A Memoir of The Vineyard 1986-1994
by Cheryl Thomson, Managing Director, Strangers and Pilgrims
The wedding invitations we sent out were homemade, painstakingly prepared on a friend's Macintosh computer, the first we had ever used. But also enclosed was a plain old Xerox copy of a map showing directions to the church, located on an island in Lake Ontario... with a ferry schedule.
Steve and I had our very first date out on Center Island, and when we discovered there was a historic little old church we could rent there for our wedding, we were delighted.
Many of the friends and family who came didn't realize what it meant for Steve to be marrying a "Born Again Christian". Most of them didn't know that he himself had made an eternal commitment to Christ three months before. And I see, as I look back now, that the bride and groom themselves had no understanding of what God had in mind, bringing them together. In fact, we're still in the process of finding out. But this was six years ago, at the very start.
The ceremony commenced with a burst of untraditional music. Two men stood singing and playing guitars at the front of the church, accompanied by a back-up tape, again painstakingly homemade. My husband Steve and Jeremy Sinnott sounded so good together. Jeremy was the worship leader of the small local Toronto Vineyard, in existence by then for only about a year.
As I sat praying alone in a side room off the main sanctuary, I could hear the songs. We had picked a half dozen of our favourites.
"Blessed be your Holy Name, Lord Jesus. I will never cease to give you praise. For you are Messiah, Deliverer, The Holy One of Israel...
It was a sampling of the music of "The Vineyard". The music I loved. The music which the Holy Spirit had used to draw Steve to Himself. The music I had heard for the first time in the Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, a year and a half before, when I'd made a personal pilgrimage to see and hear John Wimber, for the first time, for myself.
Travelling had always been my chief means of "spiritual therapy," although I would never have called it that when I was younger. I was a 36 year-old escapee from Los Angeles who had lived in Europe for a year at 19, driven across the U.S. by herself in an old Toyota a few years later, flown with a handbag to New York, Washington, DC, and Fort Lauderdale for various pointless romantic liaisons in her late 20's, and finally packed up for Ontario, Canada in 1980, for what I knew was a final attempt to turn my life around and find happiness.
I found Jesus. I also found Christianity..But I discovered the two weren't often the same.
A Christian Pilgrimage
First, I belonged to a Pentecostal church, which taught the miraculous power of God and the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, but never showed any evidence of either. Then I joined a "Word of Faith" group. They claimed to do the works that Jesus did. They said they loved the Bible and would hold fast to the Word of God above all else. During the next few years, I did see the supernatural at work; but I didn't see much of Jesus. And I was very surprised when I discovered, after a little study, that "Word of Faith" teachers distorted the Bible they pretended to revere. I learned in my research that "another gospel" was preached not only in Paul's time, but in our own (Galatians 1:6).
Soon after this, I saw a copy of Power Healing by John Wimber in a Christian bookstore. After three years of looking for "real Christianity," I thought I had finally found it. Here was someone who explained that people were just not automatically healed when you prayed for them. And it didn't matter if they "claimed it" or not. And it wasn't a result of hidden sin in their lives. In other words, here was someone who didn't condemn a person who prayed for healing and didn't receive it. For me, it was like a breath of fresh air. As if some kind of heavy, oppressive, even acrid cloud of smog over my Christian life had just been clean blown away. Coming from Los Angeles, that's an image I can relate to.
And yet there was no question from his books that John Wimber knew that Jesus heals today. Even from my own brief experience, I knew that was true myself. So many doctrines from the "Word of Faith" on healing are wrong, but that doesn't stop the miraculous powers of God from being exercised, where and when He sees fit.
As it is written in Hebrews 13:8: "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever."
I wanted to live the Christian life that Wimber described: Power Healing. Power Evangelism. He said the "New Testament Church", for all the signs and wonders recorded in Acts, had been troubled by sin, false doctrines, and legalism. But now he held out the hope that a modern church in the 20th-century could overcome all that, and live out the Christian life ("do the stuff," as Wimber called it) with signs and wonders, plus real love, and an impact on society which would improve conditions for all.
