The Church Jesus Builds
By John Wimber
Someone said once, There ís nothing more practical than a good idea. Ideas have consequences, and I want to share a few that God has led us to pursue in the Vineyard. They are like seeds we have sown, and are sowing, all over the world. And insofar as the seed is true to Gods Words and imbued with the Spirit, I believe the Vineyard will continue to produce the fruit of the kingdom in the future.
This article is not exhaustive, and I do not presume these ideas apply universally. They are not even original. When we started, we did no jump on the bandwagon of God’s new thing. Instead, we set out to do an ancient thing in a contemporary way: train people to continue the kingdom ministry of Jesus. Tired of my ministry, I was desperate to see his.
At his baptism before doing any ministry Jesus heard the Father say, You are my son whom I love; with you I am well pleased. God unzipped heaven and the Spirit descended onto and into Jesus to empower him (Lk. 3:22). Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert (Lk. 4:12). After the temptation, Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread (14). Jesus was full of the Spirit without measure and empowered for a purpose: to proclaim and demonstrate the kingdom.
What exactly is kingdom ministry? Luke gives a glimpse into Jesus own selfperception. At his coronation address he announced his kingly agenda:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lords favor.
In the gospels we find Jesus action plan for Spirit empowered ministry: Jesus taught. preached good news to the poor and poor in spirit. proclaimed freedom to prisoners bound in sin and darkness. Cast out demons. healed the sick. And he mentored disciples to do the same.
Jesus proclaimed and demonstrated Gods right to rule creation as he destroyed the works of Satan (1 Jn. 3:8). He equipped followers and promised that they too would do what he did because everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher (Lk. 6:40,, Mt. 28:1620; In. 14:1214). Mt. 28:1620; In. 14:1214).
I view this process of kingdom ministry as a continuum.
Today the buzz word in leadership training is vision. Sometimes I wonder if we have it right. What I do in the Vineyard is, ask Jesus to build his vision and strategy among us. I am trying to keep up with him and believe and do what his book says. So what is Jesus vision? The. kingdom of God.
Our primary aim in life is to love and glorify God and expand his kingdom in relevant ways in the time allotted us. As communities of the King, Vineyard churches should model what the kingdom looks like when God has his way with a group of people.
POWER FOR A PURPOSE
In the Vineyard, we always placed a priority on being empowered by the Spirit to continue Jesus ministry. But the Spirit empowers for a purpose not just an experience. At times we almost lose the purpose; at times we seem to lose the power. From the beginning we have attempted, however inadequately, to keep these two together. for example, after a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit on our young church on Mothers Day, 1979, approximately 1,700 people converted.
Our passion still is to imitate the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This requires that we follow him out of baptismal waters, through our personal deserts, into the harvest. We want to take the ammunition of the best of conservative Evangelical theology, the best fire power of mainstream Pentecostal practice, fuse them, and hit the biblical target of making and nurturing disciples.
WHAT’S THE FATHER DOING?
To continue Jesus ministry requires that we adopt his methods. Unfortunately, Christians in the West would rather implement programs. We are blind to our mechanistic assumptions when we reduce ministry to reproducible components and try to apply them indiscriminately. There is nothing wrong, for instance, with a tool for witnessing like The Four Spiritual Laws. It helps believers communicate biblical truth, but should we use it every time? No. We must ask what is appropriate in each situation and learn the art of listening, even as Jesus modeled (In. 5:19; 30). An early slogan we liked was, What is the Father doing? We tried to enter each ministry situation with that question foremost in our minds. Our experiences in spiritual gifts were an attempt to discern what the Father was up to. Whether the situation was evangelism, healing, budgeting for the poor, or sending a couple across country to plant a church, the important thing was to ask the Father what he was doing.
To continue to listen is essential because Jesus is still Owner Operator of the church. It is, after all, his ministry, his authority, not ours. Our job is to cooperate. It is the Lord who adds to the church not men and he graciously stoops to use our clumsy efforts (Acts 2:47). Church growth theory and practices, though helpful, only tell us where to prune, what fertilizer to use. In no way do they cause or even explain the miracle of conversion growth.
