Isn't vineyard churches into slain in the spirit - holy laughter?
RUN don't walk......
Do they teach revival? As in bringing in the kingdom
do they teach: word of knowledge or revelation knowledge
RUN don't walk
from: deception in the church:
I left the Walk and joined the Vineyard movement in the late 80’s. The Vineyard is a Charismatic church growth movement characterized by a casual, relaxed atmosphere and an upbeat, modern style of worship music. The Vineyard is at the forefront of a much larger Charismatic revival, lead by the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship (TACF), Peter Wagner, Rick Joyner and the new wave of prophets and apostles rising to prominence. The first thing I noticed about the Vineyard was its music and laid-back preaching style. The music was great and the worship went on for extended periods, the dress was casual and it had a coffee bar at the back. I was to remain in the Vineyard for the next 9 years.
I soon discovered there was a reason for the laid back preaching style in the Vineyard: The Vineyard was very laid-back about what it believed. In contrast to the Walk, the Vineyard was very wishy-washy about what it believed and adopted an easy-going approach to the truth. There was lots of warm and fuzzy preaching on God’s love, personal fulfillment, setting and reaching goals, and dreaming big dreams for life. I used to be in sales in the business world, and recognized most of it as repackaged business management-speak and sales motivational teaching that had more to do with Norman Vincent Peal than the Bible.
The Vineyard was very pragmatic in its approach to church growth. We were often developing new ways to reach the community through various out-reach programs, such as door-to-door food give-aways, free barbeques, or pop give-aways on street corners. These things are not wrong in themselves, of course, but for all our good works, there was little Gospel content in what we did. We put a lot of thought into how to reach the community, but little consideration into the content of the message we were reaching them with. Most of our growth came from attracting existing Christians to our church with our popular music and coffee-club atmosphere.
The Vineyard also took a pragmatic approach to truth: whatever worked was OK. What Bible teaching there was usually came in the form of “keys” or “steps” to reaching some personal or group goal, such as realizing your full potential. Lots of teaching centered on the mechanics of various “how-to” methodologies, such as ‘how-to journal’ as a method to hear God. How-to pray for the sick. How-to reach the community. How-to minister and receive inner-healing. How-to discover your spiritual ‘gift mix’. How-to interpret dreams, and so on.
Often, preaching was little more than subjective ramblings about what the speaker “felt” God was currently saying or doing. And always about how much God loved us and how some wonderful new thing was on the horizon. Always couched in very spiritual terms, but it was typically the leader’s opinions of what God was saying at the moment and seldom was there much, if any, Biblical exposition.
In one such very typical service, the entire teaching consisted of gleanings from a secular book on business success that had been written by a Mormon. In another very typical service I recall, the sermon consisted of jokes the Pastor read from a Christian joke book. The only occasions that I can recall in which the pastor actually expounded on the Bible at any length (apart from cherry-picking the occasional, isolated proof text), was when the church started running into the red, and a sermon on tithing was dusted off.
Night of the Living Dead
Even before the ‘Blessing’ hit the Toronto Airport Vineyard in 1994 we were seeing bizarre manifestations in the Vineyard. In the early 90’s, just before 1994 when the ‘laughing revival’ broke out, there was a Vineyard conference in Kitchener that I still think of as “the night of the living dead”. In this conference, when the altar call was given, a large crowd lurched to the front, probably half the auditorium, and started dancing, twisting, gyrating, and hopping at the front as a “blessing” was prayed over them. Vast numbers of people lurched, crawled, staggered and limped around like a mass of grotesque horror flick zombie’s. The room was filled with all manner of freakish, bizarre and even obscene behavior. One girl was on her back in front of the stage, making orgasmic, thrashing and gyrating motions that could only be described as sexual activity.
The Vineyard leaders accepted all this as the moving of the Spirit. The prevailing attitude of the leadership and members was that this was God moving. According to standard Vineyard thinking, the Holy Spirit can do a deep inner work without the mind being informed or knowing what is going on, or without any further knowledge of truth. It was generally acknowledged that some of the bizarre behavior may be demonic in origin, but most of it was the work of the Holy Spirit or the human response to the power of the Holy Spirit at work within. It was believed that the Spirit often worked best and deepest if it could bypass the intellect, and there was no need for the mind to be informed. So we weren’t too concerned because we believed that God was doing a deeper work in them and we simply prayed that God would bless them even more.