I had begun to realize, in the depths of my soul, that God had literally saved me from hell. This obvious truth, believe it or not, only dawned on me gradually. It wasn't preached to me. It was more a matter of my receiving what the Holy Spirit wanted me to understand when I read my Bible. And with that, came a realization that being a Christian meant doing something to evangelize others, so they, too, by God's grace, would escape the same hell I had.
By this time, I was ready to tell the Lord, "Send me." But I'd been disillusioned when I saw that my friends in the "Word of Faith" and in the Pentecostal churches didn't seem to know how to share Jesus, and felt burdened and uncomfortable even trying. When I began to analyze the superficial Gospel message they were told to communicate, and saw the absence of an underlying joy and peace in their own lives, I was discouraged. But it was clear to me what the Word of God said, and if I had to go it alone, then that's what I'd do. I had already begun to put this into practice at the time "The Vineyard" entered my life.
Did "The Vineyard" emphasize evangelism? I thought they would. But I discovered, instead, an inward-looking, a self-absorption, a "bless me," "thrill me," "heal me," "minister to me" mind-set. It was an unending cycle. Evangelism efforts were the exception, not the rule. Worse, it was obvious they were motivated by the desire for something called "church growth," which was often discussed. The simple, pure, just sheer love for souls - which is true evangelism - was not part of the formula. The Devil knows that kind of love is invincible. It wins. But nothing else does.
"The Vineyard" and Supernatural Phenomena
"A Workshop in the Holy Spirit" was the title of the series of talks John Wimber delivered in New Orleans at the interdenominational Conference on the Holy Spirit and World Evangelization. It was 1987. By then, "The Vineyard" had over 300 church fellowships in the U.S. Wimber was a featured teacher at the conference, along with Jamie Buckingham, Charles and Frances Hunter, Reinhard Bonnke, Kenneth Copeland, and a dozen other "big names" Every afternoon, Wimber had the large hall of the Superdome to himself. The crowds were small, but they grew. My chief recollection of these meetings was the "ministry time".
The scene would be familiar now to many. It's the usual "Vineyard" technique. Local "Vineyard Fellowships" had sent teams of workers to the conference. When Wimber announced from the platform, "The Holy Spirit is here. He's moving across the room..." these people, wearing identification badges, approached anyone who seemed to be manifesting a supernatural touch from God, or anyone who asked them for prayer. They held out their hands a few inches away from the person's head, or the location on the body where physical healing was asked for, and prayed. Many times, people were "slain in the spirit". They lay on the floor in what I perceived was truly another state of consciousness. When they arose several minutes later, they were hugged by the workers, who appeared to be genuinely sincere and caring in everything they did. I was impressed.
But I also remember that towards the end of Wimber's first address, a woman started screaming. She was just sitting at one side of the platform, and she began to scream, wail and moan, intermittently. I knew that Wimber ministered to the demonized from his books. But to my amazement, he completely ignored this woman. So did everyone else. Wimber finished his message. The meeting dispersed for a break, and when we returned to the hall, the woman was gone. At the time, I concluded that Wimber's discernment, from the Holy Spirit, prompted him to leave the woman alone. Perhaps she didn't have a demon, and I was just inexperienced. Perhaps someone else prayed for her. -That may very well have been the case. But what I saw and felt was a coldness and callousness on Wimber's part, and a distancing himself away from people that was noticeable even in casual conversations. I observed him closely during this conference, and at another one in England a year later.
A year later, I was attending John Arnott's church in Toronto. I enjoyed it very much, except I wondered at the fact that few in the church had read either of John Wimber's books or even knew very much about the "Vineyard Movement" they had joined. The good material in Power Healing and Power Evangelism wasn't being taught. It gradually became clear to me that what I thought was "Vineyard Headquarters" in Anaheim, California, had only nominal contact with Arnott. Visiting speakers from the U.S., mostly from Vineyard churches in the Northeast, mentioned that unlike a structured denomination, the Vineyard had grown through planting satellite churches which remained very much independent in their approach and how they handled their affairs.
