Saturday, December 1, 2012

Carol Wimber and a Century of faith

Most of us suffer from attention deficit syndrome when it comes to God's voice and presence. We're so overstimulated, that even the most profound moment is stifled and forgotten under the layers of our helter-skelter lives, leaving a foggy numbness in our souls. Every now and then though, there are those defining moments when God arrests our attention with compelling clarity. I had one of those moments last week and I've not been able to shake it. I've not known how to write about it either, because it's a sensitive story, which can do more harm than good if clumsily told. Careful wisdom is needed.

I had the privilege of having coffee with Carol Wong, who was married to John Wimber and founded the Fellowship of Vineyard churches towards the end of the 1970's. John died towards the end of the 90's but by then, God's work in the Vineyard had left an indelible mark on the church worldwide - in worship, in healing and the prophetic.

Carol re-married a close family friend who had also been widowed, a number of years after John died. She and her husband Ken live in Yorba Linda. They had recently been invited to Yorba Linda Friends Church's 100th year anniversary. It's a remarkable thing to be able to celebrate a century of Gospel impact. YL Friends has an amazing record of faithfulness, extending as far as India, where they are the largest builder of schools among the Dalit caste in that nation. Like any church though, their tapestry has a few dark strands woven into the stunning pattern of their story. One of those strands was their request at the end of the 70's, that the 12 families holding a bible study in Carl Tuttle's mom's lounge best leave the church. It was a group led by John and Carol Wimber who'd begun to explore intimate worship, saturated by the presence of the Holy Spirit. (more details in Carol's book, "The way it was") It was an intoxicating time for these folks, and uncomfortable for a church more cautious about the charismatic. And so the Vineyard was planted out in fertile soil, but rather messy circumstances.

Sitting in their lounge, Ken and Carol told me how delighted they were, more than 30 years later, to be invited to YL Friends' centenary celebrations,and to be publicly honored as a movement that God had birthed and multiplied. I believe this kingdom gesture will have immense redemptive ripple effects in time to come.

But here's the comment that arrested me. Carol pauses and says,"You know, we had all the miracles but they must have done something right. They've raised amazing sons and daughters, who love and serve God."

It was a statement of honor towards YL Friends, and a humble admission that as people hungry for the power of the Spirit, we've often been guilty of valuing anointing over character. Of suddenlies over slowlies. Of converts over disciples. Of revival now over heritage next.

I don't believe we are called to ignore one at the expense of the other. An expectation of the power of God breaking in now is vital to capture the imagination of the next generation. But I wonder how differently we would live and lead if we thought, "What would this mean in a century's time?" And I wonder how differently our churches would look if we placed as much value on a lifetime of faithful plodding as we did upon one moment of power?


  1. Both will take our life's entirety to more fully express in us: That good work (our character) that God began in us, and a consistent administration of the Spirit's power working outward for His glory.

  2. I'd just finished posting up, at long last, more of our Post-Wimber testimony, when this site of yours came up. Years ago we'd been trained up in Power Evangelism, were empowered,ready to church-plant in our dangerous neighbourhood, and then the Lord severely warned us to keep our hands off as He sovereignly ushered the whole neighbourhood into our house and dealt with people Himself. We could organize nothing, but He put everything together in good order and transformed and trained folks as He showed Himself to them. Back then Kevin Springer and John Wimber were writing the 'Third Wave' and wanted us to send them our account of what followed, because it was out-of-the ordinary in moves of the Spirit going on then, and astounding..
    That was thirty years ago. We've seen what lasting fruit came of the people brought to the Lord that way, complete with the defaults. I'd say the 1/5th the Lord talks about,as being a good return, pretty much fits. A few are ministers today, some internationally. All were impacted. Lives were permanently changed. A number went their own way, but permanently marked and unable to deny His existence.
    What comment I want to make is that John's Quaker grounding has always seemed to me to be 'the elephant in the room,'and probably helps answer your question. John ministered out of a settled position with the Lord, arrived at via knowing to sit and wait upon the Lord as only the Quakers know how. He sat under it for years. That yieldedness undergirded all his teaching, all his training practices. Others didn't have this, and John never registered that lack in them, much, nor emphacized the point about himself, perhaps because it was so deep in his foundations he'd lost awareness about it. But I think it's key to knowing what matters most.
    I'm 73 and I've come to believe that that depth of knowing the Lord personally is the true depth of anyone's maturity, and produces what's right, most valuable to Him, and that lasts. I don't think we can divide into newcomers and settlers, power-impacted and the persistant plodders. To see Him is to be whelmed by Him, always more, it makes for a Moses-meekness ( teachability) all our long lives. It can fade or increase, sometimes in seasons. But seeing Him is everything, and is always becoming more. "When we see Him we shall be like Him," doesn't just apply to the afterlife. Holiness,and integrity, and our good actions, ever grow, through that sight. That state of being settled, to attend and to hear, was a major factor in John's make-up and ministry. It made for his very great obedience, - nothing could make him swerve from what he'd seen and heard of the Lord, not even church politics.
    I'm so glad the Yorba Linda fellowship has embraced their son. May we all have it said of us, as it can certainly be said of him, "They knew the Lord." The trail we leave behind will be a mercy and goodness that will have followed us all the days of our lives. It has to be enough.

    'Nuff sed.

    L. Grace