The Vineyard – Emergent Connection

If you attend a Vineyard Church, or if the names John Wimber, Dallas Willard, Richard Foster, Madam Guyon resonate as great spiritual teachers, please take some time to consider who you are following. Spiritual formation, contemplative prayer, meditation, and yoga are not spiritual teachings of the bible.

I noticed these names at the Vineyard I used to attend and I had no idea of who they were or what they stood for. After I began my research I started to see the connection between these names, the Vineyard and the Emergent Church. It didn’t take me long to find the truth and to recognize these teachers are not of Christ.

Remember, we were warned in Matthew 24 by Jesus that many would come in His name and many would be deceived.

Important read from Lighthouse Trails –

This week we received an e-mail from someone who asked us to check up on a workshop taking place at the Vineyard in Anaheim, California. Our reader shared her concern that this may be an emerging type workshop and that the church might be going in that direction.

Our Response:

“The Vineyard Movement Grabs Hold of Contemplative Spirituality”

The Vineyard movement was started in the 1970s by John Wimber (who had been a leader in the Friends (Quaker) church) after breaking off from Calvary Chapel where Kenn and Joanie Gulliksen had started the first meetings. Vineyard Anaheim is the “mother” or “flagship” Vineyard church, pastored today by Lance Pittluck. Regarding the  ”Spiritual Formation” workshop that our reader wrote to us about, on the church website, it states:

We believe that every disciple is invited by the Holy Spirit into becoming conformed to the Image of Christ through the disciplines encompassed by solitude, silence, scripture-meditation and reflection.

Vineyard Anaheim has turned to Richard Foster’s Renovare to bring these “disciplines” to their church members. Richard Foster, also a Quaker, is one of the pioneers in bringing contemplative spirituality to the evangelical/Protestant church and is a disciple of Thomas Merton. Foster believes that Merton tried to “awaken” God’s people (through mysticism)2 and that he “has perhaps done more than any other twentieth-century figure to make the life of prayer widely known and understood.3 Yet Merton’s panentheistic view (i.e., God in all) coupled with his strong affinity to Buddhism (he once stated: “I see no contradiction between Buddhism and Christianity … I intend to become as good a Buddhist as I can”4) is contrary to the God of the Bible and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Richard Foster so resonates with Merton that he includes him in his list of spiritual masters in his two books Spiritual Classics and Devotional Classics.

It’s not just Richard Foster that Vineyard is looking to for “spiritual formation.” On the ”Pastoral Staff Recommends” page, there is a who’s who of contemplative mystics listed. Craig Lockwood, the pastor who will be heading up the Spiritual Formation program, includes Dallas Willard, Jan Johnson, Larry Crabb, Madame Guyon, Richard Foster, Gary Thomas, Morton Kelsey, and Adele Calhoun on his recommended reading list. These are some of the “heavy weights” in the contemplative movement, and you can read about most of them in A Time of Departing by Ray Yungen or on our research site. Typical of the contemplative mindset, one of those listed, Morton Kelsey, stated: “You can find most of the New Age practices in the depth of Christianity . . . I believe that the Holy One lives in every soul.”5

In Adele Ahlberg Calhoun’s book, Spiritual Disciplines Handbook (which Lockwood recommends), Ahlberg Calhoun promotes mantra meditation, giving detailed instructions on several types of contemplative practices. In addition, she quotes from many New Age sympathizers and New Age contemplatives and encourages the use of centering prayer, breath prayers, contemplative prayer, labyrinths, palms-up, palms-down exercises, and recommends for further reading a plethora of mystics. One of those she lists is Tilden Edwards, the founder of the mysticism promoting Shalem Prayer Institute, who said that contemplative prayer is the bridge between Christianity and Eastern religion.6

An interesting name shows up on the “Pastoral Staff Recommends” page at Vineyard Anaheim – J.P. Moreland. The beliefs of Moreland have been discussed in a number of Lighthouse Trails articles regarding his contemplative views, but we didn’t realize that he attends Vineyard Anaheim. When we saw his name on the Pastoral Staff Recommends page, we called Vineyard and were told that Moreland attends Vineyard Anaheim and “sometimes speaks” there. Moreland, a teacher at Biola University and Summit Ministries (in Colorado) recommends a number of Dallas Willard books and The Way of the Heart by Henri Nouwen. In that book, which is a primer on contemplative prayer, Nouwen states:

The quiet repetition of a single word can help us to descend with the mind into the heart . . . This way of simple prayer . . . opens us to God’s active presence. 7

What Nouwen is describing here is mantra meditation (i.e., eastern-style meditation). Practicing mysticism is what led Nouwen to say near the end of his life:

Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.8

By saying this, Nouwen illustrated the “fruit” of contemplative spirituality – panentheism (God in all) and interspirituality. This can be further proven by Nouwen’s strong affinity with New Age meditation proponent, Beatrice Bruteau where he called her a  “trustworthy guide to contemplative consciousness” (from Abba’s Child) . J.P. Moreland’s endorsement of The Way of the Heart will point Vineyard members to the same spirituality Nouwen came to  embrace.

In a book review of Moreland’s book Kingdom Triangle, he lays out a three-step process to bring about a kingdom of God on earth through spiritual formation (i.e., contemplative prayer). This would resonate with what Vineyard is doing – turning to contemplative to accelerate their kingdom of God on earth goals.

In Kevin Reeves book The Other Side of the River, Reeves addresses the spiritual viewpoints of John Wimber. Wimber said that the Western church needed to go through a major paradigm shift because of its resistance to the supernatural.9 Reeves explains some of Wimber’s ideas:

 The old study and learn method (commended by the apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 4:13-16, and II Timothy 3:14-17) is no longer adequate. In fact, according to Wimber and a flood of Third Wave teachers, it never has been. Experience is what counts, they say, and all that head knowledge we’ve been accumulating all these years is a big waste of time. This teaching states that to really know God, His power and miracles, we need to shuck all that dead letter stuff and get into the life.

