Association of Vineyard Churches

The Association of Vineyard Churches, also known as the Vineyard Movement, is a neocharismatic evangelical Christian denomination.[2] It has over 2,400 affiliated churches worldwide.[1]

Association of Vineyard Churches
Vineyard Word Mark

The Vineyard Movement is rooted in the charismatic renewal and historic evangelicalism. Instead of the mainstream charismatic label, however, the movement has 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 classical 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.

It has been associated with the "Signs and Wonders" movement,[3]:199 the Toronto blessing,[3]:222 the Kansas City Prophets[3]:160 and a particular style of Christian worship music.[3]:212

The Vineyard operates a publishing house, Vineyard International Publishing.


The first local church started when Kenn Gulliksen brought together two Bible studies, both meeting at the houses of singer/songwriters: Larry Norman and Chuck Girard.[4] In early 1975, thirteen groups met at the Beverly Hills Women's club.[5]:80 These Bible studies, and others like them, were attended by many popular actors/actresses and musicians including Bob Dylan.[5]:81 Gulliksen's Vineyard had spun off sister churches.

In 1977, John Wimber, an evangelical pastor and teacher on church growth, founded a Calvary Chapel in Yorba Linda, California.[1] Wimber's teaching on healing and the ministry of the Holy Spirit led to conflict. In a meeting with Calvary Chapel leaders, it was suggested that Wimber's church stop using the Calvary name and affiliate with Gulliksen's Vineyard movement.[6] In 1982, Wimber's church changed its name to the Anaheim Vineyard Christian Fellowship. Gulliksen turned over the churches under his oversight to Wimber, beginning his leadership of the Vineyard movement. Evangelist Lonnie Frisbee credits Gulliksen as founder of the Vineyard movement.[7]

Beginning in 1988, Wimber established relationships with prophetic figures such as Paul Cain, Bob Jones, and Mike Bickle who pastored Kansas City Fellowship, an independent church which would come under the Vineyard banner as Metro Vineyard (see Kansas City Prophets). For a time, these men had considerable influence on Wimber and the Vineyard—according to Jackson, Wimber's son was delivered from drug addiction through a prophetic word from Jones.[8] However, there were those in the Vineyard who were skeptical, and Wimber himself became disillusioned over the restorationist teaching and failed prophecies of these men. Around 1991, Wimber began to distance himself from the prophetic movement, leading the Vineyard back to a church-planting direction, while Bickle's church withdrew and dropped the Vineyard label.

The Vineyard Movement suffered a visible leadership vacuum after Wimber's death on November 16, 1997.[9] 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.[10] 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 2400 churches around the world, and this number continues to grow due to a strong priority placed on church-planting within the Vineyard mission.[1] In October, 2011, Phil Strout was selected by the National Board of Directors to succeed Waggoner as National Director in January 2013.[11]

Beliefs and practices

Doctrinal statements

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
  • a desire to reflect the "low-key," "low-pressure" environment of the church that encouraged people to "come as you are"
  • specifically, de-emphasizing any atmosphere or actions that could be considered overtly dogmatic.

According to text in the official Vineyard Statement of Faith[12] 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."[13]

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 association 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. Vineyard philosophy has also played a key role in the development of the transformationalism school of Christian thought.


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 “home-groups” 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 movement. 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 distinctive nature of this contemporary worship music (especially notable in the 1970s and 1980s, when most mainstream denominations limited their worship to more traditional hymns) gained a lot of interest. It led to the formation of a special music ministry that was later formed into a church-supported music recording and distribution company, Vineyard Worship.

Ministry and the local church

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 casual clothing, and they 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 home-groups, and participate in various church ministries.


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. Besides the nations listed below, 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.

United States

The national headquarters of Vineyard USA is currently located in Sugar Land, Texas. Vineyard USA is divided into eight regions, and each region has clusters of churches grouped together by 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 region. The central governing body of the Vineyard in the U.S. is known as the Executive Team, and includes the National Director. Currently, the President and National Director is Phil Strout. All major strategic decisions, including theological and doctrinal statements, are made by the National Board. In 2018, Vineyard USA is estimated to have approximately 200,000 members in 600 churches.[14]


