John Wimber -- No one doubts that the central figure behind the Vineyard was John Wimber (died 11/17/97 at 63 years of age). After Wimber's conversion, he became active at a "Friends church" (Quaker). Later, he joined its staff but became disillusioned with the local church. During this time, Wimber was a dispensationalist who rejected the "charismatic gifts" as viable for today. Wimber left the church and took a position at the Fuller Institute of Church Growth. While teaching at Fuller, as a result of personal experience and testimonies of happenings among Christians in the Third World, Wimber "felt compelled to reexamine Scripture, looking more carefully at the relationship between spiritual gifts and evangelism" (Power Evangelism, p. 85). In 1978, he returned to the pastorate at one of the branch churches of Calvary Chapel (mildly charismatic). During the first year of that pastorate, he began praying for supernatural healing of his people. Nothing happened for ten months; then one day a woman was "healed." This was the beginning of the "signs and wonders movement" (pp. 90-91). In 1982, because of sharp differences, Wimber's church broke from Calvary Chapel and was renamed the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.
C. Peter Wagner -- Wagner has long been recognized as an authority in both world missions and church growth. He was drawn towards signs and wonders by observing that church growth was most rapid among the Pentecostal and charismatic ranks, especially in the Third World. Wagner's obsession with demons and "signs and wonders" seems to have started at Fuller Theological Seminary where he was a "think tank" genius who created methodologies and strategies for the reintroduction of fake gifts and mission to the churches. He was the professor of Fuller's School of World Mission, and was a disciple and close associate of John Wimber. He co-authored the Fuller course MC510 - Signs, Wonders and Church Growth with Wimber, and took this course globally to every continent. He and Wimber were the implementers of the so-called "restoration of the missing holy spirit to the Churches."
Wagner has strategically placed himself into the middle of an international network of "Christian" activities to help implement, organize, and dominate a Global Church within the coming New World Order. Currently, Wagner is President of Global Harvest Ministries whose main objective states: "From day one we have joined hands with Jesus of whom it was said, 'The Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil' (1 Jn. 3:8). Our mandate is to weaken the 'god of this age' that he will no longer be able to blind the minds of men and women who are lost. We know that you are ready for war!" (Doesn't Scripture say that Jesus Himself will destroy the devil, not through any effort by Global Harvest?) Through Global Harvest Ministries and it offshoots, Wagner Leadership Institute and the World Prayer Center (WPC), Wagner is training future "Christian" leaders, tracking thousands of churches by computer, and creating a "New Way" in which the Holy Spirit is working in this age. Wagner says, "We see our task as getting people in touch with one another to form interactive, human web networks that are properly equipped to wage effective spiritual warfare." The WPC is "a fully equipped nerve center with data and information about prayer needs throughout the world [which] ... networks prayer ministries, denominations, churches and cell groups. This creates a united prayer front that will end Satan's attempt to divide and isolate believers, and to blind so many to the Gospel of Jesus Christ." (Quotes from the World Prayer Center website. Emphasis added.) As part of his networking plan, Wagner recently founded the idea of the "New Apostolic Reformation," where apostles and prophets are rising up to take control of the Church. Wagner recently proclaimed himself "presiding apostle" of a coalition of 200 "true" apostles by forming the "International Coalition of Apostles." Their mandate is to build and usher in the Kingdom of God.
Because of this unbiblical belief in a "new and improved" holy spirit, Wagner has publicly affirmed many charismatic deceptions, like the "gold fillings" miracles in Latin America, where people have reported having regular fillings in their mouth changed to gold by the power of God. (Wagner's Confronting the Powers, p. 59.) His reliance on extra-biblical spirituality is so strong, in fact, that Wagner believes that occult practitioners have superior knowledge to Christians. He states in Confronting the Powers that "certain people, such as shamans, witch doctors, practitioners of Eastern religions, New Age gurus or professors of the occult on university faculties are examples of the kind of people who may have much more extensive knowledge of the spirit world than most Christians have." He goes so far as to advocate that Christians attempt "first-hand research into the world of darkness" and chides those who are unwilling to listen to "independent expertise in demonology" (Powers, p. 147).
Paul Cain -- Cain is the most well known of the Vineyard "prophets." Cain was a contemporary of Oral Roberts during the tent revivals of the 1940s and '50s. He left the healing revival circuit in 1957, supposedly because many of the leaders were becoming "disobedient." He remained semi-secluded until the Vineyard movement was born, and then he stepped into the revival arena once again. He is considered the greatest of the modern day prophets by the leadership of the Vineyard. He claims to speak regularly with angels, to receive prophetic revelations directly from God, and to have powerful gifts of healing. Some believe him to be an apostle, although Cain does not accept that title.
