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The Roots: John Wimber and the Vineyard

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This page has two general articles on John Wimber

The Roots: John Wimber and the Vineyard by Bill Randles

 John Wimber and the Vineyard by Albert James Dager

001orange  Also See John Wimber’s Role In The Spread of Dominionism

The Roots: John Wimber and the Vineyard

by Bill Randles

I believe that the only accurate evaluation of any movement begins by looking at the roots. As it is written, A good tree cannot produce evil fruit, nor can an evil tree produce good fruit. Origin determines everything when it comes to spiritual evaluation. So many times we make our own judgments about things and get burnt! Eve looked at the fruit offered her and said, basically, "It looks good to me!" Even so, many are looking at Toronto and saying "I know, it looks weird, but so much "good" is coming out of it. People are falling passionately in love with Jesus and Satan wouldn't want that!" Of course, there will be much apparent good to come from this movement! There has to be. How else would any Christians accept it? What I hope to do in this chapter is take a step back into recent history and examine who I consider to be one of the main roots of the Toronto Blessing Phenomena; John Wimber and the Vineyard.

Who is John Wimber?

There are a lot of conflicting opinions about the answer to that question. Some hail him as a "prophetic leader," and others as a false prophet. He has certainly been a major influence on the church, as a hymn writer, lecturer, author, pastor, evangelist, and builder of the Vineyard movement, John Wimber has worn many hats. Even before he was converted he was influential in the field of music, forming and managing the pop group, The Righteous Brothers and as a business man. By his own confession, in the early 1960's, as his music career soared, his marriage was diving, until 1962, which was the year that he was converted. Previously, he was despondent over being separated from his wife. Upon the advice of a friend, he went out into the desert to seek some peace, and cried out to God for help. When he got back to his hotel, a message from his wife awaited him telling him that she wanted to come back home. Both of them eventually began attending a Bible study group led by a Quaker, Gunner Payne, who became somewhat of a mentor to them, for a period, in the things of God. After six weeks of Bible study, one evening Carol, John's wife, knelt down to accept Christ, 30 seconds later, John found himself on the floor weeping, calling upon God also. John left music, took a job at a factory and entered into discipleship. By 1970, he was pastor of a Quaker church.

Wimber's wider scale influence on the body of Christ began in the mid 70's when he left the Quaker church he pastored to become the founder and lecturer for the Fuller Church Growth Institute. This travelling ministry gave him the opportunity to get a broad view of the church in America, across denominational lines. He served more or less as a consultant to local churches on church growth and related issues and was a highly sought after lecturer.

In this position, he came into contact with C. Peter Wagner, a fellow professor at Fuller and known as one of the leaders of the "church growth" movement. Wagner takes a very pragmatic approach to church growth. By that I mean, he has examined a wide spectrum of growing churches, to find out "what is working" for them. In his book Leading Your Church To Growth, Wagner features everyone from the Southern Baptist Convention to Robert Schuller, from John Wimber to John MacArthur. This is very important for our understanding of Wimber, for he was greatly influenced by Wagner and vice versa. Wimber has developed a very pragmatic approach to ministry, healing, spiritual growth, etc. He has shown a willingness to examine and implement a wide range of what seems to be working in the Christian world, particularly in the area of healing.

Also See Robert Schuller ... the epitome of the wolves that Paul spoke about in Acts 20:29-30]

Through his contact with Wagner, who for years was a missionary in Bolivia, as well as with other pastors and students from Third World countries, Wimber was exposed to the stories of supernatural confrontations, miracles, healings, demonic oppressions, and deliverances that are somewhat common in those places. He was also told of the explosive church growth wherever the power of God was demonstrated. This forced Wimber, who considered himself a cessationist (one who believes that miracles have ceased) to rethink his position. Three books that influenced him at this time were: Concerning Spiritual Gifts, by Donald Gee; Healing and Christianity, by Morton Kelsey; Look Out! The Pentecostals are Coming, by C. Peter Wagner. Wimber, in the introduction to his book, Power Evangelism, assures us that he doesn't agree with all that Gee and Kelsey wrote, but they were used to cause him to reconsider the issue of spiritual gifts.

InPlainSite.org Note: See Section on Cessationism..Is God still speaking to His church through direct revelation? Is the office of prophet still operational in the body of Christ today? Are miracles still occurring in the church?

In 1977, Wimber left Fuller to put into practice the ideas he taught about evangelism and church growth, by starting a local church. That church began with a Bible study in his living room, grew to 50 people and eventually swelled to some 6000 members and became known as the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim, California. At first, they were affiliated with Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapels. Eventually, they disassociated and joined with another former Calvary group of seven churches, Ken Gullickson's Vineyard Fellowships. In the early 1980's Gullickson turned the leadership over to Wimber. Since then, there are approximately 600 Vineyard Churches worldwide.

A Watershed Event
In 1981 on Mother's Day, a service was held at the church Wimber pastored, which would prove to be significant enough to change Wimber's ministry. I believe that you will see striking similarities to the Toronto Blessing and other examples of mysticism we see today. The following account is narrated by Carol Wimber, John's wife.

    On Mother's Day of 1981 we had a watershed experience that launched us into what today is called, "Power Evangelism." At this time, John [Wimber] invited a young man who had been attending our church to preach one Sunday evening. By now we had grown to over 700 participants. The young man shared his testimony, which was beautiful and stirring; then asked for all the people under the age of 25 to come forward. None of us had a clue as to what was going to happen. When they got to the front, the speaker said, "For years now, the Holy Spirit has been grieved by the church, but He's getting over it. Come, Holy Spirit." And He came. Most of the young people had grown up around our home. We had four children between the ages of 15-21. We knew the young people well. One fellow, Tim, started bouncing. His arms flung out and he fell over, but one of his hands accidentally hit a mike stand and he took it down with him. He was tangled up in the cord with the mike next to his mouth. The he began speaking in tongues, so the sound went throughout the gymnasium. We had never considered ourselves Charismatics, and certainly had never placed emphasis on the gift of tongues. We had seen a few people tremble and fall over before, and we had seen many healings. But, this was different. The majority of the young people were shaking and falling over. At one point it looked like a battlefield scene, bodies everywhere, people weeping, wailing, speaking in tongues. And Tim in the middle of it all, babbling into the microphone. There was much shouting and loud behavior!

[See Tongues and The Second Blessing]

InPlainSite.org Note: The ‘Young Man’ referred to here is Lonnie Frisbee, who many believed was gifted with great power from God after being extraordinarily commissioned and sent. He became influential in the histories of two large church movements – Calvary Chapels and Vineyards. It is alleged that because he practiced homosexuality and died of AIDS, his part in the formation and growth in these churches has been marginalized and all but written out of history books. Details

    John sat by quietly playing the piano and wide eyed! Members of our staff were fearful and angry. Several people got up and walked out...

