Has John Wimber’s mantle passed to Bill Johnson?
This was the question the team asked at last weeks European Leaders Advance 2014 (ELA14) in Harrogate (see picture above of the delegates blessing Bill and his team).
What a great question!
And a sensitive one if you are in the Vineyard, particularly in the States, not so much here where Bill seems to be highly regarded, and apparently not at all in Switzerland where Bill was the featured speaker at the Vineyard National leaders conference for Vineyard Dach.
In fact sitting behind me at ELA14 was a young man from Uganda who is currently living in Bern. He was the person who told me Bill had just been speaking at the Vineyard Dach NLC. He also made the point that there were around 700 people there – a large number in Switzerland where the churches are small. There are just not that many Christians to come to any church conference!
But these are great spiritual questions. When Christians talk about “mantle” they are referring to Elijah and his ministry passing onto Elisha. The word for mantle used in Elijah’s context is pronounced add-deh-reth and means an outer garment, but is from a root word meaning power.
The question is, “Has John Wimber’s ministry of power passed onto Bill Johnson?”
The New International Dictionary for Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements states that his international ministry had a profound effect on tens of thousands of charismatics and non-charismatics alike.
He took a fledgling church planting movement and turned it into an international force. He impacted virtually all denominations in the UK. For the first time for many people, there was a language and explanation of the gifts of the spirit that made sense to many people. He wrote books on the subject.
In summary, he was both practitioner and articulator.
An indication of his influence is that the term “Signs and Wimbers” was a standing pun for “Signs and Wonders.”
Has that mantle passed to Bill Johnson?
Bill and Bethel are not noted for church planting.
But Bill, a x generation Pentecostal, certainly crosses denominational lines. At the ELA14, represented there were Vineyard, unaligned charismatic churches, Anglicans, Baptists, New Frontiers, Catch The Fire, that I personally know of. There were 2000 leaders there so that seems a broad sweep already.
In terms of written material as an indication of influence, the volume of books coming out of Bethel is astonishing. Way more than ever came out of Vineyard, at least that I’m aware of, and being aware of the material is an important indicator of influence.
But maybe most importantly, is Bill a practitioner and the leading articulator in the West today for the miraculous?
Honestly I have been astonished by the Healings that I have heard and seen. I was at the Leaders Advance in Bethel a few years back and a Vineyard pastor testified of his healing from severe dyslexia. It was so bad that he couldn’t read from the front of church, even though he was a pastor.
He was on holiday with his wife and decided to visit Bethel to see what all the fuss was about. By his own admission, he wasn’t sympathetic. At he end of the meeting Bill had a word of knowledge about people with dyslexia. He prayed from the front. The Vineyard pastor said he felt his head go numb. After the meeting he went straight back to the house where he and his wife were staying (she hadn’t gone to the meeting). He entered, sat down, picked up a magazine and began reading perfectly from it! Needless to say his wife was bowled over.
At the ELA14 there were several testimonies from delegates that gave you goosebumps! Great testimonies!
I think on any measure, Bill qualifies as a practitioner.
Is he the leading articulator?
This is a very hard question to answer and is highly subjective. For me though, his insights are amazing. When I first started reading his material and hearing him speak, I had this awareness that I had been guilty of regarding where John Wimber took us in terms of the miraculous as a ceiling rather than a floor. I had been guilty of thinking there was nothing more to be said, no new insight to be mined, no new revelation to be had.
Now I see that is plainly ridiculous in the context of an infinite God. But it takes someone who has raised the bar to make you realise it.
In my mind, the mantle has definitely been assumed by Bill.
But maybe you have a different view…?