It was here in 1987-88, that I saw a "Vineyard Fellowship" in practice. Very nice, well-meaning people prayed for the sick and for people with emotional problems, and for people oppressed by demonic spirits. Sometimes they prayed with discernment, sometimes not. Sometimes they prayed with power, sometimes not. What I did see was a gap, a void, where discipleship should have been. Everyone just basically did their own thing.
Soon after Steve and I were married, in conversation one day Arnott briefly referred to the fact that some of Wimber's closest associates in Anaheim had been found to have serious moral problems and had left the ministry. The church in Anaheim had evidently been deeply shaken by these events. Wimber himself couldn't understand what had happened. In a few years, a modern-day prophet named Paul Cain would come to Anaheim and start revealing more sin in the leadership, through what he said was revelation by the Holy Spirit, or Words of Knowledge. Wimber would rely on Cain's ministry heavily for the next four years.
Recurrence of this kind of problem in "The Vineyard" should have hit home to me, but it didn't. I was too close to see the truth. Even if I had, I would have struggled against it. The fact is that when Steve and I were engaged, for the brief three months after he confessed his faith in Christ, I was so insecure, and my thinking still so tied to the ways of the world after five years of confused Christian experiences, that after our engagement we started living together almost immediately. I felt our relationship would be in jeopardy otherwise, which goes to show you how little I trusted God at the time. But, just the same, I can honestly say I have never heard in any church, from any pulpit, a clear, uncompromising, and reasoned message to Christian singles warning them against making the mistake I did. I knew, of course, it was wrong. But the Devil's lie ("It doesn't really matter") had help. No one at "The Vineyard" ever said a word to us about it.
A month and a half before the wedding we rented and moved in a house that was directly across the street from where Jeremy Sinnott, our friend and Vineyard music leader, lived with his wife and three young sons. How we were living was very obvious. We went together to a home fellowship meeting at Jeremy's house once a week.
No one from our Vineyard fellowship ever counselled us about what we were doing. There was never a whisper of disapproval. After we were married, the whole situation, and the strangeness of it, stayed with me. God has blessed Steve and I in our marriage. But today, I would not leave a couple, in the same circumstances as I was once, without guidance, and the Godly reproof that was necessary. But I realize now that "The Vineyard" is known for not taking a strong stand in this area. According to Keith Green's book No Compromise, he had problems with them about this in the early '70's in Los Angeles.
But teaching at our Vineyard fellowship did not emphasize the Bible and the basic tenets of Scripture the way even I, with my "arrested spiritual development", hoped they would. After our marriage I saw my husband increasing his familiarity with Vineyard choruses, and spending quality time in music rehearsals, while the Word of God lay untouched.
And then new seminars were scheduled, for all church members who wanted to be "in leadership". I was shocked to see that some of the same material would be taught that I had been given to study in my "Word of Faith" church. It dealt with how to "visualize" Jesus, so that you could receive Christ's own direct, specific "Rhema Word" for you every day. Then you could write it down in a journal. I had read enough articles on ESP and psychic phenomena in Los Angeles in the 1960's to recognize a formula for receiving "automatic writing" when I saw it.
When I shared my concerns with John Arnott, he brushed them off, saying that if there was anything wrong in the course he was saying we should take, he would deal with it when it came up in class. Today Mark Virkler, the author of that course and others, is still a featured Vineyard Ministries guest speaker.
It was with much regret and heartache that Steve and I left the little Toronto Vineyard. We had made close friends. But when I witnessed John Arnott and his wife giving approval to a woman's report of a divine message from Jesus that she should leave her husband because he was like a stone around her neck, I knew it was time to go. But even then, I remonstrated with Arnott about the incident in a letter, to which I received no reply. Other current leaders with Arnott of the Toronto Airport Vineyard were copied on the same letter in 1989. I received no response from any of them.
