacted Kingdom of God theology together with our views on the presence and experience of the Holy Spirit.” The dissertation, and this book, are an attempt to accomplish that. 

You’ve done a bit of history and a bit of theology here. Why was it important to you to do that? 

It’s important, because, as I say in the book, all of us do theology. We make claims about God, about the church, about other people based out of ideas and concepts we have picked up in scripture. The question is whether we are doing good theology or not. To me, that means being aware of a host of issues- historical, cultural, theological – that influence our opinions. To properly write about and understand something as crazy as the Vineyard, understanding the history is an important step. Especially since nearly every contemporary church movement I’m aware of calls itself a ‘kingdom of God’ based church. And that’s probably true. Now, some of that is just because the whole ‘kingdom theology’ movement in Evangelicalism has become a dominant perspective in the last decades.

But also, I think the historical theology is important for us to understand ‘what kind’ of kingdom movement we are. One of the points I consistently contend for is that the practices of the Vineyard- how we do church and mission- are reflections of our kingdom theology. And it’s these practices and values that separate us from other churches or movements that may also claim a ‘kingdom theology’ basis. 

Why should people in the Vineyard read ‘Living the Future’? 

If you’ve been in the Vineyard for any amount of time, one of the things you’ve likely heard is the emphasis on ‘The Vineyard DNA’.  This concept has been used to express the essential elements of ‘what it means to be a Vineyard’ and how to pass on those essentials through generations and geography. I’m not saying that Living the Future is ‘the’ Vineyard theology, but it’s ‘a’ attempt to describe a part of that DNA. Cause we do certain things, like how we pray for healing, or evangelize, or train disciples- we do them out of our theological commitments. Values affect practices and visa versa, right? So if that’s true, what we believe in theology affects our practices. And what we experience affects our theology as well. So if this is all true, and we have decided that it’s important to identify, nurture, and pass on the DNA, then we as Vineyard people should be aware of the ‘why’ behind our practices.

John Wimber, while not supremely academically trained, had an intuitive sense of this relationship between theology and praxis. Hence, he taught and discipled the church in accordance with his theological convictions. We should do the same. 

Why should people not in/friends of the Vineyard read ‘Living the Future’? 

That’s a great question. I’ve had a number of questions from academic types and pastors that are just intellectually curious about the Vineyard. I love what John Wimber used to say about our relationship to the Church. He put it this way- ‘the Vineyard is just one vegetable in God’s stew. And if you look at God’s stew, with all the flavors, colours, and smells, He really must like variety!’ But at the same time, a bowl of carrots isn’t a stew. It’s a bowl of carrots. So our DNA- what makes us who we are- is our unique contribution to the stew, and carrots shouldn’t wish they were beets or tomatoes. 

I also think there would be some value, for those who also claim they relate to Kingdom theology, to think through how that might (or should) affect their practices. I mean, if we really believe that the kingdom of God was inaugurated in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus- that should radically change the way we do church, right? And at the same time, if that kingdom is yet to be fully realized, that should probably change how we do church as well, should it not? 

What did writing ‘Living the Future’ mean for you in your own walk with Jesus? 

Oh man. Where to start lol. One of the great things was really thinking through our practices like praying for the sick for example- really thinking through what we ‘think’ is happening, and what we experience. I mean- we believe- and I think it’s true, that we are encountering the power that made the universe. Think about that. Personally, I tend to lean towards the ‘not-yet ‘side of the equation. I sometimes jokingly refer to myself as an enneagram ‘depressed 7’ or ‘chastened 7’. Doing my dissertation research I basically got to participate in the ‘normal’ life of my church and call it ‘research’. A big piece of my dissertation work was the use of philosophical phenomenology – the examination of practices and how we interpret events and people in the world- and applying that to what we would call ‘charismatic experience.’ I’ve been a follower of Jesus, and in the Vineyard a long time. So I’ve seen all kinds of Holy Spirit work. Some of it clearly what we would normally call ‘miracles’. 

But again and again, what struck me with simply the indwelling presence of the Spirit, the ‘God with us’, or the first installment of the fuller life in Spirit that will come when ‘we see him face to face.’ My family went through quite a bit, some pretty challenging times during my doctoral work, and writing this book. But over and over what we saw was God’s faithfulness and the ever-present comforter meeting us where we were, and giving us what we needed at the moment. The full stories of God’s blessings in that time would fill journals. One year my wife kept a gratitude journal-  a little notebook with list of blessings or answered prayers- and at the end of the year there were over 1,000 entries. And this was a year when we had a very difficult medical situation with one of our kids, I was unemployed so we had all these financial struggles- but in that God met us over and over. 

What is your hope for ‘Living the Future’? What do you hope this book will ‘do’? 

Well, like I said, it’s ‘a’ treatment, not ‘The Official Vineyard Theology’. So I guess my hope is that it will help that whole DNA transfer bit we talked about earlier. I hope- and this has happened already to a degree- that more Vineyard pastors and theologians will continue the think, reflect, and write about out crazy tribe. If the book does those things- helps people see who we are a bit, and inspires others to read and reflect- do the deep, hard work of thinking critically about the church and the scriptures, then I guess I would be happy. 

Anything else before we go?

Yeah. We need to get you on The Vineyardists, the podcast I do with our good friends Tom Lyons and Luke Geraty. I’d love to hear you talk about your interests like theological anthropology, identity, and what it means to be a person. So? 

You can get the book from Amazon!

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