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John Wimber vs Bill Johnson

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John Wimber

John Wimber

There are many who have compared John Wimber and Bill Johnson. And they surely are similar: both are white, middle-aged male pastors from California with confusingly similar names. The main parallel people usually draw is that John Wimber in his time (the 80’s and 90’s) was arguably the most influential person in the Western charismatic movement, and the same can be rightly said about Bill Johnson today.

John Wimber, who went home to God in 1997, opened the door to the charismatic Renewal in America’s evangelical community through its healthy and relaxed attitude to the Holy Spirit, in contrast to the hysteria and manipulation that charismatics usually are associated with. His Vineyard movement boomed through church planting, and today it includes over a thousand churches in the world.

Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson is also a laid-back charismatic preacher, his Bethel Church in Redding is a place of pilgrimage for thousands of charismatics, and he gets invited to speak at a variety of conferences around the world. Although Bethel is not a denomination that starts churches, many churches have been impacted and inspired by Johnson.

Johnson has said repeatedly that he is very inspired by Wimber. Both base their charismatic theology on God’s Kingdom. Both have seen many miracles. Both are true prophets.

However. While Wimber is one of my greatest spiritual role models that undoubtedly has shaped my own view of the Spiritual gifts the most, I am not a very big fan of Johnson. Again, I do not deny that Johnson is a man of God who has many good things to say, but I would like to point out a few things where he is very different from Wimber that I think one should be aware of.

1. How they view healing. John Wimber designed his charismatic Kingdom theology in contrast to the Word of Faith theology which, at that time,argued that if you were not healed, it is because you have too little faith. Wimber spoke instead about how the Kingdom of God is already but not yet; we do see it break through, but not fully, and therefore, everyone aren’t healed even though we should always pray for this.

Bill Johnson is a fifth generation Pentecostal pastor who’s inspired both from Vineyard and from the Word of Faith movement. He speaks admittedly just as Wimber that it is not only a lack of faith that make healings absent, but on the other hand he seems to disagree with the “already but not yet” idea. He wants the whole Kingdom to come with full force here and now. When I listened to him at a healing conference in Malmö, Sweden, in 2011, he said that Christians ought to be healthy for life and not even die from the disease, just pass out.

2. How they view prosperity. John Wimber never preached propserity theology but was very critical of this. He said: “It’s tragic to see faith healers get caught up in the opulent life-styles, rationalizing their material wealth as a sign of ‘God’s blessing’. Greed and materialism are perhaps the most common cause of the undoing of many men & women with a healing ministry.” He was well aware that we must suffer much for the Kingdom of God, something he reflected a great deal over when he struggled with cancer end of his life.

Bill Johnson, however, preaches a certain kind of prosperity theology. Certainly not as clear and extreme as for example Benny Hinn does. But in Malmö, he held a seminar called Prosperity of the Soul which he talked about that we should all ask God to become rich (he even said that he was worried for us if we didn’t want to become rich, which I felt contrasted with 1 Tim 6:9 quite a lot). He has supported the idea that rich should just get richer on his Facebook page, and he has had a disturbing image of a Gulfstream G650 private jet as a background picture (the same sort of jet that Creflo Dollar wanted 85 million dollars to buy).

3. How they view peace and justice. John Wimber was a pacifist. Although this was not something he preached or did the dogma of the Vineyard, which I think is a shame, so did his background in the evangelical Quaker that he took this stance. He also stressed, especially at the end of his life, our responsibility towards the poor. I have collected a number Wimber quotes of wealth, poverty and justice here.

Bill Johnson is not as passionate for peace and justice. After 2012’s presidential election he surprised many, including me, with his clear support to Mitt Romney on his Facebook page. It was a hot debate in the comment field which eventually led him to delete the post. However, he went on writing facebook post about that one ought not to tax the rich to prevent US growth.

