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My John Wimber Story…
While I never met John Wimber, no other Christian leader has made a bigger impact on my life. Here is why…
I grew up in the Vineyard and obviously knew about Wimber from an early age. I saw and heard stories of people attending Vineyard conferences and then moving all over the world to plant churches… but I was a kid and it didn’t really mean much to me.
After high school I went and studied theology for nine million years (or maybe that’s just how long it felt). During one of my summers off, I was given some tapes of a John Wimber conference and I decided to listen to them while I mowed my lawn.
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The conference was from 1991 and was essentially John Wimber’s attempt to bring correction and teaching to Mike Bickle and his church. There had been a LOT of controversy and debate and concerns about Mike Bickle and his church, Kansas City Fellowship (which later became the Metro Vineyard Christian Fellowship.
In The Quest for the Radical Middle , Bill Jackson wrote the following about this conference:
“As the controversy wound down, Wimber said that God had told him that the way he dealt with Mike would set a precedent for disciplining leaders in the future.”
You can read a lot more about the issues related to that situation in Jackson’s book. For my story, what mattered was those tapes. Though it was over a decade after that conference, they made a huge impact on my life. I was a young man trying to figure out Church stuff and as I listened to them, I heard John Wimber address a bunch of different controversies, including:
The nature of prophecy;
The authority of prophecy;
Local church government;
I actually remember being brought to tears as I listened and mowed the lawn because it was so obvious to me that John Wimber was full of gentleness, wisdom, kindness, generosity, truth, and love. He did not shy away from addressing specific abuses and yet did so in a way that MADE me want to do better as a potential leader and I remember feeling love for the Church and had an increasing desire to work for the good of local churches.
To this day I will never forget the impact those tapes made on my life. I don’t think I had ever heard anything like it… a church leader being authentic and honest avoids charismatic abuses in a way that empowered and encouraged people to “do the stuff” with humility and compassion. It was like I had finally been given a vision for what the Church COULD BE if she would walk in the power of the Spirit with the fruit of the Spirit at work.
Fast forward the next 25+ years and I have read dozens upon dozens of books and articles by or on John Wimber and listened to many of his talks… and my value for him only continues to grow.
Wimber was light years ahead of his time. His genius cannot be fully appreciated and that is why there are thousands upon thousands of churches that were impacted by him as well as thousands upon thousands of leaders who were marked by his teachings.
Was he perfect? No. Did he make mistakes? Absolutely. But he consistently pointed us to the one whom is Perfect, namely Jesus.
I should also add that I was impacted by the humility of Mike Bickle when he received correction and though I wish he would have remembered many if Wimber’s corrections later in life, he has always struck me as a humble man who loves Jesus despite holding some bad theological impulses and lacking pastoral sensitivities in certain areas.
It’s 2023 now and I’m increasingly convinced that today’s church needs as much of Wimber as she can get. Many of today’s challenges would do well to be addressed by his thinking as we also follow his advice and “take the best and go.”
What’s your Wimber story?
About the Author
Luke Geraty is a pastor-theologian in northern California. With a few theology degrees and nearly twenty years of pastoral leadership, Luke loves the Bible, theology, fly fishing, coffee, and books. All opinions are his own and not the views of any other organizations he’s affiliated with. You can follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and subscribe to his YouTube.