What Ever Happened to the Vineyard?

In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s’, the Vineyard denomination/movement was extremely popular and got international attention . . . regularly.

John Wimber was a powerful leader. And as with all influencers whom God uses, Wimber was venerated and vilified (by fellow Christians, mind you!).

During the 90s, the Vineyard had some of the most anointed musicians in the world. The worship music they produced was peerless.

However, when Wimber passed on, Carl Tuttle and Todd Hunter became key figures in the movement.

Today, Hunter is an Anglican priest and I don’t know if Tuttle is even in ministry anymore.

Mike Bickle (who used to be part of the Vineyard) left the movement many years ago. The same with John Arnott, Paul Cain, Bob Jones, James Ryle, and many others.

Over the last decade, I’ve not heard a peep about the Vineyard. It seems they’ve vanished from the radar of the Christian world.

I’m aware that Vineyard churches still exist . . . but it seems they don’t have anywhere the influence and popularity they once did. And I’m not sure if they ever got up to 2,000 churches – a goal they set in the 90s.

Question: what happened to the Vineyard and why?

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  • http://www.beingfilled.com/ Chuck McKnight

    There’s a Vineyard church right down the road from me. I pass their building pretty often. I don’t really know much of anything about them though.

  • Mitch Odom

    I agree the Vineyard is not as visible as it once was, but it does remain influential – just not in a tangible way. Many Vineyard churches have left the Vineyard movement (yet they are still Vineyard like) and many non-Vineyard churches have taken on a Vineyard flavor.
    Much of the new music goes unrecognized because it does not carry the Vineyard label out loud as it once did. Examples are Ryan Delmore, Neverclaim, Cultivation Generation and Violet Burning.
    By the use of the term “blip”, I think the Vineyard has still has a huge influence on the evangelical church at large, but no longer as an internal movement – so we could be playing perspective semantics here. Many Vineyards identify more locally as church, than they do with the movement as a whole. Because of it, they are less visible nationally.
    While I am no longer in the Vineyard, some of it’s influences remain strong within me and affect how I lead, worship and teach.
    In my own state, there is only one Vineyard church left that I am aware of. Someone stated above that the number of identifying churches in the US was 550. If my memory serves me correctly, there were about 750 when our church left the movement in 2003 or 04.

  • Mark Edward

    Typo: ‘I moved to a location where a Vineyard church is *not* within a thirty minute drive’.

  • Mark Edward

    At least for the two Vineyard churches I was involved with, your last sentence could not be further from the truth. The first specifically has a recurring class about prophecy (i.e. learning how to listen for God’s voice and apply what he says), and has a weekly night of worship (as in, just worship, no sermon). The latter is extremely focused on getting its people to express their faith both inwardly (getting involved with a home group for fellowship, worship, prayer, teaching, meals, etc.) and outwardly (getting involved with social outreach).

    I don’t attend either of them anymore (I moved to a location where a Vineyard church is within a thirty minute drive), but friends from the latter (Sugar Land Vineyard) have also told me that in recent months the pastors have deconstructed their various ministries so that they can make sure the ‘lay people’ (in my friends’ words) are involved and in charge of what is going on.

    While the emphases are different between the two, the point is that at least these two Vineyard churches make it abundantly clear the Church is /not/ an institution, and that the pastors are /not/ a special priestly order. People are called to participate and lead in various functions, spread outward, not top down.

  • Mark Edward

    The national website says they have 550 churches in the US, and more than 1500 total.

  • Mark Edward

    I was involved (and still stay in touch with) two Vineyard churches, including two years as a part of the Sugar Land Vineyard, right across the street from the HQ. Sweet Jesus, I loved that church, and miss them immensely. The pastors loved to minister to the people, both in groups and individually, social outreach is neverending, and one of their biggest emphases for people is to join one of their home groups.

    (I only just recently got your book ‘Pagan Christianity?’, by the way, and the home group my wife and I were in was extremely close to the picture of early Christianity you paint for the reader.)

    I have no idea about Vineyard on a national level. But I can honestly say on behalf of two Vineyard churches, the have an incredible positive influence on the local community.

  • http://wordhavering.wordpress.com Mike Freeman

    Excellent question, Frank! I’ve been part of the Vineyard movement for going on 16 years, nine of those being a staff pastor. That being said, I haven’t had too much exposure to the movement on a national or international level – but I’ve heard plenty of processing by those who do. I think there has been much soul searching within the movement overall. The past few years have been something of period of transition with a new USA director – but the question remains, transition to what? Time will tell. I can speak for the local Vineyard fellowship I’ve shared in, which is actually one of the larger Vineyards here in the Northwest. We embody a thriving ministry to the poor and are currently pursuing new outreach opportunities in Nicaragua that are drawing in other Vineyards as well, among other things. I would say we are quietly continuing to pursue the work of the kingdom of God locally and abroad as the Father leads. As to the question of the number of Vineyard church plants, I believe that there is still a ways to go as far as the 2,000 number. My understanding is that the number of Vineyards nationally and internationally has remained level for some time now. And as to music, when we came to Vineyard in 1997, the Vineyard was surging with creativity on the music scene. That definitely seems to have waned in recent years. At least in our own neck of the woods everyone seems to be listening and moving to the rhythms of Kim Walker-Smith and Jesus Culture. The vibe of Jesus Culture actually takes me back to the feel of the Vineyard in the late 90’s. I don’t know who in the Vineyard movement currently has the popular dynamic and visibility that Wimber did. Perhaps this is not unique with most movements as they “take the best and go” forward as Wimber always said.
    I suppose none of us can determine when and how and if we will be “movers and shakers” on the religious scene, nor, I would say, should that be the goal for any of us. I’m just thankful, after spending decades in a rather confining and inactive evangelical church, for finding a grace and Spirit-filled place to pursue God and “do the stuff” as Wimber put it, and to raise a family with abundant opportunities to put hands and feet to faith. If the kingdom of God is like yeast quietly spreading through the whole batch of dough, perhaps it’s a good thing to be thought silent. As they say, keep your eye on the quiet ones. “He will not cry nor lift up his voice in the streets…until he sends forth justice to victory.” :)

