The Third Wave And The Third World

The Third Wave And The Third World

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PNEUMA 37 (2015) 177–200

The Third Wave and the Third World C. Peter Wagner, John Wimber, and the Pedagogy of Global Renewal in the Late Twentieth Century*

Jon Bialecki

University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Scotland


While a great deal of social science literature has examined the explosion of pente- costal and charismatic Christianity in the Global South as well as conservative and anti-modern forms of resurgent Christianity in the United States, little work has been done to investigate the causal effects of the former on the latter. Drawing from exist- ing literature, interviews, and archives, this article contributes to filling that gap by arguing that in the mid-twentieth century, evangelical missionary concerns about com- petition from global Pentecostalism led to an intellectual crisis at the Fuller School of World Missions; this crisis in turn influenced important Third Wave figuressuch as John Wimber and C. Peter Wagner and is linked to key moments and developments in their thought and pedagogy.


C. Peter Wagner – Church Growth – Fuller School of World Missions – global Pente- costalism – John Wimber – pedagogy

* In addition to the print and archive sources listed below, this material is drawn from confi-

dential interviews with people associated both with The Vineyard and the Fuller School of

World Missions/School of Intercultural Studies; I thank them for their generosity. I also wish

to thank the librarians and archivists at the Regent University Library for all the assistance

rendered to me when I was researching in the John Wimber Collection. An earlier version of

this talk was presented to the University of Edinburgh Centre for the Study of World Chris-

tianity Seminar Series. Drafts of this paper benefited from comments by Amos Yong, Caleb

Maskell, and two anonymous peer reviewers; all errors and insufficiencies are of course mine


© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2015 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03702001




This essay argues that a crisis in evangelical missiology resulted from the rapid growth of Pentecostalism worldwide and that this crisis had important effects on the thought and pedagogy of several important American charismatic fig- ures, including John Wimber (a leading figure in the Vineyard Christian Fel- lowship) and C. Peter Wagner (a noted charismatic educator and author). Fur- thermore, this article also argues that through Wagner and Wimber this crisis resulted in an “instrumentalization” of charismata in the early Vineyard and in a shift from a quantitative imaginary to a qualitative imaginary in segments of the American Church Growth movement. Part of the stakes in this argu- ment arise from the influence of these two figures; however, part of the possible relevance of this argument comes from the fact that it is relatively rare for academics to consider the influence of global Christianity on the charismatic renewal movements of the 1980s and 1990s.

This is unfortunate. Of all the world-historical shifts that have occurred in the last one hundred years, without doubt among the most important have been the shifts in the global distribution, numbers, forms, and intensities of Christianity in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. This has, at least in part, taken the form of the exponential growth of the pentecostal and charis- matic versions of Christianity in Africa, Latin America, and Oceania, which has brought about both a demographic and an intellectual shift in the locus of Christianity from Europe and America to the so-called Global South (previ- ously known as the Third World).1

It is usual, in discussing these forms of Christianity, to contrast their growth and intellectual influence with the demographic loss and secularization that has occurred in the previous Christian centers of concentration in western Europe and Anglophone North America.2

Secularization, however understood, has not been a uniform process. Soci- ological evidence indicates that while some religious forms have been waning, until quite recently more “conservative” forms of Christianity have fared better and had even tended to grow, although this growth may have recently topped out in America. I am careful about the term conservative here, because I want to be clear that these resurgent forms of American religiosity under discussion are not conservative in the Burkean sense of the word. In the United States, for

1 See generally Joel Robbins, “The Globalization of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity,”

Annual Review of Anthropology 33 (2004): 117–143; Philip Jenkins, The Next Christendom: The

Coming of Global Christianity(New York: Oxford University Press, 2002).

2 These generalizations are particularly the case in my discipline of anthropology; for reasons

of competency and comity, anthropology will be the primary (though not the exclusive) focus

of my discussion of the literature.

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instance, these avowedly anti-modern forms of Christianity have been quite innovative at the levels of technology, practice, aesthetics, and theology, and these innovations have been at times quite important.3

A good example of this innovation is the “Third Wave,” an American charis- matic revival movement that started in the late twentieth century. The term Third Wave is used to suggest that this form of pentecostal-infused evangelical Christianity, which consists of post-denominational charismatically affiliated churches, is a successor to the two “previous” “waves of the Spirit”: Pentecostal- ism in the early twentieth century and the mid-century charismatic move- ments that occurred in the various established denominations. Unfortunately the term is misleading, since it tends to portray these other Christian forms as living fossils; and it is questionable whether terms of more recent coinage, such as the “New Apostolic Reformation” or “Apostolic Networks,” are any better.

A specific illustration is the Vineyard, which, having originated in Southern California, is now an international church planting movement. When the Vine- yard discusses its “distinctives” it focuses on being “culturally current,” that is, it eschews what it sees as “religious” forms and instead prefers speech, pre- sentation, and worship that are more in harmony with contemporary cultural and aesthetic norms. Vineyard praise music, for example, borrows heavily from various popular music genres. More telling of innovation, the Vineyard also presents itself as “empowered evangelicals” or as part of the “radical middle.”4 Both of these rather gnomic terms indicate that the Vineyard understands itself to be a mix of evangelical theology on one hand and pentecostal supernatural practices, such as speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy, on the other. This may seem to be an unstable compound, and the fractious history of the Vine- yard suggests that it is, but for many Vineyard believers, particularly long-term

3 On theologically conservative American Protestantism as ideologically anti-modern while

still adopting modern technologies and organizational templates, see Bruce Lawrence, De-

fenders of God: The Fundamentalist Revolt Against the Modern Age (Columbia, sc: University

of South Carolina Press, 1995); Susan Friend Harding, The Book of Jerry Falwell: Fundamen-

talist Language and Politics (Princeton, nj: Princeton University Press, 2000). This literature

primarily addresses forms of Fundamentalism and Conservative Evangelicalism; in contrast,

R.G. Robin has argued that certain strains of early Pentecostalism could be characterized as

displaying a folk-modernity; that characterization seems to be in part based on the utilitar-

ian use of modernist modes of organization, however. R.G. Robins, A.J. Tomlinson: Plainfolk

Modernist (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

4 Rich Nathan and Ken Wilson, Empowered Evangelicals: Bringing Together the Best of the

Evangelical and Charismatic Worlds(Ann Arbor,mi: Vine Books, 1995); Bill Jackson,The Quest

for the Radical Middle: A History of the Vineyard (Cape Town: Vineyard International, 1999).

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veterans and leadership, this instability is a feature and not a bug; it makes their religious practice seem exciting and perhaps a little dangerous.

