Guiding Image: A Greenhouse

Have you ever stepped into a greenhouse on a cold, winter day and sensed the warmth and humidity of air that brings life to the plants inside? We think of God's presence like that life-giving warmth and water. It nurtures, sustains, and grows life - even in unexpected seasons and places!

At Life on the Vine, our ultimate hope is to live connected to the presence of God, because God's presence is life itself. All that we do as a church family is centered on our longing to be with the God who Jesus Christ makes known to us. Because when we encounter God, our lives are reordered in His presence. We experience healing. And we learn to live in ways that are just, true, and beautiful.

More than this: we believe Jesus is growing gardens of new life all over the earth! The life that he is growing in our community is just a piece of the whole.

In the "greenhouse" of Life on the Vine:

  • We are received.  We all come with a story. And we are received by God into this community, just as we are.
  • We are rooted.  We let our roots go deep in the soil of liturgy, prayer, and community. We also "unroot" ourselves from less healthier soils, like the lies and false narratives that often keep us from connecting with God and one another.
  • We grow.  We change and grow as we respond to God’s work in our lives. We become a different kind of community as we practice a way of life together: reconciliation, being with the least of these, thanksgiving, prayer, and justice.
  • We offer who we are as gifts. We see how God is bringing life around us, in our neighborhoods, work places, families, and in this church, and we join in what He is doing. 

Distinctive Postures in our community

There are a few things that make us the unique community we are:

  • we affirm both women and men in leadership
  • we take on a posture of "mutual submission" which frames the way we see leadership and everyday relationships in our community
  • we have a team of bi-vocational co-pastors rather than a senior pastor model of leadership

Read more about these below:

  • Women and Men Leading Together

    “God created humankind in his image, male and female he created them.” Gen. 1:27

    “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”  Gal. 3:28

    From the beginning, men and women were created to be full partners in God's creation. In the church, the Spirit has been poured out on all of God's sons and daughters. At Life on the Vine, we affirm and call women and men into full partnership with one another. You'll notice both genders pastoring, leading in prayer, preaching, teaching, discipling, and leading according to the gifts the Spirit gives them.

  • Mutual Submission

    We believe God's love is a non-coercive love. He doesn't overpower us to get his way. Jesus most fully demonstrated this non-coercive love in his earthly ministry, never forcing the Kingdom on others, but inviting with open hands.

    So as disciples of Jesus, we are committed to submitting to one another. From Jesus, we learn to love in a way that doesn't coerce, but instead submits in love to one another and to Christ. As Paul commands, “Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ” (Eph 5:21).

    What does this look like in leadership?  Leaders are entrusted with building up the body of Christ by following the pattern of Christ: laying down their life so that others may flourish and be empowered. The pastors have been given authority to lead by Christ as discerned by the congregation.  However the pastor leads as one who serves – submitting to the congregation by trusting that the Spirit is given to the whole body and therefore listening well before making discernments. Pastors know they are not infallible, nor do they have all the gifts that the church needs.  So they lead within their limitations and invite help; never using their authority as a means to override or silence dissenting voices. They offer and submit and listen and wait and seek the guidance of the Spirit, trusting that Christ truly is the head of the church. 

    What does this look like in cases of theological differences?  When there are disagreements about Scripture, doctrine, church governance, or community praxis (that fall outside of the affirmation of say, the Apostles’ Creed), we listen to one another and engage charitably with others’ positions.  We lean in with a posture of humility, expecting that the Spirit has something to teach us. We may not always agree on everything (and that can be a sign of health) – but we trust that the Spirit will give guidance. Individuals (esp. pastors) must not usurp their authority over the congregation to assert her or his convictions on everyone else.  Instead, the pastors facilitate a listening to the Spirit by the community.

  • Bi-Vocational Co-Pastors

    No pastor at Life on the Vine is full-time.  Instead, each has other responsibilities or employment outside of Life on the VIne, and they dedicate about 20-25 hours of their week to the church community.

    Additionally, there is no "senior pastor." Instead, the pastors submit to one another and work as a team, trusting that together, we can hear the Spirit more fully as we each bring our different perspectives and work them out together.

    The ways we see this model helping the church flourish:

    1. It gets pastors out of the church bubble and into everyday rhythms of life that the rest of the congregation experiences.

    2. It makes space for more people other than the pastors to lead with different gifts.  

    3. It fosters an appreciation for the priesthood of all believers where the church does not look to the paid professionals to do the ministry.  It values everyone’s ministry.

    4. Rather than relying on one charismatic pastor, we lean into a multiplicity of voices who are providing guidance, care, and direction for our church community.

    As a congregation, we support our pastors in this model of leadership by keeping in mind:  

    1. We don't expect our pastors to carry the same load as a full time pastor. If we see a need in our community, we discern if there is something the Lord may be inviting us to offer from our own gifts.

    2. Neither are we afraid to reach out to a pastor if we are in need of care! We trust them to set good boundaries for themselves.

    3. Patience is helpful. Various processes can take a longer time as the pastors and other leaders take time to listen to one another, seek God in prayer, and discern the Spirit's guidance together.


Life on the Vine belongs to the Christian & Missionary Alliance (C&MA) denomination. Founded in 1887, this denomination connects us to a historic and global movement that began long before our life as a church community, and expands beyond the northwest suburbs of Chicago. 

The Alliance denomination has a long history of leading people into a deeper life with God, tuning into the work of the Spirit to bring healing and holiness, and participating in the mission of God all over the earth.  

