VCW Centered-set Handout

Here’s a copy of the “centered-set” stuff reworked for a handout for VCW.

I may have posted this before. But it’s still something rolling around my heart/mind as I try to help a group of people live this and attract others to it.

What is a “centered-set”?
Being a centered-set group is an important concept for VCW. The explanation below was created from information from the Association of Vineyard Churches of East Africa and

The Laissez-fair of “Fuzzy set” mode
In this model structure and definition are minimized and spontaneity overvalued. People really don’t know why they’re gathering together except to feel the next “high.” Fuzzy sets rarely endure or accomplish much.

Bounded set model
The second model is the bounded set where there is a very definite understanding of what it means to be on the inside and on the outside. There are a set of stated or implied rules that determine who is part of the church. These can include views of the end times or types of “appropriate” dress, movies, music, etc. To belong, to be “in,” one has to follow these unwritten “rules.”

Centered set model
The third model, which we like to pursue, is the centered-set model. This is an understanding of the church where at the center as our focus is Jesus, the Bible and our particular values which express God’s particular calling to us. Membership is understood not in terms of being inside or outside but something much more dynamic. We understand that people might be at different distances from the values at the center but for us the important thing is not so much where they are presently but in which direction they are moving. We are all on a journey of being more definitely committed to our values and expressing them more fully.In this sense, John Wimber often taught that our values are like the sign on the front of the bus that indicates its destination. We welcome anybody getting on the bus as long as they are clear as to where we are going and are interested in heading in the same direction as us. To quote John Wimber, “You don’t join the Vineyard, you discover that you are Vineyard!” Living out these values will bring different responses depending upon what the Spirit of God is doing in a particular person. We know that God calls people to many different expressions of Christianity. That’s wonderful! At the same time, we know that as some people hear us teach on these values—where we are going and what God has called us to—something deep inside of them will say, “Yes! That’s what I’ve been looking for!”

As Bob Fulton once said, “Go out and sing your song. When somebody comes saying that you are singing their song, then get together. Don’t try to teach somebody your song when they are singing another song.”

Wimber’s commitment was strongly evangelical, and, at the same time, surprisingly open. When he described the fellowship of Vineyard churches sociologically as “centered set,” he meant that Jesus is the center. Faith in Him held the whole together. This contrasts with churches that are “bounded set,” where issues such as eschatology, cultural habits, or liturgical forms define the fellowship. For example, a Calvary Chapel pastor must believe in the “pre-tribulation rapture of the church.” Wimber rejected such careful eschatological defining for his movement.

Marc A. Pitman

Marc A. Pitman helps leaders lead their teams with more effectiveness and less stress. The author of "Ask Without Fear!®," he is the founder of The Concord Leadership Group and He's also the executive director of and an Advisory Panel member of Rogare, a prestigious international fundraising think tank. He is the husband to his best friend and the father of three amazing kids. And if you drive by him on the road, he’ll be singing 80’s tunes loud enough to embarrass his family! You can connect with him on Google+, on Twitter @marcapitman, and like "Ask Without Fear!" on Facebook. To get his free ebook on 21 ways to get board members engaged with fundraising, go to

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