In my "old days at the Vineyard," there was no barking like dogs, oinking like pigs, or roaring like lions. At least not in Toronto. But in Western Canada, there was something similar that happened in the mid-1980's. A series of, I believe, twelve audiotapes was issued by Vineyard Ministries in California under the titles: Demonization I and II. These were in my possession until a couple of months ago when we moved, and unfortunately I discarded them at that time. There was one tape I should have kept. It was a teaching on spiritual warfare by a couple in California who subsequently divorced, and whose materials were removed from the Vineyard catalogue a few years ago. In my recent packing frenzy, I did not even keep a note of their names, which is unfortunate. The tape should have been kept, because it relates this couple's experiences while on a ministry trip, probably to Calgary or Edmonton, although the specific Canadian city was not named. They reported that unde! r the power of the Holy Spirit, a whole large roomful of people to whom they were ministering on this trip started barking like dogs, oinking like pigs and making other animal noises. They had never seen anything like it. The husband explained to -the class in Los Angeles which he was teaching (this class was being taped) that he believed the animal sounds were demonic. He believed there was a great deal of demonic influence in the churches in Canada. He believed the root cause may have been the reluctance of churches in Canada to confront the works of Satan. It seemed to him that in some way a spiritual pact had been made between the churches and the powers of darkness in Canada.
I cannot explain any of this. But I cannot explain it away, either. Ten years ago, in a Canadian Vineyard meeting, there were dramatic animal sounds. At the time, the Vineyard recognized them as demonic.
I have certainly observed the spectacular at Vineyard conferences. In early 1988, before meeting my husband, I flew to England to attend the Conference on Spiritual Warfare held that year in Brighton, England. I was very disappointed that there was no teaching at all on deliverance. Here I'd flown across the ocean, taking a week's vacation, to obtain some training so I could learn how to help people. When the Holy Spirit is moving, the demonic forces of darkness will duplicate divine phenomena with counterfeits, deceive the ignorant, and torment urnmercilessly those who are vulnerable to personal attack. The ministry of deliverance is vital today, just as it was vital when practised by Jesus, and by the Apostle Paul.
But the conference should have been entitled: "Conference on Inner Healing". The reality of the demonic realm was not addressed. To this day, John Wimber discusses "spiritual warfare" by explaining that "binding the strong man" has nothing to do with deliverance, and that Christians have no authority to bind or loose anything. It turned out that my first evaluation of his approach was correct, when I saw him ignore that poor shrieking woman in New Orleans.
And what of the people who have been shrieking at the Toronto Airport Vineyard for the past year now? Have they ever been helped? Did they start out with spiritual "problems"? Or did spiritual "problems" find them, courtesy of the services at The Vineyard?
What disturbed me about what I witnessed in England, however, was the carnival atmosphere Wimber encouraged while he was "ministering in the Holy Spirit." And I felt that certain individuals in the auditorium, who were pointed out by Wimber because their bodies were visually shaking, or even visibly rippling in a totally unnatural, almost physically impossible way, were held up for ridicule.
Incredibly gullible, I still returned to the Toronto Vineyard after this experience, and was married by the Toronto pastor, and stayed in the church with my new husband for several months.
I share a common human flaw with many others. It is very difficult for anyone to objectively draw conclusions from their own observations when those conclusions would contradict a strongly held personal prejudice towards either someone or something who has been sincerely liked or disliked in the past. I had an emotional stake in the "Vineyard Movement". Many pieces of evidence had to come together for me, before I would finally begin to ask questions, and act on the answers I came up with, unpleasant as they were.
Growing Literature on "The Vineyard"
In 1990, a group called "The Kansas City Fellowship/' with strong ties to prophet Paul Cain, affiliated with "The Vineyard". Then one day my husband and I received materials on the Vineyard and the "Kansas City Fellowship," which appeared in a publication called Media Spotlight, Now my own misgivings were in print. Our experiences sharing this material with pastors associated with the Vineyard were instructive.
