Why was John Wimber so successful in impacting the Church world wide? Over the past month I have painfully been going through boxes and getting rid of “stuff.” I am a accumulator and my wife is a de-accumulator. That is the beauty of marriage we balance each other out. Where am I going with this? As I have been going through boxes I have been finding the materials that we used in the early days Vineyard Anaheim. Most everything was titled “Equipping the Saints.”
What attracted me to the Vineyard was the opportunity to learn how to walk a supernatural lifestyle through the equipping that they offered. The first class I attended at the Vineyard was “Healing 1,” taught by Blain Cook. The teaching was good. Then Blain said now we are going to do “clinic.” He asked the Holy Spirit to come and BAM!—the chairs went flying behind me with a man on the ground shaking violently. Then across the room the same thing happened with someone else. In the meantime, Blain, like a professional sportscaster, gave a play-by-play of what the Holy Spirit was doing in the room. By the end of the night, half of the people were on the ground having been ministered to by the Lord. I was hooked!
What Caused the Vineyard to be so successful?
I signed up for every class because I wanted to learn how to do the “Stuff.” It has been 35 years since that first day and I am still passionate about doing the “Stuff.” This past year I have been reflecting back on all that the Vineyard was and became. I detailed this in my article on “Vineyard Anaheim: The End of an Era.” What caused the Vineyard to become such a success? What did John Wimber do, outside of the move of God, to foster Vineyard’s worldwide impact?
Everyone got to play!
The answer is very simple everyone got to play. Wimber’s educational specialty was church growth. John knew what was needed to grow the church. This with his passion for doing the works of the kingdom such as praying for the physically and emotionally sick and casting out demons. He developed a simple but effective 5 step healing model that enabled anyone to participate in the kingdom works. John set the bar really low for doing ministry. It caused a few messes along the way but the good fruit far outnumbered the rotten ones.
John was famous for his “Wimberisms.” Little quippy sayings that would encompass a concept or a point that he was trying to make. My daughter Anna did a project on John’s Wimberisms. As I looked down the list many of them focused on the aspect that “Everyone gets to play.” One of his most use phrases was “I am just a fat man going to heaven,” communicating that he was just like everyone else. Another one that I like is “Find where God is and get behind what He’s doing, He always wins.” and “The meat is in the street.” Meaning take the “Stuff” outside the church walls.
The western church is functionally a professionally run organization. The people show up to get their feeding, entertainment and go home. John’s whole philosophy focused on the people doing the works of service not a professional staff. You rarely sat John pray for people He always had the people do the praying. When the church first started they did not have child care or Sunday school and someone came up to him and said we need child care and he responded something like “great idea when are you going to start it up?”
Where John made inroads into the church at large was that he demystified praying for the sick and ministering to people. He made it simple with the 5 step healing model. I have taught this to thousands of people over the years and people after about 40 min of training, effectively go out and pray for the sick. This model spread across the world and can be seen in Baptist, Catholic and Charismatic churches.
Inroads in Worship
Another area that Wimber greatly influenced the church was in the area of worship. John was a song writer and musician for the Righteousness Brothers so he had a great background for worship. He applied the same “Everyone gets to play” principle to worship. One aspect was that he changed worship from singing “about” God to singing “to” God promoting intimacy with God. He has a set of strict rules for all his worship leaders and song writers. The songs had to be simple with easy cords and no ballads. This way anyone could pick up a guitar and lead worship in a small group. This caused this style of worship to sweep the church world wide. My friend was visiting a head hunter tribe in a remote country and he heard familiar music coming from the village and it was a Vineyard worship song coming from this remote head hunter village.
John trained everyone that wanted to learn. When people realized that they could pray for the sick in the church and their small groups they would start praying for people at work. Many were getting healed and then come to church and bring their families. People were so excited to realize that God can use them that they could not wait for the next meeting or training to learn more and see God show up and bring freedom to the lost and broken. “Everyone gets to play!”
By Paul Frala