The Vineyard movement emerged on the scene in the late 1970s, at what has been called a "crossroads" of American Christianity and culture.
The Jesus People movement of the 1960s was a spiritual awakening within hippie culture in the United States, as thousands of young people found themselves on a desperate search to experience God. Not finding Him through drugs, sex, or rock’n’roll, the hippies were one of the subcultures powerfully impacted by ministries such as Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa, CA) that arose during this move of God across America.
The First Vineyard
Kenn Gulliksen, a soft-spoken, unassuming leader with a passion to know and walk with God, started a church in West LA in 1974, sent out by Calvary Chapel.
This would be known as the first Vineyard church. Average people, as well as actors and musicians whose names would be familiar to us today (Bob Dylan, T-Bone Burnett, Keith Green), were connected with Gulliksen and the Vineyard.
The Birth Of A Movement
From Gulliksen’s church, the first Vineyards were planted in 1975. Believing that God had instructed him to do so, Kenn officially gave the name "Vineyard" (from Isaiah 27:2-3; John 15:5) to this association of churches, and led them for about five years. By 1982, there were at least seven "Vineyards" in a loose-knit fellowship of churches.
John and Carol Wimber, who had become a part of Calvary Chapel, had a journey with God that was leading them to a convergence orchestrated by the Holy Spirit.
John Wimber & The Association Of Vineyard Churches
John and Kenn became friends, and in 1982 it was clear that John was emerging as the leader of the growing network of Vineyard churches. The official recognition of this transition took place in 1982: the emergence of what was to be called the "Association of Vineyard Churches."
Today, there are 2400+ Vineyards around the world in 95 countries – and we’re growing. Read below to learn more of the history behind one of today’s most passionate church planting movements.
About John Wimber
John Wimber’s influence profoundly shaped the theology and practice of Vineyard churches, from their earliest days until his death in November 1997.
When John was conscripted by God in the mid-60s, he was, in the words of Christianity Today, a "beer-guzzling, drug-abusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible study."
In John’s first decade as a Christian, he led hundreds of people to Christ. By 1970 he was leading 11 Bible studies that included more than 500 people! John became so fruitful as an evangelical pastor he was asked to lead the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth.
He later became an adjunct instructor at Fuller Theological Seminary, where his classes set attendance records. In 1977, John re-entered pastoral ministry to plant Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda, which would become Vineyard Anaheim.
In this video Carol Wimber talks about the start of the Vineyard.
The Vineyard plant in South Africa
Learn how a Vineyard in Johannesburg became the first international Church plant.
It was in 1979 when Lonnie Frisbee attended a pastors' meeting at the Assembly of God Church in Constantia. Lonnie was different. It was not only that he was a hippie from California, which was bad enough, but also that he had a radical sense of freedom that traumatized the religious culture of the leaders at the time. He also spoke of his respect for his pastor, a certain John Wimber, who had dared to let God be God by taking his hands off and allowing the Holy Spirit to freely do what He does best.
John and Carol Wimber got invited to South Africa by Dave Owen in 1980 and came again in 1981. This is when John invited Alexander Venter to go to California (early 1982) to work with him for an eight-month period. The idea was to be exposed to the model of Church life and ministry, to learn from John and then to come back with him and a large team to plant a Vineyard Church in Johannesburg. This would become the first international Church plant. Meanwhile in South Africa, Dave Owen and Costa Mitchell started a core group and prepared for the invasion. A team of 72 came from various Vineyards in California, each person taking their vacation and paying their own way. They did street evangelism and big meetings with many conversions, healings, and power-encounters. After two weeks they baptized 65 new believers and started a number of small groups. Together with the rather large core groups, they were left with a sizeable baby!
In this video, Costa Mitchell takes you on the journey of the Vineyard in South Africa. Costa was the National Director of the Association of Vineyard Churches South Africa from 1997 to 2018.
The Theology Of The Kingdom Of God
During this time, John’s conservative evangelical paradigm for understanding the ministry of the Church began to grow.
George Eldon Ladd’s theological writings on the kingdom of God convinced John intellectually that all the biblical gifts of the Holy Spirit should be active in the Church. Encounters with Fuller missiologists Donald McGavaran and C. Peter Wagner, along with seasoned missionaries and international students, gave John credible evidence for combining evangelism with healing and prophecy.
Read more about the Vineyard perspective on the kingdom of God below.
Doin’ The Stuff
As he became more convinced of God’s desire to be active in the world through all the biblical gifts of the Spirit, John began to teach and train his church to imitate Jesus’ full-orbed kingdom ministry. He began to "do the stuff" of the Bible, about which he had formerly only read.
Your Kingdom Come
A Vineyard Perspective On The Kingdom Of God
From the beginnings, the Vineyard has been committed to the proclamation of the kingdom of God and to bearing witness to the deeds of the kingdom through healing (physical, emotional, and social), doing justice, and delivering those held captive by evil.
Since the kingdom of God is the future reign of God breaking into the present through the life and ministry of Jesus, we are a forward-leaning movement emphasizing the ever-reforming nature of the church engaging the world in love.
This booklet as part of The Distinctives Series, with reflections from over 25 different contributors from around the global Vineyard, will connect you with key ideas central to our shared Vineyard mission. The Distinctives Series is for every pastor, leader, and individual member of a congregation. Each booklet is also an excellent teaching tool for newcomers and those getting to know the Vineyard. It's also perfect preaching material for Sunday messages!
The booklet is written in an accessible and passionate style, each 16 page booklet will inspire you to engage with God, and our Vineyard calling, in a fresh, powerful way.
A Network Of Churches Worldwide
Over time, the Vineyard movement has grown to be a network of over 2400+ churches worldwide, and has impacted the Church across denominational lines in uncountable ways.
Calling ourselves "empowered evangelicals," the Vineyard seeks to blend the best of the Evangelical traditions with their focus on Christ-like character and regard for the Scriptures, with the best of the Pentecostal and Charismatic traditions of welcoming the empowering of the Holy Spirit for life, ministry, and acts of service.
What is the Vineyard about today?
With our Core Values guiding us, the Vineyard movement is planting churches by the hundreds around the world, and establishing "outposts of the kingdom of God" – where the poor are cared for, the sick are healed, God is experienced in worship, and Christians are called to "do the stuff" that Jesus did. Read more about our Vineyard Global Family.
Worship is an environment in which we experience God – so we make it a priority in our gatherings.
We have always prayed faithfully for the sick – in our church services and in the everyday workplaces and neighborhoods we inhabit.
We are committed to the careful study and interpretation of the Bible, and to the faithful preaching of its message.
Our churches aim to be outposts of the kingdom of God, bringing hope and help from Jesus to anyone who wants it.
We are committed to being churches who practice emotional health through strong relationships.
Most Vineyard churches exist because an individual or team left an existing Vineyard, went to a new location, and started a new congregation.
In John 5:19, Jesus modeled deep dependence by doing what he saw the Father doing. We want to do the same.
John Wimber once said that faith is spelled "R-I-S-K." We believe that God meets us in our weakness when we obey His leading.