Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Vineyard mythology

I've been running across some funny myths on the Web about the AVC and its founder:

  • John Wimber founded the Vineyard. Nope, sorry. John Wimber took over leadership of the Vineyard -- possibly in 1982, depending on whom you speak with. He was involved as a pastor in 1977 of Calvary Chapel Yorba, but officially affiliated with the Vineyards in 1982, when Wimber's church broke off from CC to end a disagreement with CC leader Chuck Smith Sr.

  • Keith Green founded the Vineyard. I believe there is some partial truth to this, but, to my knowledge, Keith Green was never a member of AVC under Wimber. I believe he helped found the original Vineyard/Calvary Chapel home group in 1974.

  • Bob Dylan founded the Vineyard. Funny, but there is a related story about this. He was a member of the Beverly Hills Vineyard/CC Bible study circa 1977, I believe, a group which also included singer Donna Summer. Or so legend has it. He was involved through his gospel music years.

  • Lonnie Frisbee founded the Vineyard. Lonnie Frisbee was first a member of Calvary Chapel, and really was on the radar before Wimber's church officially broke off to join the Vineyard. A Mother's Day tale -- with alternating dates of 1979 and 1980 -- of Lonnie's incredible preaching is a common story in the Vineyard. Wimber considered the moment the beginning of his ministry's emphasis on power encounters. Frisbee's legacy remains a paradox for both the CC's and Vineyard's commissioned history tellers. I'll leave the whole story to be found via Google.

  • Paul Cain founded the Vineyard. This is just aggravating and a testament how the spikes in Vineyard's newsworthiness makes its history a jagged and poorly-remembered one. Cain was involved with the Vineyard during Wimber's emphasis on the prophetic in the late 80s. He was part of the Kansas City prophets fiasco which later led Wimber to apologize to the world and become corrected by peers outside of the organization. Cain was never the leader of the Vineyard -- although Wimber confessed he allowed Cain incredible influence for a time -- but the relationship was disassociated at the time of Wimber's shift back to orthodoxy (and sanity) in the early 90s. We are talking about an approximate four-year period which is not fondly remembered by many original Vineyardites, and not well-known among those who joined after.

    The Truth: Kenn Gullickson founded the Vineyards as a group of home Bible studies through Calvary Chapel, at a time when CC was hitting a cultural home run with their outreach to hippies and beach bums. This is believed to have begun in a partnership with Jesus People icon Keith Green in 1974, and continued until the late 70s with six other Vineyard home groups, when Gullickson's organization broke off from CC. If I understand the story correctly, this was the result of a request from CC Costa Mesa pastor Chuck Smith Sr., who was concerned about what he considered an excessive emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit. The Association of Vineyard Churches, as it would eventually become established in title, was born.

    I don't know the exact date, but I believe Gullickson may have officially passed control over the AVC to Wimber in 1982. By that time, it's said, Vineyard pastors were seeking Wimber's direction, so he was probably a de facto director before that.

    What is incredible to me about the history of the Vineyard is it has held a strong influence across denominational boundaries in spite of its wrong turns. The Vineyard today is nothing like the Vineyard of 1982, of 1992, or even of 2000. It is much more conventional and less controversial, which is the trend for all similar movements of the last 150 years. Still, I believe the Vineyard's strength remains in its DNA, which is a constant struggle for the authenticity of the First Century church, and a balance between Word and Spirit praxis.

    What strikes concern for me about the Vineyard is the growing chasm between the more conservative, Evangelical members, such as my own church, and the more charismatically-charged members. You really don't know what you're getting in a Vineyard church, because we are a diverse collection. Are we more in line with Wayne Grudem or Jack Deere? Then there is the added influence of N.T. Wright, post-modern missional churches, what's left of the seeker-sensitive programmers, and Alpha, whose USA arm is headed by former AVC USA director an Anaheim senior pastor Todd Hunter. It can become very confusing arriving at a conclusion how a "real" Vineyard church should behave.

    I don't think the Vineyard is going to be free from internal pulls because the top leadership, frankly, just is not visible to the whole Vineyard body. That's not a criticism, just an observation from the back pew. I bet a poll of Vineyard congregants would reveal less than 10 percent would know who the national director is (Bert Waggoner). I think BW was an excellent choice for director, I just would like to see a more visible leadership role from him, and not just among the pastors. It will be interesting to me to see if we can sustain our organization far beyond Wimber -- and beat years of predictions from outsiders that the Vineyard would die with him.
  • 1 comment:

    Michael Lee said...

    Before you set the "record straight", perhaps you should read the Bill Jackson book "The Quest For The Radical Middle" . It's an excellent account of the Vineyard Movement's history..