This week I got to talk with a couple of amazing people. I’m sure many of those conversations will make it onto this blog, but I want to focus on one story first.
One of the conversations I had this past week was with two people who attended John Wimber’s church in Anaheim, CA back in 1994. Vineyard history is a passion of mine, so I asked them to tell me their story. I also had a few specific questions for them, namely “what happened to the Vineyard after John died?” and “why have signs and wonders (the hallmarks of the Vineyard movement) all but died out?” In turn, they told me this story.
Back in the heyday of the Vineyard movement, God was pouring out tremendous blessings upon hungry people. This “Third Great Awakening” was totally foreign to the people of the time. Spontaneous healings and conversions were the norm as God visited His people. During this time, there was a huge surge in the prophetic. As God was restoring the five-fold ministry to the Church, prophets began arriving on scene, speaking the words of God with incredible power and accuracy. People were cut to the core hearing these people speak and thousands gave their lives to the Lord.
With multitudes of hungry, desperate people who were new to the faith and untrained in the Bible, the stage was set for goofy things to happen and, unfortunately, they did. Immature expressions of the Holy Spirit were broadcast around the globe by other Christians looking to criticize. This onslaught of criticism caused many in the Vineyard to reconsider their direction. John Wimber decided the excesses were too much and pulled back, abandoning the prophetic movement to its own devices. Many prophets were expelled from the Vineyard and went their own way. This was when things began to deteriorate.
The criticism didn’t stop and the movement was no longer in step with the Spirit. Churches continued to be planted, but without the power and passion that had been the norm a few years earlier. The Vineyard began to develop models and systems to cover up the lack of power. Leadership changed hands due to John’s failing health and tiredness and that change brought about a shift in focus.
During the time just before John’s death, John Paul Jackson, one of the prophets that was kicked out of the Vineyard visited John Wimber. As they talked and prayed, Wimber said to Jackson, “I’ve made a mistake and if I get up off of this bed, I am going to restore the prophetic to the Vineyard.” Sadly for us here below, John didn’t get up, but went to be with God.
When I heard that story, I was rocked to the core. It confirmed in my spirit many of the things God has been speaking to me, namely the need for reconciliation between then prophetic and Vineyard movements and the need of repentance in the Vineyard for quenching the Spirit. Were the manifestations that caused the drawback immature and potentially invalid? Sure, but rather than pastoring them and bringing in a biblical foundation, they were abandoned and condemned. In doing so, we dishonored the prophetic and the Spirit and if we are going to take back our rightful inheritance then we need to make things right.
It is my hope and prayer that we, the Vineyard, will repent and take to heart the story above. The Vineyard needs the prophetic/prayer movement and vice versa. The Vineyard is a renewal (signs, wonders and worship) movement that belongs to the Church Universal, not a franchise looking to trade anointing for cash. To the extent we can repent we can reclaim our identity and inheritance. To the extent we stubbornly refuse we will wither and, eventually, die.