 Wimber also first introduced into mainstream charismatic congregations the incredibly strange manifestations that are supposedly initiated by the Holy Spirit. Pogoing (jumping up and down in place), rippling on or under the skin, tingling, shaking, convulsions, uncontrollable laughter—many of the same kinds of manifestations traditionally attributed to demonic influence—have now attained prominence in River meetings. It is shocking and frightening to see the similarities between Wimber’s manifestations and what is called Kundalini, “a Hindu term for the mystical power or force that underlies Hindu spirituality.” Here is a list of Kundalini symptoms:

* Burning hot or ice cold streams moving up the spine.

* Pains in varying locations throughout the body.

* Vibrations, unease, or cramps in legs and other parts of body.

* Fast pulse and increased metabolism.

* Disturbance in the breathing–and/or heart function.

* Sensitivity to sound, light, smell, and proximity of other people.

* Mystical/religious experiences.

* Parapsychological abilities.

* Persistent anxiety or anxiety attacks, confusion

* Insomnia, manic high spirits or deep depression. Energy loss.

* Impaired concentration and memory.

* Total isolation due to inability to communicate inner experiences out.

* Experiences of possession and poltergeist phenomena. 10

What some may not realize is that many of these symptoms are also experienced during deep contemplative meditation. By combining the hyper-charismatic experiences with contemplative spirituality (as Vineyard is doing), the process of going into altered states of consciousness (i.e., demonic realms) is speeded up; and the voice heard, believed to be God, may not be Him at all. Reeves points out that Wimber was drawn to the writings of Agnes Sanford and Morton Kelsey. Did Wimber realize that Kelsey “equates the ministry of Jesus with shamanism, commends encounters with the dead as natural spirit-earth links,bases much of his book on paganistic Jungian psychology, and calls the atonement a “hypothesis developed” by the early church”?11

An article titled “Buried Seed: Spiritual Direction and the Vineyard Movement” written by a Vineyard “spiritual director” in New Zealand reveals the efforts by spiritual directors in Vineyard to integrate spiritual formation into the Vineyard movement. Just to show the lack of discernment that occurs by contemplative advocates, the author of the article lists Thomas Keating as a source he used to write the article. Keating, like Merton, is a panentheist and mystic Catholic priest.

We should not hesitate to take the fruit of the age-old wisdom of the East and “capture” it for Christ. Indeed, those of us who are in ministry should make the necessary effort to acquaint ourselves with as many of these Eastern techniques as possible.

 Many Christians who take their prayer life seriously have been greatly helped by Yoga, Zen, TM and similar practices, especially where they have been initiated by reliable teachers and have a solidly developed Christian faith to find inner form and meaning to the resulting experiences. 12

Our reader who sent us the e-mail inquiring about Vineyard Anaheim asked if there was any emergent connection to spiritual formation. We have always contended that they are basically the same thing (see Faith Undone). What’s more, on the recommended reading list of Vineyard Anaheim, senior pastor Lance Pittluck recommends Rob Bell along with several other contemplative/emerging figures (Nouwen, Sider, Manning, Miller, Boyd, etc). It is clear that Pittluck resonates with these people.

For those who wonder if the contemplative/emerging infiltration is confined to just Vineyard Anaheim, a Book Recommendations for Youth list on the main USA Vineyard website recommends emerging church favorites N.T. Wright, Andy Stanley, Erwin McManus, and Shane Claiborne, and contemplatives Henri Nouwen, Dallas Willard, John Ortberg, Jim Burns, and John Eldredge.  Sadly, Vineyard youth are being introduced to these contemplative/emerging leaders. In addition, Vineyard has at least one leader who is designated to work with Vineyard churches in spiritual formation. And just as a sampling to show this is not an isolated situation, listed below are a few Vineyard churches that are incorporating “spiritual formation” into church life:

Vineyard City Church – Redding California’ (also links to the very contemplative/emerging Simpson College and Bethel Church in Redding)

 Live Oak Vineyard – Monrovia California (promotes New Age sympathizer Phyllis Tickle)

Friends Langley Vineyard – BC Canada

Vineyard Community Church – Cincinnati, OH

All this would leave little doubt that the Vineyard movement has hopped onto the contemplative/emergent track, seemingly full speed ahead.


  1. Bill Jackson, The Quest For The Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard, ch 3, p. 80.
  2. Ray Yungen, A Time of Departing (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2nd ed, 2006), pp. 76-77, quoting Richard Foster at a seminar Yungen attended.
  3. Richard Foster and Emilie Griffin, Spiritual Classics (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 2000), p. 17.
  4. David Steindl-Rast, “Recollection of Thomas Merton’s Last Days in the West” (Monastic Studies, 7:10, 1969).
  5. Morton Kelsey cited in Charles H. Simpkinson, “In the Spirit of the Early Christians.”
  6. Tilden Edwards, Spiritual Friend (New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1980), pp. 18.
  7. Henri Nouwen, The Way of the Heart (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1991), p. 81.
  8. Henri  Nouwen, Sabbatical Journey (New York, NY: Crossroad Publishing, 1998), p. 51.
  9. John Wimber: 1934-1997. Wimber’s “paradigm shift” is discussed and documented in several books and articles such as C. Peter Wagner’s Acts of the Holy Spirit (Ventura, CA: Regal Books, 2000), p. 123.
  10. Kevin Reeves, The Other Side of the River (Eureka, MT: Lighthouse Trails Publishing, 2007), pp. 167-168.
  11.  Ibid, p. 169.
  12.  M. Basil Pennington, Thomas Keating, Thomas E. Clarke, Finding Grace at the Center  (Petersham, MA: St. Bede’s Pub., 1978), pp. 5-6.

33 thoughts on “The Vineyard – Emergent Connection

  1. m’kayla, love your article, about John Wimber, & the emergent movement…makes me think how people who call themselves ‘Christians’ ?? believe in this rubbish…may the Lord bless your ministry !!!


