When do we get to do the stuff ? John Wimber
I believe that John Wimber was the founding father of what is, today, called the Association of Vineyard Churches; a world-wide movement now embracing over 1,500 churches world-wide.
In the late 60s and early 70s, the Jesus Movement was in full gear and countless young men and women across the USA were being drawn into loving relationships with Jesus of Nazareth. Southern California had become a hotbed for God-activity at the time, rock-n-roll was changing the music scene, and by the early 1970s, newly saved musicians were writing and recording music that would eventually transform everything we called church music. Radically saved artists like Keith Green and others joined with Kenn Gulliksen and the Vineyard and suddenly, an excitement to plant new Vineyard churches for new, younger Christians was ablaze. Into that scene, in 1975 a young church planter named Kenn Gulliksen brought together seven church communities that he had planted to form the Vineyard. About this same time, Kenn met John and Carol Wimber. The Wimbers and a handful of their friends were Quakers, living in and around Anaheim, California. Like so many other mainline churches at the time, the charismatic movement had rocked their little Quaker church in Yorba Linda with an explosive move of the Holy Spirit.
John had been serving in Yorba Linda as a lay leader and then as co-pastor since his radical conversion to Christ in 1963. Under Wimber’s leadership, their Friends Church grew dramatically, with much of that growth coming from John’s personal commitment to sharing his faith with everyone he met. In 1974, Wimber enrolled in a Peter Wagner course at Fuller Seminary. Wagner was a theoretician of Church Growth and he knew that Wimber was a practitioner. Wagner and Wimber teamed up when Wagner called to offer him a job to establish the Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. During much of the 1970s, Wimber traveled extensively around the USA and Canada, working with pastors and church leaders in church growth and ministry development. It was in this role, God began exposing him to a broader spectrum of Christianity, encouraging him to love and appreciate the presence of God as it manifested throughout the larger church across North America.
In 1976, Jesus began encouraging John to leave his job at Fuller and return to day-to-day pastoral ministry back home in Yorba Linda. By 1977, a new church was formed, but this time, the church John pastored would be governed outside the framework of the Quaker denomination. After being asked to leave the Friends Church because of their charismatic experiences, John and Carol joined forces with the Calvary Chapel movement under the direction of Chuck Smith. It was during this season that Kenn Gulliksen approached John, asking him to join him, bringing Wimber’s church planting expertise to the movement. By 1982, a total transition in leadership had occurred, with Kenn humbly laying down his leadership role with Vineyard, turning it over completely to John.
It’s important to mention here that early in Wimber’s journey with Christ, John learned from his Quaker mentor, Gunner Payne, that the Bible was the source of all truth when it came to knowing and experiencing God. Later on in life, John often said of himself that he was, at the time of his conversion, a “beer-guzzling, drug-abusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of twenty-nine while chain-smoking my way through a Quaker-led Bible study.”
Crediting his Quaker mentor, Wimber became a hungry Christian, dedicating himself to the reading and application of God’s Word. Under Gunner’s leadership, John became enthralled with the Scriptures. Finally, after several weeks of reading about the life-changing miracles found throughout the Bible, he became curious that much of what he was reading about was not being found at the church he was attending. Christy Wimber tells the story this way:
Shortly after John became a Christian, he became a voracious Bible reader. The Scriptures excited him, and finally after reading for weeks about life changing miracles in the Bible and attending boring church services, John asked one of the lay leaders, “When do we get to do the stuff?”
“What stuff ?”asked the leader.
“You know the stuff here in the Bible, the stuff Jesus did like healing the sick, raising the dead, healing the blind. You know, stuff like that!”
“Well, we don’t do that anymore.” the man said to John.
To which John replied, “You don’t? Then what do you do?”
“Well, we do what we did here this morning.” the man replied.
John answered, “You mean I gave drugs up for that?”
This frustrating conversation back in the mid-1960s started Wimber on a biblically-based pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom-driven, world-changing, people-loving ministry. The pursuit of “doin’ the stuff” honestly, cost him a lot later in life. Over time, because of his relentless pursuit to follow the words and works of Christ, John, in later years, lost his career at Fuller, his pastoral position in several different churches, and eventually much of his reputation amongst many of his evangelical Christian friends.
Yikes. I guess when you are serious about following Jesus, doin’ his stuff can be costly! More on that in chapters to come!
Father, I confess that I share in John Wimber’s frustration. Church life across America seems to be focused exclusively on ministry development, creative programming, and the entertainment and edification of the saints. Holy Spirit, give me a holy frustration to move away from standardized American church life so that I might be more actively involved with the actual stuff Jesus did in his ministry. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO PONDER
Do both my theology and my approach to missions need a wake-up call from Jesus?
Have I become increasingly complacent; being content to preach and teach about Jesus’ amazing ministry, but never actually attempting to do the stuff Jesus and his followers actually did?
So, what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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