Both this sense of danger and the idea of the Vineyard as a hybrid object are an inheritance from John Wimber. Wimber was, at different times, both the founding director of the Department of Church Growth at the Fuller Institute of Evangelicalism and Church Growth and a session player for the Righteous Brothers. He led the Vineyard from 1982until his death in 1997;it wasduring this period that the Vineyard experienced its greatest growth, and this was also the time when its reputation as a charismatic renewal movement was cemented.

The Vineyard has had respectable growth; it has expanded from thirteen churches when Wimber started stewarding the movement to its present state of 1,500 churches globally, with about 590 churches in the United States and more than one hundred churches in the uk.5 More than for its growth, how- ever, the Vineyard has been lauded for its influence; it has been described as being responsible for the “Californianization” of American Evangelicalism, as being part of a “second reformation” that has resulted in a new, experientially centered Protestantism, and as one of the “way-stations on [the] transnational rails” that are responsible for the global propagation of neo-charismatic and pentecostal Christianity.6

This last descriptor is interesting, because it brings up a common omission in the literature. By and large little has been written about the simultaneous rise of what we might call “global Pentecostalism” on one hand, and of anti-modern forms of American Protestant and post-Protestant Christianity on the other. When this phenomenon is addressed, at least in the field of anthropology, it is usually as the effect of ideational material and financial support from western and often American forms of Christianity to global pentecostal-charismatic Christianity;7when the effect of global pentecostal-charismatic Christianity on western and North American Christianity is considered, it is usually either as part of diasporic movements or expatriate churches opening in the West (for instance, in the vast literature on Ghanian and Nigerian churches in Europe and the United Kingdom).

5 Thomas Higgins, “Kenn Gulliksen, John Wimber, and the Founding of the Vineyard Move-

ment,”Pneuma34 (2012): 208–228.

6 Mark Shibley, Resurgent Evangelicalism in the United States: Mapping Cultural Change since

1970 (Columbia, sc: University of South Carolina Press, 1996); Donald Miller, Reinventing

American Protestantism: Christianityin the New Millennium(Berkeley: University of California

Press, 1997); David Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish (Malden, ma: Blackwell

Publishers, 2002).

7 See, e.g., Steve Brouwer, Paul Gifford, and Susan D. Rose, Exporting the American Gospel:

Global Christian Fundamentalism(New York: Routledge, 1996).

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This lack of attention on the part of anthropologists to the effects of global Christianity on the West is particularly pronounced. The last decade has seen a growing interest in global Christianity as well as Christianity in Europe and America.8 That shift, however, has occurred for what is understood to be two distinct and autonomous reasons: global Christianity has become of interest to anthropology because of its growth, while resurgent anti-modern western Christianity is seen as a worthy object because of its perceived political vitality.9

There are reasons to be suspicious of this account of one-sided western influence: it is clear that in previous moments of comparable religious foment there was a much greater level of transnational integration. Historians of early Pentecostalism, and indeed early Pentecostals themselves, were well aware of the international networks traced out by late nineteenth- and early twentieth- century revivals; in contrast to the usual Topeka-to-Azusa Street folk narrative common among contemporary pentecostal believers in the United States, early twentieth-century pentecostal intellectuals such as Frank Bartleman often pos- ited different alternative peregrinations of the movement, favoring itineraries that had the spirit first transversing Wales and India instead of Topeka before alighting in Los Angeles and Azusa Street.10

Here I will present a similar international genealogy for the Vineyard, albeit one with more phase changes and one that goes through a rather narrow institutional bottleneck. Now the Vineyard tends to frame its history as a domestic revival; what is being claimed here is that both the form and the growth of the Vineyard were catalyzed by a crisis in American evangelical missiology that is directly traceable to the growth of Christianity in the Global South. This crisis gave rise to an attempt by American Evangelicals to capture what they would categorize as pentecostal supernatural powers and to use these powers for what they understood as godly but yet technocratic ends: as another instrument in the set of tools that was programmatically offered by the self-styled social science of American Church Growth. This, I will argue, not only gave rise to the Vineyard, but it also mutated segments of the Church Growth movement so much that it became something else entirely.




See Jon Bialecki, Naomi Haynes, and Joel Robbins, “The Anthropology of Christianity,” Religion Compass2 (2008): 1139–1158.

For a rare exception in anthropology, see Kevin Lewis O’Neill, City of God: Christian Citizenship in Postwar Guatemala (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010), which discusses the mutually beneficial interactions between pentecostal megachurch pastors in both the developed and the developing worlds.

Frank Bartleman, Azusa Street (Plainfield,nj: Logos International, 1980).

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“Look Out! The Pentecostals are Coming!”

Scholars writing on the Vineyard treat it is as a domestic affair, a revival that fell from the sky in a hermetically sealed Protestant America. Three scholarly works offer accounts that have been beneficial in documenting this quickly growing movement. To differing degrees, however, they focus on the Vineyard only in so far as it responded to, catalyzed, or caused transformations within white evangelical culture within the United States; when the forces that brought the Vineyard into being are explored in the context of any larger socio-historical phenomena, they are regarded primarily as intertwined with changes in the broader Anglophone culture.

Tanya Luhrmann’s When God Talks Back is chiefly an ethnographic account of the modes of self-discipline that allow Vineyard believers to have a sense of God as both a sensory presence and a perceived interlocutor.11The author does, however, take up history as well, tracing this underlying desire for immediacy back to the Jesus People movement of the 1960s; this, Timothy Jenkins has recently stated, “on its own is a valuable contribution to the study of Protestant Christianity.”12

Similarly, Donald Miller’s Reinventing American Protestantism also depicts the Vineyard as basically a sequel to the 1960s Jesus People movement and an iteration of a larger postmodern American Protestantism.13 What sets the Vineyard apart in Miller’s account was its transformation by Wimber’s exper- tise as a Fuller “church growth consultant” and by his interest in more charis- matic Christianity and divine healing. Miller regards the Vineyard as a new turn resulting from a post-1960s rejection of hierarchical religion and, simultane- ously, as another repetition of the cycle of denominational growth and decay that (following Fink and Starke) Miller sees as central to the religious history of North America.14To the degree that any region outside the United States exists





T.M. Luhrmann, When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relation- ship with God (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012).

Timothy Jenkins, “‘Religious Experience’ and the Contribution of Theology in Tanya Luhrmann’sWhen God Talks Back,”hau: Journal of Ethnographic Theory3 (2014): 369–373. Miller, American Protestantism; see also his account of the post-Wimber period in Daniel Miller, “Routinizing Charisma: The Vineyard Christian Fellowship in the Post-Wimber Era,” inChurch, Identity, and Change: Theology and Denominational Structures in Unsettled Times, ed. David A. Roozen and James R. Nieman (Grand Rapids, mi: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005).