    But I knew God was visiting us. I was so thrilled because I had been praying for power for so long. This might not have been the way I wanted to see it come, but this was how God gave it to us...I asked one boy, who was on the floor, "What's happening to you right now?" He said, "It's like electricity. I can't move." I was amazed by the effect of God's power on the human body. I suppose I thought that it would be all inward work, such as conviction or repentance. I never imagined there would be strong physical manifestations.[1]

Now mind you, this was 1981 and yet note the striking parallels to the "Toronto Experience." Just on the surface, I can note several. For example:

    1. It happened in a Vineyard Church
    2. There was a prophecy in the name of the Holy Ghost
    3. There was a prayer to the Holy Ghost
    4. There were similar manifestations, bouncing, shaking, violently falling, weeping, electricity

John Wimber was actually quite troubled by it all, until he received a sensual confirmation to the experience. I'll let Carol recount it:

    John wasn't as happy as I. He had never seen large numbers of people sprawled out over the floor...He spent that night reading scripture and historical accounts of revival from the lives of people like Whitefield and Wesley...But, his study did not yield the conclusive answers to questions raised from the previous evenings events. By 5 am, John was desperate, he cried out to God, "Lord, if this is you please tell me." A moment later the phone rang and a pastor friend of ours from Denver, Colorado was on the line. "John," he said, "I'm sorry I'm calling so early, but I have something really strange to tell you. I don't know what it means, but God wants me to say, "It's Me, John."[2]

Mystical Confirmation
Here also is a parallel with Toronto. For in their attempt to justify the mystical revival, scriptures are sought, mainly to interpret manifestations. Then church history is used extensively, citing anyone from George Fox to Teresa of Avila, to Jonathan Edwards, as though they belong together. Fox, founder of the Society of the Quakers, or Friends, taught that every man has an inward light that was sufficient in itself to lead him to know God. The Quakers took Fox's teaching to the point of elevating that subjective, inner witness above the objective Word of God. Teresa of Avila was a Roman Catholic mystic who had an almost complete spectrum of mystical experiences, out of body experiences, trances, and visitations of the Virgin Mary. And, of course, Jonathan Edwards, a late Puritan who wrote "Religious Affections" to defend the Great Awakening, a true revival based on the preaching of God's Word. All of these and others are thrown together to "defend" the Toronto Phenomena. See End Time Revival or End Time Apostasy?

Notice in the above testimony, that Wimber didn't find any justification for what happened in church after spending a night in scripture. Nor did he in church history. It was only after a man in another city received a mystical confirmation that "It's Me," could John be assured that nothing was amiss. Ultimately with Toronto, it won't be scripture, or church history that confirms (Although there is a huge attempt to make Jonathan Edwards the theologian of their revival), rather it will be subjective experience, "I've gotten a new passionate love for Jesus now," "I felt God there," "An angel appeared to me," will be all the verification many will require, or, "I'm tired of not feeling God, this must be it!".

MC510, Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth
In the early 1980's, Wimber was invited to lecture at Fuller again. The course which he taught was entitled, "MC510, Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth." This course, which was immensely popular, was later renamed, "The Miraculous and Church Growth." It consisted of ten consecutive Monday evenings, for four hours each night. The first three hours consisted of a lecture, including questions, answers, and discussion. The last hour was a "lab" in which the gifts of the Spirit were demonstrated by Wimber and the class. Words of knowledge, healings, and deliverances were reported to have occurred, as Wimber and his students ministered one to another.

This course gained nationwide attention when Robert Walker, the editor of Christian Life Magazine devoted the October 1982 issue, now known as the "sold out" issue, to "Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth." That issue has since been reprinted as a book, Signs and Wonders Today, and according to C. Peter Wagner, "It is currently being read as a study guide in churches and other Christian groups across the country."[3]

Many of the terms and concepts presented by the teaching have become common terminology since then. Terms like "Power Encounter," "Divine Appointment," "Power Evangelism," "Proclamation and Demonstration Evangelism," and "Paradigm Shift," are all being discussed, debated and commonly used today.

The essence of the "Signs and Wonders" teaching is this; there has been an explosive growth of Christianity in the Third World, while at the same time, it has stagnated in the developed, Western World. Why is this? At the risk of over simplification it is because the Gospel is being preached with kingdom power and demonstration in the Third World, and in the Western World, proclamation alone is the primary means of advancement. Church growth in the Third World is marked by the "Power Encounter," the ultimate confrontation between the Gospel witnesses and the entrenched Satanic opposition. (As in, Elijah and the Prophets and Baal). "Power Encounters" can be deliverances, miracles, healings, even "showdowns" with witch doctors, the clash between light and darkness, which ultimately brings the breakthrough in a given area.

Why is the Third World so much more open to God's kingdom power then the developed world? It is, according to Wimber, primarily because of world view. The Third World mentality is one in which Satan, demons, angels, elemental spirits, and even household gods, are interacting with us in everyday life. Those with this paradigm, or, world view, seem to have no problem with believing in a supernatural God or His miracles, in fact, they would expect God to perform miracles. Supposedly because their world view allows for this, it happens. With that kind of world view, God can be God!

But, we in the Western World, have an entirely different mind set. We supposedly have what has been called a "two-tiered" mind. In the "upper story," we have God, Jesus, angels, and the supernatural. In the "lower story," we have everyday life, family, bills, responsibility, etc. And according to "Signs and Wonders" teaching, rarely do the two meet. In between the two compartments of our "paradigm" is what Wimber calls "the excluded middle," a layer of reality ignored by the Western world view. He describes this "excluded middle" in his "Signs and Wonders Church Growth" Syllabus this way: Supernatural forces on this Earth includes:

    * spirits, ghosts, ancestors, demons

    * earthly gods and goddesses who live within trees, rivers, hills, villages

    * supernatural forces: maya, planetary influences, evil eyes, power of magic, sorcery, witchcraft

    * Holy Spirit, angels, demons, signs and wonders, gifts of the Spirit[4]

This is supposedly the "layer of reality" that the Western world view has neglected, thus the call for a "Paradigm Shift," a radically new way of looking at reality! More on this important Wimber contribution to Toronto later.

The Third Wave
What made MC510 a novelty was that neither Wimber nor Fuller Seminary ever considered themselves even remotely Pentecostal or Charismatic. Therefore their teaching was acceptable to the thousands of evangelicals who were hungry for God and demonstrations of His power, but closed to anything associated with "tongues!" The idea was that the power of God is every bit as crucial to evangelism as the knowledge of God, and it is available to every believer. This would prove to be an idea whose time had come. (By the way, I do also believe that the gospel can and should be preached with confirming power according to Mark 16:9-10).

Those evangelicals who suddenly became aware of the power dimension of the Gospel, became known as "The Third Wave." According to C. Peter Wagner, "The first wave was the Pentecostal movement, the second, the Charismatics, and now the Third Wave is joining them."[5] The Third Wave being, of course, those mainstream evangelicals, now aware of the possibility of the power of God, but not wanting to identify with Pentecostalism.

