When John Wimber, only 63, fell and died of a brain hemorrhage this past November, we were forced to ponder so unceremonious an end for this prominent preacher of divine healing and other wonders. In recent years Wimber had battled cancer, a stroke, and heart disease, for which many interceded on his behalf. Instead of being healed, his weary body was laid in the ground, leaving admirers and critics alike to sort through the considerable legacy he had left to evangelical Christians.
That legacy leaves many uncomfortable—his linking of "signs and wonders" with church growth, his insistence on seeking the gifts of the Spirit, and his contribution to a participatory style of worship that slipped on wings of song through the back doors of even many avowedly noncharismatic churches. In later years, he saw certain groups in his Vineyard movement splinter off into unfortunate extremes. This, says Kevin Springer, a pastor and coauthor with Wimber of Power Healing and Power Evangelism, was largely due to his ministry philosophy of "Let the bush grow and then trim it." Under his leadership the Vineyard churches multiplied to more than 750 fellowships worldwide.
Perhaps Wimber's greatest impact, however, was in reminding the larger evangelical community that certain "Pentecostal emphases" could also be found in the Bible. "He raised the level of expectation of divine action in the life of the church," says J. I. Packer of Regent College, who at times took issue with points in Wimber's teaching. Wayne Grudem, author of The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today, notes, "He continually talked about the ways we could recognize the Holy Spirit when he manifested himself in people's lives."
Such talk, of course, unsettled those ...1