Roger Finke and Rodney Stark, The Churching of America, 1776–1990: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy(New Brunswick,nj: Rutgers University Press, 1992).

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at all for Miller, it is not as a causal factor but either as a missions field for these movements or as parallel examples of theologically conservative, experientially centered religiosity occurring in other geographical domains.

Bill Jackson’s whig history of the Vineyard, The Quest for the Radical Middle, is centered on the particularities of the Vineyard and, unlike Luhrmann and Miller, does not attempt to depict the movement as another token of a larger abstract type.15This leaves it more nuanced, even if it does use a larger western Christian history, and particularly an Anglo-American Christian history, as the background against which the figure of the Vineyard is made visible. Jackson’s account, however, is centered almost exclusively on John Wimber, so much so that it reads as much as a biography of Wimber as it does a church history.

What I am suggesting here, though, is that while Wimber certainly was pivotal, he was only a proximate cause. To understand the Vineyard, we must not only leave the United States but must also turn to another figure, although again nothing can be attributed solely to this person either.

C. Peter Wagner’s career trajectory will place him in the center of some of the more contentious moments of American pentecostal and charismatic Chris- tianity during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries; he could be viewed as either wandering Zelig-like into these moments or, alternatively, as mid- wifing them. More importantly, it was he who coined the two most common terms used for Vineyard-like movements: while “radical middle” and empow- ered Evangelicals are Vineyard-originated terms, it was Wagner who coined the phraseThirdWaveoftheSpiritand, a decade and a half later, the termNewApos- tolic Revivalas well.

Some current Vineyard members tend to view C. Peter Wagner as inclined slightly toward being a raconteur and a self-promoter. But there is reason to suspect that his own accounts of his days as an evangelical missionary to Bolivia may differ. There is a certain American charismatic speech-genre that is structured by early failure turning into later unforeseeable yet exemplary success; it is a way of marking the kind of transformative journey that is so central to charismatic sensibilities. But Wagner’s account of his early mission days exhibits something so raw and almost abject about the way he discusses his initial failings, and this, along with the exacting nature of the quantitative figures that he uses to demonstrate the degree to which success eluded him, lends plausibility to these claims rather than reducing them to a mere element in a genre form.



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Consider the details. By 1965, Wagner was an important figure in Bolivian evangelical missions. He was an experienced missionary who, except for a year’s furlough spent earning a Th.M. from Princeton Theological Seminary, had been working in Bolivia since 1956. When he returned to the mission field after that one-year sabbatical, his qualifications, along with an earlier master’s degree from Fuller Seminary, eased his way toward becoming head of the Bolivian Theological Educational Association and General Director of the Bolivian Indian Mission. The same qualifications also made him the ideal Bolivian partner for a series of national pastors’ conferences funded by the Los Angeles-based World Vision International.

The World Vision money was a particular boon, since it allowed the orga- nizations that Wagner served to carry out a rather ambitious national project. The money wasfolded intoan alreadyexisting Bolivia-wideprogrambeing con- ducted by the “Evangelicalism in Depth Institute” (eid), an organization that promoted intra-evangelical cooperate projects. eid had determined that 1965 would be a year for congregations to make a push for conversions such as had not occurred before in the preceding seventy years of evangelical activity in Bolivia. The rough idea was, in one coordinated and exhaustive effort, to col- lectively spend evangelical Bolivian resources entirely toward the conversion of the nation. In recalling the year, Wagner described the tone among his fellow Bolivian evangelicals as follows: “Never has there been more excitement; never had there been more unity; never had there been more public pronounce- ment of the gospel.”16 This exhaustive coordination sometime worked to the exclusion of all else: “Some Christian Bible schools even closed for the year so the students and faculty could be active in eid. The hope? Reach Bolivia for Christ!”17

The scope of this aspiration is striking. The gap between that aspiration and its achievement, however, is significant. Consider these numbers. In 1964, the year before Wagner’s push, Brazilian evangelical Protestantism grew 15 percent. The next year, during the Wagner-led concerted effort, there was a 3-percent dropin growth. This was not a permanent drop; during 1966 it rose back up to 14 percent, only to fall back down again to 11 percent the following year.18Wagner’s own project did not “reach Bolivia for Christ,” but rather caused its hand to falter for a season. Damning as these statistics are, Wagner cannot complain about them; these numbers were Wagner’s own.


17 18

C. Peter Wagner, Wrestling with Alligators, Prophets, and Theologians: Lessons from a Life- time in the Church: A Memoir (Ventura,ca: Regal, 2010), 64.

Ibid., 66.


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Wagner compiled these figures as part of a post-mortem that he put together in the early 1970s, when he was working as a professor at the Fuller School of World Missions, a newly instituted section of the larger Fuller Seminary. Wagner’s dissection of theeid“reach Bolivia for Christ” campaign not only was frank in observing how Evangelicals were fairing, but it was also forthright in identifying which group was succeeding where Wagner’s own Evangelicals had failed. And that successful group was the Pentecostals.

Wagner’s examination of pentecostal success, not just in Bolivia but in all of Latin America, was published in a 1973 monograph with the off-putting title Look Out! The Pentecostals Are Coming.19 The title, reminiscent of a Satur- day afternoon horror matinee, echoes the then-regnant American evangelical sense of otherness about Pentecostalism. The book ends up, however, with a surprising endorsement both of Latin American pentecostal success and of the tactics through which that success was achieved. Here Pentecostalism is presented not as a force with which Evangelicalism is vying but, rather, as a template that a missionary Evangelicalism should adopt. In expressing his aspirations for the book, Wagner states that “[p]rejudice has kept many non- Pentecostals from learning the valuable lessons about effective evangelicalism in Latin America that Pentecostals can teach. I pray that God will use this book to break down some of those long-standing barriers.”20

Wagner himself is quite blunt about having shared some of those prejudices when he was a missionary in Bolivia. He describes himself as being a “convinced cessationist” when he was in Bolivia, a man who would preach against a local pentecostal healing campaign held at the edges of the city because “respectable Christians met in buildings, not in vacant lots.”21Wagner also recalls telling his “people” that the pentecostal “claims of healing were false and that their true faith in God would be severely damaged if they dared to show up at one of those disreputable gatherings.”22

Regardless of his in-field prejudice, Wagner acknowledges that the growth of Pentecostalism in Latin America during the twentieth century has been one of the “success stories” for Protestant Christianity. Wagner estimates that in 1900, just one year before Agnes Ozman received the gift of tongues in Topeka, Kansas, there were only 50,000 Protestant adherents in Latin America;


20 21 22

C. Peter Wagner,Look Out! The Pentecostals Are Coming(Carol Stream,il: Creation House, 1973).

Wagner, Look Out!13.