Canada was the first country outside the United States to be accorded its own independent National Association. The first Canadian Vineyard was established in Vancouver in January 1985. Within a year, a second Vineyard was established in the Vancouver area. More churches followed, and by the time of the release of the Association of Vineyard Churches Canada in the summer of 1995 and the appointment of Gary and Joy Best as National Directors of Canada, there had been fifty Vineyards established across the country.[15] In July 2014, David and Anita Ruis were appointed as National Team Leaders of Vineyard Canada.[16]

United Kingdom and Ireland

The Association of Vineyard Churches UK (AVC) was released in the spring of 1996 by the international association as its own national organization. It is governed by a Council through a number of task forces, including a Board of Trustees, which oversees the pastors of existing churches and facilitates church planting.[17] As of September 2015, there are 116 Vineyard Churches in Ireland and the United Kingdom.[18] On 19 September 2015, John and Debby Wright were commissioned as the National Directors of Vineyard Churches United Kingdom and Ireland taking over from John and Eleanor Mumford.[19]


In 1995, the first Vineyard churches were commenced in Sydney, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane, Australia. On 13 March 2003, the Association of Vineyard Churches, Australia was formed, with Peter and Kathy Downes commissioned as National Directors.[20] As of June 2009, there were 33 Vineyard Churches in Australia.[21]

Kirk and Nichole Delaney became National Directors on 1 June 2016 and were commissioned at the Australian National Conference on 27 September 2016.

New Zealand

Vineyard's first impact in New Zealand came when John Wimber held the "Signs, Wonders and Church Growth" conference in 1986, which had a significant impact on many denominations in the country. It provided an alternative theology and practice for healing and other Holy Spirit-empowered works through the emphasis on Kingdom theology and “doing what you see the Father doing.” Vineyard churches in New Zealand were launched in March 1995 when the 10 New Zealand Harvest Christian Centres became Vineyard Christian Fellowships.[22]

Harvest had been styled on the purposes, values and priorities of Vineyard churches since its inception. The first Harvest Christian Centre was planted in Mahurangi in October 1989 by Lloyd and Victoria Rankin. It quickly grew and was instrumental in planting the next nine Harvest churches. In 1995, John Wimber received the 10 Harvest churches as Vineyards. Lloyd & Victoria were commissioned as National Directors of Vineyard Churches Aotearoa New Zealand in May 1, 1997 by John & Carol Wimber and Bob & Penny Fulton. David & Lissie MacGregor became the new National Directors on October 11, 2019.

Vineyard College New Zealand was founded in 1996 and has now grown into a vibrant college with students from a wide variety of churches and denominations across New Zealand. The College is a member of the Christian Theological & Ministries Education Sector of New Zealand Education.

Vineyard Churches of Aotearoa New Zealand presently has 28 churches and church plants from Mahurangi in the north to Dunedin in the south. It continues to plant churches and play its part in the development of the international Vineyard movement.

Germany, Austria and Switzerland

The first Vineyard church in Germany started in the mid-nineties near Munich. In 1999, the national association - Vineyard DACH (Deutschland, Austria, CH-Switzerland) - was released under the leadership of Martin and Georgia Bühlmann as National Directors. As of summer 2011, there are more than 70 Vineyard Churches in Vineyard DACH, with some of them within the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) or Roman Catholic Church. Vineyard DACH is governed by a leadership council, supported by task forces (church planting, worship, theology, training) and active in missions in countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Angola, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Togo, Serbia, Bosnia, Romania, Moldovia, France, Spain etc. Vineyard DACH has started an African Migration Vineyard Movement in Europe with 12 Vineyards and is also very active in reaching Roma Gypsies in different European countries.

South Africa

The first Vineyard church in South Africa was the Parkview Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which was planted in Johannesburg in October, 1982.[23] As of March 2014, the AVC(SA) oversees approximately 40 churches and is a sending hub for Vineyard missionary activity in 16 other African nations.[23]

Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg

Vineyard Benelux consists of approximately 12 churches, as well as overseeing Vineyard church planting activities in the Baltic states and Poland.[24]

Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland

Vineyard Norden is the umbrella association for the Vineyard churches in these countries. Each Nordic nation's Vineyard association is independent, but they cooperate closely as members of Vineyard Norden.[25] As of March 2014, there are approximately 30 Vineyard churches within Vineyard Norden,[26] with the earliest the Stockholm Vineyard, founded in 1992.[25]

As of 2017, 5 new churches have also started in Denmark. 3 of these churches within just one year. Locations are in Odense, Køge, Aalborg, Rønne (Bornholm), and Helsingør.[27]