  2. The names you mention with the exception of Wimber who started the Vineyard mess, have been promoted by Rick Warren and his agenda from the get-go. He is not always immediately associated with the emergents, but rather with ecumenism, etc. but has brought these people through the back door so to speak through his Purpose Driven model which as you know has been greatly influenced and impacted every facet of Christendom in one way or another worldwide. The remnant cries out for the culmination of the Great Commission and the snatching away of the Bride.


  3. Re: NPR article – I accidentally posted the comment under a friend’s blog that I was helping to edit. Is there a way I can re-post the comment under my own account and have that post deleted please?




  4. I wanted to let you know that I’ve read and appreciated several articles here. I know several people who are into Bill Johnson and the people who run around in his circle, and I was trying to locate some apologetic information to refute those teachings and learn a little bit about what my friends have been listening to so that I could learn how to confront them.

    I think that this site is a valuable resource and that discussions like this are needed in the church. I’ve actually had a difficult time finding people to talk about this kind of thing with. I grew up in a United Methodist Church, but have been attending Vineyard churches for the past six years. I’m also highly interested in apologetics and fighting for the truth within the Christian church.

    From my experience, it seems that the biggest problem within the church (and when I say church, I don’t mean just one denomination; rather, I mean the universal church that involves all those who confess Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior) is that many people have abandoned the gospel. Churches are no longer preaching it. I think this tendency towards abandoning truth has always been there, since the church is made up of people. Our biggest problem is sin, and ultimately all sin boils down to us rebelling against our Creator. We try to turn ourselves into little gods, thinking that we can save ourselves…and therefore that we don’t really need God to save us.

    This seems to show itself in different ways in different parts of the church. Not all churches have abandoned the gospel, nor have all churches abandoned the gospel in any particular denomination (except for the heretical ones, which never really were part of the church — groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons). Unless the entire denomination is teaching something, we should be careful not to lump all churches in that denomination together.

    I can attest to the fact that there are Vineyard churches that still do preach the true gospel. They haven’t all gotten into the weird Bill Johnson/NAR junk. Neither have all United Methodist Churches become liberal in their theology, denying substitutionary atonement. I do know that there are some Vineyards that are very steeped in false teaching, just as there are churches in every denomination that have compromised the gospel.

    If we use a number line to illustrate where specific churches are at — let’s say that 0 represents the center. And that center would be Jesus Christ and Him crucified — the real gospel. As you get farther and farther away, on either side, there is going to be more and more false teaching. 1 and -1 are both equally distant from the center, and would both be false. The direction of the error would look slightly different, but both would be equally as guilty. The result is still the same, a corrupted or different gospel (depending on how far it veered off course).

    In general, I think the error that the mainline denominations have more of a tendency to fall into is that of liberal theology. (And I’m not talking about politics at all). Liberal theology denies the gospel in that it teaches that Jesus Christ was just a man who was a good teacher. They see Jesus as being just a victim, but that His death was basically meaningless. They might teach that it was a good example of humility, but they deny sin. Well, actually, they change the definition of sin and say that sin is a social issue. Their gospel is a social gospel. It is good to fight against injustice in the world, but that’s all they tend to focus on. Some of these people really hate the idea of Jesus’ blood. They see Jesus’ death as being violent, and they want nothing to do with it. They don’t see any need for personal salvation. In this type of environment, church just becomes a social club where they do good works to try to help the world. Liberal theology looks at the Bible and they reinterpret it in such a way that they deny almost everything that happens in it. They don’t believe Jesus did any miracles, they don’t believe Jesus claimed to be God, and they deny that Satan and demons exist. They don’t believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. They don’t believe that Jesus is ever coming back. Thus, they deny the history creeds of the church. So, they deny the historic orthodox Christianity. Because these liberal churches deny all these things, they think that there is no spirituality within Christianity. They think they have to look to Eastern religions to find it.

    Again, not all mainline churches fall into this error, but some have. The tendency is always there if the gospel is abandoned.

    On the flip side are the charismatic and Pentecostal churches. They, too, have a tendency towards abandoning the gospel, but the specific error that they seem most prone to is in overemphasizing the gifts of the Holy Spirit and spiritual manifestations. I might even add spirituality to the list. It seems to me that many of these churches have made these things into their gospel. Again, not all of them are doing this, but some are.

    Whereas some of the mainline churches are not emphasizing the spiritual enough (they have striped everything away from the Bible — including denying Jesus Christ as being the one He claimed to be), some of the charismatic and Pentecostals are emphasizing the spiritual too much.

    There is always trouble whenever the gospel is no longer being preached. Sadly, that is becoming the case more and more in various churches.

    I guess I wanted to say that clearly so that everyone would know where I was coming from in what I’m about to say.

    Just as we need to be careful about grouping all churches in one denomination together, we need to be careful that we don’t jump on a person or group or thing just because it uses a term that we know means something in a specific context.

    For example, ‘spiritual formation’ isn’t necessarily an emergent term. Nor does emergent = bad theology all of the time. If I wanted to, I could find a problem with just about every Christian author, speaker, pastor, and group. (Of course none are without error, as they are all human). Instead of looking for specific words, examine the teachings themselves.

    I don’t know anything about the Anaheim Vineyard, but most Vineyards make their sermons available online. Some even have the text files of the sermons available for you to read through. Look at the topics being preached on, then listen to several of the sermons. If they’re not preaching the gospel in the overall message of their sermons, then yes, sound the alarm. Compare the teachings with Scripture. If it veers from Scripture, again…sound the alarm. If they are promoting false prophets and apostles, sound the alarm. If they are teaching about angel encounters, gold dust, feathers, orbs, etc. then sound the alarm.

    However, if they have not abandoned the gospel, and they expound on the Scriptures, then I don’t really think they’re off. The potential would always be there to get off, but as long as the real foundation of Jesus Christ is still there, then they are all right. (And by foundation, I mean that the gospel is the piece that all of the other teachings stand on. I don’t mean just mentioning Jesus’ name or just getting excited about Him. I mean if the main thread/theme of their teaching points to Jesus and the gospel, then they are still founded on Jesus Christ. Sin, grace, redemption, justification, etc.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, and I believe I clarified my take on this at the beginning – my experience with the Vineyard that I attended, but not all of them. However, if John Wimber is still influencing any of them, their teaching is bound to be as off as he proved to be.


