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Rick Joyner of Morningstar Ministries, has been publishing weekly articles on great Christian lives over the centuries. On Oct. 13, 2015, he released the following article, summarizing the life and impact of John Wimber, the leader of The Vineyard in its beginning years.  

We continue our study of some of the great Christian lives with another recent example, John Wimber. I was privileged to know and spend time with John in the final years of his life, and I count him as one of the greatest Christians I have known.

John Wimber

(February 25, 1934 – November 17, 1997)

     John Wimber had one of the greatest healing and miracle gifts in the last part of the 20th century. However, it was more than this that enabled him to become one of the most influential church leaders during his time. John loved theology, but he was not a theologian. Yet, few theologians have had the kind of impact on the teachings of so many Christians in virtually every denomination as did John.

     John was also one of the greatest examples of an Ephesians 4 equipping ministry. He was instrumental in releasing more people into authentic healing and deliverance ministries, and releasing more pastors, teachers, and evangelists into their callings than possibly anyone in church history. Few have had such a deep and transformative influence over such a large spectrum of the body of Christ as did John Wimber.

     John was deeply committed to sound biblical doctrine, but he loved people even more than principles. John once told me that he prayed for a thousand people to be healed before he saw his first miracle. He believed what the Bible said about healing and would not give up. His perseverance to see healing released in the church was not just to see his faith or doctrine verified, but it was because he loved people and wanted to see them healed. John is one of the great examples of how “Love never quits” (accurate Vision Bible translation of I Corinthians 13:8).

     John’s love of theology and sound doctrine was rooted in his love of the truth. He was committed to the truth, and he told the truth. He did not make excuses for his failures, and when someone did not get healed, he would apologize and say he did not know why. When John was confronted by a critic that had concluded that only about 10% of the people he prayed for were healed, John acknowledged it and said he hoped to do better because those 10% were sure worth it. John’s low-key style attracted those who were repelled by the circus-style atmosphere of other healing ministries, and his authenticity in acknowledging his failures was so compelling that he won over many skeptics and doubters.

     John seldom, if ever, said anything negative publicly about another ministry, but he was privately outraged by those who did things like pushing people over and claiming they were knocked over by the power of God. He taught that artificially creating an emotionally charged atmosphere was an obstacle to true healing and true faith. He trained his leaders to stop people from exhibiting manifestations that were contrived. John and the other Vineyard leaders were having such spectacular miracles themselves that it was hard to argue with them reining in emotionalism and hype. This raised the credibility of the healing ministry so that many who had rejected it before started to become open.

     John’s other love was music, and he was a professional musician before he began his ministry. Many credit John with the formation of The Righteous Brothers, for whom he played the keyboards. Eventually, John would combine his love for music with his love for God, resulting in some of the greatest worship songs in recent times.

     In 1974, John became Director of the Department of Church Growth at Fuller Theological Seminary. At the same time, he and his wife, Carol, began to host a gathering of Christians in their home for teaching and fellowship. As they began to believe in and experience the gifts of the Spirit, it caused a break with the Quaker church they had been attending. This little house group grew to become Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which for a time would be one of the most influential churches in the world.

     In their formative years this congregation became part of the Calvary Chapel movement, which John acknowledged greatly helped them to lay a foundation of loving the Word of God and sound doctrine. However, because John was so resolutely pursuing the gifts of the Spirit and wanted them released in the church, the relationship became strained and the two movements parted ways. John then joined a small group of churches begun by Kenn Gulliksen called The Vineyard.

     News of the spectacular miracles being experienced at The Vineyard spread. People came from around the world to attend Vineyard conferences or one of their churches. Soon Vineyard churches were popping up like mushrooms. Vineyard music was also becoming popular, and it helped fan the interest in this remarkable new movement. John and other leaders of The Vineyard began to speak at other churches and conferences. Soon Vineyard influence was sought by many denominations in many nations, and great signs and wonders followed.

     John especially wanted to reach evangelicals as he thought they were the most grounded in the Word and could therefore better handle the power gifts, keeping them moored to sound doctrine. However, it seemed that the high churches, such as the Catholics, Anglicans, Reformed, and Protestant denominations embraced The Vineyard and its message more than any other segment of the body of Christ.

     John’s friend, C. Peter Wagner, coined the phrase that identified the move of God sparked by The Vineyard, calling it “The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit.” John’s teachings on the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit differed from classical Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement in a way that made it far more palatable for the rest of the body of Christ. He taught that the gift of tongues was just one of the gifts or evidences of the baptism. This removed a major stumbling block to evangelicals receiving the baptism. The teaching eventually opened the way for millions to experience this empowering by the Holy Spirit who had not been previously open to it.

     The Vineyard was used to raise up many great ministers, such as John and Carol Arnott. The Arnotts led what became known as the “Toronto Blessing,” which touched a large part of the body of Christ. Mike Bickle, founder of the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, was also part of The Vineyard for a time. Many other great ministries and churches emerged from The Vineyard and are thriving today.

     Though I was never part of The Vineyard, I had the privilege of getting to know John quite well. I also spoke at a few Vineyard conferences and in a number of Vineyard churches, including the Anaheim Vineyard. I do not remember one Vineyard that I was not impressed with, especially with the quality of the leadership. I also don’t remember visiting a Vineyard church in which every member was not trained in effective evangelism, praying for the sick, and setting people free from demonic oppression. As for fulfilling the Ephesians 4 mandate to “equip the saints for the work of the ministry,” to this day I do not know of another movement that has done this as well as The Vineyard.

     John Wimber died of a brain hemorrhage on November 17, 1997 at the age of 63. He was mourned around the world. No doubt few people impacted the entire body of Christ as much as John Wimber did in his time. It was for our good as well as the honor and dignity of the Lord’s name.

***Used with permission by Rick Joyner of Morningstar Ministries***