In the Vineyard, we always placed a priority on being empowered by the Spirit to continue Jesus’ ministry. But the Spirit empowers for a purpose – not just an experience. At times we almost lose the purpose; at times we seem to lose the power. From the beginning we have attempted, however inadequately, to keep these two together. For example, after a remarkable outpouring of the Spirit on our young church on Mother’s Day, 1979, approximately 1,700 people were converted (to Christ). Our passion still is to imitate the ministry of Jesus in the power of the Spirit. This requires that we follow him out of baptismal waters, through our personal deserts, into the harvest. We want to take the ammunition of the best of conservative Evangelical theology, the best fire power of mainstream Pentecostal practice, fuse them, and hit the biblical target of making and nurturing disciples. John Wimber
Our Theme: ON EVANGELISM.
It was January 1982. Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California. The class, listed in the Fuller course catalog, was simply entitled MC510. Students who signed up for this course, subtitled Signs, Wonders and Church Growth, witnessed Professor C. Peter Wagner, the professor of record, introducing his Fuller Evangelistic Association (FEA) associate, John Wimber.
Peter Wagner had employed Wimber in the mid-1970’s to work as the director of the FEA after Wimber took one of Wagner’s courses at Fuller. By the early 1980s, Wimber had developed quite the reputation as being a pragmatist, which may be one of the primary reasons he suggested the concept of what would eventually become MC510 to Wagner. Keep in mind that Wimber was also pastoring Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda at the time, where he was practicing in kind what his course material was proposing. Wagner took the bait and they did a dry run as one section of a course that Wagner was teaching on campus in 1981. That then led to the new Missions Course (MC) #510, first offered to Fuller students in January 1982.
On a personal note here, I must tell you that my book editor and publisher, Winn Griffin, attended that first MC510 course at Fuller Seminary and as a result, wrote a paper for Wimber entitled, “The Invasion of the Kingdom of God into the Kingdom of Satan.” That paper landed Griffin a job as Wimber’s writer in the spring of 1982. His first big assignment was to write four full lectures for Wimber to use on a ministry trip scheduled for later that year. Griffin eventually took those lecture notes and the material used in the 1982 MC510 course, refining them into a full text edition that was then used in the 1983 version of the MC510 course at Fuller. In truth, while John Wimber was the face for MC510, it was actually Winn Griffin who melded together Wimber’s original material with the works of esteemed biblical scholars such as Charles H. Kraft, Russell Spittler, Mel Robeck, George Ladd, and others, in the development of the 1983 version of MC510 and the MC511 course that followed. All of Griffin’s material was later included in Wimber’s popular Signs, Wonders and Church Growth conferences in 1984 and two best-selling books, Power Evangelism (1986) and Power Healing (1987).
Now back to the original MC510 story. After the first MC510 class proved to be so successful, Peter Wagner contacted a friend who was the editor of Christian Life Magazine, suggesting that he dedicate an entire issue of CL magazine to the phenomena surrounding Wimber’s course at Fuller. It was this publication in October 1982 that led to the great national visibility Wimber and Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Anaheim enjoyed for years to come.
Who would have guessed back in 1982 that this relatively insignificant seminary course, which raised the simple question, (Is there a direct correlation between Holy Spirit power and effective evangelism?) would go on to cause such a big stir in the American church? Before the course was cancelled in the late 1980s by a school administration that decided to shy away from the controversy, MC510 became Fuller’s most publicized and highly attended course ever offered in the long history of this fine theological seminary. The reason MC510 caught so much flack was it was one of the first attempts ever undertaken by an American theological seminary to actually verify and quantify the role of Holy Spirit power as it relates to the effective growth of the gospel of Christ. Does the use of the “charisma” gifts of the Holy Spirit, (i.e. healing, prophecy, deliverance, tongues, etc.) actually increase the effectiveness of Christian evangelism?
As I see it, one of the primary results of the MC510 course as it was developed into a highly successful conference format, was to give straight-laced evangelicals like me, who generally were very fearful of the excesses found in so many charismatic or Pentecostal circles at the time, a biblically-based and theologically-sound grounding that encouraged us to be open to the power of the Holy Spirit as we pursued our mission of evangelism across the world. The evangelical no longer had to check his or her mind at the door to be what one author termed an “empowered” evangelical.
As a result, effective evangelism, where a clear presentation of the gospel is given, had now been teamed up with the power of the Spirit, as Wimber states in the quote above, for the first time in the twentieth century! And the results, as I see it, changed everything. Now, pastors and churches, who once withdrew from the excesses of Pentecostalism, were given a digestible and easily reproduced model where the Holy Spirit was not just used for personal edification and Pentecostal giddiness, but was now teamed with a clear presentation of the gospel, bringing people to Christ not only by words, but by works as well. us, the phrase “power with a purpose” was coined and as they say in the movies, the rest, my friends, is history.
Father, I thank you, that from time to time, you bring forth men and women who serve you as reformers. Simple and humble individuals who truly love your church, but love the church too much to let it stay the same. Thank you for the way you used John Wimber, Winn Griffin, and others to re-establish a long-lost truth; where Holy Spirit presence and power is linked with the sending commission of Jesus. May we continue in that heritage. For your name’s sake. Amen!
QUESTION FOR YOU TO PONDER
- Working with the power gifts of the Holy Spirit (i.e., healing, deliverance, tongues, prophecy, etc.) as he moves in immature believers often brings a self-focused, self-edifying environment. In church life, then, it becomes easier, and often less messy, for pastors to separate Holy Spirit power and presence from Jesus’ commission to “go and make disciples.” Knowing that it’s biblical to fuse the two, how can I stay the course in insisting that my church be made up of a people who are “empowered evangelicals,” Spirit-filled and kingdom-directed people who never become so inwardly focused on the power gifts that they lose their outward drive to go into the world to see Jesus save and secure the lost?
So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Wisdom of Wimber?
Between Easter 2016 and the end of August, we are sharing with you a blog series we call The Wisdom of Wimber: As I See It. In order to keep all 64 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Wisdom of Wimber page for ease of use. Might we also suggest that you order a copy or two of our book by the same title! It’s available in both paperback and e-book formats…and will soon be available in Spanish! Click here for more info. ENJOY!
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