  5. Sorry….I think I missed the part about you acknowledging that it wasn’t all Vineyard. I think what stuck in my head was the title of the article, and the opening paragraph. But I’m glad to see that it wasn’t meant to be a statement about all of them 🙂

    I don’t really know a whole lot about John Wimber, as he died before I had ever really set foot inside a Vineyard church. Of course there are still references to him — mentions about him and whatnot. I guess it would be impossible to say that he had no influence on Vineyard churches. However, thankfully he isn’t preached on in any of the Vineyard’s I’ve been to. If a person (besides Jesus) is being preached, then that isn’t a good thing, no matter how sound they are. Suffice it to say, though, I’ve heard very little about him. I know he was the founder, but I don’t really have any firsthand information to know whether or not he was off. I don’t know what his actual teachings were. I never looked into it, and I haven’t really needed to 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • John Wimber was responsible for the founding of The Vineyard after his split with Chuck Smith/Calvary Chapel. His reasoning for the split was attributed to a lack of the partner’s belief in the Holy Spirit and how He operated in their lives. This is what I was lead to believe. But, a further study showed Wimber believed it to excesses in what we see in Charismania now; he taught it, wrote books about it and held conferences. He also taught his people that a believer could not be deceived. These are things I found out after having attended The Vineyard. When I began to dig through the things I was involved with – to my own horror – I was told by my pastor the same thing, that I could not be deceived.

      Wimber taught about absolute healing, and yet died of disease; he taught and operated in the false prophetic; and was instrumental in the protection of the heretical teachings regarding dreams and visions by the Kansas City Prophet John Paul Jackson, claiming to work with him in restoration to a rightful, biblical thinking, yet instead embracing these teachings. His motto “doin’ the stuff” is well known and repeated in circles who still honor him as a valid teacher, is a claim to the ability of believers to have the same power and authority as Christ.

      Your statement If a person (besides Jesus) is being preached, then that isn’t a good thing, no matter how sound they are. holds very true. In this case, Wimber was teaching a jesus, a spirit, and promises that cannot be found in the bible. His teachings and influence continue to this day. If you are in a Vineyard church, you are under his influence.

      I’m surprised to see that you know so little about a movement you have defended. I suggest a further study if you plan on continuing with The Vineyard. There is quite a bit of info out there and this is a great starting place.


      • “If a person (besides Jesus) is being preached, then that isn’t a good thing, no matter how sound they are.”

        So, by your logic Christians should not listen to the preaching (teachings) of Paul either? Paul preached his life in Christ. Please provide one example of Wimber preaching a person other than Christ Jesus. You can’t.


        • Don, Wimber, and many more teach the basics of the gospel. But the teachings on healing and supernatural power are outside the writings of scripture. That is exactly where you will find him and the others who came before and after him preaching a person other than Jesus. It isn’t by my logic, but by comparison of scripture against their teachings. I never said anything about Paul in the way you are thinking.


      • Actually, Wimber did not start the Vineyard. It was started by Ken Gulliksen, with most of the notoriety coming through the beach baptism ministry. I have been attending the Valley Vineyard out here in Reseda CA since about 1985. I have been asking The Lord for twenty years why he has not released me from the Vineyard. My pastor was with Ken in the early days and he should probably have taken over the Vineyard when Ken moved back east and put everything on hold. Wimber went to Ken and made the deal to take over the Vineyard.

        I was okay with The Lord keeping me at the Vineyard until Dallas Willard began attending our Vineyard. I had first met him in the seventies but had not seen him for years. I thought he was out to lunch but didn’t have to deal with him so it did not really matter…until he became friends with my pastor. Although Dallas denied being a member of the emergent church, the leadership of the emergent church considered him one of the primary leaders in the emergent church. His status as a professor of religious philosophy at a major university added a bona fides to the claims of the emergent church. and my experience was that my pastor’s close friendship with Dallas and his wife did a disservice to whatever degree of sound doctrine my pastor walked in.

        My pastor retired on December 31, 2019 and I believe that The Lord has finally released me from the Vineyard. I have not yet specifically left because the corona virus still has all the churches closed. But I did resign from the church board and the finance committee in January. I did so because new leadership opened our meeting, not with prayer, but with “the Emmanuel Connection Exercise”. If you are not familiar with it, you may find it on the Dallas Willard web site. His wife, Jane, presented the exercise.

        I sat there at the table, looking around and seeing every other board member, pastor included, eyes closed, going through the exercise. It was just like Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid. Part of me wanted to laugh but the spiritual deception was astonishing. I just shook my head in wonderment. I considered just getting up an walking out but chose not to stir the pot uselessly.

        I had lost my wife of fifty years just a few weeks previous and used that as the basis for resigning from the board. I can say for certain that confronting that very real deception would not have turned on the light. The loss of my wife had made life difficult enough and I just did not have the willingness to go through the fight knowing that the outcome would be fruitless.

        I am not aware of any Vineyard’s that are not off base. There exists a certain amount of independence among the various Vineyard churches but so very many years of being close friends with the pastor and being joined together with leadership, it has been my experience that all the Vineyards embrace deception to varying degrees.

        my habit was to get together with my pastor and voice my challenges with him directly. I do not recall his hearing me a single time. His connection with the entirety of the movement was seemingly solidified by his close friendship with Dallas. I always found that of interest because I considered Dallas to be a nice guy but boring and condescending. I suppose that was because I was not one of his students that was hanging on his every word. My pastor is my age and I do not understand why his response was to embrace the words of Dallas.

        Be this all as it may, I am so very thankful that The Lord has kept me from deception for all of my years in Him. Dealing with the recent loss of my bride would have broken me down completely had it not been for the Truth that He has grown in me through the years. Bless His name.


        • Hi, My heart goes out to you in the loss of your wife! I enjoyed reading your comment and am thankful for the information it contains. I was not aware of such an exercise, hadn’t heard of it until just now. It seems more and more the church is morphing into something other than it’s original intent and it veers off the straight path of Christianity and into other religions.

