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The Association of Vineyard Churches, also known as the Vineyard Movement, is a neocharismatic evangelical Christian denomination with over 1,500 affiliated churches worldwide. Vineyard official history page It has been associated with the "Signs and Wonders" movement, the Toronto blessing, the Kansas City Prophets and a particular style of Christian worship music.


The Vineyard Movement is rooted in the charismatic renewal and historic evangelicalism. Instead of the mainstream charismatic label, however, the movement has preferred the term Empowered Evangelicals (a term coined by Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson in their book of the same name) to reflect their roots in traditional evangelicalism as opposed to classical Pentecostalism. Members also sometimes describe themselves as the "radical middle" between evangelicals and Pentecostals, which is a reference to the book The Quest for the Radical Middle, a historical survey of the Vineyard by Bill Jackson.

John Wimber is considered a leading founder and evangelist of the movement, although the first Vineyard churches already existed before his Calvary Chapel church in Yorba Linda, Californiamarker, joined the movement in 1982. The first Vineyard Church started when Kenn Gulliksen brought together two Bible studies, both meeting at the houses of singer/songwriters: Larry Norman and Chuck Girard. In early 1975, thirteen people met at the Beverley Hills Women's club. These Bible studies, and others like them, were attended by many popular actors/actresses and musicians including Bob Dylan.

The Vineyard Movement suffered a visible leadership vacuum after Wimber's death on November 16, 1997. However, Todd Hunter, who served as National Coordinator since February 1994 and as acting Director of the Vineyard at the time of Wimber's death, became the National Director in January 1998 and served in that capacity until he resigned in May 2000.

After Hunter's resignation, the National Board of Directors named Bert Waggoner of Sugar Land, Texasmarker, as the new National Director. As of 2007, the Association of Vineyard Churches includes over 1,500 churches around the world, and this number continues to grow due to a strong priority placed on church-planting within the Vineyard mission.

The Vineyard operates its own 2-year leadership training program called Vineyard Leadership Institute, or VLI. VLI is housed on the campus of Vineyard Church of Columbus in Westerville, Ohiomarker, and is directed by Steve Robbins. VLI is also offered in many Vineyard and some non-Vineyard churches through video and correspondence course curriculum. Vineyard clergy are not required to have been trained through VLI.

The Vineyard Bible Institute, a distance-learning Bible studies program, is based out of a Vineyard church in Cape Town, South Africa.

The Vineyard also operates a publishing house, Vineyard International Publishing.

Beliefs and practices

Doctrinal statements

For most of the early life of the Vineyard Movement, Vineyard churches had no official statement of faith. This is not to be interpreted as an absence of a common belief structure; rather, the primary reasons for the absence of such a declaration were:

  • the demonstrative teaching of John Wimber, who effectively set the tone and doctrinal beliefs of the Movement
  • a desire to reflect the "low-key," "low-pressure" environment of the church that encouraged people to "come as you are"
  • specifically, de-emphasizing any atmosphere or actions that could be considered patently dogmatic.

According to text in the official Vineyard Statement of Faith released in 1994, an effort to create a common Statement of Faith had been underway since 1983, but took 10+ years to complete because: "On one hand, we felt obliged to set forth our biblical and historically orthodox beliefs, on the other hand, we wanted to describe the values and priorities that make the Vineyard unique within the context of Evangelicalism."

The Vineyard Statement of Faith is generally considered to be a Biblically-based Evangelical Christian profession of faith, with no mention of any issues that are considered to be controversial or divisive. In addition to the Statement of Faith (released in 1994), the church released a statement of "Theological and Philosophical Statements" penned by Bert Waggoner in 2004 to clarify the church's position on some issues that had been unclear from the Statements of Faith, including the church's priorities as it relates to worship and Bible study. The church also has published a 10-point "Vineyard Genetic Code," taught to a session of senior leadership by John Wimber in 1992, that outlines the 10 areas of ministry considered essential to any Vineyard church. Rich Nathan has described the Vineyard movement as part of a "Third Wave of the Holy Spirit" in America.Vineyard philosophy has also played a key role in the development of the transformationalism school of Christian thought.


One of the most important aspects of the Vineyard church model is the strong emphasis on connecting with God through worship. Generally in regular gatherings, whether they are main Sunday services or small “homegroups” based in private homes, equal time is given to both worship and Bible study, and a significant amount of time is also devoted to prayer and one-on-one ministry. This focus on worship and connection with the Holy Spirit is one of the primary reasons (along with the active nature of spiritual gifts discussed previously) that John Wimber gave for breaking with the Calvary Chapel movement. Worship in the Vineyard almost always is performed in a contemporary worship format, with a multi-piece band leading worship, but is not restricted to this style.

