The conservative churches of Christ are under sustained attacks
from brethren who pose as "people of the Book." They
command the pulpits of large urban churches. They sit in ivory
towers of academia. They edit papers such as the faltering Image
and the failed Wineskins. There are three smoldering
hot beds of postmodern paradigms already surfaced and are posing
mounting threats to churches of Christ. The three models are the
Willow Creek Community Church, the Vineyard Church Fellowships
(Third Wave, and the Toronto Blessing), and postmodern theology.
Gary Holloway and Michael Weed, senior faculty in the Christian
Institute of Christian Studies in Austin, Texas, presented a paper
in May 1985 before the Disciples of Christ Historical Society
in Nashville. The paper was titled "The Gospel in Urban Vessels:
Churches of Christ Face the Twenty First Century."
The article as a whole strives mightily to prove something that
is never clearly articulated. Holloway and Weed do offer two specific
models in particular for worship changes in churches of Christ
which they suggest may help churches of Christ to survive and
prosper into the 21st century. And what they suggest makes a stunning
impact when once it is learned what they have in mind.
Holloway and Weed proposed two new models of worship practices
for churches of Christ in a few words tucked away in a short paragraph.
These two models they say are already evident among churches of
Christ. The statement:
One is the seeker service model of the Willow Creek Community
Church.... The other model influencing Churches of Christ is the
third wave charismatic worship described by church growth expert
C. Peter Wagner and others.
An informed person is left wondering if Holloway and Weed would
write what they have, and believe what they say provided they
know their facts.
The Willow Creek Community Church model was addressed in a previous
article. Some in churches of Christ have a limited awareness of
the Willow Creek church model based upon the likes of Max Lucado
and Jeff Walling. Some churches of Christ have already converted
over to the Willow Creek Church Community model, e.g., the Hendersonville
Community Church of Christ near Nashville.
Its senior pastor, Doug Varnado, is DLU's most popular Bible faculty
member. DLU's CEO, and Senior Vice President give their full endorsement
to the Willow Creek paradigm by preaching in the Hendersonville
Community church pulpit by invitation.
On the other hand, very few in churches of Christ have ever heard
of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship which is tied in with the
"Third Wave" Pentecostal theology articulated by a professor,
C. Peter Wagner, in the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena.
The burden of this article is simply to trace the historical development
of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship and its "Third Wave"
connection to determine if there could be any possible connections
with conservative churches of Christ.
The Vineyard Christian Fellowship
Previous articles in various papers have addressed the Willow
Creek Community Church model (paradigm). The full story of the
Vineyards Church Fellowship is much more complex, and nothing
is known about it by the rank and file members of the churches
of Christ. Since Holloway and Weed propose the "Third Wave"
(the Vineyards) as an optional model for the postmodern church
of Christ, we have no choice but to bring to the light of day
the secrets of the doings of the "Third Wave" as endorsed
by church of Christ apologists.
The history of the Vineyard Fellowships in Southern California:
About 1973, a small group of Calvary Chapel churches had come
under the influence of John Wimber. Wimber, an exmember
of the Friends church, was the charismatic pastor of a small church
which started in 1978 and grew to a membership of 700. Wimber
requested and was granted permission to join Chuck Smith's Calvary
On the other hand, the original Vineyard Christian Fellowship
(Signs and Wonders) began as a small study group led by Ken Gullickson.
In 1982, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship resulted from a merger
of elements of Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel, and Ken Gullickson's
original Bible Study Fellowship which later developed into the
Vineyard Christian Fellowship.
John Wimber had approached Gullickson about joining his Vineyard
Fellowship. Permission was granted. John Wimber changed the name
of his Calvary Chapel church to "Vineyard." He would
later move to Anaheim where Wimber's Vineyard church soon grew
to over 5000 members. Since then the Vineyard Christian Fellowships
has grown to a membership of 50,000 with more than 600 Vineyard
churches located in 28 states, Canada, and five foreign countries.
Today John Wimber, senior pastor of the Anaheim Vineyard Christian
Fellowship, is the undisputed godfather of the expanding Vineyard
churches. In 1986, the "Association of Vineyard Churches"
was formed giving the Vineyard churches a quasidenominational
status. In May 1990, Wimber announced that the Kansas City Prophets
had become a part of the Vineyard network of churches.
Understanding the "Third Wave" in Pentecostal
That there is a third wave must mean there were two previous waves.