See More About Peter Wagner and the Third Wave

There is no question, the Third Wave has significantly affected Christianity. A large number of our current leaders, authors, preachers, and scholars have been touched by it. I have already mentioned Robert Walker, and John Wimber, as well as C. Peter Wagner. Psychologist and popular Christian author, John White, (Eros Defiled, The Golden Cow, The Fight, and others), took a leave of absence from his practice in Canada and moved to Pasadena, California so that he and his wife could enroll in MC510, in 1981. He told C. Peter Wagner,

    "I had discovered I was trapped in what has been called a Western Mind set, a cultural bias that impeded my capacity to perceive the supernatural phenomena."[6]

White wrote a book in 1988 called, When the Spirit Comes With Power, which is now being referred to as an explanation for some of the manifestations in Toronto. Much of the book amounts to a study of John Wimber and Vineyard and related manifestations.

Another man whom Wimber has influenced is Charles Kraft, Professor of Anthropology and Intercultural Communications at Fuller. He also spent time on the mission field in Nigeria, where he says he took a "powerless Christianity to Africa." According to Kraft,

    As missionaries, we were well prepared in theological, cultural and linguistic studies. As evangelicals, however, we were totally unprepared to deal with the one area the Nigerians considered the most important_their relationships with the spirit world.[7]

His book, Christianity with Power, is a virtual testimonial to the influence of Wimber and the "Signs and Wonders" course, which he also took in 1982. But, his book is much more than that. It is a call for a "Paradigm Shift," from a "Western Mind set" to a more experiential paradigm.

On the back cover of the book is the following headline and introductory paragraph:

    What's Missing? Power. Politicians crave it, money buys it, and some people will do anything for it.

In a world where New Agers rely on crystals and channeling to tap into spiritual power, the Christian is reminded that Jesus used supernatural power to heal the sick, cast out demons, and raise the dead. Two thousand years later, the world still desperately needs a Saviour who works in power. Charles Kraft believes that many modern Christians have become embarrassed and reluctant to preach a gospel accompanied by supernatural power. Our Western World view conditions us to fit God into a neat, predictable, mold.[8] 

(Why blame it on world view? Whatever happened to unbelief?)

Don Williams is another author, theologian, professor and pastor who has been impacted by Wimber and the Third Wave. In his introduction to the book, Signs, Wonders, and the Kingdom of God, he makes the following acknowledgement.

    A surprising turn in the road brought me into contact with John Wimber, the founder of The Vineyard Christian Fellowship, in Anaheim, California, in 1983. This led me into a whole new direction in ministry and a reformulation of its biblical basis. John became my pastor and friend for this current phase of my pilgrimage.[9]

Williams also counts Francis MacNutt among the major influences in his life.

There are so many others who have been directly or indirectly affected by Wimber and the Third Wave. Men like Ken Blue, Mike Bickle, Jack Deere, George Mallone, James Ryle, John Arnott, Randy Clark, and countless others. I think I have demonstrated to you where Wimber and Vineyard have come from, and the widespread influence on the church. I would emphasize that much of that influence has been positive, in my view. Bringing people into an awareness of the possibility of the demonstration of the Spirit and restoring a measure of the priesthood of every believer is a worthy accomplishment. Healing ministries have flourished in churches that used to be noted for not believing in healing, new churches have been planted, souls have been saved, compassion extended to the poor, all of this is good and I applaud it!

However, in my attempt to put Toronto in context, I will look now at four aspects of Wimber's contribution which I consider to be part of the problem. Toronto didn't happen "out of the blue," it is my contention that thousands have been pre-conditioned to enter into the mystical experiences that make up this revival. Here is what that conditioning has been composed of!

Paradigm Shift
Wimber, Kraft, White and Williams, as well as many other Third Wave teachers, have been calling for a "paradigm shift" for some time now. I have already outlined the teaching on "worldviews" and how they allegedly affect the demonstration of God's power. A paradigm shift is a total exchange of your world view! You once saw the gospel and the things of God through a certain grid; you now see it through an entirely different "grid!" I am beginning to think that thousands of Western Christians have "made the leap" into a new paradigm. This is the only way to explain the "Laughing Revival."

What is the shift? It is from a primarily Western, rational, logical, objective point of view to an Eastern, subjective, experiential paradigm. Haven't we been subtly taught over the years, that the Western mind set is cold, calculated, rational, based on just the observable facts? On the other hand, allegedly, the Eastern is mystical, from the heart, and based on experience?

Wimber teaches, "We must remember always that the Bible was written in the Middle East, not with rational assumption, that we bring to it as we try to understand it, but with an experiential assumption."[10] I interpret him to be saying that the Bible is not so much an objective book, but a subjective one. Not so much for understanding God mentally, but for experiencing Him intimately.

In another tape, Wimber explains:

     "You tell someone from the Far or Middle East that cotton only grows in warm semi-arid climates. England is cold and wet. [Ask them] Does cotton grow in England? The answer you'll get is, "I don't know, I haven't been to England.""[11] Or, "I can't say unless I've been there, (experience)."

This is the new paradigm, a down playing of doctrine or "head knowledge" in favor of mystical experience. Another variation of this is, "God is bigger than His written word," translated, God wants to bring you into experiences that aren't in the limits of scripture. Just knowing God "doctrinally" is not sufficient, you now must have self authenticating experiences. All of these attitudes are the end result of the New Paradigm. This is the shift from primarily objective, to subjective thinking in our approach to truth!

Though there is so much lamenting about the "Western Mind set" that has "trapped" so many, we must ask ourselves two questions.

    Is this a Biblical distinction?

    Is this even a real problem? (ie Western vs Eastern Paradigm)

When Jesus was in His home town, the Bible says He could do no miracles there because of unbelief. These were Eastern people who certainly believed in God, angels, miracles, and had a Biblical world view. But, when the Son of God came among them, He could do no miracles because of "unbelief." I don't think that unbelief is so much a cultural phenomena, as it is a moral one.

    John 7:17 If any man do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. (If you are willing to obey, you will be able to believe, not vice versa!)

    John 3:11-12 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, We speak that we do know, and testify that we have seen; and ye receive not our witness. If I have told you earthy things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things? (Notice, "You won't receive, or believe!") Unbelief is a moral problem not an intellectual one.

Is trying to adapt a new cultural perspective Biblical? There is the renewing of the mind, but that is commanded of all, whether Eastern or Western.

Is it even real? Is someone with an Eastern Paradigm so dumb that they can't relate a simple problem in logic? (ie: cotton in England) I don't know, but I don't think so. I think that everywhere in the world there are people who are sensuous, and want to relate to God on primarily a sensual basis, feeling Him, visions, dreams, constant physical assurances. [See Section Mysticism in The Church] And also, everywhere in the world there are people who will be willing to take God at His Word, judging all things by the Word, willing to wait till the time when "We will be like Him for we will see Him as He is."