Wagner,Wrestling, 115, 117.

Ibid., 117.

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he also estimated that by the year 2000, twenty-seven years after his book was published, Latin America would be the home for 100,000,000 Protestant believers, most of which would be pentecostal.23This was a slight overshoot: at the dawn of the new millennium there were actually an estimated 64 million Latin American Protestants. This is an impressive number, but still about 36 million short of what Wagner envisioned.

The point is not that Wagner failed in his prognostication, but rather that he was so enamored of pentecostal success that the one hundred-million mark was imaginable for him, a value he extracted from the then-current tangent of pentecostal growth. Pentecostal growth was the controlling variable here because Wagner considered Pentecostalism to be, in effect, the engine of Prot- estant growth in Latin America; Wagner estimates that at the time he was writing, nearly two-thirds of all Latin American Protestants were pentecostal, and that this condition would either continue into the future or would inten- sify. For Wagner, in Latin America at least, Protestant success was, in effect, only pentecostal success.

Wagner cites numerous reasons for this pentecostal growth. He claims that a historic tendency of Pentecostals to come from lower socioeconomic stand- ing gives pentecostal missionaries an edge in recruiting the proletarian and peasant populations who make up the majority of the region’s people. He also attributes a great deal of success to pentecostal practices of immediately inte- grating believers into the church; by contrast, he presents Evangelicals and Fundamentalists as seeing their mission completed at the moment of conver- sion, an approach that runs a higher risk of these conversions simply not taking.

Wagner also suggests that a pentecostal focus on planting new churches, rather than growing already existing churches, is important. Even the increased tendency of Pentecostalism to go through church or denominational splits is identified as a positive, since this multiplies churches, and after splits both par- ties tend to grow numerically. Wagner also credits Pentecostals with a more complete mobilization of church membership in evangelizing efforts, which works not only to increase yield but also to identify and train people whose tal- ents might make them possible pastors themselves in the future; this operation is easier to carry out if spiritual baptism and on-the-street apprenticeship train- ing can do the work that normally occurs through years of seminary education. Finally, unlike other Protestant worship services, Latin American pentecostal services are presented as being “culturally relevant,” Wagner’s term for religious material crafted to secular sensibilities and aesthetics; this is a vision of worship


Wagner, Look Out!25.

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with guitars and accordions instead of pipe organs, which, according to Wag- ner, makes pentecostal services that much more enjoyable for adherents.

The strategies that Wagner believed he identified in Latin American Pente- costalism seem to be mainly about leveraging individual attention and ener- gies, and they will also be found in the Vineyard once it comes into being. But these are all new modes of social organization that could be taken up by Evangelicals without adopting some of the core practices associated with Pen- tecostalism.

There are other suggestions by Wagner, however, that flirt with a reconfigura- tion of Evangelicalism and with an adoption of not just peripheral pentecostal modes of social organization but also with fundamental orientations toward authority and affect. We see this in Wagner’s call for a new pneumatology, for speaking in tongues, and for praying for the sick. For Wagner, pentecostal pneu- matology is as much a problem as it is an opportunity. While he acknowledges that the sort of “regeneration” seen in converts to Pentecostalism can only be understood as the work of the Holy Spirit, he believes that this engenders a ten- dency for Pentecostals to see their high levels of conversion as evidence that they “have a corner on the Holy Spirit,” that “the Holy Spirit is working only in Pentecostalism,” and that the Spirit “is not to be found in other churches.”24

This gives rise to two problems: a pentecostal triumphalism, which Wag- ner decries, and an evangelical carte blanche rejection of pentecostal claims regarding the Holy Spirit. For Wagner both positions are in error, as he holds that “Pentecostal doctrines of the Holy Spirit probably are somewhat less sig- nificant than Pentecostals like to think, and somewhat more significant than non-Pentecostals like to think.”25

Part of the difference between evangelical and pentecostal pneumatology is merely in degree of emphasis, which Wagner suggests should not be a problem for American Evangelicalism of this period; the real problem was the initial evidence doctrine, according to which tongues is the sole acceptable indication of infilling by the Holy Ghost. But noting that initial evidence is not a uniform position, he sees this doctrine as incidental to pentecostal growth and perhaps even a drag on it. Initial evidence, therefore, is one bit of Pentecostalism that Evangelicals can dispense with when they are pillaging the charismatic tool shed. Tongues are an acceptable form of ecstatic prayer, but nothing more.

For Wagner, however, the exemplary pentecostal charisma is not speaking in tongues but healing. Part of this has to with participation rates; drawing on

24 25

Ibid., 30. Ibid., 33.

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extant studies, he estimates that far more Latin American Pentecostals pray for healing than speak in tongues. Wagner sees this as in part a reaction to poverty, with Pentecostals turning toward the only medical system that many of them can afford; but he also sees healing as part of a concerted effort to grow the religion. Wagner notes an evangelical antipathy to healing, in which supernatural cures are looked down on as something less than salvation. But Wagner also notes that for Pentecostals, salvation is brought about by healing, or rather, healing is evidentially powerful, compelling those healed to convert.

This is a rather utilitarian take on pentecostal healing; in fact, Wagner’s entire analysis is relentlessly ends-related. The only break from a continual cost-benefits analysis is the occasional colourful illustrative passage featuring one Latin American pentecostal or another, and one senses that in the end these figures are there as guarantors of Wagner’s knowledge of the subject as much as they are case studies to be learned from.

This utilitarianism in Wagner’s early work is important. To understand this, it helps to know a little bit about the institution that Wagner joined after this time in Bolivia, the School of World Missions (swm, now called the School of Intercultural Studies), located at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena, California. While this article will focus on the swm, we should note that Fuller Seminary is itself a storied institution, founded by radio revivalist Charles Fuller in 1947 with the intention of restoring what was felt to be a lack of wider respect for theologically conservative Protestant scholarship. Debates in that school proved to be a catalyst for the neo-evangelical break with Fundamentalism that occurred in the post-World War ii period in the United States. Fuller was the scholarly space in which American evangelical intellectuals did the most to free themselves from both dispensation and inerrancy, the two most problematic inheritances from early twentieth-century American Fundamentalism.26

Interestingly enough, the School of World Missions itself did not begin as an organ of Fuller Seminary but was originally founded in Eugene, Oregon in 1957 as an independent entity. The institution was set up by Donald McGavran, a mainline Protestant missionary to India who was disenchanted with a per- ceived missions emphasis on social works as opposed to evangelism. Theswm was not supported by McGavran’s denomination and thus had a hardscrab- ble start: its physical plant was a just a single spare room in the corner of a library that belonged to an unaffiliated Christian College. Only in 1965 was the


See George Marsden, Reforming Fundamentalism: Fuller Seminary and the New Evangeli- calism(Grand Rapids,mi: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1987).