In 1990, a Toronto Downtown Vineyard was being organized by a friend of mine named David Van Essen, a Baptist pastor who had worked for several years with great devotion at an outreach in Parkdale, one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city. Steve and I went to the inaugural meeting to discover that a California Vineyard pastor named Wayne Coombs was actually going to head the church, with our friend David's local assistance. Coombs literally boasted of having been a successful theatrical agent in Los Angeles. Coming from Los Angeles myself, and having spent ten years there working in TV production offices and talent agencies, I realized I did recognize his name. Personally, as a Christian, I was ashamed of my background in "show biz," and for good reason. But here was a pastor who made note of that background in a church brochure. In fact, he still looked somehow like a Hollyood agent from the 1970's - complete with open-necked pastel shirt and a gold chain.
Our friend David had brought some of his Parkdale congregation to the meeting. They were seniors, welfare recipients, and ex mental patients. They didn't seem to fit in. I was concerned for him, and for them. I gave David our Media Spotlight material to read, but he never responded to us about it, even though a year previously he had shared with me frankly on some misgivings he had about the Vineyard. Then he was just at the stage of "checking it out." But now he and his family had spent five weeks down at the Kansas City Fellowship, and he had no more doubts. Within a year's time, our friend David had left Parkdale Baptist, left Toronto, and was ministering as a Children's Pastor with a Vineyard Fellowship in Cambridge, Ontario. He is now a social worker in British Columbia.
Within a couple of years of our friend David's leaving Toronto, the Dowton Fellowship apparently fell apart. Wayne Coombs himself is no longer pastoring, but now directs an organization which provides services for Americans who are seeking to adopt orphans from Eastern Europe. His California Vineyard team had shared dramatic "prophetic words" about how the Lord had directed them to plant that new church.
Another Ontario pastor we know who became associated with The Vineyard was Steven Hill, in Newmarket, north of Toronto. Hill was well-known in Toronto as a minister who was very active in the Pro-Life Movement. In 1991, he sent a group of teenagers from his church down to the Kansas City Fellowship. We sent him our Media Spotlight material. Several months later we ran into him at a Pro-Life demonstration. To our shock, and embarrassment, he started yelling at us in front of everyone, denouncing us for criticizing people he respected so much. We just left, because the last thing we wanted to do was argue about all this on a public street corner where we were all supposed to be proclaiming Jesus and the sanctity of life in the womb.
Around the same time, we received a phone call from New York State, from a woman we'd never met. She explained a mutual acquaintance had given her our number, because he knew we'd been connected with The Vineyard. She was coming to Toronto, and asked if we could put her up. As we talked, she told us she had a prophetic ministry which had been powerfully confirmed for her at the Kansas City Fellowship. At that point, I quietly shared with her our concerns about that group, and our recent studies on demonic counterfeits of divine manifestations. She immediately erupted in anger, and told me that my husband had better be careful. I had mentioned to her that he was just recovering from a broken wrist he suffered from a fall off his bicycle. She actually threatened us: "He's going to break his leg now!" she snarled.
I was not happy to hear this. More than that, I didn't believe it. And it didn't happen. So much for prophecy-by-phone.
Our Night at the Toronto Airport Vineyard
Steve and I would never have visited the Toronto Airport Vineyard in the summer of 1994 without the Lord's clear direction. We had heard about the meetings in the spring, and agreed to just stay away.
But a Christian couple we knew were very troubled by what they had seen there and asked for our advice. They described a new prayer technique where circles were drawn in the air, as well as certain teachings which in the course of our discussion we realized came straight out of occultic practises used in India.