As I said, the new paradigm shift is one from a primarily objective knowledge of God with subjective experiences as a secondary aspect, to a primarily subjective view of God, with objective truth as secondary. In an audio cassette message called, "Healing, An Introduction," Wimber calls us to

    "know more personally the God who exists both beyond and within the boundaries of well defined doctrinal systems." 12

How can you really know God? Outside of doctrinal boundaries, right? Get out there beyond the doctrine, Eve! In another audio message, Wimber informs us,

    "All that is in the Bible is true, but not all truth is in the Bible. We integrate all truth, both Biblical and other into our experience of living." 13

It's the same old song and dance. "Don't be limited and narrow, we go beyond the scripture for truth, integrate it all into our "experience." " In the new paradigm, scripture is acknowledged and given lip service, but it is no longer the primary standard which measures spiritual reality. Subjective experience is now the center to which scripture must be measured. In short, "Have experience, will travel."

The Lowered Status of Scripture
In his book, Power Evangelism, Wimber explains, "God uses our experiences to show us more fully what He teaches us in scripture, many times toppling or altering elements of our theology and world view."[14]

As I explained earlier, experience now is ranked higher than doctrine, your doctrine can be toppled by your experience at times. What is doctrine or theology? Some nonessential detail? Is it negotiable? Biblical theology and doctrine are the body of truth, the only objective measure you have to test the spirits to see whether they be of God! We used to measure all experience by doctrine, but in the new paradigm it is the doctrine that is suspect, and is measured by degree of experience.

Wimber has consistently in his teaching pitted doctrine over against true experience, as if they were at variance! According to him, "God is greater than His Word."[15] As John Goodwin has said in his report on Vineyard, "As a result of this equating of experiential "truth" with the authority of scripture, Wimber's teachings are then validated by finding a Bible verse which appears as though it might apply to what has occurred."[16] The constant refrain about "dry Christians" who believe the right doctrine but don't know God from the heart, has a conditioning effect on God's people. "Because they believe the right doctrine and can give you the right answer doesn't mean they're born again."[17] OK, that's true, but what are you saying? Is there something wrong with Christians wanting to be doctrinally accurate? Here's another example: "That's what separates dead doctrine, from the living reality. There's a force of grace, there's a force of faith that must be manifest in our midst."[18] Don't just settle for more of that "dead doctrine," go after the impersonal force, right? Like Ken Copeland and others, evidently Wimber has accepted the occult idea of an impersonal force of faith and grace that must "manifest in our midst." Without this "force" energizing it, doctrine is supposedly dead. The truth is, all correct doctrine is living (Hebrews 4:12), the only dead doctrine is false doctrine.

    John 6:63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

    Hebrews 4:12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

I wonder about the teacher who lashes out at sound doctrine, and would make a distinction between the Word of God taught and "living reality." In his teaching on Luke 5:18-24, Wimber accuses fundamentalists of "chiseling" at ministry, with the Word!

    Many of you and myself included, have committed that sin. We have been theologically correct as we've attempted to conform something to scripture, saying, "At this point the teaching is..." Many fundamentalists do exactly the same thing today about the works of the Spirit. They take the Word of God and chisel at a practice or a ministry or a flow, without recognizing it's God moving. Not recognizing that God is bigger then His written Word.[19]

As John Goodwin points out, the affect of this kind of teaching is to identify "Those who measure a practice or ministry by scripture with the unbelieving scribes."[20] Incredibly, in the same teaching, he pits doctrine against the work of the Spirit!

Jesus, knowing their hearts, said, "Why are you thinking evil in your heart?"... I said, "Lord they're not thinking evil... they're just operating under sound doctrine"... But, you see, it's evil when you don't recognize God. It's evil when you don't see Jesus in the things that are going on. It's evil when you hide behind doctrinal beliefs that curtail and control the work of the Spirit... The church today is committing evil in the name of sound doctrine. And, they are quenching the work of the Holy Spirit. And they are turning against the work of the Holy Spirit.[21]

Evidently, Wimber stands on the side of the "Work of the Spirit," but those who would dare appeal to scriptural confirmation are trying to curtail and control the work of the Spirit, hiding behind doctrinal beliefs.

Another Wimber contribution, which I feel you can see in Toronto, is mysticism. What is mysticism? Mysticism is the sensualization of our relationship with God and dealings with the spirit realm. By sensualizing, I am not referring to sexuality, but with the feeling realm. A mystic is someone who wants to know God intimately, but is not patiently waiting for the "beatific vision." He wants to see, touch, feel, and be one with God NOW. The mystic asks Why can't we feel God? See Him? Go deeper and deeper with Him, into deeper levels of intimacy? We can, but in His time and on His terms. [See Section on Mysticism In The Church]

    I Corinthians 13:12-13 For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

    I Corinthians 15:49-53 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly. Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

    I John 3:1-2 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not. Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when we shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

The mystic does not accept the fact that our salvation is not yet complete. The hunger "to know and be known" is good, but coupled with the discontented impatience, and a low or distorted view of scripture, and you have a mystic. Toronto is a mystical revival. The work of the Spirit is relegated to the level of sensual manifestation. People are trying to feel God and they have tapped into something.

In his Healing Seminar Syllabus, Wimber has taught thousands different healing techniques. In teaching them to recognize the anointing that ministers healings, they are to look for "sensations of warmth (flowing out of hands), [Aura manipulation], tingling feelings, trembling of hands, and a sense of anointing." [22] [See The Anointing] Allegedly, "These spiritual phenomena are manifestations of the Spirit's presence on the person. By observing them you can begin to see what the Spirit is doing in and through the person. We don't have an explanation for all the various manifestations."[23]

Not having an explanation for these manifestations doesn't discourage him though, for,

    Sometimes you can learn more from what's not said than what's said, [in scripture]. If you take today's practices and put it up against the scripture, lots of stuff falls off, there's no place to put it. [24]

I'll say.

Lack of Use of Discernment
Toward the mid to late 1980's, Wimber became enamored by the ministry team of the Kansas City Fellowship, or as they are now affectionately known as, "The Kansas City Prophets." At an August 1989 conference in Denver, Colorado, Wimber called on Vineyard pastors to receive their ministry.

    I think you'll find that the prophets are pretty nice people by and large, I've come to know several of them here, I think maybe five or six, that are from Kansas City Fellowship. And then we have Paul Cain, that lives in Dallas and has had quite a relationship with Kansas City for a number of years, but is not evidently technically considered a Kansas City Prophet. You'll hear from them, some this week, although they won't be largely behind the scenes. They've already ministered significantly this weekend. And, it's my hope that every one of you, if you've not today had the occasion of sitting down with one or two of them and having them minister to you, that that will happen before the week is over. Because I believe that in God's providence you'll be blessed and you'll go home with your pockets full and you're heart singing, if they do so. [25]

Interestingly enough, in 1990, when the Kansas City Prophets began to be exposed as fraudulent, it was to Wimber that they went for "correction." But, he never stopped promoting the erroneous teachings of Paul Cain, Mike Bickle, Bob Jones, John Paul Jackson. In 1991, he did stop promoting Bob Jones, but not because of heresy, but because of immorality.

