Deeper, fuller lives through connection with God
We started Brown Line Vineyard to help people have deeper, fuller lives. Our experience has been that the sort of true depth and fullness all people seem to want in life is elusive. We've come to wonder: maybe life is inherently spiritual and we have to continually look outside ourselves to God for help we can't give ourselves.
But talking about God can be hard today - we break up into camps based on religion or culture or class, and we either fight with those not like us or isolate ourselves apart from those not like us. This is really too bad! Are the greatest stakes of life really just who's in and who's out? Is the only way to grow spiritually to do so in a bubble?
This is why we're so taken with Jesus of Nazareth. By our best read, his whole life and teaching seemed to ask: what if connecting with God led you into a deeper experience of life AND made you a more bridge-building person? To us, that sounds like the best possible way to go about life, especially in a context like multicultural and pluralistic Chicago.
A Jesus-Centered Community
So we are a Jesus-centered community. We try to really closely follow the astounding Jesus, both in a spiritual sense - as a risen Living God who, through the Holy Spirit, can interact with people's hearts and minds even today - and in a practical sense - looking in a thoughtful way to the model and teachings he passed on, as recorded in the Bible's New Testament and grounded in the Bible's Old Testament.
Strangely enough, a metaphor from math -- the difference between "Bounded Sets" and "Centered Sets" -- has proved key to our understanding of what a Jesus-centered community is and does. Learn more in this video from our friend, author and pastor Dave Schmelzer. Or read about Bounded vs. Centered sets here.
Rooted in Historic Christianity
Historically of course, it’s been mostly Christians looking to be “Jesus-centered”. We absolutely want to be in the same stream as many of the Christian heroes who have done that so winningly - people like Patrick of Ireland or Francis of Assisi or Therese of Lisieux. However, if you've been around any modern day Christian conversations, perhaps (like us) you've recognized they often seem to represent a particular American subculture more than a thousands-of-years-old faith tradition. Some Christian conversations today can even be politically-entangled, anti-LGBTQ, and give off a negative vibe of superiority over and against the rest of the wider culture, especially in the way they read the Bible.
Anyone who spends a little time in our community will see that we’re super enthusiastic about Jesus and the Bible, but this has not led to a spirit of divisiveness or superiority for us at all. Far from it, our community’s pursuit of God seems to work out fantastically for people from all sorts of backgrounds and lifestyles. What’s our secret? Well, we’re not sure it’s much of a secret. We just try our best not to judge each other or convert each other’s cultures, and we focus instead on what makes anyone care to go to a faith community in the first place: connection with God and connection with other people trying to connect with God.
This, we believe, puts us in line with the historic Christian creeds, like the Nicene Creed (our statement of faith) - what followers of Jesus have all held as their core (despite disagreement about secondary matters) for centuries. If “Christian” just means alignment with the historic creeds, we are unapologetically Christian! However, when it comes to that particular culture and perspective the word “Christian” often refers to today in America, maybe we’re not so Christian.