The Vineyard Movement: A Brief History

In one sense, the Vineyard Movement was born out of repentance. In 1976, Carol Wimber began to develop an insatiable hunger for God. She saw her own religious expertise and opinions in the light of his truth and began to seek him. Carol retreated to her bedroom for weeks on end, weeping, repenting, and crying out to God. Soon she left her place of hiding and sought those who she had wronged through harsh and misdirected instruction. Not long afterward, many of these people began to meet together to worship God and pray. This small group seemed innocent enough, but God had given Carol a vision that these people would one day be a mighty church.

As this small fellowship began to grow, their home church became alarmed and the growing group was asked and blessed to leave. Knowing only that they had a new heart for God, they decided to make an organizational effort to begin formal services and on Mother’s Day, 1977, Bob Fulton led the first meeting in Yorba Linda. Soon Carol’s husband, John, resigned his position at Fuller Evangelistic Association to lead the fellowship. By 1978 their first facility was too small, and the group began meeting at a Junior High School.

Early on the church became part of the Calvary Chapel system. It was a young church then, with the median age around 23. Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda, as they were then called, began to develop a reputation as being a church that was a little “out of control.” God had already instilled within them the priority of worship. As worship songs were sung, sometimes for an hour, people wept, raised their hands and knelt on the floor. Not only was worship slightly outside the norm, but soon the church began to experience God’s supernatural power. It became evident that the church was going in a different direction than the Calvary Chapel philosophy. They made an amicable change to the name Vineyard Christian Fellowship, the name used by a small group of churches originally started by Kenn Gulliksen.

The church at this time began to grow in an astounding way. God began gifting them with evangelism. During 1978-79 approximately 1,000 people were baptized and by the time they moved to Anaheim in late 1983 they had already filled their new facility with 2,000 people. As Anaheim became their home, the priority of sending began to take effect.

What began as a small group of 15 people was truly becoming a movement as the few initial Vineyard churches quickly began to multiply first on the west coast of the U.S. then across the country, into Canada, England and eventually throughout the world. Since that time the movement has grown and matured. In 1995, Canada was the first nation to be released to their own National Association followed by England in the spring of 1996. This marked the beginning of a new stage of development in the Vineyard: the forming of a consortium of nations joined together by God for the common purpose of extending the kingdom of God in every nation. There are now 11 AVC’s (Association of Vineyard Churches) around the globe with many more to be released over the next years.

The central ingredient in experiencing this favour in the past and present is also the key to the future: a hunger for God that was nurtured in Carol’s heart in the privacy of her bedroom. If we will keep that focus as our primary concern we can be assured of his continued mercy and blessing.

Vineyard Canada

The first Vineyard in Canada began on the west coast in a suburb of Vancouver called Langley. In the fall of 1984, approximately thirty adults were blessed and released by an independent church to plant a new church in Langley. It was clear to the leadership team of this new church that God had implanted the Vineyard vision in their hearts and that was confirmed in John Wimber’s as well. As a result the first Canadian Vineyard emerged in January of 1985. Within a year, a second Vineyard was established in the Vancouver area and the movement had begun.

Within a few years more Vineyards began to spring up across the country first in Southern Ontario then Atlantic Canada and then the Prairie provinces. By the time of the release of the Association of Vineyard Churches Canada in the summer of 1995 and the appointment of Gary and Joy Best as National Director of Canada, there had been 50 Vineyards established across the country.

We believe that there is a particular call upon the Canadian Vineyard to be a model of the mosaic of diversity within unity that Jesus desires to establish in his church. In spite of the challenges of distance and regional diversity, the Vineyard in Canada has been marked by a developing and encouraging unity and teamwork both within and across geographic areas. We also eagerly desire to share resources and strengthen one another.

As is the case with all Vineyards, we are committed to a vision of multiplying mission-focused communities within Canada so that we can play our part in the larger body of Christ in making disciples throughout our country. In response to God’s call, we are enjoying increased participation in Christ’s mission around the world as we go into many nations with the Good News of the reign of God.

As of 2014, David and Anita Ruis now serve as the National Directors of Vineyard Canada, giving leadership and vision to the growth and development of the Vineyard family of Churches across the nation.

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