Everyone Gets to Play...
a Tribute to a Founding Father of the Vineyard & Many Other Churches
This site is a tribute to the late John Wimber. In an effort to continue his legacy and encourage more study and in depth research and understanding in his work as well as to stir up a hunger for the precious outpourings that happened through his life in the 1970′s through the 1990′s.
Everyone Gets to Play…
John Richard Wimber (February 25, 1934 – November 17, 1997) was a musician, charismatic pastor and one of the founding leaders of the Vineyard Movement, a neocharismatic Evangelical Christian denomination which began in the USA and has now spread to many countries world-wide.
Life and ministry
John Richard Wimber was the son of Basil Wimber and Genevieve Estelynn (Martin) Wimber. Some say he was born in Kirksville, Missouri, while others say he was born in Peoria, Illinois. California death records say he was born in Missouri.
He was raised in a non-religious family, but converted to evangelical Christianity in May 1963. He had previously been the keyboard player in the band The Paramours.
Some have attributed the formation of the band The Righteous Brothers to Wimber (then known as Johnny Wimber) since he was the one who brought Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley together for the band The Paramours in 1962. In the following years he attended a Quaker church in Yorba Linda, California. During this time, he led hundreds of others to convert to Christianity. By 1970, he was leading 11 different Bible study groups that involved more than 500 people.
In 1974 he became the Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth, which was founded by the Fuller Theological Seminary and the Fuller Evangelistic Association. He directed the department until 1978. In this time a House Church began to form in his home. This group began to embrace some of the beliefs of the Charismatic movement. This resulted in a split with the Quaker church that this group belonged to.
Wimber pastored this new church, which would later become known as the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship, from 1977 to 1994. Eventually, it outgrew his home and began to meet elsewhere. After initially joining Calvary Chapel, the church had some differences with the Calvary Chapel leadership, relating mainly to the practice of spiritual gifts, his rejection of traditional Dispensationalism, and his embrace of Kingdom theology. As a result, they left Calvary Chapel to join a small group of churches started by Kenn Gulliksen, known as Vineyard Christian Fellowships, which became an international Vineyard Movement.
The Vineyard Movement is rooted in both historic evangelicalism and the charismatic renewal. Due to this duality, the movement uses the term Empowered Evangelicals (a term coined by Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson in their book of the same name) to reflect their roots in traditional evangelicalism as opposed to classical Pentecostalism. Members also sometimes describe themselves as the “radical middle” between evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is a reference to the book The Quest for the Radical Middle, a historical survey of the Vineyard by Bill Jackson.
A particular emphasis of the Vineyard Movement was church planting. One of Wimber’s many catchphrases – intended to capture theological and practical ideas in easy to remember sound bites – was that “church planting is the best form of evangelism”. Both during his lifetime and since his death the Vineyard Movement has established thousands of churches across the USA and internationally.
Wimber became a well-known speaker at international charismatic conferences with a focus on what he called “Power Evangelism” and healing through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that, while considered by many to be a charismatic teacher, Wimber himself (along with the leaders of the Vineyard Movement) repeatedly rejected the charismatic label as applying to their teachings.
Wimber strongly espoused Kingdom theology, and this approach to the charismatic differed from many of his peers and predecessors. Wimber’s embrace of this new approach led a friend, C. Peter Wagner, to coin the phrase, “The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit” to describe the concept he taught (and to avoid some current labels with their negative connotations). The Third Wave differed from classic Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement, foremost, in their approach to speaking in tongues. Whereas the previous groups had emphasized the gift of tongues as the only evidence for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, Wimber and those he influenced emphasized that this was just one of the many spiritual gifts taught in the Bible. This teaching revolutionized what was a major theological stumbling block to some mainstream Evangelicals, the demonstration of “signs and wonders” expressed in the present-day world in a form alleged to be alike to those of the days of the First Century Apostles. Wimber held influence with a number of them, most famously Jack Deere, C. Peter Wagner, and Wayne Grudem. Gordon-Conwell missiologist J. Christy Wilson also mentions Wimber in his book More to be Desired than Gold.
Wimber also differed from contemporaries in his rejection of the Word of Faith movement, and the associated doctrines and showiness. The pursuit of authenticity was core to Wimber’s idea of church, and this was reflected in the worship as well.
He died of a brain hemorrhage on November 17, 1997, aged 63, following a fall and recent coronary bypass surgery.
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