What do I have to say with all this? Well, that although they are similar, it is better to be inspired by Wimber than Johnson. Not that Johnson is bad or that you should beware of him, but think of these things as you read and listen to his teachings. As Wimber himself said, “eat the meat and spit out the bones”.

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16 Comments

  1. Sero says:

    Bra skrivet! Tycker att det finns mycket som är lite skumt i den rörelse Bethel hör till, även om det finns mycket gott också! Har svårt för vad som skall tas in och vad man bör visa ifrån sig. Det är ju en församling som det finns en del starka åsikter om.
    Läste utdrag ur Heaven Physics (som Johnson är medförfattare till) och blev mycket upprörd över en del innehåll som jag uppfattade som ren New Age nästan.
    Well, söka sig till Ordet är vad som gäller! Tack för att du driver din blogg Micael.
    Allt gott!

  2. timgiovanelli says:

    I agree… 😉

  3. Håller helt med dig. Ser här en skillnad i New Wine, en “falang” verkar mer åt Wimber hållet medans en annan verkar mer attraherad av Bill Johnson och det han står för. Har inget annat belägg för det än mina observationer och erfarenheter. Hoppas svenska New Wine låter sig inspireras mer av Wimber och de som ligger honom nära.

    • Precis så är det. De som promotar Johnson helhjärtat ser honom ofta som ekvivalent med Wimber, varför jag här vill peka på skillnader. Båda är dock bra på att bemöta cessationism och peppa församlingen till evangelisation och Andens gåvor, och det är förstås bra.

  4. To be fair, peace and justice do not refer to restriction, but neither do they refer to any political attribute. Peace and justice are anarchists. Read more tolstoy. It is setting any idol that is dangerous. One must serve god as it is only him that we are eventually accountable. He loves your enemies just as much.

  5. Katie says:

    Really appreciate your concise reasoning. I go to a Vineyard church, have been following the leading of the Holy Spirit for a long time and was recently given Johnsons book When Heaven Invades Earth. I’m trying to find the good and I think your post gave me some great points. Thanks.

  6. linda says:

    i was loosely involved in a vineyard and really loved the humility, diversity and focus on the poor that this particular church had. it’s great when evangelical churches can embrace those aspects of the kingdom as well as evangelism & teaching. doing church with the poor is just such a different way of experiencing kingdom life and jesus. i don’t think i could ever go back to church as usual after that.

    reading your recent posts on this jason w. guy & bill johnson makes me think of the vineyard with their problems in the past with the kansas city prophets. i think anytime we get into charismatic things it can get messy, but it’s not like the gifts are optional! so, we have to wade through what is from God and what isn’t which can sometimes take time to discern. have you ever read The Quest for the Radical Middle by Bill Jackson? it’s a great read all about the vineyard, being balanced and talks a lot about that time with the prophetic and what went wrong and how they worked to get back on track.

    in my experience charismatic ministries can have both lots of good and bad. is wimber really the one who first said “eat the meat and spit out the bones”? that has been my philosophy ever since i heard someone say it years before i got to the vineyard.

    p.s. i read that book by surprise sithole you mentioned here on your blog. wow, just wow! thanks for that great recommendation. 🙂

    • Hi Linda! I agree with you completely. I’ve read Jackson’s book and found it very helpful and informative. I’m glad you enjoyed Surprise’s book as well!

      Blessings

  7. PC says:

    Unfortunately people like Bill Johnson feel the need to say something ‘new’ and end up going far beyond anything God has said. I understand he had doubts about healing when his father died, so perhaps he has learned something from that experience.

  8. John Weston says:

    I think many times we don’t see God as He is, much more than we can even ask or think. Perhaps God is working in both men as fully as He can.

  9. Sabrina Liu says:

    yeah, that’s your personal view. I believe God creates us all very differently yet all special. Bill has his way with God, just because he is famous, that he should be compared with another great pastor. it’s just not fair.

