The Jesus Movement and The Vineyard

A little understood but very important chapter in American Church history is the Jesus Movement. Just as the hippie movement, which the devil staged to undermine American culture was peaking, God started a surprise — he swept tens of thousands of hippies into the Kingdom of God. A young hippie named Lonnie Frisbee was crying out to God in the desert looking for reality, and God showed up. Although God used many people in many ways during the Jesus People, Lonnie Frisbee was the Pentecostal spark. He was relentlessly evangelistic, transparent and disarming, and very anointed. He’s been written out of history because it later became clear that he struggled with homosexuality. It’s funny how we write the embarrassing out of our history.

At the same time Pentecostal pastor Chuck Smith and his wife had been praying to reach out to the hippies, and Lonnie Frisbee showed up. A powerful combination of Pastor/Teacher and Prophet/Evangelist was born, and so was the movement. The Calvary Chapel that Chuck Smith pastored exploded rapidly, not just as a church, but soon as an entire church movement. Once the church had grown, however, Smith no longer wanted the moving of gifts of the Holy Spirit in the meetings, and limited it to what thehy called an “afterglow.” Among other things, this led Frisbee to separate from Smith and see other pastures.

In time, the direction that Chuck Smith had taken the Calvary Chapel caused others to be restive as well. Kenn Gulliksen and John Wimber became leaders of small group of churches that wanted more of the Spirit. Eventually, they invited Lonnie Frisbee back from the wilderness he had been in, to work with them. On Mother’s Day 1980, after Frisbee’s talk, he called upon the Holy Spirit to come into the meeting, as he had done in the early days of the Jesus People, before He was put in the “afterglow” meeting. The result was a dramatic outpouring of the Spirit on the youth. This caused consternation among some of the elders, and when Frisbee confronted them, the Spirit hit in a powerful way there too. Frisbee was eventually sidelined due to his struggles with sin, but a wide door had been opened for the Spirit to move in this young group of churches, with Paul Wimber at the forefront.

The Vineyard was an offense to the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement of that day. It rejected the Shepherding doctrine, the Initial evidence doctrine, the prosperity doctrine, and like it’s Jesus People roots, de-emphasized outward holiness. For many Pentecostal/Charismatics it created an offense — God was pouring out his Spirit among a group of people that rejected their distinctive doctrines. For evangelicals, however, the Vineyard was the perfect doorway. A Bible oriented former seminary instructor from a Bible oriented movement was opening up the Spirit that without the other baggage that makes evangelicals cringe.

Around 1989, the Vineyard became aligned with the “Kansas City Prophets,” leading to a dynamic combination that shook the world. Now, inside of the Spirit-filled, yet evangelical vehicle, was a group of extremely gifted prophetic ministers. Not since the 1950’s and William Branham had prophecy had such a major voice and impact on the future of the church. One Anglican Minister named David Pytches was so impacted that he wrote a book called “Some Said it Thundered.” Cessationist seminary professor Jack Deere was swept into the movement and wrote the incredibly powerful “Surprised by the Power of the Spirit” when he met Wimber, and “Surprised by the Voice of God” when he met Paul Cain. At the same time, the old Pentecostal order was crumbling. The Shepherding Movement had been discredited, and the prosperity doctrine had taken a major hit with the fall of Jim Bakker. The eyes of the Charismatic world were on the Vineyard.

Ultimately, Wimber and the Vineyard distanced themselves from the Prophets. The seeds had been sown however for a new expression. God began to pour His Spirit out at the The Toronto Vineyard. The Toronto group was ultimately also disfellowshipped by Wimber as well for the excessive “dog barking” behavior. While I believe Wimber had just cause for both of these splits, the net result was that Apostolic gift of Wimber and the prophetic power were separated, and both suffered. Toronto became increasingly chaotic, and the Vineyard became generally more conservative toward the gifts.

The Toronto Movement was in many ways the culmination of the Jesus Movement of 25 years earlier. Toronto, led to Brownsville, which became a major force for renewal of Pentecostals worldwide, reshaping especially the Assemblies of God but others as well.

When we look back at all of this history, it raised many difficult questions, which ultimately lead many to conclude that none of it was from God. Instead of understanding that the “wheat grows up with the tares” some are quick to label everything Charismatic as not of God because of the problematic aspects. I believe these problematic aspects crop up precisely because we attempt to move more deeply in touch with God. A healthy functioning of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in and out of the church is very damaging to Satan’s Kingdom, so he must either convince us that we can’t move in them, or he must pollute our use of them so that it is not healthy. I for one will never be deterred by the errors and excesses of others from pursuing the real and deep touch of the Holy Spirit which we all need to live. If anything the stories like Frisbee, Toronto, and Paul Cain, show that God can use anyone who is willing.

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  1. I think we all owe a debt of gratitude to John Wimber and Vinyard, In many ways they were the trail blazers of what Father wanted to do in your time and in our generation(s).

    But praise Father and Jesus even more for sending the Holy Spirit to do His work amongst us!

  2. Thank you brother Will for a beautifully balanced, clear and simple to understand presentation of Christ’s recent history of His Holy Spirit’s work of renewal and reviving His Body. Thank you too for ” telling it like it is.”
    This teaching is encouraging to this chief of sinners….
    ” To God be the glory great things He has done…”
    Gods richest blessings be upon your life as you minister Christ to your family,His body and those not yet in Him!

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