The point is that Wimber, by his acceptance of false prophets, has paved the way for an unquestioning acceptance of "prophets." I'm all for modern day prophets as long as they will submit to the tests of Deuteronomy 18 and Deuteronomy 13. But, these prophets actually boasted about the margin of error that the Lord had graciously allowed!  [Also See ]

Another area of lack of discernment is in the techniques of healing, which Wimber has promoted. They are highly syncretistic and also highly mystical. His syncretistic approach to healing can be seen in his books, tapes, and seminars. In them he includes as equally valid: inner healing, healing of memories, modern psychology, self forgiveness, visualization, the teachings of Francis MacNutt, Matthew and Dennis Linn, John and Paula Sandford, etc. In his video series, "Healing," tape one, Wimber teaches us what to look for in healing. [See Section on Healing]

    Hot flushes and stiffness in certain parts of the body, tingling sensations, trembling and shaking, falling down under the power of the Spirit, strong electrical currents, ripples on the skin, movement under the skin, radiance on the face, heavy breathing, moaning, groaning, and falling into a trance.[26]

It's this combination of sensual confirmation and non-discernment that has conditioned a whole generation to seek mystical experiences, which are evidently being granted to them in Toronto and other places.

Listening to this incredible view of the scene in Luke 4:40-41 brings Toronto to mind,

    See the crowd dynamics? They brought people to him, they brought people to him, they brought people to him. What's happening on Sunday night at our church? They're bringing people, they're bringing people... This wasn't a neat crowd. There were probably people flipping and flopping all over the ground, manifesting demons... People with foam running down their faces who had just barfed all over themselves. They were screeching like animals. They were bringing people with chains on them that were tied. This is frenzy, people. This is not calm, this is not orderly. This is frenzy, this is frantic.[27]

Go into a meeting full of people who have that interpretation of the Bible and watch what happens!

John MacArthur writes in a recent book,

    An appendix in Wimber's Power Evangelism, seeks to establish that signs and wonders have appeared throughout church history. Wimber cites an eclectic catalogue of individuals and movements, both orthodox and heretical, as evidence. Included in these are Hilarion (a fourth century hermit), Augustine, Pope Gregory I (The Great), Francis of Assisi, The Waldenes (who opposed the Pope and were persecuted by the Dominicans), Vincent Ferrer (who was himself a Dominican), Martin Luther, Ignatius Loyola (founder of the Jesuits), John Wesley, and the Jausenists (a Catholic sect). In a booklet published by The Vineyard, Wimber adds The Shakers (a cult that demanded celibacy), Edward Irving (discredited leader of the Irvingite sect in 19th century England), and the supposed miracles and healings worked by an apparition of the Virgin Mary at Lourdes, France! [28] [See Apparitions of The Virgin Mary]

In another teaching tape on the subject of healing, Wimber advises,

    In the Catholic Church for over a 1,200 year period people were healed as a result of touching the relics of the saints. We Protestants have difficulty with that...but we healers shouldn't because there's nothing theologically out of line with that. [29]

In Conclusion
We have to remember that the things happening in Toronto, are happening in a Vineyard context. Therefore, the contribution of John Wimber has to be looked at. Praise God for bringing "signs and wonders attending the Word" to the church's attention. But, the conditioning of God's people (which I'm sure is unintentional) in four areas in particular, has set the stage for the "Mystical Revival." I'm talking about the:

Paradigm Shift - The call for a new world view, a shift from an objective approach to God's truth, to an almost entirely experiential approach. To attempt to abandon your entire world view, particularly, your "Western rationalistic paradigm," and replace it with a more subjective view, leaves you quite vulnerable.

The Denigration of Doctrine and Theology - The constant down playing of the "head knowledge and theology" which is the teaching of the Bible. Partially because of this kind of influence, it is the one who insists on measuring all things spiritual by the scripture, who is now suspect, as a narrow minded scribe or Pharisee! The only "sin" now recognized is the "sin" of critical thinking.

Thirdly, the blatant mysticism. Wimber has taught people to look for the anointing, the "force of faith and grace," the power to heal, and the activity of God through physical sensations. You have a whole group of Christians very aware now, of "tingling," "radiant glow," expecting to tremble, feel electricity, and a host of other manifestations catalogued by him.

Finally, the confusion of Wimber's syncretistic approach. Almost every approach is equally valid, from laying on of the believer's hands, to Roman Catholic relics. To him, George Fox, Jonathan Edwards, Teresa of Avila, and Ignatius of Loyola all belong in the same category! This has sown much confusion into the church.

All the groundwork has been laid (unwittingly) for the Mystical Revival. All that was needed was a bold, innovative, Charismatic catalyst. One came to this country from South Africa in 1987...Rodney Howard Browne. [See Section on Counterfeit Revivals and End Time Revival or End Time Apostasy?]

End Notes
1. "Carol Wimber, A Hunger for God." Kevin Springer, ed. Power Encounters. Harper and Row. 1988.
2. Ibid.
3. C. Peter Wagner. The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit. Vine Books. Page 25.
4. J. Wimber. "Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth" Section 3, "Today's Tension with the Miraculous: World View" Vineyard Ministries International. Placentia, California.
5. Wagner, 13.
6. John White quoted in Wagner, 29.
7. Charles Kraft. Christianity With Power. Vine Books. Pages 3-4.
8. Ibid. Back Cover.
9. Don Williams. Signs, Wonders, and the Kingdom of God. Vine Books.
10. F.V. Scott. John Wimber and the Vineyard Ministries Page 19.
11. J. Wimber. "Ministering in England." Audio Tape (Media Spotlight Report). John Goodwin "Testing the Fruit of the Vineyard."
12. J. Wimber. "Healing, An Introduction." Audio Tape #5. Vineyard Ministries Inc. 1985.
13. J. Wimber. "Vineyard 83 Leadership Conference, The Five Year Plan."
14. J. Wimber. Power Evangelism. Harper and Row. 1986. Page 89.
15. J. Wimber. "Church Planting Seminar." Audio Tape, 5 volume. 1981.
16. John Goodwin. "Testing the Fruit of the Vineyard." Al Dager's Media Spotlight Special Report. Goodwin was a Vineyard pastor for eight years and travelled extensively with Wimber.
17. J. Wimber. Healing Seminar Series.
18. Ibid.
19. Ibid.
20. Goodwin. "Testing the Fruit of the Vineyard."
21. Wimber. Healing Seminar Series.
22. Wimber. Healing Seminar Syllabus II Observations A. Spiritual Phenomena. Pages 74-75.
23. Wimber. Healing Seminar Series.
24. Wimber. Healing Seminar Series.
25. J. Wimber. "Unpacking Your Bags." Undated audio tape.
26. J. Wimber. 1985 Healing Video Series. Tape 1 VMI. Placentia, California.
27. Wimber. Healing Seminar Series.
28. John MacArthur, Jr. Charismatic Chaos. Zondervan Books. Page 180.
29. J. Wimber. Healing Seminar. Three tapes. 1981. Tape #1.


John Wimber & The Vineyard
by Albert James Dager*

In 1963, a young jazz musician by the name of John Wimber made a profession of faith in Jesus Christ. In 1970, he joined the staff as an assistant pastor at the Yorba Linda Friends Church (Quaker) in Yorba Linda, California.

