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vineyard church history

The Association of Vineyard Churches is one of the fastest growing church-planting movements in the world. The Vineyard story is about ordinary people who worship and serve an extraordinary God. The Vineyard is simply one thread in the rich tapestry of the historic and global Church of Jesus Christ. But it is a thread of God’s weaving.

From the beginning, Vineyard pastors and leaders have sought to hold in tension the biblical doctrines of the Christian faith with an ardent pursuit of the present day work of the Spirit of God. Maintaining that balance is never easy in the midst of rapid growth and renewal.

John Wimber was a founding leader of the Vineyard. His influence profoundly shaped the theology and practice of Vineyard churches from their earliest days until his death in November 1997. When John was conscripted by God he was, in the words of Christianity Today, a "beer-guzzling, drug-abusing pop musician, who was converted at the age of 29 while chain-smoking his way through a Quaker-led Bible study" (Christianity Today, editorial, Feb. 9 1998).

In John's first decade as a Christian he led hundreds of people to Christ. By 1970 he was leading 11 Bible studies that involved more than 500 people. Under God’s grace, John became so fruitful as an evangelical pastor he was asked to lead the Charles E. Fuller Institute of Evangelism and Church Growth. He also later became an adjunct instructor at Fuller Theological Seminary where his classes set attendance records. In 1977, John reentered pastoral ministry to plant Calvary Chapel of Yorba.

Throughout this time, John’s conservative evangelical paradigm for understanding the ministry of the church began to grow. George Eldon Ladd’s theological writings on the kingdom of God convinced John intellectually that the all the biblical gifts of the Holy Spirit should be active in the church. Encounters with Fuller missiologists Donald McGavaran and C. Peter Wagner and seasoned missionaries and international students gave him credible evidence for combining evangelism with healing and prophecy. As he became more convinced of God's desire to be active in the world through all the biblical gifts of the Spirit, John began to teach and train his church to imitate Jesus’ full-orbed kingdom ministry. He began to ‘do the stuff’ of the Bible that he had formerly only read about.

As John and his congregation sought God in intimate worship they experienced empowerment by the Holy Spirit, significant renewal in the gifts and conversion growth. It became clear that the church’s emphasis on the experience of the Holy Spirit was not shared by some leaders in the Calvary Chapel movement. In 1982, John's church left Calvary Chapel and joined a small group of Vineyard churches. Vineyard was a name chosen by Kenn Gulliksen, a prolific church planter affiliated with Calvary Chapel, for a church he planted in Los Angeles in 1974. Pastors and leaders from the handful of Vineyard churches began looking to John for direction. And the Vineyard movement was born.

Twenty years later, there are more than 850 Vineyard churches worldwide, an international church planting movement, a publishing house and a music production company. Vineyard worship songs have helped thousands of churches experience intimacy with God. Many churches have been equipped to continue Jesus' ministry of proclaiming the kingdom, healing the sick, casting out demons and training disciples.

The Vineyard's journey has not been a straight path. It winds through many trials and triumphs. If interested in more, we recommend Bill Jackson's book, "The Quest for the Radical Middle." This readable history explores the events, issues and people who shaped the Vineyard in its first two decades.

In January 1996 a house group Bible study in Hyde Park formed out of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Evanston. This house group was mainly comprised of college students from the University of Chicago. Through answered prayer Rand Tucker (founding and current senior pastor) met this group and joined the house group in October 1996. God made it clear to all that a new Vineyard church should be started in Hyde Park.

After a long season of prayer and planning, the first Sneak Preview Service of the Hyde Park Vineyard Church was held on October 5, 1997. God’s blessing was present and the timing seemed right, so the group hosted its first Sunday Morning Gathering on January 11, 1998. Eighty-five people crowded into a small room at the Hyde Park Neighborhood Club. Although some of those present were just there for moral support, the church had a strong base of 65 people who stayed with the church.

From the very beginning of the church, however, the emphasis of the Hyde Park Vineyard Church has not been on the number of people who attend its programs; rather, we see ourselves as a missional community set apart for God’s purposes. We believe that “God’s mission through the Hyde Park Vineyard is to produce world changers and world changing churches who are 100% devoted to Jesus and each other and others in the world.” Almost all of those who helped start the church have moved to new cities, started new careers, and joined new churches, but the fruitfulness of God’s ministry through this church continues to multiply through both the lives of our alumni and our current members.

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