Reading John Wimber’s Power Evangelism

 I’m reading this book twenty years after it was the big thing. I remember my dad had it on his shelf; as a child I was confused by the flowers on the front, which are, of course, fireworks. I don’t know that my dad took much of it on board, but it was on our bookshelf for many years before one of my mum’s book culls.

The book doesn’t answer either of the issues that I thought were the burning faith questions for me (atrocities in the Old Testament and the delayed return of Christ). So I don’t know why I started reading it. But as I’ve been reading I’ve felt a sense that this is the right book for me to be reading right now. It’s a joyful excitement, a buzz that Wimber is onto something here.

(This has happened before: once I went to see Ian Packer while I was in the grip of doubt over the Old Testament. For some prophetic reason, he started talking about an unrelated topic – eschatology, the new heavens, new earth stuff – and it was exactly the word I needed to hear. I came away renewed even though the questions I had weren’t answered.)

From the first few chapters, my understanding so far is that Wimber is saying that the most effective evangelism is preceded by signs and wonders – healings, prophetic words, encounters with the Holy Spirit – which overcome people’s obstacles to believing in a way that years of rational argument might not.

His argument makes sense of something that has troubled me for years – the amount of space given over in the gospels to Jesus healing people. He says that of 3779 verses in the four gospels, 727 relate to healing – 19%. It was a huge part of Jesus’ ministry and the apostles’ ministry, but not how much of contemporary Christian mission happens.

Having said this, I’m suspicious of healing services and much pentecostalism. I can see all the dangers that Sydney Anglicans and conservative Baptists would warn us of. (You don’t really need me to go into that. You know, I know, let’s just leave it at that.) Even if what Wimber is saying is true, I think that true ‘power evangelism’ is rare. I want to see it happen, but I want it to be genuine and a lasting way of life.

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8 thoughts on “Reading John Wimber’s Power Evangelism

  1. Signs, wonders, healings!! Having come out of the Vineyard movement and experiencing some of the above, I now have an opportunity to view is with some detachment. I have experienced miraculous healings, however, the key to all this is prayer. Many go after the miraculous, see it but in reaching out to grasp it lose sight that the foundation of any Kingdom work is prayer. Pray, pray Pray! and if God wants to bless you with signs, wonders, power, healings, conversions or any other gifts of the spirit, it will happen. I have seen some Vineyards and indeed other charismatic churches lose there way as they sought after the exciting/miraculous and forgot about the foundations of prayer and the Word. Yes it is real, it does work however it is just one peice of the kingdom puzzle.

  2. Nathan, this is a dang hard thing to pin down. Jesus told us to pray “your kingdom come, your will be done”. If the kingdom is being prayed for and is indeed here (in mystery)then we will experience signs of it being present. This may be healings, repentance, conversion etc but thats really God’s business. He will give us what we need and sometimes out of His mercy throw in some “presents”. I know this ain’t good theology but it is how i’ve experienced it in a number of settings. If you pray, and pray biblically there will be results, kingdom results and sometimes they will be signs and wonders.

  3. Grizzle, sounds like good theology to me. ‘God’s there, but don’t expect to him to behave how you expect?’ I think I’m close to you in thinking, if not experience.

  4. Hello
    Have found fascinating article vaguely related to this topic. Its an interview with the late John White

  5. Thanks for the link – it’s an interesting interview. I wish I had the experience of the Spirit that John White has had all his life, even when he wasn’t a Charismatic.

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