Welcome to Vine Journal

  • Tony Payne
  • 5 October 2015

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from more than a quarter of a century in publishing, it’s that sweeping generalizations about the future of media and communications are always wrong.

This is because (like my opening paragraph) they tend to take a perfectly good insight and push it that smidgeon too far.

I can’t count how many times since about 1995 some tech guru futurist has solemnly declared that the book is dead, that print is dead, that newspapers are dead, that long-form is dead, that journalism is dead, and that generally our civilizational brain is dead. (I wasn’t around then, but I’m assuming that the same sorts of guys were saying with the advent of TV that radio was dead and cinema was dead.)

New technologies seem to breed this kind of over-the-top triumphalism or catastrophizing (depending on which side you’re on). The reality usually ends up being considerably more complicated, more interesting and more pregnant with possibility.

Which brings me to what some might regard as a rather brave move in our fast-paced, Twitterverse world. Alongside the launch of the new GoThereFor.com platform, we’re also launching a new journal featuring long-form content, published in both digital and print editions three times a year.

We’re launching Vine Journal because we’re convinced that the Christian community needs long form arguments and essays—like we all need at least one substantial meal a day, like a house needs solid foundations, like a church community needs its regular sermons. Short, light, snackable content is enjoyable and often nutritious—but there are some subjects and ideas and arguments that we need to chew over, and that just can’t be adequately covered in a Facebook update, a video clip or a short blog post of 600 words.

This is especially true if we want to do the time-consuming but vital task of thinking both theologically and practically about the issues before us. Every biblical or theological question we might consider will have some sort of practical outworking in our daily lives and ministries; likewise, every pressing practical issue will have some biblical or theological underpinnings that have to be thought through and applied. And this essential process—of thinking our way back and forth between the Bible’s theology and its practical application in ministry—just takes some time and space.

That’s the kind of time and space that Vine Journal is seeking to carve out. Each edition of the journal will feature around half a dozen essays of between 2000 and 5000 words, and occasionally longer. The aim in all of them is to do what Reformed-evangelicals have always done: to keep asking “What does the Bible say?”, and to apply the theological insights thus gained to the everyday challenges of living for Christ and ministering in his name.

This first issue exemplifies the range of different questions or topics Vine Journal will be open to addressing:

  • thoughtful advice on reading the Bible one-to-one with other people;
  • a challenging and important essay on that most basic question “What is the gospel?”;
  • an examination of what ‘conscience’ really is, and what place it has in our Christian lives;
  • an insightful look (using the book of 1 Peter as a lens) at whether and how all Christians should be involved in the Great Commission;
  • a close reading of a remarkable passage in Ephesians 5 that has important implications for our relationship with the non-Christian world;
  • some practical help on how to run better meetings.

The aim in all of these, and in the multitude of articles and essays we hope and trust will follow, is to challenge and deepen our biblical convictions, and to increase our understanding of how those truths work out in practice in our ministries. It’s to achieve what the whole GoThereFor project is striving to achieve: “to see the fruit of the Great Commission in our lives and churches; to see Christ’s disciples go out with urgent love to the communities and peoples around them, to make new disciples and to teach them to obey all that Christ has commanded” (see gotherefor.com/manifesto).

It’s to see the gospel of Jesus grow like a spreading vine all over the world, with all its different leaves and branches (and yes, with the optimal ‘trellises’ supporting and facilitating that growth).

Who is Vine Journal for?

As we’ve been preparing this first edition (and planning the ones to follow), we keep thinking about three kinds of readers around the world:

  • keen Christians who may not have undertaken formal theological education but who want to read and think and deepen their knowledge as disciple-making disciples;
  • interns, trainees and theological students who are thinking about both ministry and theology, and how the two constantly interconnect;
  • full-time pastors and ministry workers who have been out of theological college for five (or 50) years, who want to keep abreast of the issues and keep being stimulated and encouraged;

For all these readers, we want Vine Journal to be accessible but not simplistic; theologically-rich but always with an eye to the implications for disciple-making; and of course well-written and designed.

Please get in touch and let us know what you think of this launch edition—we’re very keen to hear your feedback. And if you’d like to respond to any of the articles, drop us a line. If we get some good correspondence, we might even revive that classic old school feature of good journals everywhere: ‘the letters column’.