The “Blessing” Comes to Toronto
In the Vineyard, adhering to true doctrine was not as important as just being open to whatever the ‘spirit’ wanted to do. For any leader, it was more important to be lead by the spirit, and as long as a ministry seemed to move in that, and could get results (make “stuff” happen, which in our circles meant healings and manifestations) h/she was assumed to be a man or woman of God regardless of the content of their teaching. Whatever they said was accepted as a message from God.
As a result of this mindset, a speaker could say almost anything from a Vineyard pulpit as long as they came packaged with the right charismatic personality and spiritual gifts. In the Vineyard, one of the gravest sins that could be committed was to get too firm on beliefs, since that was considered unloving and divisive. Since questioning a teaching was perceived to be divisive and critical, we seldom ever seriously questioned what was taught or took seriously the Biblical warning to test all teachings and prophetic “words”.
Discernment devolved to the level of feelings, intuitive insight and subjective impressions in which no one could know anything for sure, but certain people (usually the ‘prophetic’ types in our midst) were generally trusted to have the right discernment on issues. This attitude fostered a lack of real discernment among Vineyard leaders which opened the doors wide to a large influx of false teachers and false prophets in the early Nineties. I believe it was this lack of discernment, largely due to Biblical illiteracy, that paved the way for the arrival of the Toronto “Blessing” in 1994.
Early in January of 1994, I heard that revival had broken out in the Toronto Vineyard and we went up to check it out. Our Vineyard was within an hours drive. Many friends from our Vineyard church also went up that night. We entered the meeting room and I was stunned by the bizarre scene that opened up before us. It was pandemonium everywhere. The large room was crowded with people shaking, bobbing, running on the spot and flapping their arms.
I didn’t get the “Blessing” that night, but many of my friends did. I walked up to one friend, a worship leader from our church, who was running frantically on the spot and flapping his hands. I asked him what he thought was happening and how he felt. He had no explanation, only a smile, and he couldn’t stop the running or hand flapping.
I attended several Toronto meetings. Although the leaders would often say that the manifestations where not what it was all about, that’s what they mostly talked about and they held them up as the proof of God’s moving in our midst. It was obvious that the manifestations were the big drawing card. After an extended time of worship, there would be a testimony time in which the leader would interview people up front about what they felt God was doing within them.
Manifestations often started during worship, but became very pronounced during testimony time, and the leaders would go with “whatever God was doing in our midst” and allow almost anything to happen. Often there was no time left for preaching. But that was never an issue, because we were not going up to hear the Word. Soon, the thing was to double over making gasping or mooing noises. From that time on, there was a lot of “mmmooooooing”, “wwhhooooing” and “ooooooing” in Vineyard meetings.
One Vineyard service I remember at a church north of Toronto was very typical. It was more like a drunken party than a church service. The chairs had been cleared away so that the middle was open. The congregation stood around and danced to loud rock “worship” music. Many at the front were falling over each other. As they touched each other, they would get “blessed” and double over, collapsing in a heap, arm in arm. Communion was served as a women danced through the crowd with a tray serving glasses of grape juice to other dancers on the floor. We were there until after 10:30 at night, and still the worship and dancing continued and no one preached. I stood in the back, not dancing.
At this time, and for several years, I was decidedly pro-Toronto Blessing, as the renewal came to be known. I didn’t understand what was going on, but decided that if that’s how God wanted to move, then that was fine by me. Who was I to question God? It never occurred to me to open my Bible and test what was going on against the Word. The mystical education I received in the Walk set me up perfectly to accept the Toronto Blessing without question.
I had been taught in the Walk to accept that God could do things that did not line up with the written Word. Now, in the Vineyard we had Prophets who were getting a steady stream of messages from God who could interpret what was going on for us, even though we did not know what the Bible taught on such matters.
So I went with it, and criticized the critics for being closed to what the Spirit was doing. I considered that those “old order Pharisees” just couldn’t handle it when God wanted to do something fresh in another group like ours. They just didn’t understand what God was doing in our midst. If they’d just open up their hearts to the Spirit, then they would understand that this was really God. But they couldn’t do that because they were “religious” and narrow minded. This pretty much summed up my attitude and the prevalent attitude of the pro-Toronto crowd.
In the Walk we were used to accusations from other church groups of being a cult, and we all learned how to deal with that without letting it get to us. Didn’t Ishmael always persecute the true Isaac? Didn’t the old order always misunderstand the new thing God does? Were not the true prophets persecuted? So when other Christian groups began to question the Toronto Blessing and raise many serious and legitimate theological concerns, I already had the necessary psychological defenses in place to dismiss them out of hand - without ever stopping to think for even a moment that they just may have a point!