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swm adopted by Fuller as an attempt to balance the then new Fuller School of Psychology, an initiative that struck some of the School of Theology faculty members as too humanistic.

The swm’s initial autonomy is important because, as the head of an origi- nally independent institution, Donald McGavran had a high degree of freedom in determining how the school should be organized, and his choices would have far-ranging effects. One of the effects was to ensure that the school acted as a testing ground for what McGavran understood to be a new Christian sci- ence. Despite its name, McGavran saw the swm not as engaging in missiology but, rather, as a proving ground for an academic and empirical discipline that McGavran called Church Growth. Church Growth could be separated from missiology in that missiology was, in McGavran’s eyes, unsystematized and predicated on hearsay and anecdotal evidence, while Church Growth was a self-conscious integration of a positivist social science and theology, fulfilling the Great Commission in a quantitatively verifiable manner.

The vision of Church Growth was that while in one sense God is in heaven, in another sense God is also in the details, and the details were capable of being conveyed quantitatively. As a break with missiology, McGavran pioneered a technique through which growth could be numerically charted and classified: Does this growth take place through biological reproduction, conversion, or transfer from other Christian groups? Just as important for McGavran was identifying the social groups within which growth was occurring. Borrowing from structural-functionalist social anthropology, McGavran created technical means for the identification of homogenous, bounded “people groups,” as well as a metric for identifying the degrees of social distance between any two people groups.

There were two purposes for all this quantification and systematizing. The first was to allow for a crafting and testing of hypotheses regarding the causes of church growth, all of which could be articulated in a demographic language borrowed from the “harder” social sciences. The second purpose, however, regarded quantification at a different level. By charting how various churches were growing and what kind of growth they were experiencing, it would now be possible to allocate resources, both human and financial, in places where there would be the most reward for the investment. For McGavran, the parable of the sower did not mean that the proverbial seeds are to be scattered indis- criminately, but rather that some soils were better than others.

The swm, then, was originally envisioned as a place where this quantifica- tion could be championed, but also as a space in which hypotheses derived from the field could be transferred, to see how they would work out in other domains. Thus it was no accident that when he set up the school, McGavran

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originally demurred from offering degrees to merely aspirant missionaries who would come with little data and fewer ideas from the missions field; rather, he desired to educate only already practicing missionaries on furlough (for instance, three years of foreign service and fluency in a field language was an original entrance requirement for students). The purpose behind this arrange- ment was that this would help position the schools as a central hub through which church growth information would flow globally; in a sense, it was an attempt to make the very campus itself part of a recording apparatus as it not only served to distribute church growth findings, but also became a node to which field reports could be brought and pooled for testing purposes.27

One of the first problems that theswmaddressed was the difficulty posed by indigenous practices considered supernatural or magical in nature. The prob- lem was not the presence or the continuing acceptability of magic in recently converted populations, but rather the danger caused by its absence. The dif- ficulty was that conversion had taken too well. This was a particular concern for swm faculty with a background in anthropology. While they would end up going quite different ways, both Paul Hiebert and Charles Kraft were experi- enced missionaries with cultural anthropological training. Kraft reported that, when participating in missions work with the Higi in Nigeria, he was repeat- edly asked by recent converts what the practical Christian response was to evil spirits, a question for which he felt he had no adequate answer. Hiebert noted a similar phenomenon in his work in India; during a smallpox outbreak, con- verted Christians, unlike the other inhabitants of the village, had no supernat- ural method of treating themselves that harmonized with their understanding of the tenets of their faith.

Hiebert gave a name to the evangelical-caused vacuum in magic. Framing it as an inability to conceive of ways of engaging with supernatural forces that are imagined to occupy an intermediary space between the human and the fully divine, he labelled it the “flaw of the excluded middle.”28 He concluded with a suggestion that this flaw might, in some ways, be evangelical Christianity’s strength as well. The final scene in the essay is of villagers becoming not less interested in Christianity after the smallpox epidemic, but rather more open, moved by the way in which a funeral for a small child displayed both the resolve of the village Christians and their faith in the resurrection. This



See Charles Kraft, swm/sis at Forty: A Participant/Observer’s View of Our History (Pasa- dena,ca: William Carey Library, 2005).

Paul Hiebert, “The Flaw of the Excluded Middle,” Missiology: An International Review 10 (1982): 35–47.

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might have been God’s purpose, Hiebert offers, and he warns the reader against making “Christianity a new magic in which we as gods can make God do our bidding.”29

In contrast, Kraft’s solution is to adopt Wagner’s solution to the challenge posed by pentecostal growth. Kraft, in effect, was suggesting that the pente- costalization of evangelical missions would not only serve as a stop-gap against pentecostal competition, but would also enable a way of competing with non- Christian supernatural practices. Kraft was not alone. Even McGavran was becoming more interested in what could be done with Christian healing, stat- ing in a 1979 lecture that it was “unscientific” to “close one’s eyes to the fact of faith healing” and that at “suitable times” it should be introduced as way of accelerating church growth.30

In one way this is not too surprising; there are accounts of discussions at Fuller School of World Mission as far back as 1969 about the higher growth rate of Pentecostalism, which gave rise to Wagner’s Look Out.31 But there has been one subtle shift. In Wagner’s earlier account, the pentecostal capacity for engaging in supernatural feats such as healing and deliverances was only one aspect, and in some ways not the most important aspect, of the pentecostal church growth apparatus: divine healing and demonic deliverance would be more important factors because they play to the interests of the population; whether or not they were true was to some degree beside the point. In these later accounts, however, we see an interest specifically in these pentecostal- type supernatural practices, and a shift from stressing that their effectivity lies in the particular audience being addressed to stressing that they are valid because of the supernatural effects they achieve. That is, people are not going to Pentecostals because there is no other place to go for healing; rather, they are doing so because pentecostal healing works.

29 30


Ibid., 47.

Donald McGavran, “Divine Healing and Church Growth,” in Power Evangelism(New York: Vineyard International Ministries, 1984). This is not the John Wimber and Kevin Springer text of the same name, but rather a series of printed commentaries in a three-ring binder that was supposed to accompany the Wimber-Springer text during Vineyard training exercises.

Charles Kraft,Christianity with Power: Your Worldview and Your Experience of the Supernat- ural (Ann Arbor,mi: Vine Books, 1989), 6.