Vineyard Worship

Vineyard Worship is a record label created and used by the Association of Vineyard Churches. The organization uses it to release worship albums. A UK branch of the record label exists, called Vineyard Records. Its musicians include Kathryn Scott,[28] Nigel Briggs, Samuel Lane, Nigel Hemming, Brenton Brown,[29] Brian Doerksen, Andy Park, Jeremy Riddle, Kevin Prosch and Sara Brusco.[30]

A central collection of over 700 worship songs, Vineyard Songs was launched in 2015 at Praise and Worship Songs Free Monthly Download where users may browse and download's free praise and worship songs, chord charts, and lead sheets from around the world.


Vineyard Music was developed by the Vineyard church in 1985. The church began to write its own worship songs, so John Wimber founded Mercy Records. This later became Vineyard Worship.

Vineyard Worship has won some industry awards, such as an award from ASCAP. Breathe was recognized in 2002 as ASCAP's most recorded song of the year.


  • Come Now Is the Time (1998)
  • Hungry (1999)
  • Surrender (2000)
  • Fall on Me
  • Beautiful
  • Playlist: Sweetly Broken
  • Dwell
  • Holy
  • I love Your Presence (2001)
  • You and You Alone (2002)
  • Lord reign in Me (2003)
  • Hold On (2004)[31]
  • All From You
  • Unfailing Love (2006)
  • Love Divine
  • Radio Everything - EP (2008)
  • Burn Bright (CD/DVD) (2009)
  • The Lamb Has Conquered
  • Creator
  • My Soul Yearns
  • The Feast - EP
  • The Fire
  • Spirit Burn (Live from London) (2013)

Education and training

The Vineyard operates its own 2, 3, 4, or 6 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. As of 2013, VLI has begun the process of moving to a more experiential educational format, Vineyard Institute. Vineyard Institute offers the same courses as the aforementioned VLI, but now offers three separate degrees in lieu of the one that VLI offered.

The Vineyard Bible Institute, a distance-learning Bible studies program, is based out of a Vineyard church in Cape Town, South Africa.

Criticism and the Toronto Blessing

During the 1990s, the Vineyard was widely criticized by cessationist Christians due to events during a series of revival meetings at the then Toronto Vineyard. These meetings, dubbed the Toronto Blessing, gained notoriety due to the large crowds, lengthy meetings, and reports of unorderly manifestations of the Holy Spirit, including people laughing, crying, and shaking.[32] Critics, such as Hank Hanegraaff in his book, "Counterfeit Revival", charged the Toronto Blessing (under Wimber's authority at the time) with promoting heresy for three main reasons: first, claiming unusual experiences of the Holy Spirit including physical responses, speaking in tongues, and prophesying; second, claiming that these experiences of spiritual revelation were equal in importance to the Bible; and third, claiming that these experiences were a sign that God was doing "something new."[33] Hanegraaff held that the Toronto Blessing (and thus the Vineyard movement) was denying sola scriptura or the “sufficiency of Scripture”, a doctrinal tenet to which the majority of Protestant churches adhere, by suggesting that all believers should come to see what "new thing" God was doing in Toronto. To cessationist and conservative thinking, this "new thing" felt dangerous and potentially cultist, putting the inerrant word of God on equal footing with the expression of a spiritual gift or, in the Hanegraaff's position, undermining the Bible with false teachings.[33] Ultimately, the Toronto church was released from the Vineyard movement due to the controversy of how the meetings were being handled.[34] For a detailed treatment of this topic, refer to "The Quest For the Radical Middle" by Bill Jackson (see related books below).

Wimber consistently 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.[35]

Throughout the early years of the Vineyard (1970s to 1992), Wimber avoided publicly responding to his critics.[36] 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.[36]

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.[37]