The unique nature of this contemporary worship music (especially unique in the 70’s and 80’s, when most mainstream denominations limited their worship to more traditional hymns) gained a lot of interest, and led to the formation of a special music ministry, later formed into a church-supported music recording and distribution company, Vineyard Music.

Ministry and the local church

Vineyard Church pastors and ministers are officially ordained after years of church service in the role of a lay leader, rather than after seminary education as in mainline Protestant denominations. Clergy in the Vineyard, like the membership and the church as a whole, are known for their “relaxed” style. More likely than not, clergy will be seen preaching on Sunday morning in jeans and a button-down shirt, and they never wear ceremonial vestments.

Many Vineyard Churches have no official membership procedures or membership records, and such a policy is not dictated by the national Vineyard Church. Instead, a community of believers is formed by those who attend Sunday or weekend services, weekday homegroups, and participate in various church ministries.


The Vineyard has a highly decentralized organizational structure, reflecting the church's belief that local and regionally-based management, ministries and outreach are more effective. Besides the nations listed below, the Vineyard also exists in many countries across Latin America, Africa, Europe, Asia and the Far East. Most national Vineyard churches are charged with their own governance, although some smaller groups exist with the support and oversight of another nation's leadership.

United States

The national headquarters of Vineyard USA is currently located in Sugar Land, Texasmarker. Vineyard USA is divided into eight regions, and each region has clusters of churches grouped together by relationship and location, facilitated by an Area Pastoral Care Leader (APCL). The APCL's work together with the Regional Overseer (RO) to provide leadership and encouragement to the region. The central governing body of the Vineyard in the U.S. is a 12-member National Board, made up of the eight regional overseers plus four additional leadership members, including the National Director. Currently, the President and National Director is Bert Waggoner. All major strategic decisions, including theological and doctrinal statements, are made by the National Board. In 2004, Vineyard USA had 140,000 members in 600 churches.


Canadamarker was the first nation outside the United States to be released to their own National Association. The first Canadian Vineyard was established in Vancouvermarker in January 1985. Within a year, a second Vineyard was established in the Vancouver area. More churches followed, and by the time of the release of the Association of Vineyard Churches Canada in the summer of 1995 and the appointment of Gary and Joy Best as National Directors of Canada, there had been fifty Vineyards established across the country.

United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland

The Association of Vineyard Churches UK (AVC) was released in the spring of 1996 by the international association as its own national organisation. It is governed by a Council through a number of task forces, including a Board of Trustees, which oversees the pastors of existing churches and facilitates church planting. There are more than 90 Vineyard Churches in the United Kingdommarker and the Republic of Irelandmarker.


In 1995, the first Vineyard churches were commenced in Sydneymarker, Perthmarker, Adelaidemarker and Brisbanemarker, Australia. On 13 March, 2003, the Association of Vineyard Churches, Australia was formed, with Peter and Kathy Downes commissioned as National Directors. As of June 2009, there were 33 Vineyard Churches in Australia.

In February 2009, the Association launched a School of Ministry, in conjunction with Perth Bible College.

Vineyard Music

Vineyard Music is the record label created by the Vineyard Church. Its musicians include Carl Tuttle, Brenton Brown, Brian Doerksen, David Ruis, Andy Park, Jeremy Riddle, Scott Underwood, Johanna Blanding-Koskinen, Jeff Searles, Rita Springer, Kevin Prosch, Steve Southworth.

Vineyard Records is the UK record label created by the Vineyard Church, its musicians include Kathryn Scott, Nigel Briggs, Samuel Lane, Marc James, and Nigel Hemming.

Notable members

  • John Wimber, a founding leader of the Vineyard movement.
  • Rich Nathan, Pastor of Vineyard Columbus
  • Lonnie Frisbee, known as "The Hippie Preacher", another of the most well-known early leaders of the Vineyard Movement
  • John Paul Jackson, founder of Streams Ministries International, who served on the pastoral staff at the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California with John Wimber
  • Jack Deere, former professor influenced by Wimber to abandon his cessationist beliefs
  • Bob Dylan, attended various Vineyard churches following his Christian conversion in 1979
  • Larry Norman, one of the founding leaders of the original Vineyard home churches in Los Angeles
  • Kenn Gulliksen, the founding leader of the original Vineyard home church
  • Keith Green, converted under Kenn Gulliksen in 1975
  • Chuck Girard, early CCM "founding father" (Love Song) in whose living room Kenn Gulliksen held some embryonic Vineyard gatherings, and later, worship leader of Gulliksen's Los Angeles Metrowest Christian Fellowship (circa 1993-1997)
  • Maureen McCormick