  • Josh

    Check out Vineyard Columbus and the pastor Rich Nathan. That church has a lot going on with growth (around 14,000), church planting, and international church planting teams. Rich also co-wrote Empowered Evangelicals, which was a phenominal book and he’s writing another now. He is an outstanding preacher.

    They also had some great stuff going on with worship music when I was there back in 2008-2009. You can check out one song at the link below but to my understanding that effort was shelved when the Worship pastor left.

    http://youtu.be/Tec2ictr7pc

  • http://wordsarelonely.com Derek

    I know several that were formally involved with the Vineyard church who have left to pursue local, simple and organic church. I also know several that have left the Vineyard to pursue Anglicanism or charismatic ministries with no affiliation. The majority of the Vineyard churches I am aware of in the South East are shrinking in size, are no longer existent or have transitioned into other forms of christian denominationalism or pseudo non-denominationalism.

    I know that many have testified that John Wimber had a great affinity for the local church and desired to see an expression of the Body that was healthy and fully devoted to Jesus. I find it interesting that some have mentioned that one of his favorite books was Rolland Allen’s work “The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church”. If that was true it would indicate Wimber was challenged with the same convictions that Rolland Allen had at the end of his ministry. I wonder if John felt that he held true to the ministry that he was assigned. The Vineyard movement by no means embodied local church fully, it was ultimately limited by organizational structure that prioritized certain teaching and methods instead of Jesus alone. Yet the Vineyard stirred the waters for many, including myself, who are seeking to be the body who is fully devoted to Jesus as Head, King and Groom.

  • Nathanael Snow

    Also, I hear the Violet Burning has a new album out. I think they were Vineyard-based.

  • Frank Viola

    Yes. Who — if anyone — took the place of Wimber . . . meaning, who is now the most visible person in and for the movement?

  • Frank Viola

    I agree that their influence mostly seems to be one of an enduring one from the past.

  • Frank Viola

    Not sure what you mean by the “blip” comment, the post was simply saying they aren’t as visible and influential as they once were. In addition, I haven’t heard/seen anything by/from them in a very long time (I’m well connected with what’s happening in Christianity in the USA). It may be that most of the attention and visibility is happening overseas. Do you have any albums or songs you suggest as being “the best” the they have written since the 90s?

    Anyone know how many churches they have in the USA and overseas these days?

  • Nathanael Snow

    This is funny, because just this weekend I was recommending Vineyard to a couple moving to the NorthEast. They were looking for something with a hint of the charismatic, but with the old understanding of “Biblically based” and were interested in AOG.
    I never was a regular at Vineyard, but was part of Calvary Chapel for years (before I changed my eschatalogical perspective).
    Maybe Vineyard has moved aside as the Toronto leadership has gotten involved with Greg Boyd a little, and with the folks involved with Heidi Baker. Also, some folks probably went to Sovereign Grace, and they’ve had their own issues.
    I’m interested to hear what others have to say about where Vineyard went, and what they are doing.
    It seems there may have been a shift from the prophetic to the priestly order within their activities, often a move toward institutionalism and away from the Spirit.

  • Mitch Odom

    This article treats the Vineyard as if it is a blip on the screen when in fact the Vineyard remains viable and is growing – just in a different way (in many ways more mature). Carl Tuttle is “in” ministry, doing a lot of ministry work in California and the UK. Yes, Todd is an Anglican these days, but research any movement and you will find many of their leaders have gone in various directions. Part of this is due to becoming caught up in the excitement of the movement itself. Personally I am no longer in the Vineyard movement either. With that said, the worship music now coming out of the Vineyard is some of the best they have written and produced since the 80s-90s. And yes, some of their older stuff is making a comeback within Vineyard circles.

  • Evelyn

    PS: another way of saying this is that Wimber created a situation in which people could become hyphenated charismatics: charismatic Anglican, charismatic Presbyterian etc rather than being a ‘full on’ Pentecostal, if that makes sense. Vineyard has in a sense been incorporated into other denominations. And the music lives on :-)

  • Evelyn

    Their significance shifted from being a well-known denomination to being an often unrecognized powerful influence on other denominations – particularly in bringing a charismatic element / understanding / openness to those who are not ‘naturally charismatic’. The most obvious example is their influence on HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton, home of ALPHA).


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