See also


  1. "History & Legacy". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  2. Despite the fact that some might see denominational labels as divisive, the founder of the movement John Wimber said "The Association of Vineyard Churches – for better or worse – is a denomination." Nigel Scotland Charismatics and the New Millennium (Guildford: Eagle, 1995).
  3. Nigel Scotland Charismatics and the New Millennium (Guildford: Eagle, 1995)
  4. Bill Jackson, The Quest for the Radical Middle: The History of the Vineyard (1999):78.
  5. Jackson, Bill (1999). The Quest for the Radical Middle. Vineyard International Publishing. ISBN 0-620-24319-8.
  6. Jackson, Bill. "A Short History of the Association of Vineyard Churches" in Church, Identity, and Change: Theology and Denominational Structures in Unsettled Times. David A. Roozen and James R. Nieman, Editors. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2005. ISBN 0-8028-2819-1. p. 136.
  7. Frisbee, Lonnie; Sachs, Roger (2012). Not By Might Nor By Power. Santa Maria, CA: Freedom Publications. p. 127. ISBN 0978543319.
  8. Jackson (2005), p. 137.
  9. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-05-03. Retrieved 2006-09-12.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-09-10. Retrieved 2006-09-22.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  11. "Vineyard Distinctives". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  12. "Foreword" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  13. "Welcome to The Vineyard Church". Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  14. "Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-09.
  15. "History". Association of Vineyard Churches, Canada. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  16. "Our Team". Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  17. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-25. Retrieved 2011-04-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. "New National Directors | John & Debby Wright". 2015-11-29. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  19. I, Vineyard Churches UK &. "New National Directors | John & Debby Wright". Retrieved 2015-09-20.
  20. "History of the Vineyard Movement". Archived from the original on 4 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  21. "Church Directory, Association of Vineyard Churches Australia". Archived from the original on 4 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-06.
  22. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-02-08. Retrieved 2013-02-01.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  23. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-03-03. Retrieved 2014-03-02.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  24. "Kerken". Vineyard Benelux. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  25. "Om Vineyard | Vineyard Sverige". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  26. "Vineyard Nordic Summit 2016". 2016-05-07. Archived from the original on 2015-10-11. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  27. "Vineyard starter 3 nye kirker på ét år". 7 April 2017.
  28. "Kathryn Scott: Declaring His Goodness – CCM Magazine". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  29. "Ultimate Easter Worship Collection – CCM Magazine". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  30. "Sarah Brusco: 'The Woven Whisper' album review – CCM Magazine". Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  31. Vineyard UK. "Hold On". Archived from the original on 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  32. Maxwell, Joe (October 24). "Laughter Draws Toronto Charismatic Crowds". Christianity Today 38 (12).
  33. Hanegraaff, Hank Counterfeit Revival Word Publishing. 1997
  34. Bowker, John (1997). "Toronto Blessing". The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  35. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2005-12-28. Retrieved 2006-01-29.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  36. "Why I Respond to Criticism" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2016-03-06. Retrieved 2016-07-25.
  37. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-04-23. Retrieved 2006-05-24.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading

  • Worshiping with the Anaheim Vineyard: The Emergence of Contemporary Worship by Andy Park, Lester Ruth, and Cindy Rethmeier ISBN 978-0-8028-7397-2
  • The Quest for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard by Bill Jackson ISBN 0-620-24319-8 – A look at the history of the Vineyard through 1999.
  • The Way It Was by Carol Wimber ISBN 0-340-73539-2 – A biography of John & Carol Wimber's life before and during their time in the Vineyard.
  • Power Healing by John Wimber ISBN 0-340-39090-5 – John Wimber's teachings regarding healing
  • Power Evangelism by John Wimber ISBN 0-340-56127-0 – John Wimber's teachings regarding evangelism
  • Empowered Evangelicals by Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson ISBN 0-89283-929-5
  • Who Is My Enemy by Rich Nathan ISBN 0-310-23882-X
  • Jesus Brand Spirituality by Ken Wilson ISBN 0-8499-2053-1
  • Saving God's Green Earth: Rediscovering the Church's Responsibility to Environmental Stewardship by Tri Robinson ISBN 0-9748825-8-5
  • Small Footprint, Big Handprint: How to Live Simply and Love Extravagantly by Tri Robinson ISBN 0-9786394-8-0
  • Naturally Supernatural by Gary Best ISBN 0-620-34814-3
  • Conspiracy of Kindness by Steve Sjogren ISBN 978-0-8307-4572-2 – 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.
  • Not The Religious Type by Dave Schmelzer ISBN 1-4143-1583-X – A perspective on faith in Jesus from a former atheist-turned-Vineyard pastor.
  • Breakthrough by Dr. Derek Morphew, Academic Dean of Vineyard Institute. A perspective of the Gospel as a proclamation of the Kingdom of God. ISBN 1-86823-039-2
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