In 1974, Wimber left the pastorate of Yorba Linda Friends Church to join the staff of the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. For four years he studied factors that lead to church growth. He was impressed by the statistics which showed that the most dramatic growth was being enjoyed by Pentecostal and charismatic churches. Wimber's attitude toward signs and wonders greatly changed, not because of his study of Scripture, but as a result of the reported growth of Pentecostal and charismatic churches.

Wimber's wife had become a charismatic. She had undergone what she called a "personality meltdown" through the work of the Holy Spirit to change her attitude toward charismatics (Carol Wimber, "Hunger for God: A Reflective Look at the Vineyard Beginnings," The Vineyard Newsletter, Vol. 2, No. 3, Fall, 1987, p. 1).

The man who would have the most impact on Wimber's philosophy was C. Peter Wagner, alleged expert on church growth, and a strong proponent of signs and wonders for the purpose of church growth. Affiliations at Fuller convinced Wimber to study the relationship between spiritual gifts and evangelism. The result was his development of what he called "power evangelism," predicated upon the supposition that the Gospel is largely ineffective unless accompanied by signs and wonders.

The Beginning of the Vineyard
In his book Power Healing (Harper and Row), Wimber relates that on Mother's Day in May of 1977, he preached his first sermon as pastor of what is now called the Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Wimber's pastoral association with Calvary Chapel began in 1978 when he requested "Calvary Chapel covering" for his new group.

    "In 1978, God spoke to me about returning to the pastorate, ... I resigned my position at the Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth and returned to the pastorate ..." (John Wimber & Kevin Springer, Power Evangelism, p. 84).

It wasn't long before Wimber began to categorize methodologies for healing, music ministry, leadership, outreach, evangelism, etc. All aspects of body life became studies of method.

Within a short time, Wimber brought on Sam Thompson, a licensed psychologist, as an assistant pastor in charge of counseling. Thompson developed the ministerial aspects of the Vineyard, combining psychological theory with charismatic practices. He taught how to look for signs of spiritual and physical problems, and how to deal with them. The emphasis was, and still is, on attaining spiritual power. The congregation would stand in circles, holding hands and commanding demons to manifest themselves in order to cast them out.

The church was growing in numbers, and had the outward appearance of a typical Calvary Chapel. Wimber's "signs and wonders" philosophy was developing and gaining adherents under the Calvary Chapel label. Concerned Calvary Chapel pastors began to ask Wimber about the reports of people levitating, being "slain in the spirit," engaging in aura reading, and other bizarre practices. [See Slain In The Spirit ]

Wimber made two statements in defense of the manifestations at Yorba Linda on which Chuck Smith challenged him: 1) "God is above His Word"; and 2) "God is not limited by His Word." In other words, Wimber did not need a Scriptural basis for the manifestations.

Smith then offered the Calvary Chapel pastors the opportunity to either remain with Calvary Chapel and stress the teaching of Scripture, or follow after Wimber and stress manifestations. Many chose to follow Wimber, converting their churches to Vineyards.

The rest is history. The Vineyard has grown to more than seven hundred congregations in eight countries. They claim some one hundred thousand members. In 1982, shortly after taking over the Vineyard, Wimber returned to the Fuller Theological Seminary to co-teach with C. Peter Wagner a course entitled MC:510, "The Miraculous and Church Growth." It was a laboratory for experiments in signs and wonders.

The Vineyard Philosophy
The Vineyard philosophy of signs and wonders is expressed primarily in the teachings of John Wimber. Major points he emphasizes are:

    (a) The need for a paradigm shift in the Church (we must change our Western world view to that which integrates reliance upon supernatural influences);

    (b) The charismatic movement is "where it's at" in church growth;

    (c) We should be doing the "stuff" Jesus did;

    (d) The supernatural practices beginning to emerge were of the Lord, and to be desired and pursued (i.e., hot, tingly sensations indicating healing taking place during prayer; trance-like euphoric states of "worship" characterized by a restful "alpha-wave"-type feeling, which is verification of the "presence" of the Lord; supposed "words of knowledge," "discerning of spirits," "personal prophecy," etc.); [For More about the Alpha State see Contemplating The Alternative]

    (e) Every believer can walk, talk, and do the very things Jesus and the apostles did;

    (f) The signs-and-wonders movement is the third wave of God's power manifesting in the 20th century (the first wave was turn-of-the-century Pentecostalism; the second wave was the charismatic movement);

    (g) We are involved in spiritual warfare to take the Kingdom by force; for this, the major weapon is "power evangelism."

      IPS Note: Reconstructionism/Dominionism is a militant Biblicism… holy war theology under the guise of Christianity. The last few decades have seen an exponential increase in the numbers of those brazen enough not only use the title of Apostle, but deluded enough to believe they are building the foundations of the Kingdom., claiming, in effect, an unparalleled authority, with the words “government” and “submission” being used with increasing regularity

The Paradigm Shift
Wimber stated that the Western Church is largely out of touch with the power of God because of Western materialism. Third World countries are more open to God's power because they have a different world view or "paradigm."

Looking at the influences in Wimber's paradigm shift (originally a New Age term suggesting a shift from Western materialism and pragmatism to Eastern spirituality), we can see how he had crossed the line from sound Biblical truth to Eastern spiritual methodologies, while espousing a Biblical Christology. The fact is that the Vineyard does adhere to a sound doctrine in statement. But the words don't line up with the deeds.

The call for a new world view, a shift from an objective approach to God's truth, to an almost entirely experiential approach, to attempt to abandon your entire world view, particularly, your "Western rationalistic paradigm," and replace it with a more subjective view, leaves you quite vulnerable.

Power Evangelism
In simple terms, "power evangelism," according to Wimber, means the combining of the proclamation of the Gospel with the demonstration of supernatural power through the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The premise is that signs and wonders such as healing, raising the dead, and other miracles, are especially effective as tools to reinforce the truth of the Gospel. Wimber has said that the Gospel is largely ineffective without signs and wonders.

The Other Side of the Pragmatism
Wimber suggests that we must demonstrate supernatural power in order to win souls, especially among "primitive peoples":

    "Primitive peoples often need to see the superior power of the gospel demonstrated for them to believe" (Power Evangelism, p. 54).

First, there is no such thing as "primitive peoples." Mankind is unchanged since his creation. What has changed is his knowledge of science, which has produced some advanced civilizations. Second, Wimber fails to see that reliance upon signs and wonders for belief is just as pragmatic as intellectual investigation of the Gospel. (cf. John 20:29)

True, lasting faith comes to those who do not need signs and wonders to validate God's truth. The flesh looks for a sign; the Holy Spirit impresses the truth upon our minds.

Method Ministry
The problem with Wimber's ministry was not only that he insisted that the [sign] gifts of the Spirit are still operable today, it was also the assumption that the gifts of the Spirit can be manifested through a particular methodology -- also, that every supernatural gift of the Holy Spirit should be manifested in every believer on a regular basis. This, most often, leads to the abuses and excesses of human flesh masquerading as the work of the Holy Spirit.