          Yes, bless the name of the Lord!


  6. I fully agree that John Wimber was certainly in error when he defended the Kansas City Prophets. I don’t have direct experience with that topic, as that was before my time in the Vineyard. However, I did come across that topic when I was researching the whole Todd Bentley thing when Lakeland happened. I was trying to warn some people I knew, and I did need to dig into this a little bit. I came across several resources which state that Wimber later regretted having gotten involved with the Kansas City Prophets. This doesn’t excuse the error and the fact that many people were deceived, and I think it definitely contributed to the problems in the universal church. It seems like by standing behind them, he gave them a platform. It disturbs me that he supported them.

    I really want to talk to Rich Nathan about this sometime, as he’s on the Vineyard board, and I generally agree with him on most things. I have a lot of respect for him. I think he would give a balanced viewpoint. (Rich Nathan is the pastor at Vineyard Columbus).

    The problem when trying to research this stuff is that many resources seem a bit unbalanced to me. For example, some apologetics sites seem to suggest that Vineyard = the Toronto Blessing. They talk about it as though that’s the model of the Vineyard church. These same websites, authors, etc. leave out the fact that the Toronto Airport church was kicked out of Vineyard more than ten years ago. I think a lot of people equate Vineyard with excess, and then pronounce judgement against it. That doesn’t mean that everything that these websites say should be dismissed, but clearly most of them are unbalanced and unfair towards the Vineyard. Most of what I know about the Toronto Blessing, actually, is from articles I’ve read on the Internet. Then rumors spread about it…and stories get more and more crazy.

    For example, there seems to be some rumor going around central Ohio that people at the Vineyard sacrifice chickens. Where did that come from? I have no idea…but people seriously believe it, and they are spreading it around as if it were fact.

    Yes, there are problems in the Vineyard. I think one of the biggest problems is that the pastors within it that do teach sound doctrine refuse to name names. If the leadership of a denomination were to get together and actually say, “this teaching is wrong” or “beware of Bill Johnson, Bob Jones, Patricia King, etc.” I think that would help steer the Christians within the denomination (in this case, the Vineyard), away from the excessive stuff. Along with naming names, the church would need to give a reason — show how it contradicted Scripture, and why there was concern.

    I wish the Vineyard would make a statement denouncing things like the Toronto Blessing and the Kansas City Prophets. After all, these things came out of it, so I think it is Vineyard’s responsibility to openly state that those things were wrong and not of God.

    Now, I’m not really sure about whether or not Wimber taught that Christians could not be deceived. I never heard that from a Vineyard pastor myself. In fact, several pastors have given sermons on the topic of not being deceived, based on passages in Colossians and 2 Timothy and Matthew. Interesting. If this really was one of Wimber’s teachings, it thankfully hasn’t influenced the entire Vineyard.

    I actually talked to the associate pastor at the Vineyard in my hometown about it. She and others have openly acknowledge the need for us to be careful because none of us are above being deceived.

    As far as healing is concerned, I believe that it IS possible that God can heal people of diseases today. People in every denomination can attest to this, otherwise they wouldn’t pray for someone who was sick. However, just believing that God can and does sometimes heal people doesn’t mean that He always does, or that we should expect it. I suspect, although I don’t know for certain, but perhaps some of the people against Wimber might have exaggerated his position. I haven’t read any of Wimber’s books or heard any of his sermons, but based on the teachings that I’ve seen in the Vineyard’s I’ve been in, I suspect that his view was milder than what is stated in some of those online articles.

    If you can point me to a citation in which, in context, he states that Christians cannot die of disease…or that Christians shouldn’t expect to die of diseases….or that everyone always gets healed in every circumstance….or something along those lines, I will acknowledge that he actually taught that and that belief wasn’t just pinned on him.

    You wrote:
    “His motto “doin’ the stuff” is well known and repeated in circles who still honor him as a valid teacher, is a claim to the ability of believers to have the same power and authority as Christ.”

    My response:
    Now, I think that there are a couple of interpretations of this — both orthodox and heretical, and the line can be easily blurred.

    I do think that God does want to use people in ministry in ways that would bring other people to Him. I do believe that the Holy Spirit can and does empower people in their walk with Christ. I do believe that the Holy Spirit gives gifts to people to be used for His purpose. I think He equips every believer for service, in order to point people to Jesus. Rarely, but sometimes, this may equip someone to do a miracle. My United Methodist pastor (when I’m home I go to both the Vineyard and the United Methodist Church in my home town) even holds this view.

    Now, where it goes heretical is if people take that idea too far — if they decide that we are little gods and can go around walking on water, commanding the weather, etc. Or if people start demanding things of God, or commanding things like God would command them. It would be like instead of being used by God for His purposes, they would be using God for their purposes.

    So….what did John Wimber mean? Again, I would have to see in context quotes, and I would have to check them with their original source.

    In order to evaluate John Wimber’s teachings, I would have to see what he actually believed about Jesus, the gospel, sin, salvation…along with his beliefs on the things you stated above.

    I do consider some of the stuff that John Wimber approved of to be serious — his involvement with the Kansas City Prophets, his allowing those “prophets” into the Vineyard to influence Christians, etc. I do want and pray that the Vineyard issues statements against some of the people that are still influencing Christians. I doubt it will happen any time soon, though, as there are too many churches and Christians deep into this stuff.

    It seems like they’ve swept this stuff under the rug. I didn’t even know about the Kansas City Prophets or the Toronto Blessing until I’d been going to a Vineyard for over a year, and found someone’s statement about it in a collection of essays written by evangelical Christians. Then I looked it up on the Internet and finally found out about it. Then I found out about the Elijah List from these websites…and it makes me very sad that the church that puts that out is a Vineyard 😦 Then I’ve heard about several other Vineyards that are into those false things.


    • This is your research project, not mine. I’ve already done what I needed in regards to The Vineyard, it’s foundational teachings and have seen where they are headed. It took me a bit of time to unravel and put back together. All the evidence I have found is here on my blog. You will find your own method of getting answers, and yes, going right to the source is the best way.


