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John Richard Wimber
February 25, 1934
|Died||November 17, 1997 (aged 63)|
Santa Ana, California, U.S.
|Occupation||Christian author and pastor|
John Richard Wimber (February 25, 1934 – November 17, 1997) was an American pastor, Christian author and musician. Initially ordained as a Quaker minister, he became an early, pioneering pastor of charismatic congregations, and a popular thought leader in modern Christian publications on the third person of the Christian Trinity, the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit's perceived action in modern churches through miraculous phenomena referred to as signs and wonders. Wimber was a founding leader of the first Vineyard church, a Christian movement that began in the United States and has become, as of 2017, a wider denomination.
John Richard Wimber was born on February 25, 1934, in Kirksville, Missouri, to Basil and Genevieve Estelynn (Martin) Wimber. He grew up outside of a religious- or faith-based belief system until he became a Christian at the age of 29. Wimber was recognised as a talented musician, and he first played as a professional at the age of 15 at the Dixie Castle in Orange, California. Four years later, in 1953, Wimber won a first prize at the Lighthouse International Jazz Festival.
Wimber was a talented keyboardist and vocalist. He was a pianist and singer in The Paramours group, later known as The Righteous Brothers, from 1962-1963, as well as a manager for The Righteous Brothers during this period. This five-member band preceded Bobby Hatfield and Bill Medley's eventual induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
He converted to Christianity in 1963, immediately enrolled in Azusa Pacific College, and majored in Biblical Studies. Upon graduating he was ordained as a Quaker minister. He then took a pastoral position with the Yorba Linda Friends Church.
By 1970, Wimber was leading 11 different Bible study groups that involved more than 500 people. He was the Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth from 1974-1978, which was founded by the Fuller Theological Seminary and the Fuller Evangelistic Association.
Wimber eventually left the Quaker denomination after being discouraged from operating in the gifts of the Spirit. He formed a house church that eventually grew into the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim in 1977.
House church and Calvary Chapel
Wimber pastored VCF until 1994. Eventually, it outgrew his home and began to meet elsewhere, including the Canyon High School gym in Anaheim. After initially joining Calvary Chapel, the church had some differences with the Calvary Chapel leadership, relating mainly to the practice of spiritual gifts, Wimber's rejection of traditional Dispensationalism, and his embrace of Kingdom theology.
Wimber and Vineyard
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As a result of the differences over spiritual gifts, Wimber and his followers left Calvary Chapel, and joined 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.[full citation needed] Wimber taught and preached about spiritual gifts and healings, which allegedly began to occur in May 1980 when evangelist Lonnie Frisbee ministered.
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".[This quote needs a citation] 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. However, while popularly considered 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.
Religious views and theology
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. 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 available to believers, as taught in the Bible. His teaching revolutionized what was a major theological stumbling block to some mainstream Evangelicals, and normalized the demonstration of "signs and wonders" in current times. Wimber held influence with a number of them, most famously Jack Deere, C. Peter Wagner, and Wayne Grudem.
Services led by Wimber often included activities, described as Holy Spirit manifestations, where congregants appeared to be drunk, dazed, or uncoordinated. But in the mid-1990s he led the Vineyard movement to split from the Toronto Blessing church primarily on the issue of bizarre manifestations and the church's extreme latitude for them.
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 at the core of Wimber's idea of church, and this was reflected in the worship as well.
Baptism of the Holy Spirit
Wimber tentatively held to a modified evangelical view on baptism of the Holy Spirit that says it happens at conversion but that there is an experiential aspect (e.g. speaking in tongues) that may not be manifested or released until a later date.[verification needed][better source needed]
Wimber held a complementarian view of gender roles. This view believes the Bible to teach that a husband is called to lovingly lead, protect and provide for his wife and family, and that the wife should joyfully and intelligently affirm and submit to her husband's leadership. Complementarians also believe the Bible to teach that men are to bear primary responsibility to lead the church and that therefore only men should be elders. Wimber stated, "I personally do not favor ordaining women as elders in the local church ... I encourage our women to participate in any ministry, except church governance." Sam Storms, when discussing this issue, stated "Others would point out that in spite of his complementarian convictions, Wimber permitted at least two notable exceptions: both Jackie Pullinger (Hong Kong) and Ann Watson (England) served as the senior leaders of their respective congregations (although I should mention that Watson viewed her role as exceptional, given the premature death of her husband, and not a position to which women in ordinary circumstances should aspire)."
