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Published: 4/2/2005

Inner circle of Vineyard to be shared

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE RELIGION EDITOR
Christy Wimber said she learned leadership from John Wimber, her father-in-law and the man who founded the Vineyard movement. Christy Wimber said she learned leadership from John Wimber, her father-in-law and the man who founded the Vineyard movement.
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John Wimber once described himself as a "beer-guzzling, drug-abusing pop musician who was convicted [of sin] at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible study."

The late singer, piano player, saxophonist, songwriter, and arranger who first brought Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield together as the Righteous Brothers in 1962, Mr. Wimber became more famous for his evangelism and folksy preaching than his music.

In the 1970s, his evangelical zeal led to what is now called the Vineyard movement, whose stated goal is to seek a balance of biblical doctrines and the modern day workings of the Holy Spirit.

Today, there are 600 Vineyard churches in the United States and another 600 in 70 countries around the world.

Vineyard Church of Toledo is bringing Christy Wimber, John's daughter-in-law, to town for a women's conference this week.

In a recent interview, Mrs. Wimber said she had the rare opportunity of watching from inside the inner circle as the Vineyard movement developed.

"More than anything, Vineyard worship is known for the intimacy factor and singing songs to God," she said. "It's not just about God, there's a sense of intimacy with him."

Growing up in the Los Angeles area, she said she lived around the corner from John and Carol Wimber and their family, and eventually married their son, Sean Wimber.

"It was different for me because I actually grew up with John and Carol," Mrs. Wimber said. "It was just part of my growing experience, part of my family."

Even so, she added, she recognized that Mr. Wimber had special gifts.

"The most influential person in my life was John. He was the one who trained me, who taught me about leadership," she said. "He's the one that allowed me to lead and taught me to lead, and who gave me way more than I should have had. And trusted me way more than I should have been trusted."

Mr. Wimber, who died of a brain hemorrhage in 1997 at age 63, became a Christian in 1963 and spent the rest of the decade spreading the Gospel personally and leading hundreds of people to make spiritual commitments.

In 1970, he was leading 11 Bible studies a week attended by 500 people at a Friends (Quaker) church in Yorba Linda, Calif.

Over the next several years, he became a minister, served as director of church growth at the Fuller Institute of Evangelism, left the Quaker church to start a home-based church from which the Vineyard movement sprouted.

"The more that I grow in leadership myself, the more I see how rare John was," Mrs. Wimber said. "Most people are good in one area, but John pretty much had everything. He was a great businessman. He was a fantastic musician. He wrote songs that made it in the secular market and in the Christian world. He was an amazing leader, yet he wasn't threatened by other people who were good at things. The only thing he couldn't do was fix anything."

She and her husband run a Web site that carries on John Wimber's teachings, named after one of his favorite phrases, www.doin-the-stuff.com.

Mrs. Wimber said she, her husband, and John were eating lunch when John collapsed from the brain hemorrhage on Nov. 17, 1997.

In the years since his death, the Vineyard movement has continued to flourish, and that's the way John Wimber intended it, she said.

"I think one of the signs of a real leader is not so much what they do when they are here, but what happens when they leave," Mrs. Wimber said. "One of the things about John's leadership was that he trained others. And the Vineyard has just gotten bigger. I do see God's hand in it."

Christy Wimber will speak at "More of Him: A Conference for Women," Friday and April 9 at the Genesis Dreamplex on Reynolds Road, and will speak Vineyard Church of Toledo at 10 a.m. April 10. The church meets in Springfield High School, 1470 South McCord Rd. Information: 419-866-5999.



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