      • I have been a Vineyard pastor for 25 years and from reading what is written above, I wouldn’t recognize us as being from the same association. Our churches believe in and preach nothing but Jesus Christ crucified, buried and resurrected. We believe there is no other name by which you may be saved.

        We do not endorse the Toronto Blessing (we don’t see it as a blessing) or the Kansas City Prophets. We call the things written in Matthew 10 (praying for the sick, casting out evil spirits) “doing the stuff” and we believe every believer has the authority to do these things. We don’t teach anything about being impossible to be deceived, but we do teach the Holy Spirit abiding within you cannot be deceived. We preach you need to learn to discern the spirits. We also teach each person needs to have time alone to pray and have some solitude with the Holy Spirit daily. We do not teach the contemplative lifestyle.

        We teach the pastor’s job is to equip the saints for the work of ministry and this is John Wimber’s teaching on “everyone gets to play.” It is not the pastor’s job to do all of the praying, lead all of the bible studies, or do all of the tasks around the church facility.

        John Wimber never taught in anything I read that all diseases will be healed, but that some of us wouldn’t be healed until we were with Jesus in heaven. I heard him speak once in Anaheim and he spoke of his own cancer and how he prayed God would remove it, but was open to whatever God wanted to teach him through it. He absolutely did teach that we shouldn’t be afraid to ask God to heal anyone of anything.

        We don’t endorse the Elijah List. We do believe in good, honest, and whole-hearted worship and invite the people in our church to live Monday through Saturday the way they claim to live for the 1-1/2 hours on Sunday morning. We believe prayer changes things. We certainly aren’t the kooks you describe us to be above. Someone above wrote about reading position papers on Rich Nathan’s church website (Vineyard Columbus Ohio.) These are what we follow more than anything except the Bible, of course.

        You have thrown an entire association of churches under the bus because of a few problems which appear to be in only some churches, not all. Of course, we could now do this with almost every denomination in America. No denomination is perfect and there are always who feel they have found “the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” but sadly, that is never the case.

        The problems you stated aren’t part of what we’re taught as Vineyard leaders. I was at a week-long Vineyard conference just last week and not one of the things you wrote about was even mentioned. Not a single one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m glad to know you don’t follow the false teachings associated with other Vineyard churches. I am sure my readers will be glad to know it as well.

          I haven’t thrown any one, or any organization under the bus. I am simply letting people know the things I experienced as part of a Vineyard church group. There are obviously things that you don’t know about and believe me, they are as evil as they are real.


  7. There can still be a revival within the Vineyard — but it’s going to mean naming names, and if it takes a stand, it’s going to mean a split. The sound churches won’t be able to stay among churches like the one that promotes the Elijah List. I know it isn’t alone. I won’t give up on it. I know that not all Vineyard churches are headed down the corrupt path. At first I thought there were only a few Vineyard churches that were off the deep end. I know that isn’t true anymore. But it still isn’t all of them.

    I don’t know why Vineyard Columbus doesn’t have more influence on Vineyard as a whole. It’s the biggest Vineyard in the world. I did my counseling internship there. The director of the counseling center was very opposed to the inner healing stuff that happens in many Christian counseling centers around the country. And yes, I know it happens in some Vineyards. That director was best friends with Rich Nathan, and the two of them had a discussion about it. Rich really questioned it as well.

    The problem with that church is that it’s so big that there are people on staff that support Bill Johnson and the weird stuff (there are over 200 people on staff). I really didn’t like some of the deliverance ideas that some people had.

    I think these kinds of discussions need to be going on within Vineyard churches, and then the leadership can decide how to confront the stuff. I do think that if Vineyard continues the way they have been, then more and more Christians are going to get sucked into false stuff. This is true even when sound doctrine is preached from the pulpit. People have friends in other churches, they have access to teachings on the TV, Internet, books, and magazines.

    A stand has to be made.

    Thank you for your patience and your responses to mine. There are still some more things that I would like to process. Maybe I just was fortunate to have known a couple of really sound teachers within the Vineyard. Maybe they are really a minority. Or maybe it’s the other way around, and it just seems like there are more false ones than not…because people tend to report the bad experiences more than the good ones.

    It grieves me to hear what is going on within some of these churches.

    What initially attracted me to the Vineyard was their values. They preached right out of the Word — and they preached the gospel. I also liked the music and their value of worship. I also liked how they wanted to reach out into the community with service. I think those were called values…and I think there might be a fourth one. Small groups and Bible study maybe? It’s been awhile since they were printed on a bulletin like they used to have them in the church in my hometown.

    If the Vineyard sticks to those things without adding in any false teaching, I think they will be fine. The problem is that false teaching has gotten in (and, if you’re right, has always been there). They need to reject the false stuff and get the focus back on gospel and sound doctrine.

    I think Vineyard is a bit complicated because it actually isn’t a denomination. (I know that I’ve been using that word in reference to it…but that’s just because it’s easiest to do it that way.) Each church runs itself, yet there is a little structure with their regional directors and the national board and so forth..and they agree to a statement of faith and general values. Therefore, there is going to be a lot of variation among congregations. A church that is doctrinally sound can be in it at the same time as a church that has gone way off the deep end. Some are more loyal to John Wimber teaching than others. Some are more grounded in Scripture than others.

    I don’t know…but I don’t think all is lost as long as there are still pastors and people in the churches that are sound in their doctrine.


    • When we get involved with large organizations the truth gets all the muddier by the opinions of so many. The bottom line is the word of God and we need to spend more time studying it. I am well aware of these so called statements of faith and how easily the deceptive teachings can be there, just not up front. I also know from experience the things we are seeking answers to can be well hidden by well trained people. A person has to get behind the lines so to speak to find out what drives the leaders in their teachings. I was quite surprised to find the wrong teachings I was under, but even more so later on when I found their connection to the Emergent Church – Richard Foster, teachings and writings by Catholic Priests, the mystics like Guyon, St John of the Cross, etc.


