A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…
Well, maybe not so long ago, and really not that far away, The Vineyard was born in the minds of its two planting pastors, Dave Kakish and Justin Hase. After serving in ministry together for several years, Dave and Justin formed a deep friendship rooted in their common desire to see lives in Mobile transformed by the power of the gospel. Though life took Dave and Justin in separate directions, their shared friendship and common desire for the people of the greater Mobile area only grew stronger. The Lord was stirring something in each of their hearts that neither of them could understand at the time.
In 2009, the Lord started to clarify His plan in Justin’s heart. Justin was growing less and less pleased with his pursuit of ministry and the spread of the Kingdom in his position in a traditional church. He was noticing more and more clearly that, though the Mobile area had over half a million people, the majority of churches were set up in such a way as to be effectively reaching only about 20-40% of them. The sad reality hit him that, if that statistic was true, 60-80% of Mobile was being missed by all our evangelistic strategies, events, and programs. Justin knew that he had to do something different. He wanted to set his life up in such a way that he focused on the unwanted, unnoticed segment of Mobile. He knew that the Lord was calling him and his wife, Erin, to plant a new church to reach a different type of person.
Enter Dave. Dave and his wife, Ashley, were in a completely different place in their ministry at the time. Where Justin and Erin were feeling less and less pleased with their place in the church, Dave and Ashley were finally at a ministry position in a church that they believed they could serve and be happy at for the rest of their lives. They were happy, and not interested in any change. Justin (and the Lord) ruined all that.
In the summer of 2009, Justin and Erin approached Dave and Ashley about joining them in their church planting endeavors. Justin was moderately aware of the difficulties of church planting, and he knew that he didn’t want him and Erin to go at it alone. So they asked Dave and Ashley to pray about joining them. It seemed crazy at the time, because they were all aware of how happy Dave and Ashley were at their church. But it also seemed right. After much labored prayer, Dave and Ashley finally made their decision. One afternoon standing in the parking lot of Foosackly’s as the rain came down, Dave delivered the news: they were in. It was time to plant a church.
So they set their minds to the grueling task of starting a church from scratch. With no red tape to work through and no sacred cows that needed to be tipped, you would think the job would be easy. But it turned out to be a little harder than they originally thought. They assembled a small group of like-minded believers and met a couple of times to discuss the forming church. They came up with a name: The Vineyard. It spoke highly of the life through community that they wanted to foster through the church. With about 15 people on board and a cool new name, they were ready to start meeting. There was just one problem: they had nowhere to meet.
This problem turned into a great opportunity to see just how clearly God’s hand was involved in this process. Tony, one of Justin’s friends, knew about the work that they were undertaking and thought it would be good to set up a meeting between him, Dave, and the new pastor of Tony’s church. So one day, the four of them sat down in a booth at Mellow Mushroom to discuss this awesome new undertaking. It was there that Dave and Justin first met Brett Burleson, the pastor of Dayspring Baptist Church. It was clear early in the meeting that they were kindred spirits in their goals for the city of Mobile. Brett made clear that day that, though Dayspring couldn’t offer any financial support, they were more than willing to help in any other way they could. He simply told us to ask .
Well, Dave and Justin took advantage of the offer. That week, Justin called Brett and asked if there was any space in the church that could be used as office space for The Vineyard. Brett was quick to assure him that they would work something out. Problem 1 was solved by just asking a simple question. As Dave and Justin praised the Lord for His great provision, the Spirit put a crazy thought in both their minds: why stop there? Brett seemed so willing to help and so like-minded in purpose. Why not attempt to foster and even deeper partnership between these churches? So Justin called Brett back that same week and asked an even bigger favor. The conversation went a little something like this:
Justin: So we really appreciate you guys offering us free office space. Is there any way we could impose on you a little further?
Brett: Sure, what did you have in mind?
J: Well, we noticed that you don’t use your youth building on Sunday nights. Any chance a ragtag group of church ruffians could borrow those facilities each Sunday night for awhile?
B: [brief pause complete with cricket noises] Absolutely. I’ll have to run it through a couple of groups to make it official, but I think we could definitely work that out. I’m so excited about this!
So in January of 2010, The Vineyard had its first official worship gathering in the Shack at Dayspring Baptist Church. And they’ve been going strong ever since. The church has grown through its infancy stages. It has seen some really incredible moves of God in the process. That summer, the church held its first baptism service in the pouring rain in a swimming pool around the corner from the church, baptizing six people and celebrating the work of God in His church. The church instituted its constitution and bylaws in the following year, taking one more step toward legitimacy and self-sufficiency. In January of 2012, The Vineyard officially adopted the constitution and chartered its first membership. In March, the church voted to take on a third pastor, Brad Mills, to help shepherd the growing flock that God has collected in His church.
The road has been bumpy and the growth process has often been painful, but we have clearly seen the Lord grow The Vineyard through its infancy stages to its stumbling toddler stages and now into its youth. One thing is clear: the Lord has His hand on His church. He has built a community of people dedicated to Himself, dedicated to each other, and dedicated to see lives transformed by the power of the gospel.