Jack Deere -- In 1986, Jack Deere believed the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit had passed away. He had just completed his tenth year as an associate professor at Dallas Seminary, and seventh year as pastor of a Bible church. Then he invited British psychiatrist John White as guest speaker, and reluctantly agreed to let him teach about miraculous healing. Soon after, Deere's thinking "radically reversed." He said: "First I began to believe that the scriptures taught that healing and miracles were for today. Then I believed that God spoke today outside the Bible. ... And the final stage was believing all the gifts of the Spirit actually are for today." Two weeks later he met Vineyard movement founder John Wimber, developed close ties, and was dismissed from Dallas Seminary. Today he ministers world-wide with Paul Cain. Deere says: "After John Wimber prayed for me several years ago, I noticed an immediate increase in revelatory words and healings whenever I prayed for people. I've also seen this happen when Paul Cain has prayed for people ..." Deere is one of the most powerful spokesman for the Vineyard. His book Surprised by the Power of the Spirit is probably the best defense of the Vineyard's views and has undoubtedly drawn many into the movement. His 1995 book, Surprised by the Voice of God, is supposed to be a treatise on how to tell God's voice from our own, or even Satan's. In this volume, he defends the view that God is giving fresh revelations today.
In a private interview with Graham Banister following a Vineyard conference workshop taught by Deere (March of 1990 in Sydney, Australia), Deere was asked, "What is the Gospel?" Deere asked Banister what he thought the gospel was. Banister replied that it was about Jesus Christ who died for our sins was buried and raised on the third day and that it is this gospel by which we are saved (1 Cor. 15). Deere's reply was that this was not the gospel. When asked what, then, is the gospel, Deere replied, "I'm not prepared to make a formal statement about that." When asked, "Could you perhaps tell me informally what you believe to be the gospel?" Deere answered, "I'm not sure. ... I used to be just like you ... thinking the gospel was simply justification by faith." When asked what he would add to it, he responded, "Deliverance. ... things like demons and healing ... it's the complete package -- the word and the works of Jesus?" But he was not yet ready to give a definitive answer to the question, "What is the gospel?" Continuing to be amazed, Banister asked, "Are you saying that you couldn't go back into that pavilion and tell those people the gospel?" He replied, "No, not yet. ... Maybe [in] five years, maybe ten ..." Amazingly, one of the leading theological minds in the Signs and Wonders movement did not know what was the gospel! [Source: 4/24/90, The Briefing, "John Wimber: Friend or Foe," Sydney, Australia -- Deere claims that this article contains "serious misrepresentations, false reporting, and erroneous methodology" concerning the Vineyard's teachings, and misrepresents his (Deere's) understanding of the Gospel. Since it was just Graham Banister and Jack Deere present for the interview, the reader must judge for himself whether The Briefing's rendition is consistent with what we know of Deere's documented doctrinal positions. For Jack Deere's take on the interview in question, see the "Misrepresentation Of Jack Deere's Teaching And Views" section of the May, 1992, "Vineyard Position Paper #2: The Vineyard's Response to The Briefing," by Jack Deere.]
Wayne Grudem -- Grudem is Associate Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology at Trinity International University (formerly Trinity Evangelical Divinity School -- Evangelical Free Church of America), and recognized Biblical scholar. His book The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today is an attempt to bring some moderation to the extremes of the Vineyard movement, and at the same time, persuade outsiders that God is still revealing His word today through the gift of prophecy. Grudem attempts to deal with the important issue of how Christians can receive direct revelation from God, and yet not claim to be inspired in the same way the Scriptures are. This issue is crucial. If God is speaking to Christians today, what weight are we to give these modern day prophecies? If we claim that they are equal to Scripture, then we should add them to the Word of God. We should be adding new books to the canon as God reveals His word as he did in the past. On the other hand, if these prophecies are not on par with Scripture, then what are we to do with them? How can God be speaking in and through His people and yet not to be speaking with authority?
Grudem's answer is that OT prophecy and NT prophecy (as well as modern prophecy) are two different things. In the OT, prophets spoke the very words of God. As a matter of fact, if they prophesied in the name of the Lord and their prophecies did not come to pass, they were to be stoned to death (Deut. 18:20-22). Grudem assures us that all of this changed in the NT. In the NT, only the apostles spoke with divine authority. They, according to Grudem, are the NT counterparts to the OT prophets. He believes that all other NT, and modern prophecy, while coming directly from God, is not really inspired. NT prophets can, and often will, be wrong and suffer no consequences. So, according to Grudem, we receive messages from God today, but those messages do not carry the weight of divine revelation. They can be in error, and we do not necessarily have to obey them.