  8. For sure — we do need to spend more time studying the Bible. All Christians need to. Well, in my opinion, having a statement of faith is a lot better than not having one. At least having one means that there’s something that people can be held accountable to. Of course, this doesn’t always happen. You’re right that deceptive teachings can still exist within a group of Christians, even if they have an orthodox statement of faith. Still, though if someone is getting the source for their teachings from something that is false, this will become evident in the sermons. Something would go against Scripture and the gospel.

    I don’t know a whole lot about the Emergent Church, but I think the bottom line problem in most churches (regardless of whether or not they are in a denomination) is abandoning the gospel. When Christians and churches abandon the gospel, then they start abandoning everything else — including Scripture.

    I think just as individual people can mess up and forget who God is and can loose sight of Jesus Christ and the real gospel, so can entire congregations or denominations.

    But I also think that just as no person is beyond God’s reach (that God can draw the person back to Himself), so can he with a church, a denomination, etc. I think that the letters to the seven churches in Revelation reflect this. And although each of those letters was written to a specific church, I think that most modern churches would fit into those categories. Jesus offers hope to those churches, if they will turn back towards Him and repent. If the people inside them would repent, abandon evil practices, and turn back to God.

    Those letters are messages of hope.

    Yes, the Vineyard does have problems within it, just as each individual church does. But again, there are still some churches that preach the truth. I’m sure there are some unbiblical practices that some people in these churches practice as well… would be true of all churches, regardless of their affiliation or denomination.

    I pray for the Vineyard and also for the universal Christian church — all believers in every denomination. I’d like to see false stuff abandoned.


    • Pray for them yes. Don’t have anything to do with the upper level management. A number of pastors and more are being found out and will meet their destiny. There is a curse on the Vineyard Columbus church, with a prayer that God will shelter all the innocent, God seeking people who go there that they will not be harmed when God pours out His judgement on them.


  9. I do want to say that I really do think that Rich Nathan is a doctrinally sound pastor. The church does a lot for the community, and it is right on all the essentials. It proclaims the gospel, and it does value Scripture as being essential. Rich and the other pastors all base their sermons on Scripture. Their foundation is Jesus Christ.

    However, I do have concerns, as I mentioned before, in regard to the deliverance ministry stuff. I do believe that demons are real and that people can be possessed, but I don’t agree with Francis MacNutt’s view. Francis MacNutt wrote a book that they use in deliverance ministry called Deliverance From Evil Spirits. I also watched a video of him doing his deliverance. I don’t think that what’s in the book is biblical. I don’t think that believers need to live in constant fear that someone might have put a curse or hex on them. I don’t think that Christians need to pray a daily cleansing prayer. I don’t think that people working with other people need to be exorcised. I don’t think that Christians need to be exorcised unless the person clearly opened themselves up to the occult. (I struggle with the idea of demons living inside a Christian). I don’t really agree with the idea of generational curses. And I don’t think Christians need to be concerned about possible demons that could be bothering them, giving specific names like ‘the spirit of rejection, spirit of fear, etc.” I don’t know…maybe it’s just that I didn’t grow up in a Pentecostal or charismatic church, but it just doesn’t seem very biblical to me. It also seems very occult like — a little like witch doctors.

    I think that there can be legacies or tendencies within families to repeat family patterns, but I don’t think those are necessarily caused by demons. They could be, but even if they were, we shouldn’t be focusing on the demons.

    My view of spiritual warfare has always been to dig into God’s Word, stand on the truth, and to turn even more towards God, in spite of whatever situation that the person is in. That should work in most cases, although if someone actually encounters a demonic presence, then they can always tell it to go away in Jesus’ name or pray to God for Him to take it away. The focus shouldn’t be on the demon, but should be on God. Thus, my approach would be to turn towards God and not dwell on the demonic side.

    Although the church uses Francis MacNutt’s teachings for certain ministries within the church, Francis MacNutt’s teachings aren’t essential to the church. In other words, the church doesn’t revolve around this stuff. I would definitely prefer it if the church didn’t use his stuff for anything, but a person could be a member of the church and never be exposed to MacNutt’s teachings. That’s why I said that it isn’t essential to the church.


    • That’s the place where you begin to question why a “doctrinally sound” pastor would allow such false teachings in his church. Pastors are shepherds and are put in position to protect the flock, not allow things in that could do it harm. This list you gave is made of some very dangerous teachings that lead people in the direction to find what is wrong with them or their bloodline, rather than leading them to Christ who paid the price for all sin. I won’t back down on my stand regarding this kind of situation, I don’t care how sound the pastor seems. I came out of a similar church situation recently. This is the leaven Christ spoke of. Once it gets mixed in, it is impossible to take out again.


  10. If we’re going to say that the present church is like the Laodicean church, then what about Revelation 3:19-20? It seems that Jesus didn’t even give up on the Laodicean church. Now, He didn’t commend them at all…what He said to them was a rebuke, and a serious one. He gave a warning, but He told them to be zealous and repent.

    To some of the other churches He says similar things. Revelation 3:2-4; 2:19-25; 2:13-16, 2:2-6

    Not all seven churches received a rebuke, but those that did were told to repent.

    As to why a doctrinally sound pastor would allow that stuff in, I’m not exactly sure. Perhaps he’s never really questioned that stuff, or just saw it as a non-essential issue. I do know for a fact that that specific church is discussing a church wide policy regarding the issue of ‘woundedness’ ‘/inner healing type practices. As stated before, the counseling center director doesn’t like inner healing practices, nor does the senior pastor. VLI taught that type of thing, as do many other Christian counseling type places….like Ashland. I don’t know why they’re discussing this now instead of before, except maybe now they realize what a serious problem it has become in Christian circles.

    Because they are talking about the inner healing stuff, having serious discussion about it, I believe that this could lead to other practices being examined that are related, such as Francis MacNutt’s deliverance stuff. MacNutt seemed to be pro inner healing, and his practices are kind of the same thing as inner healing, but they just use a different method.

    I agree with you completely that these practices are dangerous and not of God. I would not ask you to back down from your stand against them. I will stand against these same practices as well.