In the meantime, the evangelism work Steve and I are engaged in has brought us in touch with many people across Ontario who are interested in the Airport meetings. Steve and I are street evangelists. We set up in parks, on beaches, on street corners packed with tourists or partygoers - anywhere where a crowd can be reached to listen, as we sing a mixture of hymns, "Country Gospel," and contemporary Christian music. While we are singing, the Holy Spirit brings individuals under conviction in what I ]mow from their testimonies afterwards is a miraculous way. They are prayed with, they are given good, solid tracts, and they are given free Bibles. We take no donations. Our reward comes from heaven. We do this every weekend during the Spring, Summer and Early Fall.
We met so many people this past year who mentioned "The Vineyard" that we prepared a small tract of our own for them, called Don't Laugh. But we still didn't plan on visiting the Airport meetings ourselves.
But finally, an unsaved journalist Steve knows from his job asked Steve's opinion on The Vineyard because he was writing an article for a newspaper in London, England. This man had been resistant to our Christian witness over the years, and he was finally going to visit a church - a Vineyard church!. Steve wanted to be able to tell him he'd attended a meeting, too, so that he could share the Gospel with him again, and also help him understand what he would really be seeing.
And so we went on a Sunday night, straight after singing all afternoon an hour's drive away.
The manifestations I witnessed did not surprise me. They were very much the same as those I had witnessed in New Orleans and in England, and even previously in Toronto, except with a kind of violent edge to them. The silly, funny "laughter in the Spirit" of 1988 now took the form of cackling and hooting. They called it "holy laughter". People sat in chairs holding themselves and rocking themselves a little back in 1988. Now their movements were manic. It reminded me of a film I'd seen of autistic children. This impression was reinforced when I saw others, seated at the back of the room, banging their heads repetitively against the wall right behind them. Some people were restless. They walked aimlessly around, jerking their arms continuously.
In 1987, Wimber preached from the Bible and people listened, even if they confessed privately afterwards that they thought he taught for too long, and they were just waiting for the "ministry time" to start. Now, on this evening, when a visiting Vineyard pastor opened the Bible, he deprecated what he was about to do with a snicker saying, "Well, I guess I should open this Book up sometime or other." People started to laugh.
The Toronto Airport Vineyard is a focal point for international interest. But when a Charismatic Anglican minister named David Pytches invited Wimber and his team to England in the early 1980's, many of the same supernatural manifestations took place. The famous English "House Church Movement" had already begun independently, years before Wimber's visit. Today, people forget this and just loosely associate the two.
Supernatural manifestations did not bring Revival to Great Britain. In spite of dozens of visits of Vineyard staff to England and much interchange over the past 15 years, the fact is that the "Vineyard Movement" there, as of last year, remained little-known, just on the fringes of what we do know has been a genuine period of Renewal overseas. Now Christians from England are coming to Toronto looking for Revival. Many of them are young and do not realize that what they are seeing in Canada is a rerun that has been played over and over before, in their own country since 1981, when John Wimber first ministered there.
Clearly, people are hungry for God, and sincere in their search for a closer walk with Him. But they are being seduced, so many times, by a kind of impatience. The Lord deals with individuals first. Then, those individuals minister to others, make disciples, and may then anoint them for service, if that is God's will. It's a process. It may take one year, two years, three, or longer. There are no short-cuts.
There is no account whatsoever in the Bible which even remotely resembles the travesty of Christian assembly which every visitor to the Toronto Airport Vineyard has witnessed.
1 Cor. 14:31-33 reads: "For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets. "For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints."
No, God is not the author of confusion. There may be activity, fervent songs of praise, spoken prayers... but there is decency and order, which shows itself in spiritual beauty, recognized by all believers present, when it is God Himself who is in the midst.
In 1 Kings 22 we read about a lying spirit, sent by God into the mouth of a false prophet. In Amos 5:23 and Amos 6:5, we read about God's hatred for sweet music played by hypocrites. False prophets and false priests are denounced in God's Word over and over again.
Where Is This All Leading?.
