Monday, September 17, 2007

mustard seed faith

This weekend we had the official honoring and sending of Steve Sjogren, who with his wife Janie, are planting a new church in the Tampa Bay area called Coastland Tampa. It’s hard to believe that it was twenty-four years ago that Steve (a fresh-faced 27 year-old), Janie, 3 year-old Rebekah and 9 month-old Laura (Jack came seven years later!) pulled into Cincinnati to start a new kind of church: a Vineyard. I remember my wife and I coming a few months later when the church was a small group of people meeting in the living room of a house in Mason, which seemed like a million miles away from Norwood. Now I live there.

It was Steve and a twelve-string guitar. That was it. Anita and I were hooked.

We’d sing these simple four-chord songs over and over and cry. It was so unadorned and directed to God. I had been around the block a few times in my years of being a Christian. As a musician, I had played in almost every state in festivals, clubs, colleges, high schools and churches (okay, not a lot of churches; they nearly always complained it was too loud). I had exposure to lots of different streams of doctrines and methodologies in the Body of Christ. I had gone through a number of phases in my own spiritual journey: from Jesus people to charismatic movement to a Pentecostal denomination to Word-of-faith and on and on. I had gone through periods of throwing away my secular records, tossing out our television, witnessing door-to-door, arguing with cults on the street corners, and wrestling with my own faith. And very dry periods as well. All fairly normal, at least I think.

But this was different. It felt like, well, grace. That’s the best I can describe it. Simple, heart-washing grace. Somehow the performance aspect of Christianity, or at least my version of it, was refreshingly gone. I’m not sure how to explain it, but I never really thought I was “performance”-oriented in my faith, but the idea that I’ve got to do better, I’ve got to believe harder, I’ve got to trust more—though none of those are necessarily bad—somehow sneaked into affecting how I thought God thought of me.

One day Jesus was teaching on our need to forgive. After hearing that, the apostles cried to Jesus, “Increase our faith!” Oddly, Jesus went the opposite direction: He said you don’t need much faith at all, only the size of a mustard seed. Try wrapping your cerebrum around that one.

Grace requires very little faith. It’s a gift, after all. I just have to receive it and give it away. That’s good news to us crusty old believers who get that mixed up over the years as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Grace is the practical expression of the love of God, the God of love.

Meditate on this: the same grace that saves you is the same grace that sustains you.

I think that’s what I felt walking into that living room in 1984. And I never want to lose that.


  1. I'm always amazed how small things, simple truths, heartfelt worship that focuses on grace, produces expressions of God's love in simple practical ways.

    Three years + traveling all over the world and the USA with Steve S certainly ruined me in a good way.

    The strong DNA of the Cincy Vineyard has made an impact far more reaching than the gracious leaders and people at the Cincy Vineyard will ever know. Their love is changing the world. (see as one example)

    People are scattering grace seeds all over the world in small and big ways. Their expressions of kindness is producing a living picture of a generous, giving grace-full God.

    I am confident that the years ahead in Cincy Vineyard's great adventure will continue to produce caring, loving, believers that will be committed to to reveal the heart of God through small things done with great love.

    I'm especially glad that Jesus by His grace has made all of us 'ragamuffins' the acceptable worshipers the Father seeks.

    As one of my friends often says, 'the best is yet to come.'

    Thanks for being true to your roots and maintaining your passion. It's refreshing.


  2. I remember my first time I ran into the vineyard 1986-7, it was in san diego, me and my wife then were invited to a jazz club on a vineyard church site, where the waiters were serving us to show God's love in a practical way. I thought it strange back then and it always stuck with me.

    I always thought I would like to join a church like that back then versus the toxic faith I was stuck in back then. If I would of just had the nerve to drag my wife to the church maybe things would of been different now.


  3. My first visit to VCC in the late 90's, I saw a rack of groceries and a sign that said "Do you or a neighbor need groceries? Take a bag!"

    I remember telling Kelsey "They're going to get ripped off big time...". She quickly pointed out that losing a few bags of groceries was a small price to pay for extending the kingdom. Smart girl.

    Steve taught us all volumes about the power that generosity holds for both the giver and the receiver.

  4.'s that same grace in the presence of God with others that gets me everytime...thanks dave