Compounding the problem is the penchant on the part of those obsessed with signs and wonders to cite Scripture erroneously in order to validate their attempts at getting God to work in their behalf. An example was Wimber's citing of Jesus' miracles to validate power evangelism. In fact, he believed that Jesus taught His disciples how to perform signs and wonders.

There were many ways in which Wimber's attempts at signs and wonders differed from the simple, direct, and unfailing ministry of the Holy Spirit. With the Wimber/Vineyard method, in order to effect a healing one must "interview" the subject, often taking him or her back into the past to relive circumstances (inner healing) that may have lead to their problem. Casting out demons is likewise a process that may take days or even years. The byword for all Wimber/Vineyard ministry is method.

In spite of Wimber's statements that seem to warn against the use of methodology, it is methodology that typifies the Vineyard form of ministry. Their methods include inner healing techniques, visualization, meditation, and psychological integration. Wimber's book Power Evangelism has even been updated to include a study guide on how to perform signs and wonders, replete with methodologies. [See Inner Healing and Visualization]

Two words characterize Wimber's methodology: experience and experimentation. In the former case, most of Wimber's teachings were anecdotal, drawing from unverifiable but seemingly credible testimonies of signs and wonders, rather than from Scripture. Often, Scripture was used as a proof text to validate the anecdotal. In the latter case, Wimber encouraged his disciples to experiment through trial and error. And his idea of prayer went beyond petition to commanding healing.

Having begun in the flesh, it is no wonder that the Vineyard ministry continues in the flesh. Yet even the flesh will be gratified eventually, if not by God, certainly by Satan, or even by psychosomatic reactions to suggestion.

The Same As Jesus?
Wimber acknowledged that his healing techniques didn't always work. His approach to "prophetic words" was similar:

    "Many if not most personal prophetic words given today are conditional, and as such are invitational, not certainties" (John Wimber & Kevin Springer, Power Points: Your Action Plan to ..., p. 56).

This is a convenient way to explain why many personal prophecies do not come to pass. But what about John 14:12? -- Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. Wimber often cites this verse to validate his attempts at signs and wonders. Up to his death date, after over 15 years of trying, he still hadn't done as well as Jesus, let alone greater.

Psychic Healing
The methods of Inner Healing, including meditation, Visualization, and other psychic and psychological manipulations gleaned from the writings of Agnes Sanford and her disciples, are the same as those of psychic healers. So is the evidence of healing power described by Wimber.  [See Agnes Sanford]

Because Wimber rejected the "Western worldview" and accepted certain forms of Eastern mystical practices, he confused the deceptions of Satan and the flesh with the power of the Holy Spirit. Although he cited psychic healing as a false system, by using the intuitive approach to healing Wimber nonetheless dabbled in the occult realm of psychic healing. His methodology included exercises similar to those of psychic healers, such as aura healing.

Psychic healing is predicted upon the belief that the mind is capable of both causing and healing disease. This was also affirmed by Wimber as far as the cause of disease is concerned (Wimber & Springer, Power Healing, pp. 44-45). Unlike psychic healers, however, Wimber would also say that illness can be caused by Satan or demonic attack. This, too, is partially true.

Seldom if ever taken into account by practitioners of so-called "divine healing" is the fact that God Himself causes illness, and brings calamity upon the world (cf. Isaiah 45:7; Exodus 4:11). Unless one includes God's will in the equation, one will be found fighting against God in the name of Holy Spirit ministry. Not recognizing God's design, those who attempt trial-and-error healing methodologies are utilizing occult techniques. This is why the Vineyard healing teams are encouraged to use the mind-science inner healing techniques of Agnes Sanford, which include visualization, meditation, and other psychic healing methods.

Wimber would deny that he believed in a cosmic consciousness. But because he had been influenced by deceivers masquerading as ministers of the gift of healing, he had adopted their psychic healing methods. How can an self-proclaimed apostle of Christ learn spiritual truth from those who deny Christ?

The Vineyard's inner healing methods are especially rooted in psychic healing practices which, in turn, are based on the belief in karma. Karma is said to be "the unconscious memory or knowledge of, and attachment to, unfinished relationships, unfulfilled desires, and other incomplete cycles." Karma does not relate only to alleged past lives; it also relates to memories of childhood and even of the womb.

Wimber would have denied such concepts as psychic surgery, and most of what is taught by psychic healers philosophically. But in practice, he adopted virtually every form of psychic healing without being able to relate any of it to Scripture. This should be cause for concern to all believers who would have any contact with the Vineyard.

Wimber seemed oblivious to the many contradictions in his writings. His suggestion that methodologies are improper, countered by the fact that his entire ministry was methodologically empowered, is only one such discrepancy.

Wimber insisted that Scripture must be the basis for all belief and practice. In reality, the experiences themselves were to him validation enough that they were from God, unless they came in the name of an overtly occult philosophy (i.e., mind science, T.M. est, psychic healing, or some other movement). As long as they came in the name of Jesus, or were perpetuated by one who called himself a Christian, they were accepted by Wimber, even if they originated in New Age occultism or, at best, Roman Catholic mysticism.

In order to properly understand Wimber's metamorphosis from that of a hard-line dispensationalist to an ecumenical, charismatic "apostle" and healing practitioner, one must understand the influences upon his beliefs.

Morton Kelsey's name popped up frequently in Wimber's teachings, and Wimber had even dedicated a seminar series to him. One wonders how one who claimed to be an apostle of Jesus could give credibility to someone who equated the ministry of Jesus with that of a shaman -- a witch doctor.

Wimber evidently hoped to justify his learning from Kelsey by saying that he didn't agree with some of his teachings. But there is no justification for "learning from" someone who equated Jesus with a witch doctor, or His divine ability to know with "extra-sensory perception." Kelsey's errors extended far beyond this blasphemous teaching. Anyone with a modicum of Holy Spirit discernment wouldn't touch Kelsey's writings with a ten-foot pole, let alone dedicate a teaching to him.

There were many other influences whom Wimber cited in his teachings:

    (a) Agnes Sanford -- pantheist and "mother" of inner healing in the churches;

    (b) Ruth Carter Stapleton (former President Jimmy Carter's sister) -- disciple of Agnes Sanford, who claimed that one could be "born again" by listening to greater music or gazing upon certain works of art;

    (c) Dennis and Rita Bennett -- disciples of Agnes Sanford, and early pioneers of the charismatic movement;

    (d) John and Paula Sanford -- pantheists, and disciples of Agnes Sanford;

    (e) Francis MacNutt -- Roman Catholic charismatic priest, disciple of Agnes Sanford, proponent of inner healing methodologies;

    (f) Michael Scanlan -- Roman Catholic charismatic priest, disciple of Agnes Sanford, proponent of inner healing methodologies;

    (g) Kenneth E. Hagin -- "father" of the word-faith movement, mentor of Kenneth Copeland, and disciple of E.W. Kenyon, whose theology was heavily influenced by science of mind teachings;

Space does not allow for more except to say that Wimber often sprinkled warnings about the New Age, the occult, and erroneous charismatic suppositions as if his power evangelism methodologies were removed from them. This, coupled with his listing in his bibliography the words of men like Kurt Koch and Doug Groothuis, acted as a smoke-screen

Roman Catholic Influences
Wimber gave much credence to Roman Catholic sources for establishing the validity of miracles. (Power Healing, p. 7). He contrasted the false claims of healing by "Elmer Gantrys, men and women out for material gain at the expense of the faithful," with the Catholic Church's "stringent criteria" for validating true miracles from God (Power Healing, p. 10). Wimber implied that the Roman Catholic approach to miracles was more trustworthy than that of Protestants (Power Healing, p. 11).

