Gary Holloway and Michael Weed in their 1995 Disciples of Christ
Historical Society paper proposed two specific models to replace
the biblical pattern of the New Testament church "the Willow
Creek Community Church, and the contemporary Pentecostal "Third
Wave" paradigms. The linkages of the "Willows"
and the "Vineyards" with Churches of Christ are theological,
unbiblical, and utilitarian. The professed interest is church
Gary Holloway (newly appointed DLU Director of Graduate Bible)
was, and Michael Weed now is senior faculty in the Institute of
Christian Studies, a previous University of Texas Bible Chair,
and now a ACU satellite. Paying for one day of ICS instructions
is $200. A dollar for ICS is a vote for postmodern theology. The
next preacher in your pulpit could be a ICS graduate and a "Third
It is expected to see such yokefellows together on the same
platform as Bill Hybels and Max Lucado. But the strangest alliance
of this postmodern consortium is the yoking of Rubel Shelly and
Mike Bickle (Kansas City Prophets) who joined hands in April 1996
in Florence, Ala., for the Conference on Spiritual Renewal.
Understanding the Third Wave
To obtain an understanding of the "Third Wave" movement,
the brain child of C. Peter Wagner, it is imperative to go back
one hundred years in American church history. Wagner alleges there
have been three unique descents of the Holy Spirit in this century
which be designates as the "three waves."
He has in mind three major Pentecostal/charismatic movements in
the past ninety years: the Azusa Street revival (1906) in San
Francisco; the charismatic craze of the 1960s which brings to
mind Pat Boone and the "Flower Children;" and the "Third
Wave" movement identified with the Vineyard Christian Fellowship.
The answer to this provides the key to understand the postmodern
theology of our liberal brethren. The body of the "Third
Wave" phenomena is the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and
its soul is the "Wonders and Signs" scheme devised by
John Wimber and C. Peter Wagner.
The theology of the "Third Wave" is the brain child
of C. Peter Wagner, a Fuller Theological Seminary professor in
Pasadena, Calif. Wagner is a reputed expert in the theories of
church growth. Herein lies the primary interest of the liberals
among us. Peter Wagner wrote the book, The Third Wave of the
Holy Spirit which has become the primer for the "Third
Wave" Pentecostal movement since the 1980s. The thesis of
the book runs on a double track. It is both apocalyptic (revelation),
and eschatological (doctrine of last things). The "Third
Wavers" say that we are living in the last days, and the
Second Coming is imminent in this present generation.
While the beginning of the Vineyard church goes back to 1978,
the form and substance of the "Third Wave" movement
came into prominence in 1983 in a class taught by John Wimber
with the assistance of Wagner. The course was numbered MC510 and
titled "Signs and Wonders." It was the most popular
course ever taught at Fuller. A total of 2800 had enrolled before
the course was canceled because of its focus.
It was over this four year period that Wimber articulated and
fine tuned his "Signs and Wonders" theology. Wimber's
bold claim is that the miracles that Jesus and the apostles performed
can be and must be performed today. This is what Wimber calls
"power evangelism." This form of superstition holds
that the age of miracles has never ceased.
It was not until after Wimber left his Fuller Theological Seminary
post and moved his Vineyard Fellowship to Anaheim that his church
"took off," growing to a membership of 5000. A typical
Wimber service is lifted straight out of the Pentecostal primer
of "how to do church."
The first thirty minutes are given to nonstop singing accompanied
by a high powered rock band. Wimber knows show biz. He was a professional
jazz and rockandroll musician before his conversion.
He plays the key board and writes many of the praise songs.
Then the audience is fired up with a typical high energy Pentecostal
sermon. The audience by then is spellbound and fully charged for
the "Signs and Wonders" session. They have come to behold
the supernatural at work-where the blind see, the deaf hear, the
lame walk, demons exorcised, and the dead raised
Wimber's Vineyard church has now grown to include more than 600
churches world wide who hold membership in the Association
of the Vineyard Churches which was formed in 1986. The name
Vineyard is now trademarked to identify the network
of Vineyard churches.
