At the beginning, the Vineyard movement launched in the mid-70s as a small network of church led by Kenn Gullicksen. Wimber wasn’t initially part of this group of founding congregations.
During this time period, John and his wife Carol had become spiritually dry. Through Carol’s influence, they began to experience the Spirit in ways often associated with Pentecostal or Charismatic Christianity. This renewal became a turning point in their life and ministry.
In 1977, John started a Calvary Chapel in Yorba Linda, California. The church was associated with Calvary Chapel until 1982, when it separated from Calvary Chapel and quickly became the flagship church of the Vineyard movement as the newly named Anaheim Vineyard. In the early 80s, John Wimber took the leadership of the Vineyard churches, and proceeded to plant hundreds of churches in the coming decades, first in the US, and then globally.
The Theology Of The Kingdom Of God
Wimber became convinced of God’s healing power and spent months encouraging his church to pray for the sick. They prayed for hundreds of people who never got healed. Eventually, God began to use John and other members of the Anaheim Vineyard to supernaturally heal many people. John would travel around the world teaching and demonstrating God’s healing power.
Theologically, Wimber is best known for applying George Ladd’s theology of the kingdom of God to healing ministry. Ladd developed the idea that the kingdom of God is a reality that is both present in our midst, but not completely present. Or, in other words, it has an “already” component and a “not yet” component.
We experience some of the goodness and power of God in the present, but we also wait for the day when God establishes His kingdom fully. In application to healing, Wimber saw that this theology could help explain why we might sometimes see God heal people, but we don’t see all people healed all the time.
Equipping The Saints For Ministry
Wimber was passionate about equipping people for ministry. His most well-known book is called “Power Healing,” and it contains the simple message that God wants to use ordinary people to touch the lives of others who are sick or in need. He also wrote books about evangelism, hearing from God, dealing with suffering, and spiritual growth.
Wimber taught classes at Fuller Seminary, most notably a course in the early 80s called “Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth.” This class was famous and somewhat controversial. Many people experienced the present day work of the Spirit for the first time in this class.
Intimate Worship & Welcoming Communities
Vineyard churches were well known for their music. Rather than writing traditional church hymns, they wrote songs in the rock-n-roll style of their time. In the early 80s, this was considered somewhat revolutionary. Vineyard worship music has always been known for its sense of intimacy – singing simple love songs to God.
Vineyard churches also became known for eschewing traditional church formalism. Rather than dressing up for church, Vineyard church attenders were welcome to wear jeans, shorts, sandals, or whatever made them feel comfortable. This was then considered quite unusual, though it has now become quite common. Additionally, Wimber encouraged his churches to avoid using religious, insider language, and instead wanted church to be down-to-earth and accessible.