JESUS BIG BRIDE
Jesus said, ìI will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it (Mt. 16:18), Peter preached, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all ,people (Acts 2.17). Evidence confirms That Jesus and Peters prophecies are being fulfilled Despite the darkness (2 Tim. 3:19), Jesus is building his church, The Spirit is being poured out all over the world. The percentage of earths population that is Christian is growing.
Paul said the church reveals something of the nature of God (Eph. 3:10). God reconciles the many from different cultures into the one body. Jesus will build his church from every people group to use my late friend Donald McGavranís favorite phrase (Rev. 7:9).
The groom wants a healthy bride, not some emaciated fashion model who only appears beautiful. Our evangelism and church planting should reflect this optimism: with or without us, Jesus is marrying a big bride and church planting is still the most effective evangelistic tool on the face of the earth.
Our purpose, then, is to evangelize the lost, enfold them in new churches, equip them to exalt Jesus in every area Of life, and so expand his kingdom through continuing his ministry. The Association of Vineyard Churches evolved through our desire to do this more effectively by working together to train and oversee pastors and leaders.
A THREAD OF HIS WEAVING
Have you noticed the zeal of converts? They are blind to flaws and see only the beauty of the vision of their leader (historic or contemporary) and the truth within the teachings and practices of their group. The natural human tendency is to think that what you commit to is best, and if it nurtures you, then it obviously is the best, right? Groups easily take on a true church attitude even if they formally deny it and spend time defining who is in and out.î I illustrate this pattern for groups to evolve from a loose, casual association to rigid adherence with insight from set theory.
My hope is that the Vineyard remains a Christ centered group focused an the main teachings of Scripture as we follow Augustine’s ancient advice: In essentials unity, in nonessentials diversity, in all things charity. We are thankful for the ideas God calls us to implement. If they are solid, it is because they are his and rooted in rock solid Scripture, in tune (at least in part) with some of what the Holy Spirit is doing today. And though the Vineyard is a mere thread in, the global tapestry of the church, I believe it is a thread of his weaving. May God always empower us to continue Jesus ministry!
John Wimber was assisted in this article by Jon Panner. Mark Hall, using Bill Jackson’s unpublished manuscript The History of the Vineyard compiled the timeline.
Timeline of the life of John Wimber
February 25, 1934 Born in Peoria, Illinois
1949 At age 15 plays first professional music gig at the Dixie Castle in Orange, CA
1953 Wins Lighthouse International Jazz Festival
1955 Marries Carol
1962 Puts Righteous Brothers group together
November 1962 Dick Heying (the drummer in John’s band) and his wife Lynn become Christians. Dick visits often
April 1963 John and Carol begin attending Gunner Payne’s Bible study at Heying’s
May 1963 John and Carol accept Christ
1964 John baptized in Holy Spirit
1963 – 1974 Period of intense personal evangelism. John leads hundreds to Christ
1970 Leads 11 Bible studies a week with over 500 people in attendance at Yorba Linda Friends Church
1971 Joins staff at Yorba Linda Friends Church
1974 Leaves staff at Yorba Linda Friends Church to become Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Fuller Institute of Evangelism & Church Growth. Directs Institute until 1978
May 8, 1977 Wimber and 40 members of Bible Study asked to leave Yorba Linda Friends Church. They incorporate as Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda.
1977 Preaches about healing and the gifts. Nine months later sees first healing
Mother’s Day, 1980 Lonnie Frisbee (a known homosexual) says, “Come Holy Spirit” at CCYL
Mother’s Day, 1982 VCF Anaheim first public meeting
1981 First ministry trip to England and South Africa
1981 Publishes first two albums
1982 – 1986 Teaches MC510 Class at Fuller Seminary
Mother’s Day, 1982 Joins fledgling Vineyard movement. Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim incorporated.
1985 Incorporates Vineyard Ministries International & the Association of Vineyard Churches
1986 Writes Power Evangelism
1986 Begins publishing First Fruits, the first Vineyard magazine
1986 Suffers heart attack
1991 VCF Anaheim moves into new facility on La Palma
1993 Diagnosed with cancer
1995 Has a stroke
November 17, 1997 Passes away from massive brain hemorrhage