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The History of the Vineyard Movement

The Vineyard movement finds its roots in a spiritual awakening that swept through the United States at the beginning of the second half of the 20th century.

The Jesus People movement of the 1960s was a spiritual awakening within hippie culture in the United States, as thousands of young people found themselves on a desperate search to experience God.  Not finding Him through drugs, sex, or rock ‘n roll, the hippies were powerfully impacted by ministries such as Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa, CA) that arose during this move of God across America.

                                                                                                                       The First Vineyard

                                                                                                                                                        Kenn Gulliksen, a soft-spoken, unassuming leader with a

                                                                                                                                                        passion to know and walk with God, started a church in West

                                                                                                                                                        LA in 1974, sent out by Calvary Chapel.  This would be known

                                                                                                                                                        as the first Vineyard church. Average people, as well as actors

                                                                                                                                                        and musicians whose names would be familiar to us today

                                                                                                                                                        (Bob Dylan, T-Bone Burnett, Keith Green) were connected

                                                                                                                                                       with Gulliksen and the Vineyard.

                                                                                                                       The Birth Of A Movement

                                                                                                                                                        From Gulliksen’s church, the first Vineyards were planted in 1975.  Believing that God had instructed him to do so, Kenn officially gave the name “Vineyard” (from Isaiah 27:2-3John 15:5) to this association of churches, and led them for about five years.  By 1982, there were at least seven “Vineyards” in a loose-knit fellowship of churches.

Meanwhile, John and Carol Wimber, who had become a part of Calvary Chapel, had a journey with God that was leading them to a convergence orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.

John Wimber & The Association Of Vineyard Churches

John and Kenn became friends, and in 1982 it was clear that John was emerging as the leader of the growing network of Vineyard churches.  The official recognition of this transition took place in 1982: the emergence of what was to be called the “Association of Vineyard Churches.”  Today, there are 2400+ Vineyards around the world in 95 countries – and we’re growing. 

About John Wimber

John Wimber’s influence profoundly shaped the theology and practice of Vineyard churches, from their

earliest days until his death in November 1997.  When John was conscripted by God in the mid 1960s, he

was, in the words of Christianity Today, a “beer-guzzling, drug- abusing pop musician, who was converted

at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible study.”

In John’s first decade as a Christian, he led hundreds of people to Christ.  By 1970 he was leading 11 Bible

studies that included more than 500 people!  John became so fruitful as an evangelical pastor he was

asked to lead the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth.  He later became an adjunct

instructor at Fuller Theological Seminary, where his classes set attendance records.  In 1977, John

re-entered pastoral ministry to plant Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda, which would become Vineyard Anaheim. 

Read more about John Wimber <HERE>.


The Theology Of The Kingdom Of God

During this time, John’s conservative evangelical paradigm for understanding the ministry of the church began to grow.

George Eldon Ladd’s theological writings on the kingdom of God convinced John intellectually that all the biblical gifts of the Holy Spirit should be active in the Church.  Encounters with Fuller missiologists Donald McGavaran and C. Peter Wagner, along with seasoned missionaries and international students, gave John credible evidence for combining evangelism with healing and prophecy.

Doin’ The Stuff

As he became more convinced of God’s desire to be active in the world through all the biblical gifts of the Spirit, John began to teach and train his church to imitate Jesus’ full-orbed kingdom ministry.  He began to “do the stuff” of the Bible, about which he had formerly only read.

Signs, Wonders & Church Growth

As John and his congregation, mostly made up of former Quakers, sought God in intimate worship, they experienced empowerment by the Holy Spirit, significant renewal in the gifts, and conversion growth.  Since it soon became clear that the church’s emphasis on the experience of the Holy Spirit was not shared by some leaders in the Calvary Chapel movement, John’s church left Calvary Chapel in 1982 and joined the Association of Vineyard Churches.

Growth & Global Attention

As Vineyard Anaheim grew, it became a vibrant church of thousands (while still meeting in a high school gymnasium!) gaining world-wide attention. Thousands of "unchurched" people came powerfully into relationship with Christ, and the church worked to disciple and train those young Christians in their newfound faith.

John was asked to teach a now-famous course at Fuller Theological Seminary called Signs, Wonders and Church Growth (MC510), in which he taught on the works of Jesus, then trained seminarians to pray for the sick, hear God’s voice, and move in the Holy Spirit.  The material in this course eventually led to invitations for John and his team to train churches in how to pray for and heal the sick around the world.

A Love For The Holy Spirit

As the Vineyard grew and John’s work of renewal impacted everyone from the Anglicans

to the Baptists, Wimber carried forward the heart of a child when it came to the work of

the Holy Spirit. His love for the" untamable" work of the Spirit, based on the lasting

transformations he had seen in the lives of so many, led the Vineyard through many

seasons in its history.

Letting the “weeds grow up with the flowers,” the Vineyard moved in and out of varying

degrees of relationship with prophetic movements and renewal movements.

The Quest For The Radical Middle

John pastored the movement with grace and wisdom during these exciting and turbulent

years, writing long letters and pastoral care articles to his pastors to help them navigate

the tricky waters of partnering with the Holy Spirit.

        “Our passion is to imitate the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This

        requires we must follow Jesus out of  baptismal waters, through our personal

        deserts, and into the harvest. We want to take the ammunition of the balanced

        evangelical theology with the fire power of Pentecostal practice, loading & readying

        the best of both worlds to hit the  target of making & nurturing disciples…”

         – John Wimber

His desire was to keep the movement living in the tension of the “radical middle,” embracing

both the gifts of the Evangelical tradition and the gifts of the Pentecostal/Charismatic traditions.

John’s perspective could be captured in the adage: “All Word and no Spirit, we dry up. All Spirit and no Word, we blow up. With the Spirit and the Word, we grow up.”

Some of these years are documented in a powerful historical book on the Vineyard movement, The Quest For The Radical Middle by the late Bill Jackson.

The impact of John Wimber, Vineyard Worship, and the value of kingdom theology in the 21st church cannot be overstated. Today, the Vineyard takes its place as a growing, maturing movement of passionate followers of Jesus, seeking to “do the stuff” of the kingdom of God in local churches, in the streets, and anywhere people gather.

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