17/04/2009

Power Evangelism (by John Wimber)

I first heard of John Wimber when we lived in the USA in the early 1990s, and attended a Vineyard congregation. Wimber was the founder of the Vineyard movement, although he was apparently well-known prior to that, as keyboard player for the band the Righteous Brothers. We did actually get to hear John Wimber speak, when we visited the Anaheim Vineyard in 1995, a couple of years before his untimely death.

As part of a Vineyard congregation, we bought the books 'Power Healing' and 'Power Evangelism', and read them with enthusiasm. Since then, they've sat on our shelves, moving country with us a couple of times; recently I thought it was about time I re-read one of them.

I have to admit to slight disappointment.

When I first read 'Power Evangelism', in the early 1990s, I found it fascinating. It's a well thought-out mixture of theology and personal testimony, describing and explaining the 'Signs and Wonders' that permeated the Vineyard movement and many other denominations in the 1980s and thereafter. When I read the book, I didn't know much about these things at all, and can remember finding it very interesting, as well as inspiring and encouraging.

I re-read it over about ten days, a chapter at a time. I was a little surprised that the theology now seems rather 'old hat'. It was interesting to read again of John Wimber's personal experience, beginning from a rather cynical conservative evangelical standpoint. But twenty-five years after the book was first published, there's not much that seems radical any more. But I suppose these theories, which were startling at the time, have now become absorbed into mainstream Christianity.

Indeed, what did surprise me - since I had entirely forgotten - was that Wimber was so positive about what he terms 'programmatic evangelism', and about congregational church life in general. The 'emerging church' movement clearly started emerging long after this.

Still, it's not a bad book. It's well laid out and clear, with plenty of sound and solid Scriptural explanations for the charismatic Gifts and 'signs and wonders'. Worth reading by anyone who is still suspicious of the Charismatic movement (as it was termed) and the use of Gifts today.

It can also be read as an interesting historical document for anyone who has been part of the Vineyard or similar groups. But don't expect anything mind-blowing or new, unless you've been raised anti-charismatic, in which case you'll need quite an open mind.

The original editions of 'Power Evangelism' can frequently be found second-hand; links are to the new edition, which I have not read, edited and updated by Kevin Springer, with extra study-guides.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 17th April 2009

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