But we must ask, "Of what value are such prophecies?" If we don't know for certain that they come from God, if we don't know for certain whether they contain error, then what purpose do they have? Grudem never satisfactorily answers that question. Here are his best shots: "We are not expected to accept every word spoken through the gifts of utterance ... but we are only to accept what is quickened to us by the Holy Spirit and is in agreement with the Bible ... one magnification may be 75% God, but 25% the person's own thoughts. We must discern between the two" (The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, p. 110). "As a matter of fact there may be a whole range of degrees of inspiration" (p. 111). In answering his own question as to how we can know if a revelation is from the Holy Spirit, he says that it must first be in conformity to the Scriptures. Then he makes these amazing statements, "Did the revelation 'seem like' something from the Holy Spirit; did it seem to be similar to other experiences of the Holy Spirit which he had known previously in worship? Beyond this it is difficult to specify much further, except to say that over time a congregation would probably become more adept at recognizing a genuine revelation from the Holy Spirit and distinguishing it from their own thought" (pp. 120-121).
In other words, we are left in a sea of subjectivity. If the thoughts in my mind "seem like" they are coming from the Holy Spirit, then "probably" they are (according to Grudem). But of course, I may be wrong. Those thoughts could come from anywhere. We never really know. We can only hope that we will become more "adept" at discerning God's voice as time goes on. Again, we ask, of what value are such prophecies? Why seek after new revelations from God, revelations that we cannot be assured are even coming from God, when we have the sure words of Scripture?
Below is discussed briefly some of the Vineyard teachings that are troubling in the light of Scripture:
1) Noncessationist -- One of the trademarks of the Vineyard movement is the belief that God is actively revealing His Word today through prophecies, words of knowledge, visions, etc. Of course, this opens the door to every kind of error and heresy imaginable. [In Power Evangelism, John Wimber says that the very basis for power evangelism is the belief that God directly reveals to us certain information. For example, on an airplane Wimber saw written clearly across a man's face, "in distinct letters," the word "adultery." As he witnessed to the man, the Spirit spoke directly to Wimber and said, "Tell him if he doesn't turn from his adultery, I'm going to take Him" (pp. 75-82).]
2) Sign gifts for today -- Until the late-1900s, orthodox Christianity believed that the sign gifts (prophecy, miracles, healing, tongues, interpretation of tongues) all had ceased with either the closing of the canon of Scripture or the death of the Apostles. Only heretical groups such as the Montanists, Shakers, and Mormons believed that such gifts were valid for today. Early Christians did not doubt that God could work miracles and heal people, but they believed that these gifts had ceased. The Pentecostals, then the charismatics, and now the Vineyard, all make the present day use of these sign gifts an important part of their system.
3) Spiritual Warfare ministry -- The Vineyard believes that Christians can be demon possessed, that those demons must be forcefully cast out, and that we are to aggressively attack Satan in order to defeat him.
4) "Power evangelism" vs. "program evangelism" -- Program evangelism is the presentation of the gospel message to a lost sinner. While not anti-program evangelism, the Vineyard believes that it is an anemic way of bringing people to Christ, especially people in the Third World. What is needed is power evangelism, that is, signs and wonders. If, in conjunction with presenting the gospel message, we also heal a person, raise the dead, cast out a demon, or speak a word of knowledge, our message will be with authority and power. The results of power evangelism, we are told, are far superior to program evangelism. It is interesting, however, to examine the Scriptural record of the results of signs and wonders. It would appear that miracles seldom produced any true faith or lasting fruit. Even with Christ, we find people following Him in order to be healed or fed, yet rejecting His message (e.g., John 6).
5) Ecumenical -- Just as with charismatics, it is experience rather than doctrine that draws people to the Vineyard. Therefore, the Vineyard people can apparently work with anyone who claims to be a Christian, no matter what they believe. The Vineyard actively encourages reunification with the Catholic church, and claims that the Pope is an evangelical Christian. We can see why the Promise Keepers, with its strong Vineyard leadership, is so ecumenical and encourages the participation of Roman Catholics, even in leadership positions.
6) Dominionist -- Dominion theology teaches that dominion over every area of life has been restored by the first coming of Christ. It is now the church's obligation to redeem not only individuals, but society as well, in order to usher in the kingdom of God. The Vineyard, following the teachings of George Ladd, believes that "the kingdom is, but not yet." That is, we are now in the kingdom of God. Wimber wrote, "The kingdom of God created the church at Pentecost through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit" (Power Evangelism, p. 34). As a result of this, Christians have "kingdom authority" (note the words to the popular Jack Hayford song "Majesty" with its charismatic teachings in this regard) that enables us to have power over sickness, demons, and nature. What the Vineyard does is to bring the characteristics of the Millennial reign of Christ to this present age. They reason that since we are in the kingdom now, we should manifest all the power that Christ had while on earth. (As Wimber was fond of saying, "I want to do the stuff Jesus did.")
