February 25, 1934 - November 17, 1997
Founder of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship
From Kirksville, Missouri
Served in Anaheim, California
Affiliation: Vineyard Christian Fellowship
"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 Richard Wimber was born on February 25, 1934 in Peoria, Illinois and was raised in a non-Christian home. He loved music and by his early twenties, he was involved in the music industry. He was best known for helping to form the group “The Righteous Brothers” where he played keyboards. In 1963 his life took a dramatic turn after he came to Christ through a Quaker bible study group, led by Gunner Payne. He felt that God was calling him out of the music industry, so he left it behind to move into what Christ had for him. He became highly evangelistic and led hundreds of people to Christ. He became a leader in the Yorba Linda Friends Church, and eventually was hired to be on staff in 1971.
In 1974 Wimber was offered a job by Peter Wagner to b the Founding Director of the Department of Church Growth at the Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. Wimber was traveling all over the world teaching on church growth. In 1976 Carol Wimber had a dream of standing preaching to a large crowd a seven-point sermon on the gifts of the Spirit. Carol began to develop an insatiable hunger for God. She was reading the Word and felt convicted that there was much more that God wanted for them Carol began to seek God, weeping, repenting, crying out for more of God's presence. God led her to a place of repentance and seeking forgiveness from those she had hurt. Also in 1976 a small group of people were meeting seeking more of God, and they began to experience the presence of the Holy Spirit. God also spoke to Carol about the importance of intimate worship. Wimber struggled with all of this initially, but in 1977 felt that they were to begin a church of their own from that small group. They left the Friends church with their blessing.
Due to Calvary Chapel's experience with the Holy Spirit in the Jesus Movement, John became connected with Calvary Chapel and established his church as Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda in May 1977. God began to speak to Wimber about healing the sick, and he began a church series on the subject. In March 1978, after ten months of preaching and praying without anyone healed, Wimber saw his first healing. The church grew rapidly and began to experience a greater outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Unexpectedly God began to train Wimber, and the church, in deliverance. This was a point of theological difference with Cavalry Chapel and they are asked to leave the denomination, but were recommended to associate with the Vineyard Church, another group in the area that was moving in similar directions. In 1982 Wimber's church became a Vineyard. He became the head of the Vineyard churches in 1982 as well.
In the meantime Wimber was still teaching at the Fuller Theological Seminary. He began to teach MC510 a course called "Signs and Wonders and Church Growth". It began in 1981 as a lecture and was taught as a full course between 1982 and 1985. This was a "hands on class" which became the most popular, and the most controversial, at the school. In 1984 Wimber took the class "on the road". Wimber began to train people all over the world about praying for the sick and "doing the works of ministry". His focus was on every-member ministry within the body. Healing and miracles occurred in these meetings.
In 1986, Wimber added teaching on "inner-healing" to his training schedule. Then in 1989 he came into relationship with Mike Bickle of the Kansa City Fellowship. The focus of the Vineyard shifted sharply to the Prophetic for the next two years. Wimber traveled with Mike Bickle, Paul Cain, John Paul Jackson and Bob Jones teaching on the role of the prophetic in the church today. In 1991 Wimber began to feel called back to the roots of the Vineyard and reemphasized the equipping for ministry. In 1993, a Vineyard church in Toronto experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit referred to as the "Toronto Blessing" or the "Father's Blessing", which drew people from all over the world. Although initially supportive, Wimber did not agree with everything being taught in Toronto and eventually asked them to leave the association, which they did in 1995.
Wimber's final two years were ones of deep struggle. He had fought health problems and his son was dying of a brain tumor. The Vineyard Movement was wrestling with focus. In 1997 the leadership of the Vineyard was handed over to Todd Hunter, who had been with Wimber since the beginning. Wimber fell, and hit his head, causing a massive brain injury and he died on November 17, 1997.
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