After 30 years of church planting and worship-album-making (most recently the excellent TWELVE: ONE), as well as producing both printed and digital resources for their own churches, it has been great to see the Vineyard in the UK and Ireland starting to produce books of their own. As well as Vineyard Values, which collects together some reflections on the core values of the Vineyard, there is The Cause to Live for, the book I’m reviewing today. This book shares it’s name with a conference I’ve attended (and enjoyed!) a few times, which is primarily for 20’s and 30’s in the Vineyard in the UK, but does attract a few folk from elsewhere (Both geographically and ecclesiologically!). The Cause to Live For offers a few of the talks, edited for context/media, which are of particular interest, as well as a foreword by John and Debby Wright, VCUKI’s National Directors.
I think the book can be divided into four sections. Firstly, consisting of the Foreword, Andy Smith’s Be a History Maker, and Jen Rankine’s Transform Nations. These two talks, echoing the Wright’s foreword, set some vision for the book. Andy’s chapter is a really helpful one – rather than just offering a set of inspirational thoughts or pointless platitudes, he offers us practical challenges about ways we can practically and tangibly be history makers in our time, demographic, and churches. Jen’s chapter is a useful insight into VCUKI history – showing some of the stories of those who have been pivotal in establishing and moving on the Vineyard in the UK – and she uses that as a way to talk about what it means to live ‘by faith’, with reference to Hebrews 11 and 12.
Secondly, I think is a section I would call ‘Embodying Life’. There are two talks, transcribed, which really unpack what it means to live for Jesus. Chuck Freeland preached on ‘Growth, Health and Forgiveness’. I found Chuck’s unpacking of Genesis 45:1-7 powerful and convicting. Miriam Swaffield, who is best known as a key speaker for Fusion, shared about ‘Worshipping with wounds and swords’. This is a talk/chapter that makes interesting reading around tattoos, as well as encouraging those of us involved in worship and justice. To embody life is to choose a way of living that isn’t popular, but points to Jesus.
Thirdly, again in my own words, is ‘Us’, which is comprised of two talks by Jay Pathak, pastor of the Mile High Vineyard in Denver, Colorado. Jay spoke on ‘Valuing what God values’, which resonated with my experience of Jay in books, preaches, and over lunch, and also the stories of Jesus in Luke 15. Jay’s second talk was ‘Fear or Faith’, in which he shares stories, and also some thoughts on Numbers 13, culiminating in a challenge that makes life difficult but wonderful: “Obedience is about saying yes to something that God is asking, without even knowing what will happen next“. The ‘us’ of this book, the ‘us’ of this movement, is you and I, people simply empowered by a sovereign God to change the story of wherever we are.
Fourthly, there are two talks that unpack some of the key values of the Vineyard, worship and Justice. Ben Cooley (CEO of Hope for Justice and author of Impossible is a Dare) and worship leader Martin Smith have a chapter called ‘Worship and Justice’, which is basically an interview with the two of them. It makes for interesting reading, but in my opinion is one of the weaker parts of this otherwise very helpful book. Dave Miller, who as well as being a gifted worship leader is also a very good (in my opinion) preacher and pastor, tells the story behind ‘I Am Yours’, a song he has been singing for a number of years. This is quite a profound bit of writing – and probably the most theological piece in this book.
Overall, then, this is more than it appears. At first glance The Cause to Live For is ‘just’ a collection of talks – but I think it is more than that. I think this is a helpful book, a good bit of publishing, that offers readers eight readable and biblical insights into what it might mean to live a life sold out for Jesus. That is a cause worth living for – and this book should and could equip people, whether read as a book, devotional or in a group, to start to pursue that cause.