The Association of Vineyard Churches, also known as the Vineyard Movement, is a neocharismatic evangelical Christian denomination with over 1,500 affiliated churches worldwide.
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, the Toronto blessing, the Kansas City Prophets and a particular style of Christian worship music.
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. In early 1975, thirteen groups met at the Beverley Hills Women's club. These Bible studies, and others like them, were attended by many popular actors/actresses and musicians including Bob Dylan. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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. 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. 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. In October, 2011, Phil Strout was selected by the National Board of Directors to succeed Waggoner as National Director in January 2013.
Beliefs and practices:
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 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."
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. 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 unique nature of this contemporary worship music (especially unique in the 70s and 80s, 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.
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.
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 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 region. The central governing body of the Vineyard in the U.S. is a 12-member National Board, made up of the eight regional overseers plus four additional leadership members, including 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 2004, Vineyard USA had 140,000 members in 600 churches.
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.
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. There are more than 100 Vineyard Churches in Ireland and the United Kingdom.
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. As of June 2009, there were 33 Vineyard Churches in Australia.
In February 2009, the Association launched a School of Ministry, in conjunction with Perth Bible College.
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.
Harvest has 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 & 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.
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 now has 18 churches and church plants from Mahurangi in the north to Invercargill 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.
The first Vineyard church in South Africa was the Parkview Vineyard Christian Fellowship, which was planted in Johannesburg in October, 1982. 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.
Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg:
Vineyard Benelux consists of approximately 12 churches, as well as overseeing Vineyard church planting activities in the Baltic states and Poland.
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. As of March 2014, there are approximately 30 Vineyard churches within Vineyard Norden, with the earliest being the Stockholm Vineyard, founded in 1992.
Vineyard Music 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, Nigel Briggs, Nigel Hemming, Brenton Brown, Brian Doerksen, Andy Park, Jeremy Riddle, and Kevin Prosch.
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 Music.
Vineyard Music 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.