Association of Vineyard Churches

Association of Vineyard Churches

The Association of Vineyard Churches, also known as the Vineyard Movement, is a Christian organization of over 1,500 churches worldwide. [ Vineyard official history page] ] External observers generally regard this to be a denomination. However, Vineyard Church leaders and most laity do not consider the Vineyard a denomination "per se" or refer to it as such, seeing denominational labels as divisive and discouraging them accordingly.


Historically, the Vineyard Movement has been rooted in both renewal and church planting. Instead of the mainstream charismatic label, Vineyard leaders and members over the years have 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 historic 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. Vineyard philosophy has also played a key role in the development of the transformationalism school of Christian thought.

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, CA, joined the movement in 1982. The first Vineyard Church is claimed by many to have started as a bible study in the living room of singer/songwriter Larry Norman's house and have been attended by many popular actors/actresses and musicians including Bob Dylan. [ [ Collector's Corner ] ]

The Vineyard Movement suffered a visible leadership vacuum after Wimber's death on November 16, 1997. [ [ Vineyard Boise] , Introduction to The Quest For the Radical Middle by Bill Jackson] 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. [ [ The Board of AVC selects new National Director] ]

After Hunter's resignation, the National Board of Directors named Bert Waggoner of Sugar Land, Texas, 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, Ohio, 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.


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. The international headquarters of the Vineyard is currently located in Sugar Land, Texas, though few, if any, major decisions are solely made there.

In the United States, the Vineyard is divided into eight regions: Eastern, Southeast, Great Lakes, Midwest, Southwest, Greater Rocky Mountain, Western, and Northwest. 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 individual Vineyard Churches. The RO for each of the eight regions is automatically granted a seat on the Vineyard National Board.

The Central Governing Body of the Vineyard in the U.S. is a 12-member board of directors. The board is made up of the eight regional overseers of the church plus 4 additional leadership members, including the National Director. Currently, the National Director of the Vineyard is Bert Waggoner. All major strategic decisions, including all major theological and doctrinal statements, are made by the board of directors. The current makeup of the National Board of Directors is:
* Bert Waggoner – National Director
* Lance Pittluck – Senior Pastor of the Anaheim Vineyard
* Steve Nicholson – National Church Planting Coordinator
* Dave Pardee – Northwest Regional Overseer
* Bill Twyman – Western Regional Overseer
* Rick Olmstead – Greater Rocky Mountain Regional Overseer
* Rich Nathan – Board Member
* Brian Anderson – Southwest Regional Overseer
* Phil Strout – Eastern Regional Overseer
* Johnny Crist – Southeast Regional Overseer
* Happy Leman – Midwest Regional Overseer
* Ken Wilson – Great Lakes Regional Overseer.

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.


Statement of Faith

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, and
–A desire to reflect the "low-key," "low-pressure" environment of the church that encouraged people to "come as you are," and
–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." [ [ About Vineyard Church] ]

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.


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 Fact|date=December 2007. 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 (1970's 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. [ [ "Why I respond to criticism"] ]

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. [ Vineyard position papers] ]

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.

Focus on worship

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 denomination. 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.


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 almost 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.

Famous clergy and/or members

* John Wimber – Considered 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. 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. [ Bob Dylan's Who's Who] ] [ World Magazine archives] , August 19, 2006]
* 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.cite book
last = Jackson
first = Bill
authorlink =
title = The Quest for the Radical Middle
publisher = Vineyard International Publishing
year = 1999
pages = 80-87
doi =
isbn = 0620243198
* Keith Green – Converted under Kenn Gulliksen in 1975."No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green", Chapter 5, Melody Green with David Hazard]

Vineyard Music

Vineyard Music is the record label created by the Vineyard Church. It is considered one of the major record labels for worship music.

Well-known Vineyard 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.

Vineyard Records is the UK record label created by the Vineyard Church.

UK musicians include: Kathryn Scott, Nigel Briggs, Samuel Lane, Marc James, Nigel Hemming.

Related books

*"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
* "The Quest For the Radical Middle" by Bill Jackson ISBN 0620243198 - A summary of the Vineyard from an insider perspective.
* "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.


External links

* [ Vineyard International Consortium]
* [ Vineyard Music]
* [ Vineyard Leadership Institute]
* [ Vineyard Bible Institute (also home to Vineyard International Publishing)]
* [ Vineyard International Publishing]
* [ Ampelon Publising]
* [ Vineyard USA Position Papers]
* [ VIA - Vineyard Training/Dicipleship Year]
* [ Vineyard USA Website]
* [ Vineyard Churches UK]
* [ Vineyard Records UK]

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