Problems in the Vineyards
Two festering problems are now tormenting John Wimber and his
Vineyard churches. He does not seem able to solve them. The first
problem is connected with the Kansas City Prophets who
joined in 1991 the network of the Association of Vineyard Churches
by invitation of John Wimber. The complexities of this story is
such that it will be related in another place within its own framework
The "Toronto Blessing" is still another story of major
portentous significance which threatens the very existence of
the Vineyard churches, and which compromises Wimber's emphases
on the "Signs and Wonders" movement. There has been
nothing like it since the Pentecostal revival on Azusa Street
The "Toronto Blessing" had its beginning on a cold night
January 6, 1994. A small insignificant Vineyard church with 120
present met in a fourday revival to hear a guest speaker,
Randy Clark, a Saint Louis Vineyard preacher. He had been recently
anointed by South African Rodney HowardBrown, one of two
sources for the "Toronto Blessing" laughins.
Then it happened! The "Toronto Blessing" suddenly descended
upon the gathering. Then the laughing began which has since spread
around the world nonstop. Many swooned falling to the floor. This
was the actual beginning of the "Toronto Blessing."
The meetings continued nightly.
The word got around and the people started coming. More than a
million people since that night have come to Toronto from around
the world in hope of being touched by the Holy Spirit. Whatever
John Wimber had in mind about the "Signs and Wonders"
of the third advent of the Holy Spirit in this century, he was
not thinking about what started in Toronto.
The behavior of the participants has evolved and expanded. The
unexpected is expected. It is a sight to see. The vast carpeted
floor of the Toronto Vineyard church is littered with bodies,
laughing, swooning, staggering, trilling, and whooping.
Some no doubt come for the excitement, or to put on a show of
their own. A lion's sound rolls through the assembly hall, punctuated
by the barking as of a dog. Here are ministers wailing like a
bunch of cats. A man is wearing a Tshirt with the logo-
"A jerk for Jesus." A woman down front whips her hair
into a frenzy before falling to the floor.
Jim Beverley, professor of theology and ethics in an Ontario seminary
said God would never choose to have us bray like a lovesick
donkey. The Toronto Blessing is being scourged by Christian critics
who see in it spiritual hocuspocus at best, and devilinspired
at the worst.
Wimber is greatly alarmed that his Anaheim Vineyard church is
being upstaged by John Arnott's Toronto Vineyard church. An exciting
evening session of healing people with headaches and internal
cancer cannot compare with all the excitement of a "Toronto
Blessing" service when every thing is rocking and rolling.
John Wimber has reacted in two ways. He sent letters to 600 Vineyard
Fellowships world wide announcing that the Toronto "spirit"
exercises such as lion roaring and dog barking were not acceptable.
The Toronto airport church was drummed out of the Vineyard Association
of Churches after John Arnott ignored what amounted to an ultimatum.
The "Toronto Blessing" is also a story which must be
told in the larger context of the Vineyard churches. The "Signs
and Wonders" happenings is the center piece of the "Third
Wave" Pentecostal/charismatic movement. The "Toronto
Blessing" is one of three manifestations of the "Signs
and Wonders" phenomena.
Center stage must also be shared with the Kansas City Prophets
who claim to foretell future events. The KCP say we are living
in the "last days" and that the second coming of Christ
will be in this generation.
The only reason why the "Third Wave" movement is of
interest to the churches of Christ lies solely in the fact that
Gary Holloway and Michael Weed have proposed it as a replacement
model for the apostolic church. Randy Harris has commended the
charismatic element of the "Third Wave," and especially
Jack Deere in his article in a recent issue of Wineskins magazine
which now has all the symptoms of a failed venture.
My role in setting forth the above information is strictly reportorial.
We are confident that the "change agents" and their
liberal agendas cannot stand the full scrutiny of documented facts.
Their "houses of cards" are already crumbling.
My personal experience has been that liberal brethren are full
of sweetness and light until challenged, then Katie bar the door!
(Editor's comment: We cannot resist pointing out once again
that the counterfeit signs of false prophets and charlatans do
not compare with the miracles of the first century. To stake that
claim is to downgrade the bona fide signs of the first century
and does the cause of Christ a disservice. Where in all of the
Bible did God send the Holy Spirit to make people roar like a
lion, bark like a dog, fall down in a swoon, and wallow on the
floor? "Will they not say that you are mad?" It is incredible
that some of our brothers - Weed, Harris, and Holloway are promoting
these things, and the schools with which they identify are not
guiltless - H. A. (Buster) Dobbs.)