The first Pentecostal movement (first wave) has its own American
story. The Pentecostalization process began in the early 1900s
with the emergence of classical Pentecostalism which has its roots
in the Wesley/Holiness tradition.
The First Wave: The story was reported April 16,
1906 in the Los Angeles Times of a revival being held in
a tumble down shack on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. Not since
the revival in the Kentucky cane breaks (1801) had such things
been seen on American soil. A part of the news story follows:
[T]he devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical
rites, preach the wildest theories, and work themselves into states
of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal.... The night is made
hideous in the neighborhood by the howling of the worshippers.
It took almost fifty years for classical Pentecostalism to gain
the respectability of mainline Protestantism. By 1985, it was
estimated there were 240 million "old line" Pentecostals.
The Second Wave: The second wave of the Holy Spirit was
the charismatic movement of the 1960s during which time claims
were introduced that the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit was
at work in the mainline denominational churches. Speaking in tongues
and the exercising of other gifts enumerated by Paul marked this
second Pentecostal/charismatic phenomena. Peter Wagner calls this
the "Second Wave." We recall the role of Pat Boone in
What Is the "Third Wave"?
One of the most dramatic developments in the 1980s has been the
rise of the "Signs and Wonders" movement associated
with Jack Wimber and the Vineyard Movement. While the origin of
"Vineyards" goes back to 1978, Wimber's distinctiveness
came to prominence in 1983 through the "Signs and Wonders"
course (MC510) offered in the Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena,
California. This most popular seminary course enrolled 2800 students,
but was discontinued amidst controversy after four years.
He was assisted by C. Peter Wagner (church growth expert) who
wrote the primer for the power manifesto of the Vineyards titled
The Third Wave of the Holy Spirit. This is the book which
helped launch the "Third Wave" Pentecostal Movement,
and is used as a major reference to understand power healing,
e.g. the "Third Wavers" who were taught by Wimber that
they were reliving the days of the apostles. They were told they
too could perform miracle healing, exorcise evil spirits, and
raise the dead as did Jesus and the apostles. Timber said that
tongue speaking is not for our time. Who told him so?
The desire of those in the Third Wave is to experience today the
miraculous power of healing the sick, raising the dead, and receiving
prophecies. Wimber taught that "signs and wonders" will
accompany the preaching of the gospel today as in the personal
ministry of Christ. Timber taught: "We can do what Jesus
did-we must do what Jesus did."
The emphasis of the Third Wave is on miraculous healing and words
of knowledge that come as immediate revelations from God. As a
matter of fact, the Third Wave Movement is based on the
superstition that the age of miracles never ceased. Randy Harris
(DLU professor) lends his personal support to the "Third
Wave" in an article printed in the 1996 AprilMay Wineskins
and by paying special deference to Jack Deere, once the scholar
of residence for the Vineyard Christian Fellowship churches.
In the words of the preacher, "The half has not yet been
told." And the truly amazing part of the story begins on
the evening of January 20, 1994 when about 120 Vineyard devotees
gathered near the Toronto airport for a series of meetings. Then
the "giggles" for God erupted and people fell on the
floor, laughing, rolling, and other bizarre exercises.
The next article will present the full story of the surrealistic
scenes of the "Toronto Blessing" when the worshippers
go "ape." Nothing like it has been seen since the Cane
Ridge and Azusa Street revivals.
(Editor's comment: If what the new Pentecostalism is promoting
is presented as "doing what Jesus did" in the line of
miracles, then the wonders and signs of the Son of God are deprecated
and amount to no more than sham and fakery. The truth is Jesus
and those authorized by him did real miracles. They gave perfect
sight to one blind from birth, caused a man lame from his mother's
womb to run and leap, instantly calmed a stormy sea and called
the dead out of the grave. Such things are not happening today.
The counterfeit miracles of modern day impostors tends to discount
the bona fide supernatural acts of 2,000 years ago. More is the
pity. Cannot these people see they are doing damage to the cause
they profess to love? The thing is capable of demonstration. If
these people can produce a real miracle, let them do so. We will
gather with any of them at any cemetery in the entire nation and
witness a resurrection of someone dead and embalmed. If the dead
person breathes again, I will convert- and so will multiplied
millions. In the meantime, Pentecostalism is branded for what
it is-a spurious imitation; deceitfulness and empty pretense
H. A. (Buster) Dobbs.)
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