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John Wimber, a Respectable Charismatic Option

The difficulty is that attributing effectivity to the charismatic gifts is not the same thing as being able to invoke those gifts. Neither McGavran, Wagner, nor Kraft had any idea how to perform any of the charismata they now found them- selves endorsing. Learning it from American Pentecostals was not an option: again and again, in writings and during public interviews, Wagner and Kraft say that they were hampered by their perception of American Pentecostals as not just doctrinally suspect, but as just plain weird. Kathryn Kuhlman in par- ticular is mentioned, serving as a metonymic representation of all that was unsettling in pentecostal practice. This “weirdness” probably has several roots. It was most likely an expression of the self-perceived class difference between Evangelicals and Pentecostals referenced earlier; undoubtedly, part of it was also a reaction to Kuhlman’s heavily mannered public speaking style, a mode of self-presentation that ran contrary to a wider Protestant speech ethic that valued sincerity and transparency in language.32

What was needed was someone who could engage in pentecostal gifts and around whom they were not nervous. That person would be John Wimber. An affable colleague with evangelical credentials, Kathryn Kuhlman he was not. Between 1974 and 1978, Wimber was responsible for a new initiative of Wagner’s: taking the church growth techniques McGavran originally forged for the missions field and bringing them to domestic Evangelicals. Wimber was a former pastor of an Evangelical Quaker church in Yorba Linda, California, the same part of Orange County that Richard Nixon came from. Despite his Quaker background, he was a committed cessationist. By the mid-seventies, that actually put him out of step with the faculty to which he was closest in the Fuller School of World Missions; there is a story of him walking out, seemingly in some mixture of disbelief and amazement, of a meeting at Fuller when some faculty were recounting hearsay miracles.


On Kuhlman, see Todd V. Lewis, “Charisma and Media Evangelists: An Explication and Model of Communication Influence,” Southern Communication Journal 54 (1988): 93–111; on Protestant speech ethic, see Webb Keane,Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007). This Protestant speech ethic still exerts some influence in the contemporary Vineyard, though ironically it has been supplemented by other speech ethics that have a structural, if not genealogical, kinship with that of Kuhlman; see Jon Bialecki, “No Caller idfor the Soul: Demonization, Charisms, and the Unstable Subject of Protestant Language Ideology,” Anthropological Quarterly84 (2011): 679–703.

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By the late 1970s, however, Wimber’s position had substantially changed. Overworked and in need of inspiration, Wimber started pastoring a church on the weekends, experimenting directly with the church growth techniques that had been honed outside of the United States. Much of what he employed was the more tradition social science-oriented techniques from the McGavran period. For much of the 1980s Church Growth continued to be an element not only of his church but also of future Vineyard church conferences and training for church-planters, and even to this day there is among many older Vineyard pastors an interest in the sort of business-efficiency literature fetishized by the Church Growth movement.

More than anything else, however, it was healing that fuelled the rapid growth of Wimber’s church, which in five years grew from a small home church to one that had two large services each Sunday attracting two to three thousand persons. The attendees were primarily people who either participated in, or were attempting to emulate, the Jesus People movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s.33 By the early 1980s, Kraft and Wagner started regularly making the one-hour drive south from Pasadena to Yorba Linda to see how Wimber’s church was developing.

It was about this time that Wimber, who was already teaching part of a Church Growth course at Fuller as an adjunct, offered also to teach a course on healing. Kraft and Wagner felt obliged to offer this course first to Fuller Sem- inary, since it came out of an “American church,” but the seminary declined. Deciding to offer it themselves, they listed a course in the swm catalog for the 1982 winter term called “mc510: Signs, Wonders, and Church Growth.” It was taught for three hours on Monday evenings; about seventy people were enrolled, and both Wagner and Kraft attended each session as well. Techni- cally Wagner was the actual course convener, but the de facto instructor was Wimber.

The class had two parts: first a lecture by Wimber, and afterward a practicum in which students would attempt to heal other students on stage, all while Wimber gave running commentary. The lecture half of the class left little impression. Wimber’s lecture notes are incredibly vague, and I have never spoken to anyone who took the class who had a very detailed memory of what was covered. The Fuller Library reserves list consists of books by David Yonggi Cho on growing “cell groups,” Hollenweger’s The Pentecostals, and numerous


In fact, around this time Lonnie Frisbee, an influential figure in the original Jesus People movement in the 1960s, had joined Wimber’s church in a leadership capacity. Frisbee the Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher,dvd, directed by David Di Sabatino (Warren River,nj: Passion River Productions, 2008).

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books by the Catholic charismatic Francis McNutt; the list even includes one of the classic cessationist texts, Warfield’sCounterfeitMiracles.34Just as notable is the presence of important Church Growth texts, such as Alan Tippett’sPeople Movements in Southern Polynesia.35

The lecture notes are another clue: they include a review of signs and won- ders in the Bible, a brief tour of the miraculous through church history, and case studies of signs and wonders from abroad. The last is interesting in how it sug- gests the connection between this course and anxieties about worldwide global and pentecostal Christianity. Along the same lines was Wimber’s discussion of the relationship between culture and a capacity to invoke the Holy Spirit. Borrowing Kraft’s term for culture, Wimber states that various “worldviews” obscure or facilitate charismata: the western worldview, characterized by “sec- ularism,” “self-reliance,” “materialism,” and “rationalism,” is an impediment to praying in the Holy Spirit, but in contrast, various non-western worldviews, including the Christian worldview, facilitate it.36

What happened in the second half of each class, however, is clearer. A sense of the instruction offered for the applied section is provided in course log reports of Wimber’s pneumatic grand rounds.37 In one case a student comes to the stage, complaining about back pain. Wimber first interviews her to try to determine all he can about the symptoms of the disease she wants healed. Next, he prays for her; we are told that Wimber held her hands and then “spoke to the pain in her back, spoke to her glands and commanded them to be well.” Wimber then explains that he first formed a personal connection with the student through the “prayer interview” and that he then “was exercising authority over the illness.” He bids the audience to take a look at the transient affective moments of the person being prayed for, the small indications that the





Walter Hollenweger, The Pentecostals: The Charismatic Movement in the Churches (Min- neapolis: Augsburg, 1972); Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, Counterfeit Miracles (New York: C. Scribner, 1918).

Alan Tippett,People Movements in Southern Polynesia: A Study in Church Growth(Chicago: Moody, 1971).

This is drawn from John Wimber’s lecture notes for the first offering of the class, archived in the John Wimber Collection, which is housed in the library at Regent University; this reading of the material is informed by John Wimber and Kevin Springer,Power Evangelism (San Francisco, ca: Harper & Row, 1986). Wimber and Springer’s course presents itself as partially based on the notes for the course, and sources who have attended the class and are also familiar with both the production and content of the book have confirmed this. These notes on class proceedings are archived in the John Wimber Collection, Regent University.

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process is advancing. “When the Holy Spirit rests upon a person,” we are told, “there are many symptoms, such as a fluttering of the eyelids, and a sheen on the face.”