The music of the English composer whose work has been so greatly used in the English Renewal, Graham Kendrick, is used by the Vineyard in the U.S. and Canada. The impression is given that he is one of their own. Kendrick's music is used regularly in "Marches for Jesus" around the world. In many cities, Vineyard staff co-ordinate what is advertised as an interfaith public avowal of faith in Jesus Christ. By involving themselves in "Marches for Jesus," the Vineyard yearly gains greater credibility within many communities. It is a successful tactic.
Tactic is the correct word, although at first glance it may appear harsh for me to use it.
Rick Joyner is editor of The Morningstar Journal, published in Charlotte, North Carolina. He is associated with Paul Cain, Francis Frangipane and other "prophets" from Kansas City. Mike Bickle, pastor of the Kansas City Fellowship, is a frequent contributor to Joyner's magazine. In 1992, The Morningstar Journal (Vol. 2, No. 3) published an article written by Joyner entitled: "A Vision of the Twelve Cities".
A friend of mine ordered a subscription of this magazine for me without knowing my feelings about the Kansas City Fellowship. Issue by issue, I read various articles, and marked the unscriptural passages. I noted to myself in one instance in the margin: "It is a battle to make myself read this much." I was referring to the strain I felt in reading material that I felt was deliberately permeated with error, all in the name of Christ.
In A Vision of the Twelve Cities, Joyner laid out tactics which The Vineyard, and its present spin-off groups, are using to infiltrate and gain control over the entire Christian community in the U.S. and Canada.
"Conferences are a basic part of the Lord's end-time strategy," Joyner wrote. "They are comparable to the Lord's command for Israel to go up to Jerusalem three times a year for His feasts."
The organizers take Vineyard Conferences very seriously! But please note, many of these meetings are never advertised as "Vineyard Conferences".
In Joyner's words, "annual, general conferences" are to be held in each of 12 major U.S. cities, strategically located for geographic and demographic impact. These conferences, he wrote, "would ultimately attract multitudes of believers...from every present stream in the body of Christ, as well as independents"
Then each general conference "will spawn" local conferences for pastors, prophets, intercessors, etc., to be held throughout the year in each region.
At the local level, "city-wide weekly prayer and leadership meetings would also begin..." Referring to the vision of this divine strategy, which he claims to have received on February 6, 1989, Joyner states: "Though I was given no timing, I felt that the conferences would begin in the early nineties but that it would take several years before all twelve would be functioning." He states that "such meetings will usually (not always) need to be sponsored by an entity outside of the local spiritual politics."
Here is where the Vineyard groups step in. They present themselves as helpers and facilitators for inter-denominational dialogue. At the same time, they are careful to groom their own public relations image in the Christian community, steadily gathering new members from many other churches. They also are given a platform for their own leaders, and the teachings of their leaders, which over time are accorded greater and greater respect.
Joyner maintains in his article: "This strategy is not to in any way become a separate stream of influence in the church, but be a vehicle for the differing streams which already exist to interchange and begin flowing together."
Joyner may believe his own propaganda on this issue, but he also believes the false prophets in Kansas City.
He states that the twelve cities he saw in the vision were Albany, Atlanta, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Orlando, Phoenix, Portland, Santa Maria, and Washington. He estimates that 98% of the U.S. population live within 500 miles of at least one of these cities, or about a one-day drive.
What would it be like if Christians who are barking like dogs, jerking spasmodically, laughing insanely, and contorting themselves into demonic postures, all became acceptable as proof of a "New Move" of the Holy Spirit... coming to a city or town near you?
On the night we attended the Toronto Airport Vineyard, Steve had a conversation outside, in the cigarette smoke-filled air, with a man and woman who told him about a black, cold, icy "thing" which had left the man while he was on the floor roaring like a lion, and then crawled up the woman's arm, who was lying next to him -- during "ministry time" Neither the man nor the woman seemed concerned or anxious about the experience. They had had no idea there was any possibility of danger.
But two people in Toronto who have experience in deliverance ministry have already shared with us that they are starting to see cases of severe problems in people who have been attending the Toronto Airport Vineyard. But so many hundreds of people have left those meetings, driven to the airport, and caught a plane to go -- home.