Wimber was very outspoken about maintaining authenticity and doing nothing for religious effect. He wasn't happy with the way some services were run, was "angry with what appeared to be the manipulation of people for the material gains of the faith healer," "pushing people over and calling it the power of God," and accepting money for healing ministry. Wimber was not against manifestations in a service as long as they were real moves of God and not "fleshly and brought out by some sort of display, or promoted by somebody on stage"
In a 1996 Christianity Today article, Wimber told the story of someone he claimed was supernaturally healed, but he also shared stories of other people who were not healed. He was personally fighting cancer at that time. A sociologist who conducted an analysis at one of Wimber's conferences observed that hype was also opposed by Wimber's team, commenting, "A few seemed to attempt to mimic phenomena like hand shaking but their attempts were obviously artificial and they were told to stop it by the more experienced team members."
Wider impact and other teachings
Wimber's teaching influenced many Christians, both inside and out of the Vineyard movement. One of the key foundations of his teaching was intimacy with God, rather than religious habit and discipline. Another characteristic is in the area of teaching, which emphasized preaching extensively from the gospels and using Jesus as the model for Christian believers. Wimber also had a deep desire to be active in helping the poor.
He strongly emphasized signs and wonders, which he referred to as "Doin' the Stuff", the priesthood of every believer and that every Christian has the ability to prophesy and heal the sick. While this is not a new concept, Wimber was a key figure in the introduction of the concept that praying for the sick (or anything else) shouldn't be saved for special healing services, but should take place at every Church service, and out on the streets (by every believer). As a result, many churches have prayer time after the sermon. The Vineyard worship style has also had a wide influence on the church.
Wimber's teaching has had a significant influence on other Charismatic leaders, such as Mike Bickle, Terry Virgo, Randy Clark, John Arnott, Bill Johnson, John Paul Jackson, Sandy Millar, David Pytches and Sam Storms. In 2007 Storms wrote an article commemorating Wimber 10 years after his death.
Wimber's theology and methods have been challenged by cessationist Christians. Their criticism is mainly concerned with his embrace of Kingdom theology. Critics also argue that Wimber's emphasis on dramatic proofs of spiritual power show a lack of reliance on the Bible, and instead rely on practices derived from New Age philosophy and humanistic psychology.
Declining health and death
In 1983 and 1984, Wimber said, "I had suffered minor chest pains every four or five months. I suspected they had something to do with my heart but did nothing about them. Nobody, not even Carol, my wife, knew about my condition." In October 1985 while in England he was very tired and had chest pains. His wife insisted he get tested. "I had what doctors later suspected were a series of coronary attacks." The next month his cardiologist confirmed he had a damaged heart and told him that his weight and schedule put him at risk of imminent death. "In 1985 I was away from home for over forty weeks." "All my life," Wimber confessed, "I have been a compulsive person, always working and eating more than I should." In 1986 he had a heart attack.
"I have heard John say that for a number of years during this period," wrote Vineyard pastor and historian Bill Jackson, "he felt that he could have died at any minute. Sometimes he thought he was going to fall over while he was speaking."
In 1993 Wimber was diagnosed with sinus cancer. He had successful radiation treatment which lasted a year, but said "at the time I weighed 280 pounds." In 1995 he had a stroke. In 1997 he had triple-bypass heart surgery. His mental faculties were declining and later that same year Wimber fell in his home and hit his head. This caused a massive brain hemorrhage, from which he died on November 17, 1997, at Western Medical Center in Santa Ana, California. He was 63 years old.
Wimber's health problems had challenged his theology and experience. After teaching on healing, praying for the sick, and seeing people healed, he openly admitted: "Not only have I suffered physically with health problems, but I also spent a great deal of time struggling with depression during my battle with cancer." He also commented, "Sometimes our experiences don't fit with our understanding of what the Bible teaches. On the one hand, we know that God is sovereign and that he sent Jesus to commission us to pray for and heal the sick. On the other hand, we know from experience that healing does not always occur. Why would God command us to heal the sick and then choose not to back up our act (so to speak) by not healing the person for whom we pray? This can be downright discouraging, as I learned years ago in my own congregation when I began to teach on healing. It was nine months before we saw the first person healed. The temptation was to withdraw from practicing Christ's commands or, at the other extreme, to drum up a false bravado to convince God to do what we thought He ought to do."
- Power Evangelism (co-author) (Harper & Row, 1986) ISBN 0340561270
- Power Healing (co-author) (Harper & Row, 1986) ISBN 0060695412
- Signs and Wonders and Church Growth (co-author) (Harper & Row, 1988) ISBN 978-0060695378
- Power Points: Your Action Plan to Hear God's Voice, Believe God's World, Seek the Father, Submit to Christ, Take Up the Cross, Depend on the Holy Spirit, Fulfill the Great Commission (co-author) (Harper Collins, 1991) ISBN 978-0060695392
- The Way In Is The Way On: John Wimber's Teachings and Writings on Life in Christ (Ampelon, 2006) ISBN 978-0974882574
- Everyone Gets to Play (co-author) (Ampelon, 2009) ISBN 978-0981770574
- "John Wimber: Leaving a legacy in the 21st century Church – still felt around the world". Vineyard USA. Vineyard USA. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- "Rev John Richard Wimber". Find a Grave. Retrieved October 4, 2017.