This is the Vineyard's theological foundation for the belief in the validity of the sign gifts for today. The Vineyard also believes that there is yet to come a physical kingdom on earth over which Christ will rule. But they believe that the church will usher in the final aspect of the kingdom as it takes dominion over the earth. Part of this will come in the form of a great last day revival in which the world will turn to Christ. (The Bible teaches that there will be a great apostasy in the last days, not revival.) This is known as the "Latter Rain," and is taught nowhere in the Bible.
7) Eastern world view -- The Vineyard dismisses its critics by declaring that they have been blinded by their two-tier, Western world view. The Western mind-set has an "upper tier" that includes heaven, hell, God, and eternity. Westerners also have a "lower tier" of science, the empirical world of our senses -- those things that we see and experience in the natural, material order. In the Western world view, the Vineyard says there is no interaction between the two tiers. But in the Eastern world view, wrote Wimber, there is another tier -- the middle tier which, "includes the influence of angels and demons on everyday life, the Holy Spirit's intervention in divine healing, signs and wonders, and spiritual gifts. Non-Western world views make room for all kinds of supernatural intervention in everyday life, so the idea that a Christian God can heal is easy for them to accept. But we Western Christians, by excluding this middle zone, usually make little or no room for what in Scripture is normal -- the regular activity of both God and Satan in human life" (Power Evangelism, p. 138). (What we must develop is a Biblical world view. Where the Vineyard errs is failing to distinguish between the Scripture's approach to the supernatural and the superstitious, mystical approach of the Eastern mind-set.)
In the Vineyard system, all problems, including sins, can be traced back to the demonic. The secular, Westerner world view says that all of the above come from natural causes. The Biblical view is that God sovereignly controls all aspects of life. He uses angels, demons, germs, nature, and every other created thing for His purposes. We then must go back to the Scriptures to determine how God would have us handle these issues of life. And what do we find? The epistles, written to church age believers, advocate progressive sanctification, prayer, faith, feeding on the Word, and even the use of medicine for illnesses. But the epistles say virtually nothing about casting out demons (or any other signs and wonders) in order to live for God and to deal with the problems of living.
8) Baptism of the Spirit -- The Vineyard differs somewhat from Pentecostals and charismatics. One of the cardinal doctrines of the other two groups in their belief in the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" subsequent to conversion. They believe that this baptism is a second work of grace that enriches the life of the Christian and prepares him for ministry. The Vineyard, on the other hand, believes that this baptism takes place at the moment of conversion. However, they also teach that there can be multiple fillings of the Spirit after salvation.
9) Tongues-speaking -- The Vineyard also differs with respect to tongues. Although it is practiced by many within the movement, its importance is down-played, and not all Christians are expected, or encouraged, to speak in tongues. On the other hand, some Pentecostals and charismatics believe that speaking in tongues is the evidence of conversion. Others would say that it is something necessary to a fulfilled Christian experience.
One of the wisest things that we can do when examining any movement that claims to be of God, is to ask, "Does this movement place its emphasis on the same things that God's Word does?" For example, what does the Vineyard movement emphasize? Is it not signs and wonders? Their churches are consumed with miracles, healings, casting out of demons, and prophetic utterances. It is through these things that they believe people will be brought to Christ and discipled. They point people to dynamic experiences, and it is those experiences, rather than the truth of the Scriptures, that bring people into their fellowship.
Now compare the Vineyard's emphasis with that of the NT epistles. Note especially the books of First and Second Timothy and Titus. In these three books, we have the Apostle Paul instructing two young pastors on how to lead their churches. Paul is telling them what their churches need in order to move on to maturity. It is interesting to discover the complete absence of any mention of signs and wonders. Paul did not encourage these men to cast out demons, heal the sick, or seek new revelation from God. Rather, he pointed them to the Scriptures that were adequate to equip their people for every good work (2 Tim. 3:15-17). He told them to preach the Word (2 Tim 4:1,2), and to exhort in sound doctrine and refute those who contradict (Titus 1:9). No mention is made of developing churches around emotional experiences and supernatural happenings. The emphasis of these pastor's ministries was to be the written Word of God. They were to hold it fast, preach and teach it, apply it to every possible kind of situation, and guard and defend it. In light of the NT instructions to the church, the goings-on in the Vineyard should throw up red flags all over the place, for their faith and practice are contrary to NT teaching.
* The above report has been adapted from a two-part article by Gary Gilley in the October and November 1995 issues of Southern View Chapel (now Think On These Things) newsletter (Pt. 1 & Pt. 2). (Gilley is pastor of Southern View Chapel, 3253 South 4th. Street, Springfield, IL 62703.) The section on C. Peter Wagner has also been supplemented by information from a report on the influence of Wagner's teachings at Willow Creek.