‘Doing the Stuff:’ An Encounter with John Wimber

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Adapted from an article I wrote twenty years ago.

Poltergeists Among Us

            Over thirty years ago I watched the late John Wimber in action at a conference attended by people from the mainline denominations including Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Baptists, along with Roman Catholics.  He was the keynote speaker that was invited to bring more insights into how the attendees could get in on the charismatic renewal of the day.  He didn’t disappoint.  It was the first time I had ever witnessed a convergence of Christianese with demonic paranormal manifestations.  The Shrine Auditorium where it was held was filled to overflowing with laity and clergy, the latter decked out in a variety of clerical robes and religious accessories — a kaleidoscope of colors and pomp.  The backdrop of the Shrine’s Babylonian décor — gargoyles and all — added to the foreboding atmosphere.

            I wrote a letter to TV preacher James Robison whose ministry I supported at the time.  I did not receive a response even though I handed my letter directly to him at a fund-raising dinner I attended for his ministry.  The reason I wrote him is because he had been a guest speaker at the Anaheim Vineyard and I wanted to warn him about a dangerous association.  I wrote in part:

                “John’s [Wimber] emphasis is on ‘signs and wonders,’ or as he says, ‘doing the stuff.’  Isn’t this the Lord’s definition of an evil generation? (Matt. 12:39; Mark 8:120)  The miracles that followed the apostles were sovereign acts of God as the Holy Spirit directed; in this same manner does God work today in his humble servants who are committed to Him.  We are not to seek after signs.

            “John Wimber’s teachings show you how to manipulate energy and make the force work for you.  I bought a training book from the Vineyard called ‘The Transformation of the Inner Man’ [by inner healer/false prophet John Sandford and his wife Paula.]  The authors claim their mentor was Agnes Sanford, a woman who claims that anyone, Christian or not, can learn to use the energies within to heal their bodies and to ultimately conquer physical death.  By the way, she is dead.

            “As you well know, many times in the Bible devious men have attempted to duplicate God’s miracles using sorcery (Ex. 7:11, 22; Ex. 8:7; Acts 8:9-24).  The church does not need gurus showing them how to do the stuff.  A Christian filled with the Holy Spirit need only submit themselves to the Lord and He will sovereignly work through them according to His purpose.  Wimber’s teaching is more compatible with Christian Science’s Mary Baker Eddy’s methods of manipulating energies and calling it the Holy Spirit.  What blasphemy!

            “What happens when the Holy Spirit does not act on cue?  Who are we to force the hand of God?

            “Another problem I have with John Wimber’s teaching is something I witnessed in July of this year at the International Renewal Conference at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.  He was a key speaker. . . At the end of [the] conference, John Wimber had the audience stand up.  He told everyone to remain silent and pray.  He put both hands together holding them straight out in front of him toward the audience, with eyes closed.  It appeared he was using his arms as a divining rod.  During this ceremony I never heard him call upon the name of Jesus.  He would make announcements, such as ‘the spirit has fallen over here.’  ‘A wave of the spirit is sweeping over the audience.’ 

            “He would tell the people to call out their prophecies.  Many called out at once.  The auditorium became a confusing spectacle of people screaming and moaning in the direction where Wimber aimed his joined hands.  A very loud rap, rap, rap sound intermittently sounded all over the auditorium.  Fear gripped me as I prayed for the Lord’s protection. 

            “An usher who was there testified [the following day to my sister who worked with him] that he heard a lady he knows speaking in a voice that did not belong to her and in a strange tongue.  He thought that testified of the true Holy Spirit, but I don’t agree with him.  In fact, no known manifestations of the Holy Spirit were in sight.  The sound tract would frighten anyone if played on Halloween night or any other for that matter. . .

  Abiding in Him, Jackie Miller”[i]

“Calvaryites (those who attend Calvary Chapel) are sometimes a little too heavily orientated to the written Word. I know that sounds a little dangerous, but frankly they’re very Pharisaical in their allegiance to the Bible. They have very little life, and growth and spontaneity in their innards.”
– John Wimber


The scary thing about the rapping noise is knowing how that is a common manifestation in seances. Remember the famous “Fox sisters” – that was their usual activity when channeling spirits.

Wimber at one time had been a pastor of a Calvary Chapel in Yorba Linda, California, but Calvary founder Chuck Smith had to disassociate with Wimber over disputes between allowing the Bible or experience to be the center of attention for the church.  Wimber caused a split in the church when he left and took many people with him.

He was a popular guest on TBN’s “Praise the Lord” and for years had his own program on the network called Signs and Wonders, where he demonstrated his formula for laying on hands for healing.  In this classroom setting he would have volunteers pretend to be the one being prayed for and tell his students and the TBN viewers how to look for a glow on the skin of the subject before commanding them in Jesus’ name to be healed.

On January 25, 1994, he was a guest on Praise the Lord and gave hosts Paul & Jan Crouch a pitiful story of how he was diagnosed with cancer.  Throughout the show, he had to pause to spray something into his mouth.  He explained what it was:  “One of my six year old grandchildren was asking me the other day, ‘What is that, Grandpa?’ and I said ‘well it’s spit.’  ’Well, where did you get it?’  And I said, ‘from pigs,’ and he said, ‘Grandpa, that’s gross!’”  The cancer in his sinuses had destroyed his salivary glands so he could not produce his own saliva.  During the interview Wimber spoke of how he had a terrible fear of death.

  “I think the genesis of all of this,” he recounted. “This is theoretical; I’m not sure of this, but I think the beginning of my cancer occurred in Hong Kong…God gave me an opportunity for evangelism that night, and I had over 3,000 people saved in one altar call. . . I remember running from the auditorium in an emotional state, sobbing… I got the impression from the Lord that this was going to be contested…Well, I don’t know for sure, but I think that I got a Chinese cancer that night from a demon… Later on, a demon spoke to me audibly, in my head, but I heard it as an audible voice, about “I’m going to kill you…

            “I did get a letter from a man who has a prophetic ministry, who I won’t name.  And it was a letter that was very condemning and very threatening to me based on some misunderstandings he has about things he thought I had said or done which I hadn’t, but in his mind he believed it.  And he was writing me this letter saying that because you’ve done thus and so, God’s going to take your life.  Carol took the letter to her throne room, the bedroom, and based on 2 Kings 19:14 just as Hezekiah took his letter in, she took her letter in and did the same thing…she prayed it through.”[ii]

            John Wimber passed away on November 17, 1997, from massive brain hemorrhage.  The official Vineyard website has a page of tributes[iii] written by some of today’s most influential Christian leaders including Jack Hayford, C. Peter Wagner, J. I. Packer and Rick Warren, the author of the Purpose-Driven Church craze.

I wouldn’t want to oversimplify things by limiting these influences to just Wimber; when there are numerous people and organizations that played big roles in spreading the fires of rebellion against the headship of Christ Jesus in His church.  His just keeps popping up by the others who point to him as their own inspiration.  But was a bridge between Christianity and compromise, truth and error, holiness and profanity — deadly mixtures.

[i] Author’s maiden name.  Letter on file.

[ii] John Wimber, TBN “Praise the Lord”– January 25, 1994, video on file.

[iii] http://www.vineyardusa.org/about/history/wimber_tribute.htm