Monday, November 19, 2007

In Remembrance: John Wimber

It's been ten years since John Wimber died. Sam Storms, who knew John personally, writes a thoughtful remembrance. I never knew John personally, but was deeply impacted by his writings.

Wimber was a firm advocate of "the radical middle" between charismatics and evangelicals. While many of the things that would occur in a Vineyard context under John's leadership would be clearly described as "charismatic" by even the most casual observer, John also held strongly to the evangelical emphasis on Scripture, and also grounded everything in a hands-on, "doin' the stuff" authenticity of touching peoples' lives.

Many will recall that John was vehemently against hype and showmanship which characterized (and still does) most charismatic ministry; John was all about being low-key and "normal", even when praying for healing. We often heard the word "authentic" in Vineyard circles long before it became part of the new lexicon of buzzwords for the emerging/missional church.

John stressed ministry to the poor very strongly; if there was any observation/criticism that I had in my early days as a Vineyard pastor, it was that too few Vineyards actually followed Wimber's teaching and example; few had any ministry to the poor, and too many opted to emphasize the spectacular and developed a culture of hype.

One of the things I always appreciated about Wimber was his analogy of not "trimming the bush" too quickly; John would allow the "bush" to grow for a season, not jumping to immediate conclusions about different streams or emphases, but allowing it a chance to produce some fruit. Then, if things appeared to be getting out of sync with Vineyard beliefs and practices, he would "trim the bush" (think: Toronto Blessing).

At times, this would land Wimber and the Vineyard into hot water (think Kansas City Prophets), but I respected and still respect Wimber for trying to remain open and teachable, although also still willing to take action when necessary. And, in reference to the KC Prophets, Wimber would later state that it was a mistake to embrace some of their teachings, and that it had gotten the Vineyard off-track.

Wimber's "Vineyard Genetic Code" was simply:
  • Clear, accurate, Biblical teaching
  • Contemporary worship in the freedom of the Holy Spirit
  • The gifts of the Holy Spirit in operation
  • An active small group ministry
  • Ministry to the poor, widows, orphans and those who are broken
  • Physical healing with an emphasis on signs and wonders as seen in the book of Acts
  • A commitment to missions and church planting at home and world missions abroad
  • Unity with the whole body of Christ with a healthy relationship with other local churches
  • Evangelistic outreach
  • Equipping believers in areas such as: discipleship, ministry, family, finances, and serving.
Wimber's books, most notably Power Evangelism and Power Healing, are powerful statements of the necessity of the present power and ministry of the Holy Spirit in the growth and expansion of the Church. I'd recommend giving them another read, or picking them up if you've never read them before.