Life on the Vine also belongs to the Ecclesia Network.  Ecclesia is a relational network of churches, leaders and movements that seek to equip, partner, and multiply missional churches and movements across North America.

Our Beliefs

We gather around the historic confession of faith: The Apostle's Creed

I believe in God, the Father Almighty,

creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,

who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,

born of the Virgin Mary,

suffered under Pontius Pilate,

was crucified, died, and was buried;

he descended to the dead.

On the third day he rose again;

he ascended into heaven,

is seated at the right hand of the Father,

and will come again to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,

the holy catholic** church,

the communion of saints,

the forgiveness of sins,

the resurrection of the body,

and the life everlasting. Amen.

**the church universal

Also see Christian & Missionary Alliance Statement of Faith

The Story of Life on the Vine: A Brief History

  • Planting:  2001-2002

    In 2001, the Christian and Missionary Alliance called David and Rae Ann Fitch to plant a church in Long Grove, IL (a northwest suburb of Chicago). A small band of people from all over joined together to form Life on the Vine—a name drawn from John 17 (“I am the true vine and you are the branches) and Phillip Kenneson’s book by the same name.

    Life on the Vine was planted with a vision of gathering a community that would abide in Christ and bear the fruit of the Spirit in a post-Christian culture.  In an isolated, consumer-driven, and individualistic setting, we longed to be a church gathered in God’s presence, living with one another for God’s mission in the world.

    Along with other early leaders like Stu and Laurel Heiss (from the Rez Band) and Tim White, the distinctive Life on the Vine Sunday morning worship service took shape.

  • Growth:  2003-2005

    Life on the Vine began growing, drawing families from the surrounding neighborhoods and college and seminary students from Trinity International University. Many were ready to engage with the liturgy drawn from church history, practiced in a family-like setting.

    Geoff Holsclaw was called as worship leader upon graduating from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in May of 2003, and later was affirmed as a co-pastor along with David Fitch. The Holsclaws moved into the parsonage in June of 2003 (the same week their first child was born).

    During this time David Fitch also worked on The Great Giveaway: Reclaiming the Mission of the Church, published in 2005. In many ways the book explained why David planted Life on the Vine.

  • Maturing Discernments:  2006-2009

    In 2006, seeing the need for wider diversity of gifts on the pastoral team to continue building up the church, Life on the Vine added Matt Tebbe to the co-pastoring team to offer the gift of his pastoral and teaching gifts, complementing David and Geoff’s more apostolic and prophetic gifts.  

    During this time, we also invited the congregation to embark on a year-long discernment about if and how women and men can serve equally as pastors.  Pastors and lay members gathered for regular study of scripture and times of corporate reflection and discernment. Through this process, we affirmed together the equality of women and men to minister alongside each other.

    As our congregation that began as many single people began to transition into a congregation that included many young children, Cyd Holsclaw, along with Jeff and Kristin Andrews, began to experiment with ways of bringing up our kids in the same rhythms of worship and discipleship we had learned over the past years. We began to use the models of Young Children and Worship and Godly Play in our children’s ministry, training our congregation in how to be “present” to Christ’s presence as we spent time hearing God’s stories responding in play and wonder.

  • Planting New Churches and Transitions:  2010-2011

    Beginning in 2009, several people felt God leading them to mission beyond Life on the Vine.  Two church-planting teams developed from within our congregation. After spending time in community, dreaming together, and praying for guidance, two churches were planted from Life on the Vine in 2010, in partnership with the C&MA—one in Westmont, IL and the other in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago.

    At this time, Matt Tebbe was also led to bring the missional DNA of Life on the Vine to another church in Indiana. Our congregation blessed and said farewell to many of our Vine family members in a short period of time!

    In 2011, after a period of seeking God’s will and paying attention to the gifts among us, we called Cyd Holsclaw and Ty Grigg to the co-pastoring team (joining David and Geoff). Both brought unique pastoral and equipping gifts to the pastoral team.

  • Reorientations:  2012-2014

    Within these leadership and congregational changes—we sent a quarter of our church out to church plants and sent out one of our pastors!—Life on the Vine entered a needed time of rest and rejuvenation. (We say we were in an “ecclesial postpartum” after giving birth to two churches in one year!)  We approached this season as if we were also a church plant, gathering and forming ourselves as a community again.   

    More transitions came during this time as well. After 13 years of ministry with us, in 2013 David and RaeAnn Fitch moved to Westmont to minister at our church plant there. In 2014, Cyd also stepped off the pastoral team to devote herself more fully to homeschooling her kids.  

  • Greenhouse of God's Presence:  2015-Present

    After another period of seeking God’s will and paying attention to the gifts among us, Juliet Liu joined Ty and Geoff on the pastoral team at the beginning of 2015.

    That same year, we began a 12-month process to discern how God was leading us in this next season of life.  The pastors, shepherds, and congregation engaged in various listening practices to reflect on what God had done in and through us as a church so far. Expressing gratitude for the past and all we had learned about being a people gathered in God’s Presence, living together in fellowship for God’s mission in the world, we also voiced hopes for the future.  

    At the end of this time we felt clarity and consolation in the image of a greenhouse.  

    We believe Jesus is growing gardens of resurrection life, and that one day, that garden will fill the world. Here at Life on the Vine, we long to be a “greenhouse of God’s Presence”—a place where His presence is known and experienced, bringing life and healing. In this greenhouse, we learn to be “received, rooted, grown, and gifted” for the sake of God’s mission.

    In 2016, we began gathering small discipleship groups called Grow Labs where we learned together how to cooperate with the Spirit as He cultivates Christ’s resurrection life in our lives.