This was not an isolated occurrence. The same course log lists words of knowledge received: on the first day of class, Wimber reports that one stu- dent will have her stomach flu’s symptoms temporarily abated, only to return again as “an attack of the devil.” At this point “she will have to make a decision … whether she will have healing or not.” Sometimes people demurred when there were specific words of knowledge: no one responded when there was a word of knowledge about a “yeast infection,” though a woman came forward after class the next week to report the condition being cured. Often a word of knowledge would be given, garnering no response at all (“angina” and “cystitis” and repeated words of knowledge about toothaches, for instance, went unan- swered).

Words of knowledge usually led to prayer and healing, however. One student received prayer from peers for a sore throat after Wimber gave a word of knowledge about a systematic, persistent ear, nose, and throat infection; the log reports that “while the group was still praying she said ‘I’m healed!’” and notes that she “[l]eft with a slight sore throat.” Malaria, dislocated fingers, various colds and various sprains are all listed as being healed during the run of the course; at one point a “spirit of allergies” is cast out. Even faculty were affected. Peter Wagner’s high blood pressure was healed at one point; during the prayer for Wagner’s condition, Wimber noted for the benefit of the class “Peter’s … fluttering eyelids” and his “heavy breathing.”38

The log also informs us of material that occurred after or outside of class. One student self-reported “body tingles and muscle spasms” as he fought spir- itual oppression; another log states in a matter-of-fact way that after class four students were “slain in the spirit.” We are told about other extra-class incidents, such as a lump in the side that shrank to half its size. One telegraphically con- densed report read thus: “Chinese lady with advanced cancer in lung, throat. (Bad breath stopped the next day). This lady was a backslidden Christian, and during prayer she was ‘slain in the spirit.’”

Despite the course’s formal status as a clinic, Wimber at times also seemed to present it as something that stood outside not only the formal rules of the academy but its scholastic imperative as well; one student who would go on to become a Vineyard pastor recalls being seen in the audience by Wimber. At


This account is confirmed both by statements made by Wagner himself (Wrestling, 130– 131) and by accounts from interviews.

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the time Wimber’s eyes caught him, the student was holding Greek flash-cards in his hand; during the raucous prayer session that shortly ensued Wimber shouted out to him (apparently in reference to the student’s earlier attempt at multi-tasking), “This is a lot better than parsing Greek verbs, isn’t it?”

The course was well received, though that does not mean that it did not evoke some criticism. The student comments turned in at the end of the first term contained the usual complaints about course mechanics (too much time wasted in outlining the course, dissatisfaction about the small size of the room, and unhappiness with the syllabus, which had numerous typos and misspelled the names of some healers). These complaints were often accompanied by lists of specific miracles that the student had performed or received. Many called for “more doing,” or for the lecture portion to be shortened to allow more time for prayer.

Primarily, however, the comments affirmed the course and the subject. There were statements such as “This course has changed my life.” One called the class the most “practical” taken at Fuller. Another student went further, predicting confidently that “this course will change the world.” The comments from other students stress the orientation to global Christianity, such as “It’s nice to see what God’s doing in the rest of the world.” Many state that they will be using these techniques when they return to the missions field; this is fitting, in view of the fact that it was the competitive ability of evangelical missions that had motived this turn to the charismatic in the first place.

Not long after the first course was completed, the American Christian media started circulating reports about it; in October of 1982 Christian Life magazine devoted a special issue to it, which was reprinted as a book in the next year, and Fuller began to receive what has been described as “overwhelming” mail and phone calls.39 Not all were positive. While many phoned to support the class, or even to inquire about the possibility of taking it, many others were alarmed by the introduction of pentecostal practices in what was then arguably America’s leading evangelical seminary. By 1985 this came to a head and the course was cancelled, with a book-length committee report documenting the decision published in 1987.40Part of the complaint was about the bureaucratic mechanics. Some claimed that Wimber as an adjunct should not have been



C. Peter Wagner, ed.,Signs and Wonders Today: New Expanded Edition with Study Questions and Applications(Altamonte Springs,fl: Creation House, 1987).

Lewis Smedes, Ministry and the Miraculous: A Case Study at Fuller Theological Seminary (Waco,tx: Word Books, 1987).

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teaching the course, which seems like an objection invented after the fact.41 The report also states that the class’s disruptive effects were a more important issue. We are told that “[f]aculty members were called to counsel students or members of their families when disillusionment followed their failure to experience the power of healing proclaimed in the classroom; a few persons were caught in a backlash of naïve attempts to discern demons.”42

The report also mentions a complaint that seems tohave been the real nub of the problem: “John Wimber—founder of the Vineyard movement and adjunct instructor along with C. Peter Wagner and Charles Kraft, our professors respon- sible for the course—came to be linked much more closely with Fuller in the minds of the public than his busy schedule of pastoral and conference ministry warranted; his audiences and readers were tempted to impute his opinions and approaches to our faculty more readily that the facts would support.”43In short, the course had made Wimber a celebrity in evangelical and charismatic circles, and Fuller was regarded as unquestioningly endorsing all that Wimber said. For an institution that saw itself as having only recently overcome fundamentalist supernaturalism for a moderate evangelical rationalism that could engage with the wider scholarly world, this was a disaster.44What was worse was that it was spilling over to other courses. I have been told about different class sessions at Fuller during this period that began with long student-led invocatory prayers against demonic forces who sought to wage spiritual warfare against the course, instructor, and students; this is not what the more classically evangelical fac- ulty wanted Fuller’s profile to be. A new version of the class was offered, this time taught by Paul Hiebert, who was never close to Wimber despite Wimber’s adoption of much of Hiebert’s language.45In Hiebert’s version of the class ces- sationist views were given equal time, and there was no applied section.


42 43 44 45

There were numerous letters written before the fact showing Wagner, Wimber, and Pier- son, the dean of the School of World Missions, getting advance approval for both the course and for Wimber’s participation. Before the course was taught, a letter was sent to Wimber from Wagner and cc’d to Dan Pierson, the dean of the school, in which Wimber is “formally invited” by theswmfaculty to teach the course. Another letter explains that it was to be listed as cotaught by Wagner and Wimber. Furthermore, there were letters from Pierson himself discussing Wimber’s remuneration ($990) for his part in the course, and many letters to Pierson from Wimber referring to “his” course.

Smedes, Ministry, 7.


Marsden, Reforming, 292–295.