The Vineyard was heavily criticized in the early years of the movement and accused many times of promoting heresy due to the sometimes-controversial teachings of John Wimber relating to spiritual gifts and the claims of unusual experiences of the Holy Spirit in the church, often referred to as "manifestations". Such manifestations of the Spirit included shaking. Evangelical, conservative, and fundamentalist leaders have contrasted Wimber’s teachings with the rest of mainstream Protestant evangelical belief, saying that Wimber claimed that experiential spiritual revelation was equally or more important than Biblically-based teachings . Thus, opponents reasoned, the Vineyard movement was denying sola Scriptura or “ the sufficiency of Scripture,” a doctrinal tenet that Protestant churches have held to be incontrovertibly true. Wimber, however constantly emphasized that clear, accurate teaching and knowledge of the scripture is critical for every Vineyard church, without expressly stating the scriptures to be the final and supreme authority in all matters of faith. These items are included in the "Vineyard Genetic Code" paper he released in 1992.

Throughout the early years of the Vineyard (1970s to 1992), Wimber avoided publicly responding to his critics . Instead, he invited his critics to meet with him personally to talk through their charges in accordance with his understanding of Scripture (Mat 18:15-17, Gal 6:1, 1 Tim 5:1). However, as the influence of the Vineyard broadened and certain misunderstandings were repeated from different sources, both outside the church and within, Wimber made the decision to respond publicly. The decision is detailed in Vineyard Position Paper #1 entitled "Why I respond to criticism" authored by John Wimber.

This was followed by a number of other position papers from various sources within the national Vineyard leadership which sought to address the most serious and widespread of the criticisms leveled against the movement.

One example often cited in criticism of the Vineyard church model is the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, formerly affiliated with the Vineyard. The phenomenon known as the Toronto Blessing originated in this church, and has been the source of much controversy. For a detailed treatment of this topic, refer to "The Quest For the Radical Middle" by Bill Jackson (see related books below).

Claims of heresy and apostasy against the Vineyard have waned in recent years, especially since the death of John Wimber in 1997.


  1. Despite the fact that some might see denominational labels as divisive, the founder of the movement John Wimber said "The Association of Vineyard Churches - for better or worse - is a denomination." Nigel Scotland Charismatics and the New Millennium (Guildford: Eagle, 1995).
  2. Nigel Scotland Charismatics and the New Millennium (Guildford: Eagle, 1995)
  3. Vineyard Boise, Introduction to The Quest For the Radical Middle by Bill Jackson
  4. The Board of AVC selects new National Director
  5. Vineyard Statement of Faith
  6. About Vineyard Church
  7. Vineyard Churches UK, Statement of Faith
  8. Vineyard Churches UK
  9. Bob Dylan's Who's Who
  10. World Magazine archives, August 19, 2006
  11. No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green, Chapter 5, Melody Green with David Hazard
  12. Hanegraaff, Hank Counterfeit Revival Word Publishing. 1997
  13. "Vineyard Genetic Code"
  14. "Why I respond to criticism"
  15. Vineyard position papers

Further reading

  • The Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard by Bill Jackson ISBN 0620243198 - A look at the history of the Vineyard through 1999.
  • The Way It Was by Carol Wimber ISBN 0340735392 - A biography of John & Carol Wimber's life before and during their time in the Vineyard.
  • Power Healing by John Wimber ISBN 0340390905 - John Wimber's teachings regarding healing
  • Power Evangelism by John Wimber ISBN 0340561270 - John Wimber's teachings regarding evangelism
  • Empowered Evangelicals by Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson ISBN 0892839295
  • Who Is My Enemy by Rich Nathan ISBN 031023882X
  • Jesus Brand Spirituality by Ken Wilson ISBN 0849920531
  • Saving God's Green Earth: Rediscovering the Church's Responsibility to Environmental Stewardship by Tri Robinson ISBN 0974882585
  • Small Footprint, Big Handprint: How to Live Simply and Love Extravagantly by Tri Robinson ISBN 0978639480
  • Naturally Supernatural by Gary Best ISBN 0620348143
  • Conspiracy of Kindness by Steve Sjogren ISBN 978-0830745722 - Detailing the practice of "Servant Evangelism" embraced and employed by many of the churches within the Vineyard Movement in early 1990s to present as well as a large portion of evangelical churches outside the movement.
  • Not The Religious Type by Dave Schmelzer ISBN 141431583X - A perspective on faith in Jesus from a former atheist-turned-Vineyard pastor.
  • Breakthrough by Dr. Derek Morphew, international director of Vineyard Bible Institute. A perspective of the Gospel as a proclamation of the Kingdom of God. ISBN 1868230392
  • The John Wimber Collection at Regent University - Journal articles by and about John Wimber, conference materials, course syllabi, Vineyard publications, brochures, newspaper articles, correspondence and memorabilia.

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