John Wimber believed in what we called Power Healing. It changed the church world as we know it. I would say that John Wimber did more to bring renewal to the Bride of Christ than anyone we know. In fact, the renewal outlived him if we are to honest.
I did not know much about John Wimber as a kid. I do remember my grandparents flying us to California for a conference and we went to Disneyland while there. They was always going to meetings when my grandpa was not preaching a “revival.” I was more interested in the roller coasters than I was sitting in church meetings at seven.
I look back and realize that those meeting was really important and they was at the Vineyard Church that John Wimber pastored. We enjoyed the services and I knew that grandpa spend a morning in a special meeting with leaders. I did not know (nor cared) then but he was sitting down with John Wimber to talk about world missions.
Thinking back, I would have loved to be in that meeting. A hard core classic Pentecostal that built his ministry on telling people to “Rapture ready” and a pastor that was Amillenialist and disagree with many of the core values of Pentecostals. They did embrace each other.
Power Healing renewal in Toronto
The renewal in Toronto, or the Toronto Blessing, came out of the Vineyard movement and started the Airport Vineyard Fellowship with John and Carol Arnott as pastor and through the ministry of Randy Clark, the pastor of the Vineyard in Saint Louis. The early days of it was mainly to people in the movement. It was not until late 1995 that it really started to spread to everyone.
On December 5, 1995; a sick John Wimber along with Todd Hunter made a very hard call: they asked John Arnott to leave the Vineyard unless they submitted to things that would make the religious people less angry. In some ways, this was not like Wimber. However, no one really know he was sick with cancer either.
What I get from this was no as much a rebuke but a promotion. He knew that the Vineyard could not last with him and in the middle of a renewal as well. Something had to give somewhere. They had to kill the renewal or remove it. They removed it and the Toronto Blessing went on without Wimber and the movement.
I see the move as the continuation of the movement, not the split of it. The Vineyard became a more traditional church that focused on people’s need and pastoring people. The Toronto movement would focus on bringing renewal to the church. Both were who John Wimber was.
Both ministries would focus on Power Healing to some degree. Many of the ministries that was born out of the renewal would focus on different truth that they learned from John Wimber and the wider Vineyard movement. Randy Clark, a major leader would go on to build his whole ministry on power healing and power evangelism.
What about the Kansas City Prophets?
I was attending Metro Christian Fellowship under Mike Bickle. We was a member of the movement and we was very close to what was happening in Canada. There was no way that they could be gone and we could stay. We both had very strong emphasis on power healing and the prophetic. Either Toronto had to stay or we had to go.
Well, a few months later, Mike Bickle told the church that we were not a member of the Vineyard Association of Churches anymore and we were on our own again. It was a bitter moment as my mother (and others) felt that power healing had been put on trail by the man that introduced all of us to it. Was John Wimber rejecting his own teaching? People were starting to wonder.
Many of us in Kansas City was trying very hard to honor Wimber and bless him but the actions over the last few months left us completely undone. Was Wimber becoming a heresy hunter, was he in bed with John McArthur, was he looking for “brownie points” with evangelicals or was something deeper going on?
We did not know it then but shortly after, we learned that he was sick and was battling cancer. It made things make sense alot more. He was taking action so that the Vineyard could go on without him. Having people running around doing power healing and the prophetic without any real leadership was not going to work out.
Was John Wimber right?
Looking back at it twenty years later, I still believe that John made the wrong call. I get it but I do not agree with it. It seems that John Wimber put Power Healing on the altar as a sacrifice. Vineyard Churches today look more like Baptist than Pentecostals currently. The few Vineyard pastors I know do not talk much about the Baptism of the Holy Spirit anymore.
It seems like they have went Baptist on us and believe in healing like them. They love to talk about Jesus healing people in the Bible but don’t focus too much on healing the sick today. This was the fundamentals of John Wimber and the Vineyard’s core teachings. They have lost power healing!
I am not saying the movement is completely dead. It is not. They are meeting alot of good people’s needs. They are doing alot of social justice, something renewal churches suck at. They are serving a purpose but miracles, signs and wonders is something that they suck at pretty bad if you ask me.
I have been very impressed with Rich Nathan out of Columbus. He has really made a practical outreach to his city and he really does Columbus and especially Westerville area. I honor that.
Add to the mix, the whole servant evangelism movement came out of the Vineyard. While they may not have power healing happening anymore, they are still doing alot of things right.