During talks, but in writing as well, Wimber would often positively reference Hiebert’s workonboundedversuscenteredsetsasecclesiasticalforms.See,e.g.,JohnWimber,“Stay-

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But by then it was too late. Kraft and Wagner had changed, Church Growth had changed, and the Vineyard had changed too. The shift in Church Growth was in some ways the most obvious. The shift to the miraculous denatured the sureness, the positivism, and the utilitarianism that was the initial promise of McGavran’s Church Growth movement.46 Part of this has to do with a reimag- ination of who the vital actors were. The miraculous was understood to be a function not of the evangelist’s own exercise of agency, but rather of the Holy Spirit’s: all initiatives come either from God or from evil spirits. This is in oppo- sition to the old church growth model that saw initiatives as human initiatives, and the question was not whether they sprang from God, but whether they were pleasing to him to the degree that they were carrying out the Great Com- mission. This loss of a kind of agency also means a loss of sureness. Working with an “already/not-yet” logic in which the kingdom of God was supernatu- rally present but only at times and not in any predictable way means that one cannot assume that techniques will work automatically.47One cannot know in



ing Focused: Vineyard as a Centered Set,”VineyardReflections:JohnWimberLeadershipLet- ter(July 1995–February 1996); On centered and bounded set theory, see Paul Hiebert, “Sets and Structures: A Study of Church Patterns, and Reply to Respondents,” in D.J. Hesselgrave, New Horizons in World Mission: Evangelicals and the Christian Mission in the 1980s (Grand Rapids, mi: Baker, 1979). After Hiebert left Fuller for a post at Trinity, he would coedit a monograph critical of Wimber and of the Vineyard, which included a contribution that he penned himself. James Robert Coggins and Paul G. Hiebert, eds., Wonders and the Word: An Examination of Issues Raised by John Wimber and the Vineyard Movement (Winnipeg, mband Hillsboro,ks: Kindred Press, 1989).

Evidence for this can be seen by comparing the differences between the first and third edi- tions (1970 and 1990, respectively) of Donald McGavran’s Understanding Church Growth, a book that I have heard sometimes called (with tongue in cheek) “The Church Growth Bible.” The first edition favors the non-western missions field and thus contains no domes- ticexamples,anddoesnotaddressthe sortofsupernaturalphenomenathatheldWagner’s interest. The third edition, which was revised and edited by C. Peter Wagner, not only con- tains examples taken from inside the United States, but has an additional section entitled “Divine Healing and Church Growth.” Donald McGavran, Understanding Church Growth (Grand Rapids, mi: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1970); Donald McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, 3rd ed., rev. and ed. C. Peter Wagner (Grand Rapids,mi: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1990). Jon Bialecki, “Disjuncture, Continental Philosophy’s New ‘Political Paul,’ and the Question of Progressive Christianity in a Southern California Third Wave Church,”American Ethnol- ogist36 (2009): 110–123.

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advance whether a prayer request will succeed. So much for the certitude given by Church Growth’s empirically tested tenets.

But there was a shift that was in some ways more subtle than the shift from the agentive and the sure. It was a shift to what might be called the chief mode of intelligible apprehension. For the Church Growth movement, things were actual if they were numerable. This had roots in a kind of scientism that, as Matthew Engelke’s work on the history of the British and Foreign Bible Society suggests, has its own evangelical lineage.48 Just as much as it is numerical, however, it is a form of thought that lives in an abstract yet chartable space. Church Growth literature pays exquisite attention to when a bar graph as opposed to a line graph should be used and to the advantages and disadvantages of charting information on semi-logarithmic graph paper. This spatializiation of the temporal serves not only to disaggregate time, but also to make both it and the demographic data embedded in it quantum in nature, fixed in a series of snapshot-like measured amounts. Indeed, the intelligibility of numbers, by their being spatially fixed and broken into discrete instances, is in some ways the core of the Church Growth project as a mode of representation.

In contrast, I would suggest, after charismatisization the chief mode of apprehension is a qualitative one, shot through with various registers of affec- tive intensity and prone to stark discontinuities. The vision of church growth, and of religious life in general, was not an increasing line segment that mea- sured a growing congregation but a surge of power associated with the Holy Spirit and revival, indexed not just by miracles but by degrees of physical and emotional intensity as well. As such, this was a measure of success that resisted quantification, spoken about in gradations (a “powerful” church conference, someone “blessed” with gifts, a church service in which the Holy Spirit “poured out”) that resisted comparison because they were, in the end, speaking not about types but about singularities, irreproducible events comprised of unique constellations of particular peoples, places, and moments. This does not mean that quantification, or at least the deployment of numbers, disappeared, but rather that their role changed. Numbers were no longer for use through com- parison with other numbers, presented in sets, but instead were presented singularly, as a sign of the power of the associated event, or as a phantasmic (and hence supernatural) goal: a boast of planting a hundred new churches in a year, a vision of ten thousand churches that will be planted. This also meant


Mathew Engelke, “Number and the Imagination of Global Christianity; or, Mediation and Immediacy in the Work of Alain Badiou,”South Atlantic Quarterly109 (2010): 811–829.

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that there was a certain emphasis on the now, on what God wasdoingthrough the church in this instant, that differed from Church Growth’s more longitudi- nal sensibility, made of “homogenous, empty, time.”49

There were effects on the Vineyard as well, that could be seen as the com- plement of the effects on Church Growth. Wimber’s prayer practice, which he would later call “Power Evangelism,” was in the end a foreign object translated into the technical idiom of Church Growth and intended to be transmitted in a pedagogical setting (even if Wimber’s clinics were a teaching environment like no other to date in the academy). Because of this, I would argue, we find odd moments of an instrumentalization of charismata in Wimber; this differs from the pentecostal gifts, which were not intended for a didactic situation. This is an instrumentalization not in the sense of a human control over the phenomenon, but rather a feeling that the language of procedure and process could convey how to account for and engage in this work, be it either the actual prayer itself, or the at once supplementary yet central testimony regarding it. We see this frequently in Wimber’s presentations, ranging from the endorsement of a ten- point “Engel scale” to fix one’s exact stage in the evangelizing process to the schematic five-step, prayer-interview checklist for spiritual healing that was a Vineyard hallmark during the eighties and early nineties.

The change to note, however, is not the way in which a charismatic move- ment became schematized, or how a schematic intellectual movement became charismatic. What should be noted is that both were reactions toa crisis located not in the heart of the Third Wave, nor in California, but in the places referred to then as the Third World. Whatever else this means, it suggests that even in the late twentieth century, to speak unproblematically of a Christian metropole and a Christian periphery is a mistake, and that seemingly unconnected move- ments can have the same red thread running through them. The Third Wave and the Third World were separate geographically but in other ways quite close; but the details of the institutional paths that charismata traversed as they jumped that gap would still leave a mark on an influential part of the late twen- tieth century’s charismatic revival.


Walter Benjamin, “Theses on the Philosophy of History,” in Illuminations, ed. Hannah Arendt (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1968), 261.

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