  10. William Deyerle says:

    Hi Michael,

    My name is Bill, and I have been enamoured with your blog since I first found it several years ago. I am a first generation Jesus freak. Before that I was an intellectual hippie/ seeker.

    My son is one of the new revivalist / Jesus people. Through my son I have met and become friends with many others in that movement, and I love them very much (but to the extent that they are political, I generally abhor their politics). Of course, I abhor almost everyone’s politics (and I am quite sure the feeling is mutual) I am extremely left wing and extremely libertarian political social and economic democrat. Ther isn’t even a political party into which I comfortably fit because almost everyone with political values is an anarchist. And anarchists do not generally form political parties, because as an elderly British anarchist is reputed to have informed an election reporter who mistook her for part of a crowd leaving a polling place “I never vote dear, it encourages them (presumably statists) so!”.

    As a long time admirer of John Wimber, I must say that I too see some remarkable similarities between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Wimber. I know comparatively little about Mr. Johnson. But I heard him speak at the Jesus Conference in Orlando Florida last month, and I was quiet favorably impressed. To a free grace charismatic evangelical with Anabaptist, Methodiist and Quaker influenced social ethics, Mr. Johnson’s understanding of God’s goodness is refreshing–and inspiring. And Mr. Johnson’s love for the Body of Christ on each is indubitable.

    Regarding the contradistinction between Mr. Johnson’ s theology of the Kingdom and that of Mr. Wimber, I am still trying to prayerfully and thoughtfully reach a conclusion; but one might suggest that God doies respond to faith, so I think we should always pray and believe expectantly: as onr for whom faith for the miraculous has not always come easily, I am inspired by believers like Smith Wigglesworth and John G. Lake who were both far more surprised when, for example, a miracle of healing did not manifest than when it did manifest. And it is noteworthy that Mr. Lake, who by all accounts knew whereof he spoke, adjured those praying for the sick to never give up and to never blame the absence of manifestation on the sick person’s lack if faith. He, I believe wisely understood that believing fgfgor a miracle is more difficult for the person needing ge miracle than for those praying for the needful person.

    Mr. Johnson’s political views are more concerning. As an ultra libertarian, I am certainly impressed by his insistence that it is inappropriate for the church to attempt to contrtol,through legislation, individual microethical decisions, because there not only no Biblical mandate foir such officious intermeddling, it is unwise and harmful. But his views of economic policy are , I believe misguided becasuse of lack if knowledge of such secular subjects as economic history and comparative economic systems. The simple fact is that since the Regan Supply Side Revolution, modal range wages have fallen more than 70%, while in Norway, a capitalist social democracy with arguably the most comprehensive and generous welfare state in the history of world, high wasve job growth has been phenomenal, and much if that growth has resulted from entrepreneurship: in fact mantpy Norwegians believe the success of their innovative, riisk taking wealth creascreasting private sector is a direct result of a social pyramid that will allow no one weho fails to fall out if the game permanently.

    Michael, I appreciate wonderful work that Jesus is doing through your efforts with Holy Spiriit Activism. Your articles asnd essays challenge and inspire. And perhasps most importantly, they inform your readers regarding the wonderful things God is doing in this world, and they help Christians to become not only as harmless as doves, but also as wisevas serpents.

    Grace, peace and love,

    Bill

    • Hello Bill!

      Thank you very much for your long comment and encouragement! I would not label myself politically as you do, but I do agree that the combination of charismatic spirituality and social activism is important. I’m currently editor for https://pcpj.org/ and if you would like to contribute with a blog post for that site feel free to tell me.

      Blessings!
      Micael

  11. […] writing on nonviolence in one of his booklets (and later about his pacifism from my friend Micael) and knew I had to expand my understanding of ministry and even the gospel. As I read more and […]

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The author

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Micael Grenholm - a Swedish charismactivist residing with the Jesus Army in the UK.

Check out my YouTube channel!

A Living Alternative

God vs Inequality

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