But why should this surprise us? Wimber's wife Carol was raised in the Roman Catholic Church. Wimber stated that after having separated for awhile over marriage difficulties, he and Carol were remarried in the Catholic Church. Neither of the Wimbers ever renounced their Roman Catholic experiences -- another reason why the occult influences of Roman Catholic mysticism find expression in the Vineyard.

Additionally, Wimber wrote for the Catholic charismatic publication, New Covenant (June, 1988). His article, "Why I Love Mary," didn't affirm the Catholic dogmas of Mary's sinlessness, her perpetual virginity, or her assumption into heaven. But neither did it offer any refutation of them. Knowing the Catholic belief in Mary as "the Mother of God," and the unbiblical doctrines that attend her veneration, such an article left the impression that Wimber had no problem with the Catholic approach to Mary. (Moreover, in his ecumenical fervor, Wimber publicly apologized to the Archbishop of Los Angeles on behalf of all Protestants.)

Holy Laughter
A phenomenon that has swept through many Vineyard churches is that known as "holy laughter." Many churches are reporting spontaneous, uncontrollable laughter erupting from their congregations, even during times of solemn ceremony or messages from the pulpit. Some report uncontrollable weeping, falling to the floor in ecstatic trances, and animal noises such as barking like dogs and roaring like lions. Some stagger and reel like drunken people, unable to walk a straight line. For simplicity's sake, all these have come to be called "holy laughter," since laughter is the pre-eminent phenomenon displayed. In simple terms, it is physical manifestations in the form of virtually any expression attributed to absolute control by the Holy Spirit. Proponents of these phenomena say they are evidence of a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit in response to the people's desire to see a new sign from God.  [See Holy Laughter]

The phenomena was imported into the United States and Canada from South Africa through one Rodney Howard-Browne. It erupted in 1994 at the Toronto Airport Vineyard in Toronto, Canada, pastored by John Arnott. The bizarre exhibitions of human flesh in this movement are in every way similar to what, for centuries, have been regarded as evidence of demonic influences. It's little wonder that the Vineyard has led the charge, considering the lack of discernment on the part of its leadership. Actually, these manifestations were in evidence during the early years of Wimber's Vineyard ministry. [See The Toronto ‘Blessing’]

Initially, John Wimber kept a wait-and-see attitude, while validating the experiences as perhaps fleshly at times, but, overall, a move of God -- "There's nothing in Scripture that supports these kinds of phenomena that I can see, and I can't think of anything throughout the church age that would. So I feel no obligation to try to explain it. It's just phenomena. It's just people responding to God" (2/95, Charisma). In December, 1995, he moved to disenfranchise the Toronto Airport Vineyard. This was perceived by some as evidence that the Vineyard was acting reasonably to keep such phenomena separate from its "legitimate" ministry.

However, the reason given by the leadership of the Association of Vineyard Churches (AVC) was not that the Association rejected the goings-on at Toronto, but that the Toronto Airport Vineyard had gone "over the edge" by promoting and encouraging the animal sounds and accompanying behavior (Marcia Ford, "Toronto Church Ousted From Vineyard," Charisma and Christian Life, 2/96, p. 12). In September 1994, the AVC issued guidelines which indicated that, while they were not against such phenomena, they did not want it promoted.

It needs to be emphasized, John Wimber never did reject the laughing revival. He endorsed John Arnott's book, The Father's Blessing. He merely rejected some of the grosser aspects of this movement. The Vineyard Association's statement of December 1995 concluded:

    "OUR ACTION DOES NOT MEAN THAT WE HAVE REJECTED THE CURRENT RENEWAL. Many of our churches have benefited greatly from this current renewal and have incorporated it into their church life within the healthy and biblical guidelines reflected in the articles and policies published over the past two years. WE HOPE THAT THEY WILL CONTINUE TO PURSUE RENEWAL IN THIS WAY."

Why would Wimber and the AVC take such harsh measures since Wimber himself had endorsed the Toronto phenomena, and since he had allowed the same behavior in his own meetings? Are they manifestations of God or not? If so, why not allow Arnott to promote and encourage them? If not, why has the AVC not condemned them and taken similar action against the other almost 50% of Vineyard churches that encourage the phenomena?

Not ever being able to take a firm stand on the authority of these things, the AVC decided to dissociate from the most visible and central Vineyard church promoting these phenomena, on the basis that its pastor did not comply with the AVC Board's position. The AVC Board took the same non-committal stance that Wimber had taken. In fact, they allowed their statement to be subject to the discretion of the local pastors.

The Kansas City Connection
Toward the mid to late 1980s, Wimber became enamored by the ministry team of the Kansas City Fellowship, or as they became known as, "The Kansas City Prophets." At an August 1989 conference in Denver, Colorado, Wimber called on Vineyard pastors to receive their ministry.

Interestingly enough, in 1990, when the Kansas City Prophets began to be exposed as fraudulent, it was to Wimber that they went for "correction." But, he never stopped promoting the erroneous teachings of Paul Cain, Mike Bickle, Bob Jones, and John Paul Jackson. In 1991, he did stop promoting Bob Jones, but not because of heresy, but because of immorality.

The point is that Wimber, by his acceptance of false prophets, paved the way for an unquestioning acceptance of "prophets" in general. Of course, there is nothing wrong with "modern day prophets" as long as they will submit to the tests of Deuteronomy 18 and Deuteronomy 13. But, these prophets actually boasted about the margin of error that the Lord had graciously allowed them!

The Gifts of the Spirit
God always has performed and always will perform His miracles according to His own purpose and pleasure. The excesses and errors of the Vineyard, as well as many within the charismatic and Pentecostal churches, merely prove that most of what is transpiring in the name of God's power is really the flesh of man seeking a sign to validate the truth of God's Word.

Essentially, the [permanent] gifts of the Spirit are given primarily for the edification of the Church, not for evangelism. The sign gifts, i.e., the miraculous gifts, have ceased. This does not negate the fact that God might occasionally use the gifts to convict and convince those He has chosen for salvation. But first and foremost, the gifts are for "power edification," not "power evangelism."

To hear virtually every major teacher in the Church today, there are no false teachers except those who call out the false teachers and staunchly insist on a defense of the Faith -- the so-called "heretic hunters." Why are few leaders of any real magnitude warning the brethren about false teachers? Because most are the false teachers. They are compromising with the Vatican to lead all of Christendom back under the papal umbrella. And the central force for that unity is not the true Gospel; it is false "love" combined with false doctrine and lying signs and wonders -- miracles of God -- implemented through occult methodologies


Vineyard Churches