Personally, I'm afraid that the Body of Christ has opened a Pandora's Box. In that ancient Greek myth, Pandora opened a box, and hordes of evil things escaped from it. Pandora (her name means "All-Gifted") was sent to earth by Jupiter, in order to punish Prometheus, who had stolen fire from heaven. In Leviticus 10:1, Nadab and Abihu "offered strange fire before the Lord." They were killed.
Spiritual counterfeits is a subject which was given expert, comprehensive treatment in the book War On The Saints by Jessie Penn-Lewis, with Evan Roberts. It was written in the early 1900's, following firsthand experiences of the supernatural in the famous Welsh Revival. Not surprisingly, Rick Joyner has written: "Jessie Penn-Lewis may be one of the classic historic examples of how heresy hunters are used by the enemy to derail true works of the Holy Spirit." (See Morningstar Journal, Vol. 2, No. 4. )
The lady from New York who prophesied about Steve's impending broken leg also asked me, pointblank: "Do you have a copy of War On The Saints?" Her question was a logical one, seeing as my comments to her could well have come from that source. Or perhaps she was really a psychic. I fearlessly replied that I did and that I thought she should read it. She replied, "You throw that .book away. I'm coming up to Canada, and I'm not the only one."
I have been asked what I think is really going on at the Toronto Airport Vineyard. From this personal "memoir," I have tried to show why I feel I should speak out. There have been too many contacts, too many impressions, too many stories over the years, and I know we are not in the realm of coincidences, but in the realm of the purposes of God being worked out in the lives of Steve and myself.
I believe that there are demonic powers which have always fought against the Church and against the Holy Spirit's workings on this earth. I believe demonic powers are show-offs, who love attention. I believe demonic powers want to cripple the testimony of every Christian and to render him or her as ineffective as possible in serving Christ and bringing lost souls to eternal salvation.
I believe that a great "falling away" (2 Thess. 2:3) has already begun. In due time, "a man of sin," "the son of perdition," will be revealed... "even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders..." (2 Thess. 2:9). Those who do not love the truth will believe a lie, for God Himself will send them a strong delusion (2 Thess. 2:11).
The delusions of doctrine on Christian television are, I feel, only the beginning. There is far worse to come. I don' t ]mow what form the final heresy will take, but I know God's Word says that there are many in the Church who will fall away. And, as I've said, this has already started.
Demonic powers, I believe, have gained control over the Vineyard Movement and The Kansas City Fellowship "Prophetic Movement", as well. I can only conjecture that, at some high level, what Jessie Penn-Lewis calls "ground" was given to the Enemy as an entryway, a gateway.
The New Age and occultic techniques which the Toronto Vineyard and other Vineyard groups have welcomed over the years, and taught to their members, have opened the door even wider to the powers of darkness; so that now demonic manifestations are increasing in strength.
I believe the plan of Satan is to join all churches and denominations together into an association based on false doctrine and a false Gospel. Having shown to God that they have no love for His truth, that they are "unfaithful" to Him, many deluded individuals, who believe they are Christians and love Jesus, will be punished. God will allow them to be deceived and to believe a lie. The day will come when they will gladly worship none other than the Antichrist, who will present himself to them as a supernatural being with great, divine powers.
I believe "The Vineyard movement" is playing an important role today in preparing the way for this terrible End-Time Delusion. It will be used to help spread the lie of the Antichrist himself.
The "prophets" who are being promoted by The Vineyard and The Kansas City Fellowship will step forward, at the proper time, in churches all across America and Canada. They will all deliver the same message. It will be a message of spiritual deception, but many will be fooled into believing it. But the voices of these prophets will proclaim the Antichrist as God, welcoming him into the Holy of Holies.
Finally, Satan will be plunged into the lake of fire. But he will have plundered the lives of the saints to the very last instant of his doomed existence.