- Hall, Mark; Jackson, Bill (1998). "John Wimber". The Vineyard. Association of Vineyard Churches. Archived from the original on February 9, 1999.
- "John Wimber". Institute for the Study of American Evangelicals. Wheaton College. Archived from the original on June 28, 2017. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
- Park, Andy (2004). To Know You More: Cultivating the Heart of the Worship Leader. Intervarsity Press. pp. 247–250. ISBN 978-0830832217.
- "The Paramours_There She Goes". White Doo-Wop Collecgtor. August 7, 2012. Retrieved October 14, 2017.
- "Righteous Brothers". Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Retrieved October 14, 2007.
- "The History of the Vineyard Movement". The Vineyard. Vineyard USA. Archived from the original on July 15, 2006. Retrieved June 27, 2017.
- Walker, Ken (August 2015). "JOHN WIMBER: Beer-Drinking Musician Underwent Life Transformation". Charisma Magazine.
- Hyatt, Eddie (2002). 2000 Years Of Charismatic Christianity: A 21st century look at church history from a pentecostal/charismatic perspective. Charisma House. p. 180.
- Wimber, John; Springer, Kevin (1986). Power Evangelism. Harper and Row.
- White, David (1993). "Revival and the Spirit's Power". In Greig, Gary S.; Springer, Kevin N. (eds.). The Kingdom and the Power: Are Healing and the Spiritual Gifts Used by Jesus and the Early Church Meant for the Church Today?. Ventura, California: Regal Books. p. 318. ISBN 978-0830716340.
- Larry B. Stammer, "A Spiritual Split: Anaheim-Based Pentecostal Sect Ousts Controversial Group," Los Angeles Times, December 10, 1995
- Wimber, John. Best of Wimber [MP3]. Event occurs at timecodes 20:40, 28:40, 31:30, and 34:40. Archived from the original on December 17, 2009.
- "A Vision of Biblical Complementarity". CBMW. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. June 1, 1991. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
- "Fifty Crucial Questions". CBMW. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. January 1, 1991. Retrieved April 4, 2017.
- Storms, Sam (Fall 2007). "Women in Ministry in the Vineyard, U.S.A." The Journal for Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. 12 (2). ISSN 1544-5143. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
- Wimber, John; Springer, Kevin (1991) . Power Healing. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row. pp. 40, 149, 187, 223. ISBN 0060695412.
- "Conversations: God's Wonder Worker". christianitytoday.com. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
- Wimber, John (October 7, 1996). "Signs, Wonders, and Cancer". Christianity Today. Retrieved 4 April 2017.
- Power Healing, pp. 265 and 269.
- Lewis, David (1989). Healing: Fiction, Fantasy or Fact?. Hodder & Stoughton Religious. ISBN 978-0340503447.
- Wimber's 1986 Harrogate Conference.
- Storms, Sam (November 17, 2007). ""Doin' the Stuff" (Remembering John Wimber)". Archived from the original on September 7, 2008. Retrieved December 13, 2009.
- The Way In Is The Way On, p. 179.
- Jackson, Bill, "The Quest for the Radical Middle," Vineyard International Publishing, Capetown, South Africa, 1999, p. 136.
- Hayford, Jack W.; Moore, S. David (2006). The Charismatic Century: The Enduring Impact of the Azusa Street Revival. FaithWords / Warner Books. ISBN 978-0446578134.
- Maxwell, Joe; Johnson, Heather; Geary, John (January 12, 1998). "Vineyard: Vineyard Founder Wimber Dies". Christianity Today. Anaheim, California. Retrieved February 21, 2018.
- Wimber, John (1996). Living with Uncertainty: My Bout with Inoperable Cancer. Vineyard Ministries.
- Wimber, Carol (1999). John Wimber: The Way It Was. Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 978-0340735398.
- Jackson, Bill (1999). The Quest For the Radical Middle. Vineyard International Publishing. ISBN 978-0620243193.
- Pytches, David (1998). John Wimber: A Tribute. Eagle. ISBN 978-0863472770.
- White, John (1988). When the Spirit Comes with Power: Signs & Wonders Among God's People. IVP Books. ISBN 978-0830812226.
- Doin' The Stuff – Wimber resources
- Wimber CDs & DVDs – Wimber resources
- Wimber Audio Downloads – Wimber resources
- The John Wimber Collection at Regent University – Journal articles by and about John Wimber, conference materials, course syllabi, Vineyard publications, brochures, newspaper articles, correspondence and memorabilia.
- John Wimber resources at Vineyard Church of Cedar Rapids
- "Timeline of the Life of John Wimber" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2006-08-19.