    The thing is that we can all be deceived because we are all human. This includes pastors, even very biblical pastors. I don’t think he realized what danger some of these practices were doing to Christians, and it’s also possible that he might not be entirely aware of what is going on within all the ministries of the church. The church, like I said, is huge. There are over 200 people on staff, about 20 pastors, and 8,000 members. At the same time, he might have also been taken in by MacNutt, and just went along with it because other Christians that he respected were into this teaching. I really don’t know, and I can’t answer for him.

    I do not think, however, that he realized the danger of MacNutt. If he had, I know that he wouldn’t have allowed such teachings anywhere near the church.

    You wrote:
    “This list you gave is made of some very dangerous teachings that lead people in the direction to find what is wrong with them or their bloodline, rather than leading them to Christ who paid the price for all sin”

    My response:
    I agree — and I think that if the senior pastor saw that this was how people were responding to MacNutt’s teachings, he would address those teachings, as is being done with the inner healing topic.

    I’m not sure that I would say that a church is beyond hope of ever getting rid of unsound practices. If the foundation is still Jesus Christ and the gospel, I believe it is possible for a church to get rid of the practices, but I don’t think they can do so without conviction from the Holy Spirit. Often times we as Christians just accept a practice because that’s what other Christians do or because of tradition or whatever. That church (particular congregation) is founded on Jesus Christ, and I believe that God can call them out on false practices. He did it in regard to the inner healing topic, and I believe He can do it in regard to the MacNutt topic.

    Since Rich is on the Vineyard USA national board, maybe he can take the discussions that the leaders are having within Vineyard Columbus about inner healing to the national level. I don’t know what kinds of things the board discusses, or if that sort of policy would be left up to individual churches. I don’t know…but I can hope.

    There are some Vineyard Churches that I don’t think are founded on Jesus Christ or the gospel, and it would be very, very hard for them to renounce the false practices. I think it would be impossible in those churches until/unless they were open to hearing the truth, and then wanted to follow it. If a church is closed off to the truth, then no, they’re not going to change. I’m not sure that I found all your blog entries about the experience you had at your church. From what I have read, though, it sounds like that church would fit into this category (one that wasn’t open to hearing truth). There are probably a lot that fit this category 😦


  11. Hello Doug. Sorry we’re so late to the conversation, but a friend of mine mentioned this article after a internet search. I’m one of the pastors from the Redding Vineyard. Thanks for keeping us on the straight & narrow.


  12. I want to say that I was involved in a Vineyard church for some time. In fact, the very reason that I found this article is my need and desire to understand why I was attacked there. I was wounded badly on all fronts. I began attending a Vineyard church after having been a christian for many years. I knew then as I do now, that God’s word is my final authority for everything. When someone attends a Vineyard church, ANY Vineyard church, they become subject to the evil or the good that was involved in the inception. Do not be deceived, there is real danger and power in this movement. It is very very dangerous to ANY believer who becomes involved. Light has no fellowship with darkness. The reason that I was attacked is both good and bad for me. Good in that the reason was not that I was hated but Him who lived both with and in me was hated. It was also bad because it led me down a path of self doubt or doubt that I was even saved for a time. Of course my attack was on many fronts and it was personal, social, even public in one case. There was also an attack that was spiritually so real that I cannot convey it in any words. I have come to the conclusion after too long a time that it was the result of misguided person in leadership who stood behind me during worship with a golden sword that he believed he received through the heresy of the “Golden Sword Prophecy” delivered originally by Carol Arnott in January 1997.
    Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am only still walking with our Loving creator because of grace. Through this I have found the key to victory has been really forgiving and loving the ones who so harmed me. I want to make sure that I tell everyone who reads this that God’s word is Alive. His name is Jesus. He is our final authority. The friend, the Comforter, The Holy Spirit my friend who sticks closer than a brother, always speaks of Him. The Holy Spirit will never add to the word of God. ALL truth is there for us. I hope this is helpful for me and someone else. I would like to add one more thing that I noticed while I was involved in the Vineyard. They didn’t like it when I talked about my being fully persuaded that the Blood of Jesus was everything I needed and all I needed.
    I noticed that they didn’t discuss the Blood very much at all. For me, my Christian walk can be defined as simply this: Being led by the Holy Spirit, the friend who sticks closer than a brother, into ALL Truth by one thing and only one thing, The Living Shed Blood of Jesus Christ. Peace to you all.


  13. The introduction of Ignatius spirituality by the leaders of vineyard uk 2016 leaders conference got me thinking and researching. If it was only me that found these things off key? on going to church this morning I found the bookstall repleat with Joyce myers benny hinn steve chalke et al, I checked on the website and they are promoting brene brown ted talk an inspection on brene browns web page shows her book list o dear o dear more new age sue monk kid marcus j borg and Jesus and Buddha: The Parallel Sayings….strike three! having attempted to communicate with the Spiritual directors in New Zealand asking them to comment on Ray yungans youtube videos and been given the cold shoulder also attempting to get time with “MY” pastor in the local church but again not been taken seriously or replied to… hey ho should I expect anything better?
    its like ime shouting (nicely) but they don’t want to listen. Has the sword of the spirit anticipated this? pretty much a case of Isaiah 2:6 it seems also the holy spirit warned us that there would be an apostasy prior to the man of sin being revealed. Now near me here in the north east of England there is no church that I am aware of that is being faithful to Jesus. please pray for me and my family as we wander from place to place.


    • Greetings dear sister:
      You may or may not find a church and as hard as it is we are blessed to have seen and escaped!

      2 Thessalonians 2
      1Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, 2That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. 3Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; 4Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. 5Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. 7For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. 8And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: 9Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, 10And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: 12That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

      13But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: 14Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.

      16Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace, 17Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.


  14. Great article and very informative. Can you tell me, do my warning bells regarding the Vineyard churches apply to the UK aswell? I’m guessing if the root is in error then all of rhe branches will follow suit? My brothers potential future wife is a member of one and I have warned him not to go there but he is under the impression that the vineyard is fine nowadays in its theology etc. I disagree strongly


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