Question: "What is the Vineyard Movement?"
Answer: The Vineyard Movement is a network of Charismatic churches, part of a movement recognized by such names as “Third Wave,” “power theology,” and the “signs and wonders movement.” The Vineyard Movement’s founder, John Wimber, formed five churches in 1982, with the goal of forming 2,000 churches by the year 2000. The stated goal of the Vineyard Movement was to combine the best of evangelical thinking with Pentecostal practices.
Churches in the Vineyard Movement are evangelical in nature and orthodox in their basic doctrine. They hold to salvation by grace through faith and are very concerned with spreading the gospel of the kingdom (through “power evangelism”—demonstrations of the miraculous). What makes Vineyard churches distinct from many other evangelical groups is their emphasis on the “sign gifts” of the Spirit.
Members of the Vineyard Movement place a premium on experience. In fact, their booklet Core Values and Beliefs says, “Experience-based worship is the central activity of all that we do in the Vineyard. . . . We experience God’s presence as a palpable reality when we worship” (page 5). This experience-based reality and seeking “palpable” manifestations of God is characteristic of Charismatic teaching. Of course, there is nothing wrong with “experiencing” God in worship or in daily life, as long as experience is not allowed to compete with or supersede the Word of God revealed in the Bible.
Some churches in the Vineyard Movement tend to promote certain spiritual gifts such as tongues, healing, and casting out demons as the more desired gifts. It is the position of Got Questions Ministries that the purpose of these “sign gifts” was fulfilled at the close of the apostolic age. As Paul said, prophecies and tongues will cease, in contrast to love, which endures forever (1 Corinthians 13:8). Paul’s imperative was to learn the more excellent way, the way of love (1 Corinthians 12:31).
The initial goal of the Vineyard Movement, to combine solid evangelical theology with Pentecostal expressions of the Holy Spirit, was admirable. So was its purpose to “allow the Spirit to move in ways we do not expect.” However, that openness to spiritual inventiveness has allowed doctrines and practices to infiltrate its ranks. For example, the so-called “Toronto Blessing” began in a Vineyard Church. To their credit, the Vineyard Movement recognized the danger of the Toronto Blessing and has distanced itself from that particular phenomenon.
The Vineyard Movement is not a cult. Rather, the Vineyard Movement is a part of the Body of Christ that